The World In The Heart - Poem by Jane Taylor
--BUT if the foe no more without presides,
There is an inner chamber where it hides ;
In that strong hold prepares its last defence ;
And none but heavenly arms can drive it thence.
This is the Christian's conflict,--he alone
Pursues its flight to that interior throne.
This is the test that makes his title clear ;
For only they approve their aim sincere,
Who seek the flattering world to dispossess
Where none but God and conscience have access.
All modes by man devised to purchase bliss,
Full well he knows are cheaper far than this :
Hence the attempt, with penance, pain, and loss,
And prayers, and alms, to frame a lighter cross.
To travel barefoot to some hallowed shrine,
If this would do, how soon should Heaven be mine !
--To walk with God ; resigning every weight,
To run with patience up to Zion's gate ;
To hold affections fixt on things above ;
To value heavenly more than earthly love ;
To dread the frown of God's discerning eye
More than the world's opprobrious calumny ;
To keep faith's prospects prominent and clear ;
To seek not rest, nor wish to find it here ;
Is harder work--too hard for arms like ours,
Opposed by principalities and powers,
Had He not covenanted to supply
Helmet and shield from Heaven's armory.
A ceaseless round of mummery to fulfil,
Leaves the world's empire unmolested still :
Nor more effective every outward way,
By which we seek to disavow its sway.
The downcast look, grave habit, slow address,
Are vain attempts to make the labour less ;
There is an inward army to pursue ;
A mere external conflict will not do.
They who sincerely bid the world depart
Not only from the house, but from the heart,
Retreating wisely, where its torrent roars,
And anxious still to shut it out of doors,
Contract their wishes to the sober size
Of fire-side comfort, and domestic ties ;
Yet they should deem the battle but begun,
Nor think at such light cost the victory won.
Whatever passes as a cloud, between
The mental eye of faith and things unseen,
Causing that better world to disappear,
Or seem unlovely, and the present dear,
That is our world, our idol, though it bear
Affection's impress, or devotion's air.
They who the quiet walks of life may choose,
Partly for Heaven's sake, partly for the muse ;
Whose taste had led them from the giddy train,
Even if conscience did not say 'refrain ;'
Though wise and good the choice, had need beware,
They shun an obvious, for a hidden snare ;
The fair, bright paths of wit and learning may
Lead off directly from the narrow way.
The pride of intellect, the conscious height
The soul attains to in her mental flight,
At length may cause a less exalted seat
To seem too lowly at the Saviour's feet.
Music, the pencil, nature, books, the muse,
Have charms, and Heaven designed them for our use ;
Yet who that knows and loves them, but could tell
The world disguised in all, in each may dwell,
With charm as fatal, with a spell as strong,
As that which circles pleasure's vacant throng.
'Tis true : and therefore some pronounce in haste,
(Urged less by conscience than by want of taste)
A sweeping censure on the cultured mind ;
And safety hope in ignorance to find.
Alas ! they know not how the world can cheat ;
Or rather, know not their own heart's deceit :
The ground that lies uncultured and unsown,
With rampant weeds is quickly overgrown.
And they who leave the mental field undrest,
Deeming all knowledge useless but the best,
And give those hours that duty freely spares,
Not to superior, but to vulgar cares,
Will find these lead from heavenly converse back,
Not less than those, and by a meaner track.
'Twas by no mental feast, no studious thought,
Her soul was cumbered, and her Lord forgot,
Who lost the unction of His gracious word,
Which, waiting at His feet, another heard.
Those toils engrossed her that may hold the heart
In closest bondage from the better part :
And though that board was spread for such a guest,
As none may now bid welcome to a feast,
Her guest, her Lord reproved her, as He will
The busy Marthas, serving, cumbered still.
Ask the good housewife, mid her bustling maids,
If ne'er the world her humbler sphere invades.
But if (unconscious of its secret sway)
She own it not, her eager looks betray.
Yes, there you find it, spite of locks and bars,
Hid in the store-room with her jams and jars ;
It gilds her china, in her cupboard shines,
Works at the vent-peg of her home-made wines,
Each varied dainty to her board supplies,
And comes up smoking in her Christmas pies.
The charms of mental converse some may fear,
Who scruple not to lend a ready ear
To kitchen tales, of scandal, strife, and love,
Which make the maid and mistress hand and glove ;
And ever deem the sin and danger less,
Merely for being in a vulgar dress.
Thus the world haunts, in forms of varied kind,
The intellectual and the groveling mind ;
Now, sparkling in the muse's fair attire,
Now, red and greasy at the kitchen fire.
And were you called to give a casting voice,
One to select, from such a meagre choice,
Deciding which life's purpose most mistook--
Would you not say,--the worldly-minded cook ?
