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Charles M. Sheldon
any man serve me, let him follow me."
was nearly midnight before the services at the Rectangle
closed. Gray stayed up long into Sunday morning, praying
and talking with a little group of converts who in the
great experiences of their new life, clung to the evangelist
with a personal helplessness that made it as impossible
for him to leave them as if they had been depending upon
him to save them from physical death. Among these converts
was Rollin Page.
Virginia and her uncle had gone home about eleven o'clock,
and Rachel and Jasper Chase had gone with them as far
as the avenue where Virginia lived. Dr. West had walked
on a little way with them to his own home, and Rachel
and Jasper had then gone on together to her mother's.
That was a little after eleven. It was now striking midnight,
and Jasper Chase sat in his room staring at the papers
on his desk and going over the last half hour with painful
He had told Rachel Winslow of his love for her, and she
had not given him her love in return. It would be difficult
to know what was most powerful in the impulse that had
moved him to speak to her tonight. He had yielded to his
feelings without any special thought of results to himself,
because he had felt so certain that Rachel would respond
to his love. He tried to recall the impression she made
on him when he first spoke to her.
Never had her beauty and her strength influenced him as
tonight. While she was singing he saw and heard no one
else. The tent swarmed with a confused crowd of faces
and he knew he was sitting there hemmed in by a mob of
people, but they had no meaning to him. He felt powerless
to avoid speaking to her. He knew he should speak when
they were alone.
Now that he had spoken, he felt that he had misjudged
either Rachel or the opportunity. He knew, or thought
he knew, that she had begun to care something for him.
It was no secret between them that the heroine of Jasper's
first novel had been his own ideal of Rachel, and the
hero in the story was himself and they had loved each
other in the book, and Rachel had not objected. No one
else knew. The names and characters had been drawn with
a subtle skill that revealed to Rachel, when she received
a copy of the book from Jasper, the fact of his love for
her, and she had not been offended. That was nearly a
Tonight he recalled the scene between them with every
inflection and movement unerased from his memory. He even
recalled the fact that he began to speak just at that
point on the avenue where, a few days before, he had met
Rachel walking with Rollin Page. He had wondered at the
time what Rollin was saying.
Jasper had said, and it was the first time he had ever
spoken her first name, "I never knew till tonight
how much I loved you. Why should I try to conceal any
longer what you have seen me look? You know I love you
as my life. I can no longer hide it from you if I would."
The first intimation he had of a repulse was the trembling
of Rachel's arm in his. She had allowed him to speak and
had neither turned her face toward him nor away from him.
She had looked straight on and her voice was sad but firm
and quiet when she spoke.
do you speak to me now? I cannot bear it -- after what
we have seen tonight."
-- what -- " he had stammered and then was silent.
Rachel withdrew her arm from his but still walked near
him. Then he had cried out with the anguish of one who
begins to see a great loss facing him where he expected
a great joy.
Do you not love me? Is not my love for you as sacred as
anything in all of life itself?"
She had walked silent for a few steps after that. They
passed a street lamp. Her face was pale and beautiful.
He had made a movement to clutch her arm and she had moved
a little farther from him.
she had replied. "There was a time I -- cannot answer
for that you -- should not have spoken to me -- now."
He had seen in these words his answer. He was extremely
sensitive. Nothing short of a joyous response to his own
love would ever have satisfied him. He could not think
of pleading with her.
time -- when I am more worthy?" he had asked in a
low voice, but she did not seem to hear, and they had
parted at her home, and he recalled vividly the fact that
no good-night had been said.
Now as he went over the brief but significant scene he
lashed himself for his foolish precipitancy. He had not
reckoned on Rachel's tense, passionate absorption of all
her feeling in the scenes at the tent which were so new
in her mind. But he did not know her well enough even
yet to understand the meaning of her refusal. When the
clock in the First Church struck one he was still sitting
at his desk staring at the last page of manuscript of
his unfinished novel.
Rachel went up to her room and faced her evening's experience
with conflicting emotions. Had she ever loved Jasper Chase?
