Israel Bethel Church

IT is a low and dingy building, rusty green as to shutters and rusty white as to color, under the hill south of the Capitol, below the new level of the streets, and in an out-of-the-way neighborhood. Of a pleasant Sunday morning a crowd still gathers at its narrow doorways, and I presume there are love-feasts and watch-meetings as in the olden time: but in these latter days negroes manage ward caucuses, and go to the common council, and sit in congressional seats, and are sovereigns of the ballot in the great Republic ; they have other and aristocratic churches, and some of them now “attend divine service ” with the whites ; the glory of Bethel is among the things that were, and it has the general air of being past its prime and well on the downward slope of lite.

In its day it was one of the institutions of Washington. There were larger buildings, and churches of more pretension ; but in the first years of the war soldiers and citizens from the North went to Bethel, if they desired to see the negro at his devotions. It was a democratic place. Spruce young bucks and fashionably dressed girls sat on the benches with kitchen-maids and runaway field-hands, and the extremes of African or semi-African society joined hands in praying and shouting. Therefore we curious Yankees went to Bethel.

Not so often to the Sunday morning service, for the garish light of day acts as a curb and restraint on the negro’s fervor and emotion ; and the brethren and sisters, for the most part, then sit quietly and soberly in their pews, and dream their dreams of heaven and hereafter in decorous fashion. The evening service, whether on Sunday or week-day, brought them out: then they were caught of the “ power,” and wrestled with the Lord, and overcame the Devil, and cried exultantly in the joy of redemption, and to their spirits the whole room was radiant with the very presence of the Most High.

Those were the days when city law or custom required the attendance of a white police official at evening meetings of the blacks, except as the authorities dared take the chance that neither “ sedition, privy conspiracy, nor rebellion ” would be furthered there. His presence seemed an insult and a menace, but so far as I ever observed he obtruded himself as little as possible, and before the end of 1862 he found it convenient to disappear from the scene. Those were also the days when no slave ventured on the street after a certain hour at night without a permit from master or mistress, except at the peril of a chase by the police, a detention in the watch-house if caught, and a fine by the magistrate in the morning. If one missed his favorite waiter at breakfast, he reasonably surmised that the “boy” might be found at the central police station, and at nine o'clock he sometimes went down and “ swore him out ” as his personal servant, without much compunction of conscience. For the young men of the North were wonderfully indoctrinated with Mr. Seward’s “higher-law” theories, and it was an easily pardonable sin to circumvent the statutes of slavery in the national capital.

The Bethel “ revival meetings ” of that time were novel affairs to persons unfamiliar with the character and customs of the Southern blacks. They were held in the low broad back basement, packed with the chattels whom we were just beginning to call “contrabands,” while doors and windows were thronged with negro boys and girls, and eager-eyed white men and women not quite equal to the social step of entering and sitting on the long benches with negroes. On one occasion I attended a two-weeks’ meeting, — going regularly every evening at eight o'clock, taking a seat that gave me an opportunity to observe the congregation advantageously. It was an experience that none of us can ever have again in all its strange fulness : the lowest of the city blacks had been quickened by the events of these last great years, and to the remotest corner of the South there had entered the influence of a new spirit.

The “ leader ” of this “ revival ” was an old man with white hair and trembling hands, the blackness of his face seemingly blanched a little from age. He had no great amount of culture, but his manner was magnetic and fascinating, and his tones could be tender, pleading, and supplicative. At times he thundered forth the terrors of divine law, and sketched graphic and startling pictures of the agonies of damnation ; but he liked best to tell the joy of believing, and show us his idea of what delight there is in fellowship with Christ, the loving Redeemer of a wicked world.

