Cynics said that the Methodists found consolation for this scandal in the large income they derived from their unruly visitors’ gate-money. This was unfair. No doubt the money played its part, but there was something else far more important. The pious dwellers in the camp, intent upon reviving in their poor modern way the character and environment of the heroic early days, felt the need of just this hostile and scoffing mob about them to bring out the spirit they sought. Theirs was pre-eminently a fighting religion, which languished in peaceful fair weather, but flamed high in the storm. The throng of loafers and light-minded worldlings of both sexes, with their jeering interruptions and lewd levity of conduct, brought upon the scene a kind of visible personal devil, with whom the chosen could do battle face to face. The daylight services became more and more perfunctory, as the sojourn in the woods ran its course, and interest concentrated itself upon the night meetings, for the reason that then came the fierce wrestle with a Beelzebub of flesh and blood. And it was not so one-sided a contest, either!
No evening passed without its victories for the pulpit. Careless or mischievous young people who were pushed into the foremost ranks of the mockers, and stood grinning and grimacing under the lights, would of a sudden feel a spell clamped upon them. They would hear a strange, quavering note in the preacher’s voice, catch the sense of a piercing, soul-commanding gleam in his eye—not at all to be resisted. These occult forces would take control of them, drag them forward as in a dream to the benches under the pulpit, and abase them there like worms in the dust. And then the preacher would descend, and the elders advance, and the torch-fires would sway and dip before the wind of the mighty roar that went up in triumph from the brethren.