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FAMILIAR EPISTLES ON A SERMON, 'OFFICE & OPERATIONS OF HOLY SPIRIT': 4, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: The gospel's simpler language being writ
Last Line: Of brisker tempers—let us next enquire.
Subject(s): Bible; Bible, N.t. Gospels; Books; Language; Religious Education; Writing & Writers; Reading; Words; Vocabulary; Sunday Schools; Yeshivas; Parochial Schools

THE gospel's simpler language being writ,
Not for the sake of learning or of wit,
But to instruct the pious and the meek;
When its intent mere critics come to seek,
We find, on plain intelligible text,
The variorum comments most perplex'd.

Such is the text before us; and so plain
The Saviour's promise which the words contain,
That men, for modern erudition's sake,
Must read and study to acquire mistake;
Must first observe the notions that prevail,
Among the famous in their church's pale;
Firm in the prejudice, that all is right
Which books or persons, most in vogue, recite;
Then seek to find how scripture coincides
With each decision of their knowing guides.

Without some such preparatives as these,
How could the forc'd interpretation please,
That makes a sacred promise,—to bestow
Perpetual aid,—exhausted long ago?
In one short age?—For God's abiding Guide
Withdrew, it seems, when the apostles died;
And left poor millions ever since to seek
How dissonant divines had constru'd Greek.

In graver writers one has often read
What in excuse of bookworship is said;
"It is not ink and letter that we own
"To be divine, but scripture sense alone;
"We have the rule which the apostles made,
"And no occasion for immediate aid."—
Suppose for once the gross delusion true;—
What must a plain and honest christian do?
The Spirit's aid how far must he extend,
To bring his Saviour's promise to an end?
This he perceives discourse to dwell upon;
And yet—for ever to abide—has none.
He, for the sake of safety, would be glad
To have that Spirit which th' apostles had;
Not one of them has writ, but says he may;
That 'tis the bliss for which he ought to pray:
That God will grant it him, his Saviour said,
Sooner than parents give their children bread.
If reading scripture can improve a soul,
This is the sum and substance of the whole,
And gives it value of such high degree:
For tho' as sacred as a book can be,
'Tis only so because it best revives
Thought of that Good which animated lives;
Because its authors were inspir'd to write,
And saw the truth in its own heav'nly light;
Because it sends us to that promis'd source
Of light and truth, which govern'd their discourse,
The Holy Spirit's ever present aid,
With us and in us—so the Saviour pray'd—
That when he left the world, the Holy Ghost
Might dwell with christians, as an inward host;
That teaching, truth, and comfort in the breast,
Might be secur'd by this abiding Guest.

"Yes, with apostles"—sunk, by such a thought,
Th' inestimable treasure down to nought!
A history of sunshine may as soon
Make a blind man to see the shining noon,
As writings only, without inward light,
Can bring the world's redemption into sight.
Jesus—the Christ—the very book has shewn,
Without the Holy Spirit none can own;
In words they may, but,—what is plainly meant,—
They cannot give a real heart consent.
What friend to scripture, then, sir, can displace
This inward Witness of redeeming grace;
And rest the gospel on such outward view,
As any Turk may rest his Koran too?
Nay, he can own a written word or work
That Christians do, and yet continue Turk.

Why do the christian disputants so fill
The world with books of a polemic skill,
When 'tis the sacred and acknowledg'd one
That all their jarring systems build upon,
But that the Spirit does not rule their wit,
By which at first the sacred one was writ?
Of whose support great scholars stand in need,
As much as they who never learnt to read:
Unhappy they! but for that living guide,
Whom God himself has promis'd to provide,
A Guide,—to quote the blessed text again,—
For ever to abide with christian men.

Fond of its books, poor learning is afraid;
And higher guidance labours to evade:
Books have the Spirit in supreme display!
Men, but in lower, ordinary way!
This strange account of men and books is true,
It seems, according to the promise too!

Such wild conceits all men have too much wit,
Or learned or unlearned, to admit;
But when some interest or custom rules,
And chains obsequious wills to diff'rent schools,
The wisest, then, sir, will relinquish thought,
And speak, like Parrots, just as they are taught.
What this should be, what spends in vain the fire
Of brisker tempers—let us next enquire.

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