“I Came Not to Send Peace, but a Sword”

Mr. Allen, having business in London, determined to go on Saturday, and spend the next day with Zachariah. Although he always called on his old friend whenever he could do so, he was not often away from home on a Sunday. He also resolved to take George with him. Accordingly on Saturday morning they were up early and caught a coach on the North Road. The coaches by this time had fallen off considerably, for the Birmingham railway was open, and there was even some talk of a branch through Cowfold; but there were still perhaps a dozen which ran to places a good way east of the line. Father and son dismounted at the George and Blue Boar, where they were to sleep. Sunday was to be spent with the Colemans, whom George had seen before but very seldom; never, indeed, since he was a boy.

Zachariah still went to Pike Street Chapel, but only in the morning to hear Mr. Bradshaw, who was now an old man, and could not preach twice. On that particular Sunday on which Zachariah, Pauline, Mr. Allen, and George heard him he took for his text the thirteenth verse of the twelfth chapter of Deuteronomy: “Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place thou seest.” He put down his spectacles after he had read these words, for he never used a note, and said: “If your religion doesn’t help you, it is no religion for you; you had better be without it. I don’t mean if it doesn’t help you to a knowledge of a future life or of the way to heaven. Everybody will say his religion does that. What I do mean is, that the sign of a true religion⁠—true for you, is this⁠—Does it assist you to bear your own private difficulties?⁠—does it really?⁠—not the difficulties of the schools and theology, but those of the parlour and countinghouse; ay, difficulties most difficult, those with persons nearest to you?⁠ ⁠… Everybody ought to have his own religion. In one sense we are all disciples of Christ, but nevertheless each man has troubles peculiar to himself, and it is absurd to expect that any book system will be sufficient for each one of us at all points. You must make your own religion, and it is only what you make yourself which will be of any use to you. Don’t be disturbed if you find it is not of much use to other persons. Stick to it yourself if it is really your own, a bit of yourself. There are, however, in the Book of God universal truths, and the wonderful thing about them is, that they are at the same time more particularly adapted to you and me and all our innermost wants than anything we can discover for ourselves. That is the miracle of inspiration. For thousands and thousands of years some of the sayings here have comforted those who have well nigh despaired in the desert of the world. The wisdom of millions of apostles, of heroes, of martyrs, of poor field labourers, of solitary widows, of orphans of the destitute, of men driven to their last extremity has been the wisdom of this volume⁠—not their own, and yet most truly theirs.⁠ ⁠… Here is a word for us this morning: ‘Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place thou seest.’ Ah, what a word it is! You and I are not idolaters, and there is no danger of our being so. For you and me this is not a warning against idolatry. What is it for us then? Reserve yourself; discriminate in your worship. Reserve yourself, I say; but what is the implication? What says the next verse? ‘In the place which the Lord shall choose;’ that is to say, keep your worship for the Highest. Do not squander yourself, but, on the other hand, before the shrine of the Lord offer all your love and adoration. What a practical application this has!⁠ ⁠… I desire to come a little closer to you. What are the consequences of not obeying this Divine law? You will not be struck dead nor excommunicated, you will be simply disappointed. Your burnt offering will receive no answer; you will not be blessed through it; you will come to see that you have been pouring forth your treasure, and something worse, your heart’s blood⁠—not the blood of cattle⁠—before that which is no God⁠—a nothing, in fact. ‘Vanity of vanities,’ you will cry, ‘all is vanity.’ My young friends, young men and young women, you are particularly prone to go wrong in this matter. You not only lay your possessions but yourselves on altars by the roadside.”

It was the first time George had ever heard anything from any public speaker which came home to him, and he wondered if Mr. Bradshaw knew his history. He interpreted the discourse after his own way, and Priscilla was ever before him.

