The Crucifixion of Philip Strong
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Title: The Crucifixion of Philip Strong
Author: Charles M. Sheldon
Release Date: April 14, 2006 [EBook #18171]
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE CRUCIFIXION OF PHILIP STRONG ***
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THE CRUCIFIXION OF PHILIP STRONG
REV. CHARLES M. SHELDON
"In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?" "His Brother's Keeper," "Robert
Hardy's Seven Days," etc.
NEW YORK AND LONDON
STREET & SMITH, PUBLISHERS
By STREET & SMITH
THE CRUCIFIXION OF PHILIP STRONG.
Philip Strong could not decide what was best to do.
The postman that evening had brought him two letters and he had justfinished reading them. He sat with his hands clasped over his knee,leaning back in his chair and looking out through his study window. Hewas evidently thinking very hard and the two letters were the cause ofit.
Finally he rose, went to his study door and called down the stairs,
"Sarah, I wish you would come up here. I want your help."
"All right, Philip, I'll be up in a minute," responded a voice frombelow, and very soon the minister's wife came upstairs into herhusband's study.
"What's the matter?" she said, as she came into the room. "It must besomething very serious, for you don't call me up here unless you are ingreat distress. You remember the last time you called me, you had shutthe tassel of your dressing-gown under the lid of your writing desk andI had to cut you loose. You aren't fast anywhere now, are you?"
Philip smiled quaintly. "Yes, I am. I'm in a strait betwixt two. Let meread these letters and you will see." So he began at once, and we willcopy the letters, omitting dates.
CALVARY CHURCH, MILTON.
REV. PHILIP STRONG.
DEAR SIR:—At a meeting of the Milton Calvary Church, held last week, itwas voted unanimously to extend you a call to become pastor of thischurch at a salary of two thousand dollars a year. We trust that youwill find it in accordance with the will of the Head of the Church toaccept this decision on the part of Calvary Church and become itspastor. The church is in good condition and has the hearty support ofmost of the leading families in the town. It is the strongest inmembership and financially of the seven principal churches here. Weawait your reply, confidently hoping you will decide to come to us. Wehave been without a settled pastor now for nearly a year, since thedeath of Dr. Brown, and we have united upon you as the person mosteminently fitted to fill the pulpit of Calvary Church. The grace of ourLord be with you. In behalf of the Church,
WILLIAM WINTER,Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
"What do you think of that, Sarah?" asked Philip Strong, as he finishedthe letter.
"Two thousand dollars is twice as much as you are getting now, Philip."
"What, you mercenary little creature, do you think of the salary first?"
"If I did not think of it once in a while, I doubt if you would have adecent meal or a good suit of clothes," replied the minister's wife,looking at him with a smile.
"Oh, well, that may be, Sarah. But let me read you the other letter," hewent on without discussing the salary matter.
CHAPEL HILL, CHURCH, ELMDALE
REV. PHILIP STRONG,
DEAR BROTHER:—At a meeting of the Elmdale Chapel Hill Church, held lastweek Thursday, it was unanimously voted to extend you a call to becomepastor of the church at a salary of $2,000 a year, with two months'vacation, to be selected at your own convenience. The Chapel Hill Churchis in a prosperous condition, and many of the members recall your careerin the college with much pleasure. This is an especially strong centrefor church work, the proximity of the boys' academy and the universitymaking the situation one of great power to a man who thoroughlyunderstands and enjoys young men as we know you do. We most earnestlyhope you will consider this call, not as purely formal, but as from thehearts of the people. We are, very cordially yours,
In behalf of the Church,PROFESSOR WELLMAN,Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
"What do you think of that?" asked the minister again.
"The salary is just the same, isn't it?"
"Now, Sarah," said the minister, "if I didn't knowwhat a generous, unselfish heart you really have, I should get vexed atyou for talking about the salary as if that was the most importantthing."
"The salary is very important, though. But you know, Philip, I would beas willing as you are to live on no salary if the grocer and butcherwould continue to feed us for nothing. I wish from the bottom of myheart that we could live without money."
"It is a bother, isn't it?" replied Philip, so gravely that his wifelaughed heartily at his tone.
"Well, the question is, what to do with the letters," resumed theminister.
"Which of the two churches do you prefer?" asked his wife.
"I would rather go to the Chapel Hill Church as far as my preference isconcerned."
"Then why not accept their call, if that is the way you feel?"
"Because, while I should like to go to Elmdale, I feel as if I ought togo to Milton."
"Now, Philip, I don't see why, in a choice of this kind, you don't do asyou feel inclined to do, and accept the call that pleases you most. Whyshould ministers be doing what they ought instead of what they like? Younever please yourself."
