Charles M. Sheldon
"For hereunto were ye called; because Christ
also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that
ye should follow in his steps."
was Friday morning and the Rev. Henry Maxwell was
trying to finish his Sunday morning sermon. He had
been interrupted several times and was growing nervous
as the morning wore away, and the sermon grew very
slowly toward a satisfactory finish.
he called to his wife, as he went upstairs after the
last interruption, "if any one comes after this,
I wish you would say I am very busy and cannot come
down unless it is something very important."
Henry." But I am going over to visit the kindergarten
and you will have the house all to yourself."
The minister went up into his study and shut the door.
In a few minutes he heard his wife go out, and then
everything was quiet. He settled himself at his desk
with a sigh of relief and began to write. His text
was from 1_Peter 2:21: "For hereunto were ye
called; because Christ also suffered for you, leaving
you an example that ye should follow his steps."
He had emphasized in the first part of the sermon
the Atonement as a personal sacrifice, calling attention
to the fact of Jesus' suffering in various ways, in
His life as well as in His death. He had then gone
on to emphasize the Atonement from the side of example,
giving illustrations from the life and teachings of
Jesus to show how faith in the Christ helped to save
men because of the pattern or character He displayed
for their imitation. He was now on the third and last
point, the necessity of following Jesus in His sacrifice
He had put down "Three Steps. What are they?"
and was about to enumerate them in logical order when
the bell rang sharply. It was one of those clock-work
bells, and always went off as a clock might go if
it tried to strike twelve all at once.
Henry Maxwell sat at his desk and frowned a little.
He made no movement to answer the bell. Very soon
it rang again; then he rose and walked over to one
of his windows which commanded the view of the front
door. A man was standing on the steps. He was a young
man, very shabbily dressed.
like a tramp," said the minister. "I suppose
I'll have to go down and --"
He did not finish his sentence but he went downstairs
and opened the front door. There was a moment's pause
as the two men stood facing each other, then the shabby-looking
young man said:
out of a job, sir, and thought maybe you might put
me in the way of getting something."
don't know of anything. Jobs are scarce--" replied
the minister, beginning to shut the door slowly.
didn't know but you might perhaps be able to give
me a line to the city railway or the superintendent
of the shops, or something," continued the young
man, shifting his faded hat from one hand to the other
would be of no use. You will have to excuse me. I
am very busy this morning. I hope you will find something.
Sorry I can't give you something to do here. But I
keep only a horse and a cow and do the work myself."
The Rev. Henry Maxwell closed the door and heard the
man walk down the steps. As he went up into his study
he saw from his hall window that the man was going
slowly down the street, still holding his hat between
his hands. There was something in the figure so dejected,
homeless and forsaken that the minister hesitated
a moment as he stood looking at it. Then he turned
to his desk and with a sigh began the writing where
he had left off. He had no more interruptions, and
when his wife came in two hours later the sermon was
finished, the loose leaves gathered up and neatly
tied together, and laid on his Bible all ready for
the Sunday morning service.
queer thing happened at the kindergarten this morning,
Henry," said his wife while they were eating
dinner. "You know I went over with Mrs, Brown
to visit the school, and just after the games, while
the children were at the tables, the door opened and
a young man came in holding a dirty hat in both hands.
He sat down near the door and never said a word; only
looked at the children. He was evidently a tramp,
and Miss Wren and her assistant Miss Kyle were a little
frightened at first, but he sat there very quietly
and after a few minutes he went out."
he was tired and wanted to rest somewhere. The same
man called here, I think. Did you say he looked like
very dusty, shabby and generally tramp-like. Not more
than thirty or thirty-three years old, I should say."
same man," said the Rev. Henry Maxwell thoughtfully.
you finish your sermon, Henry?" his wife asked
after a pause.
all done. It has been a very busy week with me. The
two sermons have cost me a good deal of labor."
will be appreciated by a large audience, Sunday, I
hope," replied his wife smiling. "What are
you going to preach about in the morning?"
Christ. I take up the Atonement under the head of
sacrifice and example, and then show the steps needed
to follow His sacrifice and example."
am sure it is a good sermon. I hope it won't rain
Sunday. We have had so many stormy Sundays lately."
the audiences have been quite small for some time.
People will not come out to church in a storm."
The Rev. Henry Maxwell sighed as he said it. He was
thinking of the careful, laborious effort he had made
in preparing sermons for large audiences that failed
But Sunday morning dawned on the town of Raymond one
of the perfect days that sometimes come after long
periods of wind and mud and rain. The air was clear
and bracing, the sky was free from all threatening
signs, and every one in Mr. Maxwell's parish prepared
to go to church. When the service opened at eleven
o'clock the large building was filled with an audience
of the best- dressed, most comfortable looking people
The First Church of Raymond believed in having the
best music that money could buy, and its quartet choir
this morning was a source of great pleasure to the
congregation. The anthem was inspiring. All the music
was in keeping with the subject of the sermon. And
the anthem was an elaborate adaptation to the most
modern music of the hymn,
I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee."
