California Sketches, Second Series
O. P. Fitzgerald
Part 3 out of 4
That the exaggerations of the pulpit repel thousands from the truth.
Moderation of statement is a rare excellence. A deep spiritual insight
enables a religious teacher to shade his meanings where it is required.
Deep piety is genius for the pulpit. Mediocrity in native endowments,
conjoined with spiritual stolidity in the pulpit, does more harm than
all the open apostles of infidelity combined. They take the divinity out
of religion and kill the faith of those who hear them. None but inspired
men should stand in the pulpit. Religion is not in the intellect merely.
The world by wisdom cannot know God. The attempt to find out God by the
intellect has always been, and always must be, the completest of
failures. Religion is the sphere of the supernatural, and stands not in
the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. It has often happened that
men of the first order of talent and the highest culture have been
converted by the preaching of men of weak intellect and limited
education, but who were directly taught of God, and had drunk deep from
the fount of living truth in personal experience of the blessed power of
Christian faith. It was through the intellect that the devil seduced the
first pair. When we rest in the intellect only, we miss God. With the
heart only can man believe unto righteousness. The evidence that
satisfies is based on consciousness. Consciousness is the satisfying
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart
of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But
God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. They can be revealed in no
Here was the secret he had learned, and that had brought a new joy and
glory into his life as it neared the sunset. The great change dated from
a dark and rainy night as he walked home in Sacramento City. Not more
tangible to Saul of Tarsus was the vision, or more distinctly audible
the voice that spoke to him on the way to Damascus, than was the
revelation of Jesus Christ to this lawyer of penetrating intellect,
large and varied reading, and sharp perception of human folly and
weakness. It was a case of conversion in the fullest and divinest sense.
He never fell from the wonder-world of grace to which he had been
lifted. His youth seemed to be renewed, and his life had rebloomed, and
its winter was turned into spring, under the touch of Him who maketh all
things new. He was a new man, and he lived in a new world. He never
failed to attend the class-meetings, and in his talks there the flashes
of his genius set religious truths in new lights, and the little band of
Methodists were treated to bursts of fervid eloquence, such as might
kindle the listening thousands of metropolitan churches into admiration,
or melt them into tears. On such occasions I could not help regretting
anew that the world had lost what this man might have wrought had his
path in life taken a different direction at the start. He died suddenly,
and when in the city of Los Angeles I read the telegram announcing his
death, I felt, mingled with the pain at the loss of a friend, exultation
that before there was any reaction in his religious life his mighty soul
had found a congenial home amid the supernal glories and sublime joys of
the world of spirits. The moral of this man's life will be seen by him
for whom this imperfect Sketch has been penciled.
He was the sunniest of Mongolians. The Chinaman, under favorable
conditions, is not without a sly sense of humor of his peculiar sort;
but to American eyes there is nothing very pleasant in his angular and
smileless features. The manner of his contact with many Californians is
not calculated to evoke mirthfulness. The brickbat may be a good
political argument in the hands of a hoodlum, but it does not make its
target playful. To the Chinaman in America the situation is new and
grave, and he looks sober and holds his peace. Even the funny-looking,
be-cued little Chinese children wear a look of solemn inquisitiveness,
as they toddle along the streets of San Francisco by the side of their
queer-looking mothers. In his own land, overpopulated and misgoverned,
the Chinaman has a hard fight for existence. In these United States his
advent is regarded somewhat in the same spirit as that of the seventeen
year locusts, or the cotton-worm. The history of a people may be read in
their physiognomy. The monotony of Chinese life during these thousands
of years is reflected in the dull, monotonous faces of Chinamen.
Ah Lee was an exception. His skin was almost fair, his features almost
Caucasian in their regularity; his dark eye lighted up with a peculiar
brightness, and there was a remarkable buoyancy and glow about him every
way. He was about twenty years old. How long he had been in California I
know not. When he came into my office to see me the first time, he
rushed forward and impulsively grasped my hand, saying:
"My name Ah Lee--you Doctor Plitzjellie?"
That was the way my name sounded as he spoke it. I was glad to see him,
and told him so.
"You makee Christian newspaper? You talkee Jesus? Mr. Taylor tellee me.
Me Christian--me love Jesus."
Yes, Ah Lee was a Christian; there could be no doubt about that. I have
seen many happy converts, but none happier than he. He was not merely
happy--he was ecstatic.
The story of the mighty change was a simple one, but thrilling. Near
Vacaville, the former seat of the Pacific Methodist College, in Solano
county, lived the Rev. Iry Taylor, a member of the Pacific Conference of
the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Mr. Taylor was a praying man, and
he had a praying wife. Ah Lee was employed as a domestic in the family.
His curiosity was first excited in regard to family prayers. He wanted
to know what it all meant. The Taylor's explained. The old, old story
took hold of Ah Lee. He was put to thinking and then to praying. The
idea of the forgiveness of sins filled him with wonder and longing. He
hung with breathless interest upon the word of the Lord, opening to him
a world of new thought. The tide of feeling bore him on, and at the foot
of the cross he found what he sought.
Ah Lee was converted--converted as Paul, as Augustine, as Wesley, were
converted. He was born into a new life that was as real to him as his
consciousness was real. This psychological change will be understood by
some of my readers; others may regard it as they do any other
inexplicable phenomenon in that mysterious inner world of the human
soul, in which are lived the real lives of us all. In Ah Lee's heathen
soul was wrought the gracious wonder that makes joy among the angels of
The young Chinese disciple, it is to be feared, got little sympathy
outside the Taylor household and a few others. The right-hand of
Christian fellowship was withheld by many, or extended in a cold,
half-reluctant way. But it mattered not to Ah Lee; he had his own
heaven. Coldness was wasted on him. The light within him brightened
every thing without.
Ah Lee became a frequent visitor to our cottage on the hill. He always
came and went rejoicing. The Gospel of John was his daily study and
delight. To his ardent and receptive nature it was a diamond mine. Two
things he wanted to do. He had a strong desire to translate his favorite
Gospel into Chinese, and to lead his parents to Christ. When he spoke of
his father and mother his voice would soften, his eyes moisten with
"I go back to China and tellee my fader and mudder allee good news," he
said, with beaming face.
This peculiar development of filial reverence and affection among the
Chinese is a hopeful feature of their national life. It furnishes a
solid basis for a strong Christian nation. The weakening of this
sentiment weakens religious susceptibility; its destruction is spiritual
death. The worship of ancestors is idolatry, but it is that form of it
nearest akin to the worship of the Heavenly Father. The honoring of the
father and mother on earth is the commandment with promise, and it is
the promise of this life and of life everlasting.
There is an inter blending of human and divine loves; earth and heaven
are unitary in companionship and destiny. The golden ladder rests on the
earth and reaches up into the heavens.
About twice a week Ah Lee came to see us at North Beach. These visits
subjected our courtesy and tact to a severe test. He loved little
children, and at each visit he would bring with him a gayly-painted box
filled with Chinese sweetmeats. Such sweetmeats! They were to strong for
the palates of even young Californians. What cannot be relished and
digested by a healthy California boy must be formidable indeed. Those
sweetmeats were--but I give it up, they were indescribable! The boxes
were pretty, and, after being emptied of their contents, they were kept.
Ah Lee's joy in his new experience did not abate. Under the touch of the
Holy Spirit, his spiritual nature had suddenly blossomed into tropical
luxuriance. To look at him made me think of the second chapter of the
Acts of the Apostles. If I had had any lingering doubts of the
transforming power of the gospel upon all human hearts, this conversion
of Ah Lee would have settled the question forever. The bitter feeling
against the Chinese that just then found expression in California,
through so many channels, did not seem to affect him in the least. He
had his Christianity warm from the heart of the Son of God, and no
caricature of its features or perversion of its spirit could bewilder
him for a moment. He knew whom he had believed. None of these things
moved him. O blessed mystery of God's mercy, that turns the night of
heathen darkness into day, and makes the desert soul bloom with the
flowers of paradise! O cross of the Crucified! Lifted up, it shall draw
all men to their Saviour! And O blind and slow of heart to believe! why
could we not discern that this young Chinaman's conversion was our
Lord's gracious challenge to our faith, and the pledge of success to the
Church that will go into all the world with the news of salvation?
Ah Lee has vanished from my observation, but I have a persuasion that is
like a burning prophecy that he will be heard from again. To me he types
the blessedness of old China newborn in the life of the Lord, and in his
luminous face I read the prophecy of the redemption of the millions who
have so long bowed before the Great Red Dragon, but who now wait for the
coming of the Deliverer.
The Climate of California.
Had Shakespeare lived in California, he would not have written of the
"winter of our discontent," but would most probably have found in the
summer of that then undiscovered country a more fitting symbol of the
troublous times referred to; for, with the fogs, winds, and dust, that
accompany the summer, or the "dry season," as it is more appropriately
called in California, it is emphatically a season of discontent. In the
mountains of the State only are these conditions not found. True, you
will find dust even there as the natural consequence of the lack of
rain; but that is not, of course, so bad in the mountains; and with no
persistent, nagging wind to pick it up and fling it spitefully at you,
you soon get not to mind it at all. But of summer in the coast country
it is hard to speak tolerantly. The perfect flower of its unloveliness
flourishes in San Francisco, and, more or less hardily, all along the
coast. From the time the rains cease--generally some time in May
--through the six-months' period of their cessation, the programme for
the day is, with but few exceptions, unvaried. Fog in the morning
--chilling, penetrating fog, which obscures the rays of the morning sun
completely, and, dank and "clinging like cerements," swathes every thing
with its soft, gray folds. On the bay it hangs, heavy and chill,
blotting out everything but the nearest objects, and at a little
distance hardly distinguishable from the water itself. At such times is
heard the warning-cry of the foghorns at Fort Point, Goat Island, and
elsewhere--a sound which probably is more like that popularly supposed
to be produced by an expiring cow in her last agony than any thing else,
but which is not like that or any thing in the world but a foghorn. The
fog of the morning, however, gives way to the wind of the afternoon,
which, complete master of the situation by three o'clock P.M., holds
stormy sway till sunset. No gentle zephyr this, to softly sway the
delicate flower or just lift the fringe on the maiden's brow, but what
seamen call a "spanking breeze," that does not hesitate to knock off the
hat that is not fastened tightly both fore and aft to the underlying
head, or to fling sand and dust into any exposed eye, and which dances
around generally among skirts and coat-tails with untiring energy and
persistency. To venture out on the streets of San Francisco at such
times is really no trifling matter; and to one not accustomed to it, or
to one of a non-combative disposition, the performance is not a pleasant
one. Still the streets are always full of hurrying passengers; for,
whether attributable to the extra amount of vitality and vim that this
bracing climate imparts to its children, or to a more direct and obvious
cause, the desire to get indoors again as soon as possible, the fact
remains the same--that the people of California walk faster than do
those of almost any other country. Not only men either, who with their
coats buttoned up to their chins, and hats jammed tightly over their
half-shut eyes, present a tolerably secure surface to the attacks of the
wind, but their fairer sisters too can be seen, with their fresh cheeks
and bright eyes protected by jaunty veils, scudding along in the face or
the track of the wind, as the case may he, with wonderful skill and
grace, looking as trim and secure as to rigging as the lightest schooner
in full sail on their own bay.
But it is after the sun has gone down from the cloudless sky, and the
sea has recalled its breezes to slumber for the night, that the
fulfillment of the law of compensation is made evident in this matter.
