When Wilt Thou Arise Out of Thy Sleep? Yet a Little Sleep

The Reverend John Broad was minister of Tanner’s Lane Chapel, or, more properly, Meetinghouse, a three gabled building, with the date 1688 upon it, which stood in a short street leading out of North Street. Why it was called Tanner’s Lane nobody knew; for not in the memory of man had any tanner carried on his trade there. There was nothing of any consequence in it but the meetinghouse, and when people said Tanner’s Lane this was what they meant. There were about seven hundred and fifty sittings in it, and on Sundays it was tolerably full, for it was attended by large numbers of people from the surrounding villages, who came in gigs and carts, and brought their dinners with them, which they ate in the vestry. It was, in fact, the centre of the Dissenting activity for a whole district. It had small affiliated meetinghouses in places like Sheepgate, Hackston Green, and Bull’s Cross, in which service was held on Sunday evening by the deacons of Tanner’s Lane, or by some of the young men whom Mr. Broad prepared to be missionaries. For a great many years the congregation had apparently undergone no change in character; but the uniformity was only apparent. The fervid piety of Cowper’s time and of the Evangelical revival was a thing almost of the past. The Reverend John Broad was certainly not of the Revival type. He was a big, gross-feeding, heavy person, with heavy ox-face and large mouth, who might have been bad enough for anything if nature had ordained that he should have been born in a hovel at Sheepgate or in the Black Country. As it happened, his father was a woollen draper, and John was brought up to the trade as a youth; got tired of it, thought he might do something more respectable; went to a Dissenting College; took charge of a little chapel in Buckinghamshire; married early; was removed to Tanner’s Lane, and became a preacher of the Gospel. He was moderate in all of what he called his “views;” neither ultra-Calvinist nor Arminian not rigid upon Baptism, and certainly much unlike his lean and fervid predecessor, the Reverend James Harden, M.A., who was educated at Cambridge; threw up all his chances there when he became convinced of sin; cast in his lot with the Independents, and wrestled even unto blood with the world, the flesh, and the devil in Cowfold for thirty years, till he was gathered to his rest. A fiery, ardent, untamable soul was Harden’s, bold and uncompromising. He never scrupled to tell anybody what he thought, and would send an arrow sharp and swift through any iniquity, no matter where it might couch. He absolutely ruled Cowfold, hated by many, beloved by many, feared by all⁠—a genuine soldier of the Cross. Mr. Broad very much preferred the indirect mode of doing good, and if he thought a brother had done wrong, contented himself with praying in private for him. He was, however, not a hypocrite, that is to say, not an ordinary novel or stage hypocrite. There is no such thing as a human being simply hypocritical or simply sincere. We are all hypocrites, more or less, in every word and every action, and, what is more, in every thought. It is a question simply of degree. Furthermore, there are degrees of natural capacity for sincerity, and Mr. Broad was probably as sincere as his build of soul and body allowed him to be. Certainly no doubt as to the truth of what he preached ever crossed his mind. He could not doubt, for there was no doubt in the air; and yet he could not believe as Harden believed, for neither was Harden’s belief now in the air. Nor was Mr. Broad a criminal in any sense. He was upright, on the whole, in all his transactions, although a little greedy and hard, people thought, when the trustees proposed to remit to Widow Oakfield, on her husband’s death, half the rent of a small field belonging to the meetinghouse, and contributing a modest sum to Mr. Broad’s revenue. He objected. Widow Oakfield was poor; but then she did not belong to Tanner’s Lane, and was said to have relations who could help her. Mr. Broad loved his wife decently, brought up his children decently, and not the slightest breath of scandal ever tarnished his well-polished reputation. On some points he was most particular, and no young woman who came to him with her experience before she was admitted into the church was ever seen by him alone. Always was a deacon present, and all Cowfold admitted that the minister was most discreet. Another recommendation, too, was that he was temperate in his drink. He was not so in his meat. Supper was his great meal, and he would then consume beef, ham, or sausages, hot potatoes, mixed pickles, fruit pies, bread, cheese, and celery in quantities which were remarkable even in those days; but he never drank anything but beer⁠—a pint at dinner and a pint at supper.

On one Monday afternoon in July, 1840, Mr. and Mrs. Broad sat at tea in the study. This was Mr. Broad’s habit on Monday afternoon. On that day, after the three sermons on the Sunday, he always professed himself “Mondayish.” The morning was given over to calling in the town; when he had dined he slept in his large leathern chair; and at five husband and wife had tea by themselves. Thomas, the eldest son, and his two younger sisters, Priscilla and Tryphosa, aged seventeen and fifteen, were sent to the dining-room. Mr. Broad never omitted this custom of spending an hour and a half on Monday with Mrs. Broad. It gave them an opportunity of talking over the affairs of the congregation, and it added to Mr. Broad’s importance with the missionary students, because they saw how great were the weight and fatigue of the pastoral office.

A flock like that which was shepherded by Mr. Broad required some management. Mrs. Broad took the women, and Mr. Broad the men; but Mrs. Broad was not a very able tactician. She was a Flavel by birth, and came from a distant part of the country. Her father was a Dissenting minister; but he was Dr. Flavel, with a great chapel in a great town. Consequently she gave herself airs, and occasionally let fall, to the great displeasure of the Cowfold ladies, words which implied some disparagement of Cowfold. She was a shortish, stout, upright little woman, who used a large fan and spoke with an accent strange to the Midlands. She was not a great help to the minister, because she was not sufficiently flexible and insinuating for her position; but nevertheless they always worked together, and she followed as well as she could the directions of her astuter husband, who, considering his bovine cast, was endowed with quite a preternatural sagacity in the secular business of his profession.