Just before the sermon, the soprano sang a solo, the
He leads me I will follow,
I'll go with Him, with Him, all the way."
Rachel Winslow looked very beautiful that morning
as she stood up behind the screen of carved oak which
was significantly marked with the emblems of the cross
and the crown. Her voice was even more beautiful than
her face, and that meant a great deal. There was a
general rustle of expectation over the audience as
she rose. Mr. Maxwell settled himself contentedly
behind the pulpit. Rachel Winslow's singing always
helped him. He generally arranged for a song before
the sermon. It made possible a certain inspiration
of feeling that made his delivery more impressive.
People said to themselves they had never heard such
singing even in the First Church. It is certain that
if it had not been a church service, her solo would
have been vigorously applauded. It even seemed to
the minister when she sat down that something like
an attempted clapping of hands or a striking of feet
on the floor swept through the church. He was startled
by it. As he rose, however, and laid his sermon on
the Bible, he said to himself he had been deceived.
Of course it could not occur. In a few moments he
was absorbed in his sermon and everything else was
forgotten in the pleasure of his delivery.
No one had ever accused Henry Maxwell of being a dull
preacher. On the contrary, he had often been charged
with being sensational; not in what he had said so
much as in his way of saying it. But the First Church
people liked that. It gave their preacher and their
parish a pleasant distinction that was agreeable.
It was also true that the pastor of the First Church
loved to preach. He seldom exchanged. He was eager
to be in his own pulpit when Sunday came. There was
an exhilarating half hour for him as he faced a church
full of people and know that he had a hearing. He
was peculiarly sensitive to variations in the attendance.
He never preached well before a small audience. The
weather also affected him decidedly. He was at his
best before just such an audience as faced him now,
on just such a morning. He felt a glow of satisfaction
as he went on. The church was the first in the city.
It had the best choir. It had a membership composed
of the leading people, representatives of the wealth,
society and intelligence of Raymond. He was going
abroad on a three months vacation in the summer, and
the circumstances of his pastorate, his influence
and his position as pastor of the First Church in
the city --
It is not certain that the Rev. Henry Maxwell knew
just how he could carry on that thought in connection
with his sermon, but as he drew near the end of it
he knew that he had at some point in his delivery
had all those feelings. They had entered into the
very substance of his thought; it might have been
all in a few seconds of time, but he had been conscious
of defining his position and his emotions as well
as if he had held a soliloquy, and his delivery partook
of the thrill of deep personal satisfaction.
The sermon was interesting. It was full of striking
sentences. They would have commanded attention printed.
Spoken with the passion of a dramatic utterance that
had the good taste never to offend with a suspicion
of ranting or declamation, they were very effective.
If the Rev. Henry Maxwell that morning felt satisfied
with the conditions of his pastorate, the First Church
also had a similar feeling as it congratulated itself
on the presence in the pulpit of this scholarly, refined,
somewhat striking face and figure, preaching with
such animation and freedom from all vulgar, noisy
or disagreeable mannerism.
Suddenly, into the midst of this perfect accord and
concord between preacher and audience, there came
a very remarkable interruption. It would be difficult
to indicate the extent of the shock which this interruption
measured. It was so unexpected, so entirely contrary
to any thought of any person present that it offered
no room for argument or, for the time being, of resistance.
The sermon had come to a close. Mr. Maxwell had just
turned the half of the big Bible over upon his manuscript
and was about to sit down as the quartet prepared
to arise to sing the closing selection,
for Jesus, all for Jesus,
the entire congregation was startled by the sound
of a man's voice. It came from the rear of the church,
from one of the seats under the gallery. The next
moment the figure of a man came out of the shadow
there and walked down the middle aisle. Before the
startled congregation fairly realized what was going
on the man had reached the open space in front of
the pulpit and had turned about facing the people.
All my being's ransomed powers,..."
been wondering since I came in here" -- they
were the words he used under the gallery, and he repeated
them-- "if it would be just the thing to say
a word at the close of the service. I'm not drunk
and I'm not crazy, and I am perfectly harmless, but
if I die, as there is every likelihood I shall in
a few days, I want the satisfaction of thinking that
I said my say in a place like this, and before this
sort of a crowd."
Mr. Maxwell had not taken his seat, and he now remained
standing, leaning on his pulpit, looking down at the
stranger. It was the man who had come to his house
the Friday before, the same dusty, worn, shabby-looking
young man. He held his faded hat in his two hands.
