Of greatness

Of greatness

Of little Children. Our duties towards them.

(The Gospel History, Section 75)

And they came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house, he asked them, What were ye reasoning in the way? But they held their peace: for they had disputed one with another in the way, who was the greatest. But when Jesus saw the reasoning of their heart he sat down and called the twelve, and he saith unto them, If any man would be first he shall be last of all, and minister of all. And they say unto him, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And he called unto him a little child, and took him and set him by his side in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Of greatness

(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV, Book IV, Poem LVII)

When all were in the house, the Lord looked round;—
“What matter, then, discussed ye by the way?”
Not one would speak; shamefast, they held their peace;
Knowing that He knew their thoughts, how say to Him
That, as they came, lust to be first moved each,—
First in the Kingdom, the King’s high Vizier,
The Lord of all the people under him!
They played for a high stake, these humble men,
And, hap, because their hearts were sore distress’d,
Comfort they sought in visions of high state
And wealth, more than these Roman rulers knew!
That his dream should come to pass not one had doubt;
But a perplexity remained,—whose claims
Would the Lord recognise when He was King?
And each one showed Christ had conferr’d on him
Some singular honour, set him above the rest;
But none could assure his heart that he was first;
Then anger rose, and each made haste to blame
The presumption of his fellows, yet none saw
In himself—the offender who had most presumed.
Nor yet had wrath died down, though shame was come:

Now, tender as a mother, sat the Lord
And called His Twelve about Him. Knowing all—
Their pride, presumption, bitterness of soul,
Their chiefest sin, that they had Him forgot,
Yea, when He spake of anguish close at hand,
And thought of their own advancement;—never word
Of harsh reproach hath He, of wounded love:
From tangle of thoughts unlovely, chooseth He
What of lawful, lovely, He might yet educe,
Nor shame the men He loved with open blame:—

“To be first among his fellows—who shall chide
The man who hath generous ardour to be great
Knowing that greatness is for service lent?
Promotion cometh not from North or West,
Nor comes by favour, nor for goodly parts:
See ye, My friends, this hope is for you all
And I will show you how ye may attain
The first place in My Kingdom: Who would be first,
He must be last of all and serve the rest,—
A slave to fetch and carry and be chid,—
Nor ever fret him; this, for the love he bears
To the men he serves for My sake and for theirs.”

The Disciples heard, amazed; and, subject long
To the arrogance of scribes and priests, and lords
Set over them by Rome,—sustained by hope
That they in turn should lord it arrogant
When Christ should come to His Kingdom—half in wrath
And half astonished, sore for th’ words they heard,
The Twelve who knew none had such claims as they
Indignant cried,—”Who shall be greatest, then,
In th’ Kingdom of Heaven?”

Christ called a little child

(Was’t Peter’s boy, at play about the house?),

And with fond hand He set him by His side
In the very midst of th’ Twelve; regarded him
With tenderness divine, and said to them,—
“Think not of place in the Kingdom first or last:
Not yours to enter in except ye turn,
Quit pride and envy, love of place and power,
And be as little children, simple folk
Who’re not concerned for vain things of the world;
Humble yourselves as these, and ye shall come
To the Blessedness where is no first or last.”

St. Matthew xviii. 1-4.
St. Mark ix. 33-36.
St. Luke ix. 46, 47.