Part 3 out of 3
of a Christian people. Our laws will be no better than the men who
Spend a few days at Harrisburg, or Albany, or Washington, and you will
find out why, upon these subjects, it is impossible to get righteous
Again, we will war upon this evil by organized societies. The
friends of the rum traffic have banded together; annually issue their
circulars; raise fabulous sums of money to advance their interests;
and by grips, pass-words, signs, and stratagems set at defiance public
morals. Let us confront them with organizations just as secret,
and, if need be, with grips, and pass-words, and signs maintain our
position. There is no need that our philanthropic societies tell all
I am in favor of all lawful strategy in the carrying on of this
conflict. I wish to God we could lay under the wine-casks a train,
which, once ignited, would shake the earth with the explosion of this
Again: we will try the power of the pledge. There are thousands of men
who have been saved by putting their names to such a document. I know
it is laughed at; but there are men who, having once promised a thing,
do it. "Some have broken the pledge." Yes; they were liars. But all
men are not liars. I do not say that it is the duty of all persons
to make such signature; but I do say that it will be the salvation of
many of you.
The glorious work of Theobald Mathew can never be estimated. At
his hand four millions of people took the pledge, including eight
prelates, and seven hundred of the Roman Catholic clergy. A multitude
of them were faithful.
Dr. Justin Edwards said that ten thousand drunkards had been
permanently reformed in five years.
Through the great Washingtonian movement in Ohio, sixty thousand took
the pledge. In Pennsylvania, twenty-nine thousand. In Kentucky, thirty
thousand, and multitudes in all parts of the land. Many of these had
been habitual drunkards. One hundred and fifty thousand of them, it is
estimated, were permanently reclaimed. Two of these men became foreign
ministers; one a governor of a State; several were sent to
Congress. Hartford reported six hundred reformed drunkards; Norwich,
seventy-two; Fairfield, fifty; Sheffield, seventy-five. All over the
land reformed men were received back into the churches that they had
before disgraced; and households were re-established. All up and
down the land there were gratulations, and praise to God. The pledge
signed, to thousands has been the proclamation of emancipation.
I think that we are coming at last to treat inebriation as it ought to
be treated, namely, as an awful disease, self-inflicted, to be sure,
but nevertheless a disease. Once fastened upon a man, sermons will not
cure him; temperance lectures will not eradicate the taste; religious
tracts will not remove it; the Gospel of Christ will not arrest it.
Once under the power of this awful thirst, the man is bound to go on;
and if the foaming glass were on the other side of perdition, he would
wade through the fires of hell to get it. A young man in prison had
such a strong thirst for intoxicating liquors, that he cut off his
hand at the wrist, called for a bowl of brandy in order to stop the
bleeding, thrust his wrist into the bowl, and then drank the contents.
Stand not, when the thirst is on him, between a man and his cups!
Clear the track for him! Away with the children: he would tread their
life out! Away with the wife: he would dash her to death! Away with
the Cross: he would run it down! Away with the Bible: he would tear
it up for the winds! Away with heaven: he considers it worthless as a
straw! "Give me the drink! Give it to me! Though hands of blood pass
up the bowl, and the soul trembles over the pit,--the drink! give it
to me! Though it be pale with tears; though the froth of everlasting
anguish float in the foam--give it to me! I drink to my wife's woe; to
my children's rags; to my eternal banishment from God, and hope, and
heaven! Give it to me! the drink!"
Again: we will contend against these evils by trying to persuade
the respectable classes of society to the banishment of alcoholic
beverages. You who move in elegant and refined associations; you
who drink the best liquors; you who never drink until you lose
your balance: consider that you have, under God, in your power the
redemption of this land from drunkenness. Empty your cellars and
wine-closets of the beverage, and then come out and give us your hand,
your vote, your prayers, your sympathies. Do that, and I will promise
three things: First, That you will find unspeakable happiness in
having done your duty; secondly, you will probably save somebody,
perhaps your own child; thirdly, you will not, in your last hour, have
a regret that you made the sacrifice, if sacrifice it be.
