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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Brides Ornaments: Meditat. I. Of Justice and Righteousness.

The Brides Ornaments: Poetical Essayes upon a Divine Subject. [In The Song of Songs, which was Salomons.]

Robert Aylett


Robert Aylett ("R. A.") appears to draw upon the experience of Redcross: in stanza 71 and following, he comments on the burden of Righteousnesse, "Coward-like our Armour off we cast ... As Captives, being naked and unarm'd."

As might be expected from Aylett's profession, the meditation on Justice is the longest in the sequence, beginning with a general treatment of law, and concluding with more discussion of Pauline theology.



When first Gods moving Spirit forth had brought
Beasts, Fowle, Fish, creeping things after their kind:
Loe, then He Man in his owne Image wrought,
And him a Ruler over all assign'd,
Writing within the Tablet of his Mind
His Law, which should eternally endure,
And all the Creatures in Obedience bind
To Man their King, and knit his heart as sure
To King of Kings. This Law was naturall and pure.

Here first the right of Soveraigntie began,
All subject to the Monarchy of one,
For every Creature subject is to Man,
While he is subject unto God alone.
This Monarch now is seated in his Throne,
And the whole world doth with his Scepter sway:
Here's the first president that e're was knowne
Of government. From hence loe, Princes may
Learne rightly how to rule, and Subjects to obey.

Thus Man of this great World the little King,
To shew his Soveraigntie gave all a name,
And they their Lord as Subjects rev'rencing,
True Vassals to this little King became:
Yet Man in honour could not hold the same,
But did become rude, disobedient:
Breaking that Law, he merits hell, death, shame:
When he offends that hath the Regiment,
His double sinne deserves a double punishment.

In all his workes before, the Lord had showne,
His Love, Power, Wisedome, Truth, and Providence:
But now Mans sinne his Justice must make knowne,
Though most notorious was the Mans offence,
God will not judge till he makes his defence;
Man cited then, appeares vile, naked, lame,
There needes no witnesse but his conscience,
And though on others he would lay the blame,
The more his cause is heard, the more appeares his shame.

Besides th' eternall Law which in the heart
Of Adam God had wrote with his owne Hand,
He did one precept unto him impart,
Indiffrent, till against the Lords command,
Of all the Trees that in the Garden stand,
From one, on paine of death, he must refrayne.
Lawes made we may not question or withstand:
Who breakes them, bears the forfeit of the payne;
When Rulers cease to punish Vice, they sinne maintayne.

Thou that the hearts of all Men dost dispose,
Of Kings to rule, and Subjects to obay,
From whom all Power proceedes to binde and lose,
Who humble men in judgement guidest ay;
Thou Judge of all the world, direct, I pray,
Thy humble Servant, to discerne aright
Of Justice, that I her delineate may.
In her true shape unto the Peoples sight,
That teaching I may learne and practise to doe right.

Shee is a constant and perpetuall Will,
That gives to every Man what is his right;
First free from Passion, shee continues still
Constant in her disposing things aright.
In action next shee taketh most delight,
And not alone in idle speculation,
There's no respect of persons in her sight,
The same to all without vaine alteration,
For Law's the Rule and Square of her administration.

Justice the Vertue, Law's the Rule and Square,
Whereby we truly Justice exercise:
Wherefore if in the abstract you declare
Lawes Nature, she's perpetuall, constant, wise,
And so doth with God in heav'n for ay abye:
But if you view her in the concrete Would,
She varies as the Subject her employs,
Then blame not Lawes when wrong we doe behould,
It comes from Man that's made of corruptible mould.

As when pure Wine in putrid Vessell put,
Becomes unwholsome, ranke, unsavoury,
The fault's not in the Wine, but in the Butt,
Which doth the sweetnesse of the Wine destroy:
Ev'n so it fares with Law and Equitie,
In their owne nature they are perfect, pure,
But if in Subjects of Iniquitie
They are contain'd, they cannot so endure,
But like the Subject they become corrupt, impure.