Heaven was a reality to him, and to his imagination the Saviour was sovereign supreme: “Thar we ’ll sit at his feet an’ fol’ our han’s all de day long ef we wants ter do so ; thar we ’ll be free to go an’ come tzacly as we pleases ; thar ’ll be de Lo’d in all his beauty, an’ he ’ll call de poo’est an’ de brackest of us his chil’en, an’ we can eat at his table, an’ w’ar de crowns he ’ll gib us, an’ walk in de cou’ts o’ heben, an’ sing de songs ob new Jerusalem from nightfall till sunup, an’ dar ’ll be nobody to make us afeard, caze de Lo’d is no ’specter ob persons, but 'll hab de brack man same as de white man saved in his big kingdom ! ” It was such material good as this that he held up as the reward of a Christian life, and it was with such promise as this that he broke stony hearts, and drew “mourners” to the “anxious-seat,” and it was such vision as this that his ecstatic soul unfolded to the weeping penitent prostrate at the altar.

In one of these evening meetings we were given an original exposition of the transgression in Paradise. The speaker was an elderly negro who had been a “ hand ” on one of the vessels in the Lower Potomac. He said the Devil first tried to get Adam to eat the apple, “ but enny man in all he senses mighter knowed de Debil could n’t er done dat ar; Adam ’s too smart fur Ole Nick when he lrad nuffin but hisself ter tuk care on. But de Debil knew, caze he was in heben fo’ de Lo’d frew him outen dar, — he knew dar was a woman to be made, an’ so he just hove out de anchor an’ waited fur de woman. When Eve cum ’long he knew he’d got sure ting on dat ar apple ; an’ he hove ’longside whar she’s a settin’ an’ whisper in her ear an’ say she’s mighty nice gal; an’ she’s so tickled wid his fine speeches dat she jus’ say guv her de apple when he ask her don’t she want it. De Debil so pleased to see she fooled so easy he like to larf out loud. Women is mighty hard creeturs to do anyting sensible wid, — dey jus’ done go contrary ev’ry time dey can, an’ when Eve got her min’ made up to eat dat apple, she’s eat it ef de Lo’d hisself tell her let um alone. Soon’s she done eat it de Debil say to hisself, ‘she made muss dat ar garden Eben ’; an’ she kinder hear what he tink, an’ make up her wicked min’ to ’tice Adam to eat toder one. So she cum ’longside one time when she seen him settin’ under de tree, an’ say, ‘ Adam, eat dis yer,— he ’s berry nice.’ But Adam say he won’t, an’ she keep teasin’ him, an’ sayin’ how she love him, an’ finally he ’s ’ticed, an’ eats dat bad apple, an’ den de angel Gabriel fly ’long dar’ an’ druv ’em bof outen de garden, an’ say dey bof hav’ ter work fur der livin’. But Adam neber eat dat ar apple ’cept Eve done gone ’tice him ; an’ he did n’t do it den ’less he love her, an’ she such a tongue, like all de women, she make him b'lieve brack is white.” Nothing could have been on the whole more lucid or satisfactory than this. Some of the younger men in the audience were inclined to smile and nudge one another, but the older ones preserved a gravity of demeanor that was both comforting and convincing, while numbers of the women appeared to regard the story as a tribute to the smartness of their sex, and only a few ventured to show anything like resentment toward the speaker.

At another time “ Brudder Jonsing ” dealt with the question of sun-worship. He wasr aised, he said, down in No'f C’lina, and his mammy sot a heap by de sun, “She pore, ign’ant nigga,— got le’el Injun blood, mebbe. She pray de Lo’d Jesus in de meetin’s when weuns ’semble out yon in de rosum woods, but she’s drap on she knees an’ pray de sun when we’s in de fiei’s at wo’k. Raised me dat ar way, she did. No good in dat ar. Pore, ign’ant ooman! Done gone to glory now. Reckon she know diff’rence now,— Son o’ God from sun in sky. Don’t do no good pray to sun. Shines on just an’ unjust, one like toder, — on bad man same’s on good man, — on pore mis’ble sinners hot’s on de saints in glory. But Lo’d Jesus, he’s de sun fur us. Shine on ev’rybody same ’s toder sun, but bad men don’t know he ’s shinin’. He ’s what makes life well as light. Times when we’s car'less an’ don’t mind how we libs, he blazes down on us, an’ bimeby we’s mighty glad to run like’s if dogs howlin’, an’ git down on de knees an’ beg him hol’ on dar till we turn ’bout, an’ turn ’bout, an’ mind what we’s doin’. Den when we gits cold an’ dark, he ’sinuates hisself into we’s souls, warmin’-like and brightenin’, so’s we wonders an’ wonders how de wo’ld can be so nice place ! Dat ar’s his way. Won’t do yer no good pray to sun when he stan’s over Navy Yard ’morrow mornin’, — pray to de Lo’d Jesus; he all de sun you want. He make our way easy an’ our hearts light; he bring us what we wants most in dis yer life, an’ gib us eb’ryting when we gits ober Jordan. He hear us cry when we larf in de street ; he hear what We say when we don’t spoke not’ing ; he see de load on weuns backs what don’t make no show ! Dat ar pore mammy o’ mine, — she mean all right, but she’s ign’ant Injun-nigga ! ”

