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Littell's Living Age/Volume 132/Issue 1711/My Quest


Long had I wavered 'twixt belief and doubt,
This way and that, turning my faith about,
To keep the truth, and sift the error out.

But which was truth — which error? Could I read
God's hidden meanings in his word and deed
Straight on, and squarely fashion out my creed?

Could I lift up my daring gaze on high
And clearly his infinitude descry,
Whose earthly government I read awry?

Seeking with anxious heart, though still in vain,
To solve the mystery of sin and pain,
Holding God's image bound in earthly chain,

"I would" forever shackled by "I must,"
Souls made for Heaven all fouled with earthly dust,
And sin and sorrow rife — while he is just!

Such thoughts as these were ever at my side,
Blind questionings that would not be denied,
Problems I could not solve, nor thrust aside.

Until at times I scarce could look above,
And recognize his Fatherhood of love,
Who made the vulture as he made the dove.

And when in page of Holy Writ I sought
Rest for my troubled and bewildered thought,
I found more puzzling questions than I brought.

Could I the prophet's awful gift define,
And with unerring finger draw the line
Between man's teachings and the lore divine?

Rightly the word of truth divide, and know
Which things are types that heavenly forms do show,
And which but shadows of the shapes below?

Yet where both saint and sage had sought in vain
Evangelist and prophet to explain.
My troubled spirit needs must seek again.

I longed to hold a faith by reason tried,
And, casting every half belief aside,
In certainties at last rest satisfied.

But who can clear his motives' tangled maze,
Sure that no prejudice nor passion sways,
Nor habit and the love of early days;

So that with single heart and steady aim,
Unswayed by human ties, or fear of blame,
He may take on him the disciple's name?

Too hard the task for me — I could not bind
The throng of hopes and wishes in my mind,
And calmly seek the truth I feared to find.

So, sore perplexed, I wrestled with my heart,
Loving the old beliefs too well to part,
While fearing yet affection's subtle art.

My hold on truth seemed lessening day by day,
The ancient landmarks failed to point the way;
I could not reason, I could only pray

That he who gladly hungry souls doth feed
Might give me what was lacking to my need,
And into ways of truth my footsteps lead.

And while my strong desire to God I brought,
That he would grant the light and peace I sought,
These words of Christ sprang sudden to my thought, —

"More blessed 'tis to give than to receive.
No more — no mystic dogma to believe,
Only a thread in each day's life to weave;

Only a common duty, in such wise
Transfigured by new light, that straight my eyes
Saw how above all truth true loving lies;

Saw that, forgetful of my own soul's need,
Filling my life with gracious thought and deed,
I might leave time — and God — to shape my creed.

My prayer was answered; not as I had thought,
I had not found the knowledge that I sought,
To live without it was the lesson taught.

The end of all my long and weary quest
Is only failure; yet a sense of rest,
Of deep, unwonted quiet, fills my breast.

And though some vexing doubts still hold their place,
Yet is my faith no measure for his grace,
Whose hand still holds me though he hide his face.

And day by day I think I read more plain
This crowning truth, that, spite of sin and pain,
No life that God has given is lived in vain;

But each poor, weak, and sin-polluted soul
Shall struggle free at last, and reach its goal,
A perfect part of God's great perfect whole.

My heart believes — yet still I long for light;
Surely the morning cometh after night,
When Faith, the watcher, shall give place to sight!