Esther HTML version
"You are lucky to have any thing finished," he rejoined. "Since Hazard got here every thing is turned upside
down; all the plans are changed. He and Wharton have taken the bit in their teeth, and the church committee
have got to pay for whatever damage is done."
"Has Mr. Hazard voice enough to fill the church?" she asked.
"Watch him, and see how well he'll do it. Here he comes, and he will hit the right pitch on his first word."
The organ stopped, the clergyman appeared, and the talkers were silent until the litany ended and the organ
began again. Under the prolonged rustle of settling for the sermon, more whispers passed.
"He is all eyes," murmured Esther; and it was true that at this distance the preacher seemed to be made up of
two eyes and a voice, so slight and delicate was his frame. Very tall, slender and dark, his thin, long face gave
so spiritual an expression to his figure that the great eyes seemed to penetrate like his clear voice to every soul
within their range.
"Good art!" muttered her companion.
"We are too much behind the scenes," replied she.
"It is a stage, like any other," he rejoined; "there should be an _entre-acte_ and drop-scene. Wharton could
design one with a last judgment."
"He would put us into it, George, and we should be among the wicked."
"I am a martyr," answered George shortly.
The clergyman now mounted his pulpit and after a moment's pause said in his quietest manner and clearest
"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
An almost imperceptible shiver passed through Esther's figure.
"Wait! he will slip in the humility later," muttered George.
On the contrary, the young preacher seemed bent on letting no trace of humility slip into his first sermon.
Nothing could be simpler than his manner, which, if it had a fault, sinned rather on the side of plainness and
monotony than of rhetoric, but he spoke with the air of one who had a message to deliver which he was more
anxious to give as he received than to add any thing of his own; he meant to repeat it all without an attempt to
soften it. He took possession of his flock with a general advertisement that he owned every sheep in it, white
or black, and to show that there could be no doubt on the matter, he added a general claim to right of property
in all mankind and the universe. He did this in the name and on behalf of the church universal, but there was
self-assertion in the quiet air with which he pointed out the nature of his title, and then, after sweeping all
human thought and will into his strong-box, shut down the lid with a sharp click, and bade his audience kneel.
The sermon dealt with the relations of religion to society. It began by claiming that all being and all thought
rose by slow gradations to God,--ended in Him, for Him--existed only through Him and because of being His.
The form of act or thought mattered nothing. The hymns of David, the plays of Shakespeare, the metaphysics
of Descartes, the crimes of Borgia, the virtues of Antonine, the atheism of yesterday and the materialism of
to-day, were all emanations of divine thought, doing their appointed work. It was the duty of the church to