The church and the World walked far apart
On the changing shore of time;
The World was singing a giddy song,
And the Church a hymn sublime.
“Come, give me your hand,”
said the merry World,
“And then 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 eternal death
And your words are all untrue.”
“Nay, walk with me 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 way is narrow and thorny and rough
While mine is flowery and smooth;
Your lot is sad with reproach and toil,
But in rounds of joy I move.
My way, you can see, is a broad, fair one
And my gate is high and wide;
There is room enough for you and me
And we’ll 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
And whispered in accents low,
“Your dress is too simple to please my taste.
I have gold and pearls to wear;
Rich velvets 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 curved.
“I will change my dress for a costlier one,”
Said the Church with a smile of grace;
Then her pure white garments drifted away,
And the World gave in their place
Beautiful satins, and fashionable silks
And roses and gems and pearls;
And over her forehead her bright hair fell
And waved in a thousand curls.
“Your house is too plain,” said the proud old World.
“Let us build you one like mine
With kitchen for feasting and parlor for play
And furniture ever so fine.”
So he built her a costly and beautiful house—
Splendid it was to behold.
Her sons and her daughters met frequently there,
Shining in purple and gold;
And, fair and festival—frolics untold
Were held in the place of prayer.
And maidens, bewitched as sirens of old—
With world-winning graces rare,
Bedecked with fair jewels and hair all curled—
Untrammeled by Gospel or Laws,
To beguile and amuse and win from the World
Some help for “the righteous cause.”
The Angel of mercy rebuked the Church
And whispered, “I know your sin.”
Then the Church looked sad and anxiously longed
To gather the children in.
But some were away at the midnight ball
And others were at the play;
And some were drinking in gay saloons,
And the Angel went away.
And then said the World in soothing tones—
“Your much loved ones mean no harm—
Merely indulging in innocent sports.”
So she leaned on his proffered arm,
And smiled, and chatted and gathered flowers
And walked along with the World;
While countless millions of precious souls
Were hungering for truth untold.
“Your preachers are all too old and plain,”
Said the gay World with a sneer;
“They frighten my children with dreadful tales
Which I do not like to hear.
They talk of judgments and fire and pain
And the doom of darkest night.
They warn of a place that should not be
Thus spoken to ears polite!
I will send you some of a better stamp,
More brilliant and gay and fast,
Who will show how men may live as they list,
And go to heaven at last.
The Father is merciful, great and good,
Loving and tender and kind;
Do you think He’d take one child to heaven
And leave another behind?”
So she called for pleasing and gay divines,
Deemed gifted, and great, and learned;
And the plain old men that preached the cross
Were out of her pulpits turned.
When Mammon came in and supported the Church
And rented a prominent pew;
And preaching and singing and floral display
Soon proclaimed a gospel new.
“You give too much to the poor,” said the World,
“Far more than you ought to do;
Though the poor need shelter, food, and clothes,
Why thus need it trouble you?
Go take your money and buy rich robes
And horses and carriage fine;
And pearls and jewels and dainty food,
The rarest and costliest wine.
My children, they dote on all such things,
And if you their love would win
You must do as they do, and walk in the way—
The flowery way they’re in.”
Then the Church sat down at her ease and said,
“I’m 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 within,
And mockingly said aside,
“The Church has fallen—the beautiful Church,
Her shame is her boast and pride.”
Thus her witnessing power, alas, was lost,
And perilous times came in;
The times of the end, so often foretold,
Of form and pleasure and sin.
Then the Angel drew near the mercy seat
And whispered in sighs her name,
And the saints their anthems of rapture hushed
And covered their heads with shame.
A voice came down from the hush of Heaven
From Him who sat on the throne;
“I know thy works and what thou hast said,
But alas! thou hast not known
That thou art poor and naked and blind,
With pride and ruin enthralled;
The expectant Bride of a heavenly Groom
Is the harlot of the World!
Thou hast ceased to watch for that blessed hope—
Hast fallen from zeal and grace;
Soon now, alas! I must cast thee out
And blot thy name from its place.”
But out from the side of the harlot Church,
While she sleeps in indolent shame,
Will be taken the remnant who keep God’s Word
And honour His holy name.
By the word of their testimony, and the blood of the Lamb,
They overcame the World.
They prayed for the day when their enemy strong
Would be into the abyss hurled.
For those who keep their garments clean
Shall walk with Him in white.
In the day when He comes to claim His own,
To make them jewels bright.