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Instead of Counting Sheep

by Ronald R Johnson (

This is from a sermon entitled, “Cross Country with a New Idea,” preached in Montreal on January 26, 1930. You can find it in The Living Faith, pp. 134-143:

Sometimes, late in the night, when sleep is tardy, instead of counting imaginary sheep jumping over a fence – which, for some reason, never did me any good, no matter how many sheep kept coming – I close my eyes and permit myself to be dizzied by great crowds of hurrying people.

Now I am standing on a corner in Munich – near the Rathaus – crowds – I can see them hurrying to the day’s work. Now I am standing on a corner in Naples – more crowds.

I skip about in fancy, from city to city – letting the rushing crowds bewilder me.

Now I am at the edge of the sweeping current of humanity on Champs Elysees – now on the Strand – now on Fifth Avenue – now on Michigan Boulevard – now on St. Catherine –

Now I am letting myself be milled about in great stations – Paddington, St. Lazare, Grand Central, Windsor –

Oh these highways!

What a diversity of interests travel over them! What an ocean of major and minor tragedies sweep over them! Not just once in awhile; but ever and always – by day and by night. . . .

For the Life of the Spirit has a hard struggle on the highways – in the congested cities – where, for so many, many thousands, there is all too little chance for quiet moments – for undisturbed attention to the still, small voice; where the rasp of steel flange against steel rails, and the rat-a-tat-tat of rivet hammers, and the grind of gears hurl the weight of their raucous racket against us until, for sheer self-preservation, we erect neural defenses against them – and literally wall ourselves in.

How many thousands of people these days have just been tramped on and walked over and ridden over – and over – by the crushing loads of economic burdens and an assortment of little tragedies – until the Great Idea can’t get through to where they are. High time we Christians prayed:

Oh Master – from the mountain-side,

Make haste to heal these hearts of pain;

Among these restless throngs abide;

O tread the city’s streets again.

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