Triumph of infidelity Rightly Attended

An Electronic Edition · Timothy Dwight (1752-1817)

Original Source: Timothy Dwight, The triumph of infidelity: a poem (Printed in the world, 1788).

Copyright 2003. This text is freely available provided the text is distributed with the header information provided.

Full Colophon Information

To Mons. de Voltaire.


Your Creator endued you with shining talents, and cast your lot in a field of action, where they might be most happily employed: In the progress of a long and industrious life, you devoted them to a single purpose, the elevation of your character above his. For the accomplishment of this purpose, with a diligence and uniformity which would have adorned the most virtuous pursuits, you opposed truth, religion, and their authors, with sophistry, contempt, and obloquy; and taught, as far as your example or sentiments extended their influence, that the chief end of man was, to slander his God, and abuse him forever. To whom could such an effort as the following be dedicated, with more propriety, than to you. The subject it celebrates is the most pointed attack upon your old enemies; an attack more happily devised, at least, than any of yours; as yours were more advantageously concerted than the efforts of any of your predecessors. Reasoning is an unhappy engine to be employed against christianity; as, like elephants in ancient war, it usually, in this case, turns upon those who employ it. Ridicule is a more convenient weapon, as you have successfully evinced; but ingenious misinterpretation is a still more sure and effectual annoyance; for the sword and javelin, however keen, may be dreaded and shunned, while the secret and deadly dirk is plunged to the heart of unsuspecting friendship, unhappily trusting the smooth-faced assassin. Accept then, as due, this tribute of acknowledgment from the.

Writer of this Poem.

Audies, & veniet manes hæc fama sub imos.

Ere yet the Briton left our happy shore,  
Or war’s alarming clarion ceas’d to roar,  
What time the morn illum’d her purple flame,  
Thro’ air’s dread wilds the prince of darkness came.  
A cloud his gloomy car; his path around, .
Attendant whirlwinds gave a fearful sound,  
Before him dragons wound their bloody spires;  
Far shot behind him death’s Tartarean fires:  
To image heaven’s high state, he proudly rode,  
Nor seem’d he less than hell’s terrific God. .
While, full before him, dress’d in beauteous day,  
The realms of freedom, peace, and virtue lay;  
The realms, where heav’n, ere Time’s great empire fall,  
Shall bid new Edens dress this dreary ball;  
He frown’d; the world grew dark; the mountains shook, .
And nature shudder’d as the spirit spoke.  


What wasted years, with angry voice he cries,  
I wage vain wars with yonder hated skies?  
Still, as I walk th’ unmeasur’d round of things,  
From deepest ill what good perpetual springs;  
What order shines, where blest confusion lay, .
And from the night of death, what splendid day?  
How near me seem’d, ere Bethlehem’s wonder rose,  
The final victory o’er my struggling foes;  
All nations won to ignorance, and sin,  
Without the Gentile, and the Jew within? .
How near, when cross’d, he met th’ accursed doom,  
Or lay, extinguish’d in the mortal tomb?  
Yet then, even whilst I felt my pinions rise  
Above the arches of a thousand skies,  
Even then, deep plunged beneath the lowest hell, .
As erst when hurl’d from heav’n, my kingdom fell,  
And oh, by what foul means! An angel I,  
A god, the rival of yon haughty sky!  
They the last sweepings of the clay-born kind,  
The dunghill’s offspring, and the reptile’s mind. .
Yet their creating voice, with startling sound,  
From death and darkness wak’d the world’s wide round;  
Before it crumbled, mid my groans and tears,  
The Pagan fabric of a thousand years;  


The spells, the rites, the pomp, the victims fled,  
The fanes all desert, and the lares dead.  
In vain fierce persecution hedg’d their way;  
In vain dread power’s huge weight incumbent lay;  
As sand-built domes dissolve before the stream, .
As visions fleet upon th’ awakening beam,  
The structure fled; while hell was rack’d to save,  
And all my heaven-bright glories sought the grave.  
Amaz’d, awhile, I saw the ruin spread,  
My hopes, my efforts, with my kingdom, dead. .
But soon I bade the floods of vengeance roll,  
Soon rous’d anew my mightiness of soul,  
With arts my own, th’ opposer’s power withstood,  
And reign’d once more the universal God;  
Mine, by all poisoning wealth, his sons I made, .
And Satan preached, while proud Messiah fled.  
Surpriz’d, enrag’d, to see his wiles outdone,  
His power all vanquish’d, and his kingdom gone,  
From the stern North, he hail’d my darling host,  
A whelming ocean, spread to every coast; .
My Goths, my Huns, the cultur’d world o’er-ran,  
And darkness buried all the pride of man.  
On dozing realms he pour’d his vengeance dread,  
On putrid bishops, and on priests half dead,  