On this particular afternoon, however, the subject of the conversation was not the congregation, but young Thomas Broad, aged eighteen, the exact, and almost ridiculously exact, counterpart of his father. He had never been allowed to go to school, but had been taught at home. There was only one day-school in Cowfold, and his mother objected to the “mixture.” She had been heard to say as much, and Cowfold resented this too, and the Cowfold youths resented it by holding Tommy Broad in extreme contempt. He had never been properly a boy, for he could play at no boyish games; had a tallowy, unpleasant complexion, went for formal walks, and carried gloves. But though in a sense incompletely developed, he was not incompletely developed in another direction. He was at what is called an awkward age, and both father and mother had detected in him an alarming tendency to enjoy the society of young women⁠—a tendency much stimulated by his unnatural mode of life. Thomas was already a member of the church and was a teacher in the Sunday-school; but his mother was uneasy, for a serious attachment between Thomas and anybody in the town would have been very distasteful to her. The tea having been poured out, and Mr. Broad having fairly settled down upon the buttered toast and radishes, Mrs. Broad began:

“Have you thought anything more about Thomas, my dear?”

Being a minister’s son, he was never called Tom by either papa or mamma.

“Yes, my love; but it is very difficult to know how to proceed judiciously in such a case.”

Mrs. Allen asked me, last Wednesday, when he was going to leave home, and I told her we had not made up our minds. She said that her brother in Birmingham wanted a youth in his office, but my answer was directly that we had quite determined that Thomas should not enter into any trade.”

“What did she say?”

“That she was not surprised, for she hardly thought Thomas was fitted for it.”

The minister looked grave and perplexed, for Mr. Allen was in trade, and was a deacon. Mrs. Broad proceeded:

“I am quite sure Thomas ought to be a minister; and I am quite sure, too, he ought to leave Cowfold and go to college.”

“Don’t you think this event might be procrastinated; the expense would be considerable.”

“Well, my dear, Fanny Allen came here to tea the day before yesterday. When she went away she could not find her clogs. I was on the landing, and saw what happened, though they did not think it. Fanny’s brother was waiting outside. Priscilla had gone somewhere far the moment⁠—I don’t know where⁠—and Tryphosa was upstairs. Thomas said he would look for the clogs, and presently I saw him fastening them for her. Then he walked with her down the garden. I just went into the front bedroom and looked. It was not very dark, and⁠—well, I may be mistaken, but I do believe⁠—” The rest of the sentence was wanting. Mrs. Broad stopped at this point. She felt it was more becoming to do so. She shifted on her chair with a fidgety motion, threw her head back a little, looked up at the portrait of Dr. Flavel in gown and bands which hung over the fireplace, straightened her gown upon her knees, and pushed it forward over her feet so as to cover them altogether⁠—a mute protest against the impropriety of the scene she had partly described. Mr. Broad inwardly would have liked her to go on; but he always wore his white neckerchief, except when he was in bed, and he was still the Reverend John Broad, although nobody but his wife was with him. He therefore refrained, but after a while slowly observed:

“Thomas has not made much progress in systematic theology.”

“They do not require much on admission, do they? He knows the outlines, and I am sure the committee will recollect my father and be glad to get Thomas. I have heard that the social position of the candidates is not what it used to be, and that they wish to obtain some of a superior stamp, who ultimately may be found adapted to metropolitan churches.”

“One of the questions last year, my dear, was upon the office of the Comforter, and you remember Josiah Collins was remanded. I hardly think Thomas is sufficiently instructed on that subject at present; and there are others. On the whole, it is preferable that he should not go till September twelvemonths.”

“His personal piety would have weight.”


There was a pause, and Mrs. Broad then continued:

“Well, my dear, you know best; but what about Fanny? I shall not ask her again. How very forward, and indeed altogether”⁠—Another stoppage, another twitch at her gown, with another fidget on the chair, the eyes going up to Dr. Flavel’s bands as before. “In our house too⁠—to put herself in Thomas’s way!”

Ah! Mrs. Broad, are you sure Thomas did not go out of his way⁠—even in your house, that eminently respectable, eminently orthodox residence⁠—even Thomas, your Samuel, who had been granted to the Lord, and who, to use his own words when his written religious autobiography was read at the church-meeting, being the child of pious parents, and of many prayers, had never been exposed to those assaults of the enemy of souls which beset ordinary young men, and consequently had not undergone a sudden conversion?

“But,” observed Mr. Broad, leaning back in his easy-chair, and half covering his face with his great broad, fat hand, “we shall offend the Allens if Fanny does not come, and we shall injure the cause.”

“Has George Allen, Fanny’s brother, prayed at the prayer-meeting yet? He was admitted two months ago.”


“Then ask his father to let him pray; and we need not invite Fanny till Thomas has left.”

The papa objected that perhaps Thomas might go to the Allen’s, but the mamma, with Dr. Flavel’s bands before her, assured him that Thomas would do nothing of the kind. So it was settled that Mr. Broad should call at the Allen’s tomorrow, and suggest that George should “engage” on the following Thursday. This, it was confidently hoped, would prevent any suspicion on their part that Fanny had been put aside. Of course, once having begun, George would be regularly on the list.