Page images

very sympathy which makes the choice of and had no responsibility but to do his work a subject such a difficult task. The topic that as well as he could, and draw his wages when is uppermost in the minds of others may be they were due. And he thinks, too, of the farthest from his mind, or what is most many members of his congregation who have engaging his may just then be farthest just such positions now, and how happy they from theirs. They would not violate the must be, and how he would like to change compact of mutual accord, and he must not. places with them. And sometimes he wishes

Besides all this, the position of the he could just take them all right into his preacher has changed very much in the last confidence, and tell them how weak and imone or two generations. In the good old potent he feels, and how incapable to instruct times of blessed tradition, if not of memory, and inspire and strengthen and comfort the preacher was supposed to possess most of them, and how poor his work seems to him the piety and all of the learning of the par- after he has done his very best. But he ish. Ile was regarded as a superior being, knows that he cannot tell them all this. So living in the world as a condescension to or- he goes on with his task week after week, dinary mortals. It would have created little and hides the pain of self-distrust, and keeps surprise if a chariot of fire had come for him striving, though he never attains his ideal. almost any day, and carried him to heaven And he would give up with a broken heart, as it did Elijah. Whatever he said was not but he meets now and then a word of comon his own authority, but as the accredited mendation or a look or nod of approval agent of the skies. Neither himself nor the which makes him feel as the mown grass people would have dared to contradictor must feel when the sweet summer rain question the message which he had no re- comes out of heaven to give it fresh courage sponsibility for vor in, except to deliver. and renew its drooping heart. Such a strange condition of affairs grew out But-as I began to say at least twice beof the belief in a distant God, who must fore-it was Thursday morning, and the serneeds have his agents and representatives to mon not begun, and things were getting desdeclare his will and utter warnings, and ad- perate, when some one-it does not matter minister what few spiritual affairs there who--came into the study, and placed on the were in a very secular and unregenerate desk, where the sermon would not begin, a world. All this has changed in these later small wine-glass full of pansies. They were years. The pulpit has no monopoly of the just common pansies, if pansies may ever be learning nor of the piety. The agencies that called “just common.” Some of them were have promoted general intelligence have creamy white with blue centres; some of toned down this presumption of the pulpit. them were blue with dashes of white; one

But, as I began to say, it was Thursday of them was a solid purple, so deep-hued morning. The subject for the sermon was that you couldn't be sure it wasn't jet-black; yet unknown, and the fruitless search and and all of them had yellow hearts such as eager, feverish thinking had become a dull pansies always have. and hopeless despair. The sermon should There was the least bit of fragrance about be well under way by this time. The in- them,-for the flowers that have the most delevitable Sunday morning would come, and icate breath are the most reluctant to breathe the fatal eleven o'clock. The choir would for you,-but just enough to seem like a sing two pieces, and after that the congrega- sweet memory of which you are not quite tion would sing two hymns, and then the sure, and to recall some summer morning, hymn-books would be rattled back into the when, half-waking, you have heard birds book-racks, and then the people would sit singing far away, and in that delicious modown, and — and then- At the thought of ment couldn't tell and didn't care whether it it all the despair became an agony. That really was the morning and the birds, or is one of the many, many times when a whether you were dreaming and it was the preacher thinks that he has made a mistake echo of some song the angels were singing in his calling; he never ought to have been to the stars. a preacher, anyway; has always suspected it, And now a very strange thing began,and now he knows it; and he fondly recalls something so strange that it is most difficult the time when he used to work by the month, to tell and maybe is too difficult to believe,


but which is all true just the same, whether “and may be true enough as a general propit is believed or not. Those flowers began osition, but it isn't pertinent to the case in to have somehow an indefinable attraction, hand. Here it is Thursday, and Sunday which soon became a subtle and resistless will soon come, and I must have a sermon; fascination. They did not change their ap- and you know perfectly well that I can't get pearance as flowers, nor even move; and yet out one of those old ones and make it do they seemed more and different than flowers. duty again. It would bore those who reOne might have said they were suddenly membered it, and would be imposing on possessed of a soul or a spirit if one only the confidence of those who did not ; and, knew what a soul or a spirit is.

besides”But, anyway, it was very strange, as the “We had thought," interrupted the flowsequel will show; and, wbat it was or how it 'ers, without waiting for the man to finish was, the flowers kept that secret to themselves. his impatient speech,"we had thought you They seemed to take possession of the entire would divine our meaning before this and room. They did this in a quiet, unobtrusive understand why we came.

