Another passage from Micah Clarke that I wanted to share with all ye goode knights. (Read the whole book here!) Enjoy and marvel not only at A. C. Doyle's ability to project a story (later to be displayed in its fullest glory in the London ramblings of the dynamic Mr. Holmes), but at his combined grasp of biblical concepts and how 17th-century English dissident protestants would have understood and practiced them. Who among us today could write with as much confidence about the daily lives of American Puritans?
Micah begins this passage describing his father's faith to his (Micah's) grandchildren, so that they could better understand the tenor of the times.
But that I may help you to understand the character of your great-grandfather, I shall give an incident which shows how fervent and real were the emotions which prompted the violent moods I have described. I was about twelve at the time, my brothers Hosea and Ephraim were respectively nine and seven, while little Ruth could scarce have been more than four. It chanced that a few days before a wandering preacher of the Independents had put up at our house, and his religious ministrations had left my father moody and excitable. One night I had gone to bed as usual, and was sound asleep with my two brothers beside me, when we were roused and ordered to come downstairs. Huddling on our clothes, we followed him into the kitchen, where my mother was sitting, pale and scared, with Ruth upon her knee.
“Gather round me, my children,” he said in a deep, reverent voice, “that we may all appear before the throne together. The kingdom of the Lord is at hand – oh, be ye ready to receive Him! This very night, my loved ones, ye shall see Him in His splendor, with the angels and the archangels in their might and glory. At the third hour shall He come – that very third hour which is now drawing upon us.”
“Dear Joe,” said my mother in soothing tones, “thou are scaring thyself and the children to no avail. If the Son of Man be indeed coming, what matters it whether we be abed or afoot?”
“Peace, woman,” he answered sternly; “has He not said that He would come like a thief in the night, and that it is for us to await him? Join with me then in prayerful outpourings, that we may be found as those in bridal array. Let us offer up thanks that He has graciously vouchsafed to warn us through the words of His servant. Oh, great Lord, look down upon this small flock and lead it to the sheepfold! Mix not the little wheat with the great world of chaff. Oh, merciful Father! Look graciously upon my wife, and forgive her the sin of Erastianism, she being but a woman and little fitted to cast off the bonds of Antichrist wherein she was born. And these too, my little ones, Micah and Hosea, Ephraim and Ruth, all named after Thy faithful servants of old, oh, let them stand upon Thy right hand this night!” Thus he prayed on in a wild rush of burning, pleading words, writhing prostrate upon the floor in the vehemence of his supplication, while we, poor trembling mites, huddled around our mother’s skirts and gazed with terror at the contorted figure seen by the dim light of the simple oil-lamp. On a sudden the clang of the new church clock told us that the hour had come. My father sprang from the floor, and, rushing to the casement, stared up with wild expectant eyes at the starry heavens. Whether he conjured up some vision in his excited brain or whether the rush of feeling on finding that his expectations were in vain was too much for him, it is certain that he threw his long arms upwards, uttered a hoarse scream, and tumbled backwards with foaming lips and twitching limbs upon the ground. For an hour or more my poor mother and I did what we could to soothe him, while the children whimpered in a corner, until at last he staggered slowly to his feet, and in brief, broken words ordered us to our rooms. From that time I have never heard him allude to the matter, nor did he ever give us any reason why he should so confidently have expected the second coming upon that particular night. I have learned since, however, that the preacher who visited us was what was called in those days a fifth monarchy man, and that this particular sect was very liable to these premonitions. I have no doubt that something which he had said had put the thought into my father’s head, and that the fiery nature of the man had done the rest.
Oh, for some of that olde time religion!