As long as you make drinking respectable, drinking customs will
prevail; and the ploughshare of death, drawn by terrible disasters,
will go on turning up this whole continent, from end to end, with the
long, deep, awful furrow of drunkards' graves.
Oh, how this Rum Fiend would like to go and hang up a skeleton in your
beautiful house, so that when you opened the front door to go in you
would see it in the hall; and when you sit at your table you would see
it hanging from the wall; and when you open your bed-room you would
find it stretched upon your pillow; and waking at night you would feel
its cold hand passing over your face and pinching at your heart!
There is no home so beautiful but it may be devastated by the awful
curse. It throws its jargon into the sweetest harmony. What was it
that silenced Sheridan's voice and shattered the golden sceptre with
which he swayed parliaments and courts? What foul sprite turned the
sweet rhythm of Robert Burns into a tuneless ballad? What brought
down the majestic form of one who awed the American Senate with his
eloquence, and after a while carried him home dead drunk from the
office of Secretary of State? What was it that crippled the noble
spirit of one of the heroes of the last war, until the other night,
in a drunken fit, he reeled from the deck of a Western steamer and was
drowned! There was one whose voice we all loved to hear. He was one of
the most classic orators of the century. People wondered why a man
of so pure a heart and so excellent a life should have such a sad
countenance always. They knew not that his wife was a sot.
"Woe to him that giveth his neighbor drink!" If this curse was
proclaimed about the comparatively harmless drinks of olden times,
what condemnation must rest upon those who tempt their neighbors
when intoxicating liquor means copperas, nux vomica, logwood, opium,
sulphuric acid, vitriol, turpentine, and strychnine! "Pure liquors:"
pure destruction! Nearly all the genuine champagne made is taken by
the courts of Europe. What we get is horrible swill!
I call upon woman for her influence in the matter. Many a man who had
reformed and resolved on a life of sobriety has been pitched off into
old habits by the delicate hand of her whom he was anxious to please.
Bishop Potter says that a young man who had been reformed sat at a
table, and when the wine was passed to him refused to take it. A lady
sitting at his side said, "Certainly you will not refuse to take a
glass with me?" Again he refused. But when she had derided him for
lack of manliness he took the glass and drank it. He took another and
another; and putting his fist hard down on the table, said, "Now I
drink until I die." In a few months his ruin was consummated.
I call upon those who are guilty of these indulgences to quit the path
of death. O what a change it would make in your home! Do you see how
everything there is being desolated! Would you not like to bring back
joy to your wife's heart, and have your children come out to meet you
with as much confidence as once they showed? Would you not like to
rekindle the home lights that long ago were extinguished? It is not
too late to change. It may not entirely obliterate from your soul the
memory of wasted years and a ruined reputation, nor smooth out from
anxious brows the wrinkles which trouble has ploughed. It may not call
back unkind words uttered or rough deeds done--for perhaps in those
awful moments you struck her! It may not take from your memory the
bitter thoughts connected with some little grave: but it is not too
late to save yourself and secure for God and your family the remainder
of your fast-going life.
But perhaps you have not utterly gone astray. I may address one who
may not have quite made up his mind. Let your better nature speak out.
You take one side or the other in the war against drunkenness.
Have you the courage to put your foot down right, and say to your
companions and friends: "I will never drink intoxicating liquor in all
my life, nor will I countenance the habit in others." Have nothing to
do with strong drink. It has turned the earth into a place of skulls,
and has stood opening the gate to a lost world to let in its victims,
until now the door swings no more upon its hinges, but day and night
stands wide open to let in the agonized procession of doomed men.
