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Before him a great prophet to proclaim
His coming is sent harbinger, who all
Invites, and in the consecrated stream
Pretends to wash off sin, and fit them so
Purify'd to receive him pure, or rather
To do him honour as their king : all come,
And he himself among them was baptiz'd,
Not thence to be more pure, but to receive
The testimony of heav'n, that who he is
Thenceforth the nations may not doubt. I saw
The prophet do him reverence; on him rising
Out of the water, heav'n above the clouds
Unfold her crystal doors, thence on his head
A perfect dove descend, (whate'er it meant,)
And out of heav'n the sovereign voice I heard,
This is my Son belov'd, in him am pleas'd.
His mother then is mortal, but his sire
He who obtains the monarchy of heav'n;
And what will he not do to advance his Son ?
His first-begot we know, and sore have felt,
When his fierce thunder drove us to the deep;
Who this is we must learn, for man he seems
In all his lineaments, though in his face
The glimpses of his father's glory shine.
Ye see our danger on the utmost edge
Of hazard, which admits no long debate,
But must with something sudden be oppos'd,
(Not force, but well-couch'd fraud, well-woven snares,)
Ere in the head of nations he
Their king, their leader, and supreme on earth.
I, when no other durst, sole undertook
The dismal expedition to find out
And ruin Adam, and the exploit perform’d
Successfully; a calmer voyage now
Will waft me; and the way found prosp’rous once
Induces best to hope of like success.
He ended, and bis words impression left
Of much amazement to th' infernal crew,
Distracted and surpriz'd with deep dismay
At these sad tidings; but no time was then
For long indulgence to their fears or grief.
Unanimous they all commit the care
And management of this main enterprize
To him their great dictator, whose attempt
At first against mankind so well had thriv'd
In Adam's overthrow, and led their march
From hell's deep-vaulted den to dwell in light,
Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods
Of many a pleasant realm and province wide.
So to the coast of Jordan he directs
His easy steps, girded with snaky wiles,
Where he might likeliest find this new-declar'd,
This man of men, attested Son of God,
Temptation and all guile on him to try ;
So to subvert whom he suspected rais’d
To end his reign on earth so long enjoy’d:
But contrary unweeting he fulfill'd
The purpos'd counsel pre-ordain'd and fixt
Of the most High, who, in full frequence bright
Of angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake.
Gabriel, this day by proof thou shalt behold, 130
Thou and all angels conversant on earth
With man or men's affairs, how I begin
To verify that solemn message late,
On which I sent thee to the virgin pure
In Galilee, that she should bear a son
Great in renown, and call’d the Son of God;
Then told'st her doubting how these things could be
To her a virgin, that on her should come
The Holy Ghost, and the Power of the Highest
O'er-shadow her: this man born, and now up-grown,
To show him worthy of his birth divine
And high prediction, henceforth I expose
To Satan ; let him tempt and now assay
His utmost subtlety, because he boasts
And vaunts of his great cunning to the throng
Of his apostasy; he might have learnt
Less overweening, since he fail'd in Job,
Whose constant perseverance overcame
Whate'er his cruel malice could invent.
He now shall know I can produce a man
Of female seed, far abler to resist
All his solicitations, and at length
All his vast force, and drive him back to hell,
Winning by conquest what the first man lost
By fallacy surpriz'd. But first I mean
To exercise him in the wilderness;
There he shall first lay down the rudiments
Of his great warfare, ere I send him forth
To conquer sin and death, the two grand foes,
By humiliation and strong sufferance.
His weakness shall o'ercome satanic strength,
And all the world, and mass of sinful flesh;
That all the angels and æthereal powers,
They now, and men hereafter, may discern,
From what consummate virtue I have chose
This perfect man, by merit call’d my
To earn salvation for the sons of men.
So spake th' eternal Father, and all heav'n Admiring stood a space, then into hymns
Burst forth, and in celestial measures mov’d,
Circling the throne and singing, while the hand
Sung with the voice, and this the argument.
Victory and triumph to the Son of God,
Now ent'ring his great duel, not of arms,
But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles.
The Father knows the Son; therefore secure
Ventures his filial virtue, though untry'd,
Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce,
Allure, or terrify, or undermine.
Be frustrate all ye stratagems of hell,
And devilish machinations come to nought!
So they in heav'n their odes and vigils tun'd:
Mean while the Son of God, who yet some days
Lodg’d in Bethabara where John baptiz’d,
Musing and much revolving in his breast,
How best the mighty work he might begin
Of Saviour to mankind, and which way first
Publish his god-like office now mature,
One day forth walk'd alone, the Spirit leading,
And his deep thoughts, the better to converse
With solitude, till far from track of men,
Thought following thought, and step by step led on,