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- Bitter-Sweet - 5/22 -


I'd chide you for those most irreverent words Which make essential to the Christian scheme That which the scheme was made to kill, or cure.

_David_.

Yet they do save some very awkward words, That limp to make apology for God, And, while they justify Him, half confess The adverse verdict of appearances. I am ashamed that in this Christian age The pious throng still hug the fallacy That this dear world of ours was not ordained The theater of evil; for no law Declared of God from all eternity Can live a moment save by lease of pain. Law cannot live, e'en in God's inmost thought, Save by the side of evil. What were law But a weak jest without its penalty? Never a law was born that did not fly Forth from the bosom of Omnipotence Matched, wing-and-wing, with evil and with good, Avenger and rewarder--both of God.

_Ruth_.

I face your thought and give it audience; But I cannot embrace it till it come With some of truth's credentials in its hands-- The fruits of gracious ministries.

_David_.

Does he Who, driven to labor by the threatening weeds, And forced to give his acres light and air And traps for dew and reservoirs for rain, Till, in the smoky light of harvest time, The ragged husks reveal the golden corn, Ask truth's credentials of the weeds? Does he Who prunes the orchard boughs, or tills the field, Or fells the forests, or pursues their prey, Until the gnarly muscles of his limbs And the free blood that thrills in all his veins Betray the health that toil alone secures, Ask truth's credentials at the hand of toil? Do you ask truth's credentials of the storm Which, while we entertain communion here, Makes better music for our huddling hearts Than choirs of stars can sing in fairest nights? Yet weeds are evils--evils toil and storm. We may suspect the fair, smooth face of good; But evil, that assails us undisguised, Bears evermore God's warrant in its hands.

_Israel_.

I fear these silver sophistries of yours. If my poor judgment gives them honest weight, Far less than thirty will betray your Lord. You call that evil which is good, and good That which is evil. You apologize For that which God must hate, and justify The life and perpetuity of that Which sets itself against His holiness, And sends its discords through the universe.

_David_.

I sorrow if I shock you, for I seek To comfort and inspire. I see around A silent company of doubtful souls; But I may challenge any one of them To quote the meanest blessing of its life, And prove that evil did not make the gift, Or bear it from the giver to its hands. The great salvation wrought by Jesus Christ-- That sank an Adam to reveal a God-- Had never come, but at the call of sin. No risen Lord could eat the feast of love Here on the earth, or yonder in the sky, Had He not lain within the sepulcher. 'Tis not the lightly laden heart of man That loves the best the hand that blesses all; But that which, groaning with its weight of sin, Meets with the mercy that forgiveth much. God never fails in an experiment, Nor tries experiment upon a race But to educe its highest style of life, And sublimate its issues. Thus to me Evil is not a mystery, but a means Selected from the infinite resource To make the most of me.

_Ruth_.

Thank God for light! These truths are slowly dawning on my soul, And take position in the firmament That spans my thought, like stars that know their place. Dear Lord! what visions crowd before my eyes-- Visions drawn forth from memory's mysteries By the sweet shining of these holy lights! I see a girl, once lightest in the dance, And maddest with the gayety of life, Grow pale and pulseless, wasting day by day, While death lies idly dreaming in her breast, Blighting her breath, and poisoning her blood. I see her frantic with a fearful thought That haunts and horrifies her shrinking soul, And bursts in sighs and sobs and feverish prayers; And now, at last, the awful struggle ends, A sweet smile sits upon her angel face, And peace, with downy bosom, nestles close Where her worn heart throbs faintly; closer still As the death shadows gather; closer still, As, on white wings, the outward-going soul Flies to a home it never would have sought, Had a great evil failed to point the way. I see a youth whom God has crowned with power, And cursed with poverty. With bravest heart He struggles with his lot, through toilsome years,-- Kept to his task by daily want of bread, And kept to virtue by his daily task,-- Till, gaining manhood in the manly strife,-- The fire that fills him smitten from a flint-- The strength that arms him wrested from a fiend-- He stands, at last, a master of himself, And, in that grace, a master of his kind.

_David_.

Familiar visions these, but ever full Of inspiration and significance. Now that your eyes are opened and you see, Your heart should take swift cognizance, and feel. How do these visions move you?

_Ruth_.

Like the hand Of a strong angel on my shoulder laid, Touching the secret of the spirit's wings. My heart grows brave. I'm ready now to work-- To work with God, and suffer with His Christ; Adopt His measures, and abide His means. If, in the law that spans the universe (The law its maker may not disobey), Virtue may only grow from innocence Through a great struggle with opposing ill; If I must win my way to perfectness In the sad path of suffering, like Him The over-flowing river of whose life Touches the flood-mark of humanity On the white pillars of the heavenly throne, Then welcome evil! Welcome sickness, toil, Sorrow and pain, the fear and fact of death.

_Israel_

And welcome sin?

_Ruth_.

Ah, David! welcome sin?

_David_.

The fact of sin--so much;--it must needs be Offenses come; if woe to him by whom, Then with good reason; but the fact of sin Unlocked the door to highest destiny, That Christ might enter in and lead the way. God loves not sin, nor I; but in the throng Of evils that assail us, there are none That yield their strength to Virtue's struggling arm With such munificent reward of power As great temptations. We may win by toil Endurance; saintly fortitude by pain; By sickness, patience; faith and trust by fear; But the great stimulus that spurs to life, And crowds to generous development Each chastened power and passion of the soul, Is the temptation of the soul to sin, Resisted, and re-conquered, evermore.

_Ruth_.

I am content; and now that I have caught Bright glimpses of the outlines of your scheme, As of a landscape, graded to the sky, And seen through trees while passing, I desire No vision further till I make survey In some good time when I may come alone, And drink its beauty and its blessedness. I've been forgetful in my earnestness, And wearied everyone with talk. These boys Are restive grown, or nodding in their chairs, And older heads are set, as if for sleep. I beg their pardon for my theft of time,


Bitter-Sweet - 5/22

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