Do I address one whose regular work in life is to administer to this
appetite? I beg you--get out of the business. If a woe be pronounced
upon the man who gives his neighbor drink, how many woes must be
hanging over the man who does this every day, and every hour of the
A philanthropist, going up to the counter of a grog-shop, as the
proprietor was mixing a drink for a toper standing at the counter,
said to the proprietor, "Can you tell me what your business is good
for?" The proprietor, with an infernal laugh, said, "_It fattens
God knows better than you do yourself the number of drinks you have
poured out. You keep a list; but a more accurate list has been kept
than yours. You may call it Burgundy, Bourbon, Cognac, Heidsick, Hock;
God calls it strong drink. Whether you sell it in low oyster cellar or
behind the polished counter of first-class hotel, the divine curse is
upon you. I tell you plainly that you will meet your customers one day
when there will be no counter between you. When your work is done on
earth, and you enter the reward of your business, all the souls of
the men whom you have destroyed will crowd around you and pour their
bitterness into your cup. They will show you their wounds and say,
"You made them;" and point to their unquenchable thirst, and say, "You
kindled it;" and rattle their chain and say, "You forged it." Then
their united groans will smite your ears; and with the hands out of
which you once picked the sixpences and the dimes, they will push you
off the verge of great precipices; while, rolling up from beneath, and
breaking among the crags of death, will thunder:
"_Woe to him that giveth his neighbor drink!_"
THE HOUSE OF BLACKNESS OF DARKNESS.
Men like to hear the frailties and faults of others chastised. With
what blandness and placidity they sit and hear the religious teacher
excoriate the ambition of Ahab, the treachery of Judas, the treason
of Athaliah, and the wickedness of the Amalekites. Indeed, I have
sometimes felt sorry for the Amalekites, for in all ages, and on all
occasions, they are smitten, denounced, and pursued. They have had
their full share of censure and excoriation. It is high time that
in our addresses in pulpits, and in domestic circles, we turn our
attention to the driving out of these worse Amalekites which are
swarming in society to-day, thicker than in the olden time. The
ancient Amalekites lived for one or two hundred years; but these
are not weakened after a thousand years. Those traversed only a few
leagues of land; these stalk the earth and ford the sea. Those had
each a sword or spear; these fight with a million swords, and strike
with a million stings, and smite with a million catastrophes. Those
were conquered with human weapons; but to overcome these we must bring
out God's great fieldpieces, and employ an enginery that can sweep
from eternity to eternity.
There is one subject which we are expected, in all our teachings, to
shun, or only to hint at: I mean the wickedness of an impure life.
Though God thunders against this appalling iniquity from the heavens
curse after curse, anathema after anathema, by our unwillingness to
repeat the divine utterance we seem to say, "Lord, not so loud! Speak
about everything else; but if this keeps on there will be trouble!"
Meanwhile the foundations of social life are being slowly undermined;
and many of the upper circles of life have putrefied until they have
no more power to rot.
If a fox or a mink come down to the farmyard and carry off a chicken,
the whole family join in the search.
If a panther come down into the village and carry off a child, the
whole neighborhood go out with clubs and guns to bring it down.
But this monster-crime goes forth, carrying off body and soul; and
yet, if we speak, a thousand voices bid us be silent.
I shall try to cut to the vitals of the subject, and proceed with the
_post-mortem_ of this carcass of death. It is time to speak on this
subject. All the indignation of the community upon this subject is
hurled upon woman's head. If, in an evil hour, she sacrifice her
honor, the whole city goes howling after her. She shall take the whole
blame. Out with her from all decent circles! Whip her. Flay her.
Bar all the doors of society against her return. Set on her all the
blood-hounds. Shove her off precipice after precipice. Push her down.
Kick her out! If you see her struggling on the waves, and with her
blood-tipped fingers clinging to the verge of respectability, drop a
mill-stone on her head.
For a woman's sin, men have no mercy; and the heart of other women is
more cruel than death.
For her, in the dark hour of her calamity, the women who, with the
same temptation, might have fallen into deeper damnation, have no
commiseration and no prayer.
The heaviest stroke that comes down upon a fallen woman's soul is the
merciless indignation of her sisters.
If the multitudes of the fallen could be placed in a straight line, it
would reach from here to the gates of the lost, and back again.
But what of the destroyer?
We take his arm. We flatter his appearance. We take off our hats.