They came back to the little house, and sat down to dinner in the little front room. There were portraits on the walls⁠—nothing else but portraits⁠—and the collection at first sight was inconsistent. Major Cartwright was still there; there were also Byron, Bunyan, Scott, Paine, Burns, Mr. Bradshaw, and Rousseau. It was closely expressive of its owners. Zachariah and Pauline were private persons; they were, happily for them, committed to nothing, and were not subsidised by their reputations to defend a system. They were consequently free to think at large, and if they admired both Bunyan and Rousseau, they were at liberty to do so. Zachariah, in a measure, and a very large measure, had remained faithful to his earliest beliefs⁠—who is there that does not?⁠—and although they had been modified, they were still there; and he listened to Mr. Bradshaw with the faith of thirty years ago. He also believed in a good many things he had learned without him, and perhaps the old and the new were not so discordant as at first sight they might have seemed to be. He was not, in fact, despite all his love of logic, the “yes or no” from which most people cannot escape, but a “yes and no”; not immorally and through lack of resolution, but by reason of an original receptivity and the circumstances of his training. If he had been merely a student the case would have been different but he was not a student. He was a journeyman printer; and hard work has a tendency to demolish the distinctions of dialectics. He had also been to school outside his shop, and had learned many lessons, often confusing and apparently contradictory. Blanketeer marches; his first wife; the workhouse imprisonment; his second wife; the little Pauline had each come to him with its own special message, and the net result was a character, but a character disappointing to persons who prefer men and women of linear magnitude to those of three dimensions.

After dinner the conversation turned upon politics and Mr. Allen described his interview with Mr. Broad, regretting that the movement in the district round Cowfold would receive no countenance from the minister of the very sect which ought to be its chief support.

“A sad falling off,” said Zachariah, “from the days, even in my time, when the Dissenters were the insurrectionary class. Mr. Bradshaw, last Sunday, after his sermon, shut his Bible, and told the people that he did not now interfere much in political matters; but he felt he should not be doing his duty if he did not tell those whom he taught which way they ought to vote, and that what he had preached to them for so many years would be poor stuff if it did not compel them into a protest against taxing the poor for the sake of the rich.”

“Yes,” replied Mr. Allen; “but then Broad never has taught what Bradshaw teaches; he never seems to me to see anything clearly; at least he never makes me see anything clearly; the whole world is in a fog to him.”

“From what I have heard of Mr. Broad,” said Pauline, “I should think the explanation of him is very simple; he is a hypocrite⁠—an ordinary hypocrite. What is the use of going out of the way to seek for explanations of such commonplace persons?”

“Pauline, Pauline,” cried Zachariah, “you surely forget, my child, in whose company you are!”

“Oh, as for that,” said George, “Miss Coleman needn’t mind me. I haven’t married Mr. Broad, and my father is quite right. For that matter, I believe Miss Coleman is right too.”

“Well,” said Mr. Allen, “it is rather strong to say a man is an ordinary hypocrite, and it is not easy to prove it.”

“Not easy to prove it,” said Pauline, shifting a little her chair and looking straight at Mr. Allen, with great earnestness; “hypocrisy is the one thing easiest to prove. I can tell whether a man is a hypocrite before I know anything else about him. I may not for a long time be able to say what else he may be, but before he speaks, almost, I can detect whether he is sincere.”

“You women,” said Zachariah, with a smile, “or you girls rather, are so positive. Just as though the world were divided like the goats and the sheep in the gospel. That is a passage that I never could quite understand. I never, hardly, see a pure breed either of goat or sheep. I never see anybody who deserves to go straight to heaven or who deserves to go straight to hell. When the judgment day comes it will be a difficult task. Why, Pauline, my dear, I am a humbug myself.”

“Ah well, I have heard all that before; but, nevertheless, what I say is true. Some men, using speech as God meant men to use it, are liars, and some are not. Of course not entirely so, nor at all times. We cannot speak mere truth; we are not made to speak it. For all that you are not a liar.”

“Anyhow, I shall go on,” said Mr. Allen. “We shall have a desperate fight, and shall most likely lose; but no Tory shall sit for our county if I can help it.”

“Of course you will go on,” said Zachariah. “So shall I go on. We are to have a meeting in Clerkenwell tomorrow night, although, to tell you the truth, I don’t feel exactly the interest in the struggle which I did in those of five-and-twenty years ago, when we had to whisper our treasons to one another in locked rooms and put sentries at the doors. You know nothing about those times, George.”

“I wish I had,” said George, with an unusual passion, which surprised his father and caused Pauline to lift her eyes from the table and look at him. “I only wish I had. I can’t speak as father can, and I often say to myself I should like to take myself off to some foreign country where men get shot for what they call conspiracy. If I knew such a country I half believe I would go tomorrow.”

