I was called upon in September, 1888, to lay the corner stone of the First Presbyterian Church at Far-Rockaway, and amid the imposing ceremonies I predicted the great future of Long Island. It seemed to me that Long Island would some day be the London of America, filled with the most prominent churches of the country.
While in the plans of others I was an impulse at least towards success, in my own plans, how often I have been scourged and beaten to earth. As it had been before, so it was in this zenith of my personal progress. To my amazement, chagrin and despair, on the morning of October 13, 1889, our beautiful church was again burned to the ground.
For fifteen years, to a large part of the public, I had been an experiment in church affairs. In 1889 I had caught up with the world and the things I had been doing and thinking and hoping became suitable for the world. In the retrospect of those things I had left behind what gratitude I felt for their strife and struggle! A minister of the Gospel is not only a sentinel of divine orders, he must also have deep convictions of his authority to resist attack in his own way, by his own force, with his own strength and faith. When, on June 3, 1873, I laid the corner-stone of the new tabernacle, I dedicated the sacred building as a stronghold against rationalism and humanitarianism. I knew then that this statement was regarded as questionable orthodoxy, and I myself had become the curious symbol of a new religion. Still I pursued my course, an independent sentry on the outskirts of the old religious camping-ground, but inspired with the converting grace I had received in my boyhood, my duty was clearly not so much a duty of regulations as it was a conception, a sympathy, a command to the Christian needs of the human race.