THE CHRISTIAN YEAR
John Keble, two years older than his friend Dr. Arnold of Rugby, three years older than Thomas Carlyle, and nine years older than John Henry Newman, was born in 1792, at Fairford in Gloucestershire. He was born in his father's parsonage, and educated at home by his father till he went to college. His father then entered him at his own college at Oxford, Corpus Christi. Thoroughly trained, Keble obtained high reputation at his University for character and scholarship, and became a Fellow of Oriel. After some years he gave up work in the University, though he could not divest himself of a large influence there for good, returned home to his old father, who required help in his ministry, and undertook for his the duty of two little curacies. The father lived on to the age of ninety. John Keble's love for God and his devotion to the Church had often been expressed in verse. On days which the Church specially celebrated, he had from time to time written short poems to utter from the heart his own devout sense of their spiritual use and meaning. As the number of these poems increased, the desire rose to follow in like manner the while course of the Christian Year as it was marked for the people by the sequence of church services, which had been arranged to bring in due order before the minds of Christian worshippers all the foundations of their faith, and all the elements of a religious life. A book of poems, breathing faith and worship at all points, and in all attitudes of heavenward contemplation, within the circle of the Christian Year, would, he hoped, restore in many minds to many a benumbed form life and energy.
In 1825, while the poems of the Christian Year were gradually being shaped into a single work, a brother became able to relieve John Keble in that pious care for which his father had drawn him away from a great University career, and he then went to a curacy at Hursley, four or five miles from Winchester.
In 1827—when its author's age was thirty-five—"The Christian Year" was published. Like George Herbert, whose equal he was in piety though not in power, Keble was joined to the Church in fullest sympathy with all its ordinances, and desired to quicken worship by putting into each part of the ritual a life that might pass into and raise the life of man. The spirit of true religion, with a power beyond that of any earthly feuds and controversies, binds together those in whom it really lives. Setting aside all smaller questions of the relative value of different earthly means to the attainment of a life hidden with Christ in God, Christians of all forms who are one in spirit have found help from "John Keble's Christian Year, and think of its guileless author with kindly affection. Within five- and-twenty years of its publication, a hundred thousand copies had been sold. The book is still diffused so widely, in editions of all forms, that it may yet go on, until the circle of the years shall be no more, living and making live.
Four years after "The Christian Year appeared, Keble was appointed (in 1831) to the usual five years' tenure of the Poetry Professorship at Oxford. Two years after he had been appointed Poetry Professor, he preached the Assize Sermon, and took for his theme "National Apostasy." John Henry Newman, who had obtained his Fellowship at Oriel some years before the publication of "The Christian Year," and was twenty-six years old when it appeared, received from it a strong impulse towards the endeavour to revive the spirit of the Church by restoring life and soul to all her ordinances, and even to the minutest detail of her ritual. The deep respect felt for the author of "The Christian Year" gave power to the sermon of 1833 upon National Apostasy, and made it the starting- point of the Oxford movement known as Tractarian, from the issue of tracts through which its promoters sought to stir life in the clergy and the people; known also as Puseyite because it received help at the end of the year 1833 from Dr. Pusey, who was of like age with J. H. Newman, and then Regius Professor of Hebrew. There was a danger, which some then foresaw, in the nature of this endeavour to put life into the Church; but we all now recognise the purity of Christian zeal that prompted the attempt to make dead forms of ceremonial glow again with spiritual fire, and serve as aids to the recovery of light and warmth in our devotions.
It was in 1833 that Keble, by one earnest sermon, with a pure life at the back of it, and this book that had prepared the way, gave the direct impulse to an Oxford movement for the reformation of the Church. The movement then began. But Keble went back to his curacy at Hursley. Two years afterwards the curate became vicar, and then Keble married. His after-life continued innocent and happy. He and his wife died within two months of each other, in the came year, 1866. He had taken part with his friends at Oxford by writing five of their Tracts, publishing a few sermons that laboured towards the same end, and editing a "Library of the Fathers." In 1847 he produced another volume of poems, "Lyra Innocentium," which associated doctrines of the Church with the lives of children, whom he loved, though his own marriage was childless.
The power of Keble's verse lies in its truth. A faithful and pure nature, strong in home affections, full of love and reverence for all that is of heaven in our earthly lot, strives for the full consecration of man's life with love and faith. There is no rare gift of genius. Keble is not in subtlety of thought or of expression another George Herbert, or another Henry Vaughan. But his voice is not the less in unison with theirs, for every note is true, and wins us by its purity. His also are melodies of the everlasting chime.
"And be ye sure that Love can bless E'en in this crowded loneliness, Where ever moving myriads seem to say, Go—thou art nought to us, nor we to thee—away!"
"There are in this loud stunning tide Of human care and crime, With whom the melodies abide Of the everlasting chime; Who carry music in their heart Through dusky lane and wrangling mart, Plying their daily task with busier feet, Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat."
With a peal, then, of such music let us ring in the New Year for our Library; and for our lives.
January 1, 1887. H. M.
When in my silent solitary walk, I sought a strain not all unworthy Thee, My heart, still ringing with wild worldly talk, Gave forth no note of holier minstrelsy.
Prayer is the secret, to myself I said, Strong supplication must call down the charm, And thus with untuned heart I feebly prayed, Knocking at Heaven's gate with earth-palsied arm.
Fountain of Harmony! Thou Spirit blest, By whom the troubled waves of earthly sound Are gathered into order, such as best Some high-souled bard in his enchanted round
May compass, Power divine! Oh, spread Thy wing, Thy dovelike wing that makes confusion fly, Over my dark, void spirit, summoning New worlds of music, strains that may not die.
Oh, happiest who before thine altar wait, With pure hands ever holding up on high The guiding Star of all who seek Thy gate, The undying lamp of heavenly Poesy.
Too weak, too wavering, for such holy task Is my frail arm, O Lord; but I would fain Track to its source the brightness, I would bask In the clear ray that makes Thy pathway plain.
I dare not hope with David's harp to chase The evil spirit from the troubled breast; Enough for me if I can find such grace To listen to the strain, and be at rest.
THE CHRISTIAN YEAR.
His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Lament. iii. 22, 23.
Hues of the rich unfolding morn, That, ere the glorious sun be born, By some soft touch invisible Around his path are taught to swell; -
Thou rustling breeze so fresh and gay, That dancest forth at opening day, And brushing by with joyous wing, Wakenest each little leaf to sing; -
Ye fragrant clouds of dewy steam, By which deep grove and tangled stream Pay, for soft rains in season given, Their tribute to the genial heaven; -
Why waste your treasures of delight Upon our thankless, joyless sight; Who day by day to sin awake, Seldom of Heaven and you partake?
Oh, timely happy, timely wise, Hearts that with rising morn arise! Eyes that the beam celestial view, Which evermore makes all things new!
New every morning is the love Our wakening and uprising prove; Through sleep and darkness safely brought, Restored to life, and power, and thought.
New mercies, each returning day, Hover around us while we pray; New perils past, new sins forgiven, New thoughts of God, new hopes of Heaven.
If on our daily course our mind Be set to hallow all we find, New treasures still, of countless price, God will provide for sacrifice.
Old friends, old scenes will lovelier be, As more of Heaven in each we see: Some softening gleam of love and prayer Shall dawn on every cross and care.
As for some dear familiar strain Untired we ask, and ask again, Ever, in its melodious store, Finding a spell unheard before;
Such is the bliss of souls serene, When they have sworn, and stedfast mean, Counting the cost, in all t' espy Their God, in all themselves deny.
Oh, could we learn that sacrifice, What lights would all around us rise! How would our hearts with wisdom talk Along Life's dullest, dreariest walk!
We need not bid, for cloistered cell, Our neighbour and our work farewell, Nor strive to wind ourselves too high For sinful man beneath the sky:
The trivial round, the common task, Would furnish all we ought to ask; Room to deny ourselves; a road To bring us daily nearer God.
Seek we no more; content with these, Let present Rapture, Comfort, Ease, As Heaven shall bid them, come and go:- The secret this of Rest below.
Only, O Lord, in Thy dear love Fit us for perfect Rest above; And help us, this and every day, To live more nearly as we pray.
Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.—St. Luke xxiv. 29.
'Tis gone, that bright and orbed blaze, Fast fading from our wistful gaze; You mantling cloud has hid from sight The last faint pulse of quivering light.
In darkness and in weariness The traveller on his way must press, No gleam to watch on tree or tower, Whiling away the lonesome hour.
Sun of my soul! Thou Saviour dear, It is not night if Thou be near: Oh, may no earth-born cloud arise To hide Thee from Thy servant's eyes!
When round Thy wondrous works below My searching rapturous glance I throw, Tracing out Wisdom, Power and Love, In earth or sky, in stream or grove; -
Or by the light Thy words disclose Watch Time's full river as it flows, Scanning Thy gracious Providence, Where not too deep for mortal sense:-
When with dear friends sweet talk I hold, And all the flowers of life unfold; Let not my heart within me burn, Except in all I Thee discern.
When the soft dews of kindly sleep My wearied eyelids gently steep, Be my last thought, how sweet to rest For ever on my Saviour's breast.
Abide with me from morn till eve, For without Thee I cannot live: Abide with me when night is nigh, For without Thee I dare not die.
Thou Framer of the light and dark, Steer through the tempest Thine own ark: Amid the howling wintry sea We are in port if we have Thee.
The Rulers of this Christian land, 'Twixt Thee and us ordained to stand, - Guide Thou their course, O Lord, aright, Let all do all as in Thy sight.
Oh! by Thine own sad burthen, borne So meekly up the hill of scorn, Teach Thou Thy Priests their daily cross To bear as Thine, nor count it loss!
If some poor wandering child of Thine Have spurned to-day the voice divine, Now, Lord, the gracious work begin; Let him no more lie down in sin.