Many of the negroes of some prominence in these Bethel evening meetings were runaways from the South. Slavery still legally existed in the District, but the fugitive-slave law was a dead letter ; even the stupidest of plantation “hands” knew it could not be executed there, whatever was to be feared from generals commanding in the field. Washington was, therefore, a city of refuge. Any one considerably conversant with negro dialects could frequently correctly guess from what section the speaker came by the use or disuse of words and phrases. But the African is notably an imitative creature, and soon catches new forms of speech by association. Thus it happened that, as in the case of Brudder Jonsing, one had a mixture of dialects, with an occasional touch of reasonably good English. So, too, customs from a wide area were to be seen at the Bethel services, and songs from various parts of the Coast States found utterance there. I cannot doubt that in a single “revival season” we Yankees heard “ spirituals ” from dozens of localities, — common in South Carolina but strange to Virginia and Maryland, familiar to the region about Wilmington but unknown in Richmond.

The hymn,

“ When I can read my title clear,”

generally began the “ revival exercises ” proper, which were preceded by a sermon or an exhortation of a most fervid character. A favorite song was one commencing,

“ De Lo’d say he won’t die no mo’,”

and apparently running on indefinitely, recounting the story of the Jews, the dealing of God with each of the prophets, the life and sufferings of Christ, etc. It was sung to a wild and unusually complicated air, and gave rise to musical discords that would have been intolerable but that they were so extraordinarily discordant that I was lost in wonder how they could be produced. Certain marked changes in the tune were introduced with a shrill and ear-piercing shriek ; and however the members of the congregation sung at random elsewhere, they almost invariably united on this in the highest key of voice and with great energy of action. Another favorite was a chanting air to which about the only words were,

“ De way to Heben is a grand highway.”

and this, with a variation of pitch, seemed to answer as a response to the “ experience ” of any brother or sister. In the meetings there was usually more speaking by the women than by the men, and I have noticed this fact in nearly all the religious gatherings ot negroes that I ever attended. There was generally, also, more singing than speaking, for thereby everybody got voice, and the peculiar and desirable pitch of fervor and excitement was sooner reached. The song oftenest sung during the second year of the war was that rare melody, Roll, Jordan, roll. Sometimes it began,

“ Massa Linkum sittin’ on de tree ob life,
Watchin’ Jordan roll ;
Gen’l Fremont sittin' on de tree ob life,
Roll, Jordan, roll,”

and so on, through a list of all the public men dear to the negro heart. At another time it began with the name of the pastor of the church, or the leader of the meeting, and enumerated a dozen or twenty brethren and sisters as to whose religious standing there could be no doubt, i remember that, on one occasion, a singer introduced the name of “Brudder Brown,” when the singing was interrupted by a woman with, “ Does you mean Brudder Peter Brown ? Caze if you means Fairfax Brown I calls for order ! ” A satisfactory explanation followed, whereupon the conductor of the meeting asked another brother to “ lead in prayer for Fairfax Brown, and pray that he may return from his backslidinV’ Frequently the song began with,

“ Lo’d Jesus sittin' on de tree ob life,
Watchin' Jordan roll ” ;

and brought in the names of Moses, Joshua, Elijah, David, Solomon, John, Paul, and pretty much everybody else of good report in the Bible, duly elevating them to a position on “ de tree ob life, watchin’ Jordan roll.” At times the white visitor could not help smiling at the placing there of certain public men ; yet it was never otherwise than delightful to hear the packed audience strike the notes of this joyful and swinging and resonant melody.

