Abbildungen der Seite

ligion are few and vague; its references to Christianity none. As a poem, nothing can be more masterly; as a system, it is only a fragment: it is a lovely fabric, but incomplete : it alike wants solidity of foundation, and those pinnacles that 'sparkle in the skies,


RUFFHEAD tells us that this poem was written to vindicate Pope from the fatalism and naturalism charged on the

Essay on Man. The vindication was unfortunate, for it was pronounced an increase of the offence. In England it was long called the Deist's Prayer:' in France, it involved De Pompignan, its translator, in a similar censure; provoked the strong rebuke of the celebrated chancellor D'Aguesseau ; and excited the reprehension even of Voltaire.

Pope's religious education had laid him at the mercy of objectors on both sides. Too philosophical for the protestant, and too free for the Roman catholic, he lowered the spirituality of the one, and lost the submissiveness of the other. In imitation of Bolingbroke, he generalised Christianity, until it was extinguished in a vague sense of homage. Thus we find him declaring the God of the saint, the savage, and the sage,' to be the same Deity; a confusion of ideas, by which every extravagance of religious belief might be sanctioned, every impurity of worship made legitimate, and the God of Revelation degraded by the hideous worship of the idols of barbarism, and the countless fables and follies of the Greek and Roman mythology.




Father of all! in every age,

In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,

Jehovah, Jove, or Lord !

Thou Great First Cause, least understood, 5

Who all my sense confined
To know but this, that thou art good,

And that myself am blind; 4 Jehovah, Jove, or Lord! Warton quotes Seneca for the acknowlegement of one great Governor of the Universe, under whatever variety of names; and reinforces his authority by Cudworth's, (chap. 4.) that the ancients asserted but one, only, unmade Deity, while all the rest were generated gods.' But the more substantial statement would be, that the heathen doctrine of the one God was theory,--remote, ineffectual and forgotten; while the existence of the multitude of inferior deities, stained with every excess, and sanctioning every crime, was the practical and popular creed. The Thor and Woden, the Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Apollo, were the established movers of the national mind: the original and underived Deity was an existence alone in the schools of the philosopher, or the fine visions of the poet; less a being than á principle; supreme and sublime, but too lofty for human thought, and too abstract for influence on the agencies of



Yet gave me, in this dark estate,

To see the good from ill;
And binding nature fast in fate,

Left free the human will.

What conscience dictates to be done,

Or warns me not to do;
This, teach me more than hell to shun;

That, more than heaven pursue.


What blessings thy free bounty gives,

Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives;

To enjoy is to obey.


Yet not to earth's contracted span

Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,

When thousand worlds are round:

Let not this weak, unknowing hand.

Presume thy bolts to throw,
And deal damnation round the land,

On each I judge thy foe.

28 On each I judge thy foe. Pope and his commentators are equally fond of proclaiming their abhorrence of the uncharitable doctrine, that the goodness of God was limited to any one sect;' but they forget the palpable distinction between the individual and the doctrine. Unquestionably, no man of right judgment will pronounce the holder of any opinion to be beyond the limits of the divine mercy,--a mercy, of which we can know neither the grounds nor the measure; but he may justly pronounce the opinion itself to be ruinous in the highest degree. Thus we are intitled to declare heathen idolatry to

If I am right, thy grace impart,

Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, 0, teach my heart

To find that better way!

Save me alike from foolish pride,

Or impious discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,

Or aught thy goodness lent.

Teach me to feel another's wo,

To hide the fault I see:
That mercy I to others show,

That mercy show to me.

Mean though I am, not wholly so,

Since quicken’d by thy breath : 0, lead me wheresoe'er I go,

Through this day's life or death!

have been an abomination in the sight of Heaven, for it is declared to be such by express Scripture ; while no Christian will exclude the heathen world from the possible exercise of the divine forgiveness. Still, nothing can be more false or fatal than the spurious liberality which presumes all opinions to be equally innocent, or affects to conceive that man is answerable only for the sincerity of his convictions. Doctrine cannot be indifferent to the divine mind, for from doctrine practice naturally flows. Man is accountable for bis opportunities, his understanding, and his knowlege : if he espouse error through negligence, prejudice, or presumption, he involves himself in the full criminality of his error: and if he is to be finally rescued, it is not by the doctrine, but against it; not by his idle, indolent, or capricious adoption of falsehood, but by the boundless benevolence of that all-glorious Father, Judge, and King, who willeth not the death,' even of the sinner.'

« ZurückWeiter »