Sunday, April 17, 2011

St. Elmo Murray's Ordination

   It was a beautiful Sabbath morning, just one year after Edna's departure from the parsonage, and the church was crowded to its utmost capacity, for people had come for many miles around, to witness a ceremony the announcement of which, had given rise to universal comment.  As the hour approached for the ordination of St. Elmo Murray to the ministry of Jesus Christ even the doors were filled with curious spectators; and when Mr. Hammond and St. Elmo walked down the aisle, and the old man seated himself in a chair within the altar, there was a general stir in the congregation.
   The officiating minster had come from a distant city to perform a ceremony of more than usual interest; and when he stood up in the pulpit, and the organ thundered through the arches, St. Elmo bowed his head on his hand, and sat thus during the hour that ensued.
  The ordination sermon was solemn and eloquent, and preached from the text in Romans:
   "For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.  But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."
   Then the minister, having finished his discourse, came down into the altar and commenced the services; but Mr. Murray sat motionless, with his countenance concealed by his hand.  Mr. Hammond approached and touched him, and, as he rose, led him to the altar, and presented him a a candidate for ordination.
   There, before the shining marble pulpit which he had planned and built in the early years of his life, for the idol of his youth, stood St. Elmo; and the congregation, especially those of his native village, looked with involuntary admiration and pride at the erect, powerful form, clad in its suit of black--at the nobly-proportioned head, where gray locks were visible.
   "But if there be any of you who knoweth any impediment or crime, for the which he ought not to be received into this holy ministry, let him come forth, in the name of God, and show what the crime or impediment is."
   The preacher paused, the echo of his words died away, and perfect silence reigned.  Suddenly St. Elmo raised his eyes from the railing of the altar, and turning his face slightly, looked through the eastern window at the ivy-draped vault where slept Murray and Annie.  The world was silent, but conscience and the dead accused him.  An expression of intolerable anguish crossed his handsome features, then his hands folded themselves tightly together on the top of the marble balustrade, and he looked appealingly up to the pale Jesus staggering under his cross.
   At that instant a spotless white pigeon from the belfry, found its way into the church through the open doors, circled once around the building, fluttered against the windows,  hiding momentarily the crown of thorns, and, frightened and confused, fell upon the fluted pillar of the pulpit.
   An electric thrill ran through the congregation; and as the minister resumed the services, he saw on St. Elmo's face a light, a great joy, such as human countenances rarely wear this side the grave.
   When Mr. Murray knelt and the ordaining hands were laid upon his head, a sob was heard from the pew where his mother sat, and the voice of the preacher faltered as he delivered the Bible to the kneeling man, saying:
   "Take thou authority to preach the word of God, and to administer the holy sacraments in the congregation."
    There were no dry eyes in the entire assembly, save two that looked out, coldly blue, from the pew where Mrs. Powell sat like a statue, between her daughter and Gordon Leigh. 
   Mr. Hammond tottered across the altar, and knelt down close to Mr. Murray; and many who knew the history of the pastor's family, wept as the gray head fell on the broad shoulder of St. Elmo, whose arm was thrown around the old man's form, and the ordaining minister, with tears rolling over his face, extended his hands in benediction above them.
   "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be among you, and remain with you alway."
   And all hearts and lips present whispered "Amen!" and the organ and the choir broke forth in a grand "Gloria in excelsis."
   Standing there at the chancel, purified, consecrated henceforth unreservedly to Christ, Mr. Murray looked so happy, so noble, so worthy of his high calling, that his proud, fond mother thought his face was fit for an archangel's wings.
   Many persons who had known him in his boyhood, came up with tears in their eyes, and wrung his hand silently.  At last Huldah pointed to the white pigeon, that was now beating its wings against the gilded pipes of the organ, and said, in that singularly sweet, solemn, hesitating tone, with which children approach sacred things:
   "Oh Mr. Murray! when it fell on the pulpit, it nearly took my breath away, for I almost thought it was the Holy Ghost."
   Tears, which till then he had kept bravely back, dripped over his face, as he stooped and whispered to the little orphan:
   "Huldah the Holy Spirit the Comforter, came indeed; but it was not visible, it is here in my heart."
   The congregation dispersed.  Mrs. Murray and the preacher and Huldah went to the carriage; and, leaning on Mr. Murray's arm, Mr. Hammond turned to follow, but observing that the church was empty, the former said:
  "After a little, I will come."
   The old man walked on, and Mr. Murray went back and knelt, resting his head against the beautiful glittering balustrade, within which he hoped to officiate through the remaining years of his earthly career.
   Once the sexton, who was waiting to lock up the church, looked in, saw the man praying alone there at the altar, and softly stole away.

...from St. Elmo, by Augusta Jane Evans Wilson

I think that this is one of the most moving scenes in the entire book.  Everyone should read St. Elmo and any other books by Augusta Jane Evans Wilson that they can get their hands on.  Some day, I would like to witness an ordination.  Not as eventful, nor as dramatic a redemption story as the one portrayed here probably, but I think it must be a beautiful and solemn thing.

Disclaimer:  I do not neccesarily condone the appearance of, decoration choices, and so on of the church herein described.  The authoress is describing an Episcopal church and while I certainly believe that one could be a true Christian and attend a church such as is described, but I would certainly suggest some changes.  


  1. I've seen an ordination! It's a terribly solemn affair, which was odd for me to see because the pastors involved in it are usually such jokesters... :) but it was pretty amazing.
    I've never heard of Augusta Jane Evans Wilson - is she a good author?

  2. Augusta Jane Evans Wilson was born in 1835 and died in 1909. She wrote a total of 9 books besides a large correspondence with many people, including prominent leaders of the War Between the States. Her books are amazing! She writes incredibly well, in a sort of "High English" and her extensive eduacation is seen in her writing. I would say she is somewhat similar to Jane Austen or Louisa May Alcott, more like Elizabeth Gaskell in her writings, but in my opinion she is much better. Her books tend to revolve around girls who have little money and who usually are orphaned, and who come to know Jesus through their trials or who already do and have their faith strengthened. They aren't sappy romance novels like are written today, although there is "romance" in them. The story doesn't revolve around the romance, but is about much deeper things. You can get her books on Amazon for good prices sometimes.:) I definitely recommend her work.


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