I HOPE THAT YOU WILL NOT EVENTUALLY MARRY AN INFIDEL.
Some of the congregation were greatly disappointed. They had expected a brilliant and startling attack upon some other Bible personages who had hitherto been looked on with respect and admiration. But the sermon had only attacked the Jewish system as a whole, and everyone knows that there is nothing piquant in an attack, however eloquent it may be, upon a religious system in the abstract. One might as well find entertainment in an attack upon the Magnetic Pole or a denunciation of the Precession of the Equinoxes. No one cared, they said, anything more about the failure of the laws of Moses than one did about such abstractions as the Earth's Axis, or the Great Glacial Epoch. It was quite different when the characters of well-known individuals were subjected to an assault. People could listen for hours to an attack upon celebrated persons. If Mr. Holland's book had only dealt with the characteristics of the religion of the Jews, it would never have attracted attention, these critics said. It had called for notice simply because of its trenchant remarks in regard to some of those Bible celebrities who, it was generally understood, were considered worthy of admiration.
Why could Mr. Holland not have followed up the course indicated in his book by showing up some of the other persons in the Bible? it was asked. There were quite a number of characters in the Bible who were regarded as estimable. Why could he not then have followed up his original scheme of "showing them up?"--that was the phrase of the critics. There was Solomon, for instance. He was usually regarded as a person of high intellectual gifts; but there was surely a good deal in his career which was susceptible of piquant treatment. And then someone said that Noah should have a chapter all to himself, also Lot; and what about the spies who had entered Jericho? Could the imagination not suggest the story which they had told to their wives on their return to the camp, relative to the house in which they had passed all their spare time? They supposed that Jericho was the Paris of the high class Jews of those days.
Then the conversation of these critics drifted on to the Paris of to-day, and the sermon and its lessons were forgotten as easily as is an ordinary sermon. But all the same it was plain that the clergyman had fallen short of what was expected of him upon this occasion. His book had gone far, and it was felt that he should have gone one better than his book, so to speak. Instead of that his sermon had been one to which scarcely any exception could be taken.
But the bishop's chaplain, who had watched at intervals of praying, came to the conclusion that the rector of St. Chad's was a good deal cleverer than the majority of youngish clergymen who endeavor to qualify for prosecution. It may be unorthodox to cross one's arms with the regularity of clockwork on coming to certain words in the service, and young clergymen had been prosecuted for less; but it was not unorthodox to speak evil of the Jews--for did not the Church pray for the Jews daily? and can anyone insult a man more than by praying for him--unless, of course, he is a king, in which case it is understood that no insult is intended?
The bishop's chaplain prepared a report of the sermon for his lordship, pointing out its general harmony, broadly speaking, with the tenets of the Church.
Mr. Ayrton also seemed to perceive a sort of cleverness in the sermon. There was nothing in it that was calculated to shock even the most susceptible hearer. Indeed, it seemed to Mr. Ayrton that there was a good deal in it that was calculated to soothe the nerves of those who had been shocked by the book. He said something to this effect to his daughter as they walked homeward. He was rather anxious to find out what chance George Holland had of being restored to his daughter's favor.
But Phyllis was firm in her condemnation of the methods of Mr. Holland.