Blotted, at one great stroke, the work he drew,  
And saw his gospel bid mankind adieu.  
The happy hour I seiz’d; the world my own:  
Full in his church I fix’d my glorious throne;  
Thrice crown’d, I fate a God, and more than God; .
Bade all earth’s nations shiver at my nod;  
Dispens’d to men the code of Satan’ laws,  
And made my priests the columns of my cause.  
In their bless’d hands the gospel I conceal’d,  
And new-found doctrines, in it’s stead, reveal’d; .
Of gloomy visions drew a fearful round,  
Names of dire look, and words of killing sound,  
Where, meaning lost, terrific doctrines lay,  
Maz’d the dim soul, and frighten’d truth away;  
Where noise for truth, for virtue pomp was given, .
Myself the God promulg’d, and hell the heaven.  
To this bless’d scheme I forc’d the struggling mind;  
Faith sunk beneath me; sense her light resign’d;  
Before rebellious conscience clank’d the chain;  
The rack, the wheel, unbosomed all their pain; .
The dungeon yawn’d; uprose the faggot pyre,  
And, fierce with vengeance, twin’d the livid fire.  
These woes I form’d on earth; beyond the tomb,  
Of dreams, I built the purgatorial doom;  
Hurl’d round all realms the interdictive peal; .
Shut kings from heaven, and nations scourg’d to hell;  


All crimes forgave; those crimes indulg’d again;  
Disclos’d the right divine to every sin;  
To certain ecstasies the faithful led;  
Damn’d Doubt, when living; double damn’d, when dead;  
O’er bold Inquiry bade all horrors roll, .
And to its native nothing shrunk the soul.  
Thus, round the Gothic wild, my kingdom lay,  
A night, soon clouded o’er a winter’s day.  
But oh, by what fell fate, to be entomb’d  
Are bright ambition’s brightest glories doom’d? .
While now my rival every hope forsook,  
His arts, his counsels, and his sceptre broke,  
This vast machine, so wondrous, so refin’d,  
First, fairest offspring even of Satan’s mind,  
This building, o’er all buildings proudly great, .
Than Heaven more noble, and more fix’d than fate,  
This glorious empire fell; the world grew pale,  
And the skies trembled, at the dreadful tale.  
In vain my arm, in vain my sword, I bar’d;  
In vain my angels o’er example dar’d, .
My priests, high-fed on all the spoils of man,  
Outran belief and even my hopes outran;  
Hell hop’d, and toil’d in vain: Thro’ all her coast,  
A general sigh declar’d her kingdom lost.  

Blush, Satan, blush, thou sovereign of mankind,  
When, what thy reptile foes, thou call’st to mind.  


New fishermen, mechanic worms, anew  
The unfolded gospel from my kingdom drew.  
From earth’s wide realms, beneath the deluge bare,  
As suns reviving bade the spring appear,  
So, at their startling voice, from shore to shore, .
A moral spring my winter cover’d o’er,  
The mind new sprang; rebudding virtue grew,  
And trembling nations rose from death anew.  
From them roll’d on, to bless this earth’s cold clime,  
A brighter season, and more vernal prime, .
Where, long by wintry suns denied to rise,  
Fair Right and Freedom open’d on the skies,  
Virtue, and Truth, and joy, in nobler bloom,  
Call’d earth and heaven to taste the sweet perfume,  
Pleas’d, to the scene increasing millions ran, .
And threaten’d Satan with the loss of man.  
These ills to ward I train’d my arts anew;  
O’er truths fair form the webs of sophism drew;  
Virtue new chill’d, in growing beauties gay,  
Wither’d her bloom, and puff’d her sweets away. .
Against her friends I arm’d new bands of foes;  
First, highest, all-subduing Fashion rose.  
From courts to cottages, her sovereign sway,  
With force resistless, bade the world obey.  


She moulded faith, and science, with a nod;  
Now there was not, and now there was, a God.  
“Let black be white,” she said, and white it seem’d,  
“Hume a philosopher;” and straight he dream’d  
Most philosophically. At her call, .
Opinions, doctrines, learn’d to rise, and fall;  
Before her, bent the universal knee,  
And own’d her sovereign, to the praise of me.  
With her, brave Ridicule, ‘twixt ill and good,  
Falshood and truth, satanic umpire stood. .
He, Hogarth like, with hues and features new,  
The form of providence, persuasive drew:  
Round its fair face bade hells black colours rise.  
Its limbs distorted, blear’d its heaven-bright eyes.  
At the maim’d image gaz’d, and grinn’d aloud– .
“Yon frightful hag’s no semblance of a god.”  


Mean time my friends, the veterans of my cause,  
Rack’d every nerve, and gain’d all hell’s applause,  
Thro’ realms of cheat and doubt, and darkness, ran,  
New-made creation, uncreated man,  
Taught, and retaught, asserted and denied, .
As pamper’d pleasure, or as bolster’d pride.  
Now, groping man in death’s dim darkness trod,  
Now, all things kenn’d, with eyelids of a god.  
Now, miracles, not God himself could spell;  
Now, every monk could grunt them from his cell. .
Priests now were dullest, last, of mortal things;  
Now outslew Satan’s self, on cunning’s wings.  


