Once To Every Man and Nation


James Rus­sel Low­ell, 1819–1891

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, some great deci­sion, offer­ing each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by for­ev­er, ’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, Christ, Thy bleed­ing feet we track,
Toil­ing up new Calv’ries 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 the 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.

Ravi Zacharias quot­ed the first stan­za of this hymn in his lec­ture Char­ac­ter Counts, Part 1.

Addi­tion­al: This hymn was quot­ed by Rev. Mar­tin Luther King at the con­clu­sion
of his speech, ‘Viet­nam: A Time to Break Silence’ in April 4th, 1967 at a
meet­ing of Cler­gy and Laity Con­cerned at River­side Church in New York City, USA.

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