Three kindes of Lawes from God I doe observe;
Morall, Judiciall, Ceremoniall,
Which three the Jewes did constantly preserve,
As bound in conscience to obay them all.
The Ceremoniall and Judiciall,
Cease, but remayne paternes for imitation:
The Morall is the same perpetuall,
That most pure Law, which from Mans first creation,
Continues still to us without least alteration.

And though the Rule of Right, now doth not tie
To the Judiciall Lawes strict observation,
Yet it doth bind us to the equitie
Thereof (as fittest for our imitation:)
Though Blasphemie, Theft, Murder, Fornication,
Have not amongst us now the punishment
Which Jewes inflicted by Gods ordination;
Yet 'tis a Rule in all good government,
The paine unto the sinne must be equivalent.

As Lawes, Right to maintayne, and wrong redresse,
Should be conform'd to the Judiciall,
So rules of order and of comelinesse,
Ought imitate Lawes Ceremoniall:
The Morall Law (by some cal'd Naturall)
Is Gods eternall Law, by which above
He things in Heav'n and Earth disposeth all.
These God ingrav'd in Stone, the Jewes to prove,
But in our hearts they all now written are by love.

Mistake me not, that I maintayne hereby
Grosse Judaisme, or out-worne rudiment,
Which Christs last Sacrifice did typifie,
(Such Ceremonies long agoe are spent)
But those where by we should our selves present
In publique Preaching, Sacraments, Devotions,
It well becomes us all with one consent,
To imitate without strife or commotions,
'Tis sinne to disobay Lawes in indifferent motions.

I know full well there is a Law beside
This Morall Law, which some call Naturall,
Which under God by Nature is impli'de
To rule Heav'ns Spheres and Motions, which they call
The Law of Nature; By which rise and fall
Sunne, Moone, and Starres, in Motion necessarie,
But from the Law of Reason, whereby all
That Reason have are Agents voluntarie,
By some cal'd Reasons Law, my Muse now will not varie.

From hence as from a Nurserie, doe come
All Lawes, which by good Christian Politie
And lawfull Power, to us as bonds become,
To keepe us in the bands of Charitie,
And us preserve from wrong and injurie,
And not by others losse to raise our gayne,
But leade our lives in Truth and Honestie,
As not enough from evil to restrayne,
Except we good perform, and others right maintayne.

(Ev'n as we see things wanting life and sense,
(But Agents naturall) strive to maintayne
The preservation of the common Ens,
And 'gainst their naturall course themselves constrayne,
Ev'n Motions against Nature doe darraigne,
As heavie stones will up from Center flie,
Rather then all a Vacuum entertayne,
So reasonable men should rather die,
Then suffer any harm to Universitie.

And hence comes Lawes of Nations, which maintayne
Leagues betwixt Princes, Freedom, Servitude:
Next civill Law, whose equitie did gayne
Command of all Romes Empires amplitude.
The Canon Law, whose wisedome did conclude
All other Lawes, till Pride and Superstition
Amongst those sacred Sanctions did intrude,
So Antichristianizing by ambition,
That holy Writ must now give place to their Tradition.

Thus Statutes of each Countrey, Citie, Land,
Which they themselves doe call Municipall,
All Lawes which now in force with us doe stand,
The Common, Civill, Ecclesiasticall,
All these doe come from the pure Naturall,
And tend true Right and Justice to maintayne,
Respecting Gods true worship first of all
Next Magistrates, peace publique, common gayne,
And last that each man may in peace his owne retayne.

But as from Fountayne seated on a Hill,
Pure silver streames in sundrie Channels flow,
First cleare like Spring from which their waters rill,
But passing farther thicke and miry grow,
(Defiled by their Channels soile below)
Ev'n so, all Lawes which from th' Eternall come,
First like the paterne are, as pure as snow,
But doe in time corrupt and base become,
By Mans corrupted heart, through which Lawes streames doe run.

Base Dust and Ashes dares not be so bold,
As to define of Righteousness Divine,
That Justice pure which Flesh cannot behold,
But as some rayes here seeme below to shine,
As farre above the reach of humane eyne,
As infinite Love, Truth, and Majestie,
Transcends the measure of a finite Line:
Yet Man at first was fram'd thus righteous by
The Righteous God, from whom comes none inquitie.

