Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ON THE DISPOSITION OF MIND (2), by JOHN BYROM

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ON THE DISPOSITION OF MIND (2), by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: We ought to read, my worthy friend ponthieu
Last Line: The book of books is ev'ry man's own heart.
Subject(s): Books; Language; Religious Education; Reading; Words; Vocabulary; Sunday Schools; Yeshivas; Parochial Schools

WE ought to read, my worthy friend Ponthieu,
All holy scriptures, with a scripture-view;
Writ for our learning, as their aim and scope
Are patience, comfort, and the blessed hope
Of everlasting life,—a reader's aim,
To understand them right, should be the same.

The prosecution of this happier quest
If doubts and difficulties shall molest;
And huge debates, on passages obscure,
Be suffer'd to eclipse the plain and sure;
The more he reads, the more this rambling art
Will fill his head, but never touch his heart;
With controversial circumstances fill,
On which the learned have employ'd their skill,
With such success, that scarce the plainest text
Can be produc'd, but what they have perplex'd
In such a manner, that, while all assign
To scripture-page authority divine,
The compliment is rather paid, for sake
Of such constructions as they please to make.

Down from the Pope to the obscurest sect,
Too many proofs are seen of this effect;
Of making one same scripture a retreat
For ev'ry party's opposite conceit.
Profaner wits, observing this, mistook,
And laid the fault upon the Bible book;
Taking the same variety of ways,
By fancied meanings for its ancient phrase,
To cry it down, as sects were wont to use
To cry it up, for their peculiar views.

As this excess, from age to age, has grown
To such a monstrous height within our own,
What a sincere, impartial, honest mind
In search of truth, does it require to find!
What calm attention, what unfeign'd desire
To hear its voice does truth itself require!
In scripture-phrase, what an unceasing pray'r
Should for its sacred influence prepare!
Because, whatever comments we recal,
The disposition of the mind is all.

'Tis in this point (undoubtedly the main)
That sacred books do differ from profane:
They do not ask so much for letter'd skill
To understand them, as for simple will.
For as a single, or clear-sighted eye
Admits the light, like an unclouded sky,
So is the truth, by scripture phrase design'd,
Receiv'd into a well disposed mind;
By the same Spirit, ready to admit
The written word, as they possess'd who writ;
Who writ, if Christians do not vainly boast,
By inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

In books so writ this great advantage lies,
That the first Author of them never dies;
But is still present to instruct and shew,
To them who seek Him, what they need to know;
Still, by his chosen servants, to unfold,
As He sees fit, the mysteries of old;
To re-confirm what any sacred pen
Has writ, by proof within the hearts of men.

This is the true and solid reason why
No difficulties, now objected, lie
Against the volumes writ so long ago,
And in a language that few people know;
Subject, as books, to errors and mistakes,
Which oft transcribing or translating makes;
While manners, customs, usages of phrase
Well known of old, but not so in our days,
For many obvious reasons, must elude
The utmost force of criticising feud:
Still, all editions verbally contain
The simple, necessary truths, and plain,
Of gospel doctrine; and the Spirit's aid,
Which is the chief, is not at all decay'd.

Nor can it hurt a reader to suspend
His judgment, where he does not comprehend
A darker text; however it appear,
He knows it cannot contradict a clear:
So that with all the helps, of ev'ry kind,
The shortest and the surest is to mind,
(When read or heard,) and inwardly digest
The plainest texts, as rules to all the rest;
To pray for that Good Spirit, which alone
Can make its former inspirations known;
The promis'd Comforter, th' unerring Guide,
Who, by Christ's word, was always to abide
Within His church, not only in the past,
But in all ages while the world should last;
A church distinguish'd, in the sacred code,
By his perpetual guidance and abode.

Such is the Teacher whom our Saviour chose,
And writ no books, as human learning knows;
Loth as it is, of later years, to preach,
That by this Teacher He will always teach;
Bless all the means of learning, or the want,
To them who after His instructions pant:
Of reading helps what holy men express'd,
When mov'd to write, are certainly the best;
But for the real, understanding part,
The Book of books is ev'ry man's own heart.

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