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
"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
"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
"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
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
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:--