Paul Faber, Surgeon

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The chapel in the park at Nestley, having as yet received no color, and having no organ or choir, was a cold, uninteresting little place. It was neat, but had small beauty, and no history. Yet even already had begun to gather in the hearts of two or three of the congregation a feeling of quiet sacredness about it: some soft airs of the spirit-wind had been wandering through their souls as they sat there and listened. And a gentle awe, from old associations with lay worship, stole like a soft twilight over Juliet as she entered. Even the antral dusk of an old reverence may help to form the fitting mood through which shall slide unhindered the still small voice that makes appeal to what of God is yet awake in the soul. There were present about a score of villagers, and the party from the house.

Clad in no vestments of office, but holding in his hand the New Testament, which was always held either there or in his pocket, Wingfold rose to speak. He read:

"_Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be know_."

Then at once he began to show them, in the simplest interpretation, that the hypocrite was one who pretended to be what he was not; who tried or consented to look other and better than he was. That a man, from unwillingness to look at the truth concerning himself, might be but half-consciously assenting to the false appearance, would, he said, nowise serve to save him from whatever of doom was involved in this utterance of our Lord concerning the crime. These words of explanation and caution premised, he began at the practical beginning, and spoke a few forceful things on the necessity of absolute truth as to fact in every communication between man and man, telling them that, so far as he could understand His words recorded, our Lord's objection to swearing lay chiefly in this, that it encouraged untruthfulness, tending to make a man's yea less than yea, his nay other than nay. He said that many people who told lies every day, would be shocked when they discovered that they were liars; and that their lying must be discovered, for the Lord said so. Every untruthfulness was a passing hypocrisy, and if they would not come to be hypocrites out and out, they must begin to avoid it by speaking every man the truth to his neighbor. If they did not begin at once to speak the truth, they must grow worse and worse liars. The Lord called hypocrisy leaven, because of its irresistible, perhaps as well its unseen, growth and spread; he called it the leaven of the Pharisees, because it was the all-pervading quality of their being, and from them was working moral dissolution in the nation, eating like a canker into it, by infecting with like hypocrisy all who looked up to them.

"Is it not a strange drift, this of men," said the curate, "to hide what is, under the veil of what is not? to seek refuge in lies, as if that which is not, could be an armor of adamant? to run from the daylight for safety, deeper into the cave? In the cave house the creatures of the night--the tigers and hyenas, the serpent and the old dragon of the dark; in the light are true men and women, and the clear-eyed angels. But the reason is only too plain; it is, alas! that they are themselves of the darkness and not of the light. They do not fear their own. They are more comfortable with the beasts of darkness than with the angels of light. They dread the peering of holy eyes into their hearts; they feel themselves naked and fear to be ashamed, therefore cast the garment of hypocrisy about them. They have that in them so strange to the light that they feel it must be hidden from the eye of day, as a thing hideous, that is, a thing to be hidden. But the hypocrisy is worse than all it would hide. That they have to hide again, as a more hideous thing still.

"God hides nothing. His very work from the beginning is revelation--a casting aside of veil after veil, a showing unto men of truth after truth. On and on, from fact to fact divine He advances, until at length in His Son Jesus, He unveils His very face. Then begins a fresh unveiling, for the very work of the Father is the work the Son Himself has to do--to reveal. His life was the unveiling of Himself, and the unveiling of the Son is still going on, and is that for the sake of which the world exists. When He is unveiled, that is, when we know the Son, we shall know the Father also. The whole of creation, its growth, its history, the gathering total of human existence, is an unveiling of the Father. He is the life, the eternal life, the Only. I see it--ah! believe me--I see it as I can not say it. From month to month it grows upon me. The lovely home-light, the One essence of peaceful being, is God Himself.

"He loves light and not darkness, therefore shines, therefore reveals. True, there are infinite gulfs in Him, into which our small vision can not pierce, but they are gulfs of light, and the truths there are invisible only through excess of their own clarity. There is a darkness that comes of effulgence, and the most veiling of all veils is the light. That for which the eye exists is light, but through light no human eye can pierce.--I find myself beyond my depth. I am ever beyond my depth, afloat in an infinite sea; but the depth of the sea knows me, for the ocean of my being is God.--What I would say is this, that the light is not blinding because God would hide, but because the truth is too glorious for our vision. The effulgence of Himself God veiled that He might unveil it--in his Son. Inter-universal spaces, aeons, eternities--what word of vastness you can find or choose--take unfathomable darkness itself, if you will, to express the infinitude of God, that original splendor existing only to the consciousness of God Himself--I say He hides it not, but is revealing it ever, forever, at all cost of labor, yea of pain to Himself. His whole creation is a sacrificing of Himself to the being and well-being of His little ones, that, being wrought out at last into partakers of His divine nature, that nature may be revealed in them to their divinest bliss. He brings hidden things out of the light of His own being into the light of ours.

