sorrows with us until we become blessed because we are holy? We can
always choose to be that, but He will never _make_ us choose. Jesus
never _made_ anybody do anything; and, Ann, if there are things in the
Bible that we don't understand to mean that, it is because they are a
parable, and a parable, Ann, is putting something people can't
understand in pictures that they can look at and look at, and always
learn something every time they look, till at last they understand what
is meant. People have always learned just as much from the Bible as they
can take in, and made mistakes about the rest; but it is God's character
to make us learn even by mistakes."
Ann's interest began to waver. They were silent awhile, and then,
"Bart, do you know where you are?" she asked.
"I don't seem to care much where I am, as long as you are here." There
was a touch of shyness in the tone of the last words that made all that
he had said before human to her.
"If it hadn't been that I thought it was father, I'd have taken you
home." She told him how she had brought him. "If it had been a boat,"
she said, "I'd have found out who it was before we got here, but the
canoe was too narrow."
Ann dosed where she sat. Toyner slept again. At length they were both
aware that the level light of the sun was in the room.
Ann sat up, looking at the door intently. Then her eyes moved as if
following some one across the room.
"What is it?" asked Toyner.
Ann started up with one swift look of agonised entreaty, and then it
seemed that what she had seen vanished, for she turned to Bart
trembling, unable to speak at first, sobs struggling with her breath.
"It was father - I saw him come to the door and come in. He's dead now."
"What did he look like?" Toyner's voice was very quiet.
"He looked as if he was dead, but as if he was mad too - his body as if
it was dead, and himself wild and mad and burning inside of it." She was
crouching on the floor, shaken with the sobs of a new and overwhelming
pity. "O Bart! I never cared - cared anything for him before - except to
have him comfortable and decent; but if I thought he was going to
be - like that - now I think I would die to save him if I could."
"Would you die to save him? So would God; and you can't believe in God
at all unless you know that He does what He wants to do. And God does
it; dies in him, and is in him now; and He will save him."
Bart's eyes were full of peace.
"Can't you trust God, Ann? When He is suffering so much for love of each
of us? He could make us into good machines, but He won't. Can't you
begin to do what He is doing for yourself and other people? Ann, if He
suffers in your father and in you, He is glad when you are glad. Try to
be glad always in His love and in the glory of it."
Ann's mind had reverted again to the traditions of which she knew so
little. "I don't want to go to heaven," she said, "if father is in some
place looking like he did just now."
"Heaven" (Bart repeated the word curiously), "heaven is inside you when
you grow to be like God; and through all ages and worlds heaven will be
to do as He does, to suffer with those that are suffering, and to die
with those that are dying. But remember, Ann, too, it means to rejoice
with those who are rejoicing; and joy is greater than pain and
heaviness. And heaven means always to be in peace and strength and
delight, because it is along the line of God's will where His joy
Ann rose and ran out of the house. To be in the sunshine and among the
wild sunflowers was more to her just then than any wisdom. The wave of
pity that had gone over her soul had ebbed in a feeling of exhaustion.
Her body wanted warmth and heat. She felt that she wanted _only_ that.
After she had sat for an hour near the bank of the rippling stream, and
all her veins were warmed through and through with the sunlight, the
apparition of her father seemed like a dream. She had seen him thus once
in life, and supposed him a spirit. She was ready to suppose what she
had now seen to be a repetition of that last meeting, coming before she
was well roused from her sleep. She took comfort because her pulses ran
full and quiet once more. She thought of her love to Bart, and was
content. As to all that Bart had said - ah well! something she had
gathered from it, which was a seed in her mind, lay quiet now.
At length Toyner found strength to walk feebly, and sat down on the
doorstep, where he could see Ann. It was his first conscious look upon
this remote autumn bower, and he never forgot its joy. The eyes of men
who have just arisen from the dim region that lies near death are often
curiously full of unreasoning pleasure. Within himself Toyner called the
place the Garden of Eden.
