A new presiding elder, Mr. N, was expected in the district’ and as all the ministers stopped with Brother W. and his wife, every preparation was made to give him a cordial reception. The honest couple thought that religion in that part consisted in making parade, and therefore the parlor was put in order, a nice fire was made, and the kitchen replenished with cake, chicken and every delicacy, preparatory to cooking. While Mr. W. was out at the wood-pile, a plain-looking, coarsely-dressed, but quiet-like pedestrian, came along and asked the distance to the next town. He was told it was three miles. Being very cold, he asked permission to enter and warm himself. Assent was given very grudgingly, and both went into the kitchen. The wife looked daggers at this untimely intrusion, for the stranger had on cowhide boots, an old hat, and a threadbare, but neatly patched coat. At length she gave him a chair beside the Dutch oven which was baking nice cakes for the presiding elder, who was momentarily expected, as he was to preach the next day at the church a mile or two beyond.
The stranger, after warming himself, prepared to leave, but the weather became inclement, and as his appetite was aroused by the viands about the fire, he asked for some little refreshment ere he set out for a cold walk to the town beyond. Mrs. W. was displeased, but on consultation with her husband, cold bacon and bread were set out on an old table, and he was somewhat gruffly told to eat. It was growing dark, and hints were thrown out that the stranger had better depart, as it was three long miles to town.
The homely meal was at last concluded—the man thanked him kindly for the hospitality he had received, and opened the door to go. But it was quite dark and the clouds denoting a storm filled the heavens.
“You say it is full three miles to D--?”
“I do, ”said Mr. W. coldly. “I said so when you first stopped, and you ought to have pushed on, like a prudent man. You could have reached there before it was quite dark.”
“But I was cold and hungry, and might have fainted by the way.”
His manner of saying this touched the farmer’s feelings a little.
“You have warmed and fed me for which I am very thankful. Will you bestow another act of kindness upon one in a strange place, who if he goes out into the darkness may lose himself and perish in the cold.?”
The particular form in which this request was made, and the tone in which it was uttered, put it out of the farmer’s heart to say no.
“Go in there and sit down,” he answered, pointing to the kitchen, and I will see my wife and hear what she has to says.”
And Mr. W. went into the parlor where the supper table stood, covered with snow-white cloth, and displaying his wife’s set of blue-sprigged china, that was brought out only on special occasions.
The tall mold candles were burning thereon, and on the hearth blazed a cheerful fire.
“Hasn’t that old fellow gone yet?” asked Mrs. W. she heard his voice as he returned from the door.
“No, and what do you suppose, he wants us to let him stay all night.”
“Indeed, we will do no such thing. We cannot have the likes of him in the house now. Where could he sleep?”
“Not in the best room, even if Mr. N. did not come.”
“But really I don’t see, Jane, how we can turn him out of doors. He doesn’t look like a strong man, and it’s full three miles to D----.”
“It’s too much; he ought to have gone on while he had daylight, and not lingered here, as he did, till it got dark.”
We can’t turn him out of doors, Jane, and it’s no use to think of it. He’ll have to stay somehow.”
“But what can we do with him?”
“He seems like a decent man at least; and doesn’t look as if he had anything bad about him. We might make a bed on the floor.”
When Mr. W. returned to the kitchen where the stranger had seated himself before the fire, he informed him that he had decided to let him stay all night. The man expressed in few words his grateful sense of their kindness, and then became silent and thoughtful. Soon after the farmer’s wife, giving up all hope of Mr. N’s arrival, had supper taken up, which consisted of coffee, warm short-cake, and broiled chicken. After all was on the table, a short conference was held as to whether it would do not to invite the stranger to take supper. It was true they had given him as much bread and bacon as he could eat, but then as long as he was going to stay all night, it looked too inhospitable to sit down to the table and not ask him to join them. So, making a virtue of necessity, he was kindly asked to come to supper---an invitation he did not decline. Grace was said over the meal by Mr. W., and the coffee poured and the bread helped, and the meat carved.
