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   Chapter 36 THE SIN OF SANCTIMONY.

The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 7348

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Just at this point arrived Mr. Hall, whom I have before described as the good but callow Methodist preacher on the circuit. Some people think that a minister of the gospel should be exempt from criticism, ridicule, and military duty. But the manly minister takes his lot with the rest. Nothing could be more pernicious than making the foibles of a minister sacred. Doubtless Mr. Hall has long since come to laugh at his own early follies, his official sanctimoniousness, and all that; and why should not I, who have been a callow circuit-preacher myself in my day, laugh at my Brother Hall, for the good of his kind?

He had come to visit Sister Cynthy Ann, whose name had long stood on the class-book at Harden's Cross-Roads as a good and acceptable member of the church in full connection. He was visiting formally and officially each family in which there was a member. Had he visited informally and unofficially, and like a man instead of like a minister, he would have done more good. But he came to Samuel Anderson's, and informed Mrs. Anderson that he was visiting his members, and that as one of her household was a member, he would like to have a little religious conversation and prayer with the family. Would she please gather them together?

So Julia was called down-stairs, and Jonas was invited in from the kitchen. The sight of him distressed Brother Hall. For was not this New Light sent here by Satan to lead astray one of his flock? But, at least, he would labor faithfully with him.

He began with Mr. Samuel Anderson. But that worthy, after looking at his wife in vain for a cue, darted off about the trumpets of the Apocalypse.

"Mr. Anderson, as head of this family, your responsibility is very great. Do you feel the full assurance, my brother?" asked Mr. Hall.

"Yes," said Mr. Anderson, "I am standing with my lamp trimmed and ready. I am listening for the midnight shout. To-night the trumpet may sound. I am afraid you don't do your duty, or you would lift up your voice. The tune and times and a half are almost out."

Mr. Hall was a little dashed at this. A man whose religious conversation is of a set and conventional type, is always shocked and jostled when he is thrown from the track. And he himself, like everybody else, had felt the Adventist infection, and did not want to commit himself. So he turned to Mrs. Anderson. She answered like a seraph every question put to her--the conventional questions never pierce the armor of a hypocrite or startle the conscience of a self-deceiver. Mr. Hall congratulated her in his most official tone (a compound of authority, awfulness, and sanctity) on her deep experience of the things that made for her everlasting peace. He told her that people of her high attainments must beware of spiritual pride. And Mrs. Anderson took the warning with beautiful meekness, sinking into forty fathoms of undisguised and rather ostentatious humility, heaving solemn sighs in token of self-reproach--a self-reproach that did not penetrate the cuticle.

A PASTORAL VISIT.

"And you, Sister Cynthy Ann," he said, fighting shy of Jonas for the present, "I trust you are trying to let your light shine. Do you feel that you are pressing on?"

Poor Cynthy Ann sank into a despondency deeper than usual. She was afeard not. Seemed like as ef her heart was cold and dead to God. Seemed like as ef she couldn't no ways gin up the world. It weighed her down like a rock, and many was the fight she had with the enemy. No, she wuzn't getting on.

"My dear sister," said Mr. Hall, "let me warn you. Here is Mrs. Anderson, who has given up the world entirely. I hope you'll follow so good an example. D

o not be led astray by worldly affections; they are sure to entrap you. I am afraid you have not maintained your steadfastness as you should." Here Mr. Hall's eye wandered doubtfully to Jonas, of whom he felt a little afraid. Jonas, on his part, had no reason to like Mr. Hall for his advice in Cynthy's love affair, and now the minister's praises of Mrs. Anderson and condemnation of Cynthy Ann had not put him in any mood to listen to exhortation.

"Well, Mr. Harrison," said the young minister solemnly, approaching Jonas much as a dog does a hedgehog, "how do you feel to-day?"

"Middlin' peart, I thank you; how's yourself?"

This upset the good man not a little, and convinced him that Jonas was in a state of extreme wickedness.

"Are you a Christian?"

"Wal, I 'low I am. How about yourself, Mr. Hall?"

"I believe you are a New Light. Now, do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?" asked the minister in an annihilating tone.

"Yes, I do, my aged friend, a heap sight more'n I do in some of them that purtends to hev a paytent right on all his blessins, and that put on solemn airs and call other denominations hard names. My friend, I don't believe in no religion that's made up of sighs and groans and high temper" (with a glance at Mrs. Anderson), "and that thinks a good deal more of its bein' sound in doctrine than of the danger of bein' rotten in life. They's lots o' bad eggs got slick and shiny shells!"

Mr. Hall happened to think just here of the injunction against throwing pearls before swine, and so turned to Humphreys, who made his heart glad by witnessing a good confession, in soft and unctuous tones, and couched in the regulation phrases which have worn smooth in long use.

Julia had slunk away in a corner. But now he appealed to her also.

"Blest with a praying mother, you, Miss Anderson, ought to repent of your sins and flee from the wrath to come. You know the right way. You have been pointed to it by the life of your parents from childhood. Reared in the bosom of a Christian household, let me entreat you to seek salvation immediately."

I do not like to repeat this talk here. But it is an unfortunate fact that goodness and self-sacrificing piety do not always go with practical wisdom. The novelist, like the historian, must set down things as he finds them. A man who talks in consecrated phrases is yet in the poll-parrot state of mental development.

"Do you feel a desire to flee from the wrath to come?" he asked.

Julia gave some sort of inaudible assent.

"My dear young sister, you have great reason to be thankful--very great reason for gratitude to Almighty God." (Like many other pious young men, Mr. Hall said Gawd.) "I met you the other night at your uncle's. The young man whose life we then despaired of has recovered." And with more of this, Mr. Hall told Julia's secret, while Mrs. Anderson, between her anger and her rapt condition of mind, seemed to be petrifying.

I trust the reader does not expect me to describe the feelings of Julia while Mr. Hall read a chapter and prayed. Nor the emotions of Mrs. Anderson. I think if Mr. Hall could have heard her grind her teeth while he in his prayer gave thanks for the recovery of August, he would not have thought so highly of her piety. But she managed to control her emotions until the minister was fairly out of the house. In bidding good-by, Mr. Hall saw how pale and tremulous Julia was, and with his characteristic lack of sagacity, he took her emotion to be a sign of religious feelings and told her he was pleased to see that she was awakened to a sense of her condition.

And then he left. And then came the deluge.

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