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  The Eternal Goodness  


O friends! with whom my feet have trod
     The quiet aisles of prayer,
Glad witness to your zeal for God
     And love of man I bear.

I trace your lines of argument;
     Your logic linked and strong
I weigh as one who dreads dissent,
     And fears a doubt as wrong.

But still my human hands are weak
     To hold your iron creeds;
Against the words ye bid me speak
     My heart within me pleads.

Who fathoms the Eternal Thought?
     Who talks of scheme and plan?
The Lord is God!    He needeth not
     The poor device of man.

I walk with bare, hushed feet the ground
     Ye tread with boldness shod:
I dare not fix with mete and bound
     The love and power of God.

Ye praise His justice; even such
     His pitying love I deem
Ye seek a king; I fain would touch
     The robe that hath no seam.

Ye see the curse which overbroods
     A world of pain and loss;
I hear our Lord's beatitudes
     And prayer upon the cross.

The wrong that pains my soul below
     I dare not throne above:
I know not of His hate,--I know
     His goodness and His love.

I dimly guess from blessings known
     Of greater out of sight,
And, with the chastened Psalmist, own
     His judgments too are right.

I long for household voices gone,
     For vanished smiles I long,
But God bath led my dear ones on,
     And He can do no wrong.

I know not what the future hath
     Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
     His mercy underlies.

And if my heart and flesh are weak
     To bear an untried pain,
The bruised reed He will not break,
     But strengthen and sustain.

No offering of my own I have,
     Nor works my faith to prove;
I can but give the gifts He gave,
     And plead His love for love.

And so beside the Silent Sea
     I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from Him can come to me
     On ocean or on shore.

I know not where His islands lift
     Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
     Beyond His love and care.

O brothers! if my faith is vain,
     If hopes like these betray,
Pray for me that my feet may gain
     The sure and safer way.

And Thou, O Lord! by whom are seen
     Thy creatures as they be,
Forgive me if too close I lean
     My human heart on Thee!

       - John Greenleaf Whittier

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