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The Borough. Letter IV: Sects And Professions In Religion

George Crabbe 1754 (Aldborough) – 1832 (Trowbridge)

'SECTS in Religion?'--Yes of every race
We nurse some portion in our favour'd place;
Not one warm preacher of one growing sect
Can say our Borough treats him with neglect:
Frequent as fashions they with us appear,
And you might ask, 'how think we for the year?'
They come to us as riders in a trade,
And with much art exhibit and persuade.
Minds are for Sects of various kinds decreed,
As diff'rent soils are formed for diff'rent seed;
Some when converted sigh in sore amaze,
And some are wrapt in joy's ecstatic blaze;
Others again will change to each extreme,
They know not why--as hurried in a dream;
Unstable, they, like water, take all forms,
Are quick and stagnant; have their calms and storms;
High on the hills, they in the sunbeams glow,
Then muddily they move debased and slow;
Or cold and frozen rest, and neither rise nor flow.
Yet none the cool and prudent Teacher prize.
On him ther dote who wakes their ectasies;
With passions ready primed such guide they meet,
And warm and kindle with th' imparted heat;
'Tis he who wakes the nameless strong desire,
The melting rapture and the glowing fire;
'Tis he who pierces deep the tortured breast,
And stirs the terrors never more to rest.
Opposed to these we have a prouder kind,
Rash without heat, and without raptures blind;
These our Glad Tidings unconcern'd peruse,
Search without awe, and without fear refuse;
The truths, the blessings found in Sacred Writ,
Call forth their spleen, and exercise their wit;
Respect from these nor saints nor martyrs gain,
The zeal they scorn, and they deride the pain:
And take their transient, cool, contemptuous view,
Of that which must be tried, and doubtless may be true.
Friends of our Faith we have, whom doubts like these,
And keen remarks, and bold objections please;
They grant such doubts have weaker minds oppress'd,
Till sound conviction gave the troubled rest.
'But still,' they cry, 'let none their censures spare.
They but confirm the glorious hopes we share;
From doubt, disdain, derision, scorn, and lies,
With five-fold triumph sacred Truth shall rise.'
Yes! I allow, so Truth shall stand at last,
And gain fresh glory by the conflict past: -
As Solway-Moss (a barren mass and cold,
Death to the seed, and poison to the fold),
The smiling plain and fertile vale o'erlaid,
Choked the green sod, and kill'd the springing blade;
That, changed by culture, may in time be seen
Enrich'd by golden grain and pasture green;
And these fair acres rented and enjoy'd
May those excel by Solway-Moss destroy'd.
Still must have mourn'd the tenant of the day,
For hopes destroy'd, and harvests swept away;
To him the gain of future years unknown,
The instant grief and suffering were his own:
So must I grieve for many a wounded heart,
Chill'd by those doubts which bolder minds impart:
Truth in the end shall shine divinely clear,
But sad the darkness till those times appear;
Contests for truth, as wars for freedom, yield
Glory and joy to those who gain the field:
But still the Christian must in pity sigh
For all who suffer, and uncertain die.
Here are, who all the Church maintains approve,
But yet the Church herself they will not love;
In angry speech, they blame the carnal tie
Which pure Religion lost her spirit by;
What time from prisons, flames, and tortures led,
She slumber'd careless in a royal bed;
To make, they add, the Church's glory shine,
Should Diocletian reign, not Constantine.
'In pomp,' they cry, 'is 'England's Church array'd,
Her cool Reformers wrought like men afraid;
We would have pull'd her gorgeous temples down,
And spurn'd her mitre, and defiled her gown:
We would have trodden low both bench and stall,
Nor left a tithe remaining, great or small.'
Let us be serious--Should such trials come.
Are they themselves prepared for martyrdom?
It seems to us that our reformers knew
Th' important work they undertook to do;
An equal priesthood they were loth to try,
Lest zeal and care should with ambition die;
To them it seem'd that, take the tenth away,
Yet priests must eat, and you must feed or pay:
Would they indeed, who hold such pay in scorn,
Put on the muzzle when they tread the corn?
Would they all, gratis, watch and tend the fold,
Nor take one fleece to keep them from the cold?
Men are not equal, and 'tis meet and right
That robes and titles our respect excite;
Order requires it; 'tis by vulgar pride
That such regard is censured and denied;
Or by that false enthusiastic zeal,
That thinks the Spirit will the priest reveal,
And show to all men, by their power
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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George Crabbe

George Crabbe was an English poet, surgeon, and clergyman. more…

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