Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A POETICAL VERSION OF A LETTER ON RESIGNATION, FROM JACOB BEHMEN, by JOHN BYROM



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A POETICAL VERSION OF A LETTER ON RESIGNATION, FROM JACOB BEHMEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Dear brother in our saviour christ - his grace
Last Line: And christian love here dictates what I say.
Subject(s): Friends, Religious Society Of; Grief; Sympathy; Quakers; Sorrow; Sadness; Empathy


DEAR Brother in our Saviour Christ—His grace
And love premis'd, in your afflictive case;
I have consider'd of it, and have brought
The whole, with christian sympathetic thought,
Before the will of The Most High, to see
What it would please him to make known to me.

And thereupon, I give you, Sir, to know,
What a true insight He was pleas'd to shew,
Into the cause and cure of all your grief
And present trial; which I shall, in brief,
Set down for a memorial, and declare
For you to ponder with a serious care.

First then, the cause, to which we must assign
Your strong temptation, is the love divine,
The goodness supernatural, above
All utt'rance, flowing from the God of love;
Seeking the creaturely and human will,
To free it from captivity to ill:

And then the struggle with so great a grace,
In human will, refusing to embrace;
Tho' tender'd to it with a love so pure,
It seeks itself, and strives against a cure;
From its own love to transitory things
More than to God, the real evil springs.

'Tis man's own nature, which, in its own life,
Or centre, stands in enmity and strife,
And anxious, selfish, doing what it lists,
(Without God's love) that tempts him and resists:
The devil also shoots his fiery dart,
From grace and love to turn away the heart.

This is the greatest trial; 'tis the fight,
Which Christ, with his internal love and light,
Maintains within man's nature, to dispel
God's anger, satan, sin, and death, and hell;
The human self or serpent to devour,
And raise an angel from it by his pow'r.

Now if God's love in Christ did not subdue,
In some degree, this selfishness in you,
You would have no such combat to endure;
The serpent then, triumphantly secure,
Would, unoppos'd, exert his native right,
And no such conflict in your soul excite.

For all the huge temptation and distress
Rises in nature, tho' God seeks to bless;
The serpent feeling its tormenting state,
(Which, of itself, is a mere anxious hate)
When God's amazing love comes in, to fill,
And change the selfish to a god-like Will.

Here Christ, the Serpent-bruiser, stands in man,
Storming the devil's hellish, self-built plan;
And hence the strife within the human soul;
Satan's to kill, and Christ's to make it whole;
As by experience, in so great degree,
God, in his goodness, causes you to see.

Now, while the serpent's head is bruis'd, the heel
Of Christ is stung; and the poor soul must feel
Trembling and sadness, while the strivers cope,
And can do nothing but stand still in hope;
Hardly be able to lift up its face,
For mere concern, and pray to God for grace.

The serpent, turning it another way,
Shews it the world's alluring, fine display;
Mocking its resolution to forego,
For a new nature, the engaging show;
And represents the taking its delight
In present scenes, as natural and right.

Thus, in the wilderness with Christ alone,
The soul endures temptation of its own;
While all the glories of this world display'd,
Pleasures, and pomps, surround it, and persuade
Not to remain so humble and so still,
But elevate itself in own self-will.

The next temptation, which befalls of course
From satan, and from nature's selfish force,
Is when the soul has tasted of the love,
And been illuminated from above;
Still in its self-hood it would seek to shine,
And, as its own, possess the light divine.

That is, the foolish nature, take it right,
As much a serpent, if without God's light,
As Lucifer, this nature still would claim
For own propriety the heav'nly flame;
And elevate its fire to a degree,
Above the light's good pow'r, which cannot be.

This domineering self, this nature fire,
Must be transmuted to a love desire:
Now, when this change is to be undergone,
It looks for some own pow'r, and, finding none,
Begins to doubt of grace, unwilling quite
To yield up its self-willing nature's right.

It ever quakes for fear, and will not die
In light divine, tho' to be blest thereby:
The light of grace it thinks to be deceit,
Because it worketh gently without heat:
Mov'd too by outward reason, which is blind,
And of itself sees nothing of this kind.

"Who knows," it thinketh, "whether it be true
"That God is in thee, and enlightens too?
"Is it not fancy? for thou dost not see
"Like other people, who, as well as thee,
"Hope for salvation by the grace of God,
"Without such fear and trembling at his rod."

Thus the poor soul, accounted for a fool,
By all the reas'ners of a gayer school,
By all the graver people who embrace
Mere verbal promises of future grace,
Sighs from its deep internal ground, and pants
For such enlighn'ning comfort as it wants;

And fain would have;—but nature can, alas!
Do nothing of itself to bring to pass;
And is, thro' its own impotence, afraid
That God rejects it, and will give no aid;
Which, with regard to the self-will, is true;
For God rejects it, to implant a new.

The own self-will must die away, and shine,
Rising thro' death, in saving will divine;
And, from the opposition which it tries
Against God's will, such great temptations rise:
The devil too is loth to lose his prey,
And see his fort cast down, if it obey.

For, if the life of Christ within arise,
Self-lust, and false imagination dies;
Wholly it cannot in this present life,
But by the flesh maintains the daily strife;
Dies, and yet lives; as they alone can tell,
In whom Christ fights against the pow'rs of hell.

The third temptation is in mind and will,
And flesh and blood, if satan enter still;
Where the false centres lie in man, the springs
Of pride, and lust, and love of earthly things;
And all the curses wish'd by other men,
Which are occasion'd by this devil's den.

These in the astral spirit make a fort,
Which all the sins concentre to support;
And human will, esteeming for its joy
What Christ, to save it, combats to destroy,
Will not resign the pride-erected tow'r,
Nor live obedient to the Saviour's pow'r.

Thus I have giv'n you, loving sir, to know
What our dear Saviour has been pleas'd to shew
To my consideration; now, on this,
Examine well what your temptation is:
We must leave all, and follow Him, He said,
Right Christ-like poor, like our Redeeming Head.

Now, if self-lust stick yet upon your mind,
Or love of earthly things of any kind,
Then, from those centres, in their working force,
Such a temptation will rise up of course:
If you will follow, when it does arise,
My child-like counsel, hear what I advise.

Fix your whole thought upon the bitter woe,
Which our dear Lord was pleas'd to undergo;
Consider the reproach, contempt, and scorn,
The worldly state so poor and so forlorn,
Which he was so content to bear; and then,
His suff'ring, dying for us sinful men.

And thereunto give up your whole desire,
And mind, and will; and earnestly aspire
To be as like Him as you can; to bear,
(And with a patience bent to persevere)
All that is laid upon you; and to make
His process yours, and purely for His sake;

For love of Him, most freely to embrace
Contempt, affliction, poverty, disgrace;
All that can happen, so you may but gain
His blessed love within you, and maintain;
No longer willing with a self-desire,
But such as Christ within you shall inspire.

Dear sir, I fear lest something still amiss,
Averse to Him, cause such a strife as this:
He wills you, in his death, with Him to die
To your own will, and to arise thereby
In his arising; and that life to live,
Which He is striving in your soul to give.

Let go all earthly will; and be resign'd
Wholly to Him, with all your heart and mind:
Be joy or sorrow, comfort or distress,
Receiv'd alike, for He alike can bless,
To gain the victory of christian faith
Over the world and all satanic wrath.

So shall you conquer death, and hell, and sin;
And find, at last, what Christ in you hath been:
By sure experience will be understood
How all hath happen'd to you for your good:
Of all his children this hath been the way;
And christian love here dictates what I say.





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