For nothing that's unrighteous or unjust,
Hath e're of shall be in his Presence seene;
Wherefore renouncing all our rags, we must
In Christs pure Righteousnesse all clothed beene.
It is a wicked fond conceit to weene
Mans righteousness, once able is to stand
Before the Righteous Judge, where our most cleane
And perfect acts, as vile, unpure, are scand:
Oh wretched Man whom thus Presumption holds in band.

My feeble Spirits and Soule amaz'd become,
When I contemplate of the Righteousnesse,
That with the most Just God doth ever wonne,
My Muse unable farre is to expresse
His Justice, which is Truth and Holinesse:
Therefore I backe now will retire againe
To Justice, that brings Man to Happinesse,
And here on Earth doth Peace and Love maintayne,
And first her Nature by her Causes will explayne.

Out of bad causes good effects to draw,
Peculiar is to Providence Divine,
From whence it comes that many a wholsome Law
From evil manners seemes to draw her Line;
But they no causes are; For Power Divine
Is the first Cause of Justice and of Right,
Ev'n as the Sunne, which giveth pow'r to shine
To all the glorious Lamps we see by night,
Though darknes seeme the cause of their pure twinkling light.

Yet as the Sunne, the Fountayne of all Light,
Doth of his beames to all those Planets send,
Which in the absence of the Sunne by night
Direct all Travailers aright to wend:
So Righteous God such Righteousnesse doth lend
To Kings, and Rulers all, that judge below,
That they may Right and Justice true extend,
And in Gods stead both Light and Guidance show
To Men, which else to all obliquitie would grow.

At first when Kings and Princes gan to sway,
And that no Lawes as yet were on record,
All did their Princes will and mind obay,
And the whole Law came from the Princes word:
Law therefore Kings this Title doth afford,
And stiles them living Lawes by grace Divine,
Sent unto Men to be their Liege and Lord,
With power to make new Lawes and old define,
The Head, which Members all in politique body joyne.

Thus God first gives Kings power Lawes to ordayne,
Which Kings unto their Judges delegate;
By their Lawes, Right and Justice to maintayne:
All Power from God doth first begin her date,
And therefore all ought him to imitate,
And thereby to doe right, and wrong redresse;
Not onely to encrease their owne estate,
And live in Plentie, Pride, and Wantonnesse,
For so we make God cause of our unrighteousnesse.

So we abuse the Power God doth give,
To Pleasures, Pride, Unrighteousnesse, and Wrong,
As if we onely to our selves did live,
When Judgement onely doth to God belong,
Who ev'n the Kings and Judges sits among,
To doe the Orphane and the Widdow right,
To breake delayes that Clients suites prolong,
Nor suffering Right to be borne downe by Might,
But truly first discerne and then proceede aright.

These true effects of righteous Causes are
Like God, first cause of Justice, to proceed,
Who pulleth downe the Mightie from his chaire,
And sets the Meeke and Humble in his stead.
Loe, Justice hath a sword to make sinne bleede,
As well as Scepter for to rule in Peace;
Besides our sowing we must also weede,
If we expect a plentifull encrease,
So long as Vice growes strong, the Sword must never cease.

Sixe several Serjeants wait on Justice Throne,
Which shee in severall duties doth employ;
By first, shee doth command things to be done:
By second, punisheth what's done awry:
The third forbids: the fourth gives leave to trie:
The fift exhorts: last doth the right advise:
All these respect have to lifes honestie,
And that no hurt 'gainst others we devise,
Lastly, things that are due to every man to size.

But not men onely in authoritie,
May Subjects be of doing wrong or right,
But ev'n weake men in want and povertie,
As when a poore man doth his Neighbour smite,
Or workes to man or beast the leaste despite,
To wish the lest hurt, is unrighteousnesse:
And who workes ought by open force or flight
'Gainst Neighbours goods or credit, doth no lesse
Offend against the perfect Rule of Righteousnesse.

