I was the proud possessor of a pair of red shoes, which I carried rolled up in my ’kerchief while we walked the two miles. We stopped in the woods; my feet were denuded of their commonplace attire and arrayed in white hose, beautifully clocked, and those precious slices, and my poor conscience tortured about my vanity. The girls also exchanged theirs for morocco slippers. We concealed our walking shoes under a mossy log and proceeded to the meeting-house.
It was built in the form of a T, of hewn logs, and the whole structure, both inside and out, was a combination of those soft grays and browns with which nature colors wood, and in its close setting of primeval forest, made a harmonious picture. Atone side lay a graveyard; birds sang in the surrounding trees, some of which reached out their giant arms and touched the log walls. Swallows had built nests under the eaves outside, and some on the rough projections inside, and joined their twitter to the songs of other birds and the rich organ accompaniment of wind and trees.
There were two sermons, and in the intermission, a church sociable, in fact if not in name. Friends who lived twenty miles apart, met here, exchanged greetings and news, gave notices and invitations, and obeyed the higher law of kindness under protest of their Calvinistic consciences. In this breathing-time we ate our lunch, went to the nearest house and had a drink from the spring which ran through the stone milk-house. It was a day full of sight-seeing and of solemn, grand impressions.
Of the two sermons I remember but one, and this from the text “Many are called but few are chosen,” and the comments were Calvinism of the most rigid school. On our way home, my brother William—three years older than I—was very silent and thoughtful for some time, then spoke of the sermon, of which I entirely approved, but he stoutly declared that he did not believe it; did not believe God called people to come to him while he did not choose to have them come. It would not be fair, indeed, he thought it would be mean.
That evening, when we were saying the shorter catechism, the question, “What are the decrees of God?” came to me, and after repeating the answer, I asked father to explain it—not that I needed any explanation, but that William might be enlightened; for I was anxious about his soul, on account of his skepticism. Enlightened he could not be, and even to father expressed his doubts and disapprobation. We renewed the discussion when alone, and during all his life I labored with him; but soon found the common refuge of orthodox minds, in feeling that those especially loved by them will be made exceptions in the general distribution of wrath due to unbelief.
One day I went with him to hunt the cow. We came to a wood just north of the village, where the wind roared and shook the trees so that I was quite awe-stricken; but he held my hand and assured me there was no danger, until he suddenly drew me back, exclaiming: