In the scenes which we have painted we have shown our Dr. Cushing mingling as man with men, living a free, natural, healthy human life. Yet underneath all this he bore always on his spirit a deeper and heavier responsibility.

The ideal of a New England minister's calling was not the mere keeping up of Sunday services, with two regular sermons, the pastoral offices of visiting the sick, performing marriages, and burying the dead. It was not merely the oversight of schools, and catechising of children, and bringing his people into a certain habitual outward routine of religion, though all these were included in it. But, deeper than all these, there was laid upon his soul the yearning desire to bring every one in his flock to a living, conscious union with God; to a life whose source and purposes were above this earth and tending heavenward. In whatever scene of social life he met his people his eye was ever upon them, studying their characters, marking their mental or moral progress, hoping and praying for this final result. Besides the stated services of Sunday, our good Doctor preached three or four evenings in a week in the small district school-houses of the outlying parishes, when the fervor of his zeal drew always a full audience to listen. More especially now, since the late political revolution had swept away the ancient prescriptive defenses of religion and morals, and thrown the whole field open to individual liberty, had the Doctor felt that the clergy must make up in moral influence what had passed away of legal restraints.

With all his soul he was seeking a revival of religion; a deep, pathetic earnestness made itself felt in his preaching and prayers, and the more spiritual of his auditors began to feel themselves sympathetically affected. Of course, all the church members in good standing professed to believe truths which made life a sublime reality, and religion the one absorbing aim. The New Testament gives a glorified ideal of a possible human life, but hard are his labors who tasks himself to keep that ideal uppermost among average human beings.

The coarse, the low, the mean, the vulgar, is ever thrusting itself before the higher and more delicate nature, and claiming, in virtue of its very brute strength, to be the true reality.

New England had been founded as a theocracy. It had come down to Dr. Cushing's time under laws and customs specially made and intended to form a Christian State, and yet how far it was below the teachings of the New Testament none realized so deeply as the minister himself.

He was the confidant of all the conflicts between different neighborhoods, of the small envies, jealousies and rivalries that agitated families and set one part of his parish against another. He was cognizant of all the little unworthy gossip, the low aims, the small ambitions of these would-be Christians, and sometimes his heart sank at the prospect.

Yet the preaching, the prayers, the intense earnestness of the New England religious life had sometimes their hour of being outwardly felt; the sacred altar-flame that was burning in secret in so many hearts threw its light into the darkness, and an upspringing of religious interest was the result.

The quarrel which had separated Zeph Higgins from the church had spread more or less unwholesome influence through the neighborhood, and it was only through some such divine impulse as he sought that the minister could hope to bring back a better state of things. In this labor of love he felt that he had a constant, powerful co-operative force in the silent, prayerful woman, who walked by Zeph's side as a guardian angel. Had it not been for her peculiar talent for silence and peace the quarrel would have gone much farther and produced wider alienation; but there is nothing that so absolutely quenches the sparks of contention as silence. Especially is this the case with the silence of a strong, determined nature, that utters itself only to God. For months Zeph had been conscious of a sort of invisible power about his wife—a power that controlled him in spite of himself. It was that mysterious atmosphere created by intense feeling without the help of words.

People often, in looking on this couple, shook their heads and said, "How could that woman ever have married that man?"

Such observers forget that the woman may see a side of the man's nature that they never see, and that often the chief reason why a man wins a woman's heart is that she fancies herself to have discerned in him that which no other could discern, an undiscovered realm peculiarly her own. The rough, combative, saturnine man known as Zeph Higgins had had his turn of being young, and his youth's blossoming-time of love, when he had set his heart on this Mary, then an orphan, alone in the world. Like many another woman, she was easily persuaded that the stormy, determined, impetuous passion thus seeking her could take no denial; was of the same nature with the kind of love she felt able to give in return—love faithful, devoted, unseeking of self, and asking only to bless.

But, in time, marriage brought its revelations, and life lay before her a bare, cold, austere reality, with the lover changed into the toiling fellow-laborer or the exacting master.

A late discernment of spirit showed her that she was married to a man whose love for her was all demand, who asked everything from her and had little power of giving in return; that, while he needed her, and clung to her at times with a sort of helpless reliance, he had no power of understanding or sympathizing with her higher nature, and that her life, in all that she felt most deeply and keenly, must be a solitary one.

