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The Sequel by T. S. Arthur

 

JUST one year has elapsed, since Mr. Carroll accepted the call from Y—. It has been a year of trouble, ending in deep affliction. When the health of Mrs. Carroll yielded under her too heavy burdens, it did not come back again. Steadily she continued to sink, after the first brief rallying of her system, until it became hopelessly apparent that the time of her departure was near at hand. She was too fragile a creature to be thrown into the position she occupied. Inheriting a delicate constitution, and raised with even an unwise tenderness, she was no more fitted to be a pastor's wife, with only three hundred a year to live upon, than a summer flower is to take the place of a hardy autumn plant. This her husband should have known and taken into the account, before he decided to accept the call from Y—.

When it was found that Mrs. Carroll, after partially recovering from her first severe attack, began, gradually to sink; a strong interest in her favor was awakened among the ladies of the congregation, and they showed her many kind attentions. But all these attentions, and all this kindness, did not touch the radical disability under which she was suffering. They did not remove her too heavy weight of care and labor. All the help in her family that she felt justified in employing, was a girl between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and this left so much for her to do in the care of her children, and in necessary household duties that she suffered all the time from extreme physical exhaustion.

In the just conviction of the error he had committed, and while he felt the hopelessness of his condition, Mr. Carroll, as has been seen, resolved to leave Y—immediately. This design he hinted to one of the members of his church.

"You engaged with us for a year, did you not?" enquired the member.

That settled the question in the mind of the unhappy minister. He said no more to any one on the subject of his income, or about leaving the parish. But his mind was made up not to remain a single day, after his contract had expired. If in debt at the time, as he knew he must be, he would free himself from the incumbrances by selling a part of his household furniture. Meantime his liveliest fears were aroused for his wife, as symptom after symptom of a rapid decline, showed themselves. That he did not preach as good sermons, nor visit as freely among his parishioners during the last three months of the time he remained at Y—, is no matter of surprise. Some, more considerate than the rest, excused him; but others complained, even to the minister himself. No matter. Mr. Carroll had too much at home to fill his heart to leave room for a troubled pulsation on this account. He was conscience-clear on the score of obligation to his parishioners.

At last, and this before the year had come to its close, the drooping wife and mother took to her bed, never again to leave it until carried forth by the mourners. We will not pain the reader by any details of the affecting scenes attendant upon the last few weeks of her mortal life; nor take him to the bed-side of the dying one, in the hour that she passed away. To state the fact that she died, is enough—and painful enough.

For all this, it did not occur to the people of Y—that, in anything they had been lacking. They had never given but three hundred a year to a minister, and, as a matter of course, considered the sum as much as a reasonable man could expect. As for keeping a clergyman in luxury, and permitting him to get rich; they did not think it consistent with the office he held, which required self-denial and a renouncing of the world. As to how he could live on so small a sum, that was a question rarely asked; and when presented, was put to rest by some backhanded kind of an answer, that left the matter as much in the dark as ever.

Notwithstanding the deep waters of affliction through which Mr. Carroll was required to pass, his Sabbath duties were but once omitted, and that on the day after he had looked for the last time upon the face of his lost one. Four Sabbaths more he preached, and then, in accordance with notice a short time previously given, resigned his pastoral charge. There were many to urge him with great earnestness not to leave them; but a year's experience enabled him to see clearer than he did before, and to act with greater decision. In the hope of retaining him, the vestry strained a point, and offered to make the salary three hundred and fifty dollars. But much to their surprise, the liberal offer was refused.

It happened that the Bishop of the Diocese came to visit Y—a week before Mr. Carroll intended taking his departure with his motherless children, for his old home, where a church had been offered him in connexion with a school. To him, three or four prominent members of the church complained that the minister was mercenary, and looked more to the loaves and fishes than to the duty of saving souls.

"Mercenary!" said the Bishop, with a strong expression of surprise.

"Yes, mercenary," repeated his accusers.

"So far from it," said the Bishop, warmly, "he has paid more during the year, for supporting the Gospel in Y—, than any five men in the parish put together."

"Mr. Carroll has!"

"How much do you give?" addressing one.

"I pay ten dollars pew rent, and give ten extra, besides," was the answer.

"And you," speaking to another.

"The same."

"And you?"

"Thirty dollars, in all."

"While," said the Bishop, speaking with increased warmth, "your minister gave two hundred dollars."

This, of course, took them greatly by surprise, and they asked for an explanation. "It is given in a few words," returned the Bishop. "It cost him, though living in the most frugal manner, five hundred dollars for the year. Of this, you paid three hundred, and he two hundred dollars."

"I don't understand you, Bishop," said one.

"Plainly, then; he was in debt at the end of the year, two hundred dollars, for articles necessary for the health and comfort of his family, to pay which he has sold a large part of his furniture. He was not working for himself, but for you, and, therefore, actually paid two hundred dollars for the support of the Gospel in Y—, while you paid but twenty or thirty dollars apiece. Under these circumstances, my friends, be assured that the charge of being mercenary, comes with an exceeding bad grace. Nor is this all that he has sacrificed. An insufficient income threw upon his wife, duties beyond her strength to bear; and she sunk under them. Had you stepped forward in time, and lightened these duties by a simple act of justice, she night still be living to bless her husband and children!—Three hundred a year for a man with a wife and three children, is not enough; and you know it, my brethren! Not one of you could live on less than double the sum."

This rebuke came with a stunning force upon the ears of men who had expected the Bishop to agree with them in their complaint, and had its effect. On the day Mr. Carroll left the village, he received a kind and sympathetic letter from the official members of the church enclosing the sum of two hundred dollars. The first impulse of his natural feelings was to return the enclosure, but reflection showed him that such an act would be wrong; and so he retained it, after such acknowledgments as he deemed the occasion required.

Back to his old home the minister went, but with feelings, how different, alas! from those he had experienced on leaving for Y—. The people among whom he had labored for a year, felt as if they had amply paid him for all the service he had rendered; in fact had overpaid him, as if money, doled out grudgingly, could compensate for all he had sacrificed and suffered, in his effort to break for them the Bread of Life.

Here is one of the phases of ministerial life, presented with little ornament or attractiveness. There are many other phases, more pleasant to look upon, and far more flattering to the good opinion we are all inclined to entertain of ourselves. But it is not always best to look upon the fairest side. The cold reality of things, it is needful that we should sometimes see. The parish of Y—, does not, by any means, stand alone. And Mr. Carroll is not, the only man who has suffered wrong from the hands of those who called him to minister in spiritual things, yet neglected duly to provide for the natural and necessary wants of the body.

 
 
 

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