No system here, of truth, to man is given;  
There my own doctrines speak the voice of heaven;  
While God, with smiling eyes, alike surveys  
The pagan mysteries, and the christian praise.  
While here on earth no virtuous man was found, .
There saints, like pismires, swarm’d the molehill round;  
Like maggots, crawl’d Caffraria’s entrail’d forts;  
Or mushroom’d o’er Europa’s putrid courts;  


To deist clubs familiar dar’d retire,  
Or howl’d, and powaw’d, round the Indian fire,  
Such feats my sons atchiev’d, such honors won;  
The shores, the blocking, of th’ infernal throne!  
And tho’ yon haughty world their worth deny, .
Their names shall glitter in the nether sky.  

But ah their wisdom, wit, and toils were vain,  
A balm first soothing, then increasing pain.  
Thro’ nature’s fields while cloud-borne Bacon ran,  
Doubtful his mind, an angel, or a man;  
While high-soul’d Newton, wing’d by Heaven abroad, .
Explain’d alike the works, and word, of God;  
While patient Locke illum’d with newborn ray,  
The path of reason, and the laws of sway;  
While Berkley, bursting like the morning sun,  
Look’d round all parching from his lofty throne, .
In all events, and in all beings shew’d  
The present, living, acting, speaking God,  
Or cast resistless beams, the gospel o’er,  
Union supreme of wisdom, love, and power!  
Pain’d, shrivill’d, gasping, from the forceful ray .
How crept my mite Philosophers away?  


In vain my Methodist, brave Herbert, cried,  
And whin’d, and wrote, pretended, pray’d, and lied,  
In vain my Shaftsbury, to his master true,  
Dread Humble bee! o’er burrs and thistles flew;  
Incupped, and ravished with the fussful noise, .
To praise the wondrous flowers, he rais’d his voice,  
Of nature, beauty, dream’d and humm’d amain,  
And sung himself, and buzz’d at truth, in vain.  
Ah Bolingbroke, how well thy tatter’d robe,  
Poor, Bedlam king of learning’s little globe! .
Amus’d thy fancy? He, with glory fir’d,  
Myself in miniature! to heaven aspir’d  
For fame, his heaven, thro’ falshood’s realms he ran,  
And wish’d, and watch’d, and toil’d, and hop’d, in vain,  
Misread, miswrote, misquoted, misapplied, .
Yet fail’d of fame, and miss’d the skies, beside.  
In views, in pride, in fate, conjoin’d with me,  
Even Satan’s self shall drop a tear for thee.  


My leaders these; yet Satan boasts his subs,  
His Tolands, Tindals, Collinses, and Chubbs,  
Morgans and Woolstons, names of lighter worth,  
That stand, on falshood’s list, for &c.  
That sworn to me, to vice and folly given, .
At truth and virtue growl’d, and bark’d at heaven.  
Not men, ’tis true, yet manlings oft they won,  
Against their God help’d blockheads oft to fun,  
Help’d fops to folly, and help’d rakes to sin,  
And marr’d all sway, by mocking sway divine. .
My list of authors too they help’d to count,  
As cyphers eke the decimal amount.  
As writers too they profer’d useful aid  
Believ’d unseen, and reverenc’d though unread.  
Against their foe no proof my sons desire, .
No reasoning canvass and no sense require.  
Enough, the Bible is by wits arraign’d,  
Genteel men doubt it, smart men say it’s feign’d,  
Onward my powder’d beaux and boobies throng,  
As puppies float the kennel’s stream along. .
But their defects to varnish, and, in spite  
Of pride and dignity, resolv’d to write,  


I seiz’d the work myself. Straight, in a cloud  
Of night involv’d, to Scotia’s realms I rode.  
There, in the cobwebs of a college room,  
I found my best Amanuensis, Hume,  
And bosom’d in his breast. On dreams afloat, .
The youth soar’d high, and, as I prompted, wrote.  
Sublimest nonsense there I taught mankind,  
Pure, genuine dross, from gold seven times refin’d.  
From realm to realm the strains exalted rung,  
And thus the sage, and thus his teacher, sung. .
All things roll on, by fix’d eternal laws;  
Yet no effect depends upon a cause:  
Hence every law was made by Chance divine,  
Parent most fit of order, and design!  
Earth was not made, but happen’d: Yet, on earth, .
All beings happen, by most stated birth;  
Each thing miraculous; yet strange to tell,  
Not God himself can shew a miracle.  

Mean time, lest these great things, the vulgar mind,  
With learning vast, and deep research, should blind,  
Lest dull to read, and duller still when known,  
My favorite scheme should mould, and sleep, alone;  
To France I posted, on the wings of air, .
And fir’d the labors of the gay Voltaire.  