Watch by the sick: enrich the poor With blessings from Thy boundless store: Be every mourner's sleep to-night, Like infants' slumbers, pure and light.
Come near and bless us when we wake, Ere through the world our way we take; Till in the ocean of Thy love We lose ourselves, in Heaven above.
Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.—Romans xiii 11.
Awake—again the Gospel-trump is blown - From year to year it swells with louder tone, From year to year the signs of wrath Are gathering round the Judge's path, Strange words fulfilled, and mighty works achieved, And truth in all the world both hated and believed.
Awake! why linger in the gorgeous town, Sworn liegemen of the Cross and thorny crown? Up from your beds of sloth for shame, Speed to the eastern mount like flame, Nor wonder, should ye find your King in tears, E'en with the loud Hosanna ringing in His ears.
Alas! no need to rouse them: long ago They are gone forth to swell Messiah's show: With glittering robes and garlands sweet They strew the ground beneath His feet: All but your hearts are there—O doomed to prove The arrows winged in Heaven for Faith that will not love!
Meanwhile He passes through th' adoring crowd, Calm as the march of some majestic cloud, That o'er wild scenes of ocean-war Holds its still course in Heaven afar: E'en so, heart-searching Lord, as years roll on, Thou keepest silent watch from Thy triumphal throne:
E'en so, the world is thronging round to gaze On the dread vision of the latter days, Constrained to own Thee, but in heart Prepared to take Barabbas' part: "Hosanna" now, to-morrow "Crucify," The changeful burden still of their rude lawless cry.
Yet in that throng of selfish hearts untrue Thy sad eye rests upon Thy faithful few, Children and childlike souls are there, Blind Bartimeus' humble prayer, And Lazarus wakened from his four days' sleep, Enduring life again, that Passover to keep.
And fast beside the olive-bordered way Stands the blessed home where Jesus deigned to stay, The peaceful home, to Zeal sincere And heavenly Contemplation dear, Where Martha loved to wait with reverence meet, And wiser Mary lingered at Thy sacred feet.
Still through decaying ages as they glide, Thou lov'st Thy chosen remnant to divide; Sprinkled along the waste of years Full many a soft green isle appears: Pause where we may upon the desert road, Some shelter is in sight, some sacred safe abode.
When withering blasts of error swept the sky, And Love's last flower seemed fain to droop and die, How sweet, how lone the ray benign On sheltered nooks of Palestine! Then to his early home did Love repair, And cheered his sickening heart with his own native air.
Years roll away: again the tide of crime Has swept Thy footsteps from the favoured clime Where shall the holy Cross find rest? On a crowned monarch's mailed breast: Like some bright angel o'er the darkling scene, Through court and camp he holds his heavenward course serene.
A fouler vision yet; an age of light, Light without love, glares on the aching sight: Oh, who can tell how calm and sweet, Meek Walton, shows thy green retreat, When wearied with the tale thy times disclose, The eye first finds thee out in thy secure repose?
Thus bad and good their several warnings give Of His approach, whom none may see and live: Faith's ear, with awful still delight, Counts them like minute-bells at night. Keeping the heart awake till dawn of morn, While to her funeral pile this aged world is borne.
But what are Heaven's alarms to hearts that cower In wilful slumber, deepening every hour, That draw their curtains closer round, The nearer swells the trumpet's sound? Lord, ere our trembling lamps sink down and die, Touch us with chastening hand, and make us feel Thee nigh.
SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT
And when these things begin to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth night. St. Luke xxi. 28.
Not till the freezing blast is still, Till freely leaps the sparkling rill, And gales sweep soft from summer skies, As o'er a sleeping infant's eyes A mother's kiss; ere calls like these, No sunny gleam awakes the trees, Nor dare the tender flowerets show Their bosoms to th' uncertain glow.
Why then, in sad and wintry time, Her heavens all dark with doubt and crime, Why lifts the Church her drooping head, As though her evil hour were fled? Is she less wise than leaves of spring, Or birds that cower with folded wing? What sees she in this lowering sky To tempt her meditative eye?
She has a charm, a word of fire, A pledge of love that cannot tire; By tempests, earthquakes, and by wars, By rushing waves and falling stars, By every sign her Lord foretold, She sees the world is waxing old, And through that last and direst storm Descries by faith her Saviour's form.
Not surer does each tender gem, Set in the fig-tree's polish'd stem, Foreshow the summer season bland, Than these dread signs Thy mighty hand: But, oh, frail hearts, and spirits dark! The season's flight unwarn'd we mark, But miss the Judge behind the door, For all the light of sacred lore:
Yet is He there; beneath our eaves Each sound His wakeful ear receives: Hush, idle words, and thoughts of ill, Your Lord is listening: peace, be still. Christ watches by a Christian's hearth, Be silent, "vain deluding mirth," Till in thine alter'd voice be known Somewhat of Resignation's tone.
But chiefly ye should lift your gaze Above the world's uncertain haze, And look with calm unwavering eye On the bright fields beyond the sky, Ye, who your Lord's commission bear His way of mercy to prepare: Angels He calls ye: be your strife To lead on earth an Angel's life.
Think not of rest; though dreams be sweet, Start up, and ply your heavenward feet. Is not God's oath upon your head, Ne'er to sink back on slothful bed, Never again your loans untie, Nor let your torches waste and die, Till, when the shadows thickest fall, Ye hear your Master's midnight call?
THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT
What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? . . . But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. St. Matthew xi. 7, 9.
What went ye out to see O'er the rude sandy lea, Where stately Jordan flows by many a palm, Or where Gennesaret's wave Delights the flowers to lave, That o'er her western slope breathe airs of balm.
All through the summer night, Those blossoms red and bright Spread their soft breasts, unheeding, to the breeze, Like hermits watching still Around the sacred hill, Where erst our Saviour watched upon His knees.
The Paschal moon above Seems like a saint to rove, Left shining in the world with Christ alone; Below, the lake's still face Sleeps sweetly in th' embrace Of mountains terrac'd high with mossy stone.
Here may we sit, and dream Over the heavenly theme, Till to our soul the former days return; Till on the grassy bed, Where thousands once He fed, The world's incarnate Maker we discern.
O cross no more the main, Wandering so will and vain, To count the reeds that tremble in the wind, On listless dalliance bound, Like children gazing round, Who on God's works no seal of Godhead find.
Bask not in courtly bower, Or sun-bright hall of power, Pass Babel quick, and seek the holy land - From robes of Tyrian dye Turn with undazzled eye To Bethlehem's glade, or Carmel's haunted strand.
Or choose thee out a cell In Kedron's storied dell, Beside the springs of Love, that never die; Among the olives kneel The chill night-blast to feel, And watch the Moon that saw thy Master's agony.
Then rise at dawn of day, And wind thy thoughtful way, Where rested once the Temple's stately shade, With due feet tracing round The city's northern bound, To th' other holy garden, where the Lord was laid.
Who thus alternate see His death and victory, Rising and falling as on angel wings, They, while they seem to roam, Draw daily nearer home, Their heart untravell'd still adores the King of kings.
Or, if at home they stay, Yet are they, day by day, In spirit journeying through the glorious land, Not for light Fancy's reed, Nor Honour's purple meed, Nor gifted Prophet's lore, nor Science' wondrous wand.
But more than Prophet, more Than Angels can adore With face unveiled, is He they go to seek: Blessed be God, Whose grace Shows Him in every place To homeliest hearts of pilgrims pure and meek.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT
The eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. Isaiah xxxii. 3
Of the bright things in earth and air How little can the heart embrace! Soft shades and gleaming lights are there - I know it well, but cannot trace.
Mine eye unworthy seems to read One page of Nature's beauteous book; It lies before me, fair outspread - I only cast a wishful look.
I cannot paint to Memory's eye The scene, the glance, I dearest love - Unchanged themselves, in me they die, Or faint or false their shadows prove.
In vain, with dull and tuneless ear, I linger by soft Music's cell, And in my heart of hearts would hear What to her own she deigns to tell.
'Tis misty all, both sight and sound - I only know 'tis fair and sweet - 'Tis wandering on enchanted ground With dizzy brow and tottering feet.
But patience! there may come a time When these dull ears shall scan aright Strains that outring Earth's drowsy chime, As Heaven outshines the taper's light.
These eyes, that dazzled now and weak, At glancing motes in sunshine wink. Shall see the Kings full glory break, Nor from the blissful vision shrink:
In fearless love and hope uncloyed For ever on that ocean bright Empowered to gaze; and undestroyed, Deeper and deeper plunge in light.
Though scarcely now their laggard glance Reach to an arrow's flight, that day They shall behold, and not in trance, The region "very far away."
If Memory sometimes at our spell Refuse to speak, or speak amiss, We shall not need her where we dwell Ever in sight of all our bliss.
Meanwhile, if over sea or sky Some tender lights unnoticed fleet, Or on loved features dawn and die, Unread, to us, their lesson sweet;
Yet are there saddening sights around, Which Heaven, in mercy, spares us too, And we see far in holy ground, If duly purged our mental view.
The distant landscape draws not nigh For all our gazing; but the soul, That upward looks, may still descry Nearer, each day, the brightening goal.
And thou, too curious ear, that fain Wouldst thread the maze of Harmony, Content thee with one simple strain, The lowlier, sure, the worthier thee;
Till thou art duly trained, and taught The concord sweet of Love divine: Then, with that inward Music fraught, For ever rise, and sing, and shine.
And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God. St. Luke ii. 13.
What sudden blaze of song Spreads o'er th' expanse of Heaven? In waves of light it thrills along, Th' angelic signal given - "Glory to God!" from yonder central fire Flows out the echoing lay beyond the starry choir;
Like circles widening round Upon a clear blue river, Orb after orb, the wondrous sound Is echoed on for ever: "Glory to God on high, on earth be peace, And love towards men of love—salvation and release."
