The Promise of the Dawn

  “The Church thinks it is Christ’s body an’ us uns is outsiders, an’ we think so too, an’ despise Him through you with yer stingy souls an’ fights an’ squabblins; not seein’ that the Church is jes’ the hospital, where some of the sickest of God’s patients is tryin’ to get cured"

"Then the Lord turned, and looked upon Charley_. Never yet was the soul so loathsome, the wrong so deep, that the loving Christ has not touched it once with His hands, and said, "Will you come to me?" Do you know how He came to her? how, while the unquiet earth needed Him, and the inner deeps of heaven were freshening their fairest morning light to usher in the birthday of our God, He came to find poor Charley, and, having died to save her, laid His healing hands upon her? It was in her weak, ignorant way she saw Him. While she, Lot, lay there corrupt, rotten in soul and body, it came to her how, long ago, Magdalene, more vile than Lot, had stood closest to Jesus. Magdalene loved much, and was forgiven.

So, after a while, Charley, the child that might have been, came to His feet humbly, with bitter sobs. "Lord, I'm so tired!" she said. "I'd like to try again, and be a different girl." That was all. She clung close to His hand as she went through the deep waters.

Christmas evening. How still and quiet it was! The Helper had come. Not to the snow-covered old earth, falling asleep in the crimson sunset mist: it did not need Him. Not an atom of its living body, from the granite mountain to the dust on the red sea-fern, had failed to perform its work: taking time, too, to break forth in a wild luxuriance of beauty as a psalm of thanksgiving.

The Holy Spirit you talk of in the churches had been in the old world since the beginning, since the day it brooded over the waters, showing itself as the spirit of Life in granite rock or red sea-fern,--as the spirit of Truth in every heroic deed, in every true word of poet or prophet,--as the spirit of Love as----Let your own hungry heart tell how. To-day it came to man as the Helper. We all saw that dimly, and showed that we were glad, in some weak way. God, looking down, saw a smile upon the faces of His people."

"Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and the King of Glory shall come in." Was He going in, yonder? A weary man, pale, thorn-crowned, bearing the pain and hunger of men and women vile as Lot, to lay them at His Father's feet? Was he to go with loving heart, and do likewise? Was that the meaning of Christmas-day? The quiet glow grew deeper, more restful; the bell tolled: its sound faded, solemn and low, into the quiet, as one that says in his heart, Amen."

excerpts from "The Promise of the Dawn" from  The Atlantic Monthly January 1863