Commandment by T. S. Arthur
"Is there a good fire in the little spare room Jane?" said Mr.
Wade, a plain country farmer, coming into the kitchen where his good
wife was busy preparing for supper.
"Oh, yes, I've made the room as comfortable as can be," replied
Mrs. Wade; "but I wish you would take up a good armful of wood now, so
that we wont have to disturb Mr. N—, by going into the room after he
"If he should come this evening," remarked the husband. "But it is
getting late, and I am afraid he won't be here Before the morning."
"Oh, I guess he will be along soon. I have felt all day as if he
"They say he is a good man, and preaches most powerfully. Mr. Jones
heard him preach in New York at the last conference, and tells me he
never heard such a sermon as he gave them. It cut right and left, and
his words went home to every heart like arrows of conviction."
"I hope he will be here this evening," remarked the wife as she put
some cakes in the oven.
"And so do I." remarked Mr. Wade, as he turned away, and went out
to the wood pile for an armfull of wood for the expected minister's
It was Saturday afternoon, and nearly sundown. Mr. N—, who was
expected to arrive, and for whose comfort every preparation in their
power to make, had been completed by the family at whose house he was
to stay, was the new Presiding Elder of B—District, in the New Jersey
Conference. Quarterly meeting was to be held on the next day, which
was Sunday, when Mr. N—was to preach, and administer the ordinances
of the church. Being his first visit to that part of the District, the
preacher was known to but few, if any, of the members, and they all
looked forward to his arrival with interest, and were prepared to
welcome him with respect and affection.
The house of Mr. Wade was known as the 'minister's home.' For
years, in their movements through the circuit, the preachers, as they
came round to this part in the field of their appointed labor, were
welcomed by Brother and Sister Wade, and the little spare chamber
made comfort. able for their reception. It was felt by these
honest-hearted people, more a privilege than a duty, thus to share
their temporal blessings with the men of God who ministered to them
in holy things. They had their weaknesses, as we all have. One of
their weaknesses consisted in a firm belief that they were deeply
imbued with the genuine religion, and regarded things spiritual above
all worldly considerations. They were kind, good people, certainly,
but not as deeply read in the lore of their own hearts, not as
familiar with the secret springs of their own actions, as all of us
should desire to be. But this was hardly to be wondered at, seeing
that their position in the church was rather elevated as compared with
those around them, and they were the subjects of little distinguishing
marks flattering to the natural man.
While Mr. Wade was splitting a log at the wood-pile, his thoughts
on the new Presiding Elder, and his feelings warm with the anticipated
pleasure of meeting and entertaining him, a man of common appearance
approached along the road, and when he came to where the farmer was,
stood still and looked at him until he had finished cutting the log,
and was preparing to lift the cleft pieces in his arms.
"Rather a cold day this," said the man.
"Yes, rather," returned Mr. Wade, a little indifferently, and in a
voice meant to repulse the stranger, whose appearance did not impress
him very favorably.
"How far is it to D—?" inquired the man.
"Three miles," replied Mr. Wade, who having filled his arms with
wood, was beginning to move off towards the house.
"So far!" said the man in a tone that was slightly marked with
hesitation. "I thought it was but a little way from this." Then with
an air of hesitation, and speaking in a respectful voice, he added,
"I would feel obliged if you would let me go in and warm myself. I
have walked for two miles in the cold, an—as D—is still three miles
off, I shall be chilled through before I get there."
So modest and natural a request as this, Mr. Wade could not refuse,
and yet, in the way he said—"Oh, certainly"—there was a manner that
clearly betrayed his wish that the man had passed on and preferred his
request somewhere else. Whether this was noticed or not, is of no
consequence; the wayfarer on this assent to his request, followed Mr.
Wade into the house.
"Jane," said the farmer as he entered the house with the stranger,
and his voice was not as cordial as it might have been; "let this man
warm himself by the kitchen fire. He has to go all the way to D—this
evening and says he is cold."
There is a kind of magnetic intelligence in the tones of the voice.