We are your way, and yet with an air of assurance and subject. We want you to preach about undisguised confidence, as though it were the most natural thing possible and everybody “About you, indeed !” retorted the man. was expected to understand it and govern “About flowers! Services at eleven o'clock. himself accordingly. It is hardly necessary The subject of the reverend doctor's serto say that the struggle for a sermon became mon will be “Pansies.' How would that utterly hopeless. From that moment it was read in the Saturday papers? They would simply doomed. The last hope died right call us the leaders of Pansy Christianity.” there.

“They who call names," quietly replied This gave the man a feeling of abject the flowers, "pass soon out of sight, and are despair, but it seemed to gratify the flowers. remembered without pleasure and forgotten Could it be, then, that they came bent on without pain." malevolence, and was it in their hearts to “Besides," continued the man, “flowers rejoice in human misery? And all these are not a suitable theme for the pulpit. Life years we have thought them the symbols of is not a thing with most people that has an guileless innocence and holy joy, and have analogy in flowers. It is struggle, and trial, strewn them before the feet of brides and and temptation, and disappointment, and put them on the coffins of our dead! At pain. People will be there who are in dislast we have found them out. They belong tress, who are harassed by doubts and to the darkness out of which they come and fears, whose hearts are sore with unspoken into which they return. They are too ma- griefs. Some will be there who are weak levolent. Let us hate flowers. Then the and exhausted with long and heroic resistPansies looked grieved, and said, “You judge ance of evil, whose strength is almost gone. us without knowing all," and in their voice These must find help and courage, or they as they spoke there was a reproachful, trem- will be beaten in the fight. Some will be ulous cadence, which made you feel that you there who are sick at heart of the endless were the meanest man in the world, and

weary monotony of life, and who see no wanted to go out and ask everybody and meaning in it all, and are fast growing biteverything to forgive you, and swear to them ter and rebellious. And others will be there all that you would never, never again think who are becoming indifferent and selfish ill of anything or anybody in all the world. and callous, and living lives without sympa“We wanted,” the flowers kept on saying thy or helpfulness for the world. All these in the same soft, beseeching tones,—“we ought to find in the Sunday service comfort wanted you to give up the search for that and hope and strength and spiritual quickother subject. It was so intended. We, too, ening. What can a man say that will be were sad when you were distressed; but we of value to them if he talks about just were gladder than we were sad, because we flowers ? understand the law that suffering leadeth “Some of them would get up and leave the ever the just soul into joy and peace.” church, and others would wish they had

“That sounds very well,” the man replied, gone where they could hear real preaching,



with gestures and loud voice, and themes fishing, he talked to them about their boats like the 'Covenant with Abraham,' and the and their nets and their last night's catch. *Fall of Sodoin and Gomorrah,' and 'The And everybody loved to hear him except Apostolic Succession, and things like that." the preachers; and they hired men to kill

"In that last sentence," answered the him, so they could keep their own congregaflowers, “you unwittingly confess a fault tions. All the flowers know about that from which few preachers are exempt,—the preacher, and love him, too.” desire to attract numbers. The ambition “Yes," replied the man, “I have read that feeds on the flattery of large congrega- about that preacher, but still I don't see how tions defeats itself. What business of yours

can be made out of flowers. is it whether many or few say yea or nay? What will be my 'firstly, brethren,' and my How have you trampled in the dust your secondly and thirdly and finally, and a word most holy calling, when you make it a means now in conclusion'?" for the gratification of personal pride and "That way of announcing the divisions of selfish ambition! You coquet in public with a sermon," said the flowers, "is an antique truth, and make secret marriages with pride. habit which you preachers would let fall Truth wanders up and down, seeking those into disuse if you were less conveutional who will espouse her and forsake all others and more sincere. A sermon should be like to cleave only unto her. Him she would a song or a poem, each part natural and make mighty as an army with banners. She necessary to all the rest, and the whole prowould pack the metropolitan church or peo- duction complete in itself. The process by ple the wilderness to hear him.