"If only I had not brought you here!" said Ann. "If only I had not left
the canoe untied!"
For answer Bart looked around upon the trees and flowers and upon her
with happy eyes that had no hint of past or future in them. Something of
the secret of all peace - the _Eternal Now_ - remained with him as long
as the weakness of this injury remained.
"Don't fret, Ann" (with a smile).
"I'm afraid for you; you look awful ill, and ought to have a doctor."
He had it in his mind to tell her that he was all right and desired only
what he had; but, in the dreamy reflective mood that still held him,
what he said was:
"If all the trouble in earth and heaven and hell were put together, Ann,
it would be just like clouds passing before the sun of joy. The clouds
are never at an end, but each one passes and melts away. Ann! sorrow and
joy are like the clouds and the sun."
It is never destined that man should remain long in Eden. About noon
that day Ann heard a shout from the direction of the lake outside among
the dead trees; the shout was repeated yet nearer, and in a minute or
two she recognised the voice and heard the sound of oars splashing up
the narrow channel made by the running creek. The thought of this
deliverance had not occurred to her; yet when she recognised the voice
it seemed to her natural enough that David Brown should have divined
where his canoe might have been brought. She stood waiting while his
boat came up the creek. The young athlete sprang from it, question and
reproach in his handsome young face. She found no difficulty then in
telling him just what she had done, and why. She felt herself suddenly
freed from all that life of frequent deception which she had so long
practised. She had no desire to dupe any man now into doing any service.
Something in the stress of the last days, in her new reverence for Bart,
had wrought a change in the relative value she set on truth and the
gain of untruth. She held up her head with a gesture of new dignity as
she told David that she had sought her father and found Bart.
"Father has half killed him, and now it hurts me to see him ill. Bart is
a good man. O David, I tell you there is no one in the world I mind
about so much as Bart. Could you take him in your boat now to the
hospital at The Mills? He would have done as much for you, and more, if
you had got hurt in that way."
So David took the man Ann loved to the hospital at The Mills. He did it
willingly if he did it ruefully. Ann went home, as she had come, in the
canoe, except that she had gone out in the dead of night and she went
home in broad daylight.
No one blamed Ann when they knew she had gone out to help her father; no
one smiled or sneered when they found that she had succeeded in saving
A few days passed, and poor Markham was found drowned in a forest pool.
They brought him home and buried him decently at Fentown for his
Toyner lay ill for weeks in the little wooden hospital at The Mills.
When Toyner was well he came home again. His mind was still animated
with the conception of God as suffering in the human struggle, but as
absolute Lord of that struggle, and the consequent belief that nothing
but obedience to the lower motive can be called evil. The new view of
truth his vision had given him had become too really a part of his mind
to be overthrown. It was no doubt a growth from the long years of
desultory browsing upon popular science and the one year that had been
so entirely devoted to the story of the gospel and to prayer. He could
not doubt his new creed; but no sooner had he left the hospital walls
than that burden came upon him of which the greatest stress is this,
that in trying to fit new light to common use we are apt to lose the
clearer vision of the light itself.
In Toyner's former religious experience he had been much upheld by the
knowledge that he was walking in step with a vast army of Christians.
Now he no longer believed himself in the ways of exclusive thought and
practices in which the best men he knew were walking. The only religious
thinkers with whom he had come in contact gave up a large class of human
activities and the majority of human souls to the almost exclusive
dominion of the devil. As far as Toyner knew he was alone in the world
with his new idea. He had none of that vanity and self-confidence which
would have made it easy for him to hold to it. It did not appear to him
reasonable that he could be right and these others wrong. He did not
know that no man can think alone, that by some strange necessity of
thought he could only think what other men were then thinking. He felt
homesick, sick for the support of those faithful ones which he had been
wont to see in imagination with him: their conscious communion with God
was the only good life, the life which he must seek to attain and from
which he feared above all things to fall short; and that being so, it
would have been easier, far easier, to call his new belief folly,
heresy, nay, blasphemy if that were needful, and to repent of it, if he
could have done so. He could not, do what he would; he saw his vision to
The thing had grown with his growth; he believed that a voice from
heaven had spoken it. Is not this the history of all revelation?
