Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"The Fine Art of Forgiveness"

A Sermon | Reverend Jesse Halsey |  c1932

On a church bulletin board as we passed—

Dr. Quintic Preaches.
“I wonder who practices,” said my chauffer.

I have been thinking about that chance remark, wondering how deep it registered in the chauffeur’s mind. His voice had a jocular, not a cynical tone, and I have tried repeatedly to guess what he thought; for I am a minister—and the chauffeur was my twenty-year-old-son.

Some of us in a “clericus,” were vigorously criticizing an older minister for his intolerance. One of the group, our Barnabus, quietly interjected this: “Yes, but he has two sons and both of them are going into the ministry.” There must have been something in the old gentleman’s life that, in spite of his rigid theology, recommended his profession to his boys.

Is it a general impression that the minister preaches rather than practices? If so, no wonder Pearl Buck can say, “I am sick of preaching.”

Now, I happen to know something about my neighbor, this preacher, Quintic. He once had a deacon well-versed in historic theology. For better or for worse, Quintic is a liberal. Higher criticism and such things he takes for granted. He has moved beyond the argumentative stage, but these things lie in the background of all his Scriptural expositions. The deacon never approved, was sharply critical (and said it in season and out of season), but for ten years now Quintic has pursued his quiet and undeviating way, preaching the Gospel—and practicing it, too. I felt that he had earned the right to speak on the “Fine Art of Forgiveness.”

Two other people, of whom I know, have left his church and gone elsewhere. I expect that Mr. Patrioticus was the biggest contributor to Quintic’s church. He, Patrioticus, was making money—lots of it—while Quintic was overseas during the War. It is natural enough that he, Mr. P., should be a super-patriot and (judging by my own experience), equally obvious that Dr. Quintic should be an anti-militarist (and likely a semi-pacifist). He has seen things that, for psychological reasons, if for no other would make him thus.

Not chronically, but occasionally when it seems an obvious point in his sermon, Dr. Q. speaks about the dangers of militarism. He doesn’t say much (few veterans do), but he comes down hard and, after a violent denunciation that echoed in the public press, prosperous Patrioticus withdrew both his subscription and membership from the church. Quintic’s salary paid the price in the next year’s budget. I have a notion that he has a right to preach on “the gentle art” if he wants to.

Intolerable conditions existed, and exist, in a factory. One of Quintic’s trustees is an in-law of the president of that concern. The Doctor, who practices brotherhood as well as any man I know, preached a sermon three years ago on “Christian Love.” His text (I pass the bulletin board almost daily), as I remember was this, or these: “I am my Brother’s Keeper,” “All Ye Are Brothren.”

What he said I don’t know (but I can imagine). I have heard him preach and he is very quiet in manner, but his public as well as private utterance is well studied, and he has a command of ideas and language that anyone might covet. What he says, he means, and I expect there were sharp as well as “winged” words that day. At any rate, after several threats, the in-law trustee finally withdrew and his obsession, until his dying day was “that preacher” Quintic.

I have no notion what he said in last week’s sermon; “The Fine Art.” I haven’t asked him. But the gentle act of forgiveness he preaches—and practices. His people know it and they love him. What is infinitely more important, they respect him thoroughly.


I’m wondering—Will my son be a preacher? He lives with me.

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