Yes. No. One moment she felt that her life's happiness
was at stake over the result of her action. Another, she
had a strange feeling of relief that she had spoken as
she had. There was one great, overmastering feeling in
her. The response of the wretched creatures in the tent
to her singing, the swift, powerful, awesome presence
of the Holy Spirit had affected her as never in all her
life before. The moment Jasper had spoken her name and
she realized that he was telling her of his love she had
felt a sudden revulsion for him, as if he should have
respected the supernatural events they had just witnessed.
She felt as if it was not the time to be absorbed in anything
less than the divine glory of those conversions. The thought
that all the time she was singing, with the one passion
of her soul to touch the conscience of that tent full
of sin, Jasper Chase had been unmoved by it except to
love her for herself, gave her a shock as of irreverence
on her part as well as on his. She could not tell why
she felt as she did, only she knew that if he had not
told her tonight she would still have felt the same toward
him as she always had. What was that feeling? What had
he been to her? Had she made a mistake? She went to her
book case and took out the novel which Jasper had given
her. Her face deepened in color as she turned to certain
passages which she had read often and which she knew Jasper
had written for her. She read them again. Somehow they
failed to touch her strongly. She closed the book and
let it lie on the table. She gradually felt that her thought
was busy with the sights she had witnessed in the tent.
Those faces, men and women, touched for the first time
with the Spirit's glory -- what a wonderful thing life
was after all! The complete regeneration revealed in the
sight of drunken, vile, debauched humanity kneeling down
to give itself to a life of purity and Christlikeness
-- oh, it was surely a witness to the superhuman in the
world! And the face of Rollin Page by the side of that
miserable wreck out of the gutter! She could recall as
if she now saw it, Virginia crying with her arms about
her brother just before she left the tent, and Mr. Gray
kneeling close by, and the girl Virginia had taken into
her heart while she whispered something to her before
she went out. All these pictures drawn by the Holy Spirit
in the human tragedies brought to a climax there in the
most abandoned spot in all Raymond, stood out in Rachel's
memory now, a memory so recent that her room seemed for
the time being to contain all the actors and their movements.
No!" she said aloud. "He had no right to speak
after all that! He should have respected the place where
our thoughts should have been. I am sure I do not love
him -- not enough to give him my life!"
And after she had thus spoken, the evening's experience
at the tent came crowding in again, thrusting out all
other things. It is perhaps the most striking evidence
of the tremendous spiritual factor which had now entered
the Rectangle that Rachel felt, even when the great love
of a strong man had come very near to her, that the spiritual
manifestation moved her with an agitation far greater
than anything Jasper had felt for her personally or she
The people of Raymond awoke Sunday morning to a growing
knowledge of events which were beginning to revolutionize
many of the regular, customary habits of the town. Alexander
Powers' action in the matter of the railroad frauds had
created a sensation not only in Raymond but throughout
the country. Edward Norman's daily changes of policy in
the conduct of his paper had startled the community and
caused more comment than any recent political event. Rachel
Winslow's singing at the Rectangle meetings had made a
stir in society and excited the wonder of all her friends.
Virginia's conduct, her presence every night with Rachel,
her absence from the usual circle of her wealthy, fashionable
acquaintances, had furnished a great deal of material
for gossip and question. In addition to these events which
centered about these persons who were so well known, there
had been all through the city in very many homes and in
business and social circles strange happenings. Nearly
one hundred persons in Henry Maxwell's church had made
the pledge to do everything after asking: "What would
Jesus do?" and the result had been, in many cases,
unheard-of actions. The city was stirred as it had never
been before. As a climax to the week's events had come
the spiritual manifestation at the Rectangle, and the
announcement which came to most people before church time
of the actual conversion at the tent of nearly fifty of
the worst characters in that neighborhood, together with
the con version of Rollin Page, the well-known society
and club man.
It is no wonder that under the pressure of all this the
First Church of Raymond came to the morning service in
a condition that made it quickly sensitive to any large
truth. Perhaps nothing had astonished the people more
than the great change that had come over the minister,
since he had proposed to them the imitation of Jesus in
conduct. The dramatic delivery of his sermons no longer
impressed them. The self- satisfied, contented, easy attitude
of the fine figure and refined face in the pulpit had
been displaced by a manner that could not be compared
with the old style of his delivery. The sermon had become
a message. It was no longer delivered. It was brought
to them with a love, an earnestness, a passion, a desire,
a humility that poured its enthusiasm about the truth
and made the speaker no more prominent than he had to
be as the living voice of God. His prayers were unlike
any the people had heard before. They were often broken,
even once or twice they had been actually ungrammatical
in a phrase or two. When had Henry Maxwell so far forgotten
himself in a prayer as to make a mistake of that sort?