“Which means,” said Pauline, “that there would be an end of you and your services. If you care anything for a cause, you can do something better than get shot for it; and if you want martyrdom, there is a nobler martyrdom than death. The Christians who were trundled in barrels with spikes in them deserve higher honour than those who died in a moment, before they could recant. The highest form of martyrdom, though, is not even living for the sake of a cause, but living without one, merely because it is your duty to live. If you are called upon to testify to a great truth, it is easy to sing in flames. Yes, yes, Mr. George, the saints whom I would canonise are not martyrs for a cause, but those who have none.”

George thought that what Pauline said⁠—just as he had thought of Mr. Bradshaw’s sermon⁠—seemed to be said for him; and yet what did she know about him? Nothing. He was silent. All were silent, for it is difficult to follow anybody who pitches the conversation at so high a level; and Zachariah, who alone could have maintained it, was dreaming over his lost Pauline and gazing on the sacred pictures which were hung in the chamber of his heart. Just at that moment he was looking at the one of his wife as a girl; the room in which he was sitting had gone; he was in the court near Fleet Street; she had cleared the space for the dance; she had begun, and he was watching her with all the passion of his youth. The conversation gradually turned to something more indifferent, and the company broke up.

On the Monday George and his father went home. It is very depressing, after being with people who have been at their best, and with whom we have been at our best, to descend upon ordinary existence. George felt it particularly as he stood in the shop on Tuesday morning and reflected that for the whole of that day⁠—for his father was out⁠—he should probably not say nor hear a word for which he cared a single straw. But there was to be an election meeting that evening, and Mr. Allen was to speak, and George, of course, must be there. The evening came, and the room at the Mechanics’ Institute, which had just been established in Cowfold, was crowded. Admission was not by ticket, so that, though the Whigs had convened it, there was a strong muster of the enemy. Mr. Allen moved the first resolution in a stirring speech, which was constitutionally interrupted with appeals to him to go home and questions about a grey mare⁠—“How about old Pinfold’s grey mare?”⁠—which seemed conclusive and humorous to the last degree. Old Pinfold was a well-known character in Cowfold, horse-dealer, pig-jobber, attendant at races, with no definite occupation, and the grey mare was an animal which he managed to impose upon Mr. Allen, who sued him and lost. When Mr. Allen’s resolution had been duly seconded, one Rogers, a publican, got up and said he had something to say. There was indescribable confusion, some crying, “Turn him out;” others “Pitch into ’em, Bill.” Bill Rogers was well known as the funny man in Cowfold, a half-drunken buffoon, whose wit, such as it was, was retailed all over the place; a man who was specially pleased if he could be present in any assembly collected for any serious purpose and turn it into ridicule. He got upon a chair, not far from where George sat, but refused to go upon the platform. “No, thank yer my friends, I’m best down here; up there’s the place for the gentlefolk, the clever uns, them as buy grey mares!”⁠—(roars of laughter)⁠—“but, Mr. Chairman, with your permission”⁠—and here Bill put his had upon his chest and made a most profound bow to the chair, which caused more laughter⁠—“there is just one question I should like to ask⁠—not about the grey mare, sir”⁠—(roars of laughter again)⁠—“but I see a young gentleman here beknown to us all”⁠—(points to George)⁠—“and I should just like to ask him, does his mother-in-law⁠—not his mother, you observe, sir⁠—does his mother-in-law know he’s out?” Once more there was an explosion, for Mr. Broad’s refusal to take part in the contest was generally ascribed to Mrs. Broad. George sat still for a moment, hardly realising his position, and then the blood rose to his head; up crashed across the forms, and before the grin had settled into smoothness on Bill’s half-intoxicated features there was a grip like that of a giant on his greasy coat collar; he was dragged amidst shouts and blows to the door, George nothing heeding, and dismissed with such energy that he fell prostrate on the pavement. His friends had in vain attempted to stop George’s wrathful progress; but they were in a minority.

