Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Holy One with mortal men to dwell:
By His prescript a sanctuary is framed
Of cedar, overlaid with gold; therein

245
An ark, and in the ark His testimony,
The records of His covenant; over these
A mercy-seat of gold, between the wings
Of two bright Cherubim; before Him burn
Seven lamps as in a zodiac representing

250 The heavenly fires; over the tent a cloud Shall rest by day, a fiery gleam by night; Save when they journey, and at length they come, Conducted by His Angel, to the land Promised to Abraham and his seed. The rest 255 Were long to tell; how many battles fought; How many kings destroy'd, and kingdoms won; Or how the sun shall in mid heaven stand still A day entire, and night's due course adjourn, Man's voice commanding, ‘Sun, in Gibeon stand, 260 And thou, Moon, in the vale of Ajalon, Till Israel overcome !' so call the third From Abraham, son of Isaac; and from him His whole descent, who thus shall Canaan win.”

Here Adam interposed : “O sent from Heaven, 265 Enlightener of my darkness, gracious things Thou hast reveald; those chiefly, which concern Just Abraham and his seed: now first I find Mine eyes true-opening, and my heart much eased, Erewhile perplex'd with thoughts, what would become Of me and all mankind: but now I see

271 His day, in whom all nations shall be blest; Favour unmerited by me, who sought Forbidden knowledge by forbidden means.

This yet I apprehend not, why to those

275 Among whom God will deign to dwell on earth, So many and so various laws are given; So many laws

argue so many sins Among them; how can God with such reside?"

To whom thus Michael: “Doubt not but that sin Will reign among them, as of thee begot; 281 And therefore was law given them, to evince Their natural pravity, by stirring up Sin against law to fight: that when they see Law can discover sin, but not remove,

285 Save by those shadowy expiations weak, The blood of bulls and goats, they may conclude Some blood more precious must be paid for man; Just for unjust; that, in such righteousness To them by faith imputed, they may find 290 Justification towards God and peace Of conscience; which the law by ceremonies Cannot appease; nor man the mortal part Perform; and, not performing, cannot live. So law appears imperfect; and but given 295 With purpose to resign them, in full time, Up to a better covenant; disciplined From shadowy types to truth; from flesh to spirit; From imposition of strict laws to free Acceptance of large grace; from servile fear 300 To filial; works of law to works of faith. And therefore shall not Moses, though of God Highly beloved, being but the minister Of law, his people into Canaan lead ; But Joshua, whom the Gentiles Jesus call, 305 His name and office bearing, who shall quell

The adversary serpent, and bring back
Through the world's wilderness long-wander'd man
Safe to eternal Paradise of rest.
Meanwhile they, in their earthly Canaan placed, 310
Long time shall dwell and prosper, but when sins
National interrupt their public peace,
Provoking God to raise them enemies;
From whom as oft he saves them penitent
By judges first, then under kings; of whom

315
The second, both for piety renown'd
And puissant deeds, a promise shall receive
Irrevocable, that his regal throne
For ever shall endure; the like shall sing
All prophecy, that of the royal stock

320 Of David (so I name this king) shall rise A Son, the woman's seed to thee foretold, Foretold to Abraham, as in whom shall trust All nations; and to kings foretold, of kings The last; for of his reign shall be no end, 325 But first, a long succession must ensue ; And his next son, for wealth and wisdom famed, The clouded ark of God, till then in tents Wandering, shall in a glorious temple enshrine. Such follow him, as shall be register'd

330 Part good, part bad; of bad the longer scroll; Whose foul idolatries, and other faults Heap'd to the popular sum, will so incense God, as to leave them, and expose their land, Their city, his temple, and his holy ark,

335 With all his sacred things, a scom and prey To that proud city, whose high walls thou saw'st Left in confusion ; Babylon thence call’d.

There in captivity he lets them dwell
The

space of seventy years; then brings them back,
Remembering mercy, and his covenant sworn 341
To David, 'stablish'd as the days of heaven.
Return'd from Babylon by leave of kings
Their lords, whom God disposed, the house of God
They first re-edify; and for a while

345 In mean estate live moderate; till, grown In wealth and multitude, factious they grow; But first

among the priests dissension springs, Men who attend the altar, and should most Endeavour peace: their strife pollution brings 350 Upon the temple itself: at last they seize The sceptre, and regard not David's sons; Then lose it to a stranger, that the true Anointed King Messiah might be born Barr'd of his right; yet at his birth a star,

355 Unseen before in heaven, proclaims him come; And guides the eastern sages, who inquire His place, to offer incense, myrrh, and gold: His place of birth a solemn angel tells To simple shepherds, keeping watch by night; 360 They gladly thither haste, and by a quire Of squadron'd angels hear his carol sung. A virgin is his mother, but his sire The power of the Most High: he shall ascend The throne hereditary, and bound his reign 365 With earth’s wide bounds, his glory with the heavens.”

He ceased, discerning Adam with such joy Surcharged, as had like grief been dew'd in tears, Without the vent of words; which these he breathed : “O prophet of glad tidings, finisher

370

Of utmost hope! now clear I understand
What oft my steadiest thoughts have search'd in vain ;
Why our great Expectation should be call’d
The seed of woman: virgin mother, hail,
High in the love of Heaven; yet from my loins 375
Thou shalt proceed, and from thy womb the Son
Of God Most High: so God with man unites !
Needs must the serpent now his capital bruise
Expect with mortal pain: say where and when 379
Their fight, what stroke shall bruise the victor's heel.”

To whom thus Michael : “Dream not of their fighty
As of a duel, or the local wounds
Of head or heel: not therefore joins the Son
Manhood to Godhead, with more strength to foil
Thy enemy; nor so is overcome

385 Satan, whose fall from heaven, a deadlier bruise, Disabled not to give thee thy death's wound : Which He, who comes thy Saviour, shall recure, Not by destroying Satan, but his works In thee, and in thy seed : nor can this be, 390 But by fulfilling that which thou didst want, Obedience to the law of God, imposed On penalty of death, and suffering death ; The penalty to thy transgression due, And due to theirs which out of thine will grow : 395 So only can high justice rest appaid. The law of God exact he shall fulfil Both by obedience and by love, though love Alone fulfil the law; thy punishment He shall endure, by coming in the flesh

400 To a reproachful life, and cursed death; Proclaiming life to all who shall believe

.

« PreviousContinue »