Not intellectual vanity to flatter ;
--Simply, that mind precedence claims of matter.
And she, whose nobler course is seen to shine,
At once, with human knowledge and divine ;
Who mental culture and domestic rites
In close and graceful amity unites ;
Striving to hold them in their proper place,
Not interfering with her heavenly race ;
Whose constant aim it is, and fervent prayer,
On earthly ground to breathe celestial air ;--
Still, she could witness how the world betrays,
Steals softly in by unsuspected ways,
Her yielding soul from heavenly converse bears,
And holds her captive in its silken snares.
Could she not tell the trifles that are brought
To rival Heaven, and drive it from her thought ?
--Her heart (unconscious of the flowery trap)
Caught in the sprigs upon a baby's cap ;
Thence disengaged, its freedom boasts awhile,
Till taken captive by the baby's smile.
But oh, how mournful when resistance fails,
The conflict slackens, and the foe prevails !
For instance--yonder matron, who appears
Softly descending in the vale of years ;
And yet, with health, and constant care bestowed,
Still comely, embonpoint, and à la mode.
Once in her youthful days, her heart was warm ;
At least, her feelings wore devotion's form ;
And ever since, to quell the rising doubt,
She makes that grain of godliness eke out.
With comfort still, the distant day she sees,
When grief or terror brought her to her knees ;
When Christian friends rejoiced at what she told,
And bade her welcome to the church's fold.
There still she rests, her words, her forms the same ;
There holds profession's lamp without the flame :
Her Sabbaths come and go, with even pace ;
Year after year you find her in her place,
And still no change apparent, saving that
Of time and fashion, in her face and hat.
She stands or kneels as usual, hears and sings ;
Goes home and dines, and talks of other things ;
Enjoys her comforts with as strong a goût
As if they were not fading from her view
And still is telling what she means to do :
Talks of events that happen to befall,
Not like a stranger, passing from it all,
But eager, anxious in their issue still,
Hoping this will not be, or that it will ;
Getting, enjoying, all that can be had ;
Amused with trifles, and at trifles sad :
While hope still whispers in her willing ears,
'Soul, thou hast goods laid up for many years.'
A few brief words her character portray--
--This world contents her, if she might but stay.
When true and fervent pilgrims round her press,
She inly wishes that their zeal were less.
Their works of love, their spirit, faith, and prayers,
Their calm indifference to the world's affairs,
Reproach her deadhess, and she fain, for one,
Would call their zeal and ardour overdone.
But what her thought is--what her hope and stay
In moments of reflection, who shall say ?
--Time does not slacken, nay, he speeds his pace,
Bearing her onward to her finished race :
The common doom awaits her--'dust to dust ;'
The young may soon receive it, but she must.
What is the Christian's course ?--the Scriptures say,
'Brighter and brighter to the perfect day !'
Oh ! does her earthly mind, her anxious heart,
Clinging to life, not longing to depart,
Her languid prayer, her graces dim and faint,
Meet that description of the growing saint ?
Let her inquire (for far is spent the night)
If she be meetened for that world of light :
Where are her fondest, best affections placed ?--
Death may improve but not reverse the taste :
Does she indeed the things of time prefer ?
Then surely Heaven could not be Heaven to her.
Are there not portions of the sacred word,
So often preached and quoted, read and heard,
That, though of deepest import, and designed
With joy or fear to penetrate the mind,
They pass away with notice cold and brief,
Like drops of rain upon a glossy leaf ?
--Such as the final sentence, on that day,
When all distinctions shall be done away,
But that the righteous Judge shall bring to light,
Between the left-hand millions, and the right ?
Here, in His word, in beams of light, it stands,
What will be then demanded at our hands ;
Clear and unclouded now the page appears,
As even then, illumed by blazing spheres.
--The question is not, if our earthly race
Was once enlightened by a flash of grace ;
If we sustained a place on Zion's hill,
And called Him Lord--but if we did His will.
What, if the stranger, sick and captive, lie
Naked and hungry, and we pass them by !
Or do but some extorted pittance throw,
To save our credit, not to ease their woe !
Or, strangers to the charity whence springs
The liberal heart, devising liberal things,
We, cumbered ever with our own pursuits,
To others leave the labour and its fruits ;
Pleading excuses for the crum we save,
For want of faith to cast it on the wave !
--Shall we go forth with joy to meet our Lord
Enter His kingdom, reap the full reward ?
--Can such His good, His faithful servants be,
Blest of the Father ?--Read His word and see !