When I say that Toyner could not doubt his new conception of God and of
the human struggle, I mean that he could not in sincerest thought hold
the contrary to be true. I do not mean to say that daily and hourly,
when about his common avocations, his new inspiration did not seem a
mere will-o'-the-wisp of the mind. It took months and years to bring it
into any accustomed relation to every-day matters of thought and act;
and it is this habitual adjustment of our inward belief to our outward
environment that makes any creed _appear_ to be incontrovertible.
Oh the loneliness of it, to have a creed that no companion has! The
sheer sorrow of being compelled by the law of his mind to believe
concerning God what he did not know that any other man believed time and
time again obscured Bart Toyner's vision of the divine.
The power of the miracle wrought at his conversion was gone; he had
been taught that the miraculous power was only to be with him as long as
he yielded implicit obedience, but that implied a clear-cut knowledge of
right from wrong which Toyner did not now possess; many of the old rules
clashed with that one large new rule which had come to him - that any way
of life was wicked which made it appear that God was in some provinces
of life and not in others. "Whatever is not of faith is sin"; but while
an old and a new faith are warring in a man's soul the definition fails:
many a righteous act is born of doubt, not faith. This was one reason
why Toyner no longer possessed all-conquering strength. Another reason
there was which acted as powerfully to rob him - the soul-bewildering
difficulty of believing that the God of physical law can also be the God
of promise, that He that is within us and beneath us can also be above
us with power to lift us up.
Without a firm grip on this supernatural upholding power Toyner was a
man with a diseased craving for intoxicants. He fled from them as a man
flies from deadly infection; but with all the help that total abstinence
and the absence of temptation can give he failed in the battle. A few
weeks after he had returned to Fentown he was brought into his mother's
house one morning dead drunk. The mother, whose heart had revived within
her a little during the last year, now sank again into her previous
dejection. Her friends said to her that they had always known how it
would be in the case of so sudden a reformation. When Toyner woke up his
humiliation was terrible; he bore it as he had borne all the rest of his
pain and shame, silently enough. No one but Ann Markham even guessed the
agony that he endured, and she had not the chance to give a kindly
look, for at this time Toyner, unable to trust himself with himself, was
afraid to look upon Ann lest he should smirch her life.
Again Toyner set his feet sternly in the way of sobriety. Ah! how he
prayed, beseeching that God, who had revealed Himself to be greater and
nobler than had before been known, would not because of that show
Himself to be less powerful towards those that fear Him. It is the
prayer of faith, not the prayer of agonised entreaty, that takes hold of
strength. Toyner failed again and again. There was a vast difference now
between this and his former life of failure, for now he never despaired,
but took up the struggle each time just where he had laid it down, and
moreover the intervals of sobriety were long, and the fits of
drunkenness short and few; but there were not many besides Ann who
noticed this difference. And as for Toyner, the shame and misery of
failure so filled his horizon that he could not see the favourable
contrast - shame and misery, but never despair; that one word had gone
out of his life.
One day a visitor came hurrying down the street to Toyner's home. The
stranger had the face of a saint, and the hasty feet of those who are
conscious that they bear tidings of great joy. It was Toyner's friend,
the preacher. Bart had often written to him, and he to his convert. Of
late the letters had been fraught with pain to both, but this was the
first time that the preacher had found himself able to come a long
journey since he had heard of Toyner's fall. He came, his heart big with
the prayer of faith that what he had done once he might be permitted to
do again - lead this man once more into the humble path of a
time-honoured creed and certain self-conquest. To the preacher the two
were one and indivisible.
When this life is passed away, shall we see that our prayers for others
have been answered most lavishly by the very contradiction of what we
The visit was well timed. Bart Toyner's father lay dying; and in spite
of that, or rather in consequence of nights of watching and the
necessary handling of stimulants, Bart sat in his own room, only just
returned to soberness after a drunken night. With face buried in his
hands, and a heart that was breaking with sorrow, Bart was sitting
alone; and then the preacher came in.
