Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FOUR EPISTLES: MIRACLE AT THE FEAST OF PENTECOST: 2, by JOHN BYROM



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FOUR EPISTLES: MIRACLE AT THE FEAST OF PENTECOST: 2, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Many thanks have been order'd this day to attend
Last Line: Excuse the presumption.—dear vicar, adieu!
Subject(s): Apostles; Baptism; Bible; Language; Prayer; Religion; Spiritual Life; Disciples, Twelve; Christenings; Words; Vocabulary; Theology


MANY thanks have been order'd this day to attend
The receipt of your letter, dear Vicar and friend;
Which at first being left to your leisure to frame,
Was sure to be welcome whenever it came.
The point, which the Muse had a mind to propose
In her free-spoken rhymes, you have handled in prose;
All fair on both sides, because, say it or sing,
In this affair truth is the principal thing.

But I cannot but marvel that much better sight
Than my own should not see so meridian a light
As that of the speaking, at Pentecost time,
By the Spirit of God, to the good of each clime,
In one single tongue by that Spirit inspir'd,
Whose assistance did all that could then be requir'd;
Whose power, it is certain, could make itself known
By a number of tongues, or by one tongue alone.

So needless the many, so simple the one,
That I wonder what judgment can hesitate on,
Or a learned inquiry that finds, if it seek,
That the tongue might be one in construction of Greek;
Which, as comma takes place, (as old Gregory said,
Nazianzen I think) either way may be read,—
"They speak in our tongues," or, as crystaline clear
The fact is to my understanding, "we hear."

I sent you some reasons from Baguley, why
The tongue was but one, which you choose to pass by,
And to comment St. Luke in a many-tongu'd way
That darkens the light which I took to be day.
And day it is still; for, account that you give
So plain and so obvious is water in sieve;
Which seems to be something at first-looking view,
But by holes plain and obvious it quickly runs through.

The tongues which appear'd, and which sat upon each,
All cloven and fiery, you argue, may teach,
And by notice symbolical make it discern'd,
That they spake in such tongues as they never had learn'd.
Need I tell a Hebræan that tongue is the same
In relation to fire as the English word flame?
Which appears to be cloven, and proof, that is spun
From the tongues or the flames, has too much of the pun.

When you ask, Pray, what reason can else be assign'd
For tongues? I ask you, "Pray, what reason for wind?"
Not to shun a fair question; but tongue being flame
May have answer'd already your questioning aim.
I think that an air, that a flame from above
Both is and betokens the life and the love,
Which if Christians were blest with, one language would do,
And their whole body fill'd with, there could not be two.

But let them be symbols, (the tongues) if you will,
Of the grace which the Spirit was pleas'd to instil,
His gift is as good, if, in speaking their own,
Men made the same truth in all languages known.
This effect you will grant the good gift to intend;
Now, supposing two ways of attaining one end,
Is that explication less likely or just,
Which takes the more simple, more plainly august?

Your account is quite new in one thing that I meet,
That is, that the speakers went into the street,
Or went out of the house to the multitude met,—
For, of this going out I have never read yet;
Or if ever I did, have forgotten the book,
And can find nothing said in th' account of St. Luke,
But what should imply both profane and devout
Coming into the house, and not them to go out.

May one ask what authority, then, you have got
For the scene and succession, which here you allot
To the speaking disciples, in number fifteen,
By an order well fancied, but not to be seen
In the Acts, or elsewhere the New Testament through?
Nor—(what I shall just give a hint of to you—)
Will you find an Apostle, not even a Paul,
In a tongue, not his own, ever preaching at all.

I agree that the mockers who mock'd with the throng,
Knew only their vulgar Jerusalem tongue;
But when you say farther, what cannot but strike,
That the nations too all understood it alike,
Your order'd confusion of speaking a store
To a crowd out of doors is more puzzling and more.
In the midst of such darkness if you can see light,
You need not complain of the need of eye-sight.

Thus, my dear old acquaintance, I run thro' your plan,
And defend my conviction as well as I can.
As to what a Bengelius or Wesley may raise
From Twelve Hundred and Sixty prophetical days,
As the book is not here, if it otherwise could,
My skill in the German can do you no good;
But the part that you mention, my author foretells,
Will be put in our tongue by a Doctor at Wells.

So writes younger Wesley, who call'd here and din'd;
And to him I subscrib'd for it,—tho', in my mind,
What prophets have written 'tis learning in vain,
Without some prophetical gift, to explain;
Nay, in points that are clear beyond any fair doubt,
It is fifteen to one that the learned are out.
This ratio I find in one instance is true;
Excuse the presumption.—Dear Vicar, adieu!





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