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The Fruitful Sleeping Of The Rev. Elisha Edwards
by [?]

“He sholy were asleep,” sister Hannah Johnson broke in, “dey ain’t no way to ‘spute dat, dat man sholy were asleep.”

“I kin testify to it,” said another sister, “I p’intly did hyeah him sno’, an’ I hyeahed him sno’t w’en he waked up.”

“An’ we been givin’ him praise fu’ meditation,” pursued Brother Isham Dyer, who was only a local preacher, in fact, but who had designs on ordination, and the pastoring of Zion Church himself.

“It ain’t de sleepin’ itse’f,” he went on, “ef you ‘member in de Gyarden of Gethsemane, endurin’ de agony of ouah Lawd, dem what he tuk wid him fu’ to watch while he prayed, went to sleep on his han’s. But he fu’give ’em, fu’ he said, ‘De sperit is willin’ but de flesh is weak.’ We know dat dey is times w’en de eyes grow sandy, an’ de haid grow heavy, an’ we ain’t accusin’ ouah brothah, nor a-blamin’ him fu’ noddin’. But what we do blame him fu’ is fu’ ‘ceivin’ us, an’ mekin’ us believe he was prayin’ an’ meditatin’, w’en he wasn’ doin’ a blessed thing but snoozin’.”

“Dat’s it, dat’s it,” broke in a chorus of voices. “He ‘ceived us, dat’s what he did.”

The meeting went stormily on, the accusation and the anger of the people against the minister growing more and more. One or two were for dismissing him then and there, but calmer counsel prevailed and it was decided to give him another trial. He was a good preacher they had to admit. He had visited them when they were sick, and brought sympathy to their afflictions, and a genial presence when they were well. They would not throw him over, without one more chance, at least, of vindicating himself.

This was well for the Rev. Elisha, for with the knowledge that he was to be given another chance, one trembling little woman, who had listened in silence and fear to the tirades against him, crept out of the church, and hastened over in the direction of the parsonage. She met the preacher coming toward the church, hymn-book in hand, and his Bible under his arm. With a gasp, she caught him by the arm, and turned him back.

“Come hyeah,” she said, “come hyeah, dey been talkin’ ’bout you, an’ I want to tell you.”

“Why, Sis’ Dicey,” said the minister complacently, “what is the mattah? Is you troubled in sperit?”

“I’s troubled in sperit now,” she answered, “but you’ll be troubled in a minute. Dey done had a church meetin’ befo’ services. Dey foun’ out you was sleepin’ dis mornin’ in de pulpit. You ain’t only sno’ed, but you sno’ted, an’ dey ‘lowin’ to give you one mo’ trial, an’ ef you falls f’om grace agin, dey gwine ax you fu’ to ‘sign f’om de pastorship.”

The minister staggered under the blow, and his brow wrinkled. To leave Zion Church. It would be very hard. And to leave there in disgrace; where would he go? His career would be ruined. The story would go to every church of the connection in the country, and he would be an outcast from his cloth and his kind. He felt that it was all a mistake after all. He loved his work, and he loved his people. He wanted to do the right thing, but oh, sometimes, the chapel was hot and the hours were long. Then his head would grow heavy, and his eyes would close, but it had been only for a minute or two. Then, this morning, he remembered how he had tried to shake himself awake, how gradually, the feeling had overcome him. Then–then–he had snored. He had not tried wantonly to deceive them, but the Book said, “Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth.” He did not think it necessary to tell them that he dropped into an occasional nap in church. Now, however, they knew all.