which it was made does not need to appear, “Your selection of subjects would be far but only the result of the process. It is not less difficult if you thought more about what necessary to unjoint it in public and click it truth would have you speak and less about together again, in order to show that its what the people would be pleased to hear. anatomy is of the approved kind and in You vainly imagine that you must parade good working order.” your wisdom and make a show of knowledge. “Suppose,” the man replied, "you get over You assume an authority which you do not in this chair, and take the pen and write the possess, and affect an unction to disguise sermon yourself.” your hypocrisy. You labor with themes that “That,” the flowers answered sadly,—“that sound learned, and with a display of words you doubtless intended to be very funny; seek to conceal your insincerity. The peo- but it is strangely lacking in dignity and reple come to you in vain for help. Hungry markably silly.” souls ask for bread. You give them a stone. “What shall I say, then ?" asked the man, The life the people live is made up of com- impatiently. mon things. You .invite their attention' to "Nothing,” replied the flowers : "there is the uncommon. The people live in the nothing you can say while in that petulant present. You delight in the dead and dis- mood. Impatience drives truth away, and tant past.

anger bars the door against her return. “There was one preacher whom all the “Peace and holy calm are in the soul flowers know about and love to honor. where truth dwells. He who would teach He preached as never man preached before, men aright must first master his own spirit. alas! nor since. And he did not talk How shall the lips speak when the soul about Abrahamic covenants and modes of stammers ? baptism and creeds and such things, but “How shall the tongue serve righteousness. just about the common things that people and truth when the heart is in open rebelknew and could understand.

lion against their holy laws ? How shall”— “He did not spend days seeking for a Oh, spare me, dread angel of reproof,” subject with which to astonish the people or bitterly cried the man. "Make even of me, win their applause. He just went right on weak, imperfect me, the voice to utter thy and made his sermons about the fig-trees, message, the servant to do thy will. See and the vineyards, and the wheat, and the my heart: I lay it naked at thy dear feet. sparrows, and us flowers, too. And, when he Look on its selfish pride, its unholy ambition, went down to the lake where the men were its love of applause, its fear of censure and


rebuke. See it stained with treason to thee glass; for it was now late into Saturday and thine; see its years of too weak striving night. The man was very sad when he sas against the evil, too fickle devotion to the how fast they were fading; and, when the good.

flowers saw that he was grieved, they said: "Look on it as he whom all the flowers “It seems strange to us that you should be love looked on the guilty heart in that long sad at what nature has ordained. Yoa ago, and, as he forgave, forgive."

wrongly call it death. It is the law of life. The flowers did not answer. They were Nature is wise. These forms we wore silent with that hush that is too tender and were but masks. We put them on, and they holy for speech.

are beautiful. But we must put them off It was as if everywhere there was music, and let them fade, lest you confound the yet without singers or songs. It was as one spirit with the mask it wears. There is no sometimes imagines heaven, where every death. What you fear and dread and think desire fulfils itself, and the pearly tears of is death is the eternal wooing of life with gladness jewel the dimpled smiles of joy. life. Where your tears fall and the shadows When the man stopped sobbing, the flowers seem so deep, there begins the radiant way began to speak; but it was now about the o'er which the soul, on winged feet, mounts “Tell them,” they said, “that the

to life supernal. It gare to the earth.s great life they call God is nearer than they

form its beauty for an hour, a day. That think, nearer than they can know. That beauty to the form celestial it gives forerer.” nothing just happens as they say. Tell

When the flowers stopped speaking, the them that I came to you by a human hand, tears were running down the man's cheeks: prompted by a human heart, but back of but they were those tears which one can't that human heart and prompting it was the quite tell whether they are more of grief or heart divine. Tell them that every hand

joy, like the April shower when snowflakes that gives a flower is moved by a heart that and raindrops come out of the same cloud, God moves. Tell them we could not grow

and the sun shines out to tell the wondering but for God, and that, lying in the earth, we

earth that it is not the winter, but the are lying in his bosom, and, when we are spring. come to the blossom, we are holden in bis Then the man said to them: “O, sweet hand.

flowers! I will tell the people as well as I “Tell them we grew and were beautiful can all the things which you have told me, when the snow and ice were on the ground and they won't think it a sermon at all. and frost was in the air. And some one

But, if I could only tell them all you bare whose life has been drear and wintry will

been to me, and thrill their hearts as you take fresh heart when he sees that God is

have thrilled mine, they would want me to God of the winter, too.

preach that way all the time." “Tell them how many of us grow and


Kansas City, Jo, wither, uncared for and unseen by mortals, but that we even thus fulfil the divine will. And some one, whose life the great world

THE GOOD SHEPHERD. seems to spurn, will know that in seclusion and loneliness one may still serve God.

He standeth by the sheep.fold, Tell them that fresh and beautiful we came

Ilis hand upon the door.

