Esther HTML version
deal with them all, not as though they existed through a power hostile to the deity, but as instruments of the
deity to work out his unrevealed ends. The preacher then went on to criticise the attitude of religion towards
science. "If there is still a feeling of hostility between them," he said, "it is no longer the fault of religion.
There have been times when the church seemed afraid, but she is so no longer. Analyze, dissect, use your
microscope or your spectrum till the last atom of matter is reached; reflect and refine till the last element of
thought is made clear; the church now knows with the certainty of science what she once knew only by the
certainty of faith, that you will find enthroned behind all thought and matter only one central idea,--that idea
which the church has never ceased to embody,--I AM! Science like religion kneels before this mystery; it can
carry itself back only to this simple consciousness of existence. I AM is the starting point and goal of
metaphysics and logic, but the church alone has pointed out from the beginning that this starting-point is not
human but divine. The philosopher says--I am, and the church scouts his philosophy. She answers:--No! you
are NOT, you have no existence of your own. You were and are and ever will be only a part of the supreme I
AM, of which the church is the emblem."
In this symbolic expression of his right of property in their souls and bodies, perhaps the preacher rose a little
above the heads of his audience. Most of his flock were busied with a kind of speculation so foreign to that of
metaphysics that they would have been puzzled to explain what was meant by Descartes' famous COGITO
ERGO SUM, on which the preacher laid so much stress. They would have preferred to put the fact of their
existence on almost any other experience in life, as that "I have five millions," or, "I am the best-dressed
woman in the church,--therefore I am somebody." The fact of self-consciousness would not have struck them
as warranting a claim even to a good social position, much less to a share in omnipotence; they knew the trait
only as a sign of bad manners. Yet there were at least two persons among the glorified chrysanthemums of St.
John's Garden this day, who as the sermon closed and the organ burst out again, glanced at each other with a
smile as though they had enjoyed their lecture.
"Good!" said the man. "He takes hold."
"I hope he believes it all," said his companion.
"Yes, he has put his life into the idea," replied the man. "Even at college he would have sent us all off to the
stake with a sweet smile, for the love of Christ and the glory of the English Episcopal Church."
The crowd soon began to pour slowly out of the building and the two observers were swept along with the rest
until at length they found themselves outside, and strolled down the avenue. A voice from behind stopped
"Esther!" it called.
Esther turned and greeted the caller as aunt. She was a woman of about fifty, still rather handsome, but with
features to which time had given an expression of character and will that harmonized only with a manner a
little abrupt and decided. She had the air of a woman who knew her own mind and commonly had her own
"Well, Esther, I am glad to see you taking George to church. Has he behaved himself?"
"You are wrong again, Aunt Sarah," said George; "it is I who have been taking Esther to church. I thought it
was worth seeing."
"Church is always worth seeing, George, and I hope your friend Mr. Hazard's sermon has done you good."
"It did me good to see Wharton there," answered George; "he looked as though it were a first representation,
and he were in a stage box. Hazard and he ought to have appeared before the curtain, hand in hand, and made