"But see how different we are--until we learn of Him! See the tendency of man to conceal his treasures, to claim even truth as his own by discovery, to hide it and be proud of it, gloating over that which he thinks he has in himself, instead of groaning after the infinite of God! We would be forever heaping together possessions, dragging things into the cave of our finitude, our individual self, not perceiving that the things which pass that dreariest of doors, whatever they may have been, are thenceforth but 'straws, small sticks, and dust of the floor.' When a man would have a truth in thither as if it were of private interpretation, he drags in only the bag which the truth, remaining outside, has burst and left.

"Nowhere are such children of darkness born as in the caves of hypocrisy; nowhere else can a man revel with such misshapen hybrids of religion and sin. But, as one day will be found, I believe, a strength of physical light before which even solid gold or blackest marble becomes transparent, so is there a spiritual light before which all veils of falsehood shall shrivel up and perish and cease to hide; so that, in individual character, in the facts of being, in the densest of Pharisaical hypocrisy, there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, nothing hid that shall not be known.

"If then, brother or sister, thou hast that which would be hidden, make haste and drag the thing from its covert into the presence of thy God, thy Light, thy Saviour, that, if it be in itself good, it may be cleansed; if evil, it may be stung through and through with the burning arrows of truth, and perish in glad relief. For the one bliss of an evil thing is to perish and pass; the evil thing, and that alone, is the natural food of Death--nothing else will agree with the monster. If we have such foul things, I say, within the circumference of our known selves, we must confess the charnel-fact to ourselves and to God; and if there be any one else who has a claim to know it, to that one also must we confess, casting out the vile thing that we may be clean. Let us make haste to open the doors of our lips and the windows of our humility, to let out the demon of darkness, and in the angels of light--so abjuring the evil. Be sure that concealment is utterly, absolutely hopeless. If we do not thus ourselves open our house, the day will come when a roaring blast of His wind, or the flame of His keen lightning, will destroy every defense of darkness, and set us shivering before the universe in our naked vileness; for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be known. Ah! well for man that he can not hide! What vaults of uncleanness, what sinks of dreadful horrors, would not the souls of some of us grow! But for every one of them, as for the universe, comes the day of cleansing. Happy they who hasten it! who open wide the doors, take the broom in the hand, and begin to sweep! The dust may rise in clouds; the offense may be great; the sweeper may pant and choke, and weep, yea, grow faint and sick with self-disgust; but the end will be a clean house, and the light and wind of Heaven shining and blowing clear and fresh and sweet through all its chambers. Better so, than have a hurricane from God burst in doors and windows, and sweep from his temple with the besom of destruction every thing that loveth and maketh a lie. Brothers, sisters, let us be clean. The light and the air around us are God's vast purifying furnace; out into it let us cast all hypocrisy. Let us be open-hearted, and speak every man the truth to his neighbor. Amen."

The faces of the little congregation had been staring all the time at the speaker's, as the flowers of a little garden stare at the sun. Like a white lily that had begun to fade, that of Juliet had drawn the eyes of the curate, as the whitest spot always will. But it had drawn his heart also. Had her troubles already begun, poor girl? he thought. Had the sweet book of marriage already begun to give out its bitterness?

It was not just so. Marriage was good to her still. Not yet, though but a thing of this world, as she and her husband were agreed, had it begun to grow stale and wearisome. She was troubled. It was with no reaction against the opinions to which she had practically yielded; but not the less had the serpent of the truth bitten her, for it can bite through the gauze of whatever opinions or theories. Conscious, persistent wrong may harden and thicken the gauze to a quilted armor, but even through that the sound of its teeth may wake up Don Worm, the conscience, and then is the baser nature between the fell incensed points of mighty opposites. It avails a man little to say he does not believe this or that, if the while he can not rest because of some word spoken. True speech, as well as true scripture, is given by inspiration of God; it goes forth on the wind of the Spirit, with the ministry of fire. The sun will shine, and the wind will blow, the floods will beat, and the fire will burn, until the yielding soul, re-born into childhood, spreads forth its hands and rushes to the Father.

