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Religious Discourse

By Gambold.2020See Works, as before, p.251. More than thirty years after it was first published, Wesley inserted this piece in the “Arminian Magazine” (vol. 4, p.170) with a commendatory note; omitting, however, the 9th paragraph, from which, in the copy referred to on p.49 as corrected with his own hand, he expresses his entire dissent.

To speak for God, to sound Religion’s praise,2121RS. The original has no verse numbering.

Of sacred passions the wise warmth to raise;

To infuse the contrite wish to conquest nigh,

And point the steps mysterious as they lie;

To seize the wretch in full career of lust,

And soothe the silent sorrows of the just:

Who would not bless for this the gift of speech,

And in the tongue’s beneficence be rich?

But who must talk? Not the mere modern sage

Who suits the soften’d Gospel to the age;

Who ne’er to raise degenerate practice strives,

But brings the precept down to Christians’ lives:

Not he, who maxims from cold reading took,

And never saw himself but through a book:

Not he, who hasty in the morn of grace,

Soon sinks extinguish’d as a comet’s blaze:

Not he, who strains in Scripture phrase to abound,

Deaf to the sense, who stuns us with the sound:

But he, who silence loves, and never dealt

In the false commerce of a Truth unfelt.

Guilty you speak, if subtle from within

Blows on your words the self-admiring sin;

If, unresolved to choose the better part,

Your forward tongue belies your languid heart:

But then speak safely, when your peaceful mind,

Above self-seeking blest, on God reclined,

Feels Him at once suggest unlabour’d sense,

And ope a sluice of sweet benevolence.

Some high behests of Heaven you then fulfil,

Sprung from His light your words, and issuing by

His will.

Nor yet expect so mystically long,

Till certain inspiration loose your tongue:

Express the precept runs, “Do good to all;”

Nor adds, “Whene’er you find an inward call.”

’Tis God commands: no farther motive seek,

Speak or without, or with reluctance speak:

To love’s habitual sense by acts aspire,

And kindle, till you catch the Gospel fire.

Discoveries immature of truth decline,

Nor prostitute the Gospel pearl to swine.

Beware, too rashly how you speak the whole,

The vileness, or the treasures of your soul.

If spurn’d by some, where weak on earth you lie;

If judged a cheat or dreamer, where you fly;

Here the sublimer strain, the exerted air

Forego; you’re at the bar, not in the chair.

To the pert reasoner if you speak at all,

Speak what within his cognizance may fall:

Expose not truths Divine to reason’s rack,

Give him his own beloved ideas back;

Your notions, till they look like his, dilute;

Blind he must be—but save him from dispute!

But when we’re turn’d of reason’s noontide glare,

And things begin to show us what they are,

More free to such your true conceptions tell;

Yet graft them on the arts where they excel.

If sprightly sentiments detain their taste;

If paths of various learning they have traced;

If their cool judgment longs, yet fears to fix:

Fire, erudition, hesitation mix.

All rules are dead: ’tis from the heart you draw

The living lustre, and unerring law.

A state of thinking in your manner show,

Nor fiercely soaring, nor supinely low:

Others their lightness and each inward fault

Quench in the stillness of your deeper thought,

Let all your gestures fix’d attention draw,

And wide around diffuse infectious awe;

Present with God by recollection seem,

Yet present, by your cheerfulness, with them.

Without elation, Christian glories paint,

Nor by fond amorous phrase assume the saint.

Greet not frail men with compliments untrue,

With smiles to peace confirm’d and conquest due.

There are who watch to adore the dawn of grace,

And pamper the young proselyte with praise:

Kind, humble souls! They with a right good will

Admire his progress—till he stands stock still.

Speak but to thirsty minds of things Divine,

Who strong for thought, are free in yours to join.

The busy from his channel parts with pain,

The languid loathes an elevated strain:

With these you aim but at good-natured chat,

Where all, except the love, is low and flat.

Not one address will different tempers fit,

The grave and gay, the heavy and the wit.

Wits will sift you; and most conviction find

Where least ’tis urged, and seems the least design’d.

Slow minds are merely passive, and forget

Truths not inculcated to these repeat,

Avow your counsel, nor abstain from heat.

Some gentle souls, to gay indifference true,

Nor hope, nor fear, nor think the more for you.

Let love turn babbler here, and caution sleep;

Blush not for shallow speech, nor muse for deep:

These to your humour, not your sense attend;

’Tis not the advice that sways them, but the friend.

Others have large recesses in their breast,

With pensive process all they hear digest:

Here well-weigh’d words with wary foresight sow,

For all you say will sink, and every seed will grow.

At first acquaintance press each truth severe,

Stir the whole odium of your character:

Let harshest doctrines all your words engross,

And Nature bleeding on the daily cross.

Then to yourself the ascetic rule enjoin,

To others stoop surprisingly benign;

Pitying, if from themselves with pain they part,

If stubborn Nature long holds out the heart.

Their outworks now are gain’d; forbear to press,

The more you urge them, you prevail the less;

Let speech lay by its roughness to oblige,

Your speaking life will carry on the siege

By your example struck, to God they strive

To live, no longer to themselves alive.

To positive adepts insidious yield,

To ensure the conquest seem to quit the field:

Large in your grants; be their opinion shown

Approve, amend—and wind it to your own.

Couch in your hints, if more resign’d they hear,

Both what they will be soon, and what they are:

Pleasing these words now to their conscious breast,

The anticipating voice hereafter blest.

In souls just waked the paths of light to choose,

Convictions keen, and zeal of prayer infuse.

Let them love rules; till freed from passion’s reign,

Till blameless moral rectitude they gain.

But lest, reform’d from each extremer ill,

They should but civilize old Nature still,

The loftier charms and energy display

Of virtue modell’d by the Godhead’s Ray;

The lineaments Divine, Perfection’s plan,

And all the grandeur of the inner man.

Commences thus the agonizing strife

Previous to Nature’s death, and second life:

Struck by their own inclement piercing eye,

Their feeble virtues blush, subside, and die;

They view the scheme that mimic Nature made,

A fancied goodness, and religion’s shade;

With angry scorn they now reject the whole,

Unchanged their heart, undeified their soul;

Till indignation sleeps away to faith,

And God’s own power and peace take root in sacred

wrath.

Aim less to teach than love. The work begun

In words, is crown’d by artless warmth alone.

Love to your friend a second office owes,

Yourself and him before Heaven’s footstool throws:

You place his form as suppliant by your side,

(A helpless worm, for whom the Saviour died,)

Into his soul call down the eternal beam,

And longing ask to spend and to be spent for him.



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