Time has rung out the Old and rung in the New, and those marvellous nights lie behind the war and the change of many years. But I have only to shut my eyes to the sights and my ears to the sounds of this busy afternoon, and I am back in the smoky, candle-lit basement of Bethel, and the last of the revival meetings of that March season is in progress.

The final unbeliever has yielded and declared himself “ at peace in de Lo’d.” The “power” has possession of four old women : one stands erect and stiff against the wall ; one sits on the floor and sways back and forth ; one has fallen in a motionless heap at the corner ; and the fourth springs up and down in front of the altar with loud shouts and much clapping of hands. The “power” has also seized some of the young men and young women. One lies on his back and does nothing but cry, “ Glory ! glory ! glory ! ” Another is on her knees with her head bent to the floor, sobbing as if her heart would break with excess of joy, while she exclaims, “ De Lord is good ! de Lord is good ! ” A third is kneeling with upraised face and streaming eyes, repeating over and over again the words, “ My Father which art in heaven, — my Father which art in heaven ! ” Three or four have joined hands and are singing in the loudest key some jubilant air to words improvised by one who stands near and “ beats time ” with his fists on the window-sill. Half a dozen are alternately rising and kneeling at the farther end of the “ anxious-bench,” praying and singing and sobbing in the same breath. Two sisters have fallen on each other’s necks in the middle of the aisle, and, with her trembling hands over their heads, a wrinkled old mother ejaculates her thanksgiving. A young couple have run to the side of the room, and are dancing with clasped arms as they sing Rock of Ages ; while a hundred others, men and women, shout their joys and hopes of Christian life in a volume of voice that may he heard many squares distant. It seems a wild, and almost mirth-provoking scene as I try to picture it for unaccustomed eyes ; but it is a solemn and most precious feast for these negroes, whose faith sees heaven as a new world in which Christ will relieve them from all burdens, and give them the best of every material comfort and delight; and he would be a very coldhearted man who did not feel some glow of sympathy with their hope and passion and longing, and thereby come into a mood of pitying reverence.

During the winter of 1861-62 and the spring of the last-mentioned year, many sermons and exhortations were delivered at Bethel in which the speakers trod on the perilous edge of what the local law knew as sedition. For months before the passage of the District Emancipation Act, the bolder preachers, spoke of slavery as an iniquity near its end. “We must be patient, my friends,” said one of them ; “ the Lord works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform ; we cannot speed his coming, but we know this present will end, and he will work out his own salvation to the oppressed of every nation under heaven, and it needs that we set our hearts and our hands in order for his deliverance! ” The words were not direct, but the dullest hearer in the room knew what they meant; and from every quarter they were answered with nervous shouts of, “ De Lo’d come quickly !” “ De Lo’d sees what we want ! ” “ De Lo’d help his pore chil’en ! ” “ Amen and amen!” It was a shrewd peculiarity of the speakers in those times, that many of their utterances had one tone for the ear and another for the heart ; they talked of heaven and freedom and the Lord in impassioned strains intended adroitly to feed and cheer the hope of those longing for earthly liberty and the overthrow of slavery. And when emancipation came, Bethel did its share of work in steadying the liberated slaves to their new relations, — preaching sobriety and forbearance, inculcating a modest and orderly walk and conversation, and counselling dignity and patience in waiting for the civil rights of citizenship. Of its course in later times with respect to political affairs in the city I do not speak, though 1 confess to a belief that it has not manifested the wisdom and moderation of other days.