He knew that he had often taken as much pride in the diction
and delivery of his prayers as of his sermons. Was it
possible he now so abhorred the elegant refinement of
a formal public petition that he purposely chose to rebuke
himself for his previous precise manner of prayer? It
is more likely that he had no thought of all that. His
great longing to voice the needs and wants of his people
made him unmindful of an occasional mistake. It is certain
that he had never prayed so effectively as he did now.
There are times when a sermon has a value and power due
to conditions in the audience rather than to anything
new or startling or eloquent in the words said or arguments
presented. Such conditions faced Henry Maxwell this morning
as he preached against the saloon, according to his purpose
determined on the week before. He had no new statements
to make about the evil influence of the saloon in Raymond.
What new facts were there? He had no startling illustrations
of the power of the saloon in business or politics. What
could he say that had not been said by temperance orators
a great many times? The effect of his message this morning
owed its power to the unusual fact of his preaching about
the saloon at all, together with the events that had stirred
the people. He had never in the course of his ten years'
pastorate mentioned the saloon as something to be regarded
in the light of an enemy, not only to the poor and tempted,
but to the business life of the place and the church itself.
He spoke now with a freedom that seemed to measure his
complete sense of conviction that Jesus would speak so.
At the close he pleaded with the people to remember the
new life that had begun at the Rectangle. The regular
election of city officers was near at hand. The question
of license would be an issue in the election. What of
the poor creatures surrounded by the hell of drink while
just beginning to feel the joy of deliverance from sin?
Who could tell what depended on their environment? Was
there one word to be said by the Christian disciple, business
man, citizen, in favor of continuing the license to crime
and shame-producing institutions? Was not the most Christian
thing they could do to act as citizens in the matter,
fight the saloon at the polls, elect good men to the city
offices, and clean the municipality? How much had prayers
helped to make Raymond better while votes and actions
had really been on the side of the enemies of Jesus? Would
not Jesus do this? What disciple could imagine Him refusing
to suffer or to take up His cross in this matter? How
much had the members of the First Church ever suffered
in an attempt to imitate Jesus? Was Christian discipleship
a thing of conscience simply, of custom, of tradition?
Where did the suffering come in? Was it necessary in order
to follow Jesus' steps to go up Calvary as well as the
Mount of Transfiguration?
His appeal was stronger at this point than he knew. It
is not too much to say that the spiritual tension of the
people reached its highest point right there. The imitation
of Jesus which had begun with the volunteers in the church
was working like leaven in the organization, and Henry
Maxwell would even thus early in his life have been amazed
if he could have measured the extent of desire on the
part of his people to take up the cross. While he was
speaking this morning, before he closed with a loving
appeal to the discipleship of two thousand years' knowledge
of the Master, many a man and woman in the church was
saying as Rachel had said so passionately to her mother:
"I want to do something that will cost me something
in the way of sacrifice." "I am hungry to suffer
something." Truly, Mazzini was right when he said
that no appeal is quite so powerful in the end as the
call: "Come and suffer."
The service was over, the great audience had gone, and
Maxwell again faced the company gathered in the lecture
room as on the two previous Sundays. He had asked all
to remain who had made the pledge of discipleship, and
any others who wished to be included. The after service
seemed now to be a necessity. As he went in and faced
the people there his heart trembled. There were at least
one hundred present. The Holy Spirit was never before
so manifest. He missed Jasper Chase. But all the others
were present. He asked Milton Wright to pray. The very
air was charged with divine possibilities. What could
resist such a baptism of power? How had they lived all
these years without it?
They counseled together and there were many prayers. Henry
Maxwell dated from that meeting some of the serious events
that afterward became a part of the history of the First
Church and of Raymond. When finally they went home, all
of them were impressed with the glory of the Spirit's