A’ Kempis and MacDonald: Something for Me and my Readers From a Couple of our Favorite Western Christians

Poetically this verse doesn’t really sing, does it? But the thoughts expressed, and the economy of words with which they are expressed, have been just what I needed this morning.

After Thomas Kempis

by George MacDonald

I.

Who follows Jesus shall not walk                                             Read the Gospel
In darksome road with danger rife;
But in his heart the Truth will talk,
And on his way will shine the Life.

So, on the story we must pore
Of him who lives for us, and died,
That we may see him walk before,
And know the Father in the guide.

II.

In words of truth Christ all excels,                                Obedience alone gives
Leaves all his holy ones behind;                        understanding of the Gospel
And he in whom his spirit dwells
Their hidden manna sure shall find.

Gather wouldst thou the perfect grains,
And Jesus fully understand?
Thou must obey him with huge pains,
And to God’s will be as Christ’s hand.

III.

What profits it to reason high                                           Why Reason Fails
And in hard questions court dispute,
When thou dost lack humility,
Displeasing God at very root!

Profoundest words man ever spake
Not once of blame washed any clear;
A simple life alone could make
Nathanael to his master dear.

IV.

The eye with seeing is not filled,                           Why Reason Disappoints
The ear with hearing not at rest;
Desire with having is not stilled;
With human praise no heart is blest.

Vanity, then, of vanities
All things for which men grasp and grope!
The precious things in heavenly eyes
Are love, and truth, and trust, and hope.

V.

Better the clown who God doth love            God will judge us by our deeds,
Than he that high can go                                       not our profession merely
And name each little star above
But sees not God below!

What if all things on earth I knew,
Yea, love were all my creed,
It serveth nothing with the True;
He goes by heart and deed.

VI.

If thou dost think thy knowledge good,               How to Seek the Humility
Thy intellect not slow,                                         That Bestows True Knowledge
Bethink thee of the multitude
Of things thou dost not know.

Why look on any from on high
Because thou knowest more?
Thou need’st but look abroad, to spy
Ten thousand thee before.

Wouldst thou in knowledge true advance
And gather learning’s fruit,
In love confess thy ignorance,
And thy Self-love confute.

VII.

This is the highest learning,                       The Path and Fruit of Humility
The hardest and the best—
From self to keep still turning,
And honour all the rest.

If one should break the letter,
Yea, spirit of command,
Think not that thou art better,
Thou may’st not always stand!

We all are weak—but weaker
Hold no one than thou art;
Then, as thou growest meeker,
Higher will go thy heart.

VIII.

Sense and judgment oft indeed                  The Path and Fruit of Pride
Spy but little and mislead,
Ground us on a shelf!

Happy he whom Truth doth teach,
Not by forms of passing speech,
But her very self!

Why of hidden things dispute,
Mind unwise, howe’er astute,
Making that thy task
Where the Judge will, at the last,
When disputing all is past,
Not a question ask?

Folly great it is to brood
Over neither bad nor good,
Eyes and ears unheedful!
Ears and eyes, ah, open wide
For what may be heard or spied
Of the one thing needful!

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