When I recall some of the prayers I heard in that unfashionable negro church at Washington, I have a sense of nearness to God often enough missed during prayers at fashionable churches in other cities. Certain of the brethren and sisters were spoken of by their fellow-members of the congregation as “greatly gifted in prayer.” Two of these — “ cousins ” they named each other — were middle-aged men who worked out to freedom from Georgia. One of them was of imagination fairly tropical, and there were never more serene and realistic heavens than revealed themselves when he knelt and drew back the curtain from the refuge and reward of his eager and passionate soul. The other was more deeply concerned with every-day matters, and, unless my recollection is at fault, began every one of the score of prayers I heard him make with a fervent petition for the health, strength, and abiding in Jesus of “ Mawsa Linkum de President.” There were times when one found it a little difficult to restrain laughter at quaint conceits and odd expressions, but the sincerity and earnestness of the suppliants amply atoned for whatever was grotesque in their phraseology.

The Bethelites believed in prayer. What they wanted they prayed for, — work, good pay, blankets for de chil’en, customers in the market, the success of de soldiers fightin’ de Lo’d’s battles. The Lord of Hosts was a mighty being to whom all things were possible, and they did not doubt that he would comprehend the secret of many purposely veiled petitions, and could answer the desire of the spirit as well as the words of the tongue.

At one of the Sunday-evening meetings in the basement, the preacher opened his prayer with, “‘I was glad when they said unto me, let ns go into the house of the Lord,’ for

1 I love the Lord, — he hears my cries
And pities every groan :
Long as I live, when troubles rise
I ’ll hasten to his throne ߡ ;

and I’m sure he ’ll never turn his back on any of us, his poor children, — never forget that our way of life is a rough one, and that we need his supporting hand more than our white brethren do.

‘ His ear attends the softest call,
His eyes can never sleep ’;

and we know we may come to him with all our woes and wants. Dear Lord, we want a clearer view for our waiting eyes ; the world is a hard place for us poor blacks ; if thou dost not show us heaven plainly, how shall we keep from easy sin and constant stumbling ? ” To the very last word the long prayer was wholly of this touchingly unconventional fashion.

On another occasion the services up stairs commenced with the familiar hymn,

“ O God, our help in ages past,”

and continued with prayer which began in this wise : “Father in Heaven, Ruler of the Universe,

—‘ our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home,’

we draw near to thee this evening in loving confidence.” I never before heard a quotation in prayer given with so much point as the preacher’s enunciation gave to this. The emphasis he threw upon the word “our” in each line startled me, and looking up I saw that the tears were running down his cheeks. In all parts of the house was echoed, “ Amen ! ” “ Amen ! ” “ Dress

de Lo’d ! ” “ Guv ’im t’anks ! ” Clearly, these men and women understood whose arm held them in the long and weary way. In praying for the President and all in authority, the man said : “ Be with them continually, teaching them to love virtue more than vice, right more than wrong, justice more than expediency, freedom more than slavery ; and we pray thee especially not alone that they may love justice more than expediency, but that they may show their love in their deed.” The entire prayer was marked by this directness of entreaty. In speaking of the army his word was : “ Be with our men in the day of battle, so that the bullets from their guns may do thy sure and holy work.”

The war spirit raged strongly at Bethel in 1862 and 1863. The pastor in charge for a part of those years was a stalwart fellow, of pure African blood, I believe, who has since served a term or two in one of the Southern legislatures, and, for aught I know, may still retain a seat therein. He was a leader rather than a follower, and one of the first negroes to enter the military service, going out as a chaplain, and, I doubt not, stirring his regiment to vigor and sternness of bearing. He had no scruples about the shedding of blood in a good cause, and never for an instant, so far as I was informed, wavered in the belief that war against slaveholders was righteous. He was a critic and censor; had no patience with those who adopted half-way measures or were content with a temporizing policy ; and declaimed vehemently against the attitude of certain white folks’ churches in Washington. Preach from what text he would, begin where he might, he seemed to always find the war within the scope of his theme. I suppose the military question more or less entered all the negro pulpits at that time ; in this I always found it the principal one. What the war would do for the colored race, how it was to bring all rights and all blessings in its train, — this was the burden alike of Sunday sermon and week-day exhortation.

