A Great Upheaval by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: EssayI have just received the following letter, which I take the liberty of publishing, in order that good may come out of it, and that the public generally m …

Story type: Essay

I have just received the following letter, which I take the liberty of publishing, in order that good may come out of it, and that the public generally may be on the watch:

William Nye, Esq.–

Dear Sir: There has been a great religious upheaval here, and great anxiety on the part of our entire congregation, and I write to you, hoping that you may have some suggestions to offer that we could use at this time beneficially.

All the bitter and irreverent remarks of Bob Ingersoll have fallen harmlessly upon the minds of our people. The flippant sneers and wicked sarcasms of the modern infidel, wise in his own conceit, have alike passed over our heads without damage or disaster. These times that have tried men’s souls have only rooted us more firmly in the faith, and united us more closely as brothers and sisters.

We do not care whether the earth was made in two billion years or two minutes, so long as it was made and we are satisfied with it. We do not care whether Jonah swallowed the whale or the whale swallowed Jonah. None of these things worry us in the least. We do not pin our faith on such little matters as those, but we try to so live that when we pass on beyond the flood we may have a record to which we may point with pride.

But last Sabbath our entire congregation was visibly moved. People who had grown gray in this church got right up during the service and went out, and did not come in again. Brothers who had heard all kinds of infidelity and scorned to be moved by it, got up, and kicked the pews, and slammed the doors, and created a young riot.

For many years we have sailed along in the most peaceful faith, and through joy or sorrow we came to the church together to worship. We have laughed and wept as one family for a quarter of a century, and an humble dignity and Christian style of etiquette have pervaded our incomings and our outgoings.

That is the reason why a clear case of disorderly conduct in our church has attracted attention and newspaper comment. That is the reason why we want in some public way to have the church set right before we suffer from unjust criticism and worldly scorn.

It has been reported that one of the brothers, who is sixty years of age, and a model Christian, and a good provider, rose during the first prayer, and, waving his plug hat in the air, gave a wild and blood-curdling whoop, jumped over the back of his pew, and lit out. While this is in a measure true, it is not accurate. He did do some wild and startling jumping, but he did not jump over the pew. He tried to, but failed. He was too old.

It has also been stated that another brother, who has done more to build up the church and society here than any other one man of his size, threw his hymn book across the church, and, with a loud wail that sounded like the word “Gosh!” hissed through clenched teeth, got out through the window and went away. This is overdrawn, though there is an element of truth in it, and I do not try to deny it.

There were other similar strong evidences of feeling throughout the congregation, none of which had ever been noticed before in this place. Our clergyman was amazed and horrified. He tried to ignore the action of the brethren, but when a sister who has grown old in our church, and been such a model and example of rectitude that all the girls in the county were perfectly discouraged about trying to be anywhere near equal to her; when she rose with a wild snort, got up on the pew with her feet, and swung her parasol in a way that indicated that she would not go home till morning, he paused and briefly wound up the services.

Of course there were other little eccentricities on the part of the congregation, but these were the ones that people have talked about the most, and have done us the most damage abroad.

Now, my desire is that through the medium of the press you will state that this great trouble which has come upon us, by reason of which the ungodly have spoken lightly of us, was not the result of a general tendency to dissent from the statements made by our pastor, and therefore an exhibition of our disapproval of his doctrines, but that the janitor had started a light fire in the furnace, and that had revived a large nest of common, streaked, hot-nosed wasps in the warm air pipe, and when they came up through the register and united in the services, there was more or less of an ovation.

Sometimes Christianity gets sluggish and comatose, but not under the above circumstances. A man may slumber on softly with his bosom gently rising and falling, and his breath coming and going through one corner of his mouth like the death rattle of a bath-tub, while the pastor opens out a new box of theological thunders and fills the air full of the sullen roar of sulphurous waves, licking the shores of eternity and swallowing up the great multitudes of the eternally lost; but when one little wasp, with a red-hot revelation, goes gently up the leg of that same man’s pantaloons, leaving large, hot tracks whenever he stopped and sat down to think it over, you will see a sudden awakening and a revival that will attract attention.

I wish that you would take this letter, Mr. Nye, and write something from it in your own way, for publication, showing how we happened to have more zeal than usual in the church last Sabbath, and that it was not directly the result of the sermon which was preached on that day.

Yours, with great respect,

William Lemons.

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