Yet stay, before thou dare To join that festal throng; Listen and mark what gentle air First stirred the tide of song; 'Tis not, "the Saviour born in David's home, To Whom for power and health obedient worlds should come:" -
'Tis not, "the Christ the Lord:" With fixed adoring look The choir of Angels caught the word, Nor yet their silence broke: But when they heard the sign where Christ should be, In sudden light they shone and heavenly harmony.
Wrapped in His swaddling bands, And in His manger laid, The Hope and Glory of all lands Is come to the world's aid: No peaceful home upon his cradle smiled, Guests rudely went and came, where slept the royal Child.
But where Thou dwellest, Lord, No other thought should be, Once duly welcomed and adored, How should I part with Thee? Bethlehem must lose Thee soon, but Thou wilt grace The single heart to be Thy sure abiding-place.
Thee, on the bosom laid Of a pure virgin mind, In quiet ever, and in shade, Shepherd and sage may find; They, who have bowed untaught to Nature's sway, And they, who follow Truth along her star-paved way.
The pastoral spirits first Approach Thee, Babe divine, For they in lowly thoughts are nursed, Meet for Thy lowly shrine: Sooner than they should miss where Thou dost dwell, Angela from Heaven will stoop to guide them to Thy cell.
Still, as the day comes round For Thee to be revealed, By wakeful shepherds Thou art found, Abiding in the field. All through the wintry heaven and chill night air, In music and in light Thou dawnest on their prayer.
O faint not ye for fear - What though your wandering sheep, Reckless of what they see and hear, Lie lost in wilful sleep? High Heaven in mercy to your sad annoy Still greets you with glad tidings of immortal joy.
Think on th' eternal home, The Saviour left for you; Think on the Lord most holy, come To dwell with hearts untrue: So shall ye tread untired His pastoral ways, And in the darkness sing your carol of high praise.
ST. STEPHEN'S DAY
He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. Acts vii. 55
As rays around the source of light Stream upward ere he glow in sight, And watching by his future flight Set the clear heavens on fire; So on the King of Martyrs wait Three chosen bands, in royal state, And all earth owns, of good and great, Is gather'd in that choir.
One presses on, and welcomes death: One calmly yields his willing breath, Nor slow, nor hurrying, but in faith Content to die or live: And some, the darlings of their Lord, Play smiling with the flame and sword, And, ere they speak, to His sure word Unconscious witness give.
Foremost and nearest to His throne, By perfect robes of triumph known, And likest Him in look and tone, The holy Stephen kneels, With stedfast gaze, as when the sky Flew open to his fainting eye, Which, like a fading lamp, flash'd high, Seeing what death conceals.
Well might you guess what vision bright Was present to his raptured sight, E'en as reflected streams of light Their solar source betray - The glory which our God surrounds, The Son of Man, the atoning wounds - He sees them all; and earth's dull bounds Are melting fast away.
He sees them all—no other view Could stamp the Saviour's likeness true, Or with His love so deep embrue Man's sullen heart and gross - "Jesus, do Thou my soul receive: Jesu, do Thou my foes forgive;" He who would learn that prayer must live Under the holy Cross.
He, though he seem on earth to move, Must glide in air like gentle dove, From yon unclouded depths above Must draw his purer breath; Till men behold his angel face All radiant with celestial grace, Martyr all o'er, and meet to trace The lines of Jesus' death.
ST. JOHN'S DAY
Peter seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou Me. St. John xxi. 21, 22.
"Lord, and what shall this man do?" Ask'st thou, Christian, for thy friend? If his love for Christ be true, Christ hath told thee of his end: This is he whom God approves, This is he whom Jesus loves.
Ask not of him more than this, Leave it in his Saviour's breast, Whether, early called to bliss, He in youth shall find his rest, Or armed in his station wait Till his Lord be at the gate:
Whether in his lonely course (Lonely, not forlorn) he stay, Or with Love's supporting force Cheat the toil, and cheer the way: Leave it all in His high hand, Who doth hearts as streams command.
Gales from Heaven, if so He will, Sweeter melodies can wake On the lonely mountain rill Than the meeting waters make. Who hath the Father and the Son, May be left, but not alone.
Sick or healthful, slave or free, Wealthy, or despised and poor - What is that to him or thee, So his love to Christ endure? When the shore is won at last, Who will count the billows past?
Only, since our souls will shrink At the touch of natural grief, When our earthly loved ones sink, Lend us, Lord, Thy sure relief; Patient hearts, their pain to see, And Thy grace, to follow Thee.
THE HOLY INNOCENTS
These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. Rev. xiv. 4.
Say, ye celestial guards, who wait In Bethlehem, round the Saviour's palace gate, Say, who are these on golden wings, That hover o'er the new-born King of kings, Their palms and garlands telling plain That they are of the glorious martyr-train, Next to yourselves ordained to praise His Name, and brighten as on Him they gaze?
But where their spoils and trophies? where The glorious dint a martyr's shield should bear? How chance no cheek among them wears The deep-worn trace of penitential tears, But all is bright and smiling love, As if, fresh-borne from Eden's happy grove, They had flown here, their King to see, Nor ever had been heirs of dark mortality?
Ask, and some angel will reply, "These, like yourselves, were born to sin and die, But ere the poison root was grown, God set His seal, and marked them for His own. Baptised its blood for Jesus' sake, Now underneath the Cross their bed they make, Not to be scared from that sure rest By frightened mother's shriek, or warrior's waving crest."
Mindful of these, the firstfruits sweet Borne by this suffering Church her Lord to greet; Blessed Jesus ever loved to trace The "innocent brightness" of an infant's face. He raised them in His holy arms, He blessed them from the world and all its harms: Heirs though they were of sin and shame, He blessed them in his own and in his Father's Name.
Then, as each fond unconscious child On the everlasting Parent sweetly smiled (Like infants sporting on the shore, That tremble not at Ocean's boundless roar), Were they not present to Thy thought, All souls, that in their cradles Thou hast bought? But chiefly these, who died for Thee, That Thou might'st live for them a sadder death to see.
And next to these, Thy gracious word Was as a pledge of benediction stored For Christian mothers, while they moan Their treasured hopes, just born, baptised, and gone. Oh, joy for Rachel's broken heart! She and her babes shall meet no more to part; So dear to Christ her pious haste To trust them in His arms for ever safe embraced.
She dares not grudge to leave them there, Where to behold them was her heart's first prayer; She dares not grieve—but she must weep, As her pale placid martyr sinks to sleep, Teaching so well and silently How at the shepherd's call the lamb should die: How happier far than life the end Of souls that infant-like beneath their burthen bend.
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down. Isaiah xxxviii. 8; compare Josh. x. 13.
'Tis true, of old the unchanging sun His daily course refused to run, The pale moon hurrying to the west Paused at a mortal's call, to aid The avenging storm of war, that laid Seven guilty realms at once on earth's defiled breast.
But can it be, one suppliant tear Should stay the ever-moving sphere? A sick man's lowly-breathed sigh, When from the world he turns away, And hides his weary eyes to pray, Should change your mystic dance, ye wanderers of the sky?
We too, O Lord, would fain command, As then, Thy wonder-working hand, And backward force the waves of Time, That now so swift and silent bear Our restless bark from year to year; Help us to pause and mourn to Thee our tale of crime.
Bright hopes, that erst the bosom warmed, And vows, too pure to be performed, And prayers blown wide by gales of care; - These, and such faint half-waking dreams, Like stormy lights on mountain streams, Wavering and broken all, athwart the conscience glare.
How shall we 'scape the o'erwhelming Past? Can spirits broken, joys o'ercast, And eyes that never more may smile: - Can these th' avenging bolt delay, Or win us back one little day The bitterness of death to soften and beguile?
Father and Lover of our souls! Though darkly round Thine anger rolls, Thy sunshine smiles beneath the gloom, Thou seek'st to warn us, not confound, Thy showers would pierce the hardened ground And win it to give out its brightness and perfume.
Thou smil'st on us in wrath, and we, E'en in remorse, would smile on Thee, The tears that bathe our offered hearts, We would not have them stained and dim, But dropped from wings of seraphim, All glowing with the light accepted love imparts.
Time's waters will not ebb, nor stay; Power cannot change them, but Love may; What cannot be, Love counts it done. Deep in the heart, her searching view Can read where Faith is fixed and true, Through shades of setting life can see Heaven's work begun.
O Thou, who keep'st the Key of Love, Open Thy fount, eternal Dove, And overflow this heart of mine, Enlarging as it fills with Thee, Till in one blaze of charity Care and remorse are lost, like motes in light divine;
Till as each moment wafts us higher, By every gush of pure desire, And high-breathed hope of joys above, By every secret sigh we heave, Whole years of folly we outlive, In His unerring sight, who measures Life by Love.
THE CIRCUMCISION OF CHRIST
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands. Coloss. ii. 11.
The year begins with Thee, And Thou beginn'st with woe, To let the world of sinners see That blood for sin must flow.
Thine infant cries, O Lord, Thy tears upon the breast, Are not enough—the legal sword Must do its stern behest.
Like sacrificial wine Poured on a victim's head Are those few precious drops of Thine, Now first to offering led.
They are the pledge and seal Of Christ's unswerving faith Given to His Sire, our souls to heal, Although it cost His death.
They to His Church of old, To each true Jewish heart, In Gospel graces manifold Communion blest impart.
Now of Thy love we deem As of an ocean vast, Mounting in tides against the stream Of ages gone and past.
Both theirs and ours Thou art, As we and they are Thine; Kings, Prophets, Patriarchs—all have part Along the sacred line.
By blood and water too God's mark is set on Thee, That in Thee every faithful view Both covenants might see.
O bond of union, dear And strong as is Thy grace! Saints, parted by a thousand year, May thus in heart embrace.
Is there a mourner true, Who fallen on faithless days, Sighs for the heart-consoling view Of those Heaven deigned to praise?
In spirit may'st thou meet With faithful Abraham here, Whom soon in Eden thou shalt greet A nursing Father dear.
