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gation gathering around him, Joseph Merritt and Eli Lapham, both Quaker ministers, and others, gave him their hands, saying, “ We want to engage thee. Thee need not call it preaching. Thee shall be free.” Then and there he engaged for a year; and he remained six years pastor of the “ First Free Church of Battle Creek.” His now happy wife had a home again. Here they lived many years, dearly affiliated with that faithful people who loved him better than themselves. He shared in their deprivations and sorrows,- always a harmonizer; and in all their troubles, sicknesses, and bereavements, he was the ministering angel.
As the wave on the still lake widens out, so did our brother's work, so arduous, augment upon his hands from year to year; first a town, then a county, then a State. He was a seed-sower; and some of the gardens he made are in blossom yet; and others are golden with fruitage.
While engaged Sundays for his society in Battle Creek, Mr. Peebles displayed much zeal in prosecuting missionary work in adjacent towns for fifty miles around. Much of this was a labor of love, since it brought no pecuniary reward; but where he sowed seed in winter, the spring and summer brought the increase. Many imagine they are doing a great deal when they consent to listen to a new "ism," having no thought that he who is the bearer of the message is entitled to further consideration, or that he has any claims on society for subsistence. Often did our Pilgrim travel miles on foot to reach his appointments, receiving not a "thank you " for his labor.
But through all these tribulations he faltered not. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
At Sturgis, forty miles south from Battle Creek, there was a large and influential society of Spiritualists. Here Mr. Peebles was most welcome, frequently devoting a Sunday at their meetings. To reach that point he traveled across the country by way of Leonidas, lecturing on Friday evening, and from there his friends would take him on to Sturgis to fill
his Sunday appointment. A gentleman resided in Leonidas by the name of Jordan, who was a fine singer. This man accompanied Mr. Peebles on many of his rounds, taking with him a small portable melodeon, his popular ballads, and spiritual songs, adding much to the attractiveness of the meetings.
Now many of the leading members of the Spiritualist Society at Sturgis were ex-Baptists, including a Baptist Deacon, and they compromised with the remaining members by turning the Baptist edifice into a Free Church. Here Mr. Peebles delivered his lectures, and under his ministrations the society was waxing so strong and becoming so influential that the Baptists became jealous, and peremptorily closed the church against the Spiritualists. Public indignation ran high. Mr. Peebles saw that the time to strike was when the "iron was hot” so he, with others, immediately circulated subscription papers, and soon had sufficient funds pledged to build a fine brick edifice for their meetings. The brick were hauled several miles. On the day appointed forty volunteer teamsters proceeded to the brickyard with a band of music at their head, and before night the most of the brick were deposited on the site of the Free Church edifice. In less than two months the building was inclosed. The dedication service was a great event. J. M. Peebles was chosen to deliver the dedicatory discourse, being assisted by Seldon J. Finney, Giles B. Stebbins, Joel Tiffany, and Judge Coffinbury. A yearly (June) meeting was thereafter established as an anniversary of this Free Church dedication, which has been faithfully kept up to the present day. These events occurred in 1859, or the previous year.
Located among a people who appreciated his radical sentiments, favored with spiritual associations, frequently witnessing new and convincing developments of spirit presence, our brother grew young again,- full of frolic and merriment, as in his school days at Oxford. How quick clouds vanish when a sensitive soul finds its social home! How grandly the sinking ship of life rises high on the waves, when an angel hovers over it! O blessed heaven! but for those who know and love
The cross buds when
us, what were our changing world? love is bleeding on it.
“ The very flowers that bend and meet,
In sweetening others grow more sweet." Mr. Peebles continued his well-begun work, winning friends everywhere to the standard of spiritual liberty. One, two, three years rolled on, each laden with seed-time and harvest. Then dawned the hour of reconciliation. Several Universalist ministers, instrumental in circulating“ bad currency,” having grown more liberal, made the amende honorable in private letters to him, asking his forgiveness.
The flower blesses the foot that crushes it. What a joy was his, to give back a hand warm with generous feeling! Arm in arm again, joking over the past, they proposed that he return to his denominational motherhood ! Aha!
His Brother Harter proffered a hand and heart. Other clergymen wrote in similar style.
“CHRISTIAN AMBASSADOR OFFICE,
AUBURN, N. Y., MARCH 19, 1859. "BROTHER JAMES, — Why not come right back into the old Cayuga Association, and get a letter of fellowship? I will warrant one for you. I want the true companion of my boyhood to be a Universalist minister. Let me hear from you.
“J. H. Harter.” His brother, J. L. Camp, of Baltimore, suggested the same step. We extract from his letter:
“O Brother Peebles ! you did a wrong thing to leave B., where your usefulness was just about being developed; and let me assure you (though I do not want to pamper your vanity, but tell you the solemn truth) that, were your desk vacant today, and you could be had again, you could get the unanimous vote of the society (save perhaps one): and, if you do go back into the Universalist ministry, which I pray God you may, do not make any permanent arrangement with any society until we have a chance."
What was Mr. Peebles's reply to these cordial invitations? When asked if he thought of returning to the Universalist ministry, he replied: “Do planets go back? Does the chick return to the shell from which it has emerged ? Does the freeborn soul volunteer to resume its slavery? Can ye drive young Spring from the blossomed earth?"
During all his public labors, Mr. Peebles has never said anything against, but always for, progressive, liberal Universalism; among whose defenders he reckons some of his truest friends. No formal denominational charge was ever brought against him; no ecclesiastical tribunal ever arraigned him, neither did the Masonic or any secret society ever criticise him. He resigned his letter of fellowship in 1856.
Several years after, Mr. Peebles was invited to Baltimore by the Spiritualists; then he went. There he met old friends,
Danskin, Camp, White, and others. How changed! After speaking encouraging words of the spiritual cause, under the ministrations of Mrs. F. O. Hyzer, he wrote:
“We bid Universalism, as interpreted by its better and broader-souled exponents, Godspeed; but this little picayunish, sectarian Universalism, that says, “Thus far and no farther,' is only comparable to Martha's representation of Lazarus's body, four days dead. Theologically, it stinketh. We believe in Universalism still, as a faith; and, in becoming a Spiritualist, have only obeyed the apostolic injunction, ‘Add to your faith ... knowledge. Whereas we have formerly walked by faith, seeing through a 'glass darkly,' now we walk by sight, knowing that, when this earthly house is dissolved,
we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'”
“ Shall the new corn put on the old ear's husk?
The withered foliage clothe the budding spring?
A HOROSCOPE — CHARACTER SKETCHES
“Now constellations, Muse! and signs rehearse;
In order let them sparkle in thy verse;
It will now be attempted to draw our hero's portrait in the parlance of the astrologers; to write his horoscope in the language of the stars. While we confess to a personal acquaintance with Mr. Peebles, we shall, nevertheless, endeavor to adhere to the rules laid down by the old writers on astrology, whose works we have read with some care. We preface this delineation with an astral figure which we have drawn, showing the planetary positions at date of birth. The date of this delineation is June 21, 1896.