XIX. A devout Rapture, or Love to God Inexpressible

Thou radiant Sun, thou Moon, and all ye sparkling Stars, how gladly would I leave your pleasant Light to see the Face of God? Ye Crystal Streams, ye Groves and flow'ry Lawns, my innocent Delights, how joyfully could I leave you to meet that blissful [72] Prospect? and you delightful Faces of my Friends, I would this Moment quit you all to see him whom my Soul loves; so loves, that I can find no Words to express the unutterable Ardour: Not as the Miser loves his Wealth, nor the Ambitious his Grandeur; not as the Libertine loves his Pleasure, or the generous Man his Friend: these are flat Similitudes to describe such an intense Passion as mine. Not as a Man scorch’d in a Fever, longs for cooling Draught; not as a weary Traveller wishes for soft Repose; my restless Desires admit of no equal Comparison from these.

I love my Friend; my vital Breath and the Light of Heaven are dear to me: but should I say, I love my God as I love these, I should belie the sacred Flame which aspires to Infinity. ‘’Tis thee, abstractedly thee, O uncreated Beauty, that I love; in thee, my Wishes are all terminated; in thee as in their blissful Centre, all my Desires meet, and there thy must be eternally fix’d: ’Tis thou alone that must constitute my everlasting Happiness. Were the Harps of Angels silent, there would be Harmony for me in the Whispers of thy Love: Were the Fields of Light darken’d, thy Smiles would bless me with everlasting Day: the vision of thy Face [73] will attract my Eyes, nor give me leisure to waste a Look on other Objects to all Eternity any farther than God is to be seen in his Creatures. All their Beams of Grace, and Joy, and Glory, are deriv’d from thee the eternal Sun, and will merit my Attention no farther than they reflect thy Image, or discover thy Excellencies.

Even at this Distance, encompass’d with the Shades of Death, and the Mists of Darkness, in these cold melancholy Regions when a Ray of thy Love breaks in on my Soul, when thro’ the Clouds I can trace but one feeble Beam, even that obscures all human Glory, and gives me a Contempt for whatever Mortality can boast. What Wonders then will the open Vision of thy Face effect, when I shall enjoy it in so sublime a Degree, that the Magnificence of the Skies will not draw my Regard, nor the Converse of Angels divert my Thoughts from thee? Thou wilt engross my everlasting Attention, and I should abound in Felicity if I had nothing to entertain me but immediate Communion with the infinite Divinity.

Mend thy Pace, old lazy Time, and shake thy heavy Sands; make shorter Circles, ye rolling Planets; when will your destin’d [74] Courses be fulfill’d? Thou restless Sun, how long wilt thou travel the celestial Road? when will thy starry Walk be finish’d? when will the commission’d Angel arrest thee in thy Progress, and lifting up his Hand, swear by the unutterable Name, that Time shall be no more. O happy Period! my impatient Soul springs forward to salute thee, and leaves the lagging Days, and Months, and Years far behind. Make haste, my Beloved, and be like a Roe, or a young Hart on the spicy Mountains.

I pine, I die for a Sight of thy Countenance; oh! turn the Veil aside, blow away the separating Cloud; pull out the Pins of this Tabernacle, break the Cords, and let fall the Curtain of Mortality. Oh! let it interpose no longer between me and my perfect Bliss. I feel those flames of divine Love, which are unextinguishable as the Lights of Heaven, not Death itself shall quench the sacred Ardour.

Ye Ministers of Light, ye Guardians of the Just, stand and witness to my Vows; and in a humble Dependance on thy Grace, O Jesus, may I not venture to bid these thy flaming Ministers protest against me when I change my Love, and stand my Accusers at the last Judgment? When I prove false to thee, [75] may I not venture to say to them all, Bring in your awful Evidence and proclaim my Perjury.

For you have listen’d, while the sacred Name

That kindles in each heavenly Breast a Flame,

You listen’d, while it melted on my Tongue,

Flow’d from my Lips, and grac’d the Midnight Song.

Bless’d was the Time, and swiftly fled the Hours

While holy Love employ’d my noblest Powers:

The Heavens appear’d, and the propitious Skies

Unveil’d their inmost Glories to my Eyes.

Oh! stay, I cry’d, ye happy Moments stay,

Nor in your Flight snatch these Delights away:

I ask no more the rising Sun to view,

To Mortals and their Hopes I bid adieu.

These Heavens and this Earth have been Witnesses to my Vows: The holy Angels have been Witnesses, and all will join together to condemn me when I violate my Faith. Strengthen and confirm it, O my Saviour, and make the Bonds of it immortal.

