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Charles M. Sheldon
AM just back from a visit to Raymond," Dr. Bruce began,
"and I want to tell you something of my impressions of the
He paused and his look went out over his people with yearning
for them and at the same time with a great uncertainty at
his heart. How many of his rich, fashionable, refined, luxury-loving
members would understand the nature of the appeal he was
soon to make to them? He was altogether in the dark as to
that. Nevertheless he had been through his desert, and had
come out of it ready to suffer. He went on now after that
brief pause and told them the story of his stay in Raymond.
The people already knew something of that experiment in
the First Church. The whole country had watched the progress
of the pledge as it had become history in so many lives.
Mr. Maxwell had at last decided that the time had come to
seek the fellowship of other churches throughout the country.
The new discipleship in Raymond had proved to be so valuable
in its results that he wished the churches in general to
share with the disciples in Raymond. Already there had begun
a volunteer movement in many churches throughout the country,
acting on their own desire to walk closer in the steps of
Jesus. The Christian Endeavor Society had, with enthusiasm,
in many churches taken the pledge to do as Jesus would do,
and the result was already marked in a deeper spiritual
life and a power in church influence that was like a new
birth for the members.
All this Dr. Bruce told his people simply and with a personal
interest that evidently led the way to the announcement
which now followed. Felicia had listened to every word with
strained attention. She sat there by the side of Rose, in
contrast like fire beside snow, although even Rose was alert
and as excited as she could be.
friends," he said, and for the first time since his prayer
the emotion of the occasion was revealed in his voice and
gesture, "I am going to ask that Nazareth Avenue Church
take the same pledge that Raymond Church has taken. I know
what this will mean to you and me. It will mean the complete
change of very many habits. It will mean, possibly, social
loss. It will mean very probably, in many cases, loss of
money. It will mean suffering. It will mean what following
Jesus meant in the first century, and then it meant suffering,
loss, hardship, separation from everything un-Christian.
But what does following Jesus mean? The test of discipleship
is the same now as then. Those of us who volunteer in this
church to do as Jesus would do, simply promise to walk in
His steps as He gave us commandment."
Again he paused, and now the result of his announcement
was plainly visible in the stir that went up over the, congregation.
He added in a quiet voice that all who volunteered to make
the pledge to do as Jesus would do, were asked to remain
after the morning service.
Instantly he proceeded with his sermon. His text was, "Master,
I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." It was a sermon
that touched the deep springs of conduct; it was a revelation
to the people of the definition their pastor had been learning;
it took them back to the first century of Christianity;
above all, it stirred them below the conventional thought
of years as to the meaning and purpose of church membership.
It was such a sermon as a man can preach once in a lifetime,
and with enough in it for people to live on all through
the rest of their lifetime.
The service closed in a hush that was slowly broken. People
rose here and there, a few at a time. There was a reluctance
in the movements of some that was very striking. Rose, however,
walked straight out of the pew, and as she reached the aisle
she turned her head and beckoned to Felicia. By that time
the congregation was rising all over the church. "I am going
to stay," she said, and Rose had heard her speak in the
same manner on other occasions, and knew that her resolve
could not be changed. Nevertheless she went back into the
pew two or three steps and faced her.
she whispered, and there was a flush of anger on her cheeks,
"this is folly. What can you do? You will bring some disgrace
on the family. What will father say? Come!"
Felicia looked at her but did not answer at once. Her lips
were moving with a petition that came from the depth of
feeling that measured a new life for her. She shocked her
I am going to stay. I shall take the pledge. I am ready
to obey it. You do not know why I am doing this."
Rose gave her one look and then turned and went out of the
pew, and down the aisle. She did not even stop to talk with
her acquaintances. Mrs. Delano was going out of the church
just as Rose stepped into the vestibule.
you are not going to join Dr. Bruce's volunteer company?"
Mrs. Delano asked, in a queer tone that made Rose redden.
are you? It is simply absurd. I have always regarded that
Raymond movement as fanatical. You know cousin Rachel keeps
us posted about it."
I understand it is resulting in a great deal of hardship
in many cases. For my part, I believe Dr. Bruce has simply
provoked disturbance here. It will result in splitting our
church. You see if it isn't so. There are scores of people
in the church who are so situated that they can't take such
a pledge and keep it. I am one of them," added Mrs. Delano
as she went out with Rose.
When Rose reached home, her father was standing in his usual
attitude before the open fireplace, smoking a cigar.
is Felicia?" he asked as Rose came in.
stayed to an after-meeting," replied Rose shortly. She threw
off her wraps and was going upstairs when Mr. Sterling called
after-meeting? What do you mean?"
Bruce asked the church to take the Raymond pledge."
Mr. Sterling took his cigar out of his mouth and twirled
it nervously between his fingers.
didn't expect that of Dr. Bruce. Did many of the members
don't know. I didn't," replied Rose, and she went upstairs
leaving her father standing in the drawing-room.
After a few moments he went to the window and stood there
looking out at the people driving on the boulevard. His
cigar had gone out, but he still fingered it nervously.
Then he turned from the window and walked up and down the
room. A servant stepped across the hall and announced dinner
and he told her to wait for Felicia. Rose came downstairs
and went into the library. And still Mr. Sterling paced
the drawing-room restlessly.
He had finally wearied of the walking apparently, and throwing
himself into a chair was brooding over something deeply
when Felicia came in.
He rose and faced her. Felicia was evidently very much moved
by the meeting from which she had just come. At the same
time she did not wish to talk too much about it. Just as
she entered the drawing-room, Rose came in from the library.
many stayed?" she asked. Rose was curious. At the same time
she was skeptical of the whole movement in Raymond.
a hundred," replied Felicia gravely. Mr. Sterling looked
surprised. Felicia was going out of the room, but he called
to her: "Do you really mean to keep the pledge?" he asked.
