CHARITY AND HUMILITY.
Far have I clambered in my mind,
But nought so great as love I find:
Deep-searching wit, mount-moving might,
Are nought compared to that good sprite.
Life of delight and soul of bliss!
Sure source of lasting happiness!
Higher than heaven! lower than hell!
What is thy tent? Where may'st thou dwell?
"My mansion hight Humility, is named.
Heaven's vastest capability.
The further it doth downward tend,
The higher up it doth ascend;
If it go down to utmost nought,
It shall return with that it sought."
Lord, stretch thy tent in my strait breast;
Enlarge it downward, that sure rest
May there be pight for that pure fire pitched.
Wherewith thou wontest to inspire
All self-dead souls: my life is gone;
Sad solitude's my irksome won; dwelling.
Cut off from men and all this world,
In Lethe's lonesome ditch I'm hurled;
Nor might nor sight doth ought me move,
Nor do I care to be above.
O feeble rays of mental light,
That best be seen in this dark night,
What are you? What is any strength
If it be not laid in one length
With pride or love? I nought desire
But a new life, or quite to expire.
Could I demolish with mine eye
Strong towers, stop the fleet stars in sky,
Bring down to earth the pale-faced moon,
Or turn black midnight to bright noon;
Though all things were put in my hand--
As parched, as dry as the Libyan sand
Would be my life, if charity
Were wanting. But humility
Is more than my poor soul durst crave
That lies entombed in lowly grave;
But if 'twere lawful up to send
My voice to heaven, this should it rend:
"Lord, thrust me deeper into dust,
That thou may'st raise me with the just."
There are strange things and worth pondering in all these. An occasional
classical allusion seems to us quite out of place, but such things we
must pass. The poems are quite different from any we have had before.
There has been only a few of such writers in our nation, but I suspect
those have had a good deal more influence upon the religious life of it
than many thinkers suppose. They are in closest sympathy with the deeper
forms of truth employed by St. Paul and St. John. This last poem,
concerning humility as the house in which charity dwells, is very truth.
A repentant sinner feels that he is making himself little when he prays
to be made humble: the Christian philosopher sees such a glory and
spiritual wealth in humility that it appears to him almost too much to
The very essence of these mystical writers seems to me to be poetry. They
use the largest figures for the largest spiritual ideas--light for
good, darkness for evil. Such symbols are the true bodies of the true
ideas. For this service mainly what we term nature was called into
being, namely, to furnish forms for truths, for without form truth cannot
be uttered. Having found their symbols, these writers next proceed to use
them logically; and here begins the peculiar danger. When the logic
leaves the poetry behind, it grows first presumptuous, then hard, then
narrow and untrue to the original breadth of the symbol; the glory of the
symbol vanishes; and the final result is a worship of the symbol, which
has withered into an apple of Sodom. Witness some of the writings of the
European master of the order--Swedenborg: the highest of them are rich in
truth; the lowest are poverty-stricken indeed.
In 1615 was born Richard Baxter, one of the purest and wisest and
devoutest of men--and no mean poet either. If ever a man sought between
contending parties to do his duty, siding with each as each appeared
right, opposing each as each appeared wrong, surely that man was Baxter.
Hence he fared as all men too wise to be partisans must fare--he pleased
neither Royalists nor Puritans. Dull of heart and sadly unlike a mother
was the Church when, by the Act of Uniformity of Charles II., she drove
from her bosom such a son, with his two thousand brethren of the clergy!
He has left us a good deal of verse--too much, perhaps, if we consider
the length of the poems and the value of condensation. There is in many
of them a delightful fervour of the simplest love to God, uttered with a
plain half poetic, half logical strength, from which sometimes the poetry
breaks out clear and fine. Much that he writes is of death, from the
dread of which he evidently suffered--a good thing when it drives a man
to renew his confidence in his Saviour's presence. It has with him a very
different origin from the vulgar fancy that to talk about death is
religious. It was refuge from the fear of death he sought, and that is
the part of every man who would not be a slave. The door of death of
which he so often speaks is to him a door out of the fear of death.
The poem from which the following excerpt is made was evidently written
in view of some imminent suffering for conscience-sake, probably when the
Act of Uniformity was passed: twenty years after, he was imprisoned at
the age of sixty-seven, and lay nearly a year and a half.--I omit many