Once I heard a sermon there from the text, “ In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Probably I need not say that I was curious to see what work the preacher would make with the Mosaic account of the creation. He had heard men argue, he said, “ that this record of the beginning of things is not true ; that there was more than one source of life on the earth ; that we did not all descend from Adam and the garden of Eden ; that no well-educated person now accepted what was said in the first chapter of the Bible as an exact statement of fact. All this sort of talk, friends, need not trouble us. The Bible is true : on that I rest my feet. Whether we always understand the Bible right, is another thing. We must all study it as faithfully as we can. The Lord will not hold us responsible for mistakes, if we really do the best we know how. He is a tender father, we are ignorant children.” How was one to get into an antagonistic mood toward a preacher who disarmed superior culture in this manner ?

“ This is what God means, — the wisest, greatest, highest, most majestic, most loving, most tender. All nations have this something above all other things. That is God. He created the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is therein. He is manifested to us in Christ, the Captain of our Salvation.” Some one in the rear of the church shouted out, “ Thank God for our Captain ! ” To which the preacher responded, “ Yes, thank God for the Captain ! God is so high and mighty that we poor creatures would not have dared to call him ‘Father,’ except for the Captain who redeemed us and will lead us on to glorious victory. The Lord Jesus was in heaven just as God was, but he could n’t bear to have the sons of men so far away, and therefore he came down to earth, took our form, lived our life, and suffered everything to death, that he might know just how to be the Captain of our Salvation. He did not escape anything. He was naked and hungry and thirsty and shut in prison, just as we have been. That was what God created him in the heavens for in the beginning, to know whatever afflicts us, so that he might be our Captain.

“ In the beginning God created, the Bible says. God has beginnings every day, and he goes on creating every day. Shall I tell you what? He is making us poor men over every day of all this war time. We were n’t worth much two years ago; perhaps we are n’t worth a great deal now ; but God will make men and women of us before he rests from his work. He is every day creating righteousness of heart among the white people of this land, and when he finishes that creation the chains will fall from our race, and we shall walk free everywhere and know no master but Christ. And he is every day creating friends for_ us, not only here in Washington, but all over the North. Whoever else goes back on him, we can’t do so ! ” This idea of going back on somebody or something was common among the negroes of that time. They were in the habit of saying that such and such officers had gone back on the colored race ; and when once that notion got well abroad, the offending person was never again given a seat on the tree of life to watch Jordan roll.

The church had a well-lit audienceroom, with pulpit at one end and gallery at the other, no cushions on the seats, cocoa matting in the aisles, and a pretty marble-top table at the front. After he entered the army, his people spoke of the chaplain as though they had a great deal of pride in his position, and the church was full whenever he chanced to be in Washington and could preach. There was a choir of twelve or fifteen good and tuneful voices, and the congregation was frequently asked to join in the singing ; though, truth to tell, the great majority of the negroes themselves needed no urging. “ Walk in, friends, walk in,” was the sexton’s salutation as white men drew near the door ; walk in, the seats are all free ; go in on this side, please, the other door is for the ladies.” On more than one occasion when I took a seat near the entrance, 1 was invited to sit farther forward ; I could hear to better advantage, and might be chilly if I remained near the oft-opening door. I cherish a lively memory of that sexton.

In March, 1864, word was circulated on Saturday that the chaplain had come to town, and would preach on the following evening. For some cause he failed to reach the city, and in one sense those of us who went to the church were disappointed. But we heard a stirring war-sermon, nevertheless, and saw the negroes in one of their peculiar moods. The preacher was a smooth-faced mulatto, educated atOberlin, as I was subsequently told. “ Looks quite young,” I said to one of the classleaders after the close of the meeting. “Yes, he is young, but he’s been in service a good many years.” War terms had then become a part of the current coin of conversation ; these colored people of Washington used them as if use brought a taste of civil advancement.