The nights are of silver, if the days be not of gold. And all over the
State this blessing of cool, comfortable nights is spread. At any
season, one can draw a pair of blankets over him upon retiring, sure of
sound, refreshing slumber, unless assailed by mental or physical
troubles to which even this glorious climate of California cannot
The country here during this rainless season does not seem to the
Eastern visitor enough like what he has known as country in the summer
to warrant any outlay in getting there. He must, however, understand
that here people go to the country for precisely opposite reasons to
those which influence Eastern tourists to leave the city and betake
themselves to rural districts. In the East, one leaves the crowded
streets and heated atmosphere of the great city to seek coolness in some
sylvan retreat. Here, we leave the chilling winds and fogs of the city
to try to get warm where they cannot penetrate. Warm it may be; but the
country at this season is not at its best as to looks. The flowers and
the grass have disappeared with the rains, the latter, however, keeping
in its dry, brown roots, that the sun scorches daily, the germ of all
next winter's green. Of the trees, the live-oak alone keeps to the
summer livery of Eastern forests. Farther up in the mountain counties it
is very different. No fairer summer could be wished for than that which
reigns cloudless here; and with the sparkling champagne of that clear,
dry air in his nostrils, our Eastern visitor forgets even to sigh for a
summer shower to lay the dreadful dust. And even in the valleys and
around the bay, we must confess that some advantages arise from the
no-rain-for-six-months policy. Picnickers can set forth any day, with no
fear of the fun of the occasion being wet-blanketed by an unlooked-for
shower; and farmers can dispose of their crops according to convenience,
often leaving their wheat piled up in the field, with no fear of danger
from the elements.
Still we do get very tired of this long, strange summer, and the first
rains are eagerly looked for and joyously welcomed. The fall of the
first showers after such a long season of bareness and brownness is
almost as immediate in its effects as the waving of a fairy's magic wand
over Cinderella, sitting ragged in the ashes and cinders. The change
thus wrought is well described by a poet of the soil in a few
Week by week the near hills whitened, In their dusty leather cloaks;
Week by week the far hills darkened, From the fringing plain of oaks;
Till the rains came, and far breaking, On the fierce south-wester tost,
Dashed the whole long coast with color, And then vanished and were lost.
With these rains the grass springs up, the trees put out, and the winds
disappear, leaving in the air a wonderful softness. In a month or two
the flowers appear, and the hills are covered with a mantle of glory.
Bluebells, lupins, buttercups, and hosts of other blossoms, spring up in
profusion; and, illuminating every thing, the wild California poppy
lifts its flaming torch, typifying well, in its dazzling and glowing
color, the brilliant minds and passionate hearts of the people of this
land. All these bloom on through the winter, for this is a winter but in
name. With no frost, ice, or snow, it is more like an Eastern spring,
but for the absence of that feeling of languor and debility which is so
often felt in that season. True it rains a good deal, but by no means
constantly, more often in the night; and it is this season of smiles and
tears, this winter of flowers and budding trees, in which the glory of
the California climate lies. Certainly nothing could be more perfect
than a bright winter day in that State. Still, after all I could say in
its praise, you would not know its full charm till you had felt its
delicious breath on your own brow; for the peculiar freshness and
exhilaration of the air are indescribable.
Sometimes in March, the dwellers on the bay are treated to a blow or two
from the north, which is about as serious weather as the inhabitant of
that favored clime ever experiences. After a night whose sleep has been
broken by shrieks of the wind and the rattling of doors and windows, I
wake with a dullness of head and sensitiveness of nerve that alone would
be sufficient to tell me that the north wind had risen like a thief in
the night, and had not, according to the manner of that class, stolen
away before morning. On the contrary, he seems to be rushing around with
an energy that betokens a day of it. I dress, and look out of my window.
The bay is a mass of foaming, tossing waves, which, as they break on the
beach just below, cast their spray twenty feet in air. All the little
vessels have come into port, and only a few of the largest ships still
ride heavily at their anchors. The hue separating the shallow water near
the shore from the deeper waters beyond is much farther out than usual,
and is more distinct. Within its boundary, the predominant white is
mixed with a dark, reddish brown; without, the spots of color are
darkest green. The shy has been swept of every particle of cloud and
moisture, and is almost painfully blue. Against it, Mounts Tamalpais and
Diablo stand outlined with startling clearness. The hills and islands
round the bay look as cold and uncomfortable in their robes of bright
green as a young lady who has put on her spring-dress too soon. The
streets and walks are swept bare, but still the air is filled with
flying sand that cuts my face like needles, when, later, overcoated and
gloved to the utmost, I proceed downtown. Such days are Nature's
cleaning days, very necessary to future health and comfort, but, like
all cleaning-days, very unpleasant to go through with. With her
mightiest besom does the old lady sweep all the cobwebs from the sky,
all the dirt and germs of disease from the ground, and remove all specks
and impurities from her air-windows. One or two such "northers" finish
up the season, effectually scaring away all the clouds, thus clearing
the stage for the next act in this annual drama of two acts.
This climate of California is perfectly epitomized in a stanza of the
same poem before quoted:
So each year the season shifted, Wet and warm, and drear and dry,
Half a year-of cloud and flowers, Half a year of dust and sky.
After the Storm.
(Penciled in the bay-window above the Golden Gate, North Beach, San
Francisco, February 20, 1873.)
All day the winds the sea had lashed, The fretted waves in anger dashed
Against the rocks in tumult wild Above the surges roughly piled--No blue
above, no peace below, The waves still rage, the winds still blow.
Dull and muffled the sunset gun Tells that the dreary day is done; The
sea-birds fly with drooping wing--Chill and shadow on every thing--No
blue above, no peace below, The waves still rage, the winds still blow.
The clouds dispart; the sapphire dye In beauty spreads o'er the western
sky, Cloud-fires blaze o'er the Gate of Gold, Gleaming and glowing, fold
on fold--All blue above, all peace below, Nor waves now rage, nor winds
Souls that are lashed by storms of pain, Eyes that drip with sorrow's
rain; Hearts that burn with passion strong, Bruised and torn, and weary
of wrong--No light above, no peace within, Battling with self, and torn
Hope on, hold on, the clouds will lift; God's peace will come as his own
sweet gift, The light will shine at evening-time, The reflected beams of
the sunlit clime, The blessed goal of the soul's long quest, Where
storms ne'er beat, and all are blest.
Bishop Kavanaugh in California.
He came first in 1856. The Californians "took to" him at once. It was
almost as good as a visit to the old home to see and hear this
rosy-faced, benignant, and solid Kentuckian. His power and pathos in the
pulpit were equaled by his humor and magnetic charm in the social
circle. Many consciences were stirred. All hearts were won by him, and
he holds them unto this day. We may hope too that many souls were won
that will be stars in his crown of rejoicing in the day of Jesus Christ.
At San Jose, his quality as a preacher was developed by an incident that
excited no little popular interest. The (Northern) Methodist Conference
was in session at that place, the venerable and saintly Bishop Scott
presiding. Bishop Kavanaugh was invited to preach, and it so happened
that he was to do so on the night following an appointment for Bishop
Scott. The matter was talked of in the town, and not unnaturally a
spirit of friendly rivalry was excited with regard to the approaching
pulpit performances by the Northern and Southern Bishops respectively.
One enthusiastic but not pious Kentuckian offered to bet a hundred
dollars that Kavanaugh would preach the better sermon. Of course the two
venerable men were unconscious of all this, and nothing of the kind was
in their hearts. The church was thronged to hear Bishop Scott, and his
humility, strong sense, deep earnestness, and holy emotion, made a
profound and happy impression on all present. The church was again
crowded the next night. Among the audience was a considerable number of
Southerners--wild fellows, who were not often seen in such places,
among them the enthusiastic Kentuckian already alluded to. Kavanaugh,
after going through with the preliminary services, announced his text,
and began his discourse. He seemed not to be in a good preaching mood.
His wheels drove heavily. Skirmishing around and around, he seemed to be
reconnoitering his subject, finding no salient point for attack. The
look of eager expectation in the faces of the people gave way to one of
puzzled and painful solicitude. The heads of the expectant Southerners
drooped a little, and the betting Kentuckian betrayed his feelings by a
lowering of the under-jaw and sundry nervous twitchings of the muscles
of his face. The good Bishop kept talking, but the wheels revolved
slowly. It was a solemn and "trying time" to at least a portion of the
audience, as the Bishop, with head bent over the Bible and his broad
chest stooped, kept trying to coax a response from that obstinate text.
It seemed a lost battle. At last a sudden flash of thought seemed to
strike the speaker, irradiating his face and lifting his form as he gave
it utterance, with a characteristic throwing back of his shoulders and
upward sweep of his arms. Those present will never forget what followed.
The afflatus of the true orator had at last fallen upon him; the mighty
ship was launched, and swept out to sea under full canvas. Old Kentucky
was on her feet that night in San Jose. It was indescribable. Flashes of
spiritual illumination, explosive bursts of eloquent declamation,
sparkles of chastened wit, appeals of overwhelming intensity, followed
like the thunder and lightning of a Southern storm. The church seemed
literally to rock. "Amens" burst from the electrified Methodists of all
sorts; these were followed by "hallelujahs" on all sides; and when the
sermon ended with a rapturous flight of imagination, half the
congregation were on their feet, shaking hands, embracing one another,
and shouting. In the tremendous religious impression made, criticism was
not thought of. Even the betting Kentuckian showed by his heaving breast
and tearful eyes how far he was borne out of the ordinary channels of
his thought and feeling.
He came to Sonora, where I was pastor, to preach to the miners. It was
our second year in California, and the paternal element in his nature
fell on us like a benediction. He preached three noble sermons to full
houses in the little church on the red hillside, but his best discourses
were spoken to the young preacher in the tiny parsonage. Catching the
fire of the old polemics that led to the battles of the giants in the
West, he went over the points of difference between the Arminiau and
Calvinistic schools of theology in a way that left a permanent deposit
in a mind which was just then in its most receptive state. We felt very
lonesome after he had left. It was like a touch of home to have him with
us then, and in his presence we have had the feeling ever since. What a
home will heaven be where all such men will be gathered in one company!
It was a warm day when he went down to take the stage for Mariposa. The
vehicle seemed to be already full of passengers, mostly Mexicans and
Chinamen. When the portly Bishop presented himself, and essayed to
enter, there were frowns and expressions of dissatisfaction.
"Mucho malo!" exclaimed a dark-skinned Senorita, with flashing black
"Make room in there--he's got to go," ordered the bluff stage-driver,
in a peremptory tone.
There were already eight passengers inside, and the top of the coach was
covered as thick as robins on a sumac-bush. The Bishop mounted the step
and surveyed the situation. The seat assigned him was between two
Mexican women, and as he sunk into the apparently insufficient space
there was a look of consternation in their faces--and I was not
surprised at it. But scrouging in, the newcomer smiled, and addressed
first one and then another of his fellow-passengers with so much
friendly pleasantness of manner that the frowns cleared away from their
faces, even the stolid, phlegmatic Chinamen brightening up with the
contagious good humor of the "big Mellican man." When the driver cracked
his whip, and the spirited mustangs struck off in the California gallop
--the early Californians scorned any slower gait--everybody was
smiling. Staging in California in those days was often an exciting
business. There were "opposition" lines on most of the thoroughfares,
and the driving was furious and reckless in the extreme. Accidents were
strangely seldom when we consider the rate of speed, the nature of the
roads, and the quantity of bad whisky consumed by most of the drivers.