There was a fine little boy, six years old, at the table, who had been brightened up and dressed in his best, in order to grace the minister’s reception. Charles was full of talk, and the parents felt a mutual pride in showing him off, even before their humble guest, who noticed him particularly, though he had not much to say. “Come Charley” said Mr. W., after the meal over, and he sat leaning on his chair, “can’t you repeat the pretty hymn mamma taught you last Sabbath?”
Charley started off without any further invitation, and repeated very accurately two or three verses of a camp-meeting hymn, that was then popular.
“Now let us hear you say the commandments, Charley.” Spoke up the mother , well pleased with her son’s performance.
And Charley repeated them with a little prompting.
“How many commandments are there asked the father.
The child hesitated, and then looking at the stranger, near whom he sat, said innocently:--
“How many are there?”
The man thought for some moments, and said, as if in doubt,
“Eleven, are there not?”
“Eleven!” ejaculated Mrs. W. in unfeigned surprise.
“Eleven? Said her husband with more rebuke than astonishment in his voice. “Is it possible, sir, that you do not know how many commandments there are? How many are there Charley? Come, tell me—you know, of course.”
“Ten,” replied the child.
“Right, my son,” returned Mr. W., looking with a smile of approval on the child. “Right, there isn’t a child of his age in ten miles who can’t tell you there are Ten Commandments.”
“Did you ever read the Bible, sir?" Addressing the stranger.
“When I was a boy I used to read it sometimes. But I am sure I thought that there were eleven commandments. Are you not mistaken about there being ten?”
Sister W. lifted her hands in unfeigned astonishment, and exclaimed:---
“Could anyone believe it? Such ignorance of the Bible!”
Mr. W. did not reply, but rose, and going to the corner of the room where the good book lay upon the stand, he put it on the table before him, and opened it to that portion in which the Commandments are recorded.
“There.” He said, placing his finger upon the proof of the stranger’s error, “There, look for your self.”
The man came around from his side of the table and looked over the stranger’s shoulder.
“There, do you see?”
“Yes, it does say so,” replied the man, “and yet it seems to me there are eleven. I’m sure I always thought so.
“Doesn’t it say ten here?” inquired Mr. W. with marked impatience in his voice.
“It does, certainly.”
“Well, what more do you want? Can’t you believe the Bible?”
“Oh, yes, I believe the Bible; and yet it strikes me somehow that there must be eleven commandments. Hasn’t one been added somewhere else?”
Now this was too much for brother and sister W. to bear. Such ignorance of sacred matters they felt to be unpardonable. A long lecture followed, in which the man was scolded, admonished, and threatened with divine indignation. At it’s close he modestly asked if he might have the Bible to read for an hour or two before retiring for the night. This was granted with more pleasure than any of the preceding ones.
Shortly after supper the man was conducted to the little spare room, accompanied by the Bible. Before leaving him alone, Mr. W. felt it to be his duty to exhort him to spiritual things, and he did so most earnestly for ten or fifteen minutes. But he could not see that his words made much impression, and he finally left his guest, lamenting his obduracy and ignorance.
In the morning he came down, and meeting Mr. W., asked if he could be so kind as to lend him a razor, that he might remove his beard, which did not give his face a very attractive appearance. His request was complied with.
“We will have prayers in about ten minutes,” said Mr. W., as he handed him the razor and shaving box.
The man appeared and behaved with due propriety at family worship. After breakfast he thanked the farmer and his wife for their hospitality, and parting went on his journey.
Ten o’clock came, but Mr. N. had not arrived. So Mr. And Mrs. W. started for the meeting-house, not doubting they would find him there. But they were disappointed. A goodly number of people were inside the meeting-house, and a goodly number outside, but the minister had not arrived.
“Where is Mr. N---?” inquired a dozen voices, as a crowd gathered around the farmer.
“He hasn’t come yet. Something has detained him. But I still look for him—indeed, I fully expected to find him here.”