He, light and gay, o’er learning’s surface flew,  
And prov’d all things at option, false or true.  
The gospel’s truths he saw were airy dreams,  
The shades of nonsense, and the whims of whims.  
Before his face no Jew could tell what past; .
Or know the right from left, the first from last;  
Conjecture where his native Salem stood,  
Or find, if Jordan had a bank, or flood.  
The Greeks, and Romans, never truth descried;  
But always (when they proved the gospel) lied. .
He, he alone, the blest retreat had smelt,  
The Well, where long with frogs, the goddess dwelt;  
In China dug, at Chihohamti’s call,  
And curb d with bricks, the refuse of his wall.  
There, mid a realm of cheat, a world of lies, .
Where alter’d nature wears one great disguise,  
Where shrunk, mishapen bodies mock the eye,  
And shrivell’d souls the power of thought deny,  
Mid idiot Mandarins, and baby Kings,  
And dwarf Philosophers, in leading-strings, .


Mid senseless votaries of less senseless Fo, 
Wretches who nothing even seem’d to know,  
Bonzes, with souls more naked than their skin,  
All brute without, and more than brute within,  
From Europe’s rougher sons the goddess shrunk, .
Tripp’d in her iron shoes, and sail’d her junk.  
Nice, pretty, wondrous stories there she told,  
Of empires, forty thousand ages old,  
Of Tohi, born with rainbows round his nose,  
Lao’s long day–Ginseng alchymic dose– .
Stories, at which all Behmen’s dreams awake,  
Start into truth, and sense and virtue speak;  
To which, all, lisping children e’er began  
With, “At a time,” or “Once there was a man,”  
Is reason, truth, and fact; and sanctioned clear .
With heaven’s own voice, or proof of eye and ear.  
He too reveal’d, that candour bade mankind  
Believe my haughty rival weak, and blind;  


That all things wrong a ruling God denied;  
Or a satanic imp that God implied  
An imp, per chance of power and skill possest,  
But not with justice, truth, or goodness blest.  
Doctrines divine! would men their force receive, .
And live to Satan’s glory, as believe.  

Nor these alone: from every class of man,  
I gain’d new aids to build the darling plan.  
But chief his favorite class, his priests, I won,  
To undermine his cause, and prop my own.  
Here Jesuitic art its frauds combin’d .
To draw ten thousand cobwebs o’er the mind.  
In poisoned toils the flutterer to inclose,  
And fix, with venom’d fangs, eternal woes.  
On sceptic dross they stamp’d heavens image bright,  
And nam’d their will a wisp, immortal light, .
Thro’ moors, and fens, the sightless wanderer led,  
‘Till down he plung’d, ingulph’d among the dead.  
To life, Socinus here his millions drew,  
In ways, the art of Heaven conceal’d from view,  


Undeified the world’s almighty trust,  
And lower’d eternity’s great sire to dust.  
He taught, O first of men! the Son of God,  
Who hung the globe, and stretch’d the heavens abroad,  
Spoke into life the sun’s supernal fire, .
And mov’d to harmony the flaming choir,  
Who in his hand immensity infolds,  
And angels, worlds, and suns, and heavens, upholds,  
Is–what? a worm, on far creation’s limb,  
A minim, in intelligence extreme. .
O wondrous gospel, where such doctrines rise!  
Discoveries wondrous of most wondrous eyes!  
From him, a darling race descended fair,  
Even to this day my first and chiefest care,  
When pertest Priestly calls mankind, to see .
His own corruptions of christianity.  

Mean time, less open friends my cause sustain’d,  
More smoothly tempted and more silly gain’d;  
Taught easier ways to climb the bright abode;  


Less pure made virtue, and less perfect God;  
Less guilty vice, the atonement less divine,  
And pav’d, with peace and joy, the way to sin.  
While thus by art and perseverance won,  
Again the old world seem’d almost my own. .

In this wild waste, where Albion’s lights revive,  
New dangers threaten and new evils live.  
Here a dread race, my sturdiest foes design’d,  
Patient of toil, of firm and vigorous mind,  
Pinion’d with bold research to truth’s far coast, .
By storms undaunted, nor in oceans lost,  
With dire invasion, error’s realm assail,  
And all my hardy friends before them fail.  

But my chief bane, my apostolic foe,  
In life, in labours, source of every woe,  
From scenes obscure, did heaven his –– call,  
That moral Newton, and that second Paul.  
He, in clear view, saw sacred systems roll, .
Of reasoning worlds, around their central soul;  
Saw love attractive every system bind,  
The parent linking to each filial mind;  
The end of heaven’s high works resistless shew’d,  
Creating glory, and created good; .
And, in one little life, the gospel more  
Disclos’d, than all earth’s myriads kenn’d before.  
Beneath his standard; lo what number rise,  
To dare for truth, and combat for the skies!  


Arm’d at all points, they try the battling field,  
With reason’s sword and faith’s etherial shield.  
To ward this fate all irreligion can,  
Whate’er sustains, or flatters sinning man;  
Whate’er can conscience of her thorns disarm, .
Or calm, at deaths approach, the dread alarm;  
Whate’er like truth, with error cheats mankind;  
Whate’er, like virtue, taints with vice the mind;  
I preach d, I wrote, I argued, pray’d, and lied,  
What could my friends, or even myself, beside? .
But, tho’ with glad successes often crown’d,  
Unceasing fears my troubled path surround.  
While with each toil my friends the cause sustain,  
Their toils, their efforts, and their arts are vain.  

