December 23: The Old Church

Our post today is drawn from THE NEW YORK OBSERVER, an old 19th-century Presbyterian newspaper. As you read, remember that the church is, of course, the people and not the building. Still, it is interesting how place comes to hold the memories and emotions that sum up the years. 


The days had woven themselves into months, and the months had grown silently into years, since I had entered the dear old church. And now my tired feet were turning thitherward once more. Ah, me! that it should be so, but I fear those feet have wandered far from the narrow way they had entered, in the long ago, beneath these sacred walls. Along the dusty highway of life, over its high mountains of danger and temptation, from whose summit I had caught visions of far off, fair Beulah; down into its deep valleys of sordid care and strife, into whose gloom no glimmer, even, of the heavenly brightness had ever entered, to the sound of funeral dirges, and of wedding marches, these weary feet have toiled, until at last they have come again to these sacred portals.

It is not a beautiful church; indeed, I believe people generally call it a very ugly one. But to me, the deep, low galleries, the tall, massive pillars, with the vast open dome brooding over all, are beautiful, for they are draped about with the prayers of the saluted dead, and the sweet peace of the “first love,” lingers like incense in the shadows. Even as I enter the narrow doors, the deep joy of the olden time, the trustful early love that was content to lay all things at the Father’s feet, and leaning on His bosom, wait calmly for the future, came stealing to my heart again.

Over there it was, I stood on that golden Sabbath morning, when God’s ambassador spoke to me in the presence of his people, saying: “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He loves you, and gave Himself for you?” And the peace that passeth knowledge came to my soul as I answered, forgetting the people and looking only into the face of the Lord—“I do.”

Then came the touch of the baptismal waters, and the words, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” And I stood in the presence of that crowd of seen and unseen witnesses, with His vows upon me. He only knows how sadly those baptismal robes have been stained, how often those vows have been broken.

In that corner pew I sat when first I took the emblems of my Redeemer’s dying love, while through my heart, above the tumultuous waves of love and adoration, went singing only these words, “Broken for me! Broken for me!”

Oh! it is to the weary wanderer like coming home again; home to sweet, sacred memories; home to loving hearts and warm welcome words. They are nearly all here that I used to meet on those olden Sabbaths; truly there are some vacant places, but they are not many; the children are a little older grown, and perhaps there are a few more wrinkles and silver hairs, marking the fathers and mothers, but they are nearly all the same, and the loving words and warm hand-pressures are the same they gave to the youthful pilgrim. God bless them.

It is peace and rest, after all the conflict, just to sit quietly here, in the old place, and with closed eyes drink in the sweet peace and joy of past and present pardon. To listen with a full heart to the well-known, well-loved voice that speaks from the square old pulpit, just the text my wayward heart needed: “Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” Yes, that was the God-sent message, to trust Him. In the past I had, indeed, commited my ways unto the Lord, but I had not trusted Him; and ever since I have been trying to shape them out myself.

To-day, please God, I’ll learn the double lesson: “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him.” And perchance, in all the after-journey, whether I stand upon the mountain-top or go down into the valley, alike to both will come visions of fair Beulah, and back to heart and life shall come the early love and holy influences of this old church, to grow and broaden, till by God’s grace I stand within the golden portals of the heavenly temple.


THE NEW YORK OBSERVER, 48.33 (18 August 1870): 257, column 5.

Words to Live By:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
—Hebrews 10:23-25, KJV


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