The Harp of a Thousand Strings by Charles Morris

Story type: Literature

A Hard-Shell Baptist Sermon

(This characteristic effusion first appeared in a New Orleans paper. The locality is supposed to be a village on the bank of the Mississippi River, whither the volunteer parson had brought his flatboat for the purpose of trade.)

I may say to you, my brethring, that I am not an edicated man, an’ I am not one of them as believes that edication is necessary for a Gospel minister, for I believe the Lord edicates his preachers jest as he wants ’em to be edicated; an’ although I say it that oughtn’t to say it, yet in the State of Indianny, whar I live, thar’s no man as gets bigger congregations nor what I gits.

Thar may be some here to-day, my brethring, as don’t know what persuasion I am uv. Well, I must say to you, my brethring, that I’m a Hard-shell Baptist. Thar’s some folks as don’t like the Hard-shell Baptists, but I’d rather have a hard shell as no shell at all. You see me here to-day, my brethring, dressed up in fine clothes; you mout think I was proud, but I am not proud, my brethring, and although I’ve been a preacher of the Gospel for twenty years, an’ although I’m capting of the flatboat that lies at your landing, I’m not proud, my brethring.

I am not gwine to tell edzactly whar my tex may be found; suffice to say, it’s in the leds of the Bible, and you’ll find it somewhar between the first chapter of the book of Generations and the last chapter of the book of Revolutions, and ef you’ll go and search the Scriptures, you’ll not only find my tex thar, but a great many other texes as will do you good to read, and my tex, when you shall find it, you shall find it to read thus:

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“And he played on a harp uv a thousand strings, sperits uv jest men made perfeck.”

My text, my brethring, leads me to speak of sperits. Now, thar’s a great many kinds of sperits in the world–in the fuss place, thar’s the sperits as some folks call ghosts, and thar’s the sperits of turpentine, and thar’s the sperits as some folks call liquor, an’ I’ve got as good an artikel of them kind of sperits on my flatboat as ever was fotch down the Mississippi River; but thar’s a great many other kinds of sperits, for the tex says, “He played on a harp uv a t-h-o-u-s-and strings, sperits uv jest men made perfeck.”

But I tell you the kind uv sperits as is meant in the tex is FIRE. That’s the kind uv sperits as is meant in the tex, my brethring. Now, thar’s a great many kinds of fire in the world. In the fuss place, there’s the common sort of fire you light your cigar or pipe with, and then thar’s foxfire and camphire, fire before you’re ready, and fire and fall back, and many other kinds uv fire, for the tex says, “He played on the harp uv a thousand strings, sperits of jest men made perfeck.”

But I’ll tell you the kind of fire as is meant in the tex, my brethring–it’s HELL FIRE! an’ that’s the kind uv fire as a great many uv you’ll come to, ef you don’t do better nor what you have been doin’–for “He played on a harp uv a thousand strings, sperits uv jest men made perfeck.”

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Now, the different sorts of fire in the world may be likened unto the different persuasions of Christians in the world. In the first place, we have the Piscapalions, an’ they are a high-sailin’ and highfalutin’ set, and they may be likened unto a turkey buzzard that flies up into the air, and he goes up, and up, and up, till he looks no bigger than your finger nail, and the fust thing you know, he cums down, and down, and down, and is a-fillin’ himself on the carkiss of a dead hoss by the side of the road, and “He played on a harp uv a thousand strings, sperits uv jest men made perfeck.”

And then thar’s the Methodis, and they may be likened unto the squirril runnin’ up into a tree, for the Methodis beleeves in gwine on from one degree of grace to another, and finally on to perfection, and the squirril goes up and up, and up and up, and he jumps from limb to limb, and branch to branch, and the fust thing you know he falls, and down he cums kerflumix, and that’s like the Methodis, for they is allers fallen from grace, ah! and “He played on a harp uv a thousand strings, sperits of jest men made perfeck.”

And then, my brethring, that’s the Baptist, ah! and they have been likened unto a ‘possum on a ‘simmon tree, and thunders may roll and the earth may quake, but that ‘possum clings thar still, ah! and you may shake one foot loose, an the other’s thar, and you may shake all feet loose, and he laps his tail around the limb, and clings, and he clings furever, for “He played on the harp uv a thousand strings, sperits uv jest men made perfeck.”

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