Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THOUGHTS ON PREDESTINATION AND REPROBATION, by JOHN BYROM



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THOUGHTS ON PREDESTINATION AND REPROBATION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Flatter me not with your predestination
Last Line: Cætera desunt.
Subject(s): Fate; Predestination; Destiny


FLATTER me not with your predestination,
Nor sink my spirits with your reprobation!
From all your high disputes I stand aloof,
Your pre's and re's, your destin, and your proof,
And formal, Calvinistical pretence,
That contradicts all gospel and good sense.

When God declares so often, that he wills
All sort of blessings and no sort of ills;
That his severest purpose never meant
A sinner's death, but that he should repent:
For the whole world, when his Beloved Son
Is said to do whatever he has done;
To become man, to suffer, and to die,
That all might live, as well as you and I;
Shall rigid Calvin after this, or you,
Pretend to tell me that it is not true?
But that eternal, absolute decree
Has damn'd beforehand either you or me,
Or any body else? That God design'd
When he created, not to save mankind,
But only some? "The rest," this man maintain'd,
"Were to decreed damnation pre-ordain'd:"
No, Sir; not all your metaphysic skill
Can prove the doctrine, twist it as you will.

I cite the man for doctrine so accurst,
In book the third, and chapter twenty-first,
Section the fifth—a horrid, impious lore,
That one would hope was never taught before;
How it came after to prevail away,
Let them, who mince the damning matter, say;
And others judge, if any Christian fruit
Be like to spring from such a Pagan root.

"Pagan", said I? I must retract the word,
For the poor Pagans were not so absurd;
Their Jupiter, "of gods and men the king,"
Whenever he ordain'd a hurtful thing,
Did it, because he was oblig'd to look
And act, as fate had bid him, in a book:
For gods and goddesses were subject, then,
To dire necessity, as well as men;
Compell'd to crush a hero or a town,
As destiny had set the matter down.

But, in your scheme, 'tis God that orders ill,
With sov'reign pow'r, and with resistless will;
He, in whose blessed Name is understood
The one eternal will to ev'ry good,
Is represented, tho' untied by fate,
With a decree of damning to create
Such as you term "the vessels of his wrath,"
To shew his pow'r, according to your faith:
Just as if God, like some tyrannic man,
Would plague the world, to shew them that he can.
While others (they, for instance, of your sect,)
Are mercy's vessels, precious and elect;
Who think,—God help them:—to secure their bliss
By such a partial, fond conceit as this.

Talk not to me of Popery and Rome,
Nor yet foretel its Baby lonish doom;
Nor canonize reforming saints of old,
Because they held the doctrine that you hold;
For if they did, altho' of saint-like stem,
In this plain point we must reform from them:
While freed from Rome, we are not tied, I hope,
To what is wrong in a Geneva Pope;
Nor what is right should sirname supersede
Of Luther, Calvin, Bellarmine, or Bede.
Rome has been guilty of excess, 'tis true,
And so have some of the reformers too;
If in their zeal against the Roman seat,
Plucking up tares, they pluck'd up also wheat,
Must we to children, for what they have said,
Give this predestination-stone for bread?

Sir, it is worse,—is your predestination,—
Ten thousand times than transubstantiation:
Hard is the point, that Papists have compil'd,
With sense and reason to be reconcil'd;
But yet it leaves to our conception still
Goodness in God, and holiness of will;
A just, impartial government of all;
A saving love; a correspondent call
To ev'ry man, and, in the fittest hour
For him to hear, all offer'd grace and pow'r,
Which he may want and have, if he will crave
From Him who willeth nothing but to save.

Whereas, this reprobation doctrine here,
Not only sense and reason would cashier,
But take, by its pretext of sov'reign sway,
All goodness from the Deity away;
Both heav'n and hell confounding with its cant,
Virtue and vice, the sinner and the saint;
Leaving (by irresistible decree,
And purpose absolute, what man shall be,)
Nothing, in sinners, to detest so much
As God's contrivance how to make them such.

That ever Christians, blest with revelation,
Should think of His decreeing men's damnation!
The GOD of LOVE! the FOUNTAIN of ALL GOOD!
"Who made," says Paul, "all nations of one blood
"To dwell on earth; appointing time and place"—
And for what end this pre-ordaining grace?
"That they might seek, and feel after, and find
"The life in God, which God for man design'd.

"We are his offspring"—for, in that decree,
The Pagan poet and St. Paul agree:
"We are his offspring"—Now, sir, put the case
Of some great man and his descending race;
Conceive this common parent of them all,
As willing some to stand, and some to fall:
Master, suppose, of all their future lot,
Decreeing some to happiness, some not;
In some to bring his kindness into view;
To shew in others what his wrath can do;
To lead the chosen children by the hand,
And leave the rest to fall—who cannot stand.

