"[W]ise Men on sound Reason ground Belief: / How that they find what for the Soul is good, / As by their Smell and Taste they judge their Food; / For who but each Man's Reason ought to try / 'Tis Faith, who must be sav'd or damn'd thereby."
— Ward, Edward (1667-1731)
The Layman's Right of Literature was lost:
God's Word they made peculiar to their Schools,
Learn'd were their Shepherds, but their Flocks were Fool
Who pray'd and paid, and without further thought,
Believ'd in gross whate'er the Pulpit taught.
All humane Sense to holy Craft gave place,
And Reason was a Slave to doubtful Grace.
So blind was Zeal, the People so unwise,
That in their transubstantiate Sacrifice,
They'd trust their erring Guides before their faithful Eyes,
Believe the Euch'rist to be Flesh indeed,
Which their own Senses prov'd to be but Bread.
Sure that Relig'on ne'er could be of Heav'n,
That robs us of that Knowledge God has giv'n.
If Reason must not judge of Faith's true light,
How came our Guides to know the wrong from right,
Or, how their rev'rend Heads distinguish plain,
Betwixt the Bible and the Alchoran.
I doubt, were they of Reason dispossest,
'Twould puzzle 'em to determine which was best.
Reason's the heav'nly Ray that lights the Soul,
And the Faith dark that does its Power controul.
Fools without Thought are in Opinion stiff,
But wise Men on sound Reason ground Belief:
How that they find what for the Soul is good,
As by their Smell and Taste they judge their Food;
For who but each Man's Reason ought to try
'Tis Faith, who must be sav'd or damn'd thereby.
But useful Reason was, alas! deny'd,
And Souls depended on their outward Guide.
Th'eternal Word implicitly they took,
And did not dare to soil the sacred Book;
But, hoping well, took all things on content,
And, to enrich their Priests, kept always Lent;
Gave Sums of value, each to his degree,
For worthless Baubles of Idolatry;
Increas'd their own great Miseries and Wants,
T'adorn with gay Attire their wooden Saints.
When the Church Puppits were t'appear in State,
No Robes could be too rich, no Cost too great;
Each Bigot club'd, that the unharnas'd Shrine,
For sainted Log, might be profusely fine.
The People largely gave, but Heaven knows,
The Priest play'd booty when he bought the Cloaths,
And could not for his Soul be so upright,
To do his Saints that Justice which he might.
New Tissue Mantles for the Waxwork Child,
New Clouts and Cradle, for the Old were soil'd.
For good St. Peter a Pontifick Dress,
And costly Net his Function to express,
Of Gold and Silver made, which shew too plain,
Those were the only Nets to fish for Men:
Yet tho' their Saints were all so nobly clad,
The saving Clergy this wise Conduct had,
To keep their wooden Gods thus fine and gay,
Like foundling Bastards, at the Parish Pay.
Ten thousand Fopp'ries more did they contrive,
To gull the Laity that the Church might thrive.
Indulgences for any Sins they sold,
None fear'd Damnation, lest they wanted Gold:
But rigid Penance was enjoin'd the Poor,
And all such Misers as conceal'd their Store:
For very strait and rugged was the way
To Heav'n, for him that could and would not pay:
This Text was greatly by the Priests admir'd,
Where much is given, much shall be requir'd;
Whose genuine sence they basely did confound,
And, to their Gain, the sacred Words expound.
Thus their poor Hearers craftily were won,
First to be Bigots, next to be undone.
The Catalogue of mouldy Saints, 'tis true,
And number of their Beads, the People knew;
Were also taught in a strange Tongue to pray,
And could their Ave and Pater say:
But the blind Suppliants understood no more,
The sacred Jargon that they mumbled o'er,
Than Sappho's Parrots, taught to cry aloud,
That Sappho was a great and mighty God.
(Cf. pp. 5-8 in 1705 ed.)
Text from Miscellaneous Writings, in Verse and Prose, both Serious and Comical, containing Twenty One excellent Poems upon very diverting Subjects. Also Several pleasant Letters upon various Occasions both in Town and Country. With Merry Observations and Predictions upon every Month, and every remarkable Day throughout the Year. By Mr. Edward Ward. Vol. III. 2nd ed. (London: Printed by W. D. and Sold by J. Woodward, 1712).
See More Priestcrast: Being a New Whip for an Old Whore, or, a Protestant Scourge for a Popish Jacket. a Poem. (London: Printed, and are to be sold by B. Bragge, at the Blue-Ball in Ave-Mary-Lane, 1705.) <Link to ECCO>