If I were only to reason upon this Subject, I might say, what Motive could Earth, [76] what could Hell, what could Heaven itself propose to tempt my Soul to change its Love? what could they lay in the Balance against an infinite Good? what could be thrown in as a Stake against the Favour of God? Ask the happy Souls who know what the Light of his Countenance imports, who drink in Joy and Immortality from his Smiles, ask them what Value they set on the Enjoyments; ask then what in Heaven or Earth should purchase one Moment’s Interval of their Bliss; ask some radiant Seraph, amidst the Fervency of his Raptures, at what Price he values his Happiness: and when these have named the Purchase, Earth and Hell may try to balance mine. Let them spread the Baits that tempt deluded Men to Ruin; let Riches, Honour, Beauty, and bewitching Pleasure appear in all their Charms, the Sensuality of the present and past Ages, the Persian Delicacy, and the Roman Pride; let then uncover the golden mines, and disclose the Ruby sparkling in its Bed; let them open the Veins of Sapphire, and shew the Diamond glittering on its Rock; let them all be thrown into the Balance; alas! their Weight is too little and too light.—Let the Pageantries of State be added, imperial Titles, and the Ensigns [77] of Majesty; put in all that boundless Vanity imagines, or wild Ambition craves, Crowns and Sceptres, regal Vestments and golden Thrones—the Scale still mounts.—Throw in the World intire—’tis unsubstantial, and light as airy Vanity.

Are these thy highest Boasts, O deluding World?—Ye Ministers of Darkness, have you nothing else to offer? are these your utmost Proposals? are these a Compensation for the Favour of God? Alas! that boundless Word has a Meaning which out-weighs them all: Infinite Delight, unconceivable Joy are express’d in it; the Light of his Countenance signifies more than Angels can describe, or Mortality imagine: And shall I quit all that an everlasting Heaven means, for empty Shadows?

Go, ye baffled Tempters, go offer your Toys to Madmen and Fools; they all vanish under my Scorn, and cannot yield so much as an Amusement to my aspiring Thoughts. The Sun in all his spacious Circuit, beholds nothing to tempt my Wishes. These winding Skies in all their ample Round contain nothing equal to my Desires; my Ambition has far different Ends, and other [78] Prospects in view; nothing below the Joys of Angels can satisfy me.

Let me explore the Worlds of Life and Beauty, and find a Path to the dazzling Recesses of the Most High: Let me drink at the Fountain-head of Pleasure, and derive all that I want from original and uncreated Fullness and Felicity.

Oh divine Love! let me lanch out into thy pleasurable Depths, and be swallowed up of thee: Let me plunge at once in immortal Joy, and lose myself in the infinite Ocean of Happiness.

Till then I pine for my celestial Country; till then I murmur to the Winds and Streams, and tell the solitary Shades my Grief. The Groves are conscious to my Complaints, and the Moon and Stars listen to my Sighs; by their silent Lights I talk over my heavenly Concerns, and give a Vent to my divine Affections in mortal Language; then looking upward, I grow impatient to reach the milky Way, the Seats of Joy and Immortality.

Come Love, come Life, and that bless’d Day

For which I languish, come away;

When this dry Soul, these Eyes shall see,

And drink the unseal’d source of thee. [79]

Oh come, I cry, thou whom my Soul loveth: I would go on, but want Expression, and vainly struggle with the unutterable Thought.

Tell me, you Sons of Light, who feel the Force of these celestial Fires, in what Language you paint their sacred Violence? or do the Tongues of Seraphs faulter? does the Language of Paradise want Emphasis here, and immortal Eloquence fail? Surely your Happiness is more perfect than all your Descriptions of it: Heaven echoes to your charming Notes as far as reach, while divine Love, which is all your Song, is infinite, and knows no Limits of Degree or Duration.

Yet I would say, some gentle Spirit, come and instruct me in your Art; lend me a golden Harp, and guide the sacred Flight; let me imitate your devout Strains, let me copy out your Harmony, and then,

Some of the fairest Quire above

Shall flock around my Song,

With Joy to hear the Name they love

Sound from a mortal Tongue.

Blessed and immortal Creatures, I long to join with you in your celestial Style of [80] Adoration and Love, I long to learn your Extasies of Worship and Joy in a Language which Mortals cannot pronounce, and to speak the divine Passion of my Soul in Words which are now unspeakable.

Text: Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Devout Exercises of the Heart in Meditation and Soliloquy, Prayer and Praise. By the late Pious and Ingenious Mrs. Rowe. Review’d and Published at her Request by I. Watts, D. D. (London: Printed for R. Hett, at the Bible and Crown in the Poultry. M.DCC.XXXVIII [1738]), pp. 71-80.