Next Saturday a report of the scene appeared in the county newspaper, giving full particulars, considerably exaggerated; and Mr. Broad read all about it to Mrs. Broad on Saturday afternoon, in the interval between the preparation of his two sermons. He had heard the story on the following day; but here was an authentic account in print. Mrs. Broad was of opinion that it was shocking; so vulgar, so low; her poor dear Priscilla, and so forth. Mr. Broad’s sullen animosity was so much stimulated that it had overcome his customary circumspection, and on the Sunday evening he preached from the text, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Mr. Broad remarked that the Apostle James made no mention here of the scheme of redemption; not because that was not the chief part of religion, but because he was considering religion in the aspect⁠—he was very fond of this word “aspect”⁠—which it presented to those outside the Church. He called upon his hearers to reflect with him for a few moments, in the first place, upon what religion was not; secondly, upon what it was; and thirdly, he would invite their attention to a few practical conclusions. He observed that religion did not consist in vain strife upon earthly matters, which only tended towards divisions in the Body of Christ. “At such a time as this, my brethren, it is important for us to remember that these disputes, especially if they are conducted with unseemly heat, are detrimental to the interests of the soul and give occasion to the enemy to blaspheme.” When Mr. Broad came to the secondly, and to that subdivision of it which dealt with freedom from worldly spots, he repeated the words with some emphasis, “ ‘Unspotted from the world.’ Think, my friends, of what this involves. Spots! The world spots and stains! We are not called upon to withdraw ourselves from the world⁠—the apostle does not say that⁠—but to keep ourselves unspotted, uncontaminated he appears to mean, by worldly influence. The word unspotted in the original bears that interpretation⁠—uncontaminated. Therefore, though we must be in the world, we are not to be of the world, but to set an example to it. In the world! Yes, my brethren, we must necessarily be in the world; that is the condition imposed upon us by the Divine Providence, because we are in a state of probation; we are so constituted, with a body, and with fleshly appetites, that we must be in the world; but we must be separate from it and its controversies, which are so unimportant compared with our eternal welfare.”

Mr. Bushel sat on high at his desk, where he gave out the hymns, and coughed every now and then, and looked straight at the pew where the Allens and George sat. Mr. Bushel knew well enough that, although he was just as ardent on the other side, the sermon was not meant for him, and not one of Mr. Broad’s remarks touched him. He thought only of the Allens, and rejoiced inwardly. George walked home with Priscilla in silence. At suppertime he suddenly said:

“I think your father might have found something better to do than preach at me.”

Priscilla was shocked. She had never heard a criticism on her father before.

“Really, George, what are you thinking of to talk in that way about a sermon, and on a Sunday night too?”

“He did preach at me; and if he has anything to say against me, why doesn’t he come and say it here or at the shop?”

“O George, this is dreadful! Besides, mamma did come and talk to me.”

“What has that got to do with it? Well, what did your mother say?”

“Why, she told me all about this meeting, and how you fought a man and nearly killed him, and you a member at Tanner’s Lane, and how you oughtn’t to have been there at all, and what Mr. Bushel was going to do.”

“Oughtn’t to have been there at all? Why not? I don’t believe you know any more than this table why I was there.”

“Oh yes, I do. You never tell me anything, but Mrs. Bushel told me. You want to get them all turned out of their farms.”

“Bosh! There you are again!⁠—the pains I took the other night again to make you comprehend what Free Trade meant. I knew you didn’t understand a word about it; and if you did understand, you wouldn’t believe me. You never take any notice of anything I say; but if Mrs. Bushel or any other blockhead tells you anything, you believe that directly.”

Priscilla’s eyes filled; she took out her handkerchief, and went upstairs. George sat still for a while, and then followed her. He found her sitting by the baby’s cradle, her head on her hands and sobbing. It touched him beyond measure to see how she retreated to her child; he went to her; his anger was once more forgotten, and once more he was reconciled with kisses and self-humiliation. The next morning, however, as he went to the square, the conversation of the night before returned to him. “What does it all mean?” he cried to himself. “Would to God it were either one thing or another! I could be happy if I really cared for her, and if I hated her downright I could endure it like any other calamity which cannot be altered; but this is more than I can bear!”

The Allens, father and mother, held anxious debate whether they should take any notice of the attack by their pastor, and in the end determined to do nothing. They considered, and rightly considered, that any action on their part would only make George’s position more difficult, and he was the first person to be considered.