He is admitted to our parlors. For him we cast our votes. For him
we speak our eulogies. And when he has gone we read over the heap of
compost: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They rest from
their labors and their works do follow them."
In the fashionable city to-day there walk a thousand libertines. They
are a moving pest. Their breath is the sirocco of the desert. Their
bones have in them the decay of the pit. They have the eye of
a basilisk. They have been soaked in filth, and steeped in
uncleanliness, and consumed in sin, and they are all adrip with the
loathsomeness of eternal death. I take hold of the robe of one of
these elegant gentlemen, and pull it aside, and say, "Behold a Leper!"
First, if you desire to shun this evil, you will have nothing to do
with bad books and impure newspapers. With such an affluent literature
as is coming forth from our swift-revolving printing-presses, there
is no excuse for dragging one's self through sewers of unchastity. Why
walk in the ditch, when right beside the ditch is the solid flagging?
It seems that in the literature of the day the ten plagues of Egypt
have returned, and the frogs and lice have hopped and skipped over our
Waiting impatiently in the house of some parishioner, for the
completion of a very protracted toilet, I have picked up a book from
the parlor table, and found that every leaf was a scale of leprosy.
Parents are delighted to have their children read, but they should be
sure as to what they read. You do not have to walk a day or two in an
infected district to get the cholera or typhoid fever; and one wave
of moral unhealth will fever and blast an immortal nature. Perhaps,
knowing not what you did, you read a bad book. Do you not remember it
altogether? Yes; and perhaps you will never get over it.
However strong and exalted your character, _never read a bad book_. By
the time you get through the first chapter you will see the drift; If
you find the marks of the hoofs of the devil in the pictures, or in
the style, or in the plot, away with it. You may tear your coat, or
break a vase, and repair them again, but the point where the rip or
fracture took place will always be evident. It takes less than an
hour to do your heart a damage which no time can entirely repair. Look
carefully over your child's library; see what book it is that he reads
after he has gone to bed, with the gas turned upon the pillow. Do
not always take it for granted that a book is good because it is
a Sunday-school book. As far as possible know _who_ wrote it, who
illustrated it, who published it, who sold it.
Young man, as you value Heaven, never buy a book from one of those men
who meet you in the square, and, after looking both ways, to see
if the police are watching, shows you a book--very cheap. Have
him arrested as you would kill a rattle-snake. Grab him, and shout
But there is more danger, I think, from many of the family papers,
published once a week; in those stories of vice and shame, full
of infamous suggestions, going as far as they can without exposing
themselves to the clutch of the law. I name none of them; but say that
on some fashionable tables there lie "family newspapers" that are the
very vomit of the pit.
The way to ruin is cheap. It costs three dollars to go to
Philadelphia; six dollars to Boston; thirty-three dollars to Savannah;
but, by the purchase of a bad paper for ten cents, you may get a
through ticket to hell, by express, with few stopping-places, and
the final halting like the tumbling of the lightning train down the
draw-bridge at Norwalk--sudden, terrific, deathful, never to rise.
O, the power of an iniquitous pen! If a needle puncture the body at a
certain point, life is destroyed; but the pen is a sharper instrument,
for with its puncture you may kill the soul. And that very thing many
of our acutest minds are to-day doing. Do not think that this which
you drain from the glass, because it is sweet, is therefore healthful:
some of the worst poisons are pleasant to the taste. The pen which
for the time fascinates you may be dipped in the slime of unclean
Look out for the books that come from France. It has sent us some
grand histories, poems, and pure novels, but they are few in number
compared with the nastiness that it has spewed out upon our shore.
Do we not read in our Bibles that the ancient flood covered all the
earth? I would have thought that France had escaped, for it does not
seem as if it had ever had a thorough washing.
In the next place, if you would shun an impure life, avoid those who
indulge in impure conversation. There are many people whose chief
mirthfulness is in that line. They are full of innuendo, and phrases
of double meaning, and are always picking out of the conversation of
decent men something vilely significant. It is astonishing in company,
how many, professing to be _Christians_, will tell vile stories; and
that some Christian women, in their own circles, have no hesitation at
the same style of talking.