What, if in strange defiance of that rule,
Made not in Moses', but the Gospel school,
Shining as clearly as the light of Heaven,
'They who forgive not, shall not be forgiven,'
We live in anger, hatred, envy, strife,
Still firmly hoping for eternal life ;
And where the streams of Christian love should flow,
The root of bitterness is left to grow ;
Resisting evil, indisposed to brook
A word of insult, or a scornful look ;
And speak the language of the world in all,
Except the challenge and the leaden ball !
What if, mistrustful of its latent worth,
We hide our single talent in the earth !
And what if self is pampered, not denied !
What if the flesh is never crucified !
What if the world be hidden in the heart,--
Will it be, 'Come, ye blessed !'--or, 'Depart ?'
Who then shall conquer ?--who maintain the fight ?
E'en they that walk by faith and not by sight :
Who having 'washed their robes and made them white,'
Press towards the mark, and see the promised land,
Not dim and distantly, but near at hand.
--We are but marching down a sloping hill,
Without a moment's time for standing still ;
Where every step accelerates the pace,
More and more rapid till we reach the base ;
And then, no clinging to the yielding dust !
An ocean rolls below, and plunge we must.
What plainer language labours to express,
Thus, metaphoric is employed to dress :
And this but serves on naked truth to throw
That hazy, indistinct, and distant glow,
Through which we wish the future to appear,--
Not as indeed it is,--true, awful, near.
And yet, amid the hurry, toil, and strife,
The claims, the urgencies, the whirl of life,--
The soul--perhaps in silence of the night--
Has flashes, transient intervals of light ;
When things to come, without a shade of doubt,
In terrible reality stand out.
Those lucid moments suddenly present
A glance of truth, as though the Heavens were rent ;
And through that chasm of pure celestial light,
The future breaks upon the startled sight :
Life's vain pursuits, and Time's advancing pace,
Appear with death-bed clearness, face to face ;
And Immortality's expanse sublime,
In just proportion to the speck of time :
While Death, uprising from the silent shades,
Shows his dark outline ere the vision fades ;
In strong relief against the blazing sky,
Appears the shadow as it passes by.
And though o'erwhelming to the dazzled brain,
These are the moments when the mind is sane.
For then, a hope of Heaven--the Savior's cross,
Seem what they are, and all things else but loss.
Oh ! to be ready--ready for that day,
Would we not give earth's fairest toys away
Alas ! how soon its interests cloud the view,
Rush in, and plunge us in the world anew !
Once Paul beheld, with more than mortal eye,
The unveiled glories of the upper sky :
And when descending from that vision's height,
(His faith and hope thenceforward turned to sight)
When he awoke and cast his eye anew,
Still aching, dazzled, wondering at the view,
On this dark world, how looked it ? mean and dim ;
And such it is, as then it seemed to him.
As when the eye a moment turns to gaze,
Adventurous, on the sun's meridian blaze,
The shining orb pursues whete'er it roves,
And hides in gloom the fields, the hills, the groves :
'Twas thus he saw the things that sense entice,
Fade in the glorious beam of Paradise ;
And felt how far eternal joys outweigh
The light afflictions of our fleeting day.
Well might he then press forward to the prize,
And every weight, and every woe despise !
Oh, with what pity would his bosom glow,
For this poor world, and those who walk below,
When fresh from glory--fraught with Heaven, he viewed
The busy, eager, earth-bound multitude !
Each groping where his loudest treasure lies ;
One at his farm, one at his merchandize :
--To see the cumbered Christian faintly strive
To keep his doubtful spark of grace alive,
By formal service, paid one day in seven,
And brief, reluctant, misty thoughts of Heaven.
How he would weep, expostulate, and pray !
For he had seen--but there the verse must stay :
Paul could not utter--nor his pencil draw,
Yet, there it is--that glory that he saw :
Now, even now --whatever vain designs
Engross our worldly spirits--there it shines !
Oh ! place it not at time's remotest bounds
In doubtful distance, when the trump shall sound ;
Since what we hope for,--yes, and what we fear,
Is even near as death,--and death is near !
The quiet chamber where the Christian sleeps,
And where, from year to year, he prays and weeps ;
Whence, in the midnight watch, his thoughts arise
To those bright mansions where his treasure lies,--
How near it is to all his faith can see !
How short and peaceful may the passage be !
One beating pulse--one feeble struggle o'er,
May open wide the everlasting door.
Yes, for that bliss unspeakable, unseen,
Is ready--and the veil of flesh between
A gentle sigh may rend--and then display
The broad, full splendour of an endless day.
--This bright conviction elevates his mind ;
He presses forward, leaving all behind.--
Thus from his throne the tyrant foe is hurled,
--This is the faith that overcomes the world.
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