Difference and Agreement
by Dr. John Aiken and Mrs. Anna Letitia Barbauld
OR, SUNDAY MORNING
It was Sunday morning. All the bells were ringing for church,
and the streets were filled with people moving in all directions.
Here, numbers of well-dressed persons and a long train of charity
children were thronging in at the wide doors of a large, handsome
church. There, a smaller number, almost equally gay in dress, were
entering an elegant meeting-house. Up one alley, a Roman Catholic
congregation was turning into their retired chapel, every one crossing
himself with a finger dipped in holy water, as he went in. The
opposite side of the street was covered with a train of Quakers,
distinguished by their plain and neat attire and sedate aspect, who
walked without ceremony into a room as plain as themselves, and
took their seats, the men on one side, and the women on the other,
in silence. A spacious building was filled with an overflowing
crowd of Methodists, most of them meanly habited, but decent and
serious in demeanor; while a small society of Baptists in the
neighborhood quietly occupied their humble place of assembly.
Presently the different services began. The churches resounded
with the solemn organ, and with the indistinct murmurs of a large
body of people following the minister in responsive prayers. From
the meeting were heard the slow psalm, and the single voice of
the leader of their devotions. The Roman Catholic chapel was enlivened
by strains of music, the tinkling of a small bell, and a perpetual
change of service and ceremonial. A profound silence and
unvarying look and posture announced the self-recollection and mental
devotion of the Quakers.
Mr. Ambrose led his son Edwin round all these different assemblies
as a spectator. Edwin viewed everything with great attention,
and was often impatient to inquire of his father the meaning of
what he saw; but Mr. Ambrose would not suffer him to disturb
any of the congregations even by a whisper. When they had gone
through the whole, Edwin found a great number of questions to put
to his father, who explained everything to him in the best manner
he could. At length says Edwin:
"But why cannot all these people agree to go to the same place,
and worship God the same way?"
"And why should they agree?" replied his father. "Do not you
see that people differ in a hundred other things? Do they all dress
alike, and eat and drink alike, and keep the same hours, and use the
"Ay—but those are things in which they have a right to do as
"And they have a right, too, to worship God as they please. It
is their own business, and concerns none but themselves."
"But has not God ordered particular ways of worshiping him?"
"He has directed the mind and spirit with which he is to be worshiped,
but not the particular form and manner. That is left for
every one to choose, according as suits his temper and opinions. All
these people like their own way best, and why should they leave it
for the choice of another? Religion is one of the things in which
mankind were made to differ."
The several congregations now began to be dismissed, and the street was
again overspread with persons of all the different sects, going
promiscuously to their respective homes. It chanced that a poor man
fell down in the street in a fit of apoplexy, and lay for dead. His
wife and children stood round him crying and lamenting in the bitterest
distress. The beholders immediately flocked round, and, with looks and
expressions of the warmest compassion, gave their help. A Churchman
raised the man from the ground by lifting him under the arms, while a
Dissenter held his head and wiped his face with his handkerchief. A
Roman Catholic lady took out her smelling-bottle, and assiduously
applied it to his nose. A Methodist ran for a doctor. A Quaker
supported and comforted the woman; and a Baptist took care of the
Edwin and his father were among the spectators. "Here," said
Mr. Ambrose, "is a thing in which mankind were made to agree."