Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

The Death Of Stephen

O power invincible of faith and love,
Like angel rising to his home above,
Thy heaven-lit features beam, calm, earnest grace,
Firm truth, and holy zeal illume thy face!
'Neath your stern gaze he quails not, men of doom;
From Israel's history back he rolls the gloom
Of ages, draws in characters of flame
Her lineage, bondage, liberty, and shame.
Methinks I see thee with thine eyes upturned-
Those eyes where all the saint and martyr burned-
To Him most high, whose temple is all space,
Nor human minds can bound His dwelling-place-
To Him who fills by right th' eternal throne,
And for His footstool claims the earth alone-
Creator, God, by whose all-forming hand
All things were made in ocean, air, and land.
Thus Stephen spake:-
'O ye uncircumcised in ears and heart!
Who tread your fathers' footsteps, act their part;
A stiff, unbending, blind, rebellious race,
Who grieve the Spirit, and resist His grace!
Which of the prophets have ye not withstood?
Have ye not prison'd, tortur'd, shed their blood,
Who showed the coming of that holiest One-
Messiah, Jesus, God's eternal Son?
Of whom betrayers, murderers ye have been!
Oh, bloody race of hands and hearts unclean!
From God Himself the law to you was given
By hands of angels, ministers from heaven-
How have ye kept it? Page inspired proclaim
True record of your folly, guilt, and shame!'
As lion crouching in the traveller's path
Lashes his tawny sides in savage wrath-
Watches with glaring eyes his victim near,
Then springs with foaming jaws his prey to tear-
They gnash their teeth; they rush upon him, wild
With vengeful hate-he, heavenward gazing, smiled.
Full of the Holy Ghost, to him 'twas given
To see unfold the pearly gates of heaven-
Behold the glory of the highest One,
And see on His right hand th' incarnate Son!
With furious cries they stop their ears; they run
With one accord upon him. Now begun
The work of death; for, lo! they drag, they cast
Him forth the city gates; and thick and fast
They ply the murderous missiles. Bruised to death,
But calling still on God with fainting breath-
'Receive my spirit, Jesus, Lord,' he sighed;
Then kneeling down, aloud to God he cried-
'Lord, lay not to their charge this sin; forgive,
Even for His sake who died that they might live.'
O words! O scene! might 'make ev'n angels weep!'
He said, then calm in Jesus fell asleep.
But who is he around whose feet are piled
The murderers' garments? he hath not defiled
His hands with martyr's blood; yet mark his eye,
Where flash the fires of genius, even his high
And intellectual brow, on which enshrined
Sit learning, eloquence, and powerful mind,
Give token all this murderous deed received
His full consent. He hath not yet believed,
Jesus of Nazareth, in thy name; but mad
With persecuting zeal, he seeks to add
A thousand martyrs, breathing slaughter still;
Makes havoc of the Church; the prisons fill;
The Christians scatter, who, dispersed abroad,
Proclaim in every place the Word of God.
But soon, O Saul! from yon refulgent skies
A blinding glory shall eclipse thine eyes,
And bathe in living light thy new-born soul;
And thou shalt run the race and gain the goal
Of Christian martyr, preaching first the faith
Which once thou persecutedst to the death.
Thy name, thy nature, and thy mission changed,
Thus, martyr'd Stephen, thus wert thou avenged.
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