Yea Subjects sinne against the Rule of Right,
When double honour, unto Rulers due,
They doe not tender in the peoples sight;
Rulers are Ministers, set in Gods lieu,
For good of those that evill doe eschew;
Who seekes Authoritie for to out-face,
Deserve sharpe punishment in open view,
Though, as a Man, I can beare all disgrace,
Yet should I not endure dishonour in my place.

Loe, here I could by subjects five expresse
Five severall degrees, which Meditation
Suggests to me of this pure Righteousness.
First is of God, from which by derivation
The other foure have life and sustenation;
Of Angels, Kings, and Judges all, which bee
Authorised by Princes delegation;
Lastly, of Subjects. But the latter three,
Corrupted often are by Mans impuritie.

As plants, which have sole power vegetative,
Judge not of Beasts which motion have and sense,
Nor Beasts of Angels pure divine Essence,
Nor Angels infinite Omnipotence:
So Subjects judge not Judges uprightnesse;
Nor Judges, Kings; Nor Kings, the excellence
Of Angels Justice; And Angels no lesse
Unable are to judge of Gods pure Righteousnesse.

Thus every Soule by right we subject see
To higher Powers, for conscience, not for feare:
The Powers that are, by God ordayned bee,
And, but by God himselfe, no Powers are.
Who then resists the Power, doth not spare
Ev'n Gods owne Ordinances to resist,
Which is for good to those that right doe fare,
But for their punishment that doe persist
In wickednesse, nor from wrong doing doe desist.

Wherefore we must give ev'ry Man his due,
To whom Tithe, Custome, Honour, Feare, belong:
We ought to render them most just and true,
Or else thereby Gods Ministers we wrong:
We must owe nought, but Love to old or yong,
For he that loves fulfils the whole Lawes will.
Abstaynes from Murder, Lust, Detraction, Wrong.
In briefe, commanded good (forsaking ill.)
By loving Neighbours as our selves, we all fulfill.

Of all the Vertues that attend this Peere,
Shee most of all in Truth doth take delight,
Who is alli'd to Righteousness so neere,
And link'd in Love, that from each others sight
They never part, but ev'n with all their might
Joyne their best service to their Queene t' approve.
Obedience, Knowledge, Prudence, wait on Right,
Brave Fortitude and Zeale resolved prove,
To maintayne all Right doth for their great Queene of Love.

Thus all the Vertues that on Love attend,
Companions are of Justice and of Right,
All single and in one their forces bend,
Her to assist against unlawfull might.
Great Enemies with her doe daily fight;
Ambition, Envie, Avarice, and Wrong,
Seeking by open force and secret flight,
To weaken hers, and make their owne part strong:
Yet shee the proudest of them all oft layes along.

As many as are Enemies to Peace,
Publique or private are her Enemies:
For whereas Discord, Wars, and Strife encrease,
There follow Wrong, Revenge, and Injuries;
And though some over-vainely doe advise
Brave Spirits to bloodie wars to purchase Fame,
Yet who so undertakes such enterprise,
Unlesse it be for Peace in Justice name,
By shedding guiltlesse blood deserves eternall blame.

Therefore the Pirate justly did retort
Reproach of Thiefe to Grecian Monarch's shame,
Who the whole World sought to subdue by tort,
To purchase proud vaine glorie to his name,
Assuring him he was as much too blame
To rob by Land, as he on Sea to pill,
The Monarch wronged all for idle Fame:
The Pirate for his gayne did rob and kill;
Each 'gainst the rule of Right by force maintayn'd his will.

Some great Ones glorie like to Pikes in Pond,
All other under Fishes to devour,
That they alone inherit may the Lond,
And all the World subdue unto their power,
As never thinking of their latest hower.
When, as they came they must returne againe,
Why should the Highest on the Lowest lower?
The greatest Prince the meanest Slave disdayne?
Both borne alike, breath, die, and in their grave remayne.