And now he swingeth it full wide, to you, but are faded now, and will soon be

And, leading on before, thrown away and forgotten, but God remem- He calleth in a tender voice, bers, and that, fresh or faded, we are his.

“My sheep, come, follow me;

And none shall pluck you from my hand "And, oh! tell them," they pleadingly

Through all eternity.” said, “that all things that live long to speak to them of the great One who is everywhere;

The way lies part in meadows fair,

By cool and sparkling streams, but our speech is silence, and they do not

Where sunlight filters through the air understand. He knew who lived long ago, And lies in golden gleams but there are none like him now.” Then

On hill and wood and valley,

To clothe them with delight. the flowers were silent. They had drooped,

The pilgrims gladly livger here, and were hanging down over the edge of the Their hearts are brave and light.


But now the prospect changes :

often called the father of American UniverThe way is rough and drear;

salism, who had preached in England as a Rocks tower aloft, deep caverns yawn, And pilgrims shrink'in fear.

follower of Whitefield, landed at Good Luck, The sunny day has closed in gloom,

N.J. He there preached in a meetingAnd, dark against the sky,

house built by Thomas Potter, an unletGreat banks of angry, threatening clouds In frowning masses lie.

tered man, who had come to hold Univer

salist ideas from his own reasonings upon Within the dreary desert

the character of God and the mission of The wolf has made his lair: He howls, and see, the timid sheep

Christ, and had built the church in the Are scattering everywhere.

faith that such a gospel would some day be But He's no hireling Shepherd

proclaimed within its walls. It was far Who charge of them doth keep: He bravely meets the savage foe,

from being an orthodox or even a religious And saves the frightened sheep.

age. The great revivals of 1740 had been

followed by a reaction, which filled many And when the night has settled,

friends of religion with alarm. The French He like a stands, Or paces 'midst the sleeping flock,

and English Deism of the eighteenth cenHis crook within his hands.

tury had influenced some of the leading And so he ever watcheth,

spirits of the land. There was a spirit of By night as well as day, And poteth every single sheep,

the bitterest animosity between the opposing That none shall stray away.

sects into which the professed friends of re

ligion were divided. Many churches seemed Was never such a Shepherd, So strong, so wise, so sweet!

to be upon the verge of extinction. The For every pain and sorrow

memoirs, sermons, diaries, and letters of His own true heart doth beat.

that time are full of evidence as to the low When accident befalleth

state of morals and religion. The weakest in the throng,

Profanity was He taketh it within his arms,

general vice, and in most classes habitual. And beareth it along.

Intemperance, licentiousness, and the dese

cration of Sunday seem to have been fearAnd so, through all the country, Where lies the pilgrims' way,

fully prevalent. Calvinism, as a preservaThe Shepherd Good He leadeth on,

tive of faith and morals, had seemingly And guardeth them alway,

failed; and the “free thinking” of that time Till at a shining portal Their footsteps cease to roam ;

seemed to promise no better condition of And Jesus lifts the golden bars,

affairs. And folds his flock at home.

For a few years Murray worked alone; CHARLES E. PERKINS. but other teachers soon took up the work, Athol, Mass.

men unknown to and acting independently of each other, and receiving their Universal

ism from a variety of sources. The revolt UNIVERSALISY: ITS HISTORY IN AMERICA.

against Calvinism, the longing for a better

hope, were in the air. Elhanan Winchester, We find traces of Universalism in America pastor of a Baptist church in Philadelphia, early in the seventeenth century. Early in embraced Universalism in 1780, and carried the next century it was brought here by the most of his congregation with him. He was German Baptists, or Dunkers, and a little the most scholarly of the early leaders of later by the Moravians. In the last half of American Universalism. In 1794 Hosea the eighteenth century it was advocated by Ballou began to devote his whole time to a few Episcopalian and Congregational min- preaching Universalism as he had conceived isters,—by George DeBenneville and others, it. He was, in the words of an unfriendly who, unknown to each other, were the first- critic of his faith, "a born theologian and an fruits of that spirit of freer inquiry and intellectual giant." He had a genius for larger hope which was to bear fruit in a the kind of preaching demanded by the new theological reformation whose momentum faith and the average belief and culture of has not exhausted itself in building the that age ; and he was worth to the new Universalist church and the broadening of movement a host of ordinary re-enforcethe old theologies. In 1770 John Murray, ments. At this time there wer from ten

« PreviousContinue »