From Berlin we went to Vienna, and thence to Munich, arriving at the little village of Ober-Ammergau on August 25, 1900.
Dr. Talmage’s impressions of the Passion Play, which he wrote at Ober-Ammergau on this occasion, were never published in this country, and I herewith include them in these last milestones of his life.
By Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage, D.D.
About fifteen years ago the good people of America were shocked at the proposition to put on the theatrical stage of New York the Passion Play, or a dramatic representation of the sufferings of Christ. It was to be an imitation of that which had been every ten years, since 1634, enacted in Ober-Ammergau, Germany. Every religious newspaper and most of the secular journals, and all the pulpits, denounced the proposition. It would be an outrage, a sacrilege, a blasphemy. I thought so then; I think so now. The attempt of ordinary play actors amid worldly surroundings, and before gay assemblages, to portray the sufferings of Christ and His assassination would have been a horrible indecency that would have defied the heavens and invoked a plague worse than that for the turning back of which the Passion Play at Ober-Ammergau was established. We might have suggested for such a scene a Judas, or a Caiaphas, or a Pilate, or a Herod. But who would have been the Christ?
The Continental protest which did not allow the curtain of that exhibition to be hoisted was right, and if a similar attempt should ever be made in America I hope it may be as vehemently defeated. But as certain individuals may have an especial mission which other individuals are not caused to exercise, so neighbourhoods and provinces and countries may have a call peculiar to themselves.
Whether the German village of Ober-Ammergau which I have just been visiting, may have such an especial ordination, I leave others to judge after they have taken into consideration all the circumstances. The Passion Play, as it was proposed for the theatrical stage in New York, would have been as different from the Passion Play as we saw it at Ober-Ammergau a few days ago as midnight is different from mid-noon.
Ober-Ammergau is a picture-frame of hills.
The mountains look down upon the village, and the village looks up to the mountains. The river Ammer, running through the village, has not recovered from its race down the steeps, and has not been able to moderate its pace. Like an arrow, it shoots past. Through exaltations and depressions of the rail train, and on ascending and descending grades, we arrived at the place of which we had heard and read so much. The morning was as glorious as any other morning that was let down out of the heavens. Though many thousands of people from many quarters of the earth had lodged that night in Ober-Ammergau, the place at dawn was as silent as a hunter’s