Tag Archives: Poetry

A Mile with Sorrow

I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me.

Robert Browning Hamilton, qtd. by F. W. Boreham, When the Swans Fly High.

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On the Death of a Young Gentleman

Who taught thee conflict with the pow’rs of night,
To vanquish satan in the fields of light?
Who strung thy feeble arms with might unknown,
How great thy conquest, and how bright thy crown!
War with each princedom, throne, and pow’r is o’er,
The scene is ended to return no more.
O could my muse thy seat on high behold,
How deckt with laurel, how enrich’d with gold!
O could she hear what praise thine harp employs,
How sweet thine anthems, how divine thy joys!
What heav’nly grandeur should exalt her strain!
What holy raptures in her numbers reign!
To sooth the troubles of the mind to peace,
To still the tumult of life’s tossing seas,
To ease the anguish of the parents heart,
What shall my sympathizing verse impart?
Where is the balm to heal so deep a wound?
Where shall a sov’reign remedy be found?
Look, gracious Spirit, from thine heav’nly bow’r,
And thy full joys into their bosoms pour;
The raging tempest of their grief control,
And spread the dawn of glory through the soul,
To eye the path the saint departed trod,
And trace him to the bosom of his God.

Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral, 1773.

Emmanuel, God with Us

“God with us” in this world of sin,
This life of weakness and of woe:
His love, His power and His strength
With us, wherever we may go,
Since Jesus came to earth to dwell
And be for aye Emmanuel.

No weary days, no starless nights,
No sorrow deep, no trial sore,
But we can feel His presence near,
“God with us”, now and evermore;
Since He hath come to earth to dwell
Whose name is still Emmanuel.

Annie Johnson Flint.

A Persian Fable

A Persian fable says: One day
A wanderer found a lump of clay
So redolent of sweet perfume
Its odors scented all the room.

‘What are thou?’ was his quick demand,
‘Art thou some gem from Samarcand,
Or spikenard in this rude disguise,
Or other costly merchandise?’

‘Nay: I am but a lump of clay.’
‘Then whence this wondrous perfume–say!’
‘Friend, if the secret I disclose,
I have been dwelling with the Rose.’

Sweet parable! and will not those
Who love to dwell with Sharon’s Rose,
Distil sweet odors all around,
Though low and mean themselves are found?
Dear Lord, abide with us that we
May draw our perfume fresh from Thee.

Source: Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, September 15 entry.

4 1/2 Book Recommendations for Christmas

A few seasonal reading ideas, focusing on what’s freely (or cheaply) available online

As Western culture shifts, Protestants and Pentecostals have become more and more concerned with the liturgical year. Partially assisted by the advent of social media, America is getting whiplash as we return from individualistic culture to a more communal culture. The liturgical year is a way of remembering the Bible’s great stories together as a community, and in that way it has always had value for the church.

How can we remember the birth of Christ best? There are many Christmas “devotionals” out there, but I recommend first that we return to the great hymns of Christmas past. If you have not sat down and read a hymnbook as part of your worship, I would say you are missing out on some of the inexpressible truths entrusted to the church. Poetry (and hymns!) have a way of expressing what prose can’t.

A Book of Christmas Verse – ed. H. C. Beeching

This book is just what I had been looking for: a mix of classic Christmas hymns that I had heard almost every year, and other traditional hymns and poems that are lost to modern times. Of course the classics like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley are there, but there are older English hymnwriters that you may not have read, like John Donne and George Herbert. Most of the poetry here explores the deepest truths of Christmas: the Incarnation, the humility of the Son of God, and the cross and resurrection that awaited him at the end of his life. (If you don’t read Latin you will have to skip a few, but don’t let it put you off—it is a great collection.)

A Book of Christmas Verse (Kindle edition)

My Christmas Book – F. W. Boreham

Boreham’s books are not “devotional,” strictly speaking. His Christmas book is more of a ramble through the park with an old friend. He mixes storytelling with preaching in a way that cannot be imitated. This book is newly available in a digital edition, and if you can get a hands on a copy you will be glad you did. If you can’t get your hands on a copy, you can read a sample at the following link:

A Clouded Christmas (sample chapter)

How Christmas Came to Roaring Camp (sample chapter)

My Christmas Book (Kindle edition)

All About God in Christ (or The Christ of Christmas) – Herbert Lockyer

Herbert Lockyer is one of the most prolific writers of Bible studies of modern times, but he is best known for the All series. In the 1930s, Lockyer was involved with Zondervan made the smart choice of publishing dozens his topical sermons:Sorrows and Stars, Roses in December, The Fairest of All, The Mystery of Godliness and several others. He published _The Christ of Christmas _in 1942. Later, when they were creating the _All _series, much of this older material was cleaned up and put into the 1995 volume All About God in Christ, so that book is primarily a study of the Incarnation, as was The Christ of Christmas.

The Christ of Christmas (Kindle edition)

All About God in Christ

The Glory of the Manger – Samuel Zwemer

Zwemer has many books, and even the most mundane titles that I have come across have been exhilarating and convicting. Like the others, this book is a mix of doctrinal and devotional, with a focus on Christ’s divinity. If my timeline is correct, Zwemer was teaching comparative religion courses at Princeton when he wrote this, and it shows in his wide variety of sources, stories, and poetry about the Christmas story. This book has been out of print for many decades, and was recently published for Kindle by Pioneer Library.