Next Saturday there was some business to be done in London, and George went, this time by himself. On the Sunday morning he called on the Colemans, and found Zachariah at home, but Pauline away. Mr. Bradshaw, too, was not to preach that day. It was wet, and Zachariah and George sat and talked, first about the election, and then about other indifferent subjects. Conversation⁠—even of the best, and between two friends⁠—is poor work when one of the two suffers from some secret sorrow which he cannot reveal, and George grew weary. Zachariah knew what was the matter with him, and had known it for a long while, but was too tender to hint his knowledge. Nevertheless, remembering his own history, he pitied the poor boy exceedingly. He loved him as his own child, for his father’s sake, and loved him all the more for an experience so nearly resembling another which he recollected too well.

“How is it Mr. Bradshaw is not preaching today?” said George.

“He is ill; I am afraid he is breaking up; and latterly he has been worried by the small attacks made upon him by people who are afraid to say anything distinctly.”

“What kind of attacks?”

“Well, they insinuate that he is Arian.”

“What is that?”

Zachariah explained the case as well as he could, and George was much interested.

“Arian or not, I tell you one thing, Mr. Coleman, that Mr. Bradshaw, whenever I have heard him, seems to help me as Mr. Broad never does. I never think about what Mr. Broad says except when I am in chapel, and sometimes not then.”

“Bradshaw speaks from himself. He said a thing last Sunday which stuck by me, and would have pleased a country lad like you more than it did three parts of his congregation, who are not so familiar with country life as he is. He told us he was out for a holiday, and saw some men hoeing in a field⁠—‘Hoeing the charlock,’ he said to himself; but when he came nearer he found they were hoeing turnips⁠—hoeing up the poor plants themselves, which lay dying all around; hoeing them up to let the other plants have room to grow.

“I have known men,” added Zachariah after a pause, “from whose life so much⁠—all love, for example⁠—has been cut out; and the effect has been, not ruin, but growth in other directions which we should never have seen without it.”

Zachariah took down a little book from his shelf, and wrote George’s name in it.

“There, my boy, it is not much to look at, but I know nothing better, and keep it always in your pocket. It is the Imitation of Christ. You will find a good deal in it which will suit you, and you will say, as I have said a thousand times over it, that other people may write of science or philosophy, but this man writes about me.”

He put it on the table, and George opened it at the sentence, “He that can best tell how to suffer will best keep himself in peace. That man is conqueror of himself, and lord of the world, the friend of Christ, and the heir of heaven.” He turned over the leaves again⁠—“He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh is delivered from a world of unnecessary conceptions.” Zachariah bent his head near him and gently expounded the texts. As the exposition grew George’s heart dilated, and he was carried beyond his troubles. It was the birth in him⁠—even in him, a Cowfold ironmonger, not a scholar by any means⁠—of what philosophers call the idea, that Incarnation which has ever been our Redemption. He said nothing to Zachariah about his own affairs, nor did Zachariah, as before observed, say anything to him; but the two knew one another, and felt that they knew one another as intimately as if George had imparted to his friend the minutest details of his unhappiness with his wife.

Towards the end of the afternoon Pauline returned, and inquired how the battle went in Cowfold.

“I am afraid we shall be beaten. Sometimes I don’t seem to care much about it.”

“Don’t care! Why not?”

“Oh, we talk and talk, father and I, and somehow people’s minds are made up without talking, and nobody ever changes. When we have our meetings, who is it who comes? Does Bushel come? Not a bit of it. We only get our own set.”

“Well,” said Zachariah, the old man’s republican revolutionary ardour returning, “this is about the only struggle in which I have felt much interest of late years. I should like to have cheap bread, and what is more, I should like to deprive the landlords of that bit of the price which makes the bread dear. I agree with you, my boy. Endless discussion is all very well⁠—forms ‘public opinion,’ they say; but I wish a stop could be put to it when it has come round to where it began; that one side could say to the other, ‘You have heard all our logic, and we have heard all yours;’ now then, let us settle it. ‘Who is the strongest and best drilled?’ I believe in insurrection. Everlasting debate⁠—and it is not genuine debate, for nobody really ranges himself alongside his enemy’s strongest points⁠—demoralises us all. It encourages all sorts of sophistry, becomes mere manoeuvring, and saps people’s faith in the truth. In half an hour, if two persons were to sit opposite one another, they could muster every single reason for and against Free Trade. What is the use of going on after that? Moreover, insurrection strengthens the belief of men in the right. A man who voluntarily incurs the risk of being shot believes ever afterwards, if he escapes, a little more earnestly than he did before. ‘Who is on the Lord’s side, let him come unto me,’ says the flag. Insurrection strengthens, too, the faith of others. When a company of poor men meet together and declare that things have got to such a pass that they will either kill their enemies or die themselves, the world then thinks there must, after all, be some difference between right and wrong.”

