Apropos of nothing – although since the Zimmerman jury has begun deliberations, this selection might be seen as a comment – today I am thinking on a certain 19th century hymn. Which my mother always disliked since a certain pastor liked to bring it out, incessantly with regard to particularly mid-20th century political concerns. Yes, I was raised religious, in one of the more flintily intellectual Protestant religious traditions, and today I believe this particular hymn to be especially relevant, in light of David’s post about Saint Alexander of Munich. There are choices one makes – sometimes momentous ones, on the spur of an instant, which turn out to be the choices which define your life … and now and again, your death.
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by for ever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses,
While the coward stands aside
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.
By the light of burning martyrs
Jesus’ bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still and onward
Who would keep abreast of truth.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.
Whom, it may be relevant to add, was one who stood squarely in the nexus between the intellectual and political world in the 19th century.