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Suppose we on things traditive divide,
And both appeal to Scripture to decide ;
By various texts we both uphold our claim,
Nay, often ground our titles on the same ;
After long labour lost, and time's expense,
Both grant the words, and quarrel for the sense.
Thus all disputes for ever must depend;
For no dumb rule can controversies end.
Thus, when you said-tradition must be tried
By sacred writ, whose sense yourselves decide ;
You said no more, but that yourselves must be
The judges of the Scripture-sense, not we.
Against our church-tradition you declare,
And yet your clerks would sit in Moses' chair :
At least ’tis prov'd against your argument,
The rule is far from plain where all dissent.”
“ If not by Scriptures, how can we be sure
(Replied the Panther) what tradition's pure ?
For you may palm upon us new for old :
All, as they say, that glitters is not gold.”
“ How but by following her, (replied the Dame) To whom deriv'd from sire to son they came ; Where every age does one another move, And trusts no farther than the next above; Where all the rounds like Jacob's ladder rise, The lowest hid in earth, the topmost in the skies?"
Sternly the savage did her answer mark, Her glowing eyeballs glittering in the dark, And said but this : 6 Since lucre was your trade, Succeeding times such dreadful gapes have made, 'Tis dangerous climbing ; to your sons and you I leave the ladder, and its omen too." (sweet,
Hind. “ The Panther's breath was ever fam'd for But from the Wolf such wishes oft I meet;
You learn'd this language from the blatant beast,*
Or rather did not speak, but were possest.
As for your answer, 'tis but barely urg'd,
You must evince tradition to be forg'd ;
Produce plain proofs, unblemish'd authors use
As ancient as those ages they accuse ;
Till when, 'tis not sufficient to defame;
An old possession stands, till elder quits the claim.
Then for our interest, which is nam'd alone
To load with envy, we retort your own :
For, when traditions in your faces fly,
Resolving not to yield, you must decry:
As when the cause goes hard, the guilty man
Excepts, and thins his jury all he can ;
So when you stand of other aid bereft,
You to the Twelve Apostles would be left.
Your friend, the Wolf, did with more craft provide
To set these toys, traditions, quite aside ;
And Fathers too, unless when, reason spent,
He cites 'em but sometimes for ornament.
But, Madam Panther, you, though more sincere,
Are not so wise as your adulterer ;
The private spirit is a better blind
Than all the dodging tricks your authors find :
For they, who left the Scripture to the crowd,
Each for his own peculiar judge allow'd,
The way to please 'em was to make them proud.
Thus with full sails they ran upon the shelf;
Who could suspect a cozenage from himself?
On his own reason safer 'tis to stand,
Than be deceiv'd and damn'd at second-hand :
But you, who Fathers and traditions take,
And garble some, and some you quite forsake,
* The Wolf, or Presbyterian clergy.
Pretending church-authority to fix,
And yet some grains of private spirit mix,
Are, like a mule, made up of differing seed,
And that's the reason why you never breed;
At least, not propagate your kind abroad,
For home-dissenters are by statutes aw'd:
And yet they grow upon you every day,
While you (to speak the best) are at a stay,
For sects, that are extremes, abhor a middle
Like tricks of state, to stop a raging flood,
Or mollify a mad-brain'd senate's mood;
Of all expedients never one was good.
Well may they argue, nor can you deny,
If we must fix on church-authority,
Best on the best, the fountain, not the flood;
That must be better still if this be good.
Shall she command who has herself rebell'd?
Is Antichrist by Antichrist expell’d?
Did we a lawful tyranny displace,
To set aloft a bastard of the race ?
Why all these wars to win the Book, if we
Must not interpret for ourselves, but she ?
Either be wholly slaves, or wholly free.
For purging fires traditions must not fight;
But they must prove Episcopacy's right.
Thus those led horses are from service freed,
You never mount 'em but in time of need ::
Like mercenaries, hird for home-defence,
They will not serve against their native prince.
Against domestic foes of hierarchy
These are drawn forth, to make Fanatics fly;
But, when they see their countrymen at hand,
Marching against 'em under church-command,
Straight they forsake their colour, and disband.”
Thus she, nor could the Panther well enlarge With weak defence against so strong a charge, But said ; “For what did Christ his Word provide, If still his church must want a living guide ? And if all saving doctrines are not there, Or sacred penmen could not make 'em clear, From after-ages we should hope in vain For truths, which men inspir'd could not explain."
“Before the Word was written (said the Hind) Our Saviour preach'd his faith to humankind: From his Apostles the first age receiv'd Eternal truth, and what they taught believ'd. Thus, by tradition faith was planted first, Succeeding flocks succeeding pastors nurs’d. This was the way our wise Redeemer chose, Who sure could all things for the best dispose, To fence his fold from their encroaching foes. He could have writ himself, but well foresaw The event would be like that of Moses' law; Some difference would arise, some doubts remain, Like those which yet the jarring Jews maintain. No written laws can be so plain, so pure, But wit may gloss, and malice may obscure; Not those indited by his first command, A prophet grav'd the text, an angel held his hand; Thus faith was ere the written word appear'd, And men believ'd not what they read, but heard: But since the Apostles could not be confin'd To these, or those, but severally design'd Their large commission round the world to blow, To spread their faith, they spread their labours
too: Yet still their absent flock their pains did share, They hearken'd still, for love produces care ;
And as mistakes arose, or discords fell,
Or bold seducers taught them to rebel,
As charity grew cold, or faction hot,
Or long neglect their lessons had forgot,
For all their wants they wisely did provide,
And preaching by epistles was supplied:
So great physicians cannot all attend,
But some they visit, and to some they send.
Yet all those letters were not writ to all,
Nor first intended but occasional,
Their absent sermons; nor, if they contain
All needful doctrines, are those doctrines plain.
Clearness by frequent preaching must be wrought;
They writ but seldom, but they daily taught;
And what one saint has said of holy Paul,
He darkly writ,' is true, applied to all.
For this obscurity could Heaven provide
More prudently than by a living guide,
As doubts arose, the difference to decide ?
A guide was therefore needful, therefore made;
And, if appointed, sure to be obey'd.
Thus, with due reverence to the Apostles' writ,
By which my sons are taught, to which submit,
I think those truths their sacred works contain,
The church alone can certainly explain;
That following ages, leaning on the past,
May rest upon the primitive at last.
Nor would I thence the Word no rule infer,
But none without the church-interpreter;
Because, as I have urg'd before, 'tis mute,
And is itself the subject of dispute.
But what the' Apostles their successors taught,
They to the next, from them to us is brought,
The’undoubted sense which is inScripture sought.