The “lesson” of the evening was the first half of the last chapter of Nehemiah. Into the words, “and I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them,” the reader put that tone meant for the heart rather than for the ear ; and half a dozen persons at once answered him with exclamations of, “ Have n’t got our part! ”

The text was, “ Will a man rob God ? ” from the third chapter of Malachi ; and the first part of the sermon related to God’s dealings with the Jews, showing what wonderful things he had done for them, how much of love and gratitude they owed him, how they robbed him, went off after false gods, and were finally and justly punished for their sin and rebellion. We hear much to the effect that life is a burden of disappointment. This man of an oppressed race, leaning over toward his people, said: “ I tell you, dear friends, it’s very seldom that a man does n’t get the desire of his heart. If he really longs for love here on earth, some way the good Lord brings it to him. If he longs for the pleasures of sin, God gives him his free will and he gets his desire. But ” — rising erect and lifting hands and face upward — “but you must not torget that God holds the balances ! ”

He turned to the second part of the sermon with this : “It is easy enough to criticise the Jews. There is always a little pleasure in contemplating the failings of others, if we can for the time being forget that we too are human. Shall we rob God ? Do you see how near to our hearts comes the question asked by the prophet in those far-away days ? Do you see how his words apply to us ? ” Leaning over the pulpit again, with sudden tears in his eyes, a curious fulness of the lips, and a wailing cadence in his voice, — “ For we too are in bonds ; we know what it means to have task-masters ; we have felt the lash ; we have given our best and dearest for the oppressor’s gain ; we have been driven to make brick without straw ; we have wept by the waters ; our harps have mourned for the joys of other lands ! ” The effect of these words was instantaneous and remarkable. Many persons burst into tears, and fifty voices responded, “ Yes, yes, we knows, we knows all dat ! ” Springing upright, he made answer with ringing emphasis, “ Yes, we know ! We do know what pain and longing and suffering and passionate desire are ! Our fathers and our mothers, and our sisters and our brothers, and we ourselves, are brothers and sisters of the Jews, — sealed as such by common bondage and common degradation. Like them we have cried day and night for deliverance ! The tobacco-fields and the cane-brakes and the cotton plantations of the South are our witnesses ! The waters of her rivers and the fastnesses of her swamps testify to our slavery and our suffering! Her fields, her Forests, her towns, her cities, her wide web of social life, her very bone and marrow, show how we knew wrong and scourging and contumely and death ! ”

It seemed as if he must stop, for nearly all the women and a large proportion of the men were sobbing. Eut he rose to fuller height, and there was a defiant tone in his voice as he cried : “ Had we not a right to lift our hands to heaven as the Jews did and cry, ‘ How long, O Lord ? how long ? how long?’ Have we not deserved the victory ? Have we not deserved our manhood ? I appeal to these white brethren here with us to-night, do we not deserve the rights and privileges of manhood and womanhood ? ” He paused a moment, his rigid lips softened into a tender smile, his large eyes again brimmed with tears, he stretched out his arms and again leaned toward his audience : “ Dear friends, the Lord heard our prayer! When there was no human ear open to us, he bent down from his mighty throne and gave us his ear ! When there was no human arm reached out to us, he stretched down his strong and loving arm and led us through the wilderness ! Dear friends, remember the Lord, — remember the Lord!” Once more standing straight, all alive with excitement, pacing up and down the platform behind the desk with rapid steps, he exclaimed : “ Remember the Lord ! He led us through the wilderness ! He made a way for us when we couldn’t see any! He turns the wrath of man to his praise, and by means of the war we are coming into our own estate ! We’ve got over the worst of it! We are in the Red Sea yet, but the Lord will bring us through ! The great waters are piled on either side, and our hearts grow faint, and our fears wrestle within us, but the Lord will bring us through ! He ’ll bring us through it all ; we shall get our deliverance and stand safely on the other shore! It’s the Red Sea yet, but the Lord will bring us through ! Dear friends, trust in the Lord ! We shall vet come off conquerors through him who hath loved us ! ”

This was language to move to the utmost the hearts of those to whom and of whom he was speaking ; and from nearly every seat in the house came up, through the wailing and sobbing of the congregation, fervent responses, “ Bress de Lo’d ! ” “ Amen and amen ! ” “ Trus’ de Lo’d ! ” “ We’s mos’ fru de Red Sea ! ” “ Mos’ fru, — mos’ fru ! ” A score of men shouted and clapped their hands ; half a hundred sprang to their feet in excitement; one old woman jumped on her bench, threw her arms above her head, and fairly screamed, “ Stan’ by de good Lo’d, everybody! Stan’ up straight an’ hang on ter his big hand an’ he’ll bring us all fru ! ” The scene was absolutely startling and painful in its wildness ; and it was several minutes before such silence came as enabled the preacher to add his few words of exhortation, — that all should remember what God had wrought for them, and do everything they could to sustain religion, the church, and the army.