Besides, Vice oft in Vertues shape appeares:
Injustice under Mercies name doth go:
Therefore must Judges not be mov'd with teares
Of sinners in calamitie and woe:
Rulers in Discipline may Mercy show,
And Meeknesse, so they leave not loosely light
The raynes unto Offenders, ill to doe
Whom Feare, not Love, from doing hurt doth fright.
For hope of pardon doth lewd minds to sinne invite.

Therefore let Judges Grace and Pitie show,
In pardoning their private injuries:
But for offences publique let them know,
They there ev'n Gods owne Judgement exercise.
The ancient Romanes wisely did devise
To punish facil Judges with that payne,
Which Law against Offenders did devise,
Thus wisely foolish pitty to restrayne,
For that severe uprightnesse Peace did best maintayne.

For surely none worke Justice more despight
Then fayned Mercy, Pity, Conscience, Grace,
Who all their wrong entitle Just and Right,
And the right Morall Line of Law deface,
Whereby each Man ought to direct his pace:
From which to stray is foule iniquitie.
I grant that Conscience may rule in some case,
But not against the Law, whose equitie
(If not against Gods Word) hath good authoritie.

For as in every Towne and common Mart,
There is of Weights and Measures but one size,
And Standard, which true right to all doth part,
And Weight and Measure justly doth comprise;
Ev'n so in this Worlds Market men devise
One Law to mete out ev'ry Man his due,
And by that Law the Judges ought assise
All their Decrees and Judgements just and trew,
And not in stead of Lawes to broach Opinions new.

But as in Man we soule and body find,
So Lawes consist of Letter and true Sense;
And as the body place gives to the mind,
So the Lawes Letter with Obedience,
To the true Sense and Soule of Law consents.
Who Letter of the Law seeke to maintayne,
And leave her mind and meanings excellence,
Are like them that their bodies good to gayne,
Both Soule and Body hazard to eternall payne.

Some Painters Justice without eyes describe,
That shee might know no Man in doing right;
Some without hands, that shee may take no Bribe;
Some without pockets, that may gifts invite:
For gifts of wisest men doe blinde the sight,
And words ev'n of the Righteous doe pervert,
Making them wrest the Law, and take delight
In base rewards, which doe corrupt the Heart,
Which being once amisse doth all the rest divert.

But vaine it is to thinke by likelinesse
Of earthly things, to type out things Divine,
Since none her heav'nly Nature can expresse,
But who the God-head can aright define.
O let the Sunne of Righteousnesse then shine
Upon my blinded heart with brightest rayes,
Which may direct my Muse aright to Line,
And levell out this heav'nly Ladies wayes,
That searching, I may learne and follow Right all wayes.

No earthly subject now my Muse contaynes,
Behold, of Righteousness Divine I sing,
That Righteous Judge that searcheth Heart and Reynes,
Most gracious God, and yet most righteous King:
Who one his owne deare righteous Sonne did bring
The bitter cup of wrath and indignation,
Due to Mankind for their dire trespassing;
Thus satisfying Justice by his Passion,
And shewing wondrous Love in working Mans salvation.

This Righteousnesse in us may be defin'd
A sanctifying holy Qualitie,
By Gods owne Spirit upon our Hearts consign'd,
To shew to Gods Law true conformitie,
And square our words and actions all thereby.
Loe, thus we give to every one their due,
To God and Man, for by Gods Law we trie
And understand what to them both is due.
So that conformitie thereto is Justice true.

To this most perfect Justice can attayne
None, but our Head, surnamed, THAT JUST ONE.
Indeed, God made Man righteous, and againe
In Heav'n we just and perfect shall become:
But amongst Men so righteous there are none.
Yet reade we of a two-fold Uprightnesse;
One Legall, which the Law to us hath showne:
The other, which the Gospell doth expresse,
Where Grace accepts our will by Faith for Righteousnesse.

The Law requires perfect Obedience,
Ev'n in that Man that seekes to live thereby:
The Gospell, Faith, and a good Conscience;
By Faith Christs Righteousness especially
Imputed is, which rightly we apply.
That, of the Conscience doth the whole Man frame,
Willing in all things to live honestly;
This, of Gods Spirit a powerfull worke I name,
And none but the regenerate obtayne the same.

