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FAMILIAR EPISTLES ON A SERMON, 'OFFICE & OPERATIONS OF HOLY SPIRIT': 1, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: A strange discourse, in all impartial views
Last Line: A god-like love embracing ev'ry man.
Subject(s): Advice; Friends, Religious Society Of; Mankind; Reason; Religious Education; Sermons; Teaching & Teachers; Quakers; Human Race; Intellect; Rationalism; Brain; Mind; Intellectuals; Sunday Schools; Yeshivas; Parochial Schools; Educators; Professors

A STRANGE discourse, in all impartial views,—
This that you lent me, Doctor, to peruse:
Had you not ask'd, a subject of this sort
Might, of itself, a few remarks extort,
To shew how much a very learned man
Has been mistaken in his preaching plan.

Preaching (a talent of the gospel kind,
By—preaching peace throug JESUS CHRIST—defin'd)
Should, one would think, in order to increase
The gospel good, confine itself to peace;
Exert its milder influence, and draw
The list'ning crowds to love's uniting law.
For should the greatest orator extend
The pow'rs of sound to any other end;
Regard to healing sentiments postpone,
And battle all that differ from his own;
Tho' he could boast of conquest, yet how far
From peace through Jesus, through himself is war!
How widely wanders, from the true design
Of preaching Christ, the bellicose divine!

If amongst them who all profess belief
In the same gospel, such a warlike chief
Should, in the pulpit, labour to erect
His glaring trophies, over ev'ry sect
That does not just fall in with his conceit,
And raise new flourish upon each defeat;
As if, by dint of his haranguing strain,
So many foes had happily been slain;
Tho' it were sure that what he said was right.
Is he more likely, think you, to invite,
To win th' erroneous over to his mind,
By eloquence of such a hostile kind,
Or to disgrace, by arts so strongly weak,
The very truths that he may chance to speak?

Like thoughts to these would naturally rise
Out of your own occasional surprise,
When, purchasing the book, you dipp'd into't,
And saw the preacher's manner of dispute;
How man by man, and sect by sect display'd,
He pass'd along from preaching to parade;
Confuting all that came within his way,
Tho' too far off to hear what he should say:—
Reason, methinks, why candour would not choose,
Where no defence could follow, to accuse;
Where gen'rous triumph no attacks can yield
To the unquestion'd master of the field:
Where names, tho' injur'd, without reason why,
Absent or present, can make no reply
To the most false or disingenuous hint,
Till time, perchance, produces it in print:
When, we may take for granted, it is clad
In its best fashion, tho' it be but bad.

This one discourse is printed, we are told,
The main of several sermons to unfold.
For one grand subject all of them were meant—
The Holly Spirit, whom the Father sent;
Th' indwelling Comforter, th' Instructing Guide;
"Who was," Christ said, "for ever to abide
"With, and in his disciples here below,
"And teach them all that they should want to know."

A glorious theme! A comfortable one!
For preachers to exert themselves upon;
First taught themselves, and fitted to impart
God's truth and comfort to an honest heart.
Some such, at least, imagine to have been
Amongst the flock that came to Lincolns Inn;
With a sincere desire to hear and learn
That which became a christian's chief concern;
Pleas'd with the preacher's text, with hopes that he
Might prove an instrument, in some degree,
Of their perception of a holy aid,
Fruit of that promise which the Saviour made;
Might help them, more and more, to understand
How near true help and comfort is at hand;
How soon the Spirit moves upon the mind,
When it is rightly humbled and resign'd;
With what a love to ev'ry fellow-soul
One member of the church regards the whole;
Looks upon all mankind as friends, or shares
To heartiest enemies his heartier pray'rs.

I might go on; but you, I know, will grant,
Such is the temper that we really want:
And such, if preachers ever preach indeed,
If pastors of a flock will really feed,
They will endeavour solely to excite
And move divided christians to unite;
If not in outward forms, that but supply
A loftier Babel without inward tie,
Yet in a common friendliness of will,
That wishes well to ev'ry creature still;
That makes the centre of religion's plan
A god-like love embracing ev'ry man.

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