Mrs. Wade understood perfectly, by the way in which this was said,
that the husband did not feel much sympathy for the stranger, and
only yielded the favor asked because he could not well refuse to
grant it. Her own observation did not correct the impression her
husband's manner had produced. The man's dress, though neither dirty
nor ragged, was not calculated to impress any one very favorably. His
hat was much worn, and the old gray coat in which he was buttoned up
to the chin, had seen so much service that it was literally threadbare
from collar to skirt, and showed numerous patches, darns, and other
evidences of needlework, applied long since to its original
manufacture. His cow-hide boots, though whole, had a coarse look; and
his long dark beard gave his face, not a very prepossessing one at
best, a no very attractive aspect.
"You can sit down there," said Mrs. Wade, a little ungraciously,
for she felt the presence of the man, just at that particular
juncture, as an intrusion; and she pointed to an old chair that stood.
near the fire-place, in front of which was a large Dutch oven
containing some of her best cream short cakes, prepared especially for
Mr. N—, the new Presiding Elder now momently expected.
"Thank you, Ma'am," returned the stranger, as he took the chair,
and drew close up to the blazing hearth, and removing his thick woolen
gloves, spread his hands to receive the genial warmth.
Nothing more was said by either the stranger or Mr. Wade, for the
space of three or four minutes. During this time, the good house-wife
passed in and out, once or twice, busy as could be in looking after
supper affairs. The lid of the ample Dutch oven had been raised once
or twice, and both the eyes and nose of the traveller greeted with a
pleasant token of the good fare soon to be served up in the family. He
was no longer cold; but the sight and smell of the cakes and other
good things in preparation by the lady, awakened a sense of hunger,
and made it keenly felt. But, as the comfort of a little warmth had
been bestowed so reluctantly, he could not think of trespassing on the
farmer and his wife for a bite of supper, and so commenced drawing on
his heavy woolen gloves, and buttoning up his old gray coat. While
occupied in doing this, Mr. Wade came into the kitchen, and said—
"I'm afraid Jane, that the minister won't be along this evening.
It's after sun-down, and begins to grow duskish."
"He ought to have been here an hour ago," returned Mrs. W., in a
tone of disappointment.
"It's getting late, my friend, and D—'s a good distance ahead,"
remarked the farmer, after standing with his back to the fire, and
regarding for some moments the stranger, who had taken off his
gloves, and was slowly unbuttoning his coat again.
"It's three miles you say?"
"Yes, good three miles, if not more; and it will be dark in half an
"What direction must I take?" required the stranger.
"You keep along the road until you come to the meeting house on the
top of the hill, half a mile beyond this, and then you strike off to
the right, and keep straight on."
"What meeting house is it?"
"The D—Methodist Meeting House."
"You are expecting the minister, I think you just now said?"
"Yes. Mr. N—, our new Presiding Elder, is to preach to-morrow,
and he was to have been here this afternoon."
"He is to stay with you?"
"Certainly he is. The ministers all stay at my house."
The man got up, and went to the door and looked out.
"Couldn't you give me a little something to eat before I go," he
said, returning. "I havn't tasted food since this morning, and feel a
"Jane, can't you give him some cold meat and bread?" Mr. Wade
turned to his wife, and she answered, just a little fretfully, "Oh,
yes, I suppose so;" and going to the cupboard, brought out a dish
containing a piece of cold fat bacon that had been boiled with
cabbage for dinner, and half a loaf of bread, which she placed on the
kitchen table and told the man to help himself. The stranger did not
wait for another invitation; but set to work in good earnest upon the
bread and bacon, while the farmer stood with his hands behind him, and
his back to the fire, whistling the air of "Auld Lang Syne," while he
mentally repeated the words of the hymn of "When I can read my title
clear," and wished that his visitor would make haste and get through
with his supper. The latter, after eating for a short time with the
air of a man whose appetite was keen, began to discuss the meat and
bread with more deliberation, and occasionally to ask a question, or
make a remark, the replies to which were not very gracious, although
Mr. Wade forced himself to be as polite as he could be.
The homely meal at length concluded, the man buttoned up his old
coat and drew on his coarse woolen gloves again, and thanking Mr. and
Mrs. Wade for their hospitality, opened the door and looked out. It
was quite dark, for there was no moon, and the sky was veiled in
clouds. The wind rushed into his face, cold and piercing. For a
moment or two, he stood with his hand upon the door, and then closing
it he turned back into the house, and said to the farmer
"You say it is still three miles to D—?"
