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voice, “ Thou art thine own redeemer. Within thee sleeps the power to achieve thy highest wish.” Nor had he yet realized that it was a species of “ Procrustean” bedstead he had consented to sleep upon when he took orders in the Universalist Church. This sect had and has a creed.
When Spiritualism came and planted an outpost beyond the Universalist station; and when the guardians of that station saw the ground was shifted for another rallying cry, leaving them in the open desert without water — or even a green shrub! then the creedal spirit of bitterness and persecution came promptly to the front and showed its hideous lineaments. This same denomination that had so recently suffered persecution from the older sects, now justified itself in turning persecutor that it might stamp out the detestable thing which was disturbing its peace. It was attempting not only to destroy the hated young rival, but also to repress the spirit of freedom and desire for expansion that was becoming manifest among the young ministers of the denomination.
The Western world had reached a stage of thinking where the organized church no longer ministered to its religious needs. This church was full of hollow pretenses and eaten with dry rot. The thinkers were becoming skeptical, tired of creeds and rapidly drifting toward agnosticism. It was plain to be seen that a renaissance could not come through a further multiplication of creeds founded on the old theological concepts. But when the darkness had become complete, and the fervent were beginning to fold their hands in silence, the heavens suddenly became alive with tokens! The seers beheld the dawn of the new morning. Already had the new light begun to sift into the quiet homes of the Shakers. At length it touched the shores of the great Human World. It came quietly and unobtrusively,- came to a humble cottage and announced its message in the form of a simple concussion. But the world was thrilled - electrified with that unobtrusive sound from the silence, because it immediately divined its wonderful import! It brought us news from that "far
country," which we had come to regard as a mythical country, like the “Isle of St. Brandon," or the “Lost Atlantis." A winged Pegasus now sped into every American home, and the hearts of millions were thrilled with a new joy. The beams of morning rested upon the mountain slopes. The people were happy, for they had discovered the abiding places of their dear departed.
For a brief period the people did not realize that they were quaffing a “forbidden cup; " that they were still held fast in the bonds of tradition. They did not fully realize that the public officers at the head of all our institutions, both religious and secular, were the constituted guardians of those traditions, and that they defend them against all innovations whatever. Even our public schools were essentially conservative, and jealous of all encroachments upon their established routine. So it was not long before the clouds spread like a dark pall against the clear sky, and old Conservatism rallied his forces to stifle the breath of the young child.
The priests came from the recital of their creeds and stood before the people. A dark frown was upon their faces. In one hand they held a whip of “small cords," on the handle of which was written “ Public Opinion!” In the other hand was held a book, and on one cover of the book was written " Authority!” On the opposite cover was the picture of a young priest with tied hands. The whip of small cords was applied vigorously, and with every descent of the lash the people cried aloud, for the sting of Public Opinion was too grievous to be borne; and so, many put on the “sackcloth " and returned to the enclosure which the priests had provided. Then these same priests held the “book " aloft in the other hand, and solemnly proclaimed that, " That which was broken loose and gone abroad was wholly unauthorized by them! It was a lunatic at large, without leave of absence, menacing the welfare of the community.”
For a little time our young preacher stood in the doorway of his church, one foot on the inside, the other on the outside,
undecided, but for the time being quite satisfied with the prestige which his clerical position guaranteed. He loved truth, and yet he loved popularity. The testing season had not yet arrived, though he was very emphatic about his independence. Yet, withal, he was tardy about investigating the “spiritual phenomena." He would hardly admit to his own conscience that he stood in “ fear of the Jews.” He was bold and free in his pulpit, but discreet in word and action when he went out among his people.
