The Barbarians of Skaneateles

This from a Chicago, Illinois, weekly, The Radical Review, in 1883:

“We don’t know what has become of the ‘pastor’ of the Third Presbyterian Church, whether he has gone off to fight the Saracen, or to bathe in the salt sea. No doubt he is having a good, pious time of it somewhere… but our pity goes out to his congregation, doomed, in the heat of last Sunday, to listen to a man from Skaneateles, New York, who bored them to sleep with the Ten Commandments.

“Of course it would be unreasonable to expect much from any place with such a barbaric name as Skaneateles, and we didn’t get much, although the Rev. M. N. Preston preached some good morals from the text…

“The Third Presbyterian is a fashionable congregation, and it is to be regretted that the brethren had fallen asleep… for it was about time that somebody came along to inform them that the Ten Commandments are not, as they have been accustomed to believe, ‘too coarse for refined people.’ He rather admitted that the commands against murder, theft and adultery were intended for ‘those in the slums of society,’ but at the same time he didn’t consider it ‘an insult to pronounce them’ even before ‘refined people.’

“That sort of religion may do very well for the barbarians of Skaneateles, but it will act like a soporific on the ‘refined’ worshippers at the Third Presbyterian Church of Chicago. They need the soft-cushioned and silver-plated article. Mr. Preston drew a good moral from the Ten Commandments, one that even infidels will approve; the great lesson of human charity was well presented, and the best sermon last Sunday in Chicago came from the Indian village of Skaneateles.”

The Rev. Marcus N. Preston was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Skaneateles from October 1862 to November 1884. His visit to Chicago was chronicled by M. M. Trumbull in his column, “The Pulpit,” in The Radical Review, August 25, 1883.

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