"I do," said Mr. Wade coldly.
"I said so to you when you first stopped, and you ought to have
pushed on like a prudent man. You could have reached there before it
was quite dark."
"But I was cold and hungry, and might have fainted by the way."
The manner of saying this touched the farmer's feelings a little,
and caused him to look more narrowly into the stranger's face than he
had yet done. But he saw nothing more than he had already seen.
"You have warmed and fed me, for which I am thankful. Will you not
bestow another act of kindness upon one who is in a strange place,
and if he goes out in the darkness may lose himself and perish in the
The peculiar form in which this request was made, and the tone in
which it was uttered, put it almost out of the power of the farmer to
"Go in there and sit down," he (sic) answed, pointing to the
kitchen, "and I will see my wife, and hear what she has to say."
And Mr. Wade went into the parlor where the supper table stood,
covered with a snow-white cloth, and displaying his wife's set of
bluesprigged china, that was only brought out on special occasions.
Two tall mould candles were burning thereon, and on the hearth blazed
a cheerful hickory fire.
"Hasn't that old fellow gone yet?" asked Mrs. Wade. She had heard
his voice as he returned from the door.
"No. And what do you suppose? He wants us to let him stay all
"Indeed, and we'll do no such thing! We can't have the likes of him
in the house, no how. Where could he sleep?"
"Not in the best room, even if Mr. N—shouldn't come."
"But I really don't see, Jane how we can turn him out of doors. He
doesn't look like a very strong man, and it's dark and cold, and full
three miles to D—."
"It's too much! He ought to have gone on while he had daylight, and
not lingered here as he did until it got dark."
"We can't turn him out of doors, Jane; and it's no use to think of
it. He'll have to stay now."
"But what can we do with him?"
"He seems like a decent man, at least; and don't look as if he had
anything bad about him. We might make him a bed on the floor
"I wish he had been to Guinea before he came here," said Mrs. Wade,
fretfully. The disappointment, the conviction that Mr. N—would not
arrive, and the intrusion of so unwelcome a visitor as the stranger,
completely unhinged her mind.
"Oh, well, Jane," replied her husband in a soothing voice, "never
mind. We must make the best of it. Poor man! He came to us tired and
hungry, and we have warmed him and fed him. He now asks shelter for
the night, and we must not refuse him, nor grant his request in a
complaining reluctant spirit. You know what the Bible says about
entertaining angels unawares."
"Angels! Did you ever see an angel look like him?"
"Having never seen an angel," said the husband smiling, "I am
unable to speak as to their appearance."
This had the effect to call an answering smile to the face of Mrs.
Wade, and a better feeling to her heart. And it was finally agreed
between them, that the man, as he seemed like a decent kind of a
person, should be permitted to occupy the minister's room, if that
individual did not arrive, an event to which they both now looked
with but small expectancy. If he did come, why the man would have put
up with poorer accommodations.
When Mr. Wade returned to the kitchen where the stranger had seated
himself before the fire, he informed him, that they had decided to
let him stay all night. The man expressed in a few words his grateful
sense of their kindness, and then became silent and thoughtful. Soon
after, the farmer's wife, giving up all hopes of Mr. N—'s arrival,
had supper taken up, which consisted of coffee, warm cream short
cakes, and sweet cakes, broiled ham, and broiled chicken. After all
was on the table, a short conference was held, as to whether it would
do not to invite the stranger to take supper. It was true, they had
given him as much bread and bacon as he could eat; but then, as long
as he was going to stay all night, it looked too inhospitable to sit
down to the table and not ask him to join them. So, making a virtue of
necessity, he was kindly asked to come in to supper, an invitation
which he did not decline. Grace was said over the meal by Mr. Wade,
and then the coffee was poured out, the bread helped, and the meat
There was a fine little boy of some five or six years old at the
table, who had been brightened up, and dressed in his best, in order
to grace the minister's reception. Charley was full of talk, and the
parents felt a natural pride in showing him off, even before their
humble guest, who noticed him particularly, although he had not much
"Come, Charley," said Mr. Wade, after the meal was over, and he sat
leaning back in his chair, "can't you repeat the pretty hymn mamma
learned you last Sunday?"
