Against Harsh Judgments

O God! whose thoughts are brightest light,
Whose love always runs clear,
To whose kind wisdom sinning souls
Amidst their sins are dear!

Sweeten my bitter-thoughted heart
With charity like Thine,
Till self shall be the only spot
On earth which does not shine.

Hardheartedness dwells not with souls
Round whom Thine arms are drawn;
And dark thoughts fade away in grace,
Like cloud-spots in the dawn.

I often see in my own thoughts,
When they lie nearest Thee,
That the worst men I ever knew
Were better men than me,

And of all truths no other truth
So true as this one seems;
While others’ faults, that plainest were,
Grow indistinct as dreams.

All men look good except ourselves,
All but ourselves are great:
The rays, that make our sins so clear,
Their faults obliterate.

Things, that appear undoubted sins,
Wear little crowns of light;
Their dark, remaining darkness still.
Shames and outshines our bright.

Time was, when I believed that wrong
In others to detect,
Was part of genius, and a gift
To cherish, not reject.

Now better taught by Thee, O Lord
This truth dawns on my mind—
The best effect of heavenly light
Is earth’s false eyes to blind.

Thou art the Unapproached, whose height
Enables Thee to stoop,
Whose holiness bends undefiled
To handle hearts that droop.

He, whom no praise can reach, is aye
Men’s least attempts approving;
Whom justice makes all-merciful,
Omniscience makes all-loving.

How Thou canst think so well of us,
Yet be the God Thou art,
Is darkness to my intellect,
But sunshine to my heart.

Yet habits linger in the soul;
More grace, O Lord! more grace!
More sweetness from Thy loving Heart,
More sunshine from Thy Face!

When we ourselves least kindly are,
We deem the world unkind;
Dark hearts, in flowers where honey lies,
Only the poison find.

We paint from self the evil things
We think that others are;
While to the self-despising soul
All things but self are fair.

Yes, they have caught the way of God,
To whom self lies displayed
In such clear vision as to cast
O’er others’ faults a shade.

A bright horizon out at sea
Obscures the distant ships;
Rough hearts look smooth and beautiful
In charity’s eclipse.

Love’s changeful mood our neighbour’s faults
O’erwhelms with burning ray,
And in excess of splendour hides
What is not burned away.

Again, with truth like God’s, it shades
Harsh things with untrue light,
Like moons that make a fairy-land
Of fallow fields at night.

Then mercy, Lord! more mercy still!
Make me all light within,
Self-hating and compassionate,
And blind to others’ sin.

I need Thy mercy for my sin;
But more than this I need,—
Thy mercy’s likeness in my soul
For others’ sin to bleed.

’Tis not enough to weep my sins;
’Tis but one step to heaven:
When I am kind to others, then
I know myself forgiven.

Would that my soul might be a world
Of golden ether bright,
A heaven where other souls might float,
Like all Thy worlds, in light.

All bitterness is from ourselves,
All sweetness is from Thee;
Sweet God! for evermore be Thou
Fountain and fire in me!

(a prayer by Frederick William Faber; photo by Doug Webb)

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