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W. Garrett Horder, comp. The Poets’ Bible: New Testament. 1895.

“This Man went down to His House justified”

Edward Hayes Plumptre (1821–1891)

“This man went down to his house justified rather than the other.”—LUKE XVIII. 14.

WE watched them as they stood,

One in the full broad sun, and sight of all,

Broad Tallith-veil drawn tight o’er saintly brow,

And garments bordered blue,

And parchment texts twined over either arm:

And standing up he prayed;

And every word was full of thanks to God,

That he, from evil clear,

Had trod the upward path,

That he from sins of other men set free,

Adulterers, robbers, publicans, unjust,

All fasts, tithes, alms, had strictly paid and kept.

Yes, with clear voice and loud,

He thanked God for the grace

Which only gave him strength;

And we admiring heard and envied him,

Were glad of greeting words,

And kissed his garment’s fringe,

And on the Sabbath morn in synagogue

Gave him the chiefest place,

And at the Sabbath eve,

When meeting at our feast,

Asked him to break the bread and bless the wine.

’Tis good to honour thus the saints of God,

Their light streams on to us,

And we, like clay with rose,

Imbibe the odour of their saintliness,

Sweet savour to the Lord.

And one we marked far back,

Crouched in a corner, eyes fast fixed on earth,

Wringing his hands in woe;

As one o’erburdened with the guilt of years,

And haunted by dread memories of the past.

He could not thank or praise,

But evermore, half-bursting into sobs,

His bitter cry we heard,

“O God, be pitiful

To me of sinners chief;”

And half we shuddered as we saw him there,

And to our sons we said,

“See what they come to who the Law despise,

Who make themselves the slaves of Heathen lords,

And pass from bad to worse,

All fasts and Sabbath scorned,

Till man abhors them and their God forsakes.”

Nay, trace them to their homes,

See them in secret, as the Angels see,

And God’s clear eye above;

The Pharisee who acts his part abroad

So well that half he deems

His own the part he plays,

He, as he passes through his court-yard gate,

Feels, he can scarce say what;

It is not conscience piercing to the quick,

But dull disquietude,

An inner voice of fear,

The heart’s strings out of tune;

And wife and children know the hour is come

They dreaded all the day.

Each slight neglect, the savoury food ill-dressed,

The rough red wine like that which poor men drink,

These moved to bitter words;

And children’s voices grated on his ear,

And all their mirth was hushed,

And he, with friends that came,

In judgment sat upon the neighbours round,

How this had broken fast,

And that had eaten bread with unwashed hands,

Or on the Sabbath toiled;

How one was thought to hold

To Hillel’s laxer creed.

And one believed to turn with weary heart,

To that new Rabbi named of Nazareth,

Whom men despised as mad.

How went the other back?

Shrinking from scorning eyes and mocking word,

He hurried through the streets,

Through bye-ways of the town,

And in poor suburb stopped at lowly house;

But, as he passed along,

A new peace filled his soul;

The vexing thoughts from out the guilty past

Were lulled and hushed to rest,

There came the thought that God was pitiful

Nor kept his wrath for aye,

That he, though long rebellious, yet might turn,

As from a country far,

And find a Father welcome him at last.

And so he entered in

Where spreading fig and overhanging vine

Made a thick shade at noon,

Where often he had wrestled with his woe,

Until the sweat-drops streamed,

In agony of soul,

And then had passed to common life again,

With moody look and stern;

But now he paused not there,

But entered where his children’s faces met

His look with loving smile,

And with untaught, unconscious sympathy,

Felt that a change had come,

The darkness past away,

The new light shining clear,

Their whole light brighter in the joy of his;

While wifely glances keen

Searched out the marvel and the mystery:

She too discerned the change,

The new calm brooding o’er the vexed seas,

And she rejoiced in soul;

She saw him there at last,

No longer scorned and hated, self-condemned,

No longer sick at heart,

But blessing, being blest,

Receiving freely, freely giving back;

This found she there, and knew

The Lord had pardoned, and her joy burst forth,

“Dear husband mine, thank God.”