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But first they would assume, with wonderous art,
In times o'ergrown with rust and ignorance, A gainful trade their clergy did advance; When want of learning kept the laymen low, And none but priests were authorized to know; When what small knowledge was, in them did dwell, And he a god, who could but read and spell,Then mother Church did mightily prevail : She parcelled out the Bible by retail; But still expounded what she sold or gave, To keep it in her power to damn and save. Scripture was scarce, and, as the market went, Poor laymen took salvation on content, As needy men take money, good or bad. God's word they had not, but the priest's they had; Yet whate'er false conveyances they made, The lawyer still was certain to be paid.
In those dark times they learned their knack so well,
At last, a knowing age began to enquire
That what they thought the priest's, was their estate; Taught by the will produced, the written word, How long they had been cheated on record.
Then every man, who saw the title fair,
Tis true, my friend,-and far be flattery hence,-
The tender page with horny fists was galled,
And every member of a company
Plain truths enough for needful use they found;
Perhaps this idea is borrowed from "Hudibras :"
The learned write, an insect breeze
A thousand daily sects rise up and die;
The danger's much the same; on several shelves If others wreck us, or we wreck ourselves.
What then remains, but, waving each extreme, The tides of ignorance and pride to stem; Neither so rich a treasure to forego,
Nor proudly seek beyond our power to know? Faith is not built on disquisitions vain;
The things we must believe are few and plain: But since men will believe more than they need, $ And every man will make himself a creed, In doubtful questions 'tis the safest way To learn what unsuspected antients say; For 'tis not likely we should higher soar In search of heaven, than all the church before; Nor can we be deceived, unless we see The scripture and the fathers disagree. If, after all, they stand suspected still, (For no man's faith depends upon his will) "Tis some relief, that points, not clearly known, Without much hazard may be let alone; And, after hearing what our church can say, If still our reason runs another way, That private reason 'tis more just to curb, Than by disputes the public peace disturb: For points obscure are of small use to learn; But common quiet is mankind's concern.
Thus have I made my own opinions clear, Yet neither praise expect, nor censure fear; And this unpolished rugged verse I chose, As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose;
That first run all religion down,
Hudibras, Part III. canto 2.
For while from sacred truth I do not swerve,
* The famous Tom Brown is pleased to droll on this association of persons; being a part of the punishment which he says the laureat inflicted on Shadwell for presuming to dispute his theatrical infallibility. "But, gentlemen, when I had thus, in the plenitude of my power, issued out the above-mentioned decretal epistles, you cannot imagine what abundance of adversaries I created myself: some were for appealing to a free unbiassed synod of impartial authors; others were for suing out a quo warranto, to examine the validity of my charter. Not to mention those of higher quality, I was immediatly set upon by the fierce Elkanah, the Empress of Morocco's agent, who at that time commanded a party of Moorish horse, in order to raise the siege of Grenada; and a fat old gouty gentleman, commonly called the King of Basan, who had almost devoured the stage with free quarter for his men of wit and humourists. But I countermined all their designs against my crown and person in a moment; for I presently got the one to be dressed up in a sanbenit, under the unsanctified name of Doeg; the other I coupled myself with his namesake Tom Sternhold. Being thus degraded from their poetical functions, and become incapable of crowning princes, raising ghosts, and offering any more incense of flattery to the living and the dead, I delivered them over to the secular arm, to be chastised by the furious dapper-wits of the Inns of Court, and the young critics of the uni versity. Furthermore, to prevent all infection of their errors, I directed my monitory letters to the Sieur Batterton, advising him to keep no correspondence, either directly or indirectly, with those aforesaid apostates from sense and reason; adding, that in case of neglect, I would certainly put the theatre under an interdict, send a troop of dragoons from Drury-Lane to demolish his garrison in Salisbury-court, and absolve all his subjects, even to the sub-deacons and acolythes of the stage, his trusty door-keepers and candle-lighters, from their oaths of fealty and allegiance." Reasons for Mr Bayes' changing his Religion,