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THE MINISTER'S GARDEN.
Up and down the garden paced the pastor, stung by the gadflies of debt. If he were in London he could sell his watch and seals; he had a ring somewhere, too--an antique, worth what now seemed a good deal; but his wife had given him both. Besides, it would cost so much to go to London, and he had no money. Mr. Drew, doubtless, would lend him what he wanted, but he could not bring himself to ask him. If he parted with them in Glaston, they would be put in the watchmaker's window, and that would be a scandal--with the Baptists making head in the very next street! For, notwithstanding the heartless way in which the Congregationalists had treated him, theirs was the cause of scriptural Christianity, and it made him shudder to think of bringing the smallest discredit upon the denomination. The church-butcher was indeed a worse terror to him than Apollyon had been to Christian, for it seemed to his faithlessness that not even the weapon of All-prayer was equal to his discomfiture; nothing could render him harmless but the payment of his bill. He began to look back with something like horror upon the sermons he had preached on honesty; for how would his inability to pay his debts appear in the eyes of those who had heard them? Oh! why had he not paid for every thing as they had it? Then when the time came that he could not pay, they would only have had to go without, whereas now, there was the bill louring at the back of the want!
When Miss Drake returned from the chapel, she found her father leaning on the sun-dial, where she had left him. To all appearance he had not moved. He knew her step but did not stir.
"Father!" she said.
"It is a hard thing, my child," he responded, still without moving, "when the valley of Humiliation comes next the river Death, and no land of Beulah between! I had my good things in my youth, and now I have my evil things."
She laid her hand on his shoulder lovingly, tenderly, worshipfully, but did not speak.
"As you see me now, my Dorothy, my God's-gift, you would hardly believe your father was once a young and popular preacher, ha, ha! Fool that I was! I thought they prized my preaching, and loved me for what I taught them. I thought I was somebody! With shame I confess it! Who were they, or what was their judgment, to fool me in my own concerning myself! Their praise was indeed a fit rock for me to build my shame upon."
"But, father dear, what is even a sin when it is repented of?"
"A shame forever, my child. Our Lord did not cast out even an apostle for his conceit and self-sufficiency, but he let him fall."
"He has not let you fall, father?" said Dorothy, with tearful eyes.
"He is bringing my gray hairs with sorrow and shame to the grave, my child."
"Why, father!" cried the girl, shocked, as she well might be, at his words, "what have I done to make you say that?"
"Done, my darling! you done? You have done nothing but righteousness ever since you could do any thing! You have been like a mother to your old father. It is that bill! that horrid butcher's bill!"
Dorothy burst out laughing through her dismay, and wept and laughed together for more than a minute ere she could recover herself.
"Father! you dear father! you're too good to live! Why, there are forks and spoons enough in the house to pay that paltry bill!--not to mention the cream-jug which is, and the teapot which we thought was silver, because Lady Sykes gave it us. Why didn't you tell me what was troubling you, father dear?"
"I can't bear--I never could bear to owe money. I asked the man for his bill some time ago. I could have paid it then, though it wouldn't have left me a pound. The moment I looked at it, I felt as if the Lord had forsaken me. It is easy for you to bear; you are not the one accountable. I am. And if the pawnbroker or the silver-smith does stand between me and absolute dishonesty, yet to find myself in such a miserable condition, with next to nothing between us and the workhouse, may well make me doubt whether I have been a true servant of the Lord, for surely such shall never be ashamed! During these last days the enemy has even dared to tempt me with the question, whether after all, these unbelievers may not be right, and the God that ruleth in the earth a mere projection of what the conscience and heart bribe the imagination to construct for them!"
"I wouldn't think that before I was driven to it, father," said Dorothy, scarcely knowing what she said, for his doubt shot a poisoned arrow of despair into the very heart of her heart.
He, never doubting the security of his child's faith, had no slightest suspicion into what a sore spot his words had carried torture. He did not know that the genius of doubt--shall I call him angel or demon?--had knocked at her door, had called through her window; that words dropped by Faber, indicating that science was against all idea of a God, and the confidence of their tone, had conjured up in her bosom hollow fears, faint dismays, and stinging questions. Ready to trust, and incapable of arrogance, it was hard for her to imagine how a man like Mr. Faber, upright and kind and self-denying, could say such things if he did not know them true. The very word science appeared to carry an awful authority. She did not understand that it was only because science had never come closer to Him than the mere sight of the fringe of the outermost folds of the tabernacle of His presence, that her worshipers dared assert there was no God. She did not perceive that nothing ever science could find, could possibly be the God of men; that science is only the human reflex of truth, and that truth itself can not be measured by what of it is reflected from the mirror of the understanding. She did not see that no incapacity of science to find God, even touched the matter of honest men's belief that He made His dwelling with the humble and contrite. Nothing she had learned from her father either provided her with reply, or gave hope of finding argument of discomfiture; nothing of all that went on at chapel or church seemed to have any thing to do with the questions that presented themselves.
Such a rough shaking of so-called faith, has been of endless service to many, chiefly by exposing the insecurity of all foundations of belief, save that which is discovered in digging with the spade of obedience. Well indeed is it for all honest souls to be thus shaken, who have been building upon doctrines concerning Christ, upon faith, upon experiences, upon any thing but Christ Himself, as revealed by Himself and His spirit to all who obey Him, and so revealing the Father--a doctrine just as foolish as the rest to men like Faber, but the power of God and the wisdom of God to such who know themselves lifted out of darkness and an ever-present sense of something wrong--if it be only into twilight and hope.
Dorothy was a gift of God, and the trouble that gnawed at her heart she would not let out to gnaw at her father's.
"There's Ducky come to call us to dinner," she said, and rising, went to meet her.
"Dinner!" groaned Mr. Drake, and would have remained where he was. But for Dorothy's sake he rose and followed her, feeling almost like a repentant thief who had stolen the meal.
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