One evening there was a plea for Wilberforce College. The speaker asserted that it was in danger of being sold for debt, and urged that the colored people of the land ought to save it from such a fate. “ Do you tell me,” he said, “ that you have given a great deal of money lately ? Do you say it was not so before the war began ? I answer, that is as it should be. It is a burden to be a man, — a burden to be a woman. Did you dream that you could have the ease and pleasure of manhood without its responsibilities ? We have cried unto the Lord for our rights ; we have wrestled with the world for the blessing of our recognition ; thousands and thousands of our brothers are holding their hearts as marks for Rebel bullets We pray thee, O Lord, thou mighty man of war, be with them on the right hand and on the left, so that they fail not in the work thou givest them !); and shall we who sit in comfort at home shirk our part of these new responsibilities ? We want money to-night, — money for God and Wilberforce. Give us liberally. We are not worthy to be men and women, if we do not gladly accept the burdens of manhood and womanhood.” The amount realized from the collection was about two thirds of what it was thought the church should give. “ I shall call for more next Sunday, and right along every Sunday, till I get what we ought to give,” said the pastor; “it costs something to be men and women, but we don’t want to be less than men and women, do we ? ”

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was kept at Bethel in the usual manner of the Methodist denomination, and the abandon of the old men and the old women as they sang the quaint songs of the church was something to be long remembered. “ Sing, brethren and sisters, sing from the heart,” said the pastor on one occasion ; “ the Lord made us poor in some respects, but he blessed us more than kings and queens in giving us love of song and the power to sing. Sing unto him a glad song while we eat and drink the tokens of his triumphant death and resurrection.” There was no room for mistake as to his feeling in relation to the Sacrament ; he knew it to be good for the soul, — a royal blessing full of life and warmth and all cheerful consolations.

During the spring months the Sunday-evening services frequently closed with the admission of persons to the church on trial. In this ceremony the character of the pastor again manifested itself most noticeably. One easily saw that the church was to him the court of heaven ; there he found his greatest delight and his highest happiness ; and the rest and comfort and inspiration it gave him he ardently desired every other soul to have in the same measure. “ Harriet Johnson : says she has n’t religion, but wishes to come in among the Lord’s people. Hearing no objection, we receive her. Harriet,” — taking her hand, — “we are glad to have you here. The Lord is n’t such a task-master as you ran away from in old Virginia. He ’ll be delighted to serve you, if you ’ll only let him. We ’ll do you all the good we can ; but if you love the Lord Jesus, he ’ll do more for you in an hour than we can in a year.” Passing to the next of those who stood in front of him: “James Green: has lately joined the army of the Lord, he says. We welcome you to the ranks, James, and will try to help you fight the good fight like a man. Brother Brown, we shall put him in your class, — Wednesday evening, James, — and we want you to show him how we drill and do the Lord’s work.” So he went through the whole list of applicants, with a special word of encouragement for each, coming at last to a good-looking fellow of about thirtyfive. Grasping his hand very heartily : “John, we are right glad to see you here. I ’ve been waiting all winter for you. I felt sure you would get in after a while. Not one of us has anything against this brother. John, we expect you to do good service in the church. You must train with Brother Jones for a few weeks, but I shall soon put you over a class of young men, every one of whom I am anxious to save for the Redeemer. The Lord bless you, — bless you abundantly ! ”

Stepping to tire pulpit stairway: “ Now let us close this season of refreshing with the glorious Praise-God doxology, and then may the good Lord of life and love go with you all, and abide with you till you reach the grave, and then may we all abide with him and the saints in his kingdom for ever and ever ! ”

Sidney Andrews.