It seemed to be a favorite gesture. He had not been
shaved and his hair was rough and tangled. It is doubtful
if any one like this had ever confronted the First
Church within the sanctuary. It was tolerably familiar
with this sort of humanity out on the street, around
the railroad shops, wandering up and down the avenue,
but it had never dreamed of such an incident as this
There was nothing offensive in the man's manner or
tone. He was not excited and he spoke in a low but
distinct voice. Mr. Maxwell was conscious, even as
he stood there smitten into dumb astonishment at the
event, that somehow the man's action reminded him
of a person he had once seen walking and talking in
No one in the house made any motion to stop the stranger
or in any way interrupt him. Perhaps the first shock
of his sudden appearance deepened into a genuine perplexity
concerning what was best to do. However that may be,
he went on as if he had no thought of interruption
and no thought of the unusual element which he had
introduced into the decorum of the First Church service.
And all the while he was speaking, the minister leaded
over the pulpit, his face growing more white and sad
every moment. But he made no movement to stop him,
and the people sat smitten into breathless silence.
One other face, that of Rachel Winslow from the choir,
stared white and intent down at the shabby figure
with the faded hat. Her face was striking at any time.
Under the pressure of the present unheard-of incident
it was as personally distinct as if it had been framed
not an ordinary tramp, though I don't know of any
teaching of Jesus that makes one kind of a tramp less
worth saving than another. Do you?" He put the
question as naturally as if the whole congregation
had been a small Bible class. He paused just a moment
and coughed painfully. Then he went on.
lost my job ten months ago. I am a printer by trade.
The new linotype machines are beautiful specimens
of invention, but I know six men who have killed themselves
inside of the year just on account of those machines.
Of course I don't blame the newspapers for getting
the machines. Meanwhile, what can a man do? I know
I never learned but the one trade, and that's all
I can do. I've tramped all over the country trying
to find something. There are a good many others like
me. I'm not complaining, am I? Just stating facts.
But I was wondering as I sat there under the gallery,
if what you call following Jesus is the same thing
as what He taught. What did He mean when He said:
'Follow Me!'? The minister said," -- here he
turned about and looked up at the pulpit -- "that
it is necessary for the disciple of Jesus to follow
His steps, and he said the steps are 'obedience, faith,
love and imitation.' But I did not hear him tell you
just what he meant that to mean, especially the last
step. What do you Christians mean by following the
steps of Jesus?
tramped through this city for three days trying to
find a job; and in all that time I've not had a word
of sympathy or comfort except from your minister here,
who said he was sorry for me and hoped I would find
a job somewhere. I suppose it is because you get so
imposed on by the professional tramp that you have
lost your interest in any other sort. I'm not blaming
anybody, am I? Just stating facts. Of course, I understand
you can't all go out of your way to hunt up jobs for
other people like me. I'm not asking you to; but what
I feel puzzled about is, what is meant by following
Jesus. What do you mean when you sing 'I'll go with
Him, with Him, all the way?' Do you mean that you
are suffering and denying yourselves and trying to
save lost, suffering humanity just as I understand
Jesus did? What do you mean by it? I see the ragged
edge of things a good deal. I understand there are
more than five hundred men in this city in my case.
Most of them have families. My wife died four months
ago. I'm glad she is out of trouble. My little girl
is staying with a printer's family until I find a
job. Somehow I get puzzled when I see so many Christians
living in luxury and singing 'Jesus, I my cross have
taken, all to leave and follow Thee,' and remember
how my wife died in a tenement in New York City, gasping
for air and asking God to take the little girl too.
Of course I don't expect you people can prevent every
one from dying of starvation, lack of proper nourishment
and tenement air, but what does following Jesus mean?
I understand that Christian people own a good many
of the tenements. A member of a church was the owner
of the one where my wife died, and I have wondered
if following Jesus all the way was true in his case.
I heard some people singing at a church prayer meeting
the other night,
'All for Jesus, all for Jesus,
I kept wondering as I sat on the steps outside just
what they meant by it. It seems to me there's an awful
lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn't
exist if all the people who sing such songs went and
lived them out. I suppose I don't understand. But
what would Jesus do? Is that what you mean by following
His steps? It seems to me sometimes as if the people
in the big churches had good clothes and nice houses
to live in, and money to spend for luxuries, and could
go away on summer vacations and all that, while the
people outside the churches, thousands of them, I
mean, die in tenements, and walk the streets for jobs,
and never have a piano or a picture in the house,
and grow up in misery and drunkenness and sin."
All my being's ransomed powers,
All my thoughts, and all my doings,
All my days, and all my hours.'
The man suddenly gave a queer lurch over in the direction
of the communion table and laid one grimy hand on
it. His hat fell upon the carpet at his feet. A stir
went through the congregation. Dr. West half rose
from his pew, but as yet the silence was unbroken
by any voice or movement worth mentioning in the audience.
The man passed his other hand across his eyes, and
then, without any warning, fell heavily forward on
his face, full length up the aisle. Henry Maxwell
will consider the service closed."
He was down the pulpit stairs and kneeling by the
prostrate form before any one else. The audience instantly
rose and the aisles were crowded. Dr. West pronounced
the man alive. He had fainted away. "Some heart
trouble," the doctor also muttered as he helped
carry him out into the pastor's study.