These hours of disillusion come to many, and are often turning points in the soul's history. Rightly understood, they may prove the seed-bed where plants of the higher life strike deepest root. Mary Higgins was one of those who found in her religion the strength of her soul. The invisible Friend, whose knock is heard in every heart-trial, entered in to dwell with her, bringing the peace which the world cannot give; and henceforth she was strong in spirit, and her walk was in green pastures and by still waters.

They greatly mistake the New England religious development who suppose that it was a mere culture of the head in dry metaphysical doctrines. As in the rifts of the granite rocks grow flowers of wonderful beauty and delicacy, so in the secret recesses of Puritan life, by the fireside of the farm-house, in the contemplative silence of austere care and labor, grew up religious experiences that brought a heavenly brightness down into the poverty of commonplace existence.

The philosophic pen of President Edwards has set before us one such inner record, in the history of the wife whose saintly patience and unworldly elevation enabled him to bear the reverses which drove him from a comfortable parish to encounter the privations of missionary life among the Indians. And such experiences were not uncommon among lowly natures, who lacked the eloquence to set them forth in words. They lightened the heart, they brightened the eye, they made the atmosphere of the home peaceful.

Such was the inner life of her we speak of. At rest in herself, she asked nothing, yet was willing to give everything to the husband and children who were at once her world of duty and of love. Year in and out, she kept step in life with a beautiful exactness, so perfect and complete in every ministry of the household that those she served forgot to thank her, as we forget to thank the daily Giver of air and sunshine. Zeph never had known anything at home but neatness, order, and symmetry, regular hours and perfect service.

His wife had always been on time, and on duty, and it seemed to him like one of the immutable laws of nature that she should do so. He was proud of her housekeeping, proud of her virtues, as something belonging to himself, and, though she had no direct power over his harsher moods of combativeness and self-will, she sometimes came to him as a still small voice after the earthquake and the tempest, and her words then had weight with him, precisely because they were few, and seldom spoken.

She had been silent all through the stormy quarrel that had rent him away from his church. Without an argument where argument would only strengthen opposition, she let his will have its way. She went with him on Sundays to the Episcopal Church, and sat there among her sons, a lowly and conscientious worshiper, carefully following a service which could not fail to bring voices of comfort and help to a devout soul like hers. Nevertheless, the service, to any one coming to it late in life and with no previous training, has its difficulties, which were to her embarrassing, and to him, in spite of his proud self-will, annoying. Zeph had the Spartan contempt for everything æsthetic, the scorn of beauty which characterized certain rough stages of New England life. He not only did not like symbolic forms, but he despised them as effeminate impertinences; and every turn and movement that he was compelled to make in his new ritualistic surroundings was aggravating to his temper. To bend the knee at the name of Jesus, to rise up reverently when the words of Jesus were about to be read in the Gospel of the day, were acts congenial to his wife as they were irksome to him; and, above all, the idea of ecclesiastical authority, whether exercised by rector, bishop or church, woke all the refractory nerves of opposition inherited from five generations of Puritans. So that Zeph was as little comfortable in his new position as his worst enemy could have desired. Nothing but the strength of his obstinate determination not to yield a point once taken kept him even outwardly steady. But to go back to his church, to confess himself in the wrong and make up his old quarrel with the Deacon, would be worse than to stay where he was.

The tenacity and devotion with which some hard natures will cleave to a quarrel which embitters their very life-blood is one of the strange problems of our human nature. In the hereditary form of family prayer that Zeph Higgins used every day, there was the customary phrase "We are miserable sinners;" and yet Zeph, like many another man who repeats that form in the general, would rather die than confess a fault in any particular; and in this respect we must admit that he was not, after all, a very exceptional character. How often in our experience do we meet a man brave enough, when once fully committed, to turn a square corner and say "I was wrong"? If only such have a stone to cast at Zeph Higgins, the cairn will not be a very high one.

Zeph never breathed an opposing word when his wife, every Friday evening, lighted the lantern, and with all her sons about her set off to the evening prayer-meeting in the little red school-house, though after his quarrel with the Deacon he never went himself. Those weekly meetings, when she heard her minister and joined in the prayers and praises of her church, were the brightest hours of her life, and her serene radiant face, following his words with rapt attention, was a help and inspiration to her pastor.

"There is a revival begun over there," he said to his wife as they were riding home from one of his services. "It is begun in the heart of that good woman. She has long been praying for a revival, and I am confident that her prayers will be answered."

They were answered, but in a way little dreamed of by any one.

The prayers we offer for heavenly blessings often come up in our earthly soil as plants of bitter sorrow.

So it proved in this case.

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