During the last year of his pastorate in Kelloggsville, Mr. Peebles was invited by the Hon. Vincent Kenyon, a Universalist of Quaker descent, spiritually inclined, to ride with him to Auburn, and hear the spirit rappings. He consented, with the reserve," that the appointment must be fixed for some evening.” Nicodemus! The medium was Mrs. Tamlin. The raps heard, he whispered to his friend, “A splendid trick!” “Suppose you expose it,” responded Mr. Kenyon. Please rap on the wall,” said Mr. Peebles. To his astonishment, the wall seemed to speak. On his coat collar, on his boots, on his heart strings ! “What?” he asked. That what meant a great question. When his spirit-cousin gave thus an intelligible communication, he attributed it to thought-reading. Well, thought-reading is
“The end of a golden string;
That invitingly opes for all."
A seed had been dropped into soil where it was certain to sprout and advance to fruitage. In due time he was induced to go and hear an uneducated boy deliver a lecture in a trance state. The subject was his own selection, " The Philosophical Influence of the Nations of Antiquity upon the Civilization and Science of Modern Europe and America." Reporting it, he said:
“ The boy at once stepped forward and commenced, and
for one hour and three-quarters one continual stream of history and philosophy fell from his lips. The beauty of the language was astonishing, and the names of well-known and little-known sages of antiquity fell glibly from his lips. He began by speaking of the old Aryan race, and spoke as if he had the whole history of India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome at his fingers' ends. I knew the work necessary to get up sermons before they are preached, and was perfectly astonished at the address given by the boy. I went home thinking that there must be some power at the root of Spiritualism."
Astonished and interested by what he had seen and heard, he ventured to preach a sermon from the text, “Go on unto perfection,” in which he deftly and cautiously alluded to angels, and to spiritual gifts as evidence of continued inspiration. His heretical leanings were immediately scented, and he was taken to task by the Rev. Mr. Austin, who informed him that:
“Our denomination will not stand such sentiment. You will have to leave it. You can fight but poorly in Saul's armor, and you had better cast it off.” This advice was both startling and unexpected to our young preacher.
“The crust o’ the letter cracks; new life takes wing;
The Eternal grows more visibly awake ! ” The bed of “ Procrustes” was becoming a very uncomfortable couch to lie on. It was now apparent that the book of law and custom by which the daily life of the church people are guided, contained no blank pages upon which to write newly discovered truths. He was beginning to realize that the church rested on tradition, and was essentially, conservative; that it was adverse to being disturbed, and therefore would not tolerate any innovations. Too much light will dazzle us to blindness. “Liberty needeth a cautious driver." The greatest virtue often needs to be qualified and specially adapted for practical use. “ Prudence uttereth her caution against making too great haste for angelhood.” Give the bird its allotted time to hatch from the shell.
“Those who greedily pursue
Things wonderful instead of true,
To make discoveries strange news,
Of tales stupendous and far-fetched,
That is not huge and overgrown,
And for their pains are paid with scorn.”
In a sermon preached in Kelloggsville, March 3, 1845, our young minister, after discoursing eloquently about God's
ministering angels” in old Bible days, makes the following application to modern times :
"Now if it were in harmony with the divine laws of Deity to employ angels as mediums of spiritual truths; if in the economy of God's mercy in the olden times, and in the days of Christ and the early Christian Fathers, the Divine Being permitted angels from the higher spheres to appear to men, to converse with them, to cast off their chains, to open prison doors, minister to their wants and become guardian angels, why may he not now? If it were possible then, it is possible in this age of the world. If it subserved a good purpose then, it may subserve a good purpose now, under the grace and wisdom of the everlasting Father."
His spiritual experiences unconsciously gave Mr. Peebles a radical tendency of sentiment and belief. He read all the new lights - Swedenborg, Emerson, Parker, and the like, and so became enthused with the very spirit of modern reform. Indeed, he was rapidly being spoiled for any sectarian church. He now began to make his sermons out of materials that lay all about him,— from the morning panorama of daily life, and fitting the text afterward. He selected the text, not as a foundation, but merely to illustrate the subject he had in hand. When a minister puts a text on a sermon after it is written, look out for breakers !