Preaching by the Wayside

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXI (3) start of chapter

The desire to hear the Bishop was not confined to any particular class; it was common to all. A somewhat curious instance, illustrative of his popularity as a preacher, occurred during one of his journeys. Arriving at a kind of wayside inn, or what may be described as a carman's stage, the Bishop found himself in the midst of a large convoy of cotton—waggons drawn by horses and mules, with a number of drivers and attendants, white men and negroes. His horses had been fed, and he was about to resume his journey, when a grave elderly man, who seemed to be in command, approached him with every mark of respect, saying—'Stranger, are you Bishop England?' On being answered in the affirmative, he continued—'Mr. Bishop, we've heerd tell of you much. The folks say you are the most all-fired powerful preacher in this country. I had to leave Washington before you got there, and I can't get to Milledgville till you're gone. Would you, Mr. Bishop, mind giving us a bit of a sermon right here? It'll obleege me and my friends much—do, Mr. Bishop.' 'Do, Mr. Bishop!' was taken up, in full chorus, by the rest. The appeal so urged was irresistible with the zealous missionary, who yielded a ready assent. On the stump of a tree, which had been cut down to widen the road, the Bishop took his stand, the branches of a huge cedar flinging their grateful shadow over the preacher and the reverent group that clustered round him in mute expectation.

It was a scene for a painter—the great overhanging forest, the rude weather-stained log house, the open clearing lit up by a glowing sun, the huge waggons with their horses and mules, the bronzed weather-beaten countenances of the whites, the great eyes and gleaming teeth of negroes of every hue and tint. But the principal figure was not unworthy of its prominence—a man in the prime of life, of powerful well-knit frame, his lower limbs clad in breeches and silk stockings, that exhibited a leg of model symmetry—a face strong, massive, dark, full of power and passion—an eye that looked as if it would search the very soul: this was Bishop England, as he stood upon that tree stump by the way-side. Soon were his willing audience bound by the spell of his eloquence, as he unfolded before them the grand truths of religion, and explained to them their duties to God and their fellow-men. He had been about twenty minutes addressing them, when the leader stepped forward, and raising his hand, said—'That will do, Mr. Bishop, that will do; we're much obleeged to you, Mr. Bishop; it's all just as the folks say—you are an all-fired powerful preacher. We'd like to hear you always, but we musn't stop you now. Thank you, Mr. Bishop, thank you, Mr. Bishop.' 'Thank you, Mr. Bishop,' cried the rest in chorus. And amidst a cheer that would have tried the nerves of horses less trained than his, the Bishop started on his journey.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

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