“Have you ever published any sermons, Mr. Irvine?”
“Yes; one, and a fine one.”
“Where was it published?”
“Right here in New Haven!”
I went to my case and produced a book—I had sewed it, backed it, bound and tooled it. It was my first job, and I was proud of it. I am proud of it now. It is the best sermon I ever preached.
Another day a professor in the Yale Medical School called to have some books bound at the bindery.
“Who is that fellow at your bench?” he asked.
“Mr. Irvine,” the bookbinder replied.
He took the young man aside and told him that he could expect no recognition from the “best citizens” as long as he kept me. Off came my apron, and I looked around again.
I was very fond of Dr. T.T. Munger. In his vigorous days his was a great intellect, and when in his study one day he told me that I had no gospel to preach, I felt deeply the injustice of the charge. I could not argue. I would not defend myself. I valued his friendship too highly. I hit upon a plan, however. I had published in a labour paper seventeen sermons for working people. I went to a printer and told him that, if he would print them in a book, I would peddle them from door to door until I got the printer’s bill. They were printed in a neat volume, entitled “The Master and the Chisel.” I paid the printer’s bill, and gave the rest away. I sent one to Dr. Munger; and this is what he said of it:
“DEAR MR. IRVINE:
“Many thanks for the little book you sent me. I have read nearly all the brief chapters, and this would not be the case if they were dull. That they certainly are not. Nor would they have held my interest if they did not in the main strike me as true. I can say more, namely, that they seem to me admirably suited to the people you have in charge, and good for anybody. They have at least done me good, and often stirred me deeply. Their strong point is the humanity that runs along their pages—along with a sincere reverence. I hope they will have a wide circulation.”
The tide was ebbing, but it was not yet out. The announcement that I was a Socialist brought, of course, the members of the party around me, but on Sunday nights, when they came, expecting a discourse on economic determinism and found me searching for the hidden springs of the heart, and the larger personal life, as well as the larger social life, they went away disappointed and never came back.
As I looked around, however, at the churches and the university, I could find nothing to equal the social passion of the socialists—it was a religion with them. True, they were limited in their expression of that passion, but they were live coals, all of them, and I was more at home in their meetings than in the churches.