Show Us the Father [poem by Agnes Neale]

[Editor: This poem by Agnes Neale was published in Shadows and Sunbeams (1890).]

Show Us the Father.

The scene was closing. Christ had gathered round Him
His chosen ones, His well-beloved band,
Those who from out the nation He had gathered,
His witnesses to all the world to stand.
And they had listened to his loving teachings,
Had heard the words that fell from lips divine;
Had seen the wonders that His hand was working,
Had seen the glory round about Him shine;
And somewhat they believed in Him, whose word
Had stilled the tempest, as the tempest’s Lord.

And yet some doubt with their belief was mingled,
In spite of their strong faith in what they saw;
They could not comprehend God’s fullest meaning —
They could not reconcile the fact with law;
Because the matter passed their understanding
They could not give unhesitating trust;
Doubt, like a ghastly hydra-headed monster,
Himself into the conclave boldly thrust;
And one of the disciples reasoned thus —
“Show us the Father —— it sufficeth us.”

Are there no Philips in this generation?
No cavilling questioners, who needs must see
The reason why for every fact and figure? —
Why this should come to pass, and that should be?
Are there no gropers in the mist and darkness,
Trusting to leaders blinder than themselves,
Who think to grasp and hold the God of all things,
And lay Him, fossil-wise, on dusty shelves;
Who, all impatient, ever murmur thus —
“Show us the Father — it sufficeth us.”

“Show us the Father.” Would that sight suffice them?
If they could view the Godhead’s essence pure;
If that undreamed-of burst of awful splendor
The shrinking eyes of mortals could endure;
Would they be wiser for the sight vouchsafed them?
Would they be happier for the answered prayers?
Would not some disappointment lurk in hiding,
And sting them, adder-like, all unawares?
And would they not, in mingled rage and pain,
Renew the quest, and speak the doubt again?

Aye; for they would not know what they were seeing —
Might e’en be frightened at the sight they saw;
This would not be the God that they were seeking,
But just some combinations of fixed law,
Some strange and subtle mingling of the gases,
Some unknown fusion of great Nature’s powers,
Whereby she works in all her varied branches,
Bursting in sunshine, budding in fair flowers;
Still they would wander, weary worn and faint —
“Show us the Father” still their wretched plaint.

So up and down the earth they ever wander,
Seeking but never finding peace or rest;
Looking to comprehend a God, — who cannot
Explain the mystery in their own breast.
O blind! oh, worse than blind to earth’s best beauty!
Who fail to draw from all one thought sublime.
All that we need to know of God lies round us,
The rest He will reveal in his all time —
All but one manifested sight of Him,
In view of which the rest grows faint and dim.

And so we, too, cry out, “Show us the Father.”
We make the prayer in faith with lifted hands
Toward the land of light where “The beloved”
Girded with light as with a garment stands.
“Show us the Father” in the man of sorrows:
The face more marked by grief than any man’s;
“Show us the Father,” for we need that vision
Ere we can comprehend Salvation’s plans:
Show us Thyself, O Jesus! not in part,
For Thou the fulness of the Godhead art!

Agnes Neale, Shadows and Sunbeams, Adelaide: Burden & Bonython, 1890, pages 2-4

Editor’s notes:
aye = yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)

cavil = to raise objections that are frivolous, inconsequential and trivial

e’en = even

ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)

gird = surround; to encircle or bind with a band or belt; to fasten or secure with a band or belt (used in the expression “gird your loins”, i.e. to put on or tighten your belt, in order to prepare for an effort needing endurance or strength)

Old spelling in the original text:
art (are)
sufficeth (suffices)
thou (you)
thyself (yourself)

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