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The healing of His seamless dress

Is by our beds of pain;

We touch Him in life's throng and press,
And we are whole again.

Through Him the first fond prayers are said

Our lips of childhood frame,

The last low whispers of our dead

Are burdened with His name.

Our Lord and Master of us all!
Whate'er our name or sign,

We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine.

145

"There is something in the doctrine of total depravity and regeneration," Whittier wrote. He was not so far away from Calvinism as he thought. "We are born selfish," he continues. "The discipline of life develops the higher qualities of character, in a greater or less degree. It is the conquering of innate selfish propensities that måkes the saint; and the giving up unduly to impulses that in their origin are necessary to the preservation of life that makes the sinner." He believed that, as heavenly mercy has provided the sacrifice for sin, so heavenly power must make the sinner willing to accept it. "Between the Gates" represents a younger pilgrim as seeking from

146

FAITH IN THE TRIUMPH OF GOODNESS

an older a help that can come alone from God. But

the elder pilgrim answers:

"Thy prayer, my son, transcends my gift;

No power is mine," the sage replied,

"The burden of a soul to lift

Or stain of sin to hide.

"Howe'er the outward life may seem,

For pardoning grace we all must pray;
No man his brother can redeem
Or a soul's ransom pay.

"With deeper voice than any speech
Of mortal lips from man to man,
What earth's unwisdom may not teach
The Spirit only can."

"How much of sin and want and pain there is in the world!" so he writes. "I wonder if it is all necessary if it cannot be helped. The terrible mystery sometimes oppresses me, but I hold fast my faith in God's goodness, and the ultimate triumph of that goodness."

What to thee is shadow, to Him is day,

And the end He knoweth,

And not on a blind and aimless way
The spirit goeth.

Nothing before, nothing behind;

The steps of Faith

Fall on the seeming void, and find

The rock beneath.

Leaning on Him, make with reverent meekness

His own thy will,

And with strength from Him shall thy utter

weakness

Life's task fulfil;

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To a letter from an inquiring friend Whittier replied:

I am not a Universalist, for I believe in the possibility of the perpetual loss of the soul that persistently turns away from God, in the next life as in this. But I do believe that the divine love and compassion follow us in all worlds, and that the heavenly Father will do the best that is possible for every creature that he has made. What that will be, must be left to his infinite wisdom and goodness. I would refer thee to a poem of mine, "The Answer," as containing in a few words my belief in this matter.

And these are his words:

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"Though God be good and free be heaven,
No force divine can love compel;

And, though the song of sins forgiven
May sound through lowest hell,

"The sweet persuasion of His voice
Respects thy sanctity of will.
He giveth day: thou hast thy choice
To walk in darkness still.

66

Forever round the Mercy-seat

The guiding lights of Love shall burn;
But what if, habit-bound, thy feet

Shall lack the will to turn?

"What if thine eye refuse to see,

Thine ear of Heaven's free welcome fail,

And thou a willing captive be,

Thyself thy own dark jail?"

"My Soul and I."

148

66

THE CRY OF A LOST SOUL "

"The Vision of Echard" shows, however, that it was no outward punishment, but rather inward suffering, that he feared for the lost:

"The heaven ye seek, the hell ye fear,

Are with yourselves alone."

But he still had hope for all men. He believed that the same inward voice that spoke to him speaks also to men of every Christian sect and even to the heathen. That voice is the voice of Christ, and he who trusts it and obeys is saved:

All souls that struggle and aspire,

All hearts of prayer by thee are lit;
And, dim or clear, thy tongues of fire

On dusky tribes and twilight centuries sit.

Nor bounds, nor clime, nor creed thou know'st,
Wide as our need thy favors fall;

The white wings of the Holy Ghost

Stoop, seen or unseen, o'er the heads of all. "4

"All souls are Thine; the wings of morning bear
None from that Presence which is everywhere,
Nor hell itself can hide, for Thou art there.

"Through sins of sense, perversities of will,
Through doubt and pain, through guilt and
shame and ill,

Thy pitying eye is on Thy creature still.

"Wilt Thou not make, Eternal Source and Goal!
In Thy long years, life's broken circle whole,
And change to praise the cry of a lost soul? " 15

Whittier's firm faith in personal immortality has made his poems a treasure of comfort to the bereaved

14" The Shadow and the Light."

15" The Cry of a Lost Soul."

FAITH IN PERSONAL IMMORTALITY

and sorrowing. writes,

149

"Emerson once said to me," he

"If there is a future life for us, it is well; if there is not, it is well also." For myself, I trust in the mercy of the AllMerciful. What is best for us we shall have, and Life and Love are best... What a brief and sad life this of ours would be, if it did not include the possibility of a love that takes hold of eternity! . . There is no great use in arguing the question of immortality; one must feel its truth; you cannot climb into heaven on a syllogism. . . There are some self-satisfied souls who, as Charles Lamb says, "can stalk into futurity on stilts "; but there are more Fearings and Despondencys than Greathearts, in view of the "loss of all we know." . . I think my loved ones are still living and awaiting me. And I wait and trust. And yet how glad and grateful I should be to know... I have the instinct of immortality, but the conditions of that life are unknown. not conceive what my own identity and that of dear ones gone will be. . . Yet I believe that I shall have the same friends in that other world that I have here, the same loves and aspirations and occupations.

I can

And in his eightieth year he writes: "The great question of the Future Life is almost ever with me. I cannot answer it, but I can trust." His biographer tells us that there was not a shadow of doubt in his mind concerning the immortality of the soul; and that one day, when speaking of his own hope and expectation for the life to come, he sadly said: "I wish Emerson could have believed this." "It saddened him to feel that one whom he so deeply loved and revered had not been sustained by this most passionate longing of our human nature."

In the summer of 1882, Whittier wrote the following lines on the fly-leaf of a volume of Longfellow's poems:

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