Inasmuch by S. V. R. Ford

Good Deacon Roland—"may his tribe increase!"—
Awoke one Sabbath morn feeling at peace
With God and all mankind. His wants supplied,
He read his Bible and then knelt beside
The family altar, and uplifted there
His voice to God in fervent praise and prayer;
In praise for blessings past, so rich and free,
And prayer for benedictions yet to be.
Then on a stile, which spanned the dooryard fence,
He sat him down complacently, and thence
Surveyed with pride, o'er the far-reaching plain,
His flocks and herds and fields of golden grain;
His meadows waving like the billowy seas,
And orchards filled with over-laden trees,
Quoth he: "How vast the products of my lands;
Abundance crowns the labor of my hands,
Great is my substance; God indeed is good,
Who doth in love provide my daily food."
 
While thus he sat in calm soliloquy,
A voice aroused him from his reverie,—
A childish voice from one whose shoeless feet
Brought him unnoticed to the deacon's seat;
"Please mister, I have eaten naught to-day;
If I had money I would gladly pay
For bread; but I am poor, and cannot buy
My breakfast; mister, would you mind if I
Should ask for something, just for what you call
Cold pieces from your table, that is all?"
The deacon listened to the child's request,
The while his penetrating eye did rest
On him whose tatters, trembling, quick revealed
The agitation of the heart concealed
Within the breast of one unskilled in ruse,
Who asked not alms like one demanding dues.
Then said the deacon: "I am not inclined
To give encouragement to those who find
It easier to beg for bread betimes,
Than to expend their strength in earning dimes
Wherewith to purchase it. A parent ought
To furnish food for those whom he has brought
Into this world, where each one has his share
Of tribulation, sorrow, toil and care.
I sympathize with you, my little lad,
Your destitution makes me feel so sad;
But, for the sake of those who should supply
Your wants, I must your earnest plea deny;
And inasmuch as giving food to you
Would be providing for your parents, too,
Thus fostering vagrancy and idleness,
I cannot think such charity would bless
Who gives or takes; and therefore I repeat,
I cannot give you anything to eat."
Before this "vasty deep" of logic stood
The child nor found it satisfying food.
Nor did he tell the tale he might have told
Of parents slumbering in the grave's damp mould,
But quickly shrank away to find relief
In giving vent to his rekindled grief,
While Deacon Roland soon forgot the appeal
In meditating on his better weal.
 
Ere long the Sabbath bells their peals rang out
To summon worshippers, with hearts devout,
To wait on God and listen to His word;
And then the deacon's pious heart was stirred;
And in the house of God he soon was found
Engaged in acts of worship most profound.
Wearied, however, with his week-day care,
He fell asleep before the parson's prayer
Was ended; then he dreamed he died and came
To heaven's grand portal, and announced his name:
"I'm Deacon Roland, called from earth afar,
To join the saints; please set the gates ajar,
That I may 'join the everlasting song,'
And mingle ever with the ransomed throng."
Then lo! "a horror of great darkness" came
Upon him, as he heard a voice exclaim:
"Depart from me! you cannot enter here!
I never knew you, for indeed, howe'er
You may have wrought on earth, the sad, sad fact
Remains, that life's sublimest, worthiest act—"
The deacon woke to find it all a dream
Just as the minister announced his theme:
"My text," said he, "doth comfort only such
As practice charity; for 'inasmuch
As ye have done it to the least of these
My little ones' saith He who holds the keys
Of heaven, 'ye have done it unto me,'
And I will give you immortality."
 
Straightway the deacon left his cushioned pew,
And from the church in sudden haste withdrew,
And up the highway ran, on love's swift feet
To overtake the child of woe, and greet
Him as the worthy representative
Of Christ the Lord and to him freely give
All needful good, that thus he might atone
For the neglect which he before had shown.
Thus journeying, God directed all his way,
O'er hill and dale, to where the outcast lay
Beside the road bemoaning his sad fate.
And then the deacon said, "My child, 'tis late;
Make haste and journey with me to my home;
To guide you thither, I myself have come;
And you shall have the food you asked in vain,
For God himself hath made my duty plain;
If he demand it, all I have is thine;
Shrink not, but trust me; place thy hand in mine."
And as they journeyed toward the deacon's home,
The child related how he came to roam,
Until the listening deacon understood
The touching story of his orphanhood.
Then, finding in the little waif a gem
Worthy to deck the Saviour's diadem,
He drew him to his loving breast, and said,
"My child, you shall by me be clothed and fed;
Nor shall you go from hence again to roam
While God in love provides for us a home."
And as the weeks and months roll on apace,
The deacon held the lad in love's embrace;
And being childless did on him confer
The boon of sonship.
 
Thus the almoner
Of God's great bounty to the destitute
The deacon came to be; and as the fruit
Of having learned to keep the golden rule
His charity became all-bountiful;
And from thenceforth he lived to benefit
Mankind; and when in life's great book were writ
Their names who heeded charity's request,
Lo! Deacon Roland's "name led all the rest."