Baptism by Fire 1
AS ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ APPROACHED Mount Morris Baptist Church at Fifth Avenue and 126th Street in Harlem at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 26, 1912, he noticed the chorus of a popular Protestant hymn eddying out into the street.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee..
This was the hymn the orchestra had played around midnight on the deck of RMS Titanic as she went down. Bands across the United States had played it at 3:30 p.m. on September 14, 1901, to commemorate President McKinley’s assassination. The Confederate band had played it beneath the late afternoon sun on July 3, 1863, as the few survivors of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg struggled back to camp.
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee.
This evening in Harlem, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was about to talk about the meaning of sacrifice.
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2
On Sunday morning, May 26, Abdu’l-Bahá prepared to return to New York for yet another visit.
He reached New York at 6:00 P.M., stopped by the Edward B. Kinney home, and then went to the Mount Morris Baptist Church, where the minister, J. Herman Randall, introduced Him. Abdu’l-Bahá told them …
Talk at Mount Morris Baptist Church , Fifth Avenue and 126th Street, New York 3
In the same way, the words I speak to you here tonight may produce no effect whatever. Some hearts may be affected, then soon forget; others owing to superstitious ideas and imaginations may even fail to hear and understand; but the blessed souls who are attentive to my exhortation and admonition, listening with the ear of acceptance, allowing my words to penetrate effectively, will advance day by day toward full fruition, yea even to the Supreme Concourse. Consider how the parable makes attainment dependent upon capacity. Unless capacity is developed, the summons of the Kingdom cannot reach the ear, the light of the Sun of Truth will not be observed, and the fragrances of the rose garden of inner significance will be lost. Let us endeavor to attain capacity, susceptibility and worthiness that we may hear the call of the glad tidings of the Kingdom, become revivified by the breaths of the Holy Spirit, hoist the standard of the oneness of humanity, establish human brotherhood, and under the protection of divine grace attain the everlasting and eternal life.
Sunday, May 26, 1912 4
‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Boston today but before leaving He attended a meeting of the Golden Circle [al-Halqatadh-Dhahabiyyah], the largest Syrian society in America. One of the learned men, Dr Georgi, introduced the Master and praised Him in the most beautiful words. Another gentleman, a poet of the Arabic language, read, with great reverence and respect, an ode he had written in praise of the Cause of God and the Master. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá rose and delivered a most eloquent address, which made the Syrians very happy. No one could have imagined that they would have been so attracted and moved to such a degree. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stepped from the pulpit, all rushed towards Him to shake His hand. An Arabic-speaking woman struggled out of the crowd with great difficulty and threw herself at His feet, saying, ‘I testify that in Thee is the spirit of God and the spirit of Christ.’
The meetings in Boston pleased the Master, especially the meeting with the Syrians, which He mentioned in particular, saying: ‘What a meeting it was! How the confirmations of the Blessed Beauty transformed the people!’
This was the last meeting in Boston. He left the hotel at noon, reaching New York by 6:00 p.m. Without any rest He went directly from Mr Kinney’s home to the Mount Morris Baptist Church. Standing under the arch of the church and leaning exhausted against a pillar, He addressed the meeting. He spoke of baptism and of the capacity of the soul to receive the breaths of the Holy Spirit. At the close of His talk He chanted a prayer. That night all saw with their own eyes the spirituality and innocence of Christ and the influence of the Holy Spirit. Let no one think that these are mere words; rather they are the expressions and feelings of all those who witnessed this. My premise is this: that in all the gatherings in America, the non-Bahá’ís look upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as a Prophet of God. Even though they are not Bahá’ís, their manners and conversations with Him are the same as they might use for their own Prophet and leader. All who come into His presence are seen in this condition. They all refer to the Blessed Being as the Messenger of Peace and the Prophet of the East in their speeches and writings. Although there are a few narrow-minded clergy who burn with the fire of jealousy, a large number of just ministers in every city have accorded Him the utmost reverence. Among them is the translator of those who spoke in praise of the Master. Their words indicate the quality of the audience and societies addressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and are a clear proof of the grandeur and power of the Greatest Branch.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
- Sockett, Robert. “Baptism By Fire.” 239 Days in America, 26 May 2012, https://239days.com/2012/05/26/baptism-by-fire/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 73. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 149. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/11#078006261. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=3#section63. ↩