He stilleth the storm

He stilleth the storm

He stilleth the Storm.

(The Gospel History, Section 55)

Now it came to pass on one of those days when even was come, he entered into a boat, and his disciples followed him; and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake: and leaving the multitude, they take him with them even as he was in the boat, and they launched forth. And other boats were with him. But as they sailed, he fell asleep. And there came down a great storm of wind on the lake, and the waves beat into the boat, insomuch that the boat was now filling, and they were in jeopardy. But he himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they came to him and awoke him, saying, Save, Lord, we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose and rebuked the wind, and the raging of the water; and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful? Where is your faith? Have ye not yet faith? And being exceedingly afraid they marvelled, and said one to another, Who then is this, that he commandeth even the winds and the sea, and they obey him?

He stilleth the storm

(The Saviour of the World, Vol III Book III Poem XXX)

Even was come upon a day
When Christ had laboured long; alway,
Multitudes pressed to hear Him speak
Or healing from His hand to seek.
Outwearied, entered He a boat;
The disciples, ever quick to note
Each indication of His will,
Quick followed Him: there’s wind to fill
Sails of the little craft; saith He,
“I would from all the folk be free
A little space, repose to take;
Go we to other side of lake.”
E’en as He was, they took Him then,
And launched the boat, those fisher men:
(Some other boats were with Him there;
Sea-wise, would they that crossing dare?)
Scarce had the skiff got under weigh
Than sleeping in the stern He lay,
His head upon a pillow low—
Poor couch, His friends had made Him so.
Now, black the restless waters grow
’Neath clouds as black; the wild winds blow
With steady stress from angry skies:—
Such sudden squalls must needs arise
In mountain lands; and neighbours told
Of awful risks to those, o’erbold.

The skiff leaped high, the skiff sank low;
“Sure that will waken Him!” but, no;
He lay serene in slumber bound,
Through strife of elements around.
Great storm of wind upon the sea
Their vessel filling, “What doth He
Asleep, while we, in jeopardy?”
Half-angry, cry they, yet refrain
From rousing Him for all that strain.
At last, they venture; scarce can they
Get at Him for the monstrous fray
That winds and waters wild create;
They wake Him,—soon ’twould be too late!
“Our Master, hast Thou then no care
That we are battling ’gainst despair?
Thy love goes sleep, nor shields us, poor,
Who for Thy sake the storm endure!
Save, Lord, we perish!” Lo, He wakes,
And first, that storm of fear that breaks
Tumultuous through their cries and fears,
He chides, or e’er their prayer He hears—
Grants peace from tumult of the storm
Whose perils, sure, excuse alarm!

Then, He arose, where none could stand,
And issued, kingly, His command:
“Peace!” saith He, and the waters drop
To their low level; rude winds stop:
And a great calm falls all around—
A stillness, wonderful, profound,
So men might hear the Voice of God
Control rebellious storm and flood!
“He stills the raging of the sea!
His servants, floods and tempest be!”—
Frighted, exceedingly, they cry,
Those men who saw their God so nigh!
“Who then is this?” they fearful ask,
“Who bringeth winds and seas to task
And they obey His potent word—
As children by command deterred
From small rebellion, little flight
Of mischief’s furtive fond delight?”

Rough winds, wild waves, sank soft to sleep
At word of Him who knows to keep
These in the hollow of His hand,
Obedient to His least command.
These were rebuked, nor these alone;
The disciples heard His awful tone:—
“Why are ye fearful?” asked the Lord,
“Not yet know ye to trust My word?
Not yet are certain I command
Those adverse powers on every hand?
Not yet assured that I fulfil
For least disciple all his will?
Why should ye fear, when I refrain
The hearts of princes, winds restrain?
Have I then taught you all these days
Nor know ye the first word of praise,—
That trust in Me, that mighty faith
Which knows not fear in life or death?
My labours, have they been in vain,
That ye no certainty attain?
Turn back, poor souls, and learn ye well
Faith’s earliest rudiments to spell!”
Like chidden children, low and meek,
The disciples find no word to speak!

We know the tale; have we not quailed
A thousand times when fears assailed,
When all our sky was overcast,
Nor spot of standing-room, earth-fast,
Might our wild staggering steps sustain—
Ah, then, ’fore God, how we complain!
“Nay, tell me not a God of love
Ruleth men’s fortunes from above!
I, but a man, would never, sure,
Let them I love like ills endure!
Then if a man be tenderer far,
What proof have I that God doth care?
Nay, I will call on Him and cry—
‘Is’t nought to Thee that I should die?’”
Of “little-faith,” we speak this word,
And through the din a voice is heard:—
“Peace,” restless tumult of wild cares,
“Be still,” ye dreadful fears, despairs;—
And sudden are we isled around
In God’s peace, infinite, profound!
Those things we dreaded cease to vex,
No perils, tumults, more perplex:
To the dear feet of God we come
Like timid child afraid to roam.