Felicia colored. Over her face and neck the warm blood flowed
and she answered, "You would not ask such a question, father,
if you had been at the meeting." She lingered a moment in
the room, then asked to be excused from dinner for a while
and went up to see her mother.
No one but they two ever knew what that interview between
Felicia and her mother was. It is certain that she must
have told her mother something of the spiritual power that
had awed every person present in the company of disciples
who faced Dr. Bruce in that meeting after the morning service.
It is also certain that Felicia had never before known such
an experience, and would never have thought of sharing it
with her mother if it had not been for the prayer the evening
before. Another fact is also known of Felicia's experience
at this time. When she finally joined her father and Rose
at the table she seemed unable to tell them much about the
meeting. There was a reluctance to speak of it as one might
hesitate to attempt a description of a wonderful sunset
to a person who never talked about anything but the weather.
When that Sunday in the Sterling mansion was drawing to
a close and the soft, warm lights throughout the dwelling
were glowing through the great windows, in a corner of her
room, where the light was obscure, Felicia kneeled, and
when she raised her face and turned it towards the light,
it was the face of a woman who had already defined for herself
the greatest issues of earthly life.
That same evening, after the Sunday evening service, Dr.
Bruce was talking over the events of the day with his wife.
They were of one heart and mind in the matter, and faced
their new future with all the faith and courage of new disciples.
Neither was deceived as to the probable results of the pledge
to themselves or to the church.
They had been talking but a little while when the bell rang
and Dr. Bruce going to the door exclaimed, as he opened
it: "It is you, Edward! Come in."
There came into the hall a commanding figure. The Bishop
was of extraordinary height and breadth of shoulder, but
of such good proportions that there was no thought of ungainly
or even of unusual size. The impression the Bishop made
on strangers was, first, that of great health, and then
of great affection.
He came into the parlor and greeted Mrs. Bruce, who after
a few moments was called out of the room, leaving the two
men together. The Bishop sat in a deep, easy chair before
the open fire. There was just enough dampness in the early
spring of the year to make an open fire pleasant.
you have taken a very serious step today," he finally said,
lifting his large dark eyes to his old college classmate's
face. "I heard of it this afternoon. I could not resist
the desire to see you about it tonight."
glad you came." Dr. Bruce laid a hand on the Bishop's shoulder.
"You understand what this means, Edward?"
think I do. Yes, I am sure." The Bishop spoke very slowly
and thoughtfully. He sat with his hands clasped together.
Over his face, marked with lines of consecration and service
and the love of men, a shadow crept, a shadow not caused
by the firelight. Once more he lifted his eyes toward his
we have always understood each other. Ever since our paths
led us in different ways in church life we have walked together
in Christian fellowship--."
is true," replied Dr. Bruce with an emotion he made no attempt
to conceal or subdue. "Thank God for it. I prize your fellowship
more than any other man's. I have always known what it meant,
though it has always been more than I deserve."
The Bishop looked affectionately at his friend. But the
shadow still rested on his face. After a pause he spoke
again: "The new discipleship means a crisis for you in your
work. If you keep this pledge to do all things as Jesus
would do -- as I know you will -- it requires no prophet
to predict some remarkable changes in your parish." The
Bishop looked wistfully at his friend and then continued:
"In fact, I do not see how a perfect upheaval of Christianity,
as we now know it, can be prevented if the ministers and
churches generally take the Raymond pledge and live it out."
He paused as if he were waiting for his friend to say something,
to ask some question. But Bruce did not know of the fire
that was burning in the Bishop's heart over the very question
that Maxwell and himself had fought out.
in my church, for instance," continued the Bishop, "it would
be rather a difficult matter, I fear, to find very many
people who would take a pledge like that and live up to
it. Martyrdom is a lost art with us. Our Christianity loves
its ease and comfort too well to take up anything so rough
and heavy as a cross. And yet what does following Jesus
mean? What is it to walk in His steps?"
The Bishop was soliloquizing now and it is doubtful if he
thought, for the moment, of his friend's presence. For the
first time there flashed into Dr. Bruce's mind a suspicion
of the truth. What if the Bishop would throw the weight
of his great influence on the side of the Raymond movement?
He had the following of the most aristocratic, wealthy,
fashionable people, not only in Chicago, but in several
large cities. What if the Bishop should join this new discipleship!
The thought was about to be followed by the word. Dr. Bruce
had reached out his hand and with the familiarity of lifelong
friendship had placed it on the Bishop's shoulder and was
about to ask a very important question, when they were both
startled by the violent ringing of the bell. Mrs. Bruce
had gone to the door and was talking with some one in the
hall. There was a loud exclamation and then, as the Bishop
rose and Bruce was stepping toward the curtain that hung
before the entrance to the parlor, Mrs. Bruce pushed it
aside. Her face was white and she was trembling.
Calvin! Such terrible news! Mr. Sterling -- oh, I cannot
tell it! What a blow to those girls!" "What is it?" Mr.
Bruce advanced with the Bishop into the hall and confronted
the messenger, a servant from the Sterlings. The man was
without his hat and had evidently run over with the news,
as Dr. Bruce lived nearest of any intimate friends of the
Sterling shot himself, sir, a few minutes ago. He killed
himself in his bed-room. Mrs. Sterling--"
will go right over, Edward. Will you go with me? The Sterlings
are old friends of yours."'
The Bishop was very pale, but calm as always. He looked
his friend in the face and answered: "Aye, Calvin, I will
go with you not only to this house of death, but also the
whole way of human sin and sorrow, please God."
And even in that moment of horror at the unexpected news,
Dr. Bruce understood what the Bishop had promised to do.