I might proceed, but that the smallest sketch
Shews an absurd and arbitrary wretch,
Treating his offspring so, as to forbid
To think that ever God Almighty did;
To think that creatures, who are said to be
His offspring, should be hurt by his decree;
Which had they always minded, good alone
And not a spark of evil had been known.
For his decree, appointment, order, will,
Predestinating goodness, pow'r, and skill,
Is, of itself, the unbeginning good,
The pouring forth of an un-ending flood
Of ever-flowing bliss, which only rolls
To fill his vessels, his created souls.

Happy Himself, the true divine desire,
The love that flames thro' that eternal fire,
Which generates in Him th' eternal light,
Source of all blessing to created sight,
Longs with a holy earnestness to spread
The boundless glories of its fountain head;
To raise the possibilities of life,
Which rest in Him, into a joyful strife;
Into a feeling sense of Him, from whom
The various gifts of various blessings come.

To bless is his immutable decree,
Such as could never have begun to be:
Decree (if you will use the word decreed)
Did from his love eternally proceed,
To manifest the hidden pow'rs that reign
Through outward nature's universal scene;
To raise up creatures from its vast abyss,
Form'd to enjoy communicated bliss;
Form'd, in their several orders, to extend
Of God's great goodness wonders without end.

Who does not see that ill, of any kind,
Could never come from an All-perfect mind?
That its perception never could begin,
But from a creature's voluntary sin,
Made in its Maker's image, and impress'd
With a free pow'r of being ever blest;
From ev'ry evil, in itself, so free,
That none could rise but by its own decree?
By a volition, opposite to all
That God could will, did evil first befall,
And still befalls; for all the source of ill
Is opposition to His blessed will:
And union with it plainly understood
To be the source of ev'ry real good.

To certain truths, which you can scarce deny,
You bring St. Paul's expressions in reply;
Some few obscurer sayings prone to choose,
Where he was talking to the Roman Jews;
You never heed the num'rous texts, and plain,
That will not suit with your decreeing strain,
Confirming God's unalter'd will to bless,
In words as clear as language can express:
"Who willeth all men to be sav'd"—is one
Too plain for comment to be made upon:
So that, if some be not the same as all,
You must directly contradict St. Paul,
Whene'er you push, to its direct extreme,
Your wild, absurd predestination scheme.

Paul's open, generous, enlighten'd soul,
Preach'd to mankind a Saviour of the whole,
Not part of human race; the blinded Jew
Might boast himself in this conceited view;
Boast of his father Abraham, and vent
The carnal claims of family descent:
But the whole family of heav'n and earth,
Paul knew, if blest, must have another birth;
That Jew and Gentile was, in ev'ry place,
A like the object of a saving grace:
Paul never tied salvation to a sect;
All who love God, with him, are God's elect.

This plain, good maxim he himself premis'd
To those fam'd chapters, which were so disguis'd
By studied comments of a later day;
When words were press'd to serve a partial fray;
And scripture turn'd into a magazine
Of arms, for sober or for frantic spleen.

"All who love God"—how certain is the key!
Whate'er disputed passages convey;
"In Paul's epistles if some things are read,
"Hard to be understood," as Peter said,
Must this be urg'd to prove in men's condition
Their pre-election, and their praeterition
Or predamnation? For, that monstrous word,
Of all absurd decree the most absurd,
Is into formal definition wrought
By your divines—unstartled at the thought
Of Sov'reign Pow'r decreeing to become
The Author of salvation but to some;
To some, resembling others, they admit,
Who are rejected—"Why?" He so thought fit:
Hath not the potter pow'r to make his clay
Just what he pleases?—Well, and tell me, pray,
What kind of potter must we think a man,
Who does not make the best of it he can?
Who, making some fine vessels of his clay,
To shew his pow'r, throws all the rest away,
Which, in itself, was equally as fine?
What an idea this of pow'r divine!
Happy for us, if under God's commands
We were as clay is in the potter's hands;
Pliant, and yielding readily to take
The proper form, which He is pleas'd to make!
Happy for us that he has Pow'r! Because
An equal Goodness executes its laws;
Rejecting none but such as will behave
So as that no Omnipotence can save.

Who can conceive The Infinitely Good
To shew less kindness than he really could?
To pre-concert damnation, and confine,
Himself, his own Beneficence Divine?
An impotency this, in evil hour,
Ascrib'd to God's beatifying pow'r,
By bitter logic and the sour mistake
Which overweening zeal is apt to make;
Describing sov'reignty as incomplete,
That does not shew itself less good than great.
Tho' true in earthly monarchs it may be,
That Majesty and Love can scarce agree,
In His Almighty Will, who rules above,
The pow'r is grace, the majesty is love.
What best describes the Giver of all bliss,
Glorious in all his attributes, is this,
The sov'reign Lord all creatures bow before,
But they who love Him most, the most adore.

From this one worship if a creature's heart,
Fix'd on aught else, determines to depart,
There needs no pre-determining the case;
Idolatry ensues, and fall from grace;
Without and contrary to God's intent,
Its own self ruin is the sure event:
The love forsaken which alone could bless,
It needs must feel wrath, anger, and distress;
The sensibilities that must arise,
If nature wants what sacred love supplies.

Cætera desunt.





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