For Righteousnesse that thus from Faith doth runne,
Let me referre you to that Meditation,
Which I of Faith have formerly begunne,
Whereas Christs Merits (ours by Imputation)
Stand before God for our Justification.
And thus Christ is of the whole Law the end:
For what the Law exacts for our Salvation,
Christ hath fulfilled for us as a Friend,
And by the Gospell to Beleevers doth extend.

The Righteousness of a good Conscience,
In two things doth consist especially;
First, to abstayne from ill with diligence;
Next, to doe good willing and constantly:
To doe good and avoid iniquitie,
Are two essential parts of Righteousnesse:
Except they both concurre, they both doe die.
Loe, thus old Zachary and Elizabesse,
Were righteous before God, and walkt with men blamelesse.

We Righteousnesse of Faith from Christ receave:
That of Conscience, is a worke of Grace:
The Righteousnesse of Faith will not there cleave,
Where Righteousnesse of Conscience hath not place:
This right of Conscience rightly we embrace,
When true Repentance working change of mind,
Doth the old Man of sinne in us deface,
With resolute purpose in a holy kind,
Henceforth to frame our lives as Gods Law hath assign'd.

If thus the mind be truely altered,
And change of resolution throughly wrought,
Then the whole Man is fitly furnished,
To put Faith's Righteousnesse on as he ought.
Without true change of mind we soone are brought
Like Dogge unto his vomit to retire;
By sinne corrupted Nature's easily caught
Againe like Sow to wallow in the mire.
High God doth first this inward Righteousness require.

Thus by true Faith and a good Conscience,
With true Repentance we our selves doe presse,
And arme to proofe for sure and firme defence,
With brest-plate spirituall of Righteousnesse,
Which gards us from all mortall sinfulnesse.
For as the brest-plate hides each vitall part,
So that no mortall wound can them oppresse,
Ev'n so this Righteousnesse defends the Heart
And Conscience, that no mortall sinne can thorough dart.

Thus strongly arm'd, we most assured stand
Of our effectuall calling and salvation:
For as we God most righteous understand,
So know we that the righteous Generation,
Are borne of him which brings true exultation,
Cladding our Names with happy memorie,
Makes much for true religious confirmation,
Doth it with Infidels much dignifie,
Who seeing our good workes our Maker glorifie.

As are the windings of slie Errours trayne,
So are the by-paths of Iniquitie;
Yet in two Heads we may them all contayne,
To Neighbours wrong, to God Impietie;
Here I some over-just Ones pass not by,
(Such as must have all Bowes by their owne bent)
Who by pretence of Christian liberite,
Allow nought but what their owne braines invent,
Correctors curious of things indifferent.

Two other Gulfes here I will onely sound;
One is of Pharisaicall Righteousnesse;
The other with false Libertines is found,
Who doe abuse Gods grace to wantonnesse:
The last, Faith onely with their tongue professe,
But let their conscience wind at libertie.
The other make great boast of Uprightnesse
And Merits, trusting to be sav'd thereby:
Both put asunder those God doth together tie.

(Thus Hymeneus did and Alexander,
Who first put away good Conscience:
And then in Schismes and Heresies did wander,
Till they made shipwracke of Faiths firme defence.
Thus some giv'n over to a reprobate sense,
Doe fall to senselesse base Idolatrie,
Putting in stocks and stones their confidence:
And in the mysterie of Iniquitie;
Who boasts himselfe to have of Heav'n and Hell the Key.)

Not but Christ's immense Coate of Righteousnesse,
Sufficient is to cloath all that beleeve:
But we our Faith by good workes must expresse,
If of his Fulnesse we hope to receave:
Yet let Presumption no Man so deceave,
The rags of his inherent Righteousnesse
With Christs, in our Redemption for to weave.
By ours we must not hope to come to blisse,
Nor ever without ours attayne true Happinesse.