Even plodding –– did but little good,  
Who taught, the soul of man was made of mud:  
Cold mud was virtue; warmer mud was sin;  
And thoughts the angle-worms, that crawl’d within:  
Nor taught alone; but wise, to precept join’d .
A fair example, in his creeping mind.  
In vain thro realms of nonsense –– ran  
The great Clodhopping oracle of man.  


Yet faithful were his toils: What could he more?  
In Satans cause he bustled, bruised, and swore;  
And what the due reward, from me shall know,  
For gentlemen of equal worth below.  

To vengeance then, my soul, to vengeance rise,  
Assert thy glory and assault the skies.  
What tho’ dull seers have sung, in dreams sublime,  
Thy ruin floats along the verge of time,  
Tho’ without hands the stone from mountains riven, .
Alarms my throne, and hastes the ire of heaven;  
Tho’ bliss’ dread heralds earth’s far limits round  
Pardon, and peace, and joy, ere long shall sound;  
How beauteous are their feet! all regions cry,  
And one great, natal song salute the sky: .


Still, should I sink, a glorious fate I’ll find,  
And sink amid the ruins of mankind.  

But what blest onset shall I now begin,  
To plunge the New World in the gulph of sin?  
With sweet declension, down perdition’s steep,  
How, in one host, her cheated millions sweep?  
I hail the glorious project, first, and best, .
That ever Satan’s bright invention blest;  
That on this world my kingdom first began,  
And lost my rival paradise, and man.  
Twice fifteen suns are past, since C––’s mind,  
Thro’ doctrines deep, from common sense refin’d, .
I led, a nice, mysterious work to frame,  
With love of system, and with lust of fame.  
Fair in his hand the pleasing wonder grew,  
Wrought with deep art, and stor’d with treasures new:  
There the sweet sophism led the soul astray; .
There round to heaven soft bent the crooked way:  
Saints, he confess’d, the shortest rout pursue;  
But, scarce behind, my children follow too.  
Even Satan’s self ere long shall thither hie;  
On cap, huzza! and thro’ the door go I! .
Now palsied age has dimm’d his mental sight,  
I’ll rouse the sage his master’s laws to fight,  


The injuries, long he render’d, to repair  
And wipe from heaven’s fair book his faith and prayer.  
To wound the eternal cause with deepest harms,  
A cheated gospel proves the surest arms:  
Those arms, no hand can, like a preacher’s wield; .
False friends may stab, when foes must fly the field.  

This M–– proves, in whom my utmost skill  
Peer’d out no means of mischief, but the will.  
He, in hard days, when ribbons gave no bread,  
And Spitalfield’s brave sons from Tyburn fled,  
Scampering from bailiffs, wisely dropp’d the shuttle, .
To preach down truth, and common sense to throttle.  
With cunning, oft in scrapes and bustles tried,  
Tongue at-your-service, in all stories plied,  
The dirtiest ridicule of things most holy,  
And dirtier flattery of sin and folly, .
A mimickry, at which buffoons would blush,  
Religion cent-per-cented, at a rush,  
Boldness, that dares to make the Bible lie,  
And brass, that would a foundery supply,  
Mid gather’d rogues, and blockheads, oft he stood, .
And rous’d to fun the genuine brotherhood;  
Scripture, and argument, oblig’d to yield,  
Made learning, sense, and virtue, quit the field,  


While fainting decency sunk down to see  
The desk of God a puppet-show for me.  

This said, invested with the robes of day,  
To C––’s dome he wing’d his gladsome way,  
And spread delightful to his wilder’d sense,  
The pride of system, and the increase of pence.  
Forth from its cobwebs straight the work he drew, .
In mould still precious, and in dust still new.  
This darling pet to usher to mankind,  
High blown to ecstasy, the sage design’d;  
And conn’d, with grand-parental love, the day,  
When thro’ the world the heir should make its way. .

The laughing spirit seized the lucky hour,  
And round Columbia bade the trumpet roar,  
And thus thro’ all her regions rang the song–  
To Pandemonia’s plains, ye mortals, throng!  
Here shall you, raptur’d, find there is no hell; .
A priest shall teach it, and the gospel tell;  


The pleasing truth, so long from earth conceal’d,  
To bless desponding guilt, is now reveal’d.  
Thus rang the thrilling voice the new world round;  
Each villain started at the pleasing sound,  
Hugg’d his old crimes, new mischiefs ‘gan devise, .
And turn’d his nose up to the threatning skies.  

The perjur’d wretch, who met no honest eye,  
But felt his own retreat, his spirit die,  
Clear’d up his wither’d front, and true he cried  
I’ve sometimes been forsworne, and often lied;  
But all’s a farce; as proves this doctrine new, .
For God must help the perjur’d, as the true.  