Would'st thou a poet be? And would thy dull heart fain Borrow of Israel's minstrelsy One high enraptured strain?
Come here thy soul to tune, Here set thy feeble chant, Here, if at all beneath the moon, Is holy David's haunt.
Art thou a child of tears, Cradled in care and woe? And seems it hard, thy vernal years Few vernal joys can show?
And fall the sounds of mirth Sad on thy lonely heart, From all the hopes and charms of earth Untimely called to part?
Look here, and hold thy peace: The Giver of all good E'en from the womb takes no release From suffering, tears, and blood.
If thou would'st reap in love, First sow in holy fear: So life a winter's morn may prove To a bright endless year.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. Isaiah, xli. 17.
And wilt thou hear the fevered heart To Thee in silence cry? And as th' inconstant wildfires dart Out of the restless eye, Wilt thou forgive the wayward though By kindly woes yet half untaught A Saviours right, so dearly bought, That Hope should never die?
Thou wilt: for many a languid prayer Has reached Thee from the wild, Since the lorn mother, wandering there, Cast down her fainting child, Then stole apart to weep and die, Nor knew an angel form was nigh, To show soft waters gushing by, And dewy shadows mild.
Thou wilt—for Thou art Israel's God, And Thine unwearied arm Is ready yet with Moses' rod, The hidden rill to charm Out of the dry unfathomed deep Of sands, that lie in lifeless sleep, Save when the scorching whirlwinds heap Their waves in rude alarm.
These moments of wild wrath are Thine - Thine, too, the drearier hour When o'er th' horizon's silent line Fond hopeless fancies cower, And on the traveller's listless way Rises and sets th' unchanging day, No cloud in heaven to slake its ray, On earth no sheltering bower.
Thou wilt be there, and not forsake, To turn the bitter pool Into a bright and breezy lake, This throbbing brow to cool: Till loft awhile with Thee alone The wilful heart be fain to own That He, by whom our bright hours shone, Our darkness best may rule.
The scent of water far away Upon the breeze is flung; The desert pelican to-day Securely leaves her young, Reproving thankless man, who fears To journey on a few lone years, Where on the sand Thy step appears, Thy crown in sight is hung.
Thou, who did sit on Jacob's well The weary hour of noon, The languid pulses Thou canst tell, The nerveless spirit tune. Thou from Whose cross in anguish burst The cry that owned Thy dying thirst, To Thee we turn, our Last and First, Our Sun and soothing Moon.
From darkness, here, and dreariness We ask not full repose, Only be Thou at hand, to bless Our trial hour of woes. Is not the pilgrim's toil o'erpaid By the clear rill and palmy shade? And see we not, up Earth's dark glade, The gate of Heaven unclose?
And lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. St. Matthew ii. 9, 10.
Star of the East, how sweet art Thou, Seen in life's early morning sky, Ere yet a cloud has dimmed the brow, While yet we gaze with childish eye;
When father, mother, nursing friend, Most dearly loved, and loving best, First bid us from their arms ascend, Pointing to Thee, in Thy sure rest.
Too soon the glare of earthly day Buries, to us, Thy brightness keen, And we are left to find our way By faith and hope in Thee unseen.
What matter? if the waymarks sure On every side are round us set, Soon overleaped, but not obscure? 'Tis ours to mark them or forget.
What matter? if in calm old age Our childhood's star again arise, Crowning our lonely pilgrimage With all that cheers a wanderer's eyes?
Ne'er may we lose it from our sight, Till all our hopes and thoughts are led To where it stays its lucid flight Over our Saviour's lowly bed.
There, swathed in humblest poverty, On Chastity's meek lap enshrined, With breathless Reverence waiting by, When we our Sovereign Master find,
Will not the long-forgotten glow Of mingled joy and awe return, When stars above or flowers below First made our infant spirits burn?
Look on us, Lord, and take our parts E'en on Thy throne of purity! From these our proud yet grovelling hearts Hide not Thy mild forgiving eye.
Did not the Gentile Church find grace, Our mother dear, this favoured day? With gold and myrrh she sought Thy face; Nor didst Thou turn Thy face away.
She too, in earlier, purer days, Had watched thee gleaming faint and far - But wandering in self-chosen ways She lost Thee quite, Thou lovely star.
Yet had her Father's finger turned To Thee her first inquiring glance: The deeper shame within her burned, When wakened from her wilful trance.
Behold, her wisest throng Thy gate, Their richest, sweetest, purest store, (Yet owned too worthless and too late,) They lavish on Thy cottage-floor.
They give their best—O tenfold shame On us their fallen progeny, Who sacrifice the blind and lame - Who will not wake or fast with Thee!
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. Isaiah xliv. 4.
Lessons sweet of spring returning, Welcome to the thoughtful heart! May I call ye sense or learning, Instinct pure, or Heaven-taught art? Be your title what it may, Sweet this lengthening April day, While with you the soul is free, Ranging wild o'er hill and lea.
Soft as Memnon's harp at morning, To the inward ear devout, Touched by light, with heavenly warning Your transporting chords ring out. Every leaf in every nook, Every wave in every brook, Chanting with a solemn voice, Minds us of our better choice.
Needs no show of mountain hoary, Winding shore or deepening glen, Where the landscape in its glory Teaches truth to wandering men: Give true hearts but earth and sky, And some flowers to bloom and die, Homely scenes and simple views Lowly thoughts may best infuse.
See the soft green willow springing Where the waters gently pass, Every way her free arms flinging O'er the moist and reedy grass. Long ere winter blasts are fled, See her tipped with vernal red, And her kindly flower displayed Ere her leaf can cast a shade.
Though the rudest hand assail her, Patiently she droops awhile, But when showers and breezes hail her, Wears again her willing smile. Thus I learn Contentment's power From the slighted willow bower, Ready to give thanks and live On the least that Heaven may give.
If, the quiet brooklet leaving, Up the stony vale I wind, Haply half in fancy grieving For the shades I leave behind, By the dusty wayside drear, Nightingales with joyous cheer Sing, my sadness to reprove, Gladlier than in cultured grove.
Where the thickest boughs are twining Of the greenest darkest tree, There they plunge, the light declining - All may hear, but none may see. Fearless of the passing hoof, Hardly will they fleet aloof; So they live in modest ways, Trust entire, and ceaseless praise.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine: and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now. St. John ii. 10.
The heart of childhood is all mirth: We frolic to and fro As free and blithe, as if on earth Were no such thing as woe.
But if indeed with reckless faith We trust the flattering voice, Which whispers, "Take thy fill ere death, Indulge thee and rejoice;"
Too surely, every setting day, Some lost delight we mourn; The flowers all die along our way Till we, too, die forlorn.
Such is the world's gay garish feast, In her first charming bowl Infusing all that fires the breast, And cheats the unstable soul.
And still, as loud the revel swells, The fevered pulse beats higher, Till the seared taste from foulest wells Is fain to slake its fire.
Unlike the feast of heavenly love Spread at the Saviour's word For souls that hear His call, and prove Meet for His bridal board.
Why should we fear, youth's draught of joy If pure would sparkle less? Why should the cup the sooner cloy, Which God hath deigned to bless?
For, is it Hope, that thrills so keen Along each bounding vein, Still whispering glorious things unseen? - Faith makes the vision plain.
The world would kill her soon: but Faith Her daring dreams will cherish, Speeding her gaze o'er time and death To realms where nought can perish.
Or is it Love, the dear delight Of hearts that know no guile, That all around see all things bright With their own magic smile?
The silent joy that sinks so deep, Of confidence and rest, Lulled in a father's arms to sleep, Clasped to a mother's breast?
Who, but a Christian, through all life That blessing may prolong? Who, through the world's sad day of strife, Still chant his morning song?
Fathers may hate us or forsake, God's foundlings then are we: Mother on child no pity take, But we shall still have Thee.
We may look home, and seek in vain A fond fraternal heart, But Christ hath given His promise plain To do a Brother's part.
Nor shall dull age, as worldlings say, The heavenward flame annoy: The Saviour cannot pass away, And with Him lives our joy.
Ever the richest, tenderest glow Sets round the autumnal sun - But there sight fails: no heart may know The bliss when life is done.
Such is Thy banquet, dearest Lord; O give us grace, to cast Our lot with Thine, to trust Thy word, And keep our best till last.
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. St. Matthew viii. 10.
I marked a rainbow in the north, What time the wild autumnal sun From his dark veil at noon looked forth, As glorying in his course half done, Flinging soft radiance far and wide Over the dusky heaven and bleak hill-side.
It was a gleam to Memory dear, And as I walk and muse apart, When all seems faithless round and drear, I would revive it in my heart, And watch how light can find its way To regions farthest from the fount of day.
Light flashes in the gloomiest sky, And Music in the dullest plain, For there the lark is soaring high Over her flat and leafless reign, And chanting in so blithe a tone, It shames the weary heart to feel itself alone.
Brighter than rainbow in the north, More cheery than the matin lark, Is the soft gleam of Christian worth, Which on some holy house we mark; Dear to the pastor's aching heart To think, where'er he looks, such gleam may have a part;
May dwell, unseen by all but Heaven, Like diamond blazing in the mine; For ever, where such grace is given, It fears in open day to shine, Lest the deep stain it owns within Break out, and Faith be shamed by the believer's sin.
In silence and afar they wait, To find a prayer their Lord may hear: Voice of the poor and desolate, You best may bring it to His ear; Your grateful intercessions rise With more than royal pomp, and pierce the skies.
Happy the soul whose precious cause You in the Sovereign Presence plead - "This is the lover of Thy laws, The friend of Thine in fear and need," For to the poor Thy mercy lends That solemn style, "Thy nation and Thy friends."
