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During the years 1853-55, Mr. Peebles was pastor of the Universalist Church at Elmira, N. Y., where he found a boon companion in Rev. Thos. K. Beecher, half-brother of Henry Ward Beecher. Here were a Universalist and a Congregationalist yoked together, bathing together, lecturing together on intemperance, and even together marrying folks; Peebles marrying one of the couple according to Universalism, and Mr. Beecher according to Congregationalism. A clipping from an exchange says:
"Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, one of the Beechers, who is pastor of a Congregational Church at Elmira, N. Y., has been disfellowshiped by the Ministerial Union of that place.”
Mr. Peebles, in chronicling this dis fellowshiped brother, thus reviews those novitiated days of the ministry:
“Being warm personal friends, both of us were considered by the denominations to which we respectively belonged a little 'shaky,' theologically. Brave enough to read different periodicals and reviews, we frequently talked of the progress of 'free thought,' and the disturbing element of Spiritualism. Friend Beecher always said there was a fish at the other end of this line;' but of its real character — saint or demon - he was not so certain.
“ Pleasant and sunny the memories of those times. Together we rolled balls in ninepin alleys, practiced gymnastics, took baths in Dr. Gleason's water-cure, hurled stones into the valley at our feet, told mirthful stories of eccentric Christians, lectured on temperance, attended social gatherings for conversation and culture, and mutually, laughingly, accused each other of being the rankest heretic. A dozen years or more buried in the abysmal past, and lo! we are both outside the 'camp of the Philistines,' and the reach, too, of all such theologians as feed on the crusts and crumbs of a cold, formal, creedal Christianity. Over this chasm of time, we extend the warm right hand, and welcome our old friend Thomas K. into the good and growing fraternity of the great unchurched!' May his shadow lengthen, and his heresy strengthen! Amen.
"Humanity sweeps onward! where to-day the martyr stands,
On the morrow crouches Judas, with the silver in his hands: Far in front the cross stands ready, and the crackling fragments
burn, While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return, To glean up the scattered ashes into History's golden urn.
Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne;
The brief epistle we here transcribe reveals the expanding force of “our minister's " soul, from loving one to loving all. “Thus in our first years,” says Emerson, “ are we put in training for a love which knows neither sex, person, nor partiality; but which seeks virtue and wisdom everywhere, to the end of increasing virtue and wisdom.”
“ELMIRA, N. Y., Jan. 7, 1853. “Rev. D. S. B- Dear Brother: ... Will you now lay aside your commentaries and clerical duties for a few moments, and listen to me? I have been writing upon a sermon from this text, “Verily, I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or chidren, or lands, for my sake and the gospel's, but shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10.) What was Jesus' real meaning in this passage? It quite puzzles me. Like the young man who had kept the law,' I am sad at the saying:' for I love my brothers and sisters: there are six of them,- Emery and Elmer (twins), Leonard and Lorenzo, Lovira and Luana, - all good, though in different ways and degrees; and in my very heart I love them with a true fraternal love. Must I, as Jesus commands, leave them? Memories of them are blissful. Are all fleshly ties of kindred temporal and fading? Is spiritual love alone immortal and eternal? Love is the very life of my soul. ...
J. M. PEEBLES.”
During all his public career, Mr. Peebles has been an earnest and unflinching friend and apostle of temperance. He was one of the select committee that drafted the degrees of the Good Templars, and was the National R. W. Grand Chaplain of this order. At an early period he also espoused the antislavery reform, Odd Fellowship, the dress reform, and woman's rights. He has a way, peculiar to himself, of enforcing unfashionable truth in the pulpit, without offending to any great extent. Of all men he is the greatest adept in the art of cutting your head off without hurting, and then growing it on again in better shape.
In May, 1855, resigning his pastoral relations in Elmira, Mr. Peebles felt a rising force to question his ism. There is a vein of spirit-life underlying these brief words, addressed to his Brother Harter, to whom he confided many heart secrets. Were the spirits burning up his theological rubbish? “Don't glory, my brother, in my independence. I want a long talk with you about Universalism, as an ism, particularly as taught by the old school."
Mr. Peebles takes to dignity as the pine to the mountain. His pride is in the way. While he was preaching in Oswego, N. Y., vigorous efforts were made to obtain a capacious Ortliodox church for the celebrated Mrs Bloomer, wherein to lecture upon“ dress reform.” The officials refusing it, of course, Mr. Peebles secured the Universalist house of worship. To give it more respectability, he was voted into the courtesy of meeting her at the cars. When on a mission of duty, Mr. Peebles is thoughtless of reputation. This is a marked trait in his make-up. He is of the Fremont stamp, not Lincoln. In his zeal, he sometimes blunders into a pit, but is out ere he touches bottom. He met the lady: she was attired in "bloomers.” Why had he not thought of her costume before consenting to escort her into the city? But there was no backing out. Arm in arm they walked through the principal street, followed by an accumulating crowd of rowdies, who encored them with shoutings, whistlings, and jeerings, to the
hotel. He, however, bore this "great cross quite manfully, and had the compensating satisfaction of seeing an enthusiastic congregation gathered in his church, swayed by a woman's eloquent appeal for emancipation from the thraldom of fashion. The victory over rowdyism and Orthodox conservatism was splendid, popularizing his moral independence.
He pressed in his “Literary Herbarium " this floating thistle-flower:
“Learn for the sake of your mind's repose,
That wealth's a bauble that comes and goes,
Is subject to irritation." It was now daily becoming more apparent to the young preacher that he was talking to a people who had objects in life quite distinct from his own,- people who gave back no answering response to his best thought. His soul was drinking in the spirit of the new time that was dawning, while his church was becoming more conventional, time-serving, and politic. And this talking to unresponsive hearts was both exhausting and disheartening. The manna that fed the Israelites is not befitting the nineteenth century. Thinkers demand knowledge rather than faith or tradition. He would fain approach his people with the brightest truth-pearls he had found, but the walls were too thick and the locks too strong. He felt the need of counsel and companionship, and so sent for Brother Harter, offering to pay his expenses if he would come and cure him of a fit of the theological “ blues.” He came, and the two tried friends rehearsed the happy hours they had spent together at the Oxford Academy. The ready wit and neverfailing fund of stories with which Brother Harter's arsenal was always supplied, restored equilibrium, and caused our young minister for the time being to forget his worries.
“My soul is not a palace of the past,
Where priest-worn creeds, like Rome's gray Senate, quake,
OCT 22 1917
“The Sun-God, wantonly kissing his loves, the flowers,
Making them to blush and droop,
...“Ah, wait in faith
The social nature of every man and woman comprises a very considerable segment of their existence. As we merge toward manhood or womanhood, our thoughts turn to the momentous question of a life companionship and a home center we can call our own. We do not feel self-centered until we have reared a family altar and shrine, where our dearest loves may find their proper objects. Nor would a biography of any public man be regarded as complete without some account of his social life, of his family ties and domestic relations. But the present chapter must needs be brief, since we possess but scant materials which throw any light on this portion of our friend's personal history. We possess no correspondence, no documents - or but a very few documents of
any kind which answers the question whether our brother's home has been uniformly a sunny one, or how much of inspiration for public work was drawn from objects which cluster round the domestic hearth; or how far, indeed, the lives of husband and wife were blended and mutually helpful, one to the other; nor yet how far both are devoted to the same ulterior aims. We can not even definitely locate the month or