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music and song, all these will have their sphere; but what we most need is a deep and solemn sense of our relations to God and the great hereafter, together with a hopeful view of the marvellous redemptive influences of Him who turned the water into wine and raised Lazarus from the grave.
It is, I fear, becoming more a question with men, even in Christian lands, whether there be any God or any hereafter; and while philosophic and scholarly minds are dealing in their own way with such negations, it remains for Christian people to exemplify, and with augmented earnestness, the practical graces of the Gospel, causing them to see that there is no power to heal and bless like the religion of the cross. The unhappy misconceptions which have prevailed as to the nature of Christianity will gradually, we trust, disappear. Already there are many signs of a closer approximation to the true idea and spirit of the Gospel, and with this approximation will come an increase of power over all forms of evil.
That the world will accept certain sectarian types of ecclesiastical teaching is not probable, and it is not desirable; but the elementary principles of the Gospel-the faith, the hope, the charity of the Gospel-these must finally prevail; or, if not, then, indeed, the world is no cosmos or rational order, but only chaos and a kind of sham world-in fact a devil's world and not at all God's world.
But to such a faith, or no-faith, it is not possible for men generally to come. Always in the great heart of man lives and burns a moral and rational ideal of things, and this, along with the inward sadness and unrest of humanity heaving and moaning like the sea, will ever draw the world onward, with an indestructible faith and hope, toward the infinite God and some indescribable glory yet to be revealed. Always we shall see visions of some grand celestial city, with its pearly gates, its jasper walls, its golden streets, its crystal river, its tree bearing all manner of fruits, with its leaves for the healing of the nations. The ear of faith will never cease to hear the echoes of the eternal song and the harpers harping with their harps. There is that within us. by reason of which the Gospel will, from time to time, recall humanity from dreary atheism and pessimism, and preclude their final prevalence. And the more extreme the pessimism, the more vigorous will be the rebound into the arms of Him whose voice sounds evermore in our ears, saying, "Believe in God; believe also in me." "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are: heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
This glorious city of the Apocalypse, this coming "republic
of God," may seem to our sceptical friends only a dream. I will not say, let me cherish it still although but a dream, but will rather say, that, while even as a dream it has been more beneficent than the realities of scepticism, there is something incredible in the thought that such visions forever hover before us only to betray us at the last. All the lower instincts are presentiments of corresponding good; it is not hard to believe that these higher ones may have a similar validity and prophetic power. The need of the world is to so heed these aspirations and hopes as to turn the prophecy both of Scripture and the human heart into historic verity. And what has been done thus far is ample encouragement to mind the same things and walk by the same rule. Let those who boast of the triumphs of experimental science learn to read aright this experiment of the Gospel in moral and social progress, and they will find ample proof that Christianity is by far the best thing that has yet come into the world, from whatever source we may suppose it to have come. Even when we censure the Church we censure her from principles which she has preserved. In bearing witness against herself she bears witness for the Gospel.
BY ROSE TERRY COOKE.
THE stranger wandering in the Switzer's land,
Sees far, far down, beneath his blood-dimmed eyes,
And I, lone sitting by the twilight blaze,
Yet courage, soul! nor hold thy strength in vain.
A LAY PREACHER.
BY ROSE TERRY COOKE.
"I DON'T know," said Mrs. Simmons, shaking her head. " 'I don't know what on airth Mr. Styles' folks will do. She's dreadful delicate, and he's got dear knows what's a-ailin' of him-minister's complaints, dyspepsia, 'nd suthin' er nuther in his throat; and there's them two peepin' miser'ble children. They hain't been here but goin' on three months, 'nd their help's goin' to leavedon't like the country. Land alive, how notional them helps be! Anybody would think, to hear 'em talk, they'd lived in first-class houses to home, and had the best of society and all the privileges." "That's so," heartily returned Uncle Israel Jinks, who was leaning on Mrs. Simmons' gate, having, as he phrased it, "a dish o' talk."
"That's so, marm; them sort of folk is like the wind—allers ablowin'. I've observed considerable, bein' in years an' allers keepin' my eyes open; and I've allers noticed that the things folks makes the most fuss over is the things they hain't got. That's human natur', Miss Simmons. We all hear the sermon for the folks in the next pew. Human natur' is queer, very queer, onaccountable."
"Well!" snapped Mrs. Simmons, who seemed to feel a thorn in Uncle Israel's illustrations somewhere, "that ain't the p'int we was aimin' at. We've all got human natur' to be born with, so we've got to lump it. The p'int is, can any body in this town be got to help Miss Styles for a spell-anybody that'll stay till they can better themselves?"
Uncle Israel lifted his straw hat with one hand a little way, and began to scratch his head. "What should you say to Desire Flint, now?"
There was a hesitating sound in the cracked voice and a glimmer of suspense in the faded blue eyes as he spoke.
"Desire Flint!!!" No hesitation in Mrs. Simmons' prompt reply. "Why, Uncle Israel, she ain't no better than a fool! anyways, not much."
"She ain't a fool; she ain't nobody's fool," was the meditative answer. "Desire's simple, but sometimes I think a good many folks would be better for a grain of her simpleness, 'nd she's real handy if you'll tell her just exactly what to do and how to do it. Dr. Porter said she nussed old Miss Green splendid, jest as faithful as could be, nothin' forgot or slighted. There's suthin' in that, now, I tell ye."