He too is blest whose outward eye The graceful lines of art may trace, While his free spirit, soaring high, Discerns the glorious from the base; Till out of dust his magic raise A home for prayer and love, and full harmonious praise,
Where far away and high above, In maze on maze the tranced sight Strays, mindful of that heavenly love Which knows no end in depth or height, While the strong breath of Music seems To waft us ever on, soaring in blissful dreams.
What though in poor and humble guise Thou here didst sojourn, cottage-born? Yet from Thy glory in the skies Our earthly gold Thou dost not scorn. For Love delights to bring her best, And where Love is, that offering evermore is blest.
Love on the Saviour's dying head Her spikenard drops unblamed may pour, May mount His cross, and wrap Him dead In spices from the golden shore; Risen, may embalm His sacred name With all a Painter's art, and all a Minstrel's flame.
Worthless and lost our offerings seem, Drops in the ocean of His praise; But Mercy with her genial beam Is ripening them to pearly blaze, To sparkle in His crown above, Who welcomes here a child's as there an angel's love.
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
When they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts. St. Matthew viii. 34.
They know the Almighty's power, Who, wakened by the rushing midnight shower, Watch for the fitful breeze To howl and chafe amid the bending trees, Watch for the still white gleam To bathe the landscape in a fiery stream, Touching the tremulous eye with sense of light Too rapid and too pure for all but angel sight.
They know the Almighty's love, Who, when the whirlwinds rock the topmost grove, Stand in the shade, and hear The tumult with a deep exulting fear, How, in their fiercest sway, Curbed by some power unseen, they die away, Like a bold steed that owns his rider's arm, Proud to be checked and soothed by that o'er-mastering chains.
But there are storms within That heave the struggling heart with wilder din, And there is power and love The maniac's rushing frenzy to reprove, And when he takes his seat, Clothed and in calmness, at his Savour's feet, Is not the power as strange, the love as blest, As when He said, "Be still," and ocean sank to rest?
Woe to the wayward heart, That gladlier turns to eye the shuddering start Of Passion in her might, Than marks the silent growth of grace and light; - Pleased in the cheerless tomb To linger, while the morning rays illume Green lake, and cedar tuft, and spicy glade, Shaking their dewy tresses now the storm is laid.
The storm is laid—and now In His meek power He climbs the mountain's brow, Who bade the waves go sleep, And lashed the vexed fiends to their yawning deep. How on a rock they stand, Who watch His eye, and hold His guiding hand! Not half so fixed, amid her vassal hills, Rises the holy pile that Kedron's valley fills.
And wilt thou seek again Thy howling waste, thy charnel-house and chain, And with the demons be, Rather than clasp thine own Deliverer's knee? Sure 'tis no Heaven-bred awe That bids thee from His healing touch withdraw; The world and He are struggling in thine heart, And in thy reckless mood thou bidd'st thy Lord depart.
He, merciful and mild, As erst, beholding, loves His wayward child; When souls of highest birth Waste their impassioned might on dreams of earth, He opens Nature's book, And on His glorious Gospel bids them look, Till, by such chords as rule the choirs above, Their lawless cries are tuned to hymns of perfect love.
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God. Isaiah lix. 1, 2.
"Wake, arm Divine! awake, Eye of the only Wise! Now for Thy glory's sake, Saviour and God, arise, And may Thine ear, that sealed seems, In pity mark our mournful themes!"
Thus in her lonely hour Thy Church is fain to cry, As if Thy love and power Were vanished from her sky; Yet God is there, and at His side He triumphs, who for sinners died.
Ah! 'tis the world enthralls The Heaven-betrothed breast: The traitor Sense recalls The soaring soul from rest. That bitter sigh was all for earth, For glories gone and vanished mirth.
Age would to youth return, Farther from Heaven would be, To feel the wildfire burn, On idolising knee Again to fall, and rob Thy shrine Of hearts, the right of Love Divine.
Lord of this erring flock! Thou whose soft showers distil On ocean waste or rock, Free as on Hermon hill, Do Thou our craven spirits cheer, And shame away the selfish tear.
'Twas silent all and dead Beside the barren sea, Where Philip's steps were led, Led by a voice from Thee - He rose and went, nor asked Thee why, Nor stayed to heave one faithless sigh:
Upon his lonely way The high-born traveller came, Reading a mournful lay Of "One who bore our shame, Silent Himself, His name untold, And yet His glories were of old."
To muse what Heaven might mean His wondering brow he raised, And met an eye serene That on him watchful gazed. No Hermit e'er so welcome crossed A child's lone path in woodland lost.
Now wonder turns to love; The scrolls of sacred lore No darksome mazes prove; The desert tires no more They bathe where holy waters flow, Then on their way rejoicing go.
They part to meet in Heaven; But of the joy they share, Absolving and forgiven, The sweet remembrance bear. Yes—mark him well, ye cold and proud. Bewildered in a heartless crowd,
Starting and turning pale At Rumour's angry din - No storm can now assail The charm he wears within, Rejoicing still, and doing good, And with the thought of God imbued.
No glare of high estate, No gloom of woe or want, The radiance can abate Where Heaven delights to haunt: Sin only bides the genial ray, And, round the Cross, makes night of day.
Then weep it from thy heart; So mayst thou duly learn The intercessor's part; Thy prayers and tears may earn For fallen souls some healing breath, Era they have died the Apostate's death.
SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is. St. John iii. 2.
There are, who darkling and alone, Would wish the weary night were gone, Though dawning morn should only show The secret of their unknown woe: Who pray for sharpest throbs of pain To ease them of doubt's galling chain: "Only disperse the cloud," they cry, "And if our fate be death, give light and let us die."
Unwise I deem them, Lord, unmeet To profit by Thy chastenings sweet, For Thou wouldst have us linger still Upon the verge of good or ill. That on Thy guiding hand unseen Our undivided hearts may lean, And this our frail and foundering bark Glide in the narrow wake of Thy beloved ark.
'Tis so in war—the champion true Loves victory more when dim in view He sees her glories gild afar The dusky edge of stubborn war, Than if the untrodden bloodless field The harvest of her laurels yield; Let not my bark in calm abide, But win her fearless way against the chafing tide.
'Tis so in love—the faithful heart From her dim vision would not part, When first to her fond gaze is given That purest spot in Fancy's heaven, For all the gorgeous sky beside, Though pledged her own and sure to abide: Dearer than every past noon-day That twilight gleam to her, though faint and far away.
So have I seen some tender flower Prized above all the vernal bower, Sheltered beneath the coolest shade, Embosomed in the greenest glade, So frail a gem, it scarce may bear The playful touch of evening air; When hardier grown we love it less, And trust it from our sight, not needing our caress.
And wherefore is the sweet spring-tide Worth all the changeful year beside? The last-born babe, why lies its part Deep in the mother's inmost heart? But that the Lord and Source of love Would have His weakest ever prove Our tenderest care—and most of all Our frail immortal souls, His work and Satan's thrall.
So be it, Lord; I know it best, Though not as yet this wayward breast Beat quite in answer to Thy voice, Yet surely I have made my choice; I know not yet the promised bliss, Know not if I shall win or miss; So doubting, rather let me die, Than close with aught beside, to last eternally.
What is the Heaven we idly dream? The self-deceiver's dreary theme, A cloudless sun that softly shines, Bright maidens and unfailing vines, The warrior's pride, the hunter's mirth, Poor fragments all of this low earth: Such as in sleep would hardly soothe A soul that once had tasted of immortal Truth.
What is the Heaven our God bestows? No Prophet yet, no Angel knows; Was never yet created eye Could see across Eternity; Not seraph's wing for ever soaring Can pass the flight of souls adoring, That nearer still and nearer grow To the unapproached Lord, once made for them so low.
Unseen, unfelt their earthly growth, And self-accused of sin and sloth, They live and die; their names decay, Their fragrance passes quite away; Like violets in the freezing blast No vernal steam around they cast. - But they shall flourish from the tomb, The breath of God shall wake them into odorous bloom.
Then on the incarnate Saviour's breast, The fount of sweetness, they shall rest, Their spirits every hour imbued More deeply with His precious blood. But peace—still voice and closed eye Suit best with hearts beyond the sky, Hearts training in their low abode, Daily to lose themselves in hope to find their God.
The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. Romans i. 20.
There is a book, who runs may read, Which heavenly truth imparts, And all the lore its scholars need, Pure eyes and Christian hearts.
The works of God above, below, Within us and around, Are pages in that book, to show How God Himself is found.
The glorious sky embracing all Is like the Maker's love, Wherewith encompassed, great and small In peace and order move.
The Moon above, the Church below, A wondrous race they run, But all their radiance, all their glow, Each borrows of its Sun.
The Savour lends the light and heat That crowns His holy hill; The saints, like stars, around His seat Perform their courses still.
The saints above are stars in heaven - What are the saints on earth? Like tress they stand whom God has given, Our Eden's happy birth.
Faith is their fixed unswerving root, Hope their unfading flower, Fair deeds of charity their fruit, The glory of their bower.
The dew of heaven is like Thy grace, It steals in silence down; But where it lights, this favoured place By richest fruits is known.
One Name above all glorious names With its ten thousand tongues The everlasting sea proclaims. Echoing angelic songs.
The raging Fire, the roaring Wind, Thy boundless power display; But in the gentler breeze we find Thy Spirit's viewless way.
Two worlds are ours: 'tis only Sin Forbids us to descry The mystic heaven and earth within, Plain as the sea and sky.
Thou, who hast given me eyes to see And love this sight so fair, Give me a heart to find out Thee, And read Thee everywhere.
So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Genesis iii. 24; compare chap. vi.
Foe of mankind! too bold thy race: Thou runn'st at such a reckless pace, Thine own dire work thou surely wilt confound: 'Twas but one little drop of sin We saw this morning enter in, And lo! at eventide the world is drowned.
See here the fruit of wandering eyes, Of worldly longings to be wise, Of Passion dwelling on forbidden sweets: Ye lawless glances, freely rove; Ruin below and wrath above Are all that now the wildering fancy meets.
