« PreviousContinue »
OLD JIMMY'S” REPROOFS.
It was noised through the town of Jonesborough that Mr. Axley would hold forth on the morning of the ensuing Sabbath. The famous divine was a great favourite—with none more than with Judge White. At the appointed hour, the judge, in company with a large congregation, was in attendance at the house of prayer. All were hushed in expectation. Mr. Axley entered, but with him a clerical brother, who was "put up" to preach. The congregation was composed of a border population ; they were disappointed; this was not the man they had come to hear, consequently there was a good deal of misbehaviour. The discourse was ended, and Mr. Axley rose. It is a custom in the new country when two or more preachers are present, for each of them to have something to say. The people opine that it is a great waste of time, to come a long distance and put off with a short service. I have gone into church at eight o'clock in the morning, and have not come out again until five o'clock in the afternoon. Short administrations are the growth of thicker settlements.
Mr. Axley stood silently surveying the congregation until every eye was riveted. He then began :
a very painful duty, but it is a very solemn one, for a minister of the Gospel to reprove vice, misconduct and sin, whenever and wherever he sees it. But, especially is this his duty on Sunday and at church. That is a duty I am now about to attend to.
“And now," continued the reverend speaker, pointing with his long finger in the direction indicated; “that man sitting out yonder behind the door, who got up and went out while the brother was preaching, stayed out as long as he wanted to, got his boots full of mud, came back and stamped the mud off at the door, making all the noise he could, on purpose to disturb the attention of the congregation, and then took his seat; that man thinks
I mean him. No wonder he does. It does'nt look as if he had been raised in the white settlements, does it, to behave that way at meeting ? Now, my friend, I'd advise you to learn better manners before you come to church next time. But I don't mean him.
“And now," again pointing at his mark, “that little girl sitting there, about half way of the house, I should judge her to be about sixteen years old— that's her with the artificial flowers on the outside of her bonnet and the inside of her bonnet; she has a breast-pin on, too," they were very severe upon all superfluities of dress, “she that was giggling and chattering all the time the brother was preaching, so that even the old sisters in the neighbourhood couldn't hear what he was saying, though they tried to. She thinks I mean her. I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart, for any parents that have raised a girl to her time of day, and haven't taught her how to behave when she comes to church. Little girl, you have disgraced your parents as well as yourself. Behave better next time, won't you? But I don't mean her.”
Directing his finger to another aim, he said, “That man sitting there, that looks as bright and pert as if he never was asleep in his life, and never expected to be, but that just as soon as the brother took his text, laid his head down on the back of the seat in front of him, went sound asleep, slept the whole time, and snored; that man thinks I mean him. My friend, don't you know the church ain't the place to sleep? If you needed rest, why didn't you stay at home, take off your clothes, and go to bed ? that's the place to sleep, not church. The next time you have a chance to hear a sermon, I advise you to keep awake. But I don't mean him.” Thus did he proceed, pointing out every man, woman, and child who had in the slightest deviated from a befitting line of conduct; character
JUDGE WHITE SURPRISED.
ising the misdemeanour, and reading sharp lessons of rebuke.
Judge White was all this time sitting at the end of the front seat, just under the speaker, enjoying the old gentleman's disquisition to the last degree; twisting his neck around, to note if the audience relished the “ downcomings” as much as he did; rubbing his hands, smiling, chuckling inwardly. Between his teeth and cheek was a monstrous quid of tobacco, which, the better he was pleased, the more he chewed; the more he chewed, the more he spat, and behold, the floor bore witness to the results. At length, the old gentleman, straightening himself up to his full height, continued, with great gravity :
“And now I reckon you want to know who I do mean. I mean that dirty, nasty, filthy tobacco-chewer, sitting on the end of that front seat his finger meanwhile pointing true as the needle to the pole. “See what he has been about! Look at those puddles on the floor; a frog wouldn't get into them; think of the tails of the sisters' dresses being dragged through that muck.” The crest-fallen judge averred that he never chewed any more tobacco in church.