Many of these drivers made it a practice to drink at every
stopping-place. Seventeen drinks were counted in one forenoon ride by
one of these thirsty Jehus. The racing between the rival stages was
exciting enough. Lashing the wiry little horses to full speed, there was
but one thought, and that was, to "get in ahead." A driver named White
upset his stage between Montezuma and Knight's Ferry on the Stanislaus,
breaking his right-leg above the knee. Fortunately none of the
passengers were seriously hurt, though some of them were a little
bruised and frightened. The stage was righted, White resumed the reins,
whipped his horses into a run, and, with his broken limb hanging loose,
ran into town ten minutes ahead of his rival, fainting as he was lifted
from the seat.
"Old man Holden told me to go in ahead or smash everything, and I made
it!" exclaimed White, with professional pride.
The Bishop was fortunate enough to escape with unbroken bones as he
dashed from point to point over the California hills and valleys, though
that heavy body of his was mightily shaken up on many occasions.
He came to California on his second visit, in 1863, when the war was
raging. An incident occurred that gave him a very emphatic reminder that
those were troublous times.
He was at a camp-meeting in the San Joaquin Valley, near Linden--a
place famous for gatherings of this sort. The Bishop was to preach at
eleven o'clock, and a great crowd was there, full of high expectation. A
stranger drove up just before the hour of service--a broad shouldered
man in blue clothes, and wearing a glazed cap. He asked to see Bishop
Kavanaugh privately for a few moments.
They retired to "the preachers' tent," and the stranger said:
"My name is Jackson--Colonel Jackson, of the United States Army. I have
a disagreeable duty to perform. By order of General McDowell, I am to
place you under arrest, and take you to San Francisco."
"Can you wait until I preach my sermon?" asked the Bishop,
good-naturedly; "the people expect it, and I don't want to disappoint
them if it can be helped."
"How long will it take you?"
"Well, I am a little uncertain when I get started, but I will try not to
be too long."
"Very well; go on with your sermon, and if you have no objection I will
be one of your hearers."
The secret was known only to the Bishop and his captor. The sermon was
one of his best--the vast crowd of people were mightily moved, and the
Colonel's eyes were not dry when it closed. After a prayer, and a song,
and a collection, the Bishop stood up again before the people, and said:
"I have just received a message which makes it necessary for me to
return to San Francisco immediately. I am sorry that I cannot remain
longer, and participate with you in the hallowed enjoyments of the
occasion. The blessing of God be with you, my brethren and sisters."
His manner was so bland, and his tone so serene, that nobody had the
faintest suspicion as to what it was that called him away so suddenly.
When he drove off with the stranger, the popular surmise was that it was
a wedding or a funeral that called for such haste. These are two events
in human life that admit of no delays: people must be buried, and they
will be married.
The Bishop reported to General Mason, Provost-marshal General, and was
told to hold himself as in duress until further orders, and to be ready
to appear at headquarters at short notice when called for. He was put on
parole, as it were. He came down to San Jose and stirred my congregation
with several of his powerful discourses. In the meantime the arrest had
gotten into the newspapers. Nothing that happens escapes the California
journalists, and they have even been known to get hold of things that
never happened at all. It seems that someone in the shape of a man had
made an affidavit that Bishop Kavanaugh had come to the Pacific Coast as
a secret agent of the Southern Confederacy, to intrigue and recruit in
its interest! Five minutes' inquiry would have satisfied General
McDowell of the silliness of such a charge--but it was in war times,
and he did not stop to make the inquiry. In Kentucky the good old Bishop
had the freedom of the whole land, coming and going without hinderance;
but the fact was, he had not been within the Confederate lines since the
war began. To make such an accusation against him was the climax of
About three weeks after the date of his arrest, I was with the Bishop
one morning on our way to Judge Moore's beautiful country-seat, near San
Jose, situated on the far-famed Alameda. The carriage was driven by a
black man named Henry. Passing the post-office, I found, addressed to
the Bishop in my care, a huge document bearing the official stamp of the
provost-marshal's office, San Francisco. He opened and read it as we
drove slowly along, and as he did so he brightened up, and turning to
"Henry, were you ever a slave?"
"Yes, sah; in Mizzoory," said Henry, showing his white teeth.
"Did you ever get your free-papers?"
"Yes, sah--got 'em now."
"Well, I have got mine--let's shake hands."
And the Bishop and Henry had quite a handshaking over this mutual
experience. Henry enjoyed it greatly, as his frequent chucklings evinced
while the Judge's fine bays were trotting along the Alameda.
(I linger on the word Alameda as I write it. It is at least one
beneficent trace of the early Jesuit Fathers who founded the San Jose
and Santa Clara missions a hundred years ago. They planted an avenue of
willows the entire three miles, and in that rich, moist soil the trees
have grown until their trunks are of enormous size, and their branches,
overarching the highway with their dense shade, make a drive of
unequaled beauty and pleasantness. The horse-cars have now taken away
much of its romance, but in the early days it was famous for moonlight
drives and their concomitants and consequences. A long-limbed
four-year-old California colt gave me a romantic touch of a different
sort, nearly the last time I was on the Alameda, by running away with
the buggy, and breaking it and me--almost--to pieces. I am reminded of
it by the pain in my crippled right-shoulder as I write these lines in
July, 1881. But still I say, Blessings on the memory of the Fathers who
planted the willows on the Alameda!)
An intimation was given the Bishop that if he wanted the name of the
false-swearer who had caused him to be arrested he could have it.
"No, I don't want to know his name," said he; "it will do me no good to
know it. May God pardon his sin, as I do most heartily!"
A really strong preacher preaches a great many sermons, each of which
the hearers claim to be the greatest sermon of his life. I have heard of
at least a half dozen "greatest" sermons by Bascom and Pierce, and other
noted pulpit orators. But I heard one sermon by Kavanaugh that was
probably indeed his master-effort. It had a history. When the Bishop
started to Oregon, in 1863, I placed in his hands Bascom's Lectures,
which, strange to say, he had never read. Of these Lectures the elder
Dr. Bond said "they would be the colossal pillars of Bascom's fame when
his printed sermons were forgotten." Those Lectures wonderfully
anticipated the changing phases of the materialistic infidelity
developed since his day, and applied to them the reductio ad absurdum
with relentless and resistless power. On his return from Oregon,
Kavanaugh met and presided over the Annual Conference at San Jose. One
of his old friends, who was troubled with skeptical thoughts of the
materialistic sort, requested him to preach a sermon for his special
benefit. This request, and the previous reading of the Lectures,
directed his mind to the topic suggested with intense earnestness. The
result was, as I shall always think, the sermon of a lifetime. The text
was, There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty
giveth them understanding. (Job xxxii. 8.) That mighty discourse was a
demonstration of the truth of the affirmation of the text. I will not
attempt to reproduce it here, though many of its passages are still
vivid in my memory. It tore to shreds the sophistries by which it was
sought to sink immortal man to the level of the brutes that perish; it
appealed to the consciousness of his hearers in red-hot logic that
burned its way to the inmost depths of the coldest and hardest hearts;
it scintillated now and then sparkles of wit like the illuminated edges
of an advancing thundercloud; borne, on the wings of his imagination,
whose mighty sweep took him beyond the bounds of earth, through whirling
worlds and burning suns, he found the culmination of human destiny, in
the bosom of eternity, infinity, and God. The peroration was
indescribable. The rapt audience reeled under it. Inspiration! the man
of God was himself its demonstration, for the power of his word was not
"O I thank God that be sent me here this day to hear that sermon! I
never heard any thing like it, and I shall never forget it, or cease to
be thankful that I heard it," said the Rev. Dr. Charles Wadsworth, of
Philadelphia, the great Presbyterian preacher--a man of genius, and a
true prose-poet, as any one will concede after reading his published
sermons. As he spoke, the tears were in his eyes, the muscles of his
face quivering, and his chest heaving with irrepressible emotion. Nobody
who heard that discourse will accuse me of too high coloring in this
brief description of it.
"Don't you wish you were a Kentuckian?" was the enthusiastic exclamation
of a lady who brought from Kentucky a matchless wit and the culture of
Science Hill Academy, which has blessed and brightened so many homes
from the Ohio to the Sacramento.
I think the Bishop was present on another occasion when the compliment
he received was a left-handed one. It was at the Stone Church in Suisun
Valley. The Bishop and a number of the most prominent ministers of the
Pacific Conference were present at a Saturday-morning preaching
appointment. They had all been engaged in protracted labors, and,
beginning with the Bishop, one after another declined to preach. The lot
fell at last upon a boyish-looking brother of very small stature, who
labored under the double disadvantage of being a very young preacher,
and of having been reared in the immediate vicinity. The people were
disappointed and indignant when they saw the little fellow go into the
pulpit. None showed their displeasure more plainly than Uncle Ben Brown,
a somewhat eccentric old brother, who was one of the founders of that
Society, and one of its best official members. He sat as usual on a
front seat, his thick eyebrows fiercely knit, and his face wearing a
heavy frown. He had expected to hear the Bishop, and this was what it
had come to! He drew his shoulders sullenly down, and, with his eyes
bent upon the floor, nursed his wrath. The little preacher began his
sermon, and soon astonished everybody by the energy with which he spoke.
As he proceeded, the frown on Uncle Ben's face relaxed a little; at
length he lifted his eyes and glanced at the speaker in surprise. He did
not think it was in him. With abnormal fluency and force, the little
preacher went on with the increasing sympathy of his audience, who were
feeling the effects of a generous reaction in his favor. Uncle Ben,
touched a little with honest obstinacy as he was, gradually relaxed in
the sternness of his looks, straightening up by degrees until he sat
upright facing the speaker in a sort of half-reluctant, pleased wonder.
Just at the close of a specially vigorous burst of declamation, the old
man exclaimed, in a loud voice:
"Bless God! he uses the weak things of this world to confound the
mighty!" casting around a triumphant glance at the Bishop and other
This impromptu remark was more amusing to the hearers than helpful to
the preacher, I fear; but it was away the dear old brother had of
speaking out in meeting.
I must end this Sketch. I have dipped my pen in my heart in writing it.
The subject of it has been friend, brother, father, to me since the day
he looked in upon us in the little cabin on the hill in Sonora, in 1855.
When I greet him on the hills of heaven, he will not be sorry to be told
that among the many in the far West to whom he was helpful was the
writer of this too imperfect Sketch.
He belonged to the Church militant. In looks he was a cross between a
grenadier and a Trappist. But there was more soldier than monk in his
nature. He was over six feet high, thin as a bolster, and straight as a
long-leaf pine. His anatomy was strongly conspicuous. He was the boniest
of men. There were as many angles as inches in the lines of his face.
His hair disdained the persuasions of comb or brush, and rose in tangled
masses above a head that would have driven a phrenologist mad. It was a
long head in every sense. His features were strong and stern, his nose
one that would have delighted the great Napoleon--it was a grand organ.
You said at once, on looking at him, Here is a man that fears neither
man nor devil. The face was an honest face. When you looked into those
keen, dark eyes, and read the lines of that stormy countenance, you felt
that it would be equally impossible for him to tell a lie or to fear the
face of man.
This was John Sanders, one of the early California Methodist preachers.