You take a step down hill, when, without resistance, you allow any one
to put into your ear a vile innuendo. If, forgetting who you are,
any man attempts to say such things in your presence, let your
better nature assert itself, look the offender full in the face, and
ask--"What do you mean by saying such a thing in my presence!" Better
allow a man to smite you in the face than to utter such conversation
before you. I do not care who the men or women are that utter impure
thoughts; they are guilty of a mighty wrong; and their influence upon
our young people is baleful.
If in the club where you associate; if in the social circle where you
move, you hear depraved conversation, fly for your life! A man is
no better than his talk; and no man can have such interviews without
I charge our young men against considering uncleanness more tolerable,
because it is sanctioned by the customs, habits, and practices of
what is called high life. If this sin wears kid gloves, and patent
leathers, and coat of exquisite fit, and carries an opera-glass of
costliest material, and lives in a big house, and rides in a splendid
turn-out, is it to be any the less reprehended? No! No!
I warn you not so much against the abomination that hides in the lower
courts and alleys of the town, as against the more damnable vice that
hides behind the white shutters and brownstone fronts of the upper
God, once in a while, hitches up the fiery team of vengeance, and
ploughs up the splendid libertinism, and we stand aghast.
Sin, crawling out of the ditch of poverty and shame, has but few
temptations; but, gliding through the glittering drawing-room with
magnificent robe, it draws the stars of heaven after it.
Poets and painters have represented Satan as horned and hoofed. If I
were a poet I should describe him with manners polished to the
last perfection, hair flowing in graceful ringlets, eye a little
blood-shot, but floating in bewitching languor; hands soft and
diamonded; step light and artistic; voice mellow as a flute; boot
elegantly shaped; conversation facile, carefully toned, and Frenchy;
breath perfumed until it would seem that nothing had ever touched his
lips save balm and myrrh. But his heart I would encase with the scales
of a monster, then fill with pride, with beastliness of desire,
with recklessness, with hypocrisy, with death. Then I would have
him touched with some rod of disenchantment until his two eyes would
become the cold orbs of the adder; and on his lip would come the foam
of raging intoxication; and to his feet the spring of the panther;
and his soft hand should become the clammy hand of a wasted
skeleton; while suddenly from his heart would burst in crackling and
all-devouring fury the unquenchable flames; and in the affected lisp
of his tongue would come the hiss of the worm that never dies.
But, until disenchanted, nothing but myrrh, and balm, and ringlet, and
diamond, and flute-like voice, and conversation aromatic, facile, and
There are practices in respectable circles, I am told by physicians,
which need public reprehension. Herod's massacre of the innocents was
as nothing compared with that of millions and millions by what I shall
call _ante-natal_ murders. You may escape the grip of the law, because
the existence of such life was not known by society; but I tell
you that at last God will shove down on you the avalanche of his
indignation; and though you may not have wielded knife or pistol in
your deeds of darkness, yet, in the day when John Wilkes Booth and
Antony Probst come to judgment, you will have on _your_ brow the brand
Hear me when I repeat, that the practices of high life ought not to
make sin in your eyes seem tolerable. God is no respecter of persons;
and robes and rags will stand on the same platform in the day when the
archangel, with one foot on the sea and the other on the land, swears,
by Him that liveth forever and ever, that Time shall be no more.
O, it is beautiful to see a young man living a life of purity,
standing upright where thousands of other young men fall. You will
move in honorable circles all your days; and some old friend of your
father will meet you and say: "My son, how glad I am to see you look
so well. Just like your father, for all the world. I thought you would
turn out well when I used to hold you on my knee. Do you ever hear
from the old folks?"