The Glory of the Manger (Kindle edition)

Conclusion

Leonard Ravenhill used to be invited to Christian book fairs, but he would decry the shallowness of the writings he found there. Biblical Christian truth is glorious, convicting, and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, and we dull the edge when we obsess over the earthly aspects of Jesus’ advent: who were the wise men, what is a manger, what was the star, etc. My final suggestion is that we look for books dealing especially with the glorious truth of the Incarnation of Christ, what Paul called “the mystery of godliness”—and if we meditate on that, we will not feel that we have missed the spirit of Christmas or the purpose of the season.

4 Book Recommendations for Christians in Grief

The Christian After Death (Hough)

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My friend Daniel kept this book by his bedside for years while his parents were struggling with illness. Daniel had become so accustomed to nursing his parents, that he would only sleep for a few hours at a time.

This book is my first recommendation any time I get questions about the afterlife and what the Bible says about it. It is a book of sermons; they are not creative or breathtaking, but they are scriptural. Rarely do I read something so straightforward and biblical—especially on such a difficult topic.

The book itself is organized around twelve common questions about the afterlife. The book was so good, I’ve scanned it and made it publicly available.

The Hero in Thy Soul (A. J. Gossip)

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Along with several others who are out of print and nearly unknown today, A. J. Gossip was selected for inclusion in the set 20 Centuries of Great Preaching, and this is one of only two sources I have on his life—the other being his obituary. He held a number of pastorates in the Free Church of Scotland, but he was not a very famous preacher until his wife died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1927. Within days of her death, he was in his pulpit preaching Christ’s triumph over the grave. That single sermon—titled “But When Life Tumbles In, What Then?”—brought him worldwide fame.

The sermon was printed in a volume of sermons called The Hero in Thy Soul: Being an Attempt to Face Life Gallantly. Gossip wrote in the foreword:

“But When Life Tumbles In, What Then?” was the first sermon preached after my wife’s bewilderingly sudden and undreamed-of death. The office-bearers of Beechgrove Church, Aberdeen, included it in a memorial booklet issued for private circulation. It has wandered so far over the world, I have received so pathetically many requests for copies from people in sorrow, that I have included the sermon here… I have not had the heart to work over it; and it is set down as it was delivered.

His biographer in the 20 Centuries series writes that Gossip lived through tough economic times in Scotland, and had been a chaplain during World War I. Years before his wife’s death, he had buried a unit of a hundred soldiers, whom he had known personally. In The Hero in Thy Soul he has a wealth of encouraging words for Christians struggling through grief and hardship.

The tone of the book is not somber; the sermons swell with chivalry and courage. Gossip was a modest preacher and did not preach in the greatest pulpits of the time. But his sermons are among the best devotional books you will ever find. They show, like F. W. Boreham or James S. Stewart, the power of a preacher who draws the best material from the wells of past literature.

Poems on Various Subjects (Wheatley)

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Phillis Wheatley was the first African-American female to gain publication in the United States. She was sold into slavery at age 7, but the Wheatley family encouraged her in her education, so that by the age of 12 she could read Classics in Greek and Latin. She had a custom of writing consolation poems for families that lived through tragedy, including the families of some high-profile preachers such as George Whitefield. These elegies compose about one-third of her published poetry.

Her work is not hymns, but poetry. Some of these poems take on more Classical or academic themes, lost to a modern reader, but many of them are filled with worship. Worship songwriter David Crowder loved to draw from the great worship songs of the past, and he quoted from one of Wheatley’s most famous poems:

To him, whose works array’d with mercy shine,
What songs should rise, how constant, how divine!

Wheatley was paraded around London society and even visited George Washington in 1776. She died at only 31, having proven the dignity and capability of her race that was so long oppressed. Wheatley’s gift for helping others see through their grief still bears fruit to this day.

Faber’s Hymns (1894) (F. W. Faber)

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Frequently quoted by devotional authors of every creed and color, F. W. Faber was a prolific author of devotional books in his own right. Faber’s first publication was a defense of the Reformation—after which he became Catholic, and he wrote many books on strictly Catholic topics that would bore or agitate a Protestant reader.

His poems and hymns, though, were highly influential among Catholic and Protestant audiences. A. W  Tozer has been the greatest reviver of Faber’s works in recent times.  In his classic book on the attributes of God, The Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer quotes F. W. Faber a dozen times. And when Tozer selected poetry for his Christian Book of Mystical Verse, he included many of Faber’s most famous hymns about the character of God. Ravenhill was fond of quoting this verse from “Jesus, My God and My All”:

O Jesus, Jesus, dearest Lord!
Forgive me if I say,
For very love, Thy sacred name
A thousand times a day.

Among Faber’s other favorite themes are death, grief and eternity. Other poems like “Dryness in Prayer” and “Distractions in Prayer” are easily relatable for Christians dealing with grief. He writes long and often on the desert experience of Christianity.

The best edition I have found of his poetry was published in 1894. I honed this edition down, deleting some of the material that is less appropriate for devotional reading. The result is the Kindle edition published in the Amazon store. I hope that it encourages many who need a new vision of God’s goodness in the midst of grief.