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Or plain tradition, that this all begun,
Convey'd unbroken faith from sire to son;
The worker from the work distinct was known,
And simple reason never sought but one:
Ere wit oblique had broke that steady light,
Man, like his maker, saw that all was right;
To virtue, in the paths of pleasure trod,
And own'd a father when he own'd a God.
Love all the faith and all th' allegiance then;
For nature knew no right divine in men,
No ill could fear in God; and understood
A Sov’reign Being but a sov’reign good.
True faith, true policy, united ran,
That was but love of God, and this of man.
Who first taught souls enslav'd, and realms
Th' enormous faith of many made for one;
That proud exception to all nature's laws,
T' invert the world, and counterwork its cause?
Force first made conquest, and that conquest law;
Till Superstition taught the tyrant awe,
Then shar'd the tyranny, then lent it aid,
And gods of conqu’rors, slaves of subjects made:
She 'midst the light'ning's blaze, and thunder's
When rock'd the mountains, and when groan'd
the ground, She taught the weak to bend, the proud to pray, To pow'r unseen, and mightier far than they:
She, from the rending earth and bursting skies,
Saw gods descend, and fiends infernal rise:
Here fix'd the dreadful, there the blest abodes;
Fear made her devils, and weak hope her gods;
Gods partial, changeful, passionate, unjust,
Whose attributes were rage, revenge, or lust;
Such as the souls of cowards might conceive,
And, form'd like tyrants, tyrants would believe.
Zeal then, not charity, became the guide;
And hell was built on spite, and heav'n on pride.
Then sacred seem'd th' etherial vault no more;
marble then, and reek'd with
gore: Then first the flamen tasted living food;
With heav'n's own thunders shook the world
And play'd the god an engine on his foe.
So drives self-love, thro' just, and thro’ unjust, To one man's pow'r, ambition, lucre, lust: The same self-love, in all, becomes the cause Of what restrains him---government and laws.
For what one likes, if others like as well,
What serves one will, when many wills rebel;
How shall he keep, what, sleeping or awake,
A weaker may surprize, a stronger take?
His safety must his liberty restrain:
All join to guard what each desires to gain,
Forc'd into virtue thus by self-defence,
Ev'n kings learnt justice and benevolence:
Self-love forsook the path it first pursu'd,
And found the private in the public good.
'Twas then, the studious head or gen'rous mind,
Follow'r of God or friend of human-kind,
Poet or patriot, rose but to restore
The faith and moral nature gave before;
Relum'd her ancient light, not kindled new;
If not God's image, yet his shadow drew:
Taught power’s due use to people and to kings;
Taught nor to slack, nor strain its tender strings,
The less, or greater, set so justly true,
That touching one must strike the other too;
Till jarring int'rests of themselves create
Th' according music of a well-mix'd state.
Such is the world's great harmony, that springs
From order, union, full consent of things: