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AN EXPOSTULATION WITH A SECTARIST, WHO INVEIGHED AGAINST THE CLERGY, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: No, sir; I cannot see to what good end
Last Line: Pray by what marks are we to know self-will?
Subject(s): Clergy; Religious Discrimination; Priests; Rabbis; Ministers; Bishops; Religious Conflict

NO, sir; I cannot see to what good end
Such bitter words against the clergy tend;
Pour'd from a zeal so sharp, so unallay'd,
That suffers no exception to be made;
While the most mild persuasions, to repress
The bitter zeal, still heighten its excess.

Its own relentless thought while it pursues,
What unrestrain'd expressions it can use!
Places of worship, which the people call
Churches, are "synagogues of Satan" all;
At all liturgic pray'r and praise it storms,
As man's inventions, Spirit-quenching forms;
And, from baptismal down to burial rite,
Sets ev'ry service in an odious light:
All previous order, with regard to time,
Place, or behaviour, passes for a crime.

Of Pharisaic pride it culls the marks,
To represent the Bishop and his Clerks;
Who are, if offer'd any gentler plea,
The Devil's Ministers, both they and he;
Blind guides, false prophets, and a lengthen'd train
Of all hard words that chosen texts contain:
These are the forms which, when it would object
To those in use, it pleases to select;
Repeated by its devotees, at once,
As like to rote as any church response:
Nor is a treatment of this eager kind
To this or that society confin'd,
Sect, or profession—No, no matter which,
Leaders or led, all fall into the ditch;
None but its own severe adepts can claim
Of truth and Spirit-worshippers the name.
In vain it seeks, by any sacred page,
To justify this unexampled rage:
Prophets of old, who spake against th' abuse
Of outward forms were none of them so loose
As to condemn, abolish, or forbid
The things prescrib'd, but what the people did;
Who minded nothing but the mere outside,
Neglecting wholly what it signified;
At this neglect the prophets all exclaim'd;
No pious rites has any of them blam'd;
Their true intent was only to reduce
All outward practice to its inward use.

The world's Redeemer, coming to fulfil
All past predictions of prophetic quill,
Who more amidst the Jewish priestly pride,
Than he, with all Mosaic rites complied?
Say that the Christian priests are now as bad
As those blind leaders which the Jews then had,—
Was Zachariah's, Simeon's, Anna's mind,
Any good priest, or man, or woman blind,
To offer incense, or to bear a part
In temple service, with an upright heart?

Can then the faults of Clergymen, or Lay,
Destroy heart-worship at this present day?
Will pray'r, in vain by Pharisees preferr'd,
Not from repenting Publicans be heard?
Will the devout among the christian flock
Not be accepted, tho' the priest should mock?
If they do right in their appointed spheres,
His want of truth and spirit is not theirs.

Our Lord's apostles, with an inward view
To reconcile the Gentile and the Jew,
To faith in Him, made ev'ry outward care
The most subservient to that main affair:
The greatest friend to christian freedom, Paul,
Intent to save, was "ev'ry thing to all;"
To keep, whatever forms should rise or cease,
Union of spirit in the bond of peace;
Th' effects of hasty, rash, condemning zeal
He saw, and mourn'd, and labour'd to repeal.

Succeeding saints, when priest or magistrate
Became tyrannical in church or state,
Reprov'd their evil practices but then
Rever'd the office, tho' they blam'd the men.
They gave no instance of untemper'd heat,
That roots up all before it, tares or wheat;
As if, by humanly invented care
Of cultivation, wheat itself was tare.
'Tis true all sects are grown corrupt enough,
But zeal, so indiscriminately rough,
May well give others reason to suspect
Some want of knowledge in a novel sect,
(If such there be) that seems to take a pride
In satanizing all the world beside;
Without the least authority, yet known,
Or species of example, but its own.

One mischief is, that its unguarded terms
Hurt many sober truths which it affirms;
Worship in Truth and Spirit suffers too,
By being plac'd in such a hostile view:
"Oh! but all self-will worshiping is wrong"—
True; but to whom does that defect belong?
Is the obedience to a rule or guide,
For order's sake, fair proof of such a pride?
If it be none at all for men to broach
Rude, harsh, and undistinguishing reproach,
With resolution to repeat it still,
Pray by what marks are we to know self-will?

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