Yet Righteousnesse no cause is, but the way,
Whereby we to our Heav'nly Citie come:
He that doth misse this path doth walke astray,
And head-long with iniquity doth run.
As in some narrow passage to a Towne,
He that will thither passe, one way must treade,
Which if he misse, he wanders up and down,
No path but one the right way him can leade:
Yet we the path no cause of comming thither reade.

This way's like Jacobs Ladder, which did reach
Ev'n up to Heav'n, yet stood upon the ground;
From top whereof Christ out his Arme doth stretch,
To helpe up all that in good workes abound.
A streight long way and many steps are found,
Before we scale the top of Righteousnesse,
Gods gracious Spirit doth this way propound,
And guides our feete to move aright to blesse,
But onely Christ above doth us thereof possesse.

In this way Enoch's said to walke with God,
And Men began then holy invocation:
Next Noah in his Makers grace abode,
A just and perfect Man in's generation.
Thus Job, Lot, Abram, have their commendation
For Justice, Judgement, Faith and Righteousnesse;
Walking with Men in upright conversation,
And towards God in Truth and Holinesse,
Thus shewing by her fruits the Faith which they professe.

Thus Patriarchs, Prophets, Judges, Priests, and Kings,
That did beleeve Gods future promises,
First fear'd and honour'd him above all things,
Next walk'd on earth in Truth and Righteousnesse,
Labouring in Life and Doctrine to expresse
Their firme beliefe of Christ that was to come,
Who since is manifested in the Flesh,
And doth the end of Righteousnesse become,
Which cannot be obtayn'd, unlesse on earth begun.

Loe, Moses had an eye to this reward,
When he left Egypts pleasures, wealth, promotion,
The three chiefe baits which Worldlings most regard,
Three greatest Enemies to true Devotion:
Joseph for this despis'd his Mistris motion,
And rather chose that stocks his limbs should lame,
Then he would taste of Lusts unrighteous potion.
Loe, Christ a wretch for Righteousnesse became,
And for the Just's reward endur'd the Crosses shame.

If I should count all the Authorities,
Which of this Vertue in Gods Word abound,
One Volume to hold all would not suffice,
In ev'ry Booke, Verse, Chapter, to be found:
But most of all, the holy Psalmes propound
Abundant matter for this Meditation;
The which my Reader I doe leave to sound,
That willing is to make right application,
And follow Righteousness in life and conversation.

But though I tremble whilst I heare Paul reason
Of Temp'rance, Judgement, Truth and Righteousnesse,
Yet carelesse take a more convenient season,
Like Foelix, in my life it to expresse,
And grope for Bribes the wronged to redresse;
I cannot tall how soone of this my rome,
My Maker will a juster Man professe,
And then to strict account I needs must come,
And be rewarded as to others I have done.

Were mortall eyes but able to behold,
The glorious splendour, and the light Divine,
The Crownes, Joys, Honours, Pleasures manifold
Prepar'd for them that live by righteous Line,
And how the Righteous like the Sunne shall shine
With Sonne and Father in eternall blesse,
We nould at Crosse, reproch, or shame repine,
Which though they seeme some burthen to the flesh,
More free our soules hereby converse in Holinesse.

But ah, Sinne on our Nature hangs so fast,
And pricks with honour, pleasure, wealth, and ease,
That coward-like our Armour off we cast,
And for promotion flatter, fawne, and please.
Then Satan takes advantage us to seise
As Captives, being naked and unarm'd,
Whom though before perhaps he might disease,
Yet never could us mortally have harm'd,
If with brest-plate of Righteousnesse we had beene arm'd.

Oh, but 'tis too great burthen to the flesh,
To keepe this Armour on continually,
And to our nature breeds great wearinesse,
To so great watchfulnesse our soules to tye:
But since it doth assure us victorie,
Whol would not beare this burden for a while?
Besides, the burthen of Iniquitie
Is heavier, and doth our soules defile,
Though for a time with pleasures false it us beguile.

Oh, let this brest-plate then of Righteousnesse
Be on my Soule and Body alwayes prest:
The more this burthen doth my Body presse,
My Soule is sure to find more ease and rest:
No paine, shame, or reproch, that us molest,
Are worthy of the Crowne most glorious,
Which God the Righteous Judge hath readie drest,
For to bestow upon the Righteous,
Made so by God his acceptation gracious.