Lord, when in some deep garden glade, Of Thee and of myself afraid. From thoughts like these among the bowers I hide, Nearest and loudest then of all I seem to hear the Judge's call:- "Where art thou, fallen man? come forth, and be thou tried."
Trembling before Thee as I stand, Where'er I gaze on either hand The sentence is gone forth, the ground is cursed: Yet mingled with the penal shower Some drops of balm in every bower Steal down like April dews, that softest fall and first.
If filial and maternal love Memorial of our guilt must prove, If sinful babes in sorrow must be born, Yet, to assuage her sharpest throes, The faithful mother surely knows, This was the way Thou cam'st to save the world forlorn.
If blessed wedlock may not bless Without some tinge of bitterness To dash her cup of joy, since Eden lost, Chaining to earth with strong desire Hearts that would highest else aspire, And o'er the tenderer sex usurping ever most;
Yet by the light of Christian lore 'Tis blind Idolatry no more, But a sweet help and pattern of true love, Showing how best the soul may cling To her immortal Spouse and King, How He should rule, and she with full desire approve.
If niggard Earth her treasures hide, To all but labouring hands denied, Lavish of thorns and worthless weeds alone, The doom is half in mercy given, To train us in our way to Heaven, And show our lagging souls how glory must be won.
If on the sinner's outward frame God hath impressed His mark of blame, And e'en our bodies shrink at touch of light, Yet mercy hath not left us bare: The very weeds we daily wear Are to Faith's eye a pledge of God's forgiving might.
And oh! if yet one arrow more, The sharpest of the Almighty's store, Tremble upon the string—a sinner's death - Art Thou not by to soothe and save, To lay us gently in the grave, To close the weary eye and hush the parting breath?
Therefore in sight of man bereft The happy garden still was left; The fiery sword that guarded, showed it too; Turning all ways, the world to teach, That though as yet beyond our reach, Still in its place the tree of life and glory grew.
I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth. Genesis ix. 13.
Sweet Dove! the softest, steadiest plume, In all the sunbright sky, Brightening in ever-changeful bloom As breezes change on high; -
Sweet Leaf! the pledge of peace and mirth, "Long sought, and lately won," Blessed increase of reviving Earth, When first it felt the Sun; -
Sweet Rainbow! pride of summer days, High set at Heaven's command, Though into drear and dusky haze Thou melt on either hand; -
Dear tokens of a pardoning God, We hail ye, one and all, As when our fathers walked abroad, Freed from their twelvemonth's thrall.
How joyful from the imprisoning ark On the green earth they spring! Not blither, after showers, the lark Mounts up with glistening wing.
So home-bound sailors spring to shore, Two oceans safely past; So happy souls, when life is o'er, Plunge in this empyreal vast.
What wins their first and fondest gaze In all the blissful field, And keeps it through a thousand days? Love face to face revealed:
Love imaged in that cordial look Our Lord in Eden bends On souls that sin and earth forsook In time to die His friends.
And what most welcome and serene Dawns on the Patriarch's eye, In all the emerging hills so green, In all the brightening sky?
What but the gentle rainbow's gleam, Soothing the wearied sight, That cannot bear the solar beam, With soft undazzling light?
Lord, if our fathers turned to Thee With such adoring gaze, Wondering frail man Thy light should see Without Thy scorching blaze;
Where is our love, and where our hearts, We who have seen Thy Son, Have tried Thy Spirit's winning arts, And yet we are not won?
The Son of God in radiance beamed Too bright for us to scan, But we may face the rays that streamed From the mild Son of Man.
There, parted into rainbow hues, In sweet harmonious strife We see celestial love diffuse Its light o'er Jesus' life.
God, by His bow, vouchsafes to write This truth in Heaven above: As every lovely hue is Light, So every grace is Love.
When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret. St. Matthew vi. 17, 18.
"Yes—deep within and deeper yet The rankling shaft of conscience hide, Quick let the swelling eye forget The tears that in the heart abide. Calm be the voice, the aspect bold, No shuddering pass o'er lip or brow, For why should Innocence be told The pangs that guilty spirits bow?
"The loving eye that watches thine Close as the air that wraps thee round - Why in thy sorrow should it pine, Since never of thy sin it found? And wherefore should the heathen see What chains of darkness thee enslave, And mocking say, 'Lo, this is he Who owned a God that could not save'?"
Thus oft the mourner's wayward heart Tempts him to hide his grief and die, Too feeble for Confession's smart, Too proud to bear a pitying eye; How sweet, in that dark hour, to fall On bosoms waiting to receive Our sighs, and gently whisper all! They love us—will not God forgive?
Else let us keep our fast within, Till Heaven and we are quite alone, Then let the grief, the shame, the sin, Before the mercy-seat be thrown. Between the porch and altar weep, Unworthy of the holiest place, Yet hoping near the shrine to keep One lowly cell in sight of grace.
Nor fear lest sympathy should fail - Hast thou not seen, in night hours drear, When racking thoughts the heart assail, The glimmering stars by turns appear, And from the eternal house above With silent news of mercy steal? So Angels pause on tasks of love, To look where sorrowing sinners kneel.
Or if no Angel pass that way, He who in secret sees, perchance May bid His own heart-warming ray Toward thee stream with kindlier glance, As when upon His drooping head His Father's light was poured from Heaven, What time, unsheltered and unfed, Far in the wild His steps were driven.
High thoughts were with Him in that hour, Untold, unspeakable on earth - And who can stay the soaring power Of spirits weaned from worldly mirth, While far beyond the sound of praise With upward eye they float serene, And learn to bear their Saviour's blaze When Judgment shall undraw the screen?
FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT.
Haste thee, escape thither: for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. Genesis xix. 22.
"Angel of wrath! why linger in mid-air, While the devoted city's cry Louder and louder swells? and canst thou spare, Thy full-charged vial standing by?" Thus, with stern voice, unsparing Justice pleads: He hears her not—with softened gaze His eye is following where sweet Mercy leads, And till she give the sign, his fury stays.
Guided by her, along the mountain road, Far through the twilight of the morn, With hurried footsteps from the accursed abode He sees the holy household borne; Angels, or more, on either hand are nigh, To speed them o'er the tempting plain, Lingering in heart, and with frail sidelong eye Seeking how near they may unharmed remain.
"Ah! wherefore gleam those upland slopes so fair? And why, through every woodland arch, Swells yon bright vale, as Eden rich and rare, Where Jordan winds his stately march; If all must be forsaken, ruined all, If God have planted but to burn? - Surely not yet the avenging shower will fall, Though to my home for one last look I turn."
Thus while they waver, surely long ago They had provoked the withering blast, But that the merciful Avengers know Their frailty well, and hold them fast. "Haste, for thy life escape, nor look behind" - Ever in thrilling sounds like these They check the wandering eye, severely kind, Nor let the sinner lose his soul at ease.
And when, o'erwearied with the steep ascent, We for a nearer refuge crave, One little spot of ground in mercy lent, One hour of home before the grave, Oft in His pity o'er His children weak, His hand withdraws the penal fire, And where we fondly cling, forbears to wreak Full vengeance, till our hearts are weaned entire.
Thus, by the merits of one righteous man, The Church, our Zoar, shall abide, Till she abuse, so sore, her lengthened span, E'en Mercy's self her face must hide. Then, onward yet a step, thou hard-won soul; Though in the Church thou know thy place, The mountain farther lies—there seek thy goal, There breathe at large, o'erpast thy dangerous race.
Sweet is the smile of home; the mutual look When hearts are of each other sure; Sweet all the joys that crowd the household nook, The haunt of all affections pure; Yet in the world e'en these abide, and we Above the world our calling boast; Once gain the mountain-top, and thou art free: Till then, who rest, presume; who turn to look, are lost.
SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT
And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. Genesis xxvii. 34. (Compare Hebrew xii. 17. He found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.)
"And is there in God's world so drear a place Where the loud bitter cry is raised in vain? Where tears of penance come too late for grace, As on the uprooted flower the genial rain?"
'Tis even so: the sovereign Lord of souls Stores in the dungeon of His boundless realm Each bolt that o'er the sinner vainly rolls, With gathered wrath the reprobate to whelm.
Will the storm hear the sailor's piteous cry, Taught so mistrust, too late, the tempting wave, When all around he sees but sea and sky, A God in anger, a self-chosen grave?
Or will the thorns, that strew intemperance' bed, Turn with a wish to down? will late remorse Recall the shaft the murderer's hand has sped, Or from the guiltless bosom turn its course?
Then may the unbodied soul in safety fleet Through the dark curtains of the world above, Fresh from the stain of crime; nor fear to meet The God whom here she would not learn to love;
Then is there hope for such as die unblest, That angel wings may waft them to the shore, Nor need the unready virgin strike her breast, Nor wait desponding round the bridegroom's door.
But where is then the stay of contrite hearts? Of old they leaned on Thy eternal word, But with the sinner's fear their hope departs, Fast linked as Thy great Name to Thee, O Lord:
That Name, by which Thy faithful oath is past, That we should endless be, for joy or woe:- And if the treasures of Thy wrath could waste, Thy lovers must their promised Heaven forego.
But ask of elder days, earth's vernal hour, When in familiar talk God's voice was heard, When at the Patriarch's call the fiery shower Propitious o'er the turf-built shrine appeared.
Watch by our father Isaac's pastoral door - The birthright sold, the blessing lost and won; Tell, Heaven has wrath that can relent no more; The Grave, dark deeds that cannot be undone.
We barter life for pottage; sell true bliss For wealth or power, for pleasure or renown; Thus, Esau-like, our Father's blessing miss, Then wash with fruitless tears our faded crown.
