Frontispiece of The Mysterious Stranger by N.C. Wyeth
Samuel Clemens was vehemently outspoken whenever an injustice existed, but he was also kind, compassionate, understanding, and always ready to help those in need. In my opinion, the following best describes, what I think Sam Clemens thoughts on religion may have been and ranks as one of my favorite reading selections. The abridged passage describes Clemens’s preaching-style and is found in Mainly the Truth: Interviews with Mark Twain, edited by Gary Scharnhorst, (2009):
Mr. Gill then invited Mr. Clemens into the pulpit, “not to preach a sermon,” he said, “but to say a few words, whatever might come to him to say.”
“No,” said Mark Twain, “No, I shall not come into the pulpit. I might do that on a weekday, but I cannot do it on a Sunday without bruising my own sense of the proprieties.
“But I must take issue with Rev. Dr. Gill, who says that I need not preach a sermon. What I say will be preaching. I am a preacher. We are all preachers. If we do not preach by words, we preach by deeds. What we do and say has its influence upon others, and in our daily life, though we be not clergymen, we preach to each other.
“The art of preaching is to influence. From the pulpit and from the mouths of all of us, the preaching goes on all the time. Our words and deeds are like the tidal waves of the seas that encircle the earth.
“They are not for ourselves alone, but for others. We forget that we carry influence, but we should remember it and we should see that our influence is of the good kind.
“Words perish, print burns up, men die, but our preaching lives on. Washington died in 1799, more than a hundred years ago, but his preaching survives, and to every people that is striving for liberty his life is a sermon.
“My mother lies buried out there in our beautiful cemetery overlooking the Mississippi, but at this age of mine, she still cheers me. Her preaching lives and goes on with me.
“Let us see that our preaching is of the right sort, so that it will influence for good the lives of those who remain when we shall be silent in our graves.”…
To trust the God of the Bible is to trust an irascible, vindictive, fierce and ever fickle and changeful master; to trust the true God is to trust a Being who has uttered no promises, but whose beneficent, exact, and changeless ordering of the machinery of His colossal universe is proof that He is at least steadfast to His purposes; whose unwritten laws, so far as they affect man, being equal and impartial, show that he is just and fair; these things, taken together, suggest that if he shall ordain us to live hereafter, he will be steadfast, just and fair toward us. We shall not need to require anything more.
– Mark Twain, a Biography
Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven & hell & I have only a vague curiosity about one of those. – Letter to William Dean Howells, May 20, 1891
Now I can only pray that there may be a God — and a heaven — or something better. – Which Was the Dream? ; Autobiography of Mark Twain, (1959) (quote attributed to Susy Clemens)
When I was creating my logo, I was looking for Clemens’s words which, I felt, best described the man, in the fewest words; a maxim: “God cares for all kinds.” – Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven
A quick read of one of my favorite Mark Twain books is –
Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Vistit to Heaven at Project Gutenberg