He went among the first to preach the gospel to the gold-hunters. He got
a hearing where some failed. His sincerity and brainpower commanded
attention, and his pluck enforced respect. In one case it seemed to be
He was sent to preach in Placerville, popularly called in the old days,
"Hangtown." It was then a lively and populous place. The mines were
rich, and gold-dust was abundant as good behavior was scarce. The one
church in the town was a "union church," and it was occupied by Sanders
and a preacher of another sect on alternate Sundays. All went well for
many months, and if there were no sinners converted in that camp, the
few saints were at peace. It so happened that Sanders was called away
for a week or two, and on his return he found that a new preacher had
been sent to the place, and that he had made an appointment to preach on
his (Sanders's) regular day. Having no notion of yielding his rights,
Sanders also inserted a notice in the papers of the town that he would
preach at the same time and place. The thing was talked about in the
town and vicinity, and there was a buzz of excitement. The miners,
always ready for a sensation, became interested, and when Sunday came
the church could not hold the crowd. The strange preacher arrived first,
entered the pulpit, knelt a few moments in silent devotion, according to
custom, and then sat and surveyed the audience which was surveying him
with curious interest. He was a tall, fine-looking man, almost the equal
of Sanders in height, and superior to him in height. He was a Kentuckian
originally, but went from Ohio to California, and was a full-grown man,
of the best Western physical type. In a little while Sanders entered the
church, made his way through the dense crowd, ascended the pulpit, cast
a sharp glance at the intruder, and sat down. There was a dead silence.
The two preachers gazed at the congregation; the congregation gazed at
the preachers. A pin might have been heard to fall. Sanders was as
imperturbable as a statue, but his lips were pressed together tightly,
and there was a blaze in his eyes. The strange preacher showed signs of
nervousness, moving his hands and feet, and turning this way and that in
his seat. It was within five minutes of the time for opening the
service. The stranger rose, and was in the act of taking hold of the
Bible that lay on the cushion in front of him, when Sanders rose to his
full height, stepped in front of him, and darting lightning from his
eyes as he looked him full in the face, said:
"I preach here today, sir!"
That settled it. There was no mistaking that look or tone. The tall
stranger muttered an inarticulate protest and subsided. Sanders
proceeded with the service, making no allusion to the difficulty until
it was ended. Then he proposed a meeting of the citizens the next
evening to adjudicate the case. The proposal was acceded to. The church
was again crowded; and though ecclesiastically Sanders was in the
minority, with the genuine love for fair-play which is a trait of
Anglo-Saxon character, he was sustained by an overwhelming majority. It
is likely, too, that his plucky bearing the, day before made him some
votes. A preacher who would fight for his rights suited those wild
fellows better than one who would assert a claim that he would not
enforce. Sanders preached to larger audiences after this episode in his
It was after this that he went out one day to stake off a lot on which
he proposed to build a house of worship. It was near the Roman Catholic
Church. A zealous Irishman, who was a little more than half drunk, was
standing by. Evidently he did not like any such heretical movements,
and, after Sanders had placed the stake in the earth, the Hibernian
stepped forward and pulled it up.
"I put the stake back in its place. He pulled it up again. I put it
back. He pulled it up again. I put it back once more. He got fiery mad
by this time, and started at me with an ax in his hand. I had an ax in
my hand, and as its handle was longer than his, I cut him down."
The poor fellow had waked up the fighting preacher, and fell before the
sweep of Sanders's ax. He dodged as the weapon descended, and saved his
life by doing so. He got an ugly wound on the shoulder, and kept his bed
for many weeks. When he rose from his bed he had a profound regard for
Sanders, whose grit excited his admiration. There was not a particle of
resentment in his generous Irish heart. He became a sober man, and it
was afterward a current pleasantry among the "boys" that he was
converted by the use of the carnal weapon wielded by that spunky parson.
Nobody blamed Sanders for his part in the matter. It was a fair fight,
and he had the right on his side. Had he shown the white feather, that
would have damaged him with a community in whose estimation courage as
the cardinal virtue. Sanders was popular with all classes, and
Placerville remembers him to this day. He was no rose-water divine, but
thundered the terrors of the law into the ears of those wild fellows
with the boldness of a John the Baptist. Many a sinner quaked under his
stern logic and fiery appeals, and some repented.
I shall never forget a sermon he preached at San Jose. He was in bad
health, and his mind was morbid and gloomy. His text was, Who hath
hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? (Job ix. 4.) The
thought that ran through the discourse was the certainty that
retribution would overtake the guilty. God's law will be upheld. It
protects the righteous, but must crush the disobedient. He swept away
the sophisms by which men persuade themselves that they can escape the
penalty of violated law; and it seemed as if we could almost hear the
crash of the tumbling wrecks of hopes built on false foundations. God
Almighty was visible on the throne of his power, armed with the even
thunders of his wrath.
"Who hath defied God and escaped?" he demanded, with flashing eyes and
trumpet voice. And then he recited the histories of nations and men that
had made the fatal experiment, and the doom that had whelmed them in
"And yet you hope to escape!" he thundered to the silent and awestruck
men and women before him. "You expect that God will abrogate his law to
please you; that he will tear down the pillars of his moral government
that you may be saved in your sins! O fools, fools, fools! there is no
place but hell for such a folly as this!"
His haggard face, the stern solemnity of his voice, the sweep of his
long arms, the gleam of his deep-set eyes, and the vigor of his
inexorable logic, drove that sermon home to the listeners.
He was the keenest of critics, and often merciless. He was present at a
camp-meeting near San Jose, but too feeble to preach. I was there, and
disabled from, the effects of the California poison-oak. That deceitful
shrub! Its pink leaves smile at you as pleasantly as sin, and, like sin,
it leaves its sting. The "preachers' tent" was immediately in the rear
of "the stand," and Sanders and I lay inside and listened to the
sermons. He was in one of his caustic moods, and his comments were racy
enough, though not helpful to devotion.
"There! he yelled, clapped his hands, stamped, and--said nothing!"
The criticism was just: the brother in the stand was making a great
noise, but there was not much meaning in what he said.
"He made one point only--a pretty good apology for Lazarus's poverty."
This was said at the close of an elaborate discourse on "The Rich Man
and Lazarus," by a brother who sometimes got "in the brush."
"He isn't touching his text--he knows no more theology than a
guinea-pig. Words, words, words!"
This last criticism was directed against a timid young divine, who was
badly frightened, but who has since shown that there was good metal in
him. If he had known what was going on just behind him, he would have
collapsed entirely in that tentative effort at preaching the gospel.
Sanders kept up this running fire of criticism at every service, cutting
to the bone, at every blow, and giving me new light on homiletics, if he
did not promote my enjoyment of the preaching. He had read largely and
thought deeply, and his incisive intellect had no patience with what was
feeble or pointless.
Disease settled upon his lungs, and he rapidly declined. His strong
frame grew thinner and thinner, and his mind alternated between moods of
morbid bitterness and transient buoyancy. As the end approached, his
bitter moods were less frequent, and an unwonted tenderness came into
his words and tones. He went to the Lokonoma Springs, in the hills of
Napa county, and in their solitudes he adjusted himself to the great
change that was drawing near. The capacious blue sky that arched above
him, the sighing of the gentle breeze through the solemn pines, the
repose of the encircling mountains, bright with sunrise, or purpling in
the twilight, distilled the soothing influences of nature into his
spirit, and there was a great calm within. Beyond those California hills
the hills of God rose in their supernal beauty before the vision of his
faith, and when the summons came for him one midnight, his soul leaped
to meet it in a ready and joyous response. On a white marble slab, at
the "Stone Church," in Suisun Valley, is this inscription:
Rev. John Sanders.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him
out of them all.
The spring flowers were blooming on the grave when I saw it last.
Ah, that blessed, blessed day! I had gone to the White Sulphur Springs,
in Napa County, to get relief from the effects of the California
poison-oak. Gay deceiver! With its tender green and pink leaves, it
looks as innocent and smiling as sin when it woos youth and ignorance.
Like sin, it is found everywhere in that beautiful land. Many antidotes
are used, but the only sure way of dealing with it is to keep away from
it. Again, there is an analogy: it is easier to keep out of sin than to
get out when caught. These soft, pure white sulphur waters work miracles
of healing, and attract all sorts of people. The weary and broken down
man of business comes here to sleep, and eat, and rest; the woman of
fashion, to dress and flirt; the loudly-dressed and heavily-bejeweled
gambler, to ply his trade; happy bridal couples, to have the world to
themselves; successful and unsuccessful politicians, to plan future
triumphs or brood over defeats; pale and trembling invalids, to seek
healing or a brief respite from the grave; families escaping from the
wind and fog of the bay, to spend a few weeks where they can find
sunshine and quiet--it is a little world in itself. The spot is every
way beautiful, but its chief charm is its isolation. Though within a
few hours' ride of San Francisco, and only two miles from a
railroad-station, you feel as if you were in the very heart of nature
--and so you are. Winding along the banks of a sparkling stream, the
mountains--great masses of leafy green--rise abruptly on either hand;
the road bends this way and that until a sudden turn brings you to a
little valley hemmed in all around by the giant hills. A bold, rocky
projection just above the main hotel gives a touch of ruggedness and
grandeur to the scene. How delicious the feeling of rest that comes over
you at once!--the world shut out, the hills around, and the sky above.
It was in 1863, when the civil war was at its white heat. Circumstances
had given me undesired notoriety in that connection. I had been thrust
into the very vortex of its passion, and my name made the rallying-cry
of opposing elements in California. The guns of Manassas, Cedar
Mountain, and the Chickahominy, were echoed in the foothills of the
Sierras, and in the peaceful valleys of the far-away Pacific Coast. The
good sense of a practical, people prevented any flagrant outbreak on a
large scale, but here and there a too ardent Southerner said or did
something that gave him a few weeks' or months' duress at Fort Alcatraz,
and the honors of a bloodless martyrdom. I was then living at North
Beach, in full sight of that fortress. It was kindly suggested by
several of my brother editors that it would be a good place for me.
When, as my eye swept over the bay in the early morning, the first sight
that met my gaze was its rocky ramparts and bristling guns, the poet's
line would come to mind: "'T is distance lends enchantment to the view."
I was just as close as I wanted to be. "I have good quarters for you,"
said the brave and courteous Captain McDougall, who was in command at
the fort; "and knowing your penchant, I will let you have the freedom of
a sunny corner of the island for fishing in good weather." The true
soldier is sometimes a true gentleman.
The name and image of another Federal officer rise before me as I write.
It is that of the heroic soldier, General Wright, who went down with the
"Brother Jonathan," on the Oregon coast, in 1865. He was in command of
the Department of the Pacific during this stormy period of which I am
speaking. I had never seen him, and I had no special desire to make his
acquaintance. Somehow Fort Alcatraz had become associated with his name
for reasons already intimated. But, though unsought by me, an interview
did take place.
"It has come at last!" was my exclamation as I read the note left by an
orderly in uniform notifying me that I was expected to report at the
quarters of the commanding-general the next day at ten o'clock.
Conscious of my innocence of treason or any other crime against the
Government or society, my pugnacity was roused by this summons. Before
the hour set for my appearance at the military headquarters, I was ready
for martyrdom or any thing else except Alcatraz. I didn't like that. The
island was too small, and too foggy and windy, for my taste. I thought
it best to obey the order I had received, and so, punctually at the
hour, I repaired to the headquarters on Washington Street, and ascending
the steps with a firm tread and defiant feeling, I entered the room.
