THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD



The Church and the World walked far apart
  On the changing shores of time;
The World was singing a giddy song, 
And the Church a hymn sublime.
“Come, give me your hand,” cried the merry World,
 “And walk with me this way”;
But the good Church hid her snowy hand, 
And solemnly answered, “Nay!
I will not give you my hand at all,
And I will not walk with you;
Your way is the way of endless death; 
Your words are all untrue.”

“Nay, walk with me but a little space,” 
Said the World with a kindly air.
“The road I walk is a pleasant road,
And the sun shines always there.
Your path is thorny and rough and rude, 
And mine is broad and plain;
My road is paved with flowers and gems, 
And yours with tears and pain.
My path, you see, is a broad, fair path, 
And my gate is high and wide— 
There is room enough for you and me
 To travel side by side.”

Half shyly the Church approached the World 
And gave him her hand of snow;
And the false World grasped it, and walked along, 
Saying in accents low,
Your dress is too simple to please my taste; 
I will give you pearls to wear,
Rich velvet and silks for your graceful form, 
And diamonds to deck your hair.”

The Church looked down at her plain white robes, 
And then at the dazzling World,
And blushed as she saw his handsome lip 
With a smile contemptuous curled.

“1 will change my dress for a costlier one,” 
Said the Church with a smile of grace; 
Then her garments pure drifted away, 
And the World gave in their place,
Beautiful satins, and shining silks,
And roses and gems and pearls;
And over her forehead her bright hair fell 
Crisped in a thousand curls.

“Your house is too plain” said the proud old World,
 “I’ll build you one like mine— 
Carpets of Brussels, and curtains of lace,
And furniture ever so fine.”
So he built her a costly and beautiful house—

Splendid it was to behold.
Her sons and her beautiful daughters dwelt there,
Gleaming in purple and gold;
And fairs and shows in the halls were held,
And the World and his children were there;
And laughter and music and feasts were heard
In the place that was meant for prayer.

The Angel of mercy rebuked the church
And whispered, “I know thy sin.”
The Church looked back with a sigh, and longed
To gather her children in.
But some were off in the midnight ball,
And some were off at the play,
And some were drinking in gay saloons;
So the Angel went away.

The sly World gallantly said to her,
“Your children mean no harm—
Merely indulging in innocent sports.”
So she leaned on his proffered arm,
And smiled, and chatted, and gathered flowers,
As she walked along with the World;
While millions and millions of deathless souls
To the horrible pit were hurled.

“Your preachers are all to old and plain,”
Said the gay old World with a sneer;
“They frighten my children with dreadful tales
Which I like not for them to hear:
They teach of suffering, toil, and pain
And a cross that all must bear;
And the world, the flesh, and the devil disdain
If they the crown would wear.

“I will send you some of the better stamp,
Brilliant and gay and fast,
Who will tell them that people may live as they list
And go to Heaven at last.”
So she filled her house with gay divines,
Gifted and great and learned;
And the plain old men that preached the Cross
Were out of the pulpit turned.

The sons of the World and the sons of the Church
Walked closely hand and heart,
And only the Master, Who knoweth all,
Could tell the two apart.
Then the Church sat down at her ease and said,
“I am rich and in goods increased;
I have need of nothing, and naught to do
But to laugh and dance and feast.”
The sly World heard her, and laughed in his sleeve,
And mockingly said aside,
“The Church is fallen— the beautiful Church—
And her shame is her boast and pride!”

The Angel drew near to the mercy-seat, 
And whispered in sighs her name;
And the saints their anthems of rapture hushed, 
And covered their heads with shame.
And a voice came down, through the hush of Heaven, 
From Him Who sat on the throne,
“1 know thy work, and how thou hast said,
 ‘lam rich’; and hast not known
That thou art naked and poor and blind,
And wretched before My face.
Repent of thy sins, lest I spew thee out
And blot thy name from its place!”

Apologies to Matilada C. Edwards