Charley started off, without further invitation, and repeated, very
accurately, two or three verses of a new camp-meeting hymn, that was
just then very popular.
"Now let us hear you say the Commandments, Charley," spoke up the
mother, well pleased at her child's performance. And Charley repeated
them with only the aid of a little prompting.
"How many commandments are there?" asked the father.
The child hesitated, and then looking up at the stranger, near whom
he sat, said, innocently,—
"How many are there?"
The man thought for some moments, and said, as if in doubt—
"Eleven, are there not?"
"Eleven!" ejaculated Mrs. Wade, looking towards the man in
"Eleven!" said her husband, with more of rebuke than astonishment
in his voice. "Is it possible, sir, that you do not know how many
Commandments there are? How many are there, Charley? Come! Tell me;
you know, of course."
"Ten," said the child.
"Right, my son," returned Mr. Wade, with a smile of approval.
"Right. Why, there isn't a child of his age within ten miles who
can't tell you that there are ten Commandments. "Did you never read
the Bible, sir?" addressing the stranger.
"When I was a little boy, I used to read in it sometimes. But I'm
sure I thought there were eleven Commandments. Are you not mistaken
about there being only ten?"
Sister Wade lifted her hands in unfeigned astonishment, and
"Could any one believe it? Such ignorance of the Bible!"
Mr. Wade did not reply, but he arose, and going to one corner of
the room, where the Good Book lay upon a small mahogany stand, brought
it to the table, and pushing away his plate, cup and saucer, laid the
volume before him, and opened that portion in which the Commandments
"There!" he said, placing his finger upon a proof of the man's
error. "There! Look for yourself!"
The man came round from his side of the table, and looked over the
"There! Ten;—d'ye see!"
"Yes, it does say ten," replied the man. "And yet it seems to me
there are eleven. I'm sure I have always thought so."
"Doesn't it say ten, here?" inquired Mr. Wade, with marked
impatience in his voice.
"It does certainly."
"Well, what more do you want? Can't you believe the Bible?"
"Oh, yes I believe in the Bible, and yet, somehow, it strikes me
that there must be eleven Commandments. Hasn't one been added
Now this was too much for Brother and Sister Wade to bear. Such
ignorance on sacred matters they felt to be unpardonable. A long
lecture followed, in which the man was scolded, admonished and
threatened with Divine indignation. At its close, he modestly asked
if he might have the Bible to read for an hour or two, before
retiring to rest. This request was granted with more pleasure than
any of the preceding ones. Shortly after supper the man was conducted
to the little spare room accompanied by the Bible. Before leaving him
alone, Mr. Wade felt it his duty to exhort him on spiritual things,
and he did so most earnestly for ten or fifteen minutes. But he could
not see that his words made much impression, and he finally left his
guest, lamenting his ignorance and obduracy.
In the morning, the man came down, and meeting Mr. Wade, asked him
if he would be so kind as to lend him a razor, that he might remove
his beard, which did not give his face a very attractive aspect. His
request was complied with.
"We will have family prayer in about ten minutes," said Mr. Wade,
as he handed him a razor and a shaving-box.
In ten minutes the man appeared and behaved himself with due
propriety at family worship. After breakfast he thanked the farmer
and his wife for their hospitality, and departing, went on his
Ten o'clock came, and Mr. N—had not yet arrived. So Mr. and Mrs.
Wade started off for the meeting house, not doubting that they would
find him there. But they were disappointed. A goodly number of people
were inside the meeting house, and a goodly number outside, but the
minister had not yet arrived.
"Where is Mr. N—?" inquired a dozen voices, as a little crowd
gathered around the farmer.
"He hasn't come yet. Something has detained him. But I still look
for him; indeed, I fully expected to find him here."
The day was cold, and Mr. Wade, after becoming thoroughly chilled,
concluded to go in, and keep a look-out for the minister from the
window near which he usually sat. Others, from the same cause,
followed his example, and the little meeting house was soon filled,
and still one after another came dropping in. The farmer, who turned
towards the door each time it opened, was a little surprised to see
his guest of the previous night enter, and come slowly along the
aisle, looking from side to side as if in search of a vacant seat,
very few of which were now left. Still advancing, he finally passed
within the little enclosed altar, and ascending to the pulpit, took
off his old gray overcoat and sat down.
