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,” said the merry World,
“And walk with me this way!”
But the faithful Church hid her gentle hands
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 that leads to 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,
But mine is broad and plain;
My way is paved with flowers and dews,
And yours with tears and pain.
The sky above me is always blue,
No want, no toil I know;
The sky above you is always dark,
Your lot is a lot of woe.
My path, you see, is a broad, fair one
And my gate is high and wide;
There’s 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 old World quick 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 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 curled.
“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 shining silks,
Roses and gems and costly pearls;
While 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;
With walls of marble and towers of gold,
And furniture ever so fine.”
So he built her a costly and beautiful house;
Most splendid it was to behold;
Her sons and her beautiful daughters dwelt there
Gleaming in purple and gold.
Rich fairs and shows in the halls were held,
And the World and his children were there.
Laughter and music and feasts were heard
In the Place that was meant for Prayer.
There-were cushioned seats for the rich and the gay,
To sit in their pomp and pride;
While the poor folk, who were clad in shabby array,
Sat meekly down outside.
The Angel of Mercy flew over the Church,
And whispered, “I know thy sin”:
Then the Church looked back with a sigh and longed
To gather her children in;
But some were off at the midnight ball,
And some were off at the play,
And some were drinking in gay saloons,
So she quietly went her way.
Then 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 sorrowing souls
To eternal death were hurled.
“Your preachers are all too old and plain,”
Said the World to the Church with a sneer.
“They frighten my children with dreadful tales,
Which I like not for them to hear.
They talk of brimstone and fire and pain
And the night of an endless death;
They talk of a place which may only be
Mentioned with bated breath.
I will send you some of the better stamp
Brilliant and gay and fast
Who will tell them that people may live as they choose
And go to heaven at last.
The Father is merciful, great, and good,
Tender and true and kind;
Do you think He would take one child to heaven,
And leave the other behind?”
So he filled her house with gay divines
Gifted and great and learned
And the plain old men that preached the cross
Were out of her pulpits turned.
“You give too much to the poor,” said the World.
“Far more than you ought to do;
If the poor are in need of shelter and food,
Why need it trouble you?
Go, take your money and buy rich robes,
Buy horses and carriages fine;
Buy pearls and jewels and dainty food,
Buy the rarest and costliest wine.
My children, they dote on all these things,
And if you their love would win
You must do as they do, and walk in the ways
That they are walking in.”
Then the Church held tightly the strings of her purse
And gracefully lowered her head,
And whispered, “I’ve given too much away;
I’ll do, sir, as you have said.”
So the poor were turned from her door in scorn,
And she heard not the orphan’s cry;
But she drew her beautiful robes aside,
As the widows went weeping by.
Then 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 my goods increase;
I have need of nothing, or aught to do,
But to laugh, and dance, and feast.”
And the sly World heard her, and laughed up his sleeve,
And mockingly said, aside:
“The Church is fallen, the beautiful Church;
And her shame is her boast and her 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 in shame.
Then a Voice came down through the hush of heaven
From Him who sat on the throne:
“I know thy works, and how thou hast said,
‘I am rich,’ and hast not known
That thou art naked, poor and blind,
And wretched before my face;’
Therefore from my presence cast I thee out,
And blot thy name from its place.”
By Matilda C Edwards, 1936
“Ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy,
and have severed you from other people, that ye should be Mine.”