The preacher sat beside him, and put his arm around him. The preacher
was a man whose embrace no man could shrink from, for the physical part
of him was as nothing compared with the love and strength of its
"Our Lord sends a message to you: 'All things are possible to him that
believeth.'" The preacher spoke with quiet strength. "_You_ know, dear
brother, that this word of His is certainly true."
"Yes, yes, I know it. By the hour in which I first saw you I know it;
but I cannot take hold of it again in the same way. My faith wavers."
"Your faith wavers?" The preacher spoke questioningly. "My brother,
faith in itself is nothing; it is only the hand that takes; it is the
Saviour in whom we believe who has the power. You have turned away from
Him. It is not that your faith wavers, but that you are walking straight
forward on the road of infidelity, and on that path you will never find
a God to help, but only a devil to devour."
Toyner shivered even within the clasp of the encircling arm. "I had
tried to tell you in writing that the Saviour you follow is more to
me - far more, not less."
"In what way?" The preacher's voice was full of sympathy; but here, and
for the first time, Bart felt it was an unconscious trick. Sympathy was
assumed to help him to speak. The preacher could conceive of no divine
object of love that was not limited to the pattern he had learned to
"I am not good at words," Toyner spoke humbly. "I took a long time to
write to you; I said it better than I could now, that God is far more
because He is a faithful Creator, responsible for us always, whatever we
do, to bring us to good. Now I do not need to keep dividing things and
people and thoughts into His and not-His. That was what it came to
before. You may say it didn't, but it did. And all we know about
Jesus - don't you see." (Bart raised his face with piteous, hunted
look) - "don't you see that what His life and death meant was - just what
I have told you? God doesn't hold back His robe, telling people what
they ought to do, and then judge them. He does not shrink from taking
sin on Himself to bring them through death to life. Doesn't your book
say so again and again and again?"
"God cannot sin!" cried the preacher, with the warmth of holy
Toyner became calm with a momentary contempt of the other's lack of
understanding. "That goes without saying, or He would not be God."
"But that is what you have said in your letters."
There was silence in the room. The misery of his loneliness took hold of
Toyner till it almost felt like despair. Who was he, unlearned, very
sinful, even now shaken with the palsy of recent excess - who was he to
bandy words with a holy man? All words that came from his own lips that
hour seemed to him horribly profane. The new idea that possessed him was
what he lived by, and yet alone with it he did not gather strength from
it to walk upright.
"The father tempted the prodigal," he said, "when he gave him the
substance to waste with sinners. Did the father sin? The time had come
when nothing but temptation - yes, and sin too - could save. Most things,
sir, that you hold about God I can hold too. There are bad men, powerful
and seducing men, in the world; there may easily be unseen devils. There
is hell on earth, and I don't doubt but that there's the awfulest,
longest depth of the same kind of hell beyond. There's heaven on earth,
and all the love and pain of love we have tell us there's heaven beyond,
unspeakable and eternal; but, sir, when you come to limit God - to say,
here the responsibility of the faithful God stops, here man's
self-destruction begins - I can't believe that. He must be responsible,
not only for starting us with freedom, but responsible for the use we
make of it and for all the consequence. When you say of the infinite God
that hell and the devils are something outside of Him - I can't think
that. The devils must live and move and have their being in Him. When
you say the holy God ever said to spirit He had created, 'Depart from
Me' (except in a parable meaning that as long as a spirit chose evil it
would not be conscious of God's nearness), I tell you, sir, by all He
has taught me out of the Bible you gave me, I don't believe it. We've
studied the Bible so much now that we know that holiness is just
love - the sort of love that holds holy hatred and every other good
feeling within itself. We know that love can't fail and cast out the
thing it loves. When we know a law, we know the way it must work. If the
Bible seems to say the big law it teaches doesn't work out true, it must
be like what is said of the six days of creation, something that came as
near as it could to what people would understand, but that needs a new
The young preacher had withdrawn his encircling arm. He sat looking very
stern and sad.