After a while you yourself will be old, and lean quite heavily on your
cane, and take short steps, and hold the book off to the other side
of the light. And men will take off their hats in your presence. Your
body, unharmed by early indulgences, will get weaker, only as the
sleepy child gets more and more unable to hold up its head, and falls
back into its mother's lap: so you shall lay yourself down into the
arms of the Christian's tomb, and on the slab that marks the place
will be chiselled: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see
But here is a young man who takes the other route. The voices of
uncleanness charm him away. He reads bad books. Lives in vicious
circles. Loses the glow from his cheek, the sparkle from his eye, and
the purity from his soul. The good shun him. Down he goes, little by
little. They who knew him when he came to town, while yet lingering
on his head was a pure mother's blessing, and on his lip the dew of a
pure sister's kiss, now pass him, and nay, "What an awful wreck!"
His eye bleared with frequent carousals. His cheek bruised in the
grog-shop fight. His lip swollen with evil indulgences. Look out what
you say to him. For a trifle he will take your life. Lower down and
lower down, until, outcast of God and man, he lies in the alms-house,
a blotch of loathsomeness and pain. Sometimes he calls out for God;
and then for more drink. Now he prays; now curses. Now laughs as
fiends laugh. Then bites his nails to the quick. Then runs both hands
through the shock of hair that hangs about his head--like the mane
of a wild beast. Then shivers--until the cot shakes--with unutterable
terror. Then, with uplifted fist, fights back the devils, or clutches
the serpents that seem winding him in their coil. Then asks for water,
which is instantly consumed by his cracked lips. Going his round some
morning, the surgeon finds him dead.
Straighten the limbs. You need not try to comb out or shove back the
matted locks. Wrap him in a sheet. Put him in a box. Two men will
carry it down to the wagon at the door. With chalk, write on the top
of the box the name of the exhausted libertine.
Do you know who it is?
That is _you_, O man, if, yielding to the temptations to an impure
life, you go out, and perish.
There is a way that seemeth bright, and fair, and beautiful; but the
end thereof is BLACKNESS OF DARKNESS FOREVER.
THE GUN THAT KICKS OVER THE MAN WHO SHOOTS IT OFF.
Blasphemy is a crime that aims at God, but does its chief harm to the
one that fires it off.
So I compare it to a piece of imperfect firearms to which the marksman
puts his eye, and, pulling the trigger, by the rebound finds himself
in the dust.
I tell you a story, Oriental and marvellous. History speaks of the
richest man in all the East. He had camels, oxen, asses, sheep, and
what would make any man rich even if he had nothing else--seven sons
and three daughters. It was the custom of this man's children to
have family reunions. One day he is at home, thinking of his darling
children, who are keeping banquet at their elder brother's house.
Yonder comes a messenger in hot haste, evidently, from his looks,
bearing evil tidings. Recovering himself sufficiently to speak, he
says: "The oxen and the asses have been captured by a foraging party
of Sabeans, and all the servants are butchered except myself." Another
messenger is coming. He says that the sheep and the shepherds have
been struck by lightning. Another messenger is coming. He says that
the Chaldeans have come and captured the camels, and killed all but
himself. Another messenger, who says: "While thy sons and daughters
were at the feast, a hurricane struck the corner of the tent, and they
are all dead!" But his misfortunes are not yet completed. The old man
is smitten with the elephantiasis, or black leprosy. Tumors from head
to foot; face distorted; forehead ridged with offensive tubercles;
eyelashes fall out; nostrils excoriated; voice destroyed; intolerable
exhalation from the whole body; until, with none to dress his sores,
he sits down in the ashes, with nothing but broken pieces of pottery
to use in the surgery of his wounds. At this point, when he needed
all consolation and encouragement, his wife comes to him, and says,
virtually: "This is intolerable! Our property gone, our children
slain, and now this loathsome, disgusting disease is upon you. Why
don't you swear? Curse God and die!"
But profanity would not have removed one tumor from his agonized body;
would not have brought to his door one of the captured camels; would
not have restored any one of the dead children. Swearing would have
made the pain more unbearable, the pauperism into which he had plunged
more distressing, the bereavement more excruciating.