It was dark, and Juliet took the offered arm of the rector and walked with him toward the house. Both were silent, for both had been touched. The rector was busy tumbling over the contents now of this now of that old chest and cabinet in the lumber-room of his memory, seeking for things to get rid of by holy confession ere the hour of proclamation should arrive. He was finding little yet beyond boyish escapades, and faults and sins which he had abjured ages ago and almost forgotten. His great sin, of which he had already repented, and was studying more and more to repent--that of undertaking holy service for the sake of the loaves and the fishes--then, in natural sequence, only taking the loaves and the fishes, and doing no service in return, did not come under the name of hypocrisy, being indeed a crime patent to the universe, even when hidden from himself. When at length the heavy lids of his honest sleepy-eyed nature arose, and he saw the truth of his condition, his dull, sturdy soul had gathered itself like an old wrestler to the struggle, and hardly knew what was required of it, or what it had to overthrow, till it stood panting over its adversary.

Juliet also was occupied--with no such search as the rector's, hardly even with what could be called thought, but with something that must either soon cause the keenest thought, or at length a spiritual callosity: somewhere in her was a motion, a something turned and twisted, ceased and began again, boring like an auger; or was it a creature that tried to sleep, but ever and anon started awake, and with fretful claws pulled at its nest in the fibers of her heart?

The curate and his wife talked softly all the way back to the house.

"Do you really think," said Helen, "that every fault one has ever committed will one day be trumpeted out to the universe?"

"That were hardly worth the while of the universe," answered her husband. "Such an age-long howling of evil stupidities would be enough to turn its brain with ennui and disgust. Nevertheless, the hypocrite will certainly know himself discovered and shamed, and unable any longer to hide himself from his neighbor. His past deeds also will be made plain to all who, for further ends of rectification, require to know them. Shame will then, I trust, be the first approach of his redemption."

Juliet, for she was close behind them, heard his words and shuddered.

"You are feeling it cold, Mrs. Faber," said the rector, and, with the fatherly familiarity of an old man, drew her cloak better around her.

"It is not cold," she faltered; "but somehow the night-air always makes me shiver."

The rector pulled a muffler from his coat-pocket, and laid it like a scarf on her shoulders.

"How kind you are!" she murmured. "I don't deserve it."

"Who deserves any thing?" said the rector. "I less, I am sure, than any one I know. Only, if you will believe my curate, you have but to ask, and have what you need."

"I wasn't the first to say that, sir," Wingfold struck in, turning his head over his shoulder.

"I know that, my boy," answered Mr. Bevis; "but you were the first to make me want to find its true.--I say, Mrs. Faber, what if it should turn out after all, that there was a grand treasure hid in your field and mine, that we never got the good of because we didn't believe it was there and dig for it? What if this scatter-brained curate of mine should be right when he talks so strangely about our living in the midst of calling voices, cleansing fires, baptizing dews, and won't hearken, won't be clean, won't give up our sleep and our dreams for the very bliss for which we cry out in them!"

The old man had stopped, taken off his hat, and turned toward her. He spoke with such a strange solemnity of voice that it could hardly have been believed his by those who knew him as a judge of horses and not as a reader of prayers. The other pair had stopped also.

"I should call it very hard," returned Juliet, "to come so near it and yet miss it."

"Especially to be driven so near it against one's will, and yet succeed in getting past without touching it," said the curate, with a flavor of asperity. His wife gently pinched his arm, and he was ashamed.

When they reached home, Juliet went straight to bed--or at least to her room for the night.

"I say, Wingfold," remarked the rector, as they sat alone after supper, "that sermon of yours was above your congregation."

"I am afraid you are right, sir. I am sorry. But if you had seen their faces as I did, perhaps you would have modified the conclusion."

"I am very glad I heard it, though," said the rector.

They had more talk, and when Wingfold went up stairs, he found Helen asleep. Annoyed with himself for having spoken harshly to Mrs. Faber, and more than usually harassed by a sense of failure in his sermon, he threw himself into a chair, and sat brooding and praying till the light began to appear. Out of the reeds shaken all night in the wind, rose with the morning this bird:--

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