July 20, 2013

Death of Coxe: house of prayer

Though he was ill, the Right Reverend Arthur Cleveland Coxe continued making appointments and fulfilling his duties as a religious leader. As the Second Bishop of Western New York, he still oversaw ordinations, confirmations, and visiting the sick in hospitals up until the last few weeks of his life. He died on July 20, 1896 at the age of 78. The committee which honored him noted, "He died as he would have wished, in the midst of abundant labours." Coxe also wrote and published poetry as early as his college years and it should be no surprise that much of his poetry was religious in nature (one is called "I Love the Church"). Much of his writings caution against impiety, including his threatening poem "The Soul-Dirge" which fears for the souls of those who have not found religion. Here is his poem "Oratories: Private Prayer in Churches":

In a church's aisle or towers,
   Vestry, porch, or chancel-side,
If—in prayerless days like ours
   Any open door is spied;
Say not that the Sacristan
   Happens there to ply his broom;
Say—some viewless friend of man
   Beckons thee, and says there's room.
'Tis the house of prayer—Go in!
   'Tis the Christian's home by right!
Find some nook, confess thy sin,
         And go forth in Jesu's might.

Halt not for some foolish doubt!
   Is it not thy Father's home?
Who will dare to turn thee out,
   When the Master bids thee come?
Is it open? Worship God!
   If another lounges round,
Talking, staring, laughing broad,
   Let him learn—'tis hallowed ground.
        'Tis the house of prayer—etc.

Like the publican of old,
   Hide the face, and smite the breast,
Say his words, and—manifold
   Be thy secret sins confessed!
For the people there that pray,
   For the priest, whose vows are there,
Brother-like a collect say,
   Pray some dear familiar prayer.
         'Tis the house of prayer—etc.

Oh 'tis sweet a home to claim
   Thus, where'er a church we see,
Stealing in, though not with shame,
   Yet to worship, noiselessly;
Like the birds to nestle there
   Where the Psalmist's cedars grow;
And to leave a fragrant prayer
   Wafting heavenward as we go.
'Tis the house of prayer—Go in!
   'Tis the Christian's home by right!
Find some nook—confess thy sin,
         And go forth in Jesu's might.

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