And yet, from the swearing and blasphemy with which our land is
cursed, one would think there were some great advantage to be reaped
from the practice. There is to-day in all our land no more prevalent
custom, and no more God-defying abomination, than profane swearing.
You can hardly walk our streets five minutes without having your ears
stung and your sensibilities shocked. The drayman swearing at his
horse; the tinman at his solder; the sewing-girl imprecating her
tangled thread; the bricklayer cursing at his trowel; the carpenter at
his plane; the sailor at the tackling; the merchant at the customer;
the customer at the merchant; the printer at the miserable proofsheet;
the accountant at the troublesome line of figures;--swearing in the
cellar and in the loft, before the counter and behind the counter, in
the shop and on the street, in low saloon and fashionable bar-room.
Children swear, men swear, ladies (!) swear. Profanity from the lowest
haunt calling upon the Almighty, to the fashionable "O Lord!" of the
This whole country is blasted with the evil. Coming from the West,
a gentleman sat behind two persons conversing. Profanities were so
frequent in the conversation of the two persons in front, that the
gentleman behind took out his pencil and paper and made a record. The
profanities filled several sheets in the course of two days, at the
close of which time the gentleman handed the manuscript to the persons
conversing. The men said: "Is it possible that we have uttered so
many profanities in the course of two days?" The gentleman said:
"Yes."--"Then," said one of the men, "I shall never swear again."
I make no abstract discussion. I hate abstractions. I had rather come
right out and have a talk with you about a habit that you admit to be
wrong. This habit has grown from the fact that the young often think
it an evidence of manliness. There are thousands of boys and youth
who indulge in it. I hear children along the street, but just able to
walk, practising this iniquity. They cannot talk straight, but they
get enough distinctness to let you know that they are damning their
own souls and the souls of others. Oh! it is horrible to see a little
child, the first time it lifts its feet to walk, set them down on
the burning pavement of hell! Between sixteen and twenty years of age
there is apt to come a time when a young man is as much ashamed of
not being able to deliver an oath as he is of the dizziness that comes
from his first cigar. He has his hat and coat and boots of the
right pattern, and there is but one thing more now to bring him into
_fashion_, and that is a capacity to swear.
So there are some of our young men surrounded by an atmosphere of
profanities. Oaths sit on their lips, they roll under their tongues,
and nest in the shock of hair. In elegant drawing-rooms they abstain
from such utterances, but fill club-room and street with their
immoralities of speech. You suggest the wrongfulness of the habit, and
they thrust their finger in the sleeve of their vest, and swagger, and
say: "Who cares!" They have no regard for God, but great respect for
the ladies. Ah! there is no manliness in that.
The most ungentlemanly thing a man can do is to swear. This habit is
becoming more and more prevalent because of the immorality of parents
and employers. There are very many fathers who indulge in this habit.
They feel moved to utter themselves in this way, but first look around
to see if their children are present. They have no idea that their
children know anything about it. The probability is that if you swear,
your children swear. They were in the next room and heard you, or
somebody told them about your habit. Your child is practising to do
just as you do. He is laughed at, at first, for his awkwardness, but
after a while he will swear as well as you.
Then look at the example of master carpenters, masons, roofers, and
hatters. You know how some of you go around the building, and, when
the work of your journeyman and subordinates does not please you, what
do you say? It is not praying, is it? Forthwith, your journeymen
and subordinates learn the habit. Hence our hat-shops, and
house-scaffoldings, and side-walks, and wharves, and dockyards, and
cellars, and lofts ring with blasphemies.
Men argue that, if it is right for a man worth fifty or a hundred
thousand dollars to swear, it can be overlooked in men who have merely
their day's wages. Because they are poor must they be denied this one
This habit becomes more prevalent because of the infirmities of
temper. There are many men who, when at peace, are most fastidious
of speech, but when aroused into the violence of passion, blaze with
imprecation. The Oriental's wife spoken of would not have liked her
husband to be profane under ordinary circumstances, but now that the
camels are gone, and the sheep are gone, and the property is gone,
and the boils have come, she says: "Why don't you swear? Curse God
and die!" Others, all the year round, have not the froth of profanity
wiped from their lips, but try to expend all the fury of a twelvemonth
in one red-hot paragraph of five minutes. A man apologized for his
occasional swearing by saying that, once in a year, in this way
he cleared himself out. There are men who have no control of their
blasphemous utterances, who want us to send them to Congress. Others
have blasphemed in senatorial places, pretending afterwards that it
was a mere rhetorical flourish.
