We marched straight down the center aisle. The pews were filled, and every face in every pew turned slowly to regard my slow approach. I knew them all, and they knew me; but if ever my eyes met theirs, they suddenly dropped their gaze. It was an expression of shame – shame, not of themselves, but of me.
At last I stood before the chancel. On a lofty platform above me stood the Lord’s Table, draped in a cloth of purest linen that cascaded to my feet in glistening folds of white. So high and elevated was the table that I could not see over the top of it.
A golden-winged angel, robed in white, approached and blew a blast upon a silver trumpet. “All rise!” he cried, and the congregation thundered to its feet. A small door at one side of the chancel opened and a black-robed figure emerged. Such was my position in relation to his that I could not see his face, only his back as he entered. But even his back was terrifying, broad as northern wastes, broad and unfathomable as earth and sea and sky combined, black and deep as night. Over his back rolled the heavy scrolls of his long white wig, white as wool, rippling down like a mighty waterfall. He climbed some steps at the back of the great table and took his seat on a bench behind it.
In the choir loft sat the twelve jurors. They were drawn from among my friends, relations, neighbors, acquaintances, and mentors. Included in their number were Luther, MacDonald, Bunyan, and O’ Carolan, the blind Irish harper.
A bailiff, dressed in cloth-of-gold, came forward and addressed me:
“You have been brought here to stand trial,” he said. “This day the measure of your worth is to be determined.”
At this, O’ Carolan took up his harp. Hymnals were opened, and the congregation sang “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee,” and “Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?” Last of all they sang a hymn with words like these:
O Jesus, Thou art standing outside the fast-closed door,
In lowly patience waiting to pass the threshold o’er.
Shame on us, Christian brothers, His name and sign who bear,
O shame, thrice shame upon us, to keep Him standing there!
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