General Mason, provost-marshal, a scholar and polished gentleman,
politely offered me a seat.
"No; I prefer to stand," I said stiffly.
"The General will see you in a few minutes," said he, resuming his work,
while I stood nursing my indignation and sense of wrong.
In a little while General Wright entered--a tall and striking figure,
silver-haired, blue-eyed, ruddy faced, with a mixture of the dash of the
soldier and the benignity of a bishop.
Declining also his cordial invitation to be seated, I stood and looked
at him, still nursing defiance, and getting ready to wear a martyr's
crown. The General spoke:
"Did you know, sir, that I am perhaps the most attentive reader of your
paper to be found in California?"
"No; I was not aware that I had the honor of numbering the
commanding-general of this department among my readers." (This was
spoken with severe dignity.)
"A lot of hotheads have for sometime been urging me to have you arrested
on the ground that you are editing and publishing a disloyal newspaper.
Not wishing to do any injustice to a fellowman, I have taken means every
week to obtain a copy of your paper, the Pacific Methodist; and allow me
to say, sir, that no paper has ever come into my family which is such a
favorite with all of us."
I bowed, feeling that the spirit of martyrdom was cooling within me. The
"I have sent for you, sir, that I might say to you, Go on in your
present prudent and manly course, and while I command this department
you are as safe as I am."
There I stood, a whipped man, my pugnacity all gone, and the martyr's
crown away out of my reach. I walked softly downstairs, after bidding
the General an adieu in a manner in marked contrast to that in which I
had greeted him at the beginning of the interview. Now that it is all
over, and the ocean winds have wailed their dirges for him so many long
years, I would pay a humble tribute to the memory of as brave and
knightly a man as ever wore epaulettes or fought under the stars and
stripes. He was of the type of Sidney Johnston, who fell at Shiloh, and
of McPherson, who fell at Kennesaw--all Californians; all Americans,
true soldiers, who had a sword for the foe in fair fight in the open
field, and a shield for woman, and for the noncombatant, the aged, the
defenseless. They fought on different sides to settle forever a quarrel
that was bequeathed to their generation, but their fame is the common
inheritance of the American people. The reader is beginning to think I
am digressing, but he will better understand what is to come after
getting this glimpse of those stormy days in the sixties.
The guests at the Springs were about equally divided in their sectional
sympathies. The gentlemen were inclined to avoid all exciting
discussions, but the ladies kept up a fire of small arms. When the mails
came in, and the latest news was read, comments were made with flashing
eyes and flushed cheeks.
The Sabbath morning dawned without a cloud. I awoke with the earliest
song of the birds, and was out before the first rays of the sun had
touched the mountaintops. The coolness was delicious, and the air was
filled with the sweet odors of aromatic shrubs and flowers, with a hint
of the pine-forests and balsam-thickets from the higher altitudes.
Taking a breakfast solus, pocket-bible in hand I bent my steps up the
gorge, often crossing the brook that wound its way among the thickets or
sung its song at the foot of the great overhanging cliffs. A shining
trout would now and then flash like a silver bar for a moment above the
shaded pools. With light step a doe descending the mountain came upon
me, and, gazing at me a moment or two with its soft eyes, tripped away.
In a narrow pass where the stream rippled over the pebbles between two
great walls of rock, a spotted snake crossed my path, hurrying its
movement in fright. Fear not, humble ophidian. The war declared between
thee and me in the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of Genesis is
suspended for this one day. Let no creature die today but by the act of
God. Here is the lake. How beautiful! how still! A landslide had dammed
the stream where it flowed between steep, lofty banks, backing the
waters over a little valley three or four acres in extent, shut in on
all sides by the wooded hills, the highest of which rose from its
northern margin. Here is my sanctuary, pulpit, choir, and altar. A
gigantic pine had fallen into the lake, and its larger branches served
to keep the trunk above the water as it lay parallel with the shore.
Seated on its trunk, and shaded by some friendly willows that stretch
their graceful branches above, the hours pass in a sort of subdued
ecstasy of enjoyment. It is peace, the peace of God. No echo of the
world's discords reaches me. The only sound I hear is the cooing of a
turtledove away off in a distant gorge of the mountain. It floats down
to me on the Sabbath air with a pathos as if it voiced the pity of
Heaven for the sorrows of a world of sin, and pain, and death. The
shadows of the pines are reflected in the pellucid depths, and ever and
anon the faintest hint of a breeze sighs among their branches overhead.
The lake lies without a ripple below, except when from time to time a
gleaming trout throws himself out of the water, and, falling with a
splash, disturbs the glassy surface, the concentric circles showing
where he went down. Sport on, ye shiny denizens of the deep; no angler
shall cast his deceitful hook into your quiet haunts this day. Through
the foliage of the overhanging boughs the blue sky is spread, a thin,
fleecy cloud at times floating slowly along like a watching angel, and
casting a momentary shadow upon the watery mirror below. That sky, so
deep and so solemn, woos me--lifts my thought till it touches the
Eternal. What mysteries of being lie beyond that sapphire sea? What
wonders shall burst upon the vision when this mortal shall put on
immortality? I open the Book and read. Isaiah's burning song makes new
music to my soul attuned. David's harp sounds a sweeter note. The words
of Jesus stir to diviner depths. And when I read in the twenty-first
chapter of Revelation the Apocalyptic promise of the new heavens and the
new earth, and of the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven,
a new glory seems to rest upon sky, mountain forest, and lake, and my
soul is flooded with a mighty joy. I am swimming in the Infinite Ocean.
Not beyond that vast blue canopy is heaven; it is within my own ravished
heart! Thus the hours pass, but I keep no note of their flight, and the
evening shadows are on the water before I come back to myself and the
world. O hallowed day! O hallowed spot! foretaste and prophecy to the
weary and burden-bowed soul of the new heavens and the new earth where
its blessed ideal shall be a more blessed reality!
It is nearly dark when I get back to the hotel. Supper is over, but I am
not hungry--I have feasted on the bread of angels.
"Did you know there was quite a quarrel about you this morning?" asks
one of the guests.
The words jar. In answer to my look of inquiry, he proceeds:
"There was a dispute about your holding a religious service at the
picnic grounds. They made it a political matter--one party threatened
to leave if you did preach, the other threatened to leave if you did not
preach. There was quite an excitement about it until it was found that
you were gone, and then everybody quieted down."
There is a silence. I break it by telling them how I spent the day, and
then they are very quiet.
The next Sabbath every soul at the place united in a request for a
religious service, the list headed by a high-spirited and brilliant
Pennsylvania lady who had led the opposing forces the previous Sunday.
I think I saw him the first Sunday I preached in San Jose, in 1856. He
was a notable-looking man. I felt attracted toward him by that
indefinable sympathy that draws together two souls born to be friends. I
believe in friendship at first sight. Who that ever had a real friend
does not? Love at first sight is a different thing--it may be divine
and eternal, or it may be a whim or a passing fancy. Passion blurs and
blinds in the region of sexual love: friendship is revealed in its own
I was introduced after the service to the stranger who had attracted my
attention, and who had given the youthful preacher such a kind and
"This is Major McCoy."
He was a full head higher than anybody else as he stood in the aisle. He
bowed with courtly grace as he took my hand, and his face lighted with a
smile that had in it something more than a conventional civility. I felt
that there was a soul beneath that dignified and courtly exterior. His
head displayed great elevation of the cranium, and unusual breadth of
forehead. It was what is called an intellectual head; and the lines
around the eyes showed the traces of thought, and, as it seemed to me, a
tinge of that sadness that nearly always lends its charm to the best
"I have met a man that I know I shall like," was my gratified
exclamation to the mistress of the parsonage, as I entered.
And so it turned out. He became one of the select circle to whom I
applied the word friend in the sacredest sense. This inner circle can
never be large. If you unduly enlarge it you dilute the quality of this
wine of life. We are limited. There is only One Heart large enough to
hold all humanity in its inmost depths.
My new friend lived out among the sycamores on the New Almaden Road, a
mile from the city, and the cottage in which he lived with his cultured
and loving household was one of the social paradises of that beautiful
valley in which the breezes are always cool, and the flowers never fade.
My friend interested me more and more. He had been a soldier, and in the
Mexican war won distinction by his skill and valor. He was with Joe Lane
and his gallant Indianians at Juamantla, and his name was specially
mentioned among those whose fiery onsets had broken the lines of the
swarthy foe, and won against such heavy odds the bloody field. He was
seldom absent from church on Sunday morning, and now and then his
inquiring, thoughtful face would be seen in my smaller audience at
night. One unwelcome fact about him pained me, while it deepened my
interest in him.
He was a skeptic. Bred to the profession of medicine and surgery, he
became bogged in the depths of materialistic doubt. The microscope drew
his thoughts downward until he could not see beyond second causes. The
soul, the seat of which the scalpel could not find, he feared did not
exist. The action of the brain, like that of the heart and lungs, seemed
to him to be functional; and when the organ perished did not its
function cease forever? He doubted the fact of immortality, but did not
deny it. This doubt clouded his life. He wanted to believe. His heart
rebelled against the negations of materialism, but his intellect was
entangled in its meshes. The Great Question was ever in his thought, and
the shadow was ever on his path. He read much on both sides, and was
always ready to talk with any from whom he had reason to hope for new
light or a helpful suggestion. Did he also pray? We took many long rides
and had many long talks together. Pausing under the shade of a tree on
the highway, the hours would slip away while we talked of life and
death, and weighed the pros and cons of the mighty hope that we might
live again, until the sun would be sinking into the sea behind the Santa
Cruz Mountains, whose shadows were creeping over the valley. He believed
in a First Cause. The marks of design in Nature left in his mind no room
to doubt that there was a Designer.
"The structure and adaptations of the horse harnessed to the buggy in
which we sit, exhibit the infinite skill of a Creator."
On this basis I reasoned with him in behalf of all that is precious to
Christian faith and hope, trying to show (what I earnestly believe)
that, admitting the existence of God, it is illogical to stop short of a
belief in revelation and immortality.
The rudest workman would not fling The fragments of his work away, If
every useless bit of clay He trod on were a sentient thing.
And does the Wisest Worker take Quick human hearts, instead of stone,
And hew and carve them one by one, Nor heed the pangs with which they
And more: if but creation's waste, Would he have given us sense to yearn
For the perfection none can earn, And hope the fuller life to taste?
I think, if we most cease to be, It is cruelty refined To make the
instincts of our mind Stretch out toward eternity.
Wherefore I welcome Nature's cry, As earnest of a life again, Where
thought shall never be in vain, And doubt before the light shall fly.
My talks with him were helpful to me if not to him. In trying to remove
his doubts my own faith was confirmed, and my range of thought enlarged.
His reverent spirit left its impress upon mine.
"McCoy is a more religious man than either you or I, Doctor," said Tod
Robinson to me one day in reply to a remark in which I had given
expression to my solicitude for my doubting friend.
Yes, strange as it may seem, this man who wrestled with doubts that
wrung his soul with intense agony, and walked in darkness under the veil
of unbelief; had a healthful influence upon me because the attitude of
his soul was that of a reverent inquirer, not that of a scoffer.
The admirable little treatise of Bishop McIlvaine, on the "Evidences of
Christianity," cleared away some of his difficulties. A sermon of Bishop
Kavanaugh, preached at his request, was a help to him. (That wonderful
discourse is spoken of elsewhere in this volume.)