Our faded crown, despised and flung aside, Shall on some brother's brow immortal bloom; No partial hand the blessing may misguide, No flattering fancy change our Monarch's doom:
His righteous doom, that meek true-hearted Love The everlasting birthright should receive, The softest dews drop on her from above, The richest green her mountain garland weave:
Her brethren, mightiest, wisest, eldest-born, Bow to her sway, and move at her behest; Isaac's fond blessing may not fall on scorn, Nor Balaam's curse on Love, which God hath blest.
THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
When a strong man armed keepeth his place, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. St. Luke xi. 21, 22.
See Lucifer like lightning fall, Dashed from his throne of pride; While, answering Thy victorious call, The Saints his spoils divide; This world of Thine, by him usurped too long, Now opening all her stores to heal Thy servants' wrong.
So when the first-born of Thy foes Dead in the darkness lay, When Thy redeemed at midnight rose And cast their bonds away, The orphaned realm threw wide her gates, and told Into freed Israel's lap her jewels and her gold.
And when their wondrous march was o'er, And they had won their homes, Where Abraham fed his flock of yore, Among their fathers' tombs; - A land that drinks the rain of Heaven at will, Whose waters kiss the feet of many a vine-clad hill; -
Oft as they watched, at thoughtful eve, A gale from bowers of balm Sweep o'er the billowy corn, and heave The tresses of the palm, Just as the lingering Sun had touched with gold, Far o'er the cedar shade, some tower of giants old;
It was a fearful joy, I ween, To trace the Heathen's toil, The limpid wells, the orchards green, Left ready for the spoil, The household stores untouched, the roses bright Wreathed o'er the cottage walls in garlands of delight.
And now another Canaan yields To Thine all-conquering ark: - Fly from the "old poetic" fields, Ye Paynim shadows dark! Immortal Greece, dear land of glorious lays, Lo! here the "unknown God" of thy unconscious praise.
The olive-wreath, the ivied wand, "The sword in myrtles drest," Each legend of the shadowy strand Now wakes a vision blest; As little children lisp, and tell of Heaven, So thoughts beyond their thought to those high Bards were given.
And these are ours: Thy partial grace The tempting treasure lends: These relies of a guilty race Are forfeit to Thy friends; What seemed an idol hymn, now breathes of Thee, Tuned by Faith's ear to some celestial melody.
There's not a strain to Memory dear, Nor flower in classic grove, There's not a sweet note warbled here, But minds us of Thy Love. O Lord, our Lord, and spoiler of our foes, There is no light but Thine: with Thee all beauty glows.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT
Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother; and he sought where to weep, and he entered into his chamber and wept there. Genesis xliii. 30.
There stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. Genesis xlv. 1.
When Nature tries her finest touch, Weaving her vernal wreath, Mark ye, how close she veils her round, Not to be traced by sight or sound, Nor soiled by ruder breath?
Who ever saw the earliest rose First open her sweet breast? Or, when the summer sun goes down, The first soft star in evening's crown Light up her gleaming crest?
Fondly we seek the dawning bloom On features wan and fair, The gazing eye no change can trace, But look away a little space, Then turn, and lo! 'tis there.
But there's a sweeter flower than e'er Blushed on the rosy spray - A brighter star, a richer bloom Than e'er did western heaven illume At close of summer day.
'Tis Love, the last best gift of Heaven; Love gentle, holy, pure; But tenderer than a dove's soft eye, The searching sun, the open sky, She never could endure.
E'en human Love will shrink from sight Here in the coarse rude earth: How then should rash intruding glance Break in upon HER sacred trance Who boasts a heavenly birth?
So still and secret is her growth, Ever the truest heart, Where deepest strikes her kindly root For hope or joy, for flower or fruit, Least knows its happy part.
God only, and good angels, look Behind the blissful screen - As when, triumphant o'er His woes, The Son of God by moonlight rose, By all but Heaven unseen:
As when the holy Maid beheld Her risen Son and Lord: Thought has not colours half so fair That she to paint that hour may dare, In silence best adored.
The gracious Dove, that brought from Heaven The earnest of our bliss, Of many a chosen witness telling, On many a happy vision dwelling, Sings not a note of this.
So, truest image of the Christ, Old Israel's long-lost son, What time, with sweet forgiving cheer, He called his conscious brethren near, Would weep with them alone.
He could not trust his melting soul But in his Maker's sight - Then why should gentle hearts and true Bare to the rude world's withering view Their treasure of delight!
No—let the dainty rose awhile Her bashful fragrance hide - Rend not her silken veil too soon, But leave her, in her own soft noon, To flourish and abide.
FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. Exodus iii. 3.
The historic Muse, from age to age, Through many a waste heart-sickening page Hath traced the works of Man: But a celestial call to-day Stays her, like Moses, on her way, The works of God to scan.
Far seen across the sandy wild, Where, like a solitary child, He thoughtless roamed and free, One towering thorn was wrapt in flame - Bright without blaze it went and came: Who would not turn and see?
Along the mountain ledges green The scattered sheep at will may glean The Desert's spicy stores: The while, with undivided heart, The shepherd talks with God apart, And, as he talks, adores.
Ye too, who tend Christ's wildering flock, Well may ye gather round the rock That once was Sion's hill: To watch the fire upon the mount Still blazing, like the solar fount, Yet unconsuming still.
Caught from that blaze by wrath Divine, Lost branches of the once-loved vine, Now withered, spent, and sere, See Israel's sons, like glowing brands, Tossed wildly o'er a thousand lands For twice a thousand year.
God will not quench nor slay them quite, But lifts them like a beacon-light The apostate Church to scare; Or like pale ghosts that darkling roam, Hovering around their ancient home, But find no refuge there.
Ye blessed Angels! if of you There be, who love the ways to view Of Kings and Kingdoms here; (And sure, 'tis worth an Angel's gaze, To see, throughout that dreary maze, God teaching love and fear:)
Oh say, in all the bleak expanse Is there a spot to win your glance, So bright, so dark as this? A hopeless faith, a homeless race, Yet seeking the most holy place, And owning the true bliss!
Salted with fire they seem, to show How spirits lost in endless woe May undecaying live. Oh, sickening thought! yet hold it fast Long as this glittering world shall last, Or sin at heart survive.
And hark! amid the flashing fire, Mingling with tones of fear and ire, Soft Mercy's undersong - 'Tis Abraham's God who speaks so loud, His people's cries have pierced the cloud, He sees, He sees their wrong;
He is come down to break their chain; Though nevermore on Sion's fane His visible ensign wave; 'Tis Sion, wheresoe'er they dwell, Who, with His own true Israel, Shall own Him strong to save.
He shall redeem them one by one, Where'er the world-encircling sun Shall see them meekly kneel: All that He asks on Israel's part, Is only that the captive heart Its woe and burthen feel.
Gentiles! with fixed yet awful eye Turn ye this page of mystery, Nor slight the warning sound: "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet - The place where man his God shall meet, Be sure, is holy ground."
And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. St. Luke xix. 40.
Ye whose hearts are beating high With the pulse of Poesy, Heirs of more than royal race, Framed by Heaven's peculiar grace, God's own work to do on earth, (If the word be not too bold,) Giving virtue a new birth, And a life that ne'er grows old -
Sovereign masters of all hearts! Know ye, who hath set your parts? He who gave you breath to sing, By whose strength ye sweep the string, He hath chosen you, to lead His Hosannas here below; - Mount, and claim your glorious meed; Linger not with sin and woe.
But if ye should hold your peace, Deem not that the song would cease - Angels round His glory-throne, Stars, His guiding hand that own, Flowers, that grow beneath our feet, Stones in earth's dark womb that rest, High and low in choir shall meet, Ere His Name shall be unblest.
Lord, by every minstrel tongue Be Thy praise so duly sung, That Thine angels' harps may ne'er Fail to find fit echoing here: We the while, of meaner birth, Who in that divinest spell Dare not hope to join on earth, Give us grace to listen well.
But should thankless silence seal Lips that might half Heaven reveal, Should bards in idol-hymns profane The sacred soul-enthralling strain, (As in this bad world below Noblest things find vilest using,) Then, Thy power and mercy show, In vile things noble breath infusing;
Then waken into sound divine The very pavement of Thy shrine, Till we, like Heaven's star-sprinkled floor, Faintly give back what we adore: Childlike though the voices be, And untunable the parts, Thou wilt own the minstrelsy If it flow from childlike hearts.
MONDAY BEFORE EASTER
Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not. Isaiah lxiii. 16.
"Father to me thou art and mother dear, And brother too, kind husband of my heart - So speaks Andromache in boding fear, Ere from her last embrace her hero part - So evermore, by Faith's undying glow, We own the Crucified in weal or woe.
Strange to our ears the church-bells of our home, This fragrance of our old paternal fields May be forgotten; and the time may come When the babe's kiss no sense of pleasure yields E'en to the doting mother: but Thine own Thou never canst forget, nor leave alone.
There are who sigh that no fond heart is theirs, None loves them best—O vain and selfish sigh! Out of the bosom of His love He spares - The Father spares the Son, for thee to die: For thee He died—for thee He lives again: O'er thee He watches in His boundless reign.
Thou art as much His care, as if beside Nor man nor angel lived in Heaven or earth: Thus sunbeams pour alike their glorious tide To light up worlds, or wake an insect's mirth: They shine and shine with unexhausted store - Thou art thy Saviour's darling—seek no more.
On thee and thine, thy warfare and thine end, E'en in His hour of agony He thought, When, ere the final pang His soul should rend, The ransomed spirits one by one were brought To His mind's eye—two silent nights and days In calmness for His far-seen hour He stays.
Ye vaulted cells, where martyred seers of old Far in the rocky walls of Sion sleep, Green terraces and arched fountains cold, Where lies the cypress shade so still and deep, Dear sacred haunts of glory and of woe, Help us, one hour, to trace His musings high and low:
One heart-ennobling hour! It may not be: The unearthly thoughts have passed from earth away, And fast as evening sunbeams from the sea Thy footsteps all in Sion's deep decay Were blotted from the holy ground: yet dear Is every stone of hers; for Thou want surely here.