By this time Mr. Wade was by his side, and with his hand upon his
"You mustn't sit here. Come down, and I'll show you a seat," he
said in an excited tone.
"Thank you," returned the man, in a composed tone. "It is very
"But you are in the pulpit! You are in the pulpit, sir!"
"Oh, never mind. It is very comfortable here." And the man remained
Mr. Wade, feeling much embarrassed, turned away, and went down,
intending to get a brother official in the church to assist him in
making a forcible ejection of the man from the place he was
desecrating. Immediately upon his doing so, however, the man arose,
and standing up at the desk, opened the hymn book. His voice thrilled
to the very finger ends of Brother Wade, as, in a distinct and
impressive manner, he gave out the hymn beginning—
"Help us to help each other, Lord,
Each other's cross to bear;
Let each his friendly aid afford,
And feel a brother's care."
The congregation arose after the stranger had read the entire hymn,
and he then repeated the two first lines for them to sing. Brother
Wade usually started the tune. He tried it this time, but went off on
a long metre tune. Discovering his mistake at the second word, he
balked, and tried it again, but now he stumbled on short metre. A
musical brother here came to his aid, and let off with an air that
suited the measure in which the hymn was written. After the singing,
the congregation kneeled, and the minister, for no one now doubted
his real character, addressed the Throne of Grace with much fervor
and eloquence. The reading of a chapter from the Bible succeeded to
these exercises. Then there was a deep pause throughout the room in
anticipation of the text, which the preacher prepared to announce.
Brother Wade looked pale, and his hands and knees trembled;—Sister
Wade's face was like crimson, and her heart was beating so loud that
she wondered whether the sound was not heard by the sister who sat
beside her. There was a breathless silence. The dropping of a pin
might almost have been heard. Then the fine, emphatic tones of the
preacher filled the crowded room.
"A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another
Brother Wade had bent to listen, but he now sank back in his seat.
This was the ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT!
The sermon was deeply searching, yet affectionate and impressive.
The preacher uttered nothing that could in the least wound, the
brother and sister of whose hospitality he had partaken, but he said
much that smote upon their hearts, and made them painfully conscious
that they had not shown as much kindness to the stranger as he had
been entitled to receive on the broad principles of humanity. But
they suffered most from mortification of feeling. To think that they
should have treated the Presiding Elder of the District after such a
fashion, was deeply humiliating; and the idea of the whole affair
getting abroad, interfered sadly with their devotional feelings
throughout the whole period of the service.
At last the sermon was over, the ordinance administered, and the
benediction pronounced. Brother Wade did not know what it was best
for him now to-do. He never was more at a loss in his life. Mr.
N—descended from the pulpit, but he did not step forward to meet
him. How could he do that? Others gathered around and shook hands
with him, but he still lingered and held back.
"Where is Brother Wade?" he at length heard asked. It was in the
voice of the minister.
"Here he is," said two or three, opening the way to where the
The preacher advanced, and extending his hand, said—
"How do you do, Brother Wade? I am glad to see you. And where is
Sister Wade was brought forward, and the preacher shook hands with
them heartily, while his face was lit up with smiles.
"I believe I am to find my home with you?" he said, as if that were
a matter understood and settled.
Before the still embarrassed brother and sister could reply, some
"How came you to be detained so late? You were expected last night.
And where is Brother R—?"
"Brother R—is sick," replied Mr. N—, "and so I had to come
alone. Five miles from this my horse gave out, and I had to come the
rest of the way on foot. But I became so cold and weary that I found
it necessary to ask a farmer not far away from here to give me a
night's lodging, which he was kind enough to do. I thought I was
still three miles off, but it happened that I was much nearer my
journey's end than I had supposed."
This explanation was satisfactory to all parties, and in due time
the congregation dispersed; and the Presiding Elder went home with
Brother and Sister Wade. How the matter was settled between them, we
do not know. One thing is certain, however,—the story which we have
related did not get out for some years after the worthy brother and
sister had rested from their labors, and it was then related by Mr.
N—himself, who was rather (sic) excentric in his character, and,
like numbers of his ministerial brethren, fond of a good joke, and
given to relating good stories.