Up Florio sprang; and with indignant woes,  
As thus he cried, his startled bosom rose–  
I am the first of men in ways of evil,  
The truest, thriftiest servant of the devil,  
Born, educated, glory to engross, .
And shine confess’d, the Devil’s Man of Ross.  
Here’s three to one, I beat even him in pride;  
Two whores already in my chariot ride:  
Shall then this wretch?–forbid it Florio, heaven!  
Shall sin’s bright laurels to this priest be given? .
No, still on Satan’s roll shall shine my praise,  
As erst on C–’s lists of yeas and nays.  

Half pleas’d, the honest tar out bolted–”whew”!  
“Good doctrine, Jack” “Aye, too good to “be true.”  
P– scowling heard, and growl’d–The day’s our own!  
I’ll now tell two lies, where I told but one.  


W–– more hard than flint, in sin grown old,  
Clinch’d close his claws, and grip’d his bags of gold.  
In vain, he cried, their woes let orphans tell;  
In vain let widows weep; there is no hell.  
Six, six per cent, each month, must now be given, .
For pious usury now’s the road to heaven.  
All who, tho’ fair without, yet black within,  
Glued to their lips the choice liqueur of sin,  
Whose conscience, oft rebuff’d, with snaky power,  
Impoison’d still the gay and gleeful hour, .
Check’d the loose wish, the past enjoyment stung,  
And oft the alarm of retribution rung,  
Thrill’d at each nerve, to find their fears were vain,  
And swung triumphant caps at future pain.  

And now the morn arose; when o’er the plain  
Gather’d, from every side, a numerous train;  
To quell those fears, that rankled still within,  
And gain new strength, and confidence, to sin.  
There the half putrid Epicure was seen, .
His cheeks of port, and lips with turtle green,  
Who hop’d a long eternity was given,  
To spread good tables, in some eating heaven.  
The leacher there his lurid visage shew’d,  
The imp of darkness, and the foe of good; .


Who fled his lovely wife’s most pure embrace,  
To sate on hags, and breed a mongrel race;  
A high-fed horse, for others wives who neigh’d;  
A cur, who prowl’d around each quiet bed;  
A snake, far spreading his impoison’d breath, .
And charming innocence to guilt, and death,  
Here stood Hypocrisy, in sober brown,  
His sabbath face all sorrow’d with a frown.  
A dismal tale he told of dismal times,  
And this sad world brimful of saddest crimes, .
Furrow’d his cheeks with tears for others sin,  
But clos’d his eyelids on the hell within.  
There smil’d the smooth Divine, unus’d to wound  
The sinners heart, with hell’s alarming sound.  
No terrors on his gentle tongue attend; .
No grating truths the nicest ear offend.  
That strange new-birth, that methodistic grace,  
Nor in his heart, nor sermons, found a place.  
Plato’s fine tales he clumsily retold,  
Trite, fireside, moral seasaws, dull as old; .
His Christ, and bible, plac’d at good remove,  
Guilt hell-deserving, and forgiving love.  
‘Twas best, he said, mankind should cease to sin;  
Good fame requir’d it; so did peace within:  
Their honours, well he knew, would ne’er be driven; .
But hop’d they still would please to go to heaven.  
Each week, he paid his visitation dues;  
Coax’d, jested, laugh’d; rehears’d the private news;  


Smoak’d with each goody, thought her cheefe excell’d;  
Her pipe he lighted, and her baby held.  
Or plac’d in some great town, with lacquer’d shoes,  
Trim wig, and trimmer gown, and glistening hose,  
He bow’d, talk’d politics, learn’d manners mild; .
Most meekly questioned, and most smoothly smil’d;  
At rich mens jests laugh’d loud their stories prais’d;  
Their wives new patterns gaz’d, and gaz’d, and gaz’d;  
Most daintily on pamper’d turkies din’d;  
Nor shrunk with fasting, nor with study pin’d: .
Yet from their churches saw his brethren driven,  
Who thunder’d truth, and spoke the voice of heaven,  
Chill’d trembling guilt, in Satan’s headlong path,  
Charm’d the feet back, and rous’d the ear of death.  
“Let fools,” he cried, “starve on, while prudent I .
Snug in my nest shall live, and snug shall die.  

There stood the infidel of modern breed,  
Blest vegetation of infernal seed,  
Alike no Deist, and no Christian, he;  
But from all principle, all virtue, free.  


To him all things the same, as good or evil;  
Jehovah, Jove, the Lama, or the Devil;  
Mohammed’s braying, or Isaiah’s lays;  
The Indian’s powaws, or the Christian’s praise.  
With him all natural desires are good; .
His thirst for stews; the Mohawk’s thirst for blood:  
Made, not to know, or love, the all beauteous mind;  
Or wing thro’ heaven his path to bliss refin’d:  
But his dear self, choice Dagon! to adore;  
To dress, to game, to swear, to drink, to whore; .
To race his steeds; or cheat, when others run;  
Pit tortur’d cocks, and swear ’tis glorious fun:  
His soul not cloath’d with attributes divine;  
But a nice watch-spring to that grand machine,  
That work more nice than Rittenhouse can plan, .
The body; man’s chief part; himself, the man;  
Man, that illustrious brute of noblest shape,  
A swine unbristled, and an untail’d ape:  
To couple, eat, and die–his glorious doom–  
The oyster’s church-yard, and the capon’s tomb. .