There is a spot within this sacred dale That felt Thee kneeling—touched Thy prostrate brow: One Angel knows it. O might prayer avail To win that knowledge! sure each holy vow Less quickly from the unstable soul would fade, Offered where Christ in agony was laid.
Might tear of ours once mingle with the blood That from His aching brow by moonlight fell, Over the mournful joy our thoughts would brood, Till they had framed within a guardian spell To chase repining fancies, as they rise, Like birds of evil wing, to mar our sacrifice.
So dreams the heart self-flattering, fondly dreams; - Else wherefore, when the bitter waves o'erflow, Miss we the light, Gethsemane, that streams From thy dear name, where in His page of woe It shines, a pale kind star in winter's sky? Who vainly reads it there, in vain had seen Him die.
TUESDAY BEFORE EASTER
They gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He received in not. St. Mark xv. 23.
"Fill high the bowl, and spice it well, and pour The dews oblivious: for the Cross is sharp, The Cross is sharp, and He Is tenderer than a lamb.
"He wept by Lazarus' grave—how will He bear This bed of anguish? and His pale weak form Is worn with many a watch Of sorrow and unrest.
"His sweat last night was as great drops of blood, And the sad burthen pressed Him so to earth, The very torturers paused To help Him on His way.
"Fill high the bowl, benumb His aching sense With medicined sleep."—O awful in Thy woe! The parching thirst of death Is on Thee, and Thou triest
The slumb'rous potion bland, and wilt not drink: Not sullen, nor in scorn, like haughty man With suicidal hand Putting his solace by:
But as at first Thine all-pervading look Saw from Thy Father's bosom to the abyss Measuring in calm presage The infinite descent;
So to the end, though now of mortal pangs Made heir, and emptied of Thy glory, awhile, With unaverted eye Thou meetest all the storm.
Thou wilt feel all, that Thou mayst pity all; And rather wouldst Thou wreathe with strong pain, Than overcloud Thy soul, So clear in agony,
Or lose one glimpse of Heaven before the time O most entire and perfect sacrifice, Renewed in every pulse That on the tedious Cross
Told the long hours of death, as, one by one, The life-strings of that tender heart gave way; E'en sinners, taught by Thee, Look Sorrow in the face,
And bid her freely welcome, unbeguiled By false kind solaces, and spells of earth:- And yet not all unsoothed; For when was Joy so dear,
As the deep calm that breathed, "Father, forgive," Or, "Be with Me in Paradise to-day?" And, though the strife be sore, Yet in His parting breath
Love masters Agony; the soul that seemed Forsaken, feels her present God again, And in her Father's arms Contented dies away.
WEDNESDAY BEFORE EASTER
Saying, Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done. St. Luke xxii. 42.
O Lord my God, do thou Thy holy will - I will lie still - I will not stir, lest I forsake Thine arm, And break the charm Which lulls me, clinging to my Father's breast, In perfect rest.
Wild fancy, peace! thou must not me beguile With thy false smile: I know thy flatteries and thy cheating ways; Be silent, Praise, Blind guide with siren voice, and blinding all That hear thy call.
Come, Self-devotion, high and pure, Thoughts that in thankfulness endure, Though dearest hopes are faithless found, And dearest hearts are bursting round. Come, Resignation, spirit meek, And let me kiss thy placid cheek, And read in thy pale eye serene Their blessing, who by faith can wean Their hearts from sense, and learn to love God only, and the joys above.
They say, who know the life divine, And upward gaze with eagle eyne, That by each golden crown on high, Rich with celestial jewelry, Which for our Lord's redeemed is set, There hangs a radiant coronet, All gemmed with pure and living light, Too dazzling for a sinner's sight, Prepared for virgin souls, and them Who seek the martyr's diadem.
Nor deem, who to that bliss aspire, Must win their way through blood and fire. The writhings of a wounded heart Are fiercer than a foeman's dart. Oft in Life's stillest shade reclining, In Desolation unrepining, Without a hope on earth to find A mirror in an answering mind, Meek souls there are, who little dream Their daily strife an Angel's theme, Or that the rod they take so calm Shall prove in Heaven a martyr's palm.
And there are souls that seem to dwell Above this earth—so rich a spell Floats round their steps, where'er they move, From hopes fulfilled and mutual love. Such, if on high their thoughts are set, Nor in the stream the source forget, If prompt to quit the bliss they know, Following the Lamb where'er He go, By purest pleasures unbeguiled To idolise or wife or child; Such wedded souls our God shall own For faultless virgins round His throne.
Thus everywhere we find our suffering God, And where He trod May set our steps: the Cross on Calvary Uplifted high Beams on the martyr host, a beacon light In open fight.
To the still wrestlings of the lonely heart He doth impart The virtue of his midnight agony, When none was nigh, Save God and one good angel, to assuage The tempest's rage.
Mortal! if life smile on thee, and thou find All to thy mind, Think, who did once from Heaven to Hell descend, Thee to befriend: So shalt thou dare forego, at His dear call, Thy best, thine all.
"O Father! not My will, but Thine be done" - So spake the Son. Be this our charm, mellowing Earth's ruder noise Of griefs and joys: That we may cling for ever to Thy breast In perfect rest!
THURSDAY BEFORE EASTER
As the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Daniel ix. 23.
"O Holy mountain of my God, How do thy towers in ruin lie, How art thou riven and strewn abroad, Under the rude and wasteful sky!" 'Twas thus upon his fasting-day The "Man of Loves" was fain to pray, His lattice open toward his darling west, Mourning the ruined home he still must love the best.
Oh! for a love like Daniel's now, To wing to Heaven but one strong prayer For GOD'S new Israel, sunk as low, Yet flourishing to sight as fair, As Sion in her height of pride, With queens for handmaids at her side, With kings her nursing-fathers, throned high, And compassed with the world's too tempting blazonry.
'Tis true, nor winter stays thy growth, Nor torrid summer's sickly smile; The flashing billows of the south Break not upon so lone an isle, But thou, rich vine, art grafted there, The fruit of death or life to bear, Yielding a surer witness every day, To thine Almighty Author and His steadfast sway.
Oh! grief to think, that grapes of gall Should cluster round thine healthiest shoot! God's herald prove a heartless thrall, Who, if he dared, would fain be mute! E'en such is this bad world we see, Which self-condemned in owning Thee, Yet dares not open farewell of Thee take, For very pride, and her high-boasted Reason's sake.
What do we then? if far and wide Men kneel to CHRIST, the pure and meek, Yet rage with passion, swell with pride, Have we not still our faith to seek? Nay—but in steadfast humbleness Kneel on to Him, who loves to bless The prayer that waits for him; and trembling strive To keep the lingering flame in thine own breast alive.
Dark frowned the future e'en on him, The loving and beloved Seer, What time he saw, through shadows dim, The boundary of th' eternal year; He only of the sons of men Named to be heir of glory then. Else had it bruised too sore his tender heart To see GOD'S ransomed world in wrath and flame depart
Then look no more: or closer watch Thy course in Earth's bewildering ways, For every glimpse thine eye can catch Of what shall be in those dread days: So when th' Archangel's word is spoken, And Death's deep trance for ever broken, In mercy thou mayst feel the heavenly hand, And in thy lot unharmed before thy Savour stand.
He is despised and rejected of men. Isaiah liii. 3.
Is it not strange, the darkest hour That ever dawned on sinful earth Should touch the heart with softer power For comfort than an angel's mirth? That to the Cross the mourner's eye should turn Sooner than where the stars of Christmas burn?
Sooner than where the Easter sun Shines glorious on yon open grave, And to and fro the tidings run, "Who died to heal, is risen to save?" Sooner than where upon the Saviour's friends The very Comforter in light and love descends?
Yet so it is: for duly there The bitter herbs of earth are set, Till tempered by the Saviour's prayer, And with the Saviour's life-blood wet, They turn to sweetness, and drop holy balm, Soft as imprisoned martyr's deathbed calm.
All turn to sweet—but most of all That bitterest to the lip of pride, When hopes presumptuous fade and fall, Or Friendship scorns us, duly tried, Or Love, the flower that closes up for fear When rude and selfish spirits breathe too near.
Then like a long-forgotten strain Comes sweeping o'er the heart forlorn What sunshine hours had taught in vain Of JESUS suffering shame and scorn, As in all lowly hearts he suffers still, While we triumphant ride and have the world at will.
His pierced hands in vain would hide His face from rude reproachful gaze, His ears are open to abide The wildest storm the tongue can raise, He who with one rough word, some early day, Their idol world and them shall sweep for aye away.
But we by Fancy may assuage The festering sore by Fancy made, Down in some lonely hermitage Like wounded pilgrims safely laid, Where gentlest breezes whisper souls distressed, That Love yet lives, and Patience shall find rest.
O! shame beyond the bitterest thought That evil spirit ever framed, That sinners know what Jesus wrought, Yet feel their haughty hearts untamed - That souls in refuge, holding by the Cross, Should wince and fret at this world's little loss.
Lord of my heart, by Thy last cry, Let not Thy blood on earth be spent - Lo, at Thy feet I fainting lie, Mine eyes upon Thy wounds are bent, Upon Thy streaming wounds my weary eyes Wait like the parched earth on April skies.
Wash me, and dry these bitter tears, O let my heart no further roam, 'Tis Thine by vows, and hopes, and fears. Long since—O call Thy wanderer home; To that dear home, safe in Thy wounded side, Where only broken hearts their sin and shame may hide.
As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Zechariah ix. 11.
At length the worst is o'er, and Thou art laid Deep in Thy darksome bed; All still and cold beneath yon dreary stone Thy sacred form is gone; Around those lips where power and mercy hung, The dews of deaths have clung; The dull earth o'er Thee, and Thy foes around, Thou sleep'st a silent corse, in funeral fetters wound.