For I confess it is thy acceptation
Which makes our Righteousness (though dung and losse,
Compared to the Lawes strict observation)
Most perfect Thou hast nayled to Christs Crosse
All our offences: By him all our drosse
Is turn'd to purest Gold in fire tried.
Where God accepts, no power of Hell can crosse,
If by true Faith our hearts be purified,
Our imperfections by Christs perfectnesse supplied.

Oh then, most perfect Sunne of Righteousnesse,
Vouchsafe that now thy Spirit of Grace may shine
Upon mine Heart, by Truth and Holinesse,
Temp'rance, Faith, Hope, Obedience, Love Divine,
That all my words, thoughts, actions, I may line,
And levell out by thy pure Rule of Right;
All errour, lying, injurie decline,
And having of thy Lawes a most cleare sight,
I may to walke therein place all my hearts delight.

Make me conceive the profit, use, and end
Of Righteousnesse, and the necessitie
I of her brest-plate have, my soule to fend
Against the furie of mine enemie:
And grant, my conscience good may testifie
The armes whereby I may stand fast and sure,
And not those fain'd ones of Hypocrisie,
Which never can hold out me to secure,
Or any of the fierie darts of Hell endure.

But it is not in him, that wils or runneth,
For to attaine the Crowne of righteousnesse,
From whom each perfect gift and good grace commeth,
His grace it is that guides to happinesse:
We find amongst those gracious promises,
And grants, which in thy holy Word we reade,
That who seekes first thy Kingdomes righteousnesse,
Shall have, all things whereof he stands in neede
Doe then, Oh Lord me forth then in this right way leade.

Thou the whole Scripture gav'st by inspiration,
Apt to instruct, improve, correct, represse,
To make the man of God wise to salvation,
And perfectly instruct in righteounesse:
And when the wicked turne from wickednesse,
Thou promisest their Soules alive to save:
So many are thy gracious promises,
To grant all good things that the righteous crave,
That I this righteousnesse doe begge and hope to have.

Then as a Lyon, shall I be most bold,
My righteous way shall shine ev'n as the light,
The eyes then of the Lord shall me behold
And he will grant me ev'n my hearts delight.
In all his Statutes I shall walke aright,
And all his judgements just and true observe,
My death shall be most precious in his sight,
My righteous memorie he will reserve,
Yea, ev'n the righteous seede he will on earth preserve.

To praise God for the blessings manifold
His Word assures unto this righteous Nation,
Would in discourse my Muse for ever hold,
And be too long for this one Meditation.
Oh, hold me then to more strict observation
Of Time to come, than I have had of past,
That I may make a daily examination
Of my whole life and all my sinnes up cast,
As mindfull of th' account I am to give at last.

And teach me, that this Grace of Righteousnesse
Is as a Chaine of many links close joyn'd,
By which we would ascend from hence to blesse,
Whereof if but the least linke doth unbind,
Loe, the whole Chaine is to the earth declin'd:
Ev'n so in this strong Chaine of Law and Right,
Though most of all our acts be rightly lin'd,
If one Iniquitie of our Hearts delight,
This one makes all the rest unrighteous in God's sight.

But I unjustly my discourse extend:
Now I beseech the Authour of this Grace,
I all my force to practise it may bend,
And first doe Right and Justice in my place,
Respecting not the Person but the Case,
In my Commerce with all Men dealing right.
Last, that I may true Righteousnesse embrace,
That with true Faith and a good Conscience dight,
I in these spirituall Armes unto the end may fight.

Thus having chalked out the Rule of Right,
I should by my first Method next proceede
To sing of Mercy: but Truth doth invite
My Muse first her great power to areede,
Who doth in time ev'n Righteousness preceede.
Besides, none can approach dread Mercies Throne,
But those whom Truth and Justice thither leade,
And sure their Nature links them so in one,
As one without the other never goes alone.

[pp. 121-41]