There –– grinn’d, his conscience sear’d anew,  
And scarcely wish’d the doctrine false or true;  
Scarce smil’d, himself secure from God to know,  
So poor the triumph o’er so weak a foe.  


In the deep midnight of his guilty mind,  
Where not one solitary virtue shin’d,  
Hardly, at times, his struggling conscience wrought  
A few, strange intervals of lucid thought,  
Holding her clear and dreadful mirrour nigher, .
Where villain glow’d, in characters of fire.  
Those few the tale dispers’d: His soul no more  
Shall, once a year, the Beelzebub run o’er;  
No more shall J–n’s ghost her infant show,  
Saw his hard nerves, and point the hell below; .
Fixd in cold death, no more his eyeballs stare,  
Nor change to upright thorns his bristly hair.  

There Demas smil’d, who once the Christian name  
Gravely assum’d, and wore with sober fame.  
Meek, modest, decent, in life’s lowly vale,  
Pleas’d he walk’d on; nor now had grac’d this tale;  
But, borne beyond the Atlantic ferry, he .
Saw wondrous things, his schoolmates did not see,  
Great houses, and great men, in coaches carried;  
Great Ladies, great Lord’s wives, tho’ never married;  
Fine horses, and fine pictures, and fine plays,  
And all the finest things of modern days. .
Camelion like, he lost his former hue,  
And, mid such great men, grew a great man too;  
Enter’d the round of silly, vain parade;  
His hair he powder’d, and his bow he made.  


Shall powder’d heads, he cried, be sent to hell?  
Shall men in vain in such fine houses dwell?  

There Euclio–Ah my Muse, let deepest shame  
Blush on thy cheek, at that unhappy name!  
Oh write it not, my hand! the name appears  
Already written: Wash it out, my tears!  
Still, Oh all pitying Saviour! let thy love, .
Stronger than death, all heights, and heavens above,  
That on the accursed tree, in woes severe,  
The thief’s dire guilt extinguish’d with a tear,  
Yearn o’er that mind, that, with temptations dire,  
Rank appetites, and passions fraught with fire, .
By each new call without, each thought within,  
Is forc’d to folly, and is whirl’d to sin;  
In conscience spite, tho’ arm’d with hissing fears,  
Strong pangs of soul, and all his country’s tears,  
Is charm’d to madness by the old serpent’s breath, .
And hurried swiftly down the steep of death.  
Burst, burst, thou charm! wake, trembler wake again,  
Nor let thy parent’s dying prayers be vain!  

The hour arriv’d, th’ infernal trumpet blew;  
Black from its mouth a cloud sulphureous flew;  
The caverns groan’d; the startled throng gave way,  
And forth the chariot rush’d to gloomy day.  
On every side, expressive emblems rose, .
The man, the scene, the purpose to disclose.  


Here wrinkled dotage, like a fondled boy,  
Titter’d, and smirk’d its momentary joy:  
His crumbs there avarice grip’d, with lengthen’d nails,  
And weigh’d clipp’d half pence in unequal scales.  
Trim vanity her praises laugh’d aloud, .
And snuff’d for incense from the gaping crowd.  
While Age an eye of anguish cast around,  
His crown of glory prostrate on the ground.  
There C–– sate; aloud his voice declar’d,  
Hell is no more, or no more to be fear’d. .
What tho’ the Heavens, in words of flaming fire,  
Disclose the vengeance of eternal ire,  
Bid anguish o’er the unrepenting soul,  
In waves succeeding waves, forever roll;  
The strongest terms, each language knows, employ .
To teach us endless woe, and endless joy:  
‘Tis all a specious irony, design’d  
A harmless trisling with the human kind:  
Or, not to charge the sacred books with lies,  
A wile most needful of the ingenious skies, .
On this bad earth their kingdom to maintain,  
And curb the rebel, man: but all in vain.  
First Origen, then Tillotson, then I  
Learn’d their profoundest cunning to descry,  
And shew’d this truth, tho’ nicely cover’d o’er, .
That hell’s broad path leads round to heavens door.  


See kai’s and epi’s build the glorious and scheme!  
And gar’s and pro’s unfol’d their proof supreme!  
But such nice proof, as none but those can know,  
Who oft have read the sacred volume thro’,  
And read in Greek: but chiefly those, who all .
The epistles oft have search’d of cunning Paul.  
He, he alone, the mystery seem’d to know,  
And none but wizard eyes can peep him thro’.  
Then here, at second hand, receive from me  
What in the sacred books you’ll never see. .
For tho’ the page reveal’d our cause sustains,  
When search’d with cunning, and when gloss’d with pains,  
Yet our first aids from human passions rise,  
Blest friends to error, and blest props to lies:  
And chief, that ruling principle within, .
The love of sweet security in sin:  


Beneath whose power all pleasing falshoods, blind  
And steal, with soft conviction, on the mind.  
No good more luscious than their truth she knows.  
And hence their evidence will ne’er oppose.  
Aided by this, she mounts th’ Eternal Throne, .
And makes the universe around her own,  
Decides the rights of Godhead with her nod,  
And wields for him dominion’s mighty rod.  
Whate’er he ought, or ought not, she descries,  
Beholds all infinite relations rise, .
Th’ immense of time and space surveys serene,  
And tells whate’er the bible ought to mean;  
Whate’r she wishes, sees him bound to do,  
Else is his hand unjust, his word untrue.  