I trust enough has been said to afford you a truthful and vivid notion as to what these men were. I honour them for their chivalric heroism. I revere them for their lofty faith, their burning zeal, their simple-hearted piety, a practical character that knew no limits. I love and bless them, for they were my own fathers in the ministry.
That I have not exaggerated or shot wide of the mark, let the following extract of a letter from the late President Harrison, whose long residence in the West entitled him to speak, bear witness :
HARRISON'S TESTIMONY. Who and what are they? I answer, entirely composed of ministers who are technically denominated “ Circuit riders ;”, a body of men who, for zeal and fidelity in the discharge of the duties they undertake, are not exceeded by others in the world. I have been a witness of their conduct in the Western country for nearly forty years. They are men whom no labour tires, no scenes disgust, no danger frightens in the discharge of their duty. To gain recruits for their Master's service, they sedulously seek out the victims of vice in the abodes of misery and wretchedness. The vow of poverty is not taken by these men, but their conduct is precisely the same as it would have been had they taken one. Their stipulated pay is barely sufficient to enable them to perform the services assigned them. With much the larger portion, the horse which carries them is the only animated thing which they can call their own, and the contents of their valise, or saddle-bags, the sum total of their other earthly possessions.
If within the period I have mentioned, a traveller on the Western frontier had met a stranger in some obscure way, or assiduously urging his course through the intricacies of a tangled forest, his appearance staid and sober, and his countenance indicating that he was in search of some object in which his feelings were deeply interested, his apparel plain but entirely neat, and his little baggage adjusted with peculiar compactness, he might be almost certain that that stranger was a Methodist preacher, hurrying on to perform his daily task of preaching to separate and distant congregations, and should the same traveller, upon approaching some solitary, unfinished, and scarcely habitable cabin, hear the praises of the Creator chanted with peculiar melody, or the doctrines of the Saviour urged upon the attention of some six or eight individuals, with the same energy and zeal that he had seen displayed in addresses to a crowded audience of a populous city, he might be certain, without inquiry, that it was the voice of a Methodist preacher.
It is a style of speech much in vogue among certain classes of littérateurs and philanthropists to sneer at the imbecility and cowardice of the ministry. Sydney Smith's characterisation of some of his own fraternity, “ decent debility," is indiscriminately applied as a just description of the entire body in this country. I have heard the question propounded by a famous orator, and it was greeted with deafening cheers, “ What are the forty thousand pulpits of America doing ? What have they ever done for the cause of human progress ? ” Ask the
THE WORK OF THE CLERGY.
school-houses and universities of New England. Were not the clergy their architects? did they not lay their foundations and build their walls ? Ask the thousand agencies in operation for ameliorating the condition of the suffering and destitute, for reclaiming the vicious and degraded, for saving the abandoned and lost. Have not the clergy devised them and put them into execution ? Ask the public conscience and the private sense, which are every generation growing clearer in their recognition of right and truth, the morals of business, society, and domestic life; the standards of which, every decade, are becoming more and more elevated. If the clergy have not been the largest contributors to these benign results, tell me the names of those who have? Whose counsels and words of solace have smoothed and softened the couch of pain? Whose hymns have kindled the light of immortality in the glazing eye? Whose voice of prayer has been as a staff upon which the departing soul leaned as it went down into the dark floods of death ? And who, when there was a vacant chair by the fireside, and a desolate room in the house which it well-nigh broke the heart to enter, came to tell of Him, who in Bethany said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life ?"
Measure me the power of the Sunday-school, the influence of pastoral visiting, the might of the spoken word and of the secret prayer, and estimate their force in the aggregate of our national life. Because their influence is like that of the dew, silent, or as the shining of the sun, familiar, men fail to recognise and note it. Match me their self-denial, exhibited in obscure toil, unappreciated labour, simple-hearted, ceaseless efforts to do good, which get no sympathy except from God. Match me their tireless zeal and unflagging patience, their offerings upon the altar of country and humanity from the ranks of pseudo-philanthropy, whose God is