Immediately after his return from Europe in the autumn of 1900, Dr. Talmage took up his work with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. He stepped back into his study as if a new career of preaching awaited him. Never, indeed, had a Sunday passed, since our union, on which he had not given his divine message from the pulpit; never had he missed a full, arduous, wearisome day’s work in his Master’s vineyard. But I think Dr. Talmage now wrote and preached more industriously and vigorously than I had ever seen him before. His work had become so important an element in the character of American life, and in the estimate of the American people—I might add, in that of many foreign peoples, too—that his consciousness of it seemed to double and treble his powers; he was carried along on a great wave of enthusiasm; and in the joy of it all, we, with the thousands who bowed before his influence, looked naturally for a great many years of a life of such wide-spread usefulness. Over him had come a new magic of autumnal youth and strength that touched the inspirations of his mind and increased the optimism of his heart. No one could have suspected that the golden bowl was so soon to be broken; that the pitcher, still so full of the refreshing draughts of wisdom, was about to be crushed at the fountain. But so it was to be.
Invigorated by his delightful foreign trip, Dr. Talmage now resumed his labours with happy heart and effervescing zeal. He used to say: “I don’t care how old a man gets to be, he never ought to be over eighteen years of age.” And he seemed now to be a living realisation of his words. He had given up his regular pastorate at the First Presbyterian Church in Washington, that he might devote himself to broader responsibilities, which seemed to have fallen upon him because of his world-wide reputation. I cannot forbear quoting here—as it reveals so much the character of the man—a portion of his farewell letter, the mode he took of giving his parting salutation:
“The world is full of farewells, and one of the hardest words to utter is goodby. What glorious Sabbaths we have had together! What holy communions! What thronged assemblages! Forever and forever we will remember them.... And now in parting I thank you for your kindness to me and mine. I have been permitted, Sabbath by Sabbath, to confront, with the tremendous truths of the Gospel, as genial and lovely, and cultivated and noble people as I ever knew, and it is a sadness to part with them.... May the richest blessing of God abide with you! May your sons and daughters be the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty! And may we all meet in the heavenly realms to recount the divine mercies which have accompanied us all the way, and to celebrate, world without end, the grace that enabled us to conquer! And now I give you a tender, a hearty, a loving, a Christian goodby.
“T. DEWITT TALMAGE.”