Then would you lay your own, or others fears,  
Search your own bosoms, or appeal to theirs.  
Know, what those bosoms wish Heaven must reveal;  
And sure no bosom ever wish’d a hell.  
But, lest sustain’d by underpinning frail, .
Our hopes and wits, our proofs and doctrines fail,  
Admit a hell; but from its terrors take  
Whate’er commands the guilty heart to quake.  
Again the purgatorial whim revive,  
And bid the soul by stripes and penance live. .
And know, with search most deep, and wits most keen,  
I’ve learn’d, that hell is but a school for sin;  


Which yields, to heaven, the soul from guilt refin’d,  
And, tho’ it mars the devils, mends mankind.  
And thus the matter stands. When God makes man,  
He makes him here religious, if he can;  
If he cannot, he bids him farther go, .
And try to be religious, down below;  
But as his failure is his fault, ordains  
His soul to suffer dire repentance’ pains,  
Repentance, fearful doom of sinners vile!  
The law’s whole curse, and nature’s highest ill! .
If there the wretch repent, the work is done;  
If not, he plunges to a lower zone,  
A lower still, and still a lower, tries,  
‘Till with such sinking tir’d, he longs to rise;  
And finding there the fashion to repent, .
He joins the throng, and strait to heaven is sent.  
Heaven now his own he claims; nor can the sky  
Preserve its honour, and its claim deny.  
Thus stands the fact; and if the proof should fail,  
Let Heaven, next time, some better proof reveal. .
I’ve done my part; I’ve given you here the pith;  
The rest, the bark and sap, I leave to ––  

Thus spoke the sage: a shout, from all the throng,  
Roll’d up to heaven, and roar’d the plains along;  
Conscience, a moment, ceas’d her stings to rear,  
And joy excessive whelm’d each rising fear.  


But soon reflection’s glass again she rear’d,  
Spread out fell sin; and all her horrors bar’d;  
There anguish, guilt, remorse, her dreadful train,  
Tremendous harbingers of endless pain,  
Froze the sad breast, amaz’d the withering eye, .
And forc’d the soul to doubt the luscious lie.  

Yet soon sophistic wishes, fond and vain,  
The scheme review’d, and lov’d, and hop’d again;  
Soon, one by one, the flames of hell withdrew;  
Less painful conscience, sin less dangerous grew;  
Less priz’d the day, to man for trial given, .
Less fear’d Jehovah, and less valued heaven.  

No longer now by conscience’ calls unmann’d,  
To sin, the wretch put forth a bolder hand;  
More freely cheated, lied, defam’d, and swore;  
Nor wish’d the night to riot, drink, or whore;  
Look’d up, and hiss’d his God; his parent stung, .
And sold his friend, and country, for a song.  
The new-fledg’d infidel of modern brood  
Climb’d the next fence, clapp’d both his wings, and crow’d;  
Confess’d the doctrines were as just, as new,  
And doubted if the bible were not true. .
The decent christian threw his mask aside,  
And smil’d, to see the path of heaven so wide,  
To church, the half of each fair sunday, went,  
The rest, in visits, sleep, or dining, spent;  
To vice and error nobly liberal grew; .
Spoke kindly of all doctrines, but the true;  


All men, but saints, he hop’d to heaven might rise,  
And thought all roads, but virtue, reach’d the skies,  

There truth and virtue stood, and sigh’d to find  
New gates of falshood open’d on mankind;  
New paths to ruin strew’d with flowers divine,  
And other aids, and motives, gain’d to sin.  

From a dim cloud, the spirit eyed the scene,  
Now proud with triumph, and now vex’d with spleen,  
Mark’d all the throng, beheld them all his own  
And to his cause no friend of virtue won:  
Surpriz’d, enrag’d, he wing’d his sooty flight; .
And hid beneath the pall of endless night. 

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Poetry
Subjects: Early National Life and Society
Period: 1750-1800
Location: New England
Format: verse

This poem was originally published in 1788.

The text of the present edition was prepared from and proofed against Timothy Dwight, The triumph of infidelity: a poem (Printed in the world, 1788). Edited with an introduction and notes by Thomas H. Johnson (New York, Rockland editions, 1939). All preliminaries and notes have been omitted except those for which the author is responsible. All editorial notes have been omitted except those that indicate significant textual variations. Line and paragraph numbers contained in the source text have been retained. In cases where the source text displays no numbers, numbers are automatically generated. In the header, personal names have been regularized according to the Library of Congress authority files as "Last Name, First Name" for the REG attribute and "First Name Last Name" for the element value. Names have not been regularized in the body of the text.