Chicago Daily Tribune, June 6, 1902
Mark Twain's First Sermon.
Hannibal, Mo., June 2.--Mark Twain, America's foremost humorist, preached the first sermon in his life at the Fifth Street Baptist Church on Sunday morning. The occasion was a most impressive one. The veteran writer, with his long white hair hanging in curly locks, was to preach to the people of the city where he had spent his boyhood days. The theme of his sermon was "The Gospel of Good Cheer." The remarks were listened to with intense interest. Mark Twain spoke as follows:
I thank the Rev. Dr. Gill for the privilege which he has offered by permitting me to say a few words. I will not take the pulpit, for I should be embarrassed with unsanctified tongue if I did. It might be well for me to stand there on a week day, but on Sunday I think the place for layman is in the pew, so with your permission I shall remain here at my seat and tell you what I have to say. Here any one can talk without reproach. Even here in this humble capacity I am doing what you are always doing--preaching. The art of preaching is to influence you. From the pulpit and from the mouths of all of you the preaching goes on all the time. Our words and acts are not for ourselves but for others. They are like the tidal waves of the seas that encircle the earth. They are heard about us when they are uttered. We are preaching all the time, even if we do not know it. We forget that we carry influence. We ought to remember it, however, and make it a constant reminder. We had better see that our conduct is of a favorable nature.
"My mother lies buried out in the beautiful city of the dead on the hill south of the city overlooking the waters of the mighty Mississippi. At this age of mine she cheers me. She was a support to me during her life. Her preaching did not perish when she passed away, but goes on and on with me. Although there are many long silent in the grave, they have not ceased so to preach. They did not stop when their mouths were closed in death. See that your preaching, when alive, be of the character that, when you are dead, others may reap the secondary effort of what you did. Let it be good, not bad. Preaching, when dead, is not lost. Washington died over 100 years ago, but he still preaches. His character, service, and words still live. Every day nations striving for liberty fully appreciate what he did. Words sometimes perish, but conduct is lasting."
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