James Madison Bell

Tribute to Rev. William Paul Quinn

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Late Senior Bishop, African M. E. Church.

Death is the common lot of all,
Yet nothing do we so much dread;
Nothing, that doth our frames befall,
From which we shrink as from the dead.


Though all familiar with the fact
That death is everywhere unseen,
Yet from his touch we stagger back,
And strive to thrust long years between.


But why this weakness on our part?
And why does nature thus recoil?
And why are we so loath to part
From this vain world of pain and toil?


This always was a house of death,
And e'er has been a vale of tears;
Here sorrow mingles with our breath,
And poisons life in all its years.


And yet from death frail nature shrinks,
And still the finite man complains,
And e'en the spirit man, that thinks,
Clings to his prison and his chains.


And why? The vast beyond is dark
And veiled in deepest mystery,
And reason's lamp reveals no mark
Decisive of our destiny.


There is but one remedial course,
By which we may and can obtain
From dread of death a full divorce,
And evermore absolved remain.


Implicit confidence imposed
In Jesus, God's anointed Son,
Will fill the heart to doubt disposed
With deathless joys on earth begun,


For faith in Christ dispels the gloom,
And hope extends her spotless sails,
And finds with God beyond the doom
A heaven and life, that never fails.


This mortal shall immortal wear,
Corruption incorruption take,
And saints of God with Christ shall share
The boundlessness of his estate.


But why is this fair temple clad
In these habiliments of woe?
And why are all our faces sad,
Bereft of their accustomed glow?


And why those dirge tones from the choir,
And why are all these people here?
What strange and burdensome desire
Has thus induced them to appear?
Where all doth seemingly partake
Of some unusual widespread gloom,
That to our awe-struck natures wake
The sad reflections of the tomb?


With all the dread solemnities
Associated with that word,
The severance of affinities,
Life-loves and friendships long preferred.


This spreading pall, these gloomy scenes,
Those dirge tones falling on the ear,
Are but the more impressive means
Of telling us that death is here.


Although no shrouded corpse is brought
Within this sacred fane today,
To demonstrate what death hath wrought
Upon man's frail impassioned clay;


Yet, to our Zion, death has come,
And ta'en away from our embrace
One loved abroad and loved at home,
The Father Bishop of our race.


And hence, dear friends, we've come to pay
A parting tribute of respect,
And thus our humble offering lay
Upon the shrine of God's elect.


Fain would we speak in terms of praise
Of one, whose life has been bestowed
In countless efforts to upraise
A people, writhing 'neath a load.


As Moses saw, in Egypt's land,
The hardships that his people bore,
And rather chose with them to stand
Than heir the wealth of Pharaoh's store;


So felt the valiant, youthful Quinn
When he beheld oppression's horde
(Steeped to the very lips in sin)
Defile the altars of the Lord.


For Slavery's Pharisaic hand
Had closed the book of life and light,
And all the churches of our land
Had bowed submissive to his might.


And there was neither court nor fane
Where God's lorn sons of ebon hue,
Though ne'er so humble, could obtain
A place of worship as their due.


And Macedonia's cry was heard
On every breeze, and everywhere,
"Oh, come and break to us the word
Of life, and lead our hearts in prayer."


He rose, like the intrepid Paul,
And in the vigor of his youth,
Resolved, whatever might befall,
To bear to these the words of truth.


Although his purse was ill-supplied
With means sufficient for the call,
Yet, he on heavenly grace relied,
And God, the Lord, arranged it all.


God was his friend, his guard and guide,
His refuge and his mighty tower,
And well he knew He would provide
For every need and trying hour;


And hence he left all else behind,
Save God and His abounding grace,
And started forth to heal and bind
The bruises of his injured race.


Now, from the dread abyss of time,
Call back the flight of three-score years
And, lo! all clothed in grace sublime,
A weird and beardless youth appears.


He's tall, and for commanding mien,
A finer mold is seldom seen;
His brow is high, his locks are jet,
His eyes are fierce, his lips are met.


His words are rapid in their flow,
Confined to neither high nor low,
But of that modulated form
Which always tempers to the storm.


Where'er he moves he rears on high
The ensign of his ministry,
And thousands throng to hear his speech,
And learn whereof he came to teach;
The matchless story of the cross,
Compared to which all else is dross,
Comprise the burden and refrain,
And many hear and hear again.


And wonder at his matchless zeal,
His fervent prayer, his strong appeal,
And as he pictures forth the doom
Of sin, which kills beyond the tomb.


Many are pricked e'en to the heart
And, jailor-like, the cry doth start:
"Sir, to be saved, what shall I do?
For all these burning words are true.


And I am wretched and undone.
O, whither shall I fly to shun
The wrath of an avenging God,
Just retribution's chastening rod?"


He points them to the crimson tide,
And to a Savior crucified,
And says to all: "Repent, believe,
Forsake your sins and you shall live."


And as he goes forth, here and there,
New altars rise up unto prayer;
Though rude and meagre, yet are they
In all things equal to the day.


And as the years move on apace
He stands the center of a race
Whose faces are upturned to God,
Praying heaven to break the rod,
And overturn the powers of sin
And let the jubilant year come in.


Near three-score years on Zion's walls
A faithful sentinel he stood,
And all his sermons, prayers and calls
Were mingled with atoning blood.


He was, in truth, a burning light,
And sinners trembled in his sight;
For nothing earthly could deter,
Nor friends persuade him to defer
What duty urged him to perform
In weal or woe, in calm or storm.


But oh! how changed; his raven hair
Is thin and bleached as white as snow,
His face is furrowed deep with care,
His frame is weak, his steps are slow.


Thus bowed beneath the weight of years,
He brings his cross and lays it down
At Jesus' feet 'midst angels' cheers,
And on his brow receives a crown --


A crown of life, bestud with stars,
The trophies of his conquest here
Midst earth's interminable wars,
Where all the foes to life appear.


He conquered in the Christian fight,
He ran the Christian race and won,
And in the realms of endless light
Has heard the gladsome sound: "Well done.


Well done, for faithful hast thou been
O'er all things given to thy care;
Heir of my Father's house, come in,
And all its blest provisions share."


Although our aged bishop's gone,
And we on earth shall meet no more,
Yet heaven hath many a vale and lawn,
And friendships that have gone before --


Gone to the realms of holy love,
Where all are known and all is fair.
For in our Father's house above
There are no spirit strangers there.


Though gone from earth he is not dead --
The great and good they never die;
But when their mortal forms they shed,
In fadeless youth they bloom on high.


O, could we pass beyond the doom,
And range through fields, forever fair,
Arrayed in heaven's eternal bloom,
We'd find our sainted bishop there.


Then, O, my friends, rejoice to know,
Where he has gone we all may go,
And move through heaven as he doth now
With life's fair crown upon our brow.


For heaven's blest plans are ample quite
For all whom mercy doth invite;
And every son of Adam's race
The invitation may embrace.


For in our Father's house there's room
For all his children, all may come.
And crowns there are for all to wear,
And palms there are for all to bear,
And robes there are of radiant hue;
Go up and claim them as your due.


Farewell, dear bishop, till the day
When death shall roll the stone away,
And this poor soul released shall fly
To hail thee in the realms on high.

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James Madison Bell