“Father, that is all past now. We must settle our quarrels in the appointed way. Don’t say anything to discourage Mr. Allen. Besides, people are not so immovable as you think. How they alter I don’t know; but they do alter. There is a much larger minority in favour of Free Trade than there was ten years ago.”

“All past now, is it? You will see one of these days.”

It was time for tea, and Pauline left to get the tea-things. In the evening they strolled out for a walk through Barnsbury and up Maiden Lane, then a real and pretty lane stretching northwestwards through hedges to Highgate. After they had gone a few hundred yards Zachariah went back; he had forgotten something, and George and Pauline walked on slowly together. The street was crowded, for it was just about church time, but on the opposite side of the road George saw somebody whom he knew, but who took no notice of him.

“How odd!” he said to Pauline; “that is Tom Broad! What is he doing here, I wonder?”

Pauline made no answer, and at that moment Zachariah rejoined them.

The reason for Mr. Thomas Broad’s appearance in that quarter will be best explained by the following letter, which he had received the day before from his father:⁠—

My dear Thomas⁠—I was very glad to hear of your success at Mr. Martin’s chapel, at Hackney, on Sunday afternoon. Although it was nothing more than an afternoon service, you must remember that it is the first invitation to a metropolitan pulpit which you have received. It would be as well if you were to call on Mr. Martin at your earliest convenience, and also on Mr. Chandler, in Leather Lane, whom you mentioned to me, and who, I believe, is a prominent deacon. The choice of your subject was judicious, although it is not so easy to fix the character of a discourse for the afternoon as for the morning or evening. “I will give him a white stone” is a text I have used myself with great profit. A young minister, I need hardly say, my dear Thomas, ought to confine himself to what is generally accepted, and not to particularise. For this reason he should avoid not only all disputed topics, but, as far as possible, all reference to particular offences. I always myself doubted the wisdom, for example, of sermons against covetousness, or worldliness, or hypocrisy. Let us follow our Lord and Master, and warn our hearers against sin, and leave the application to the Holy Spirit. I only mention this matter now because I have found two or three young students err in this direction, and the error, I am sure, militates against their usefulness.

Your dear mamma and Tryphosa are both quite well. Not so Priscilla. I grieve to say she is not well. George’s conduct lately has been very strange. I am afraid that he will be a trouble not only to us, but to the Church of Christ. Both he and his father have kindled strife amongst us in this unhappy election contest, for which, as a minister of God’s Word, I have held aloof. For one or two Sundays the Allens have absented themselves from Divine service in the evening, and we know that there has been no sickness in the house. I feel certain that before long they will withdraw their subscription. I have good reason to believe that their friend, Mr. Coleman, exercises a very baleful influence upon them. However, God’s will be done! These are the trials which His servants who minister to His flock must expect. Goodbye, my dear Thomas. Mamma and Tryphosa send their love. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.⁠—Your affectionate father,

John Broad.

P.S.⁠—It will be as well, perhaps, if you can ascertain whether the Allens visit the Colemans, and more particularly if George goes there. The Coleman household consists, I believe, of a father and daughter. You will remember that Coleman has been a convict, and, I have heard, has tendencies towards infidelity. Priscilla informs me that Mr. Allen and George will be in London tomorrow; but she does not know what they are going to do there. You will doubtless be able to obtain the information I desire, and on future occasions I will also advise you when either George or his father is in the metropolis.

Mr. Thomas Broad had his own reasons for complying with his father’s request. He hated the Colemans and George with as much active malignity as was possible to his heavy unctuous nature. Why he should hate the Colemans is intelligible, and his hatred to George can also be explained, partly through sympathy between father and son, and partly because the hatred of a person like Thomas Broad to a person like George Allen needs no explanation.