"Well, Sarah," replied Philip, good-naturedly, "this is the way of it.The church in Elmdale is in a University town. The atmosphere of theplace is scholastic. You know I passed four years of student life there.With the exception of the schools, there are not a thousand people inthe village, a quiet, sleepy, dull, retired, studious place. I love thememory of it. I could go there as the pastor of the Elmdale church andpreach to an audience of college boys eight months in the year and toabout eighty refined, scholarly people the rest of the time. I couldindulge my taste for reading and writing and enjoy a quiet pastoratethere to the end of my days."
"Then, Philip, I don't see why you don't reply to their call and tellthem you will accept; and we will move at once to Elmdale, and live anddie there. It is a beautiful place, and I am sure we could live verycomfortably on the salary and the vacation. There is no vacationmentioned in the other call."
"But, on the other hand," continued the minister, almost as if he werealone and arguing with himself, and had not heard his wife's words, "onthe other hand, there is Milton, a manufacturing town of fifty thousandpeople, mostly operatives. It is the centre of much that belongs to thestirring life of the times in which we live. The labor question is therein the lives of those operatives. There are seven churches of differentdenominations, to the best of my knowledge, all striving afterpopularity and power. There is much hard, stern work to be done inMilton, by the true Church of Christ, to apply His teachings to men'sneeds, and somehow I cannot help hearing a voice say, 'Philip Strong, goto Milton and work for Christ. Abandon your dream of a parish where youmay indulge your love of scholarship in the quiet atmosphere of aUniversity town, and plunge into the hard, disagreeable, but necessarywork of this age, in the atmosphere of physical labor, where greatquestions are being discussed, and the masses are engrossed in theterrible struggle for liberty and home, where physical life thrustsitself out into society, trampling down the spiritual and intellectual,and demanding of the Church and the preacher the fighting powers ofgiants of God to restore in men's souls a more just proportion of thevalue of the life of man on earth.'
"So, you see, Sarah," the minister went on after a little pause, "I wantto go to Elmdale, but the Lord probably wants me to go to Milton."
Mrs. Strong was silent. She had the utmost faith in her husband that hewould do exactly what he knew he ought to do, when once he decided whatit was. Philip Strong was also silent a moment. At last he said, "Don'tyou think so, Sarah?"
"I don't see how we can always tell exactly what the Lord wants us todo. How can you tell that He doesn't want you to go to Elmdale? Arethere not great opportunities to influence young student life in aUniversity town? Will not some one go to Elmdale and become pastor ofthat church?"
"No doubt there is a necessary work to be done there. The only questionis, am I the one to do it, or is the call to Milton more imperative? Themore I think of it, the more I am convinced that I must go to Milton."
"Then," said the minister's wife, rising suddenly and speaking with amock seriousness that her husband fully understood, "I don't see why youcalled me up here to decide what you had evidently settled before youcalled me. Do you consider that fair treatment, sir? It will serve youright if those biscuits I put in the oven when you called me are fallenas completely as Babylon. And I will make you eat half a dozen of them,sir, to punish you. We cannot afford to waste anything these times."
"What," cried Philip, slyly, "not on $2,000 a year! But I'll eat thebiscuits. They can't possibly be any worse than those we had a weekafter we were married—the ones we bought from the bakery, youremember," Philip added, hastily.
"You saved yourself just in time, then," replied the minister's wife.She came close up to the desk and in a different tone, said, "Philip,you know I believe in you, don't you?"
"Yes," said Philip simply; "I am sure you do. I am impulsive andimpractical, but heart and soul, and body and mind, I simply want to dothe will of God. Is it not so?"
"I know it is," she said, "and if you go to Milton it will be becauseyou want to do His will more than to please yourself."
"Yes. Then shall I answer the letter to-night?"
"Yes, if you have decided, with my help, of course."
"Of course, you foolish creature, you know I could not settle it withoutyou. And as for the biscuits—"
"As for the biscuits," said the minister's wife, "they will be settledwithout me, too, if I don't go down and see to them." She hurrieddownstairs and Philip Strong, with a smile and a sigh, took up his penand wrote replies to the two calls he had received, refusing the call toElmdale and accepting the one to Milton. And so the strange story of agreat-hearted man really began.
When he had finished writing these two letters, he wrote another, whichthrows so much light on his character and his purpose in going toMilton, that we will insert that in this story, as being necessary toits full understanding. This is the letter:—
MY DEAR ALFRED:—Two years ago, when we left the Seminary, you rememberwe promised each other, in case either of us left his present parish, hewould let the other know at once. I did not suppose, when I came, that Ishould leave so soon, but I have just written a letter which means thebeginning of a new life to me. The Calvary Church in Milton has given mea call, and I have accepted it. Two months ago my church herepractically went out of existence, through a union with the other churchon the street. The history of that movement is too long for me