"When you begin to doubt God's word, you will soon doubt that He is, and
that He is the rewarder of them that seek Him."
"Sir, it seems to me that it's doubting the incarnate Word to believe
what you do, because the main plain drift of all He was and did is
contradicted by some few things men supposed Him to mean because they
thought them. But it's not that I would set myself up to know about
doctrines, if it wasn't that this doctrine had driven me to stop
believing and stop caring to do right. I can't just explain it clearly,
but when I came to Him the way you told me, and thought the way you told
me, I just went on and did it and was blessed and happy in the love of
God as I never could have dreamed of; but all the time there was a
something - I didn't know exactly what - that I couldn't bring my mind to;
so I just left it. But when I got tempted, and prayed and prayed, then
it came on me all of a sudden that I didn't want a God who had to do
with such a little part of life as that. You see it had been simmering
in my mind all the days that I stopped doing the things you told me were
wrong and yet went on keeping among the publicans and sinners because
He did. If I'd just stayed with the church-goers, maybe I wouldn't have
felt it; but to think that I couldn't take a hand in an innocent game o'
cards, or dance with the girls that hadn't had another bit of
amusement - all that wasn't very important, but that sort of thing began
it. And then to think that God was in me and not in them! I began, as I
went down the street, wondering who had God in his heart and who hadn't,
that I might know who to trust and who to try to do good to. And then,
most of all, there was all my books that I liked so much. I didn't read
them any more, for when I thought that God had set every word in the
Bible quite true and left all the other books to be true or not just as
it happened, I couldn't think to look at any book but the Bible; for
one's greedy of knowing how things really are - that's what one reads
for. So you see it was all in my mind God did things differently one
time and another, like making one book and not the others, and only such
a small part of things was His; and then when the temptation came, you
see, if I'd thought God was in Markham and the girls I could have done
my duty and let Him take care of them; but it was because I'd no cause
to think that, and believed that He'd let them go, that I couldn't let
them go. I felt that I'd rather give up the sort of a God I thought on
and look after them a bit. It wasn't that I thought it out clear at the
time; but that was how it came about, and I was ready to kick religion
over. And, sir, if God hadn't taught me that when I went down to hell He
was there, I don't think I'd want to be religious again; but now I do
want it with all my might and main, and I'll never let go of it, just as
I know He won't let go of me - no, not if some of these days they have
to shovel me into a drunkard's grave; but I believe that God's got the
same strength for me just as He had when you converted me." Toyner
looked round him despairingly as a man might look for something that is
inexplicably lost. "I can't think how it is, but I can't get hold of His
The preacher meditated. It had already been given to him to pray with
great persistency and faith for this back-slider, and he had come sure
of bringing with him adequate help; but now his hope was less. In a
moment he threw himself upon his knees and prayed aloud: "Heavenly
Father, open the heart of Thine erring child to see that it was the
craft and subtlety of the devil that devised for him a temptation he
could not resist, - none other but the devil could have been so subtle;
and show him that this same devil, clothed as an angel of light, has
feigned Thy voice and whispered in his ear, and that until he returns to
the simple faith as it is in the gospel Thou _canst_ not help him as of
"Stop!" (huskily). "I have not let go of His faith. His faith was in the
Father of sinners."
Then the preacher strove in words to show him the greatness of his
error, and why he could not hold to it and live in the victory which
faith gives. It was no narrow or weak view that the preacher took of the
universe and God's scheme for its salvation; for he too lived at a time
when men were learning more of the love of God, and he too had spoken
with God. The hard outline of his creed had grown luminous, fringed with
the divine light from beyond, as the bars of prison windows grow
dazzling and fade when the prisoner looks at the sun. All that the
preacher said was wise and strong, and the only reason he failed to
convince was that Toyner felt that the thought in which his own