Twice Told Tales HTML version

Sunday At Home
Every Sabbath morning in the summer-time I thrust back the curtain to watch the sunrise
stealing down a steeple which stands opposite my chamber window. First the
weathercock begins to flash; then a fainter lustre gives the spire an airy aspect; next it
encroaches on the tower and causes the index of the dial to glisten like gold as it points to
the gilded figure of the hour. Now the loftiest window gleams, and now the lower. The
carved framework of the portal is marked strongly out. At length the morning glory in its
descent from heaven comes down the stone steps one by one, and there stands the steeple
glowing with fresh radiance, while the shades of twilight still hide themselves among the
nooks of the adjacent buildings. Methinks though the same sun brightens it every fair
morning, yet the steeple has a peculiar robe of brightness for the Sabbath.
By dwelling near a church a person soon contracts an attachment for the edifice. We
naturally personify it, and conceive its massy walls and its dim emptiness to be instinct
with a calm and meditative and somewhat melancholy spirit. But the steeple stands
foremost in our thoughts, as well as locally. It impresses us as a giant with a mind
comprehensive and discriminating enough to care for the great and small concerns of all
the town. Hourly, while it speaks a moral to the few that think, it reminds thousands of
busy individuals of their separate and most secret affairs. It is the steeple, too, that flings
abroad the hurried and irregular accents of general alarm; neither have gladness and
festivity found a better utterance than by its tongue; and when the dead are slowly
passing to their home, the steeple has a melancholy voice to bid them welcome. Yet, in
spite of this connection with human interests, what a moral loneliness on week-days
broods round about its stately height! It has no kindred with the houses above which it
towers; it looks down into the narrow thoroughfare—the lonelier because the crowd are
elbowing their passage at its base. A glance at the body of the church deepens this
impression. Within, by the light of distant windows, amid refracted shadows we discern
the vacant pews and empty galleries, the silent organ, the voiceless pulpit and the clock
which tells to solitude how time is passing. Time—where man lives not—what is it but
eternity? And in the church, we might suppose, are garnered up throughout the week all
thoughts and feelings that have reference to eternity, until the holy day comes round
again to let them forth. Might not, then, its more appropriate site be in the outskirts of the
town, with space for old trees to wave around it and throw their solemn shadows over a
quiet green? We will say more of this hereafter.
But on the Sabbath I watch the earliest sunshine and fancy that a holier brightness marks
the day when there shall be no buzz of voices on the Exchange nor traffic in the shops,
nor crowd nor business anywhere but at church. Many have fancied so. For my own part,
whether I see it scattered down among tangled woods, or beaming broad across the fields,
or hemmed in between brick buildings, or tracing out the figure of the casement on my
chamber floor, still I recognize the Sabbath sunshine. And ever let me recognize it! Some
illusions—and this among them—are the shadows of great truths. Doubts may flit around
me or seem to close their evil wings and settle down, but so long as I imagine that the
earth is hallowed and the light of heaven retains its sanctity on the Sabbath—while that