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ST. STEPHEN’S DAY

He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. Acts vii. 55.

As rays around the source of light

Stream upward ere he glow in sight,

And watching by his future flight

Set the clear heavens on fire;

So on the King of Martyrs wait

Three chosen bands, in royal state,1212Wheatly on the Common Prayer, c.v. sect. iv. 2. “As there are three kinds of martyrdom, the first both in will and deed, which is the highest; the second in will but not in deed; the third in deed but not in will; so the Church commemorates these martyrs in the same order: St. Stephen first, who suffered death both in will and deed; St. John the Evangelist next, who suffered martyrdom in will but not in deed; the holy Innocents last, who suffered in deed but not in will.”

And all earth owns, of good and great,

Is gather’d in that choir.

One presses on, and welcomes death:

One calmly yields his willing breath,

Nor slow, nor hurrying, but in faith

Content to die or live:

And some, the darlings of their Lord,

Play smiling with the flame and sword,

And, ere they speak, to His sure word

Unconscious witness give.

Foremost and nearest to His throne,

By perfect robes of triumph known,

And likest Him in look and tone,

The holy Stephen kneels,

With stedfast gaze, as when the sky

Flew open to his fainting eye,

Which, like a fading lamp, flash’d high,

Seeing what death conceals.

Well might you guess what vision bright

Was present to his raptur’d sight,

E’en as reflected streams of light

Their solar source betray —

The glory which our God surrounds,

The Son of Man, th’ atoning wounds —

He sees them all; and earth’s dull bounds

Are melting fast away.

He sees them all — no other view

Could stamp the Saviour’s likeness true,

Or with His love so deep embrue

Man’s sullen heart and gross —

“Jesu, do Thou my soul receive:

Jesu, do Thou my foes forgive;”

He who would learn that prayer must live

Under the holy Cross.

He, though he seem on earth to move,

Must glide in air like gentle dove,

From yon unclouded depths above

Must draw his purer breath;

Till men behold his angel face

All radiant with celestial grace,1313And all that sat in the council, booking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. Acts vi. 15.

Martyr all o’er, and meet to trace

The lines of Jesus’ death.


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