An Autobiography HTML version

The Eightieth Milestone And The End
On October 31, 1905, I celebrated my eightieth birthday. Twelve months earlier, writing
to a friend, I said:--"I entered my eightieth year on Monday, and I enjoy life as much as I
did at 18; indeed, in many respects I enjoy it more." The birthday gathering took place in
the schoolroom of the Unitarian Church, the church to which I had owed so much
happiness through the lifting of the dark shadows of my earlier religious beliefs.
Surrounded by friends who had taken their share in the development of my beloved State,
I realized one of the happiest times of my life. I had hoped that the celebration would
have helped the cause of effective voting, which had been predominant in my mind since
1859. By my interests and work in so many other directions--in literature, journalism,
education, philanthropy, and religion--which had been testified to by so many notable
people on that occasion, I hoped to prove that I was not a mere faddist, who could be led
away by a chimerical fantasy. I wanted the world to understand that I was a clear-brained,
commonsense woman of the world, whose views on effective voting and other political
questions were as worthy of credence as her work in other directions had been worthy of
acceptance. The greetings of my many friends from all parts of the Commonwealth on
that day brought so much joy to me that there was little wonder I was able to conclude
my birthday poem "Australian spring" with the lines:--
With eighty winters o'er my head,
Within my heart there's Spring.
Full as my life was with its immediate interests, the growth and development of the
outside world claimed a good share of my attention. The heated controversies in the
motherland over the preachings and teaching of the Rev. R. J. Campbell found their echo
here, and I was glad to be able to support in pulpit and newspaper the stand made by t he
courageous London preacher of modern thought. How changed the outlook of the world
from my childhood's days, when Sunday was a day of strict theological habit, from which
no departure could be permitted! The laxity of modern life, by comparison is, I think,
somewhat appalling. We have made the mistake of breaking away from old beliefs and
convictions without replacing them with something better. We do not make as much, or
as good, use of our Sundays as we might do. There is a medium between the rigid
Sabbatarianism of our ancestors and the absolute waste of the day of rest in mere pleasure
and frivolity. All the world is deploring the secularizing of Sunday. Not only is
churchgoing perfunctory or absent, but in all ranks of life there is a disposition to make it
a day of rest and amusement--sometimes the amusement rather than the rest. Sunday, the
Sabbath, as Alex McLaren pointed out to me, is not a day taken from us, but a day given
to us. "Behold, I have given you the Sabbath!" For what? For rest for man and beast, but
also to be a milestone in our upward and onward progress--a day for not only wearing
best clothes, but for reading our best books and thinking our best thoughts. I have often
grieved at the small congregations in other churches no less than in my own, and the grief
was aggravated by the knowledge that those who were absent from church were not
necessarily otherwise well employed. I derived so much pleasure from the excellent and
cultured sermons of my friend the Rev. John Reid during his term of office here that I