A friend of his lay dying at Redwood City. This friend, like himself;
was a skeptic, and his doubts darkened his way as he neared the border
of the undiscovered country. McCoy went to see him. The sick man, in the
freedom of long friendship, opened his mind to him. The arguments of the
good Bishop were yet fresh in McCoy's mind, and the echoes of his mighty
appeals were still sounding in his heart. Seated by the dying man, he
forgot his own misgivings, and with intense earnestness pointed the
struggling soul to the Saviour of sinners.
"I did not intend it, but I was impelled by a feeling I could not
resist. I was surprised and strangely thrilled at my own words as I
unfolded to my friend the proofs of the truth of Christianity,
culminating in the incarnation, death, and resurrection, of Jesus
Christ. He seemed to have grasped the truths as presented, a great calm
came over him, and he died a believer. No incident of my life has given
me a purer pleasure than this; but it was a strange thing! Nobody could
have had access to him as I had--I, a doubter and a stumbler all my
life; it looks like the hand of God!"
His voice was low, and his eyes were wet as he finished the narration.
Yes, the hand of God was in it--it is in every good thing that takes
place on earth. By the bedside of a dying friend, the undercurrent of
faith in his warily and noble heart swept away for the time the
obstructions that were in his thought, and bore him to the feet of the
blessed, pitying Christ, who never breaks a bruised reed. I think he had
more light, and felt stronger ever after.
Death twice entered his home-circle--once to convey a budding flower
from the earth-home to the skies, and again like a lightning-stroke
laying young manhood low in a moment. The instinct within him, stronger
than doubt, turned his thought in those dark hours toward God. The ashes
of the earthly hopes that had perished in the fire of fierce calamity,
and the tears of a grief unspeakable, fertilized and watered the seed of
faith which was surely in his heart. The hot furnace-fire did not harden
this finely-tempered soul. But still he walked in darkness, doubting,
doubting, doubting all he most wished to believe. It was the infirmity
of his constitution, and the result of his surroundings. He went into
large business enterprises with mingled success and disappointment. He
went into politics, and though he bore himself nobly and gallantly, it
need not be said that that vortex does not usually draw those who are
within its whirl heavenward. He won some of the prizes that were fought
for in that arena where the noblest are in danger of being soiled, and
where the baser metal sinks surely to the bottom by the inevitable force
of moral gravitation.
From time to time we were thrown together, and I was glad to know that
the Great Question was still in his thought, and the hunger for truth
was still in his heart. Ill health sometimes made him irritable and
morbid, but the drift of his inner nature was unchanged. His mind was
enveloped in mists, and sometimes tempests of despair raged within him;
but his heart still thirsted for the water of life.
A painful and almost fatal railway accident befell him. He was taken to
his ranch among the quiet hills of Shasta County. This was the final
crisis in his life. Shut out from the world, and shut in with his own
thoughts and with God, he reviewed his life and the argument that had so
long been going on in his mind. He was now quiet enough to hear
distinctly the Still Small Voice whose tones he could only half discern
amid the clamors of the world when he was a busy actor on its stage.
Nature spoke to him among the hills, and her voice is God's. The great
primal instincts of the soul, repressed in the crowd or driven into the
background by the mob of petty cares and wants, now had free play in the
nature of this man whose soul had so long cried out of the depths for
the living God. He prayed the simple prayer of trust at which the gate
flies open for the believing soul to enter into the peace of God. He was
born into the new life. The flower that had put forth its abortive buds
for so many seasons, burst into full bloom at last. With the mighty joy
in his heart, and the light of the immortal hope beaming upon him, he
passed into the World of Certainties.
A Virginian in California.
"Hard at it, are you, uncle?"
"No, sah--I's workin' by de day, an' I an't a-hurtin' myself."
This answer was given with a jolly laugh as the old man leaned on his
pick and looked at me.
"You looked so much like home-folks that I felt like speaking to you.
Where are you from?"
"From Virginny, sah!" (pulling himself up to his full height as he
spoke). "Where's you from, Massa?"
"I was brought up partly in Virginia too?"
"Wbar'bouts, in Virginny?"
"Mostly in Lynchburg."
"Lynchburg! dat's whar I was fotched up. I belonged to de Widder Tate,
dat lived on de New London Road. Gib me yer han', Massa!"
He rushed up to the buggy, and taking my extended hand in his huge fist
he shook it heartily, grinning with delight.
This was Uncle Joe, a perfect specimen of the old Virginia "Uncle," who
had found his way to California in the early days. Yes, he was a perfect
specimen--black as night, his lower limbs crooked, arms long, hands and
feet very large. His mouth was his most striking feature. It was the
orator's mouth in size, being larger than that of Henry Clay--in fact,
it ran almost literally from ear to ear. When he opened it fully, it was
like lifting the lid of a box.
Uncle Joe and I became good friends at once. He honored my ministry with
his presence on Sundays. There was a touch of dandyism in him that then
and there came out. Clad in a blue broadcloth dress-coat of the olden
cut, vest to match, tight-fitting pantaloons, stove-pipe hat, and yellow
kid gloves, he was a gorgeous object to behold. He knew it, and there
was a pleasant self-consciousness in the way he bore himself in the
Uncle Joe was the heartiest laugher I ever knew. He was always as full
of happy life as a frisky colt or a plump pig. When he entered a knot of
idlers on the streets, it was the signal or a humorous uproar. His
quaint sayings, witty repartee, and contagious laughter, never failed.
He was as agile as a monkey, and his dancing was a marvel. For a dime he
would "cut the pigeon wing," or give a "double-shuffle" or "breakdown"
in a way that made the beholder dizzy.
What was Uncle Joe's age nobody could guess--he had passed the line of
probable surmising. His own version of the matter on a certain occasion
was curious. We had a colored female servant--an old-fashioned aunty
from Mississippi--who, with a bandanna handkerchief on her head, went
about the house singing the old Methodist choruses so naturally that it
gave us a home-feeling to have her about us. Uncle Joe and Aunt Tishy
became good friends, and he got into the habit of dropping in at the
parsonage on Sunday evenings to escort her to church. On this particular
occasion I was in the little study adjoining the dining-room where Aunt
Tishy was engaged in cleaning away the dishes after tea. I was not
eavesdropping, but could not help hearing what they said. My name was
"O yes," said Uncle Joe; "I knowed Massa Fitchjarals back dar in
Virginny. I use ter hear 'im preach dar when I was a boy."
There was a silence. Aunt Tishy couldn't swallow that. Uncle Joe's
statement, if true, would have made me more than a hundred years old, or
brought him down to less than forty. The latter was his object; he
wanted to impress Aunt Tishy with the idea that he was young-enough to
be an eligible gallant to any lady. But it failed. That unfortunate
remark ruined Uncle Joe's prospects: Aunt Tishy positively refused to go
with him to church, and just as soon as he had left she went into the
sitting-room in high disgust, saying:
"What made dat nigger tell me a lie like dat? Tut, tut, tut!"
She cut him ever after, saying she would n't keep company with a liar,
"even if he was from de Souf." Aunt Tishy was a good woman, and had some
old-time notions. As a cook, she was discounted a little by the fact
that she used tobacco, and when it got into the gravy it was not
improving to its flavor.
Uncle Joe was in his glory at a dinner-party, where he could wait on the
guests, give droll answers to the remarks made to call him out, and
enliven the feast by his inimitable and "catching" laugh. In a certain
circle no occasion of the sort was considered complete without his
presence There was no such thing as dullness when he was about. His
peculiar wit or his simplicity was brought out at a dinner-party one day
at Dr. Bascom's. There was a large gathering of the leading families of
San Jose and vicinity, and Uncle Joe was there in his jolliest mood.
Mrs. Bascom, whose wit was then the quickest and keenest in all
California, presided, and enough good things were said to have made a
reputation for Sidney Smith or Douglas Jerrold. Mrs. Bascom, herself a
Virginian by extraction, had engaged in a laughing colloquy with Uncle
Joe, who stood near the head of the table waving a bunch of peacock's
feathers to keep off the flies.
"Missus, who is yer kinfolks back dar in Virginny, any way?"
The names of several were mentioned.
"Why, dem's big folks," said Uncle Joe.
"Yes," said she, laughingly; "I belong to the first families of
"I don't know 'bout dat, Missus. I was dar 'fore you was, an' I don't
'long to de fus' families!"
He looked at it from a chronological rather than a genealogical
standpoint, and, strange to say, the familiar phrase had never been
heard by him before.
Uncle Joe joined the Church. He was sincere in his profession. The proof
was found in the fact that he quit dancing. No more "pigeon wings,"
"double-shuffles," or "breakdowns," for him--he was a "perfessor." He
was often tempted by the offer of coin, but he stood firm.
"No, sah; I's done dancin', an' don't want to be discommunicated from de
Church," he would say, good-naturedly, as he shied off, taking himself
away from temptation.
A very high degree of spirituality could hardly be expected from Uncle
Joe at that late day; but he was a Christian after a pattern of his own
--kind-hearted, grateful, simple-minded, and full of good humor. His
strength gradually declined, and he was taken to the county hospital,
where his patience and cheerfulness conciliated and elicited kind
treatment from everybody. His memories went back to old Virginia, and
his hopes looked up to the heaven of which his notions were as simple as
those of a little child. In the simplicity of a child's faith he had
come to Jesus, and I doubt not was numbered among his little ones. Among
the innumerable company that shall be gathered on Mount Zion from every
kindred, tribe, and tongue, I hope to meet my humble friend, Uncle Joe.
At the End.
Among my acquaintances at San Jose, in 1863, was a young Kentuckian who
had come down from the mines in bad health. The exposure of mining-life
had been too severe for him. It took iron constitutions to stand all day
in almost ice-cold water up to the waist with a hot sun pouring down its
burning rays upon the head and upper part of the body. Many a poor
fellow sunk under it at once, and after a few days of fever and delirium
was taken to the top of an adjacent hill and laid to rest by the hands
of strangers. Others, crippled by rheumatic and neuralgic troubles,
drifted into the hospitals of San Francisco, or turned their faces sadly
toward the old homes which they had left with buoyant hopes and elastic
footsteps. Others still, like this young Kentuckian, came down into the
valleys with the hacking cough and hectic flush to make a vain struggle
against the destroyer that had fastened upon their vitals, nursing often
a vain hope of recovery to the very last. Ah, remorseless flatterer! as
I write these lines, the images of your victims crowd before my vision:
the strong men that grew weak, and pale, and thin, but fought to the
last inch for life; the noble youths who were blighted just as they
began to bloom; the beautiful maidens etherealized into almost more than
mortal beauty by the breath of the death-angel, as autumn leaves,
touched by the breath of winter, blush with the beauty of decay. My
young friend indulged no false hopes. He knew he was doomed to early
death, and did not shrink from the thought. One day, as we were
conversing in a store uptown, he said:
"I know that I have at most but a few months to live, and I want to
spend them in making preparation to die. You will oblige me by advising
me what books to read. I want to get clear views of what I am to do, and
then do it."
It need scarcely be said that I most readily complied with his request,
and that first and chiefly I advised him to consult the Bible, as the
light to his path and the lamp to his feet. Other books were suggested,
and a word with regard to prayerful reading was given, and kindly
One day I went over to see my friend. Entering his room, I found him
sitting by the fire with it table by his side, on which was lying a
Bible. There was an unusual flush in his face, and his eye burned with
"How are you today?" I asked.
