Monday, June 14, 2010

strange persistence...

Part one of  "A LAY VIEW OF SLEEPING IN CHURCH." from the collection "Eutychus and his Relations: Pulpit and Pew Papers", by Brooke Herford.  (This from the preface, "The ' Pulpit and Pew' Papers in this little book were written and published anonymously, during the years 1860 and 1861 by the late Dr. Brooke Herford in the early years of his ministry...it is stated that the ' Eutychus' papers ' made some little stir and roused considerable curiosity in their day, and will repay perusal still. There is a strange persistence in the minor weaknesses of humanity')

"For my part I pity Eutychus. He has been held up as a warning to sleepy congregations, and his falling down set forth as a judgment, by grave old divines of the precise Puritanical school, who could not appreciate the difficulty of keeping the attention fixed through long sermons, especially such sermons as their own. The clerical mind has a curious faculty of exaggerating small ecclesiastical offences, and while on most subjects entertaining very enlarged views and charitable feelings, has no sympathy with the little difficulties of the laity in these matters. I wish, therefore, to present a lay view of the subject.

It has a strange attraction for me. I have read those few verses in the twentieth chapter of Acts, again and again, and I love to touch and retouch the quaint little picture of the early church which they have left upon my mind. I seem to sit among the eager people grouped together in that little upper-room at Troas. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, and the foreboding is strong upon his spirit that he shall never see them again. We do not know what he said,—Luke had taken ship and gone on before to Assos, so he was not there to tell us—but there are no more touching words in all the Acts than his farewell to the elders of Ephesus, given at the end of the same chapter; and it would be in much the same strain that he would speak to these poor folk at Troas, that last Sabbath-night of his brief stay. Have you never seen a crowded little preaching-room, away in some back street or country place,— a small, low room over a couple of cottages, with many lights stuck here and there against the walls, and homely long-headed weavers and poor women eagerly crowding to hear, and children sleeping heavily in the close hot air, and many faces peering in at the door. I think of such sights which I have seen many a time among the Methodists, when I was a young man, as often as I read of Eutychus. Poor young man, who has not seen him sitting, ' fallen in a deep sleep.' I dare say he was as fond of Paul as any of them, and listened lovingly at first. But ' Paul was long preaching,' and ' continued his speech until midnight' ; and so at last, what with the heat, and the lights, and some of the apostle's longer points about the Judaizing teachers and the dead works of the law, gradually the words began to melt into a pleasant dreamy flow of sound, and his head bowed down in that ' deep sleep.'

What a break in the midst of his touching words, when at last poor Eutychus overbalanced as he sat on the window-ledge, and suddenly his feet flew up and he disappeared with a heavy fall! How the people would rush out with lights and crowd about him, till Paul came down and knelt bending over him, with such a deep, longing prayer that he might be spared, and soon could say, to the great joy of the wondering friends, ' Trouble not yourselves, for his life is in him.'

What a lesson for poor Eutychus! I don't think he would go to sleep in chapel again for a long time, and when he did, he would take care not to sit in a window!"

Blessings

2 comments:

Allogenes said...

I always saw the Eutychus story as a lesson to preachers and lecturers - don't bore your audience to death unless you are sure you can resurrect them.

boston unitarian said...

Many thanks for writing!
I guess both the preacher and the listener have some responsibilities. Many blessings, BU