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FAMILIAR EPISTLES ON A SERMON, 'OFFICE & OPERATIONS OF HOLY SPIRIT': 3, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: You wonder'd much, why any man of parts
Last Line: By these important verses of st. John.
Subject(s): Bible, N.t. Gospels; Religious Education; Schools; Speech; Sunday Schools; Yeshivas; Parochial Schools; Students; Oratory; Orators

YOU wonder'd much, why any man of parts
Would use, in preaching, low, invective arts;
By which the vain disputings that infest
The christian world, have seldom been suppress'd;
But often heighten'd, and that use destroy'd
For which fine Talents ought to be employ'd.

If one can judge from reading this divine,—
Whose parts, and talents, would be really fine,
If juster notions of the heav'nly grace
Taught but the earthly not to quit their place,—
If one can I judge, I say, from stated laws,
In his discourses, what should be the cause
Of such perversion of a lively wit,
In erudite possessors, this is it:
They think that now religion's sole defence
Is learning, History, and critic sense;
That with apostles, as a needful Guide,
The Holy Spirit did indeed abide;
But, having dictated to them a rule
Of faith, and manners, for the Christian school,
Immediate revelation ceas'd, and men
Must now be taught by apostolic pen:
Canon of scripture is complete; and they
May read, and know what doctrine to obey:
To look for inspiration is absurd;
The Spirit's aid is in the written word;
They who pretend to His immediate call,
From Pope to Quaker, are fanatics all.

Thus, having prov'd, at large, to christians met,
What no one christian ever doubted yet,
That the New Testament was really writ
By inspiration, which they all admit,
He then subjoins that—"this inspir'd record
"Fulfill'd the promise of our bless'd Lord;
(Fulfill'd it "eminently," is the phrase)
"For tho' the faithful, in succeeding days,
"Occasionally find, in every place,
"The Spirit's ordinary help and grace,
"His light supreme, his constant, fix'd abode,
"Is in the scriptures of this sacred code."

This was the sense, not easy to explore,
When, reck'ning up the Spirit's fruits before,
"Scripture," said he (which this account explains)
"Does not record them only, but contains;
"CONTAINS," in capitals—as if he took
The scripture to be something more than book;
Something alive, wherein the Spirit dwelt,
That did not only tell His fruits, but felt.
"The sure deposit of the Spirit's fruits
"In holy scripture," (he elsewhere computes)
"Fulfill'd the Saviour's promise, in a sense
"Very sublime"—so it should seem, from hence,
That eminently, and sublimely, thus
The Holy Spirit should abide with us.

If I mistake him, or misrepresent,
You'll shew me where, for 'tis without intent:
I want, if possible, to understand
A sentence coming from so fam'd a hand.
Tho' plain the words, 'tis difficult to solve
What christian sense he meant them to involve;
In ev'ry way that words and sense agree,
'Tis perfect bibliolatry to me:
No image worship can be more absurd,
Than idolizing thus the written word;
Which they who wrote, intended to excite
Attention to our Lord's predicted Light;
To that same Spirit, leading human thought,
By which themselves and all the good were taught;
Preaching that word, which a diviner art,
Which God himself had written on the heart.

How can the best of books (for 'tis confess'd
That, of all books, the bible is the best)
Do any more than give us an account
Of what was said, for instance, on the mount?
Of what was done, for instance, on the cross,
In order to retrieve the human loss?
What more than tell us of the Spirit's aid,
Far as his fruits by words can be display'd?
But words are only the recording part,
The things contain'd must needs be in the heart;
Spirit of God no more in books demands
To dwell, Himself, than temples made with hands.

Fruits of the Spirit, as St. Paul defin'd,
Are love, joy, peace—the blessings of the mind;
The proofs of his abiding.—Who can brook
"A meek, a gentle, good, long-suff'ring book;"
Or let true faith and temperance be sunk
To faith in writings, that are never drunk?
In fine, whatever pen and ink presents,
Can but contain historical contents;
Nor can the fruits of Spirit be in print,
In any sense but as recorded in't.

Plain as this is, and strange, as you may think,
The learned worship paid to pen and ink,
It is the main hypothesis, you'll find,
On which are built discourses of this kind;
Which yet can give us, for a scripture clue,
What contradicts its very letter too:
As this has done—be shewn as we go on—
By these important verses of St. John.

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