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DEATH, AND GRAVE CLOTHES.
With all his head-knowledge of Gospel truth, he had not seen anything of the work of the Spirit, and moreover, like too many others, could not distinguish between death and grave-clothes. Because I announced some sacramental views after my conversion, he fancied that I must be dead still; whereas these were only the grave-clothes in which I used to be wrapped. We shall speak more of this hereafter.
One day, he came to me and said, "I have been thinking for some time that I should like to come 'to your church one Sunday, and see your work."
I agreed to this with thanks, as the first sign of sym. pathy I had found in him, and said, "Shall I go and take your services in exchange ?"
"Oh no, certainly not; I wish you to be present in your own church. I will preach in the morning; and in the evening I will be there to see and hear you." We soon fixed upon the day.
He came to dinner with us the previous Saturday, but before he would sit down he must needs go into the Church, and adjust the height of the pulpit, and see that all other things were to his taste. He asked me if I would remove the candlesticks from the communion table, and let him preach in a black gown. These were all matters of indifference to me now, so I readily acceded to his wishes. Having completed his arrangements, we spent a very pleasant evening together, talking over the work in the place, and then went to the weekly prayer-meeting; but he took no part. On Sunday morning the service was conducted at his request, in the usual manner, excepting that he stood away in the eastern corner of the north side of the table, "scrootching" away like a Papist, as the people described it. They had been accustomed to see me stand at the western or outside corner of the north side. He was much amused at this criticism.
Then he went into the vestry, having asked for an interlude on the organ before the last verse of the Psalms (for we sang the metrical version in those days), and while this was being played he came sailing out again, and swept up the steps into the pulpit. He gave us an excellent sermon -preached, as the Cornish say, "to a form," that is with a manuscript before him; though he did not look at it much. He showed it to me afterwards; it certainly was a curious thing, done in cyphers and hieroglyphics of his own; again and again there appeared a figure with two horns and a tail; this, he told me, stood for Satan; there were also many other striking signs. He preached with far more animation than he was wont, and towards the end of his sermon seemed to forget his manuscript altogether, and leaned over the front of the pulpit, gesticulating with his hands, and looking at the people. They got very excited, and followed every sentence with some response, till he became excited also. When he came down from the pulpit, he said that he had never preached with such help before; he had quite enjoyed his own sermon, and that now he thought he understood the secret of what I called being "converted."
He came in the afternoon to the catechising of the children, and expressed himself very pleased with their behaviour, and readiness in answering questions.
In the evening, he sat in a part of the church where he could see the congregation, and the preacher, and so make his desired observations. The service was, perhaps, a little more animated than usual, and the sermon may have been the same. After this was over, he went with me into the schoolroom, where he heard the people pray, and also thank God for the morning sermon. Several souls were brought in that evening.
About ten o'clock at night we returned home, when my friend declared he had never known a day like this in all
"LIKE THE WAVES OF THE SEA."
his ministry, and never heard of such things as he had seen. "Your congregation,” he said, “is like the waves of the sea, and mine like a glassy mill-pond. Now I must have you come and preach in my church. I wonder what the effect will be."
I agreed, and we fixed upon the second Sunday, as he wanted a week to announce my coming.
I was quite eager for the time, and when Saturday arrived, I set off, intending to stay for several days. On Sunday morning the church was filled from end to end, the people being on the tip-toe of expectation. Many anxious ones remained after the sermon to be spoken with, about their souls. The church was scarcely cleared, before the men came to ring the bells for the afternoon service. This time, the passages, chancel, pulpit-stairs, and every available corner were crowded, and the congregation certainly did not look like a “mill-pond," but more like “the waves of the sea."
At the close of this service, the people begged for another in the evening.
The vicar said, "Oh, that is impossible, for I dine at six o'clock."
"But," I involuntarily added, "do not mind the dinner; I can come, if you like."
He gave me such a look! I continued, "I have had dinner enough for to-day. I can take the service alone, if you are agreeable."
"But we have no lamps for the church. It cannot be."
I was silenced now, and gave up the point; when the churchwarden came forward and said he would be responsible for lighting the church.
The vicar at last consented, on condition that he was allowed to have his dinner in peace. As the time approached, however, he put off that important meal, and
joined me in a cup of tea, after which we went together to the third service.
This time it was as much as we could do to get in, and when we did succeed a most striking sight presented itself. The whole church was lighted from the pews. Some of the wealthier people had lamps, but the others had candles, one two, or more in their respective compartments. From the pulpit it looked more like a market scene than a church congregation. I had liberty in preaching, and the people were greatly moved, some of them greatly agitated-indeed, so much so, that the vicar thought he would not have another service in the church, and accordingly announced that the Monday evening meeting would be held in a building which he named, in a village about two miles off. This was a large barn-like structure, where they cured fish in the season, but at other times it was unoccupied.
The next day happened to be very wet, and, added to this, in the evening it began to blow as well. Notwithstanding this inclemency, when we arrived at the "fishcellar," as it was called, we found it crammed with people, the women and children occupying the ground, and sitting there on straw, which had been provided for the occasion, the men and boys were sitting on the cross-beams of the roof. The heat in the place was stifling beyond all description, for besides being densely crowded below and above, the wooden shutters were shut, on account of the wind and rain, the people's wet clothes were steaming, and there was a strong smell of stale fish. At first we felt as if it would be impossible to bear it, but after a little time we became used to the disagreeables, and had other things to think about.
I gave out a hymn, and after a short prayer commenced the address, speaking as loud as I could, that all the congregation might hear me. During the sermon, the responses
"I WANT GOD'S MERCY!"
were most vociferous and hearty, and the attention very encouraging. After speaking for about thirty minutes, I observed a tall, fine-looking fisherman, in large high boots, who had come in late. He was standing in the little vacant space before the table, on which were placed two candles and a glass of water. I saw, as the address went on, that though he was very quiet, his breast was heaving with emotion, as if something was passing in his mind. All at once, without a moment's notice, he fell on the ground, and bellowed out a loud prayer for "God's mercy-I want God's mercy!" Besides upsetting the table-candles, water, and all-which went down with a great crash, he fell on one or two women, who screamed, in their fright and consternation, as only women can.
If this had been a preconcerted signal, it could not have been more effectual, for there was instantly a simultaneous as well as an universal outcry. The whole place was filled with a confused din of voices; some were praying, some singing, some shouting, and others exhorting, and that at the top of their voices, in order to be heard. In the midst of this I began to sing a hymn, hoping to restore order, and many joined me; but it only added more sound to the uproar.
The good vicar was overwhelmed with fear and dismay, as well he might be, at this tumultuous scene. It was bad enough to stand and look at the waves of the sea; but when they rose and broke, as it were, on the shore where he was standing, and surrounded him, it was altogether too much. He made for the door, and, waiting there, beckoned me to him. When I came he suddenly opened it, and drew me out, saying, "There will be no peace till you are out of this place." The extreme change from the hot cellar into the cold and pitiless wind and rain was so great, that we fled precipitately to the cottage which stood opposite. Happily,