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Religion And Death
NC (1705-1788 / England)

Religion And Death

Lo! a form divinely bright
Descends, and bursts upon my sight;
A seraph of illustrious birth!
(Religion was her name on earth);
Supremely sweet her radiant face,
And blooming with celestial grace!
Three shining cherubs form'd her train,
Wav'd their light wings, and reach'd the plain:
Faith, with sublime and piercing eye,
And pinions flutt'ring for the sky;
Here Hope, that smiling angel stands,
And golden anchors grace her hands;
There Charity in robes of white,
Fairest and fav'rite maid of light.
The seraph spoke - ''Tis reason's part
To govern and to guard the heart;
To lull the wayward soul to rest,
When hopes and fears distract the breast.
Reason may calm this doubtful strife,
And steer thy bark through various life:
But when the storms of death are nigh,
And midnight darkness veils the sky,
Shall reason then direct thy sail,
Disperse the clouds, or sink the gale?
Stranger, this skill alone is mine,
Skill that transcends his scanty line.'
'Revere thyself - thou'rt near allied
To angels on thy better side.
How various e'er their ranks or kinds,
Angels are but unbodied minds:
When the partition-walls decay,
Men emerge angels from their clay.
Yes, when the frailer body dies,
The soul asserts her kindred skies.
But minds, though sprung from heav'nly race,
Must first be tutor'd for the place:
The joys above are understood,
And relish'd only by the good.
Who shall assume this guardian care;
Who shall secure their birth-right there;
Souls are my charge - to me 'tis giv'n
To train them for their native heav'n.'
'Know then - who bow the early knee,
And give the willing heart to me;
Who wisely, when Temptation waits,
Elude her frauds, and spurn her baits;
Who dare to own my injur'd cause,
Though fools deride my sacred laws;
Or scorn to deviate to the wrong,
Though persecution lifts her thong;
Though all the sons of hell conspire
To raise the stake and light the fire;
Know, that for such superior souls,
There lies a bliss beyond the poles:
Where spirits shine with purer ray,
And brighten to meridian day;
Where love, where boundless friendship rules;
(No friends that change, no love that cools);
Where rising floods of knowledge roll,
And pour, and pour upon the soul!'
'But where's the passage to the skies? -
The road through death's black valley lies.
Nay, do not shudder at my tale;
Tho' dark the shades, yet safe the vale.
This path the best of men have trod;
And who'd decline the road to God?
Oh! 'tis a glorious boon to die!
This favour can't be priz'd too high.'
While thus she spoke, my looks express'd
The raptures kindling in my breast;
My soul a fix'd attention gave;
When the stern monarch of the grave,
With haughty strides approach'd - amaz'd
I stood and trembled as I gaz'd.
The seraph calm'd each anxious fear,
And kindly wip'd the falling tear;
Then hasten'd with expanded wing
To meet the pale, terrific king.
But now what milder scenes arise!
The tyrant drops his hostile guise;
He seems a youth divinely fair,
In graceful ringlets waves his hair;
His wings their whit'ning plumes display,
His burnish'd plumes reflect the day;
Light flows his shining azure vest,
And all the angel stands confess'd.
I view'd the change with sweet surprise;
And, Oh! I panted for the skies;
Thank'd heav'n, that e'er I drew my breath;
And triumph'd in the thoughts of death.

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