Having been born and reared in the Seventh-day Adventist faith, coming upon the scene of action at a time when it was customary to preach long sermons and plenty of them, and being the child of a minister who did his full share of moving about, it has naturally fallen to my lot to listen to a great many sermons preached by ministers in different parts of the world. Rarely was I Permitted to leave the place of meeting before the sermon was over, however interminable it seemed to my childish ears. I therefore fell into the habit of classifying the sermons which I heard, and labeling the speaker so that he fell into one of certain categories which I had mercilessly marked out.
There were four main classes of preachers: the long-winded, the dry, the concise, and the interesting. I could tell during the first ten minutes of a sermon whether it was going to be interesting or not. If the speaker was interesting, I put him down as one whom I would like to hear again. Even if he inclined to be a little lengthy in his remarks, I did not mind much, and tried to keep from squirming in my seat until he got to the welcome words "is my prayer." A sermon that was both interesting and of what I called a proper length was extremely rare in my boyhood experience as I look back at it now.
Even if the speaker did not interest me particularly, I respected him sincerely, feeling that he really knew his business, if he spoke clearly, and did not say, "Now in closing," more than once or twice. I understood in a vague way that what he said was good, and that I ought to assimilate it even if it was not exactly suited to my few years.
After the sermon began, I waited for one of two things—for the speaker to say something that interested me; or for the hands of my mother's watch, which she allowed me to look at surreptitiously now and again, to crawl around to the end of the hour. It was generally an endurance test. I soon learned not to set my heart upon the preacher's stopping when the hour was up. Once in a great while he did, but not often enough to affect the average very much. After the hour had passed I would say to myself, "Well, maybe within the next thirty minutes we will be standing up and singing the last hymn." If, after the hour was up, he came with a burst of eloquence to what would have been a first-class peroration, I learned not to be disappointed
when he said, after pausing for breath, "But we must hasten on." I knew what he meant by that, and felt inclined to ask why he hadn't done a little of that hurrying during the first half hour. It seemed to me that he had either been approaching the subject from a great distance by painfully slow degrees, or had already given us a pretty clear outline of the subject for the evening and had been engaged during the last half hour in saying the same thing over again.
In the back of my mind I think I came to look upon the attending of long church services as an exercise not unlike that of penance. Perhaps the protracted sessions would make me able to bear hardship when I grew up, and so I sat on hard seats which were too high for me and breasted the waves of words with what fortitude I could summon.
Of course there were times when I felt within me the rising tides of mutiny. If 'the preacher read a long chapter of thirty or forty verses with copious comment before he even started to preach, I felt that I was being im-. posed upon. If, after a presentation of ample length, he got into the habit of saying, "Now just one or two more texts in closing," so often that I lost count of the number of times, I began to wish that something would happen to interrupt the tireless flow of speech and let me go home.
As I look back on those boyhood experiences. I am rather astonished to discover that I feel almost exactly now as I did then. I do not relish a long, uninteresting discourse today any more than I did years ago. The sermons which interested me then are the type that interest me today, and I have the same kind of difficulty, though not to the same degree, in concentrating upon the other kind.
When I was thirteen years old, Elder J. N. Loughborough visited Scotland, where we lived. He came to attend a general meeting, and naturally took a good share of the time explaining the rise and the progress of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. I never looked at the clock while he talked, and I do not remember ever becoming weary. I know he must have spoken for considerably more than an hour nearly every time, but I never tired of listening to him. After the last meeting, I happened to be standing at the edge of the tent as he passed by, and he reached out his hand to me and said, "Good night, dear boy." I almost felt that I had been in the presence of an angel. I never saw him again, but I hope to someday.
H. R. Salisbury was a speaker of an entirely different type, and yet he never failed to grip my attention and hold my interest. Whether he was quietly talking to a group of young men in the dormitory, or delivering the commencement address on some formal occasion before a large audience, he never failed to
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