"I am annoyed, sir--I am indignant," he said.
"What is the matter?"
"Mr. ----, the--preacher, has just left me. He told me that my soul cannot
be saved unless I perform two miracles: I must, he said, think of
nothing but religion, and be baptized by immersion. I am very weak, and
cannot fully control my mental action--my thoughts will wander in spite
of myself. As to being put under the water, that would be immediate
death; it would bring on a hemorrhage of the lungs, and kill me."
He leaned his head on the table and panted for breath, his thin chest
heaving. I answered:
"Mr.--is a good man, but narrow. He meant kindly in the foolish words
he spoke to you. No man, sick or well, can so control the action of his
mind as to force his thoughts wholly into one channel. I cannot do it,
neither can any other man. God requires no such absurdity of you or
anybody else. As to being immersed, that seems to be a physical
impossibility, and he surely does not demand what is impossible. My
friend, it really makes little difference what Mr.--says,or what I say,
concerning this matter. What does God say? Let us see."
I took up the Bible, and he turned a face upon me expressing the most
eager interest. The blessed Book seemed to open of itself to the very
words that were wanted. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the
Lord pitieth them that fear him." "He knoweth our frame, and remembereth
that we are dust." "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come to the waters."
Glancing at him as I read, I was struck with the intensity of his look
as he drank in every word. A traveler dying of thirst in the desert
could not clutch a cup of cold water more eagerly than he grasped these
tender words of the pitying Father in heaven.
I read the words of Jesus: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are
heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." "Him that cometh unto me I will
in no wise east out."
"This is what God says to you, and these are the only conditions of
acceptance. Nothing is said about any thing but the desire of your heart
and the purpose of your soul. O my friend, these words are for you!"
The great truth flashed upon his mind, and flooded it with light. He
bent his head and wept. We knelt and prayed together, and when we rose
from our knees he said softly, as the tears stole, down his face:
"It is all right now--I see it clearly; I see it clearly!"
We quietly clasped hands, and sat in silent sympathy. There was no need
for any words from me; God had spoken, and that was enough. Our hearts
were singing together the song without words.
"You have found peace at the cross--let nothing disturb it," I said, as
he pressed my hand at the door as we left.
It never was disturbed. The days that had dragged so wearily and
anxiously during the long, long months, were now full of brightness. A
subdued joy shone in his face, and his voice was low and tender as he
spoke of the blessed change that had passed upon him. The Book whose
words had been light and life to him was often in his hand, or lay open
on the little table in his room. He never lost his hold upon the great
truth he had grasped, nor abated in the fullness of his joy. I was with
him the night he died. He knew the end was at hand, and the thought
filled him with solemn joy. His eyes kindled, and his wasted features
fairly blazed with rapture as he said, holding my hand with both of his:
"I am glad it will all soon, be over. My peace has been unbroken since
that morning when God sent you to me. I feel a strange, solemn joy a the
thought that I shall soon know all."
Before daybreak the great mystery was disclosed to him, and as he lay in
his coffin next day, the smile that lingered on his lips suggested the
thought that he had caught a hint of the secret while yet in the body.
Among the casual hearers that now and then dropped in to hear a sermon
in Sonora, in the early days of my ministry there, was a man who
interested me particularly. He was at that time editing one of the
papers of the town, which sparkled with the flashes of his versatile
genius. He was a true Bohemian, who had seen many countries, and knew
life in almost all its phases. He had written a book of adventure which
found many readers and admirers. An avowed skeptic, he was yet
respectful in his allusions to sacred things, and I am sure his
editorial notices of the pulpit efforts of a certain young preacher who
had much to learn were more than just. He was a brilliant talker, with a
vein of enthusiasm that was very delightful. His spirit was generous and
frank, and I never heard from his lips an unkind word concerning any
human being. Even his partisan editorials were free from the least tinge
of asperity--and this is a supreme test of a sweet and courteous
nature. In our talks he studiously evaded the one subject most
interesting to me. With gentle and delicate skill he parried all my
attempts to introduce the subject of religion in our conversations.
"I can't agree with you on that subject, and we will let it pass" he
would say, with a smile, and then he would start some other topic, and
rattle on delightfully in his easy, rapid way.
He could not stay long at a place, being a confirmed wanderer. He left
Sonora, and I lost sight of him. Retaining. a very kindly feeling for
this gentle-spirited and pleasant adventurer, I was loth thus to lose
all trace of him. Meeting a friend one day, on J Street, in the city of
Sacramento, he said:
"Your old friend D--is at the Golden Eagle hotel. You ought to go and
I went at once. Ascending to the third story, I found his room, and,
knocking at the door, a feeble voice bade me enter. I was shocked at the
spectacle that met my gaze. Propped in an armchair in the middle of the
room, wasted to a skeleton, and of a ghastly pallor, sat the unhappy
man. His eyes gleamed with an unnatural brightness, and his features
wore a look of intense suffering.
"You have come too late, sir," he said, before I had time to say a word.
"You can do me no good now. I have been sitting in this chair three
weeks. I could not live a minute in any other position, Hell could not
be worse than the tortures I have suffered! I thank you for coming to
see me, but you can do me no good--none, none!"
He paused, panting for breath; and then he continued, in a soliloquizing
"I played the fool, making a joke of what was no joking matter. It is
too late. I can neither think nor pray, if praying would do any good. I
can only suffer, suffer, suffer!"
The painful interview soon ended. To every cheerful or hopeful
suggestion which I made he gave but the one reply:
The unspeakable anguish of his look, as his eyes followed me to the
door, haunted me for many a day, and the echo of his words, "Too late!"
lingered sadly upon my ear. When I saw the announcement of his death, a
few days afterward, I asked myself the solemn question, Whether I had
dealt faithfully with this lighthearted, gifted man when he was within
my reach. His last rook is before me now, as I pencil these lines.
"John A--is dying over on the Portrero, and his family wants you to go
over and see him."
It was while I was pastor in San Francisco. A--was a member of my
Church, and lived on what was called the Portrero, in the southern part
of the city, beyond the Long Bridge. It was after night when I reached
the little cottage on the slope above the bay.
"He is dying and delirious," said a member of the family, as I entered
the room where the sick man lay. His wife, a woman of peculiar traits
and great religious fervor, and a large number of children and
grandchildren, were gathered in the dying man's chamber and the
adjoining rooms. The sick man--a man of large and powerful frame--was
restlessly tossing and roving his limbs, muttering incoherent words,
with now and then a burst of uncanny laughter. When shaken, he would
open his eyes for an instant, make some meaningless ejaculation, and
then they would close again. The wife was very anxious that he should
have a lucid interval while I was there.
"O I cannot bear to have him die without a word of farewell and
comfort!" she said, weeping.
The hours wore on, and the dying man's pulse showed that he was sinking
steadily. Still he lay unconscious, moaning and gibbering, tossing from
side to side as far as his failing strength permitted. His wife would
stand and gaze at him a few moments, and then walk the floor in agony.
"He can't last much longer," said a visitor, who felt his pulse and
found it almost gone, while his breathing became more labored. We waited
in silence. A thought seemed to strike the wife. Without saying a word,
she climbed upon the bed, took her dying husband's head upon her lap,
and, bending close above his face, began to sing. It was a melody I had
never heard before--low, and sweet, and quaint. The effect was weird
and thrilling as the notes fell tremulous from the singer's lips in the
hush of that dead hour of the night. Presently the dying man became more
quiet, and before the song was finished he opened his eyes as a smile
swept over his face, and as his glance fell on me I saw that he knew me.
He called my name, and looked up in the face that bent above his own,
and kissed it.
"Thank God!" his wife exclaimed, her hot tears falling on his face, that
wore a look of strange serenity. Then she half whispered to me, her face
beaming with a softened light:
"That old song was one we used to sing together when we were first
married in Baltimore."
On the stream of music and memory he had floated back to consciousness,
called by the love whose instinct is deeper and truer than all the
science and philosophy in the world.
At dawn he died, his mind clear, and the voice of prayer in his ears,
and a look of rapture in his face.
Dan W--, whom I had known in the mines in the early days, had come to
San Jose about the time my pastorate in the place began. He kept a
meat-market, and was a most genial, accommodating, and good-natured
fellow. Everybody liked him, and he seemed to like everybody. His animal
spirits were unfailing, and his face never revealed the least trace of
worry or care. He "took things easy," and never quarreled with his luck.
Such men are always popular, and Dan was a general favorite, as the
generous and honest fellow deserved to be. Hearing that he was very
sick, I went to see him. I found him very low, but he greeted me with a
"How are you today, Dan?" I asked, in the offhand way of the old times.
"It is all up with me, I guess," he replied, pausing to get breath
between the words; "the doctor says I can't get out of this--I must
leave in a day or two."
He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, indicating that he intended to take
death, as he had taken life, easy.
"How do you feel about changing worlds, my old friend?"
"I have no say in the matter. I have got to go, and that is all there is
That was all I ever got out of him. He told me he had not been to church
for ten years, as "it was not in his line." He did not understand
matters of that sort, he said, as his business was running a
meat-market. He intended no disrespect to me or to sacred things--this
was his way of putting the matter in his simple-heartedness.
"Shall I kneel here and pray with you?" I asked.
"No; you needn't take the trouble, parson," he said, gently; "you see
I've got to go, and that's all there is of it. I don't understand that
sort of thing--it's not in my, line, you see. I've been in the meat
"Excuse me, my old friend, if I ask if you do not, as a dying man, have
some thoughts about God and eternity?"
"That's not in my line, and I couldn't do much thinking now any way.
It's all right, parson--I've got to go, and Old Master will do right
Thus he died without a prayer, and without a fear, and his case is left
to the theologians who can understand it, and to the "Old Master" who
will do right.
I was called to see a lady who was dying at North Beach, San Francisco.
Her history was a singularly sad one, illustrating the ups and downs of
California life in a startling manner. From opulence to poverty, and
from poverty to sorrow, and from sorrow to death--these were the acts
in the drama, and the curtain was about to fall on the last. On a
previous visit I had pointed the poor sufferer to the Lamb of God, and
prayed at her bedside, leaving her calm and tearful. Her only daughter,
a sweet, fresh girl of eighteen, had two years ago betrothed herself to
a young man from Oregon, who had come to San Francisco to study a
profession. The dying mother had expressed a desire to see them married
before her death, and I had been sent for to perform the ceremony.
"She is unconscious, poor thing!" said a lady who was in attendance,
"and she will fail of her dearest wish."
The dying mother lay with a flushed face, breathing painfully, with
closed eyes, and moaning piteously. Suddenly her eyes opened, and she
glanced inquiringly around the room. They understood her. The daughter
and her betrothed were sent for. The mother's face brightened as they
entered, and she turned to me and said, in a faint voice:
"Go on with the ceremony, or it will be too late for me. God bless you,
darling!" she added as the daughter bent down sobbing, and kissed her.
The bridal couple kneeled together by the bed of death, and the
assembled friends stood around in solemn silence, while the beautiful
formula of the Church was repeated, the dying mother's eyes resting upon
the kneeling daughter with an expression of unutterable tenderness. When
the vows were taken that made them one, and their hands were clasped in
token of plighted faith, she drew them both to her in a long embrace,
and then almost instantly closed her eyes with a look of infinite
restfulness, and never opened them again.