To whom then spake the Lord that word of peace,
So sudden soothed the sea, bade storm to cease?
Could the insensate waters hear His word,
The winds, are they by utterance deterred?
Or hath He given a word, a mystic key—
Which opes an instant’s space, that we may see
Mystery of things unseen,—“the Prince of powers
That hold their sway in air?”—This world of ours,
Is it administered by myriad sprites
Lab’ring for man’s diseases or delights?
Be these, the angelic host His voice obey,
And those, the wilful spirits of decay
Who haunt waste places, bid Malaria breed
And waste with horrid pains the human seed;
Who in our dense-thronged cities find a place
Where they make free to decimate the race;
Who vex the seas, consuming fires, fan;
And move unstable earth to ’whelm vain man?
Be these the secular works of them whose choice—
Obedience to an evil Father’s voice,
Whose works they do; and, labouring at his hest,
Continually the sons of God molest
E’en as they did whilst earthly frame they wore,
In mischiefs yet increasing ever more?
Was it to these Christ spake, and all was still,—
For these, unwilling servants of His will,
Compelled to do His pleasure? All the harms
With fell care they accomplish, dire alarms,—
What do they all but summon to the fight
Strong Daughter of the heavens, Science, hight?
See how her Knights go forth in eager haste
To combat unseen dragons of the waste!
See how they fall and die, one, two, a score,—
Science, uncowed, but sends forth Knights the more!
Full fell the conflict; victory is sure,
For Knowledge, born of Him who doth endure,
Knows no relaxing, failing, in her course,
No pity hath she, knoweth not remorse;
Toward noxious things, Destruction is her name;
For whatso worketh benefit, this same
Servant of God, as Progress, shows to men,
Beneficent in action: every ill,—
Unwilling instrument to work His will!

They who worked ill, hap, evil works still do,
Divested of the flesh; but these—the few
Be they, or many—ever gathering host,
Whose days are spent in seeking out the lost,
In serving Christ in ways Himself made plain,
What state of blessedness do these attain?
Sure, their works follow them; they still go on,
Still wait their Master’s word,—“Servant, well done!”
And, cities many under each one’s hand,
Sweet graces work they at divine command!
There be the flowers to cherish; fair trees, shield
From mischief gnaws their vitals; make corn to yield
Due bread for men; the sick at heart and sad
With unseen ministrations to make glad;
To carry on in ways these had designed
The works good men, perforce, had left behind;
Poor wandering souls they hasten to retrieve,
With whisper of love’s Sesame,—“Believe.”

What next, we know not; whether grace of God
Will conquer all vexed spirits of the flood—
All waves of the world which we misname our life—
And bid them cease from tormenting and strife,
Allay their fever in that sea of peace
Where e’en the wicked shall from troubling cease,—
This may we hope from Him whose name is love!
Meantime, we know that Voice, uproar above,
Nor dare disquiet us, how rough the sea,
Lest He should chide our faith’s inconstancy!

“What stuff is this!” saith one who knows the hour,
And how, as long ago, fair Nature’s power
Is dominant and sole o’er land and sea;
And man’s whole part, to learn how those things be,
She, cunning, doth combine and bring about!
“Science, our sole deliverer from doubt;
And all her work, to watch the subtle ways
Nature employs. What room for spirits, then,
The souls, forsooth, of good or evil men!”

“Nay, but, have souls no part in scheme ye praise?
What’s flesh? Slight curtain drawn to screen the light
From soul, would not in th’ open of men’s sight
Its secret energizings manifest;
But Soul, (or mind, or principle you choose,)
Lays herself out that ‘Nature’ she may use
To turn her wheels, her ships to carry straight,
To yield her triumphs, till she soar elate,
Sole-sovereign of that Sovereign rules the earth!”

“Why, yes; in mind of man must come to birth
Due recognition of those laws benign,
Once learnt—and man’s estate is half divine!
But, see, that body you despise, the mean
Whereby we contact reach with things unseen—
Those very laws that rule us! Naked Soul,
How shall it ’stablish contact with the whole—
How, smallest lens or wheel in right place set?
How, power to move least mote of matter get?”

“Lo, there, the mystery! That day we find
How a man’s hand is governed by his mind,—
The Tree of Knowledge in our garden-plot
Shall grow for our using: miracle is not
For him who knows how spirit, matter, rules;
Till then, we ponder, test,—and own us fools!
Who knows but Death, a higher state, may yield
That knowledge to our searching not revealed;
And naked Soul be free to work its will—
Or, mountains move, or bid wild waves be still!”

St. Mark iv. 35-41.
St. Luke viii. 22-25.
St. Matthew viii. 18, 23-27.