The day was cold and Mr. W., after becoming thoroughly chilled, concluded to keep a good lookout for the minister from the window near which he usually sat, others from the same cause, followed his example, and the little meeting-house was soon filled, and one after another came dropping in. The farmer, who turned toward the door each time it was opened, was a little surprised to see his guest of the previous evening and come slowly down the aisle, looking on either side, as if searching for a vacant seat, very few of which were now left. Still advancing, he finally got within the little enclosed alter, and ascended to the pulpit, took off his old gray over coat and sat down.
By this time Mr. W. was by his side, and had his hand upon his arm.
“You mustn’t sit here. Come down and I will show you a seat,” he said in an excited tone.
“Thank you," replied the man in a composed voice. “It is very comfortable here.” And the man remained immovable.
Mr. W. feeling embarrassed, went down, intending to get a brother “official” to assist him in making a forcible ejection of the man from the place he was desecrating. Immediately upon his doing so, however, the man rose and standing up at the desk, opened the Hymn-book. His voice thrilled to the finger ends of Brother W. as in a distinct and impressive manner he gave out the hymn beginning:
“Help us to help each other Lord
Each other’s cross to bear
Let each his friendly aid afford
And feel a brother’s care.
The congregation rose, after the stranger had read the entire hymn, and had repeated the first two lines for them to sing. Brother W. usually started the tunes. He tried this time but went off on a long meter tune. Discovering his mistake at the second word, he balked and tried it again, but now he stumbled on short meter. A musical brother came to his aid and led off with tune that suited the measure in which the hymn was written. After singing the congregation knelt, and the minister---for no one doubted his real character—addressed the throne of grace with much fervor and eloquence. The reading of a chapter in the Bible succeeded. Then there was a deep pause throughout the room in anticipation of the text, which the preacher prepared to announce.
The dropping of a pin might have been heard. Then the fine, emphatic tones of the preacher filled the room.
“A new Commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”
Brother W. had bent forward to listen, but now he sunk back in his seat. This was the eleventh Commandment.
The sermon was deep, searching, yet affectionate and impressive. The preacher uttered nothing that could in the least wound the brother and sister of whose hospitality he had partaken, but he said much that smote upon their hearts and made them painfully conscious that they had not shown as much kindness to the stranger that he had been entitled to receive on the broad principles of humanity. But they suffered more from mortification of feeling. To think that they had treated the presiding elder of the district after such a fashion was deeply humiliating; and the idea of the whole affair interfered sadly with their devotional feelings throughout the whole period of service.
At last the sermon was over, the ordinance administered and the benediction pronounced. Brother W. did not know what was the best for him to do. He never was more at a loss in his life. Then Mr. N. descended from the pulpit; but he did not step forward to meet him. How could he do that? Others gathered around him, but still he lingered and held back.
“Where is Brother W.? he at length heard asked. It was the voice of the minister.
“Here he is," said one or two, opening the way to where the farmer stood.
The preacher advanced, and catching his hand, said:--
“How do you do Brother W., I am glad to see you. And where is Sister W.?”
Sister W. was brought forward and the preacher shook hands with them heartily, while his face was lit up with smiles.
“I believe I am to find a home with you,” he said as if it was settled.
Before the still embarrassed Brother and Sister could make reply, some one asked:--
“How came you to be detained so late? You were expected last night. And where is brother R.?”
“Brother R. is sick,” replied Mr. N., “and I had to come alone. Five miles from this my horse gave out, and I had to come the rest of the way on foot, but I became so cold and weary, that I found it necessary to ask a farmer not far from here, for a night’s lodging, which he was kind enough to do. I thought I was still three miles off, but it happened that I was very much nearer my journey’s end than I supposed.”
This explanation was satisfactory to all parties, and in due time the congregation dispersed, and the presiding elder went home with Brother and Sister W.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or
any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or
that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under
the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them,
nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous
God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generation of them
that hate me;
And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my Commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;
for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days
shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh
day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou
shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy
daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy
cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the
sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day:
wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt
not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant,
nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.