There was great commotion in Zion Church, a body of Christian worshippers, usually noted for their harmony. But for the last six months, trouble had been brewing between the congregation and the pastor. The Rev. Elisha Edwards had come to them two years before, and he had given good satisfaction as to preaching and pastoral work. Only one thing had displeased his congregation in him, and that was his tendency to moments of meditative abstraction in the pulpit. However much fire he might have displayed before a brother minister arose to speak, and however much he might display in the exhortation after the brother was done with the labors of hurling phillipics against the devil, he sat between in the same way, with head bowed and eyes closed.
There were some who held that it was a sign in him of deep thoughtfulness, and that he was using these moments for silent prayer and meditation. But others, less generous, said that he was either jealous of or indifferent to other speakers. So the discussion rolled on about the Rev. Elisha, but it did not reach him and he went on in the same way until one hapless day, one tragic, one never-to-be-forgotten day. While Uncle Isham Dyer was exhorting the people to repent of their sins, the disclosure came. The old man had arisen on the wings of his eloquence and was painting hell for the sinners in the most terrible colors, when to the utter surprise of the whole congregation, a loud and penetrating snore broke from the throat of the pastor of the church. It rumbled down the silence and startled the congregation into sudden and indignant life like the surprising cannon of an invading host. Horror-stricken eyes looked into each other, hands were thrown into the air, and heavy lips made round O’s of surprise and anger. This was his meditation. The Rev. Elisha Edwards was asleep!
Uncle Isham Dyer turned around and looked down on his pastor in disgust, and then turned again to his exhortations, but he was disconcerted, and soon ended lamely.
As for the Rev. Elisha himself, his snore rumbled on through the church, his head drooped lower, until with a jerk, he awakened himself. He sighed religiously, patted his foot upon the floor, rubbed his hands together, and looked complacently over the aggrieved congregation. Old ladies moaned and old men shivered, but the pastor did not know what they had discovered, and shouted Amen, because he thought something Uncle Isham had said was affecting them. Then, when he arose to put the cap sheaf on his local brother’s exhortations, he was strong, fiery, eloquent, but it was of no use. Not a cry, not a moan, not an Amen could he gain from his congregation. Only the local preacher himself, thinking over the scene which had just been enacted, raised his voice, placed his hands before his eyes, and murmured, “Lord he’p we po’ sinnahs!”
Brother Edwards could not understand this unresponsiveness on the part of his people. They had been wont to weave and moan and shout and sigh when he spoke to them, and when, in the midst of his sermon, he paused to break into spirited song, they would join with him until the church rang again. But this day, he sang alone, and ominous glances were flashed from pew to pew and from aisle to pulpit. The collection that morning was especially small. No one asked the minister home to dinner, an unusual thing, and so he went his way, puzzled and wondering.
Before church that night, the congregation met together for conference. The exhorter of the morning himself opened proceedings by saying, “Brothahs an’ sistahs, de Lawd has opened ouah eyes to wickedness in high places.”
“Oom–oom–oom, he have opened ouah eyes,” moaned an old sister.
“We have been puhmitted to see de man who was intrusted wid de guidance of dis flock a-sleepin’ in de houah of duty, an’ we feels grieved ter-night.”