“Brother James tells me that this is all your work. It is quite wonderful, and now, sister, what a pity it is that you will not turn your attention to religion. You seem to do everything so well.”
He motioned as if to lay his hand on my shoulder. I drew back and said:
“Excuse me, sir, but I am not your sister; and as for your religion you remind me with it of Doctor Jaynes and his hair tonic.”
“How so, sister?”
“Again pardon, but I am not your sister. Doctor Jaynes uses a large part of his column to persuade us that it is good to have good hair. No one disputes that, and he should prove that his tonic will bring good hair. So you talk of the importance of religion. No one disputes this, and it is your business to prove that the nostrum you peddle is religion. I say it is not. It is a system of will worship. Religion is obedience to God’s law. You teach people that they can, and do, obey this law perfectly, while they do not know it. Your church has no bibles in her pews, few in her families, and these unread. Preachers and all, not one in twenty can repeat the ten commandments. You are blind leaders of the blind, and must all fall into the ditch, destroyed for lack of knowledge!”
That week he proposed to abandon the Swissvale meeting-house, and build one in Wilkinsburg, giving as a reason the impossibility of keeping up a congregation with me on the farm.
Next Conference sent Rev. Henderson as presiding elder, who brought in a new era. He slept in the “prophet’s chamber,” admired my pretty rooms, and said nothing about my getting religion. The circuit preacher was of the same mind, an earnest, modest, young man, wrestling with English grammar, who on his first visit sought my help about adverbs, while my mother-in-law looked on in evident displeasure.
To her this was the dawn of that new day, in which the Methodist church rivals all others in her institutions of learning. The good time of inspiration was slipping away. What wonder that she clutched it as Jacob did his angel? There in that house she had for long years been an oracle to inspired men, and now to see God’s Spirit displaced by Kirkham’s grammar was rank infidelity. The Wilkinsburg meeting-house was being built, and that one which had been to her all that the temple ever was to Solomon, would be left to the owls and bats—her Zion desolate. Those walls, made sacred by visions of glory and shouts of triumph, would crumble to ruin in the clinging silence. How could she but think that the influence was evil which could bring such result?
The new building was consecrated with much ceremony. The two Hendersons staid with, us, and on Sabbath morning consulted me as to the best way of taking up subscriptions. Mother-in-law looked on till she could bear it no longer, and said:
“Brother Henderson, if you mean to be in time for love feast, you must not stay fooling there.”