"She does say the queerest things. You know yourself how she up and told Deacon Mather he was a wolf."
"I know, I know; she speaks in meetin', that's a fact, and she's got the Bible to her tongue's end, and she b'lieves in 't, lock an' stock. Now we all know 't won't do to swaller the Bible
whole that way. Where should we be if we did? Goody
gracious! Miss Simmons, what ef you should up an' give Black Cæsar half your cabbages jest 'cause he gin you half o' his early corn last year when your crop gin out?"
There was a momentary twinkle in Uncle Israel's eye as he made this remark, and Mrs. Simmons winced; but she recovered herself with great presence of mind.
"Mebbe t'wouldn't be so bad in a minister's family." "Ministers is men," dryly rejoined the old man. undeniable fact Mrs. Simmons assented by silence. "Then Desire is first-rate with children."
"She'd considerable better be fust-rate at hard work," retorted the good woman.
Uncle Israel knew when he had said enough, so he lifted his pail and walked away. But the idea took root in Mrs. Simmons' mind and flourished. Poor, pale Mrs. Styles would have welcomed into her house a gorilla that could wash and iron, so in a week Desire Flint was set over the parsonage kitchen.
She did not look like a gorilla in the least. A patient, overdriven look characterized her face at the first glance. It was pale, and the cheek-bones high; the mouth full and sweet, half-closing over prominent teeth, a pair of large, sad gray eyes, and a high, smooth forehead completing a visage that, after the tired look passed away, as it did when she spoke or smiled, was utterly simple; not like a child's, which has a sense of humour, of coquetry, of perception even, in its round, soft, lineaments; but more like the face of a baby, that receives all things as they seem to be, that accepts but does not impart, except passively.
No doubt there was something odd about Desire. She was an orphan. Her father died before her birth, and her mother, a weak, amiable girl, left poor and helpless, died when her baby came, for pure want of "grit," the doctor said; so baby went to the poor-house, a silent, unsmiling, but healthy child, who made no trouble and grew up in ways of the most direct obedienceher great fault being a certain simple credulity that in its excess was so near utter folly that she passed for half-witted.
Nothing ever made Desire lie. Nobody could lie to her, even in the absurdest way, and not be believed. She was teased and tormented at school till all the boys and most of the girls found it too easy of doing to be an amusement, and acquired a dull sort of respect for a girl who was too simple to comprehend unkindness or evil. The only book that fell into her way at the poor-house was her father's old Bible, that had been carefully laid aside for her; and over this she pored Sundays and sometimes of a rainy day, till she almost knew it by heart, and received it with absolute and unquestioning faith. It produced a curious effect upon a character so direct as hers. All things were brought to its pages and tried as by the only standard; and all things were to her either right or wrong. Her logic was stringent, her obedience instant; but it was a great nuisance to have her about among common folks!
Such people naturally are nuisances, this is no world for them, and poor Desire's home at the poor-house became a permanent one. She laboured there with a good will, and once in a while she went out to nurse some poor body suffering under mortal illness, who could not pay for more able attendance and who was too ill to be a stumbling-block to Desire's practical Christianity and to incur her remark or rebuke; so that she fairly earned her living. But it was a great pleasure to her now to be brought into a new home where there were children; for children were the delight of her heart, and there were five of these delightful, troublesome, tormenting comforts in the Styles family, besides the baby.
Poor little Mrs. Styles was a minister's wife. In her girlhood she had imagined this to be an honour almost beyond ambitiona sort of half-way saintship, that should open the very doors of heaven to her while yet on earth; and when she reached this awful pinnacle and became the promised bride of the Rev. Samuel Styles, a tall, pale, solemn youth, with head in the clouds, her real, human love mingled with the superhuman aspect of the matter till she felt, as the old schoolmaster used to say, "exalted to heaven on the point of a privilege." But when she was fairly married to her adored Samuel and set in her place as official "minister's wife" over a small parish, where salary was just enough to starve on, and half paid at that, pretty little Nellie Styles found out that, as Uncle Israel said, "ministers are men," and heaven is no nearer their wives than it is to other people.
The Reverend Samuel had been resolved on entering the ministry from childhood; he had been educated by a widowed mother to that end; he had been shut up, like a half-fledged chicken in a coop, in that orthodox monastery, a theological seminary, for four years; crammed with good theology and poor food; plenty of Hebrew and no fresh air; Greek paradigms, but not a particle of exercise; a thorough and exhaustive knowledge of the lives of prophets, apostles and saints, but no acquaintance with or interest in the lives of every-day people about him; a straight faith in his own creed and a sincere disgust at every other; and withal learning from the atmosphere which surrounded him an unconscious lesson, agreeable extremely to the natural man-a lesson of his own importance and superiority to the rest of mankind.
Thanks to the vitality of the Christian religion, which will leaven the lump in due time and stand its own ground in defiance of all the stifling and cellarage it undergoes at the hands of trembling men, terrified lest air should overthrow it and light blast it, the ministerial training-schools of to-day are far superior to those of thirty years ago; and even in their first estate there were mighty men of valour, whose broad and healthy natures defied their cramping and withstood their mildew; but this man was by nature narrow and acid, the saving graces of his character being a deep though silent affectionateness and a rugged honesty. But in spite of these traits, which needed sunshine and strength