Of the notable men I met in the mines in the early days, there was one
who piqued and puzzled my curiosity. He had the face of a saint with the
habits of a debauchee. His pale and student-like features were of the
most classic mold, and their expression singularly winning, save when at
times a cynical sneer would suddenly flash over them like a cloud-shadow
over a quiet landscape. He was a lawyer, and stood at the head of the
bar. He was an orator whose silver voice and magnetic qualities often
kindled the largest audiences into the wildest enthusiasm. Nature had
denied him no gift of body or mind requisite to success in life; but
there was a fatal weakness in his moral constitution. He was an
inveterate gambler, his large professional earnings going into the
coffers of the faro and monte dealers. His violations of good morals in
other respects were flagrant. He worked hard by day, and gave himself up
to his vices at night. Public opinion was not very exacting in those
days, and his failings were condoned by a people who respected force and
pluck, and made no close inquiries into a man's private life, because it
would have been no easy thing to find one who, on the score of
innocence, was entitled to cast the first stone. Thus he lived from year
to year, increasing his reputation as a lawyer of marked ability, and as
a politician whose eloquence in every campaign was a tower of strength
to his party. His fame spread until it filled the State, and his money
still fed his vices. He never drank, and that cool, keen intellect never
lost its balance, or failed him in any encounter on the hustings on at
the bar. I often met him in public, but he never was known to go inside
a church. Once, when in a street conversation I casually made some
reference to religion, a look of displeasure passed over his face, and
he abruptly left me. I was agreeably surprised when, on more than one
occasion, he sent me a substantial token of goodwill, but I was never
able to analyze the motive that prompted him to do so. This remembrance
softens the feelings with which these lines are penciled. He went to San
Francisco, but there was no change in his life.
"It is the old story," said an acquaintance of whom I made inquiry
concerning him: "he has a large and lucrative practice, and the gamblers
get all he makes. He is getting gray, and he is failing a little. He is
a strange being."
It happened afterward that his office and mine were in the same building
and on the same floor. As we met on the stairs, he would nod to me and
pass on. I noticed that he was indeed "failing." He looked-weary and
sad, and the cold or defiant gleam in his steel-gray eyes, was changed
into a wistful and painful expression that was very pathetic. I did not
dare to invade his reserve with any tender of sympathy. Joyless and
hopeless as he might be, I felt instinctively that he would play out his
drama alone. Perhaps this was a mistake on my part: he may have been
hungry for the word I did not speak. God knows. I was not lacking in
proper interest in his well-being, but I have since thought in such
cases it is safest to speak.
"What has become of B--?" said my landlord one day as we met in the
hall. "I have been here to see him several times, and found his door
locked, and his letters and newspapers have not been touched. There is
something the matter, I fear."
Instantly I felt somehow that there was a tragedy in the air, and I had
a strange feeling of awe as I passed the door of B--'s room.,
A policeman was brought, the lock forced, and we went in. A sickening
odor of chloroform filled the room. The sight that met our gaze made us
shudder. Across the bed was lying the form of a man partly dressed, his
head thrown back, his eyes staring upward, his limbs hanging loosely
over the bedside.
"Is he dead?" was asked in a whisper.
"No," said the officer, with his finger on B--'s wrist; "he is not dead
yet, but he will never wake out of this. He has been lying thus two or
A physician was sent for, and all possible efforts made to rouse him,
but in vain. About sunset the pulse ceased to beat, and it was only a
lump of lifeless clay that lay there so still and stark. This was his
death--the mystery of his life went back beyond my knowledge of him,
and will only be known at the judgment-day.
One of the gayest and brightest of all the young people gathered at a
May-day picnic, just across the bay from San Francisco, was Ada D--.
The only daughter of a wealthy citizen, living in one of the lovely
valleys beyond the coast-range of mountains, beautiful in person and
sunny in temper, she was a favorite in all the circle of her
associations. Though a petted child of fortune, she was not spoiled,
Envy itself was changed into affection in the presence of a spirit so
gentle, unassuming, and loving. She had recently been graduated from one
of the best schools, and her graces of character matched the brilliance
of her pecuniary fortune.
A few days after the May-day festival, as I was sitting in my office, a
little before sunset, there was a knock at the door, and before I could
answer the messenger entered hastily, saying:
"I want you to go with me at once to Amador Valley. Ada D--is dying,
and wishes to be baptized. We just have time for the six o'clock boat to
take us across the bay, where the carriage and horses are waiting for
us. The distance is thirty miles, and we must run a race against death."
We started at once: no minister of Jesus Christ hesitates to obey a
summons like that. We reached the boat while the last taps of the last
bell were being given, and were soon at the landing on the opposite side
of the bay. Springing ashore, we entered the vehicle which was in
readiness. Grasping the reins, my companion touched up the spirited
team, and we struck across the valley. My driver was an old Californian,
skilled in all horse craft and road-craft. He spoke no word, putting his
soul and body into his work, determined, as he had said, to make the
thirty miles by nine o'clock. There was no abatement of speed after we
struck the hills: what was lost in going up was regained in going down.
The mettle of those California-bred horses was wonderful; the quick
beating of their hoofs upon the graveled road was as regular as the
motion of machinery, steam-driven. It was an exciting ride, and there
was a weirdness in the sound of the night-breeze floating by us, and
ghostly, shapes seemed looking at us from above and below, as we wound
our way through the hills, while the bright stars shone like
funeral-tapers over a world of death. Death! how vivid and awful was its
reality to me as I looked up at those shining worlds on high, and then
upon the earth wrapped in darkness below! Death! his sable coursers are
swift, and we may be too late! The driver shared my thoughts, and lashed
the panting horses to yet greater speed. My pulses beat rapidly as I
counted the moments.
"Here we are!" he exclaimed, as we dashed down the hill and brought up
at the gate. "It is eight minutes to nine," he added, glancing at his
watch by the light of a lamp shining through the window.
"She is alive, but speechless, and going fast," said the father, in a
broken voice, as I entered the house.
He led me to the chamber of the dying girl; The seal of death was upon
her. I bent above her, and a look of recognition came into her eyes. Not
a moment was to be lost.
"If you know me, my child, and can enter the meaning of what I say,
indicate the fact if you can."
There was a faint smile and a slight but significant inclination of the
fair head as it lay enveloped with its wealth of chestnut curls. With
her hands folded on her breast, and her eyes turned upward, the dying
girl lay in listening attitude, while in a few words I explained the
meaning of the sacred rite and pointed her to the Lamb of God as the one
sacrifice for sin. The family stood round the bed in awed and tearful
silence. As the crystal sacramental drops fell upon her brow a smile
flashed quickly over the pale face, there was a slight movement of the
head--and she was gone! The upward look continued, and the smile never
left the fair, sweet face. We fell upon our knees, and the prayer that
followed was not for her, but for the bleeding hearts around the couch
where she lay smiling in death.
Dave Douglass was one of that circle of Tennesseans who took prominent
parts in the early history of California. He belonged to the Sumner
County Douglasses, of Tennessee, and had the family warmth of heart,
impulsiveness, and courage, that nothing could daunt. In all the
political contests of the early days he took an active part, and was
regarded as an unflinching and unselfish partisan by his own party, and
as an openhearted and generous antagonist by the other. He was elected
Secretary of State, and served the people with fidelity and efficiency.
He was a man of a powerful physical frame, deep-chested, ruddy-, faced,
blue-eyed, with just enough shagginess of eyebrows and heaviness of the
under-jaw to indicate the indomitable pluck which was so strong an
element in his character. He was a true Douglass, as brave and true as
any of the name that ever wore the kilt or swung a claymore in the land
of Bruce. His was a famous Methodist family in Tennessee, and though he
knew more of politics than piety, he was a good friend to the Church,
and had regular preaching in the schoolhouse near his farm on the
Calaveras River. All the itinerants that traveled that circuit knew
"Douglass's Schoolhouse" as an appointment, and shared liberally in the
hospitality and purse of the General--(that was his title).
"Never give up the fight!" he said to me, with flashing eye, the last
time I met him in Stockton, pressing my hand with a warm clasp. It was
while I was engaged in the effort to build a church in that place, and I
had been telling him of the difficulties I had met in the work. That
word and handclasp helped me.
He was taken sick soon after. The disease had taken too strong a grasp
upon him to be broken. He fought bravely a losing battle for several
days. Sunday morning came, a bright, balmy day. It was in the early
summer. The cloudless sky was deep-blue, the sunbeams sparkled on the
bosom of the Calaveras, the birds were singing in the trees, and the
perfume of the flowers filled the air and floated in through the open
window to where the strong man lay dying. He had been affected with the
delirium of fever during most of his sickness, but that was past, and he
was facing death with an unclouded mind.
"I think I am dying," he said, half inquiringly.
"Yes--is there any thing we can do for you?"
His eyes closed for a few moments, and his lips moved as if in mental
prayer. Opening his eyes, he said:
"Sing one of the old camp-meeting songs."
A preacher present struck up the hymn, "Show pity, Lord, O Lord
The dying man, composed to rest, lay with folded hands and listened with
shortening breath and a rapt face, and thus he died, the words and the
melody that had touched his boyish heart among the far-off hills of
Tennessee being the last sounds that fell upon his dying ear. We may
hope that on that old camp-meeting song was wafted the prayer and trust
of a penitent soul receiving the kingdom of heaven as a little child.
During my pastorate at Santa Rosa, one of my occasional hearers was John
I--. He was deputy-sheriff of Sonoma County, and was noted for his
quiet and determined courage. He was a man of few words, but the most
reckless desperado knew that he could not be trifled with. When there
was an arrest to be made that involved special peril, this reticent,
low-voiced man was usually intrusted with the undertaking. He was of the
good old Primitive Baptist stock from Caswell County, North Carolina,
and had a lingering fondness for the peculiar views of that people. He
had a weakness for strong drink that gave him trouble at times, but
nobody doubted his integrity any more than they doubted his courage. His
wife was an earnest Methodist, one of a family of sisters remarkable for
their excellent sense and strong religious characters. Meeting him one
day, just before my return to San Francisco, he said, with a warmth of
manner not common with him:
"I am sorry you are going to leave Santa Rosa. You understand me, and if
anybody can do me any good, you are the man."
There was a tremor in his voice as he spoke, and he held my hand in a
Yes, I knew him. I had seen him at church on more than one occasion with
compressed lips struggling to conceal the strong emotion he felt,
sometimes hastily wiping away an unbidden tear. The preacher, when his
own soul is aglow and his sympathies all awakened and drawn out toward
his hearers, is almost clairvoyant at times in his perception of their
inner thoughts. I understood this man, though no disclosure had been
made to me in words. I read his eye, and marked the wishful and anxious
look that came over his face when his conscience was touched and his
heart moved. Yes, I knew him, for my sympathy had made me responsive,
and his words, spoken sadly, thrilled me, and rolled upon my spirit the
burden of a soul. His health, which had been broken by hardships and
careless living, began to decline more rapidly. I heard that he had
expressed a desire to see me, and made no delay in going to see him. I
found him in bed, and much wasted.
"I am glad you have come. I have been wanting to see you," he said,
taking my hand. "I have been thinking of my duty to God for a good
while, and have felt more than anybody has suspected. I want to do
what I can and ought to do. You have made this matter a study, and
you ought to understand it. I want you to help me."
We had many interviews, and I did what I could to guide a penitent
sinner to the sinner's Friend. He was indeed a penitent sinner--shut
out from the world and shut in with God, the merciful Father was
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