“Isn’t that Dr. Deems?” she said.
“Yes indeed!” was the answer, spoken with enthusiasm.
And Marion drew back, and listened. That sermon! Marion tried to report it, but it was like trying to report the roll of the waves on the Atlantic; she could only listen with beating heart and flushing cheek. Presently she listened with a new interest, for the divisions of the subject were: “God’s thought of sin,” and “God’s thought of mercy.” Though the morning was warm, she shivered and drew her wrap closer about her. “God’s thought of sin! She was in a mood to comprehend in a measure what a fearful thought it might be.
“Some men,” said the speaker, “make light of sin.” Yes, she had done it herself. “Where shall we learn what God thinks of it? On Sinai? No. God spoke there in thunder and lightning, till the very hills shook and trembled.
“And what were they doing down below? Dancing around a golden calf! I tell you it is only at Calvary that we can learn God’s idea of sin. For at Calvary, because of sin, God the Father surrendered his communion with God the Son, and on Calvary God died! Will God ever forgive sin? Many a one has carried that question around in his soul until it burned there.”
Now you can imagine how Marion tried no more to write; thought no more about eloquence; this question, which had become to her the one terrible question of life, was being looked into.
“How will we find out? Go by science into nature, and there’s no proof of it; God never forgives what seems to be the mistake of even a reptile!”
I cannot tell you about the rest of that sermon. I took no notes of it; my notes ended abruptly in the middle of a sentence; one cannot write out words that are piercing to their hearts. I doubt if even Marion Wilbur can give you any satisfactory account of the wording of the sentences. And yet Marion Wilbur rose up at its close, with cheeks aglow not only with tears, but smiles; and the question, “Will God ever forgive sin?” she could answer.
There was a place where the burden would roll away. “At the place called Calvary.” She knew it, believed it, felt it,—why should she not? She had been there in very deed, that summer morning. He had seen again of the travail of his soul, he was one soul nearer to being satisfied.
There were other matters of interest: those two Bibles, symbol of the Chautauqua pulse,—that were presented to the nation’s highest officer; the address which accompanied them—simple, earnest gospel; the hymn they sang,—everything was full of interest. But Marion let it pass by her like the sound of music, and the words in her heart that kept time to it all were the closing words of that sermon:
“Here I could forever
Sit and sing my life away.
This is more than life to me,
Lovely, mournful Calvary.”
It was so, all day. She went to the afternoon service; she listened to Dr. Fowler’s sermon, not as she had ever listened to one before; the sermon for the first time was for her. When people listen for themselves, there is a difference. She felt fed and strengthened; she joined in the singing as her voice had never joined before; they were singing about her Saviour. Then she went back to her tent.