Many fall into this habit through the frequent use of what are called
by-words. I suppose that all have favorite phrases of this kind in
which there is no harm; but a profusion of this style of speech often
ends in bald profanity. It is, "I declare!" "My stars!" "Mercy on me!"
"Good gracious!" "By George!" "By Jove!" and "By heavens!" and no harm
is intended; but it is a very easy transition from this kind of
talk to that which is positively obnoxious. The English language is
magnificent, and capable of expressing every shade of feeling and
every degree of energy and zeal; and there is no need that we take
to ourselves unlawful words. If you are happy, Noah Webster offers
to your tongue ten thousand epithets in which you may express your
exhilaration; and if you are righteously indignant, there are in
his dictionary whole armories of denunciation and scorn, sarcasm and
irony, caricature and wrath. Utter yourself against some meanness or
hypocrisy in all the blasphemies that ever smoked up from perdition,
and I will go on to denounce the same meanness and hypocrisy with a
hundred-fold more stress and vehemency in words across which no slime
has ever trailed, and through which no infernal fires have shot their
forked tongues,--words pure, innocent, all-impressive, God-honored,
Anglo-Saxon,--in which Milton sang, and Bunyan dreamed, and
But whatever be the source of this habit, it is on the increase. At
sixteen, boys swear with as much facility as the grandfather did at
sixty. Our streets are cursed by it from end to end. Our hotels, from
morning until midnight, resound with it. Men curse on the way to the
bar to get their morning dram; curse the news-boy who cries the paper;
curse the breakfast for being cold; curse at the bank, and curse at
the store; curse on the way to bed; curse at the stone against which
they strike their foot; and curse at the splinter that gets under the
nail. If you do not know that this is so, it is because your ear has
been hardened by the perpetual din of profanities that are enough to
bring down upon any city the hurricane of fire that consumed Sodom.
The habit is creeping up into the higher circles. Every woman despises
flat and unvarnished imprecations; but in the most elevated circles
there are women who swear without knowing it. They have read Bulwer,
and George Sand, and the exaggerated style of some of our imported as
well as home-made periodical literature, until they do not actually
know what is decency of speech. With fairy fan to their lips they
utter their oaths, and, under chandeliers which discover not the
faintest blush, recklessly speak the holiest of names. This is helped
on by the second glass of wine, that is _perfectly harmless_; and
though no one dare charge her, being so finely dressed, with anything
like intoxication, yet there comes a glassiness to the eye, and a glow
to the cheek, and a style of speech to the tongue that were not known
before she took the second glass that was _perfectly harmless_.
One wild, terrific wave of blasphemy is sweeping over the land. See
the effects of this widespread profanity in the increasing perjury.
If men in ordinary conversation so commonly use the name of God, is it
wonderful that in the jury-box, and in the alderman's office, and
in the custom-house so many swear falsely? Notice the way an oath is
administered. They toss the Bible at a man, and in the most trivial
way say: "So help you God--kiss the book." I suppose enough lies are
every day told in the custom-house to sink it. Smuggling, although it
be done against positive oath, is in some circles considered a grand
joke; and you say some day to your friend, "How can you sell those
goods so cheaply?" and your friend says with an eye-twinkle, "The
Custom-House tariff was not as high on those things as it might have
been." Men more easily break their solemn oaths than formerly. What
strange verdicts juries do sometimes render! What peculiar charges
judges do sometimes make! What unaccountable slowness sheriffs and
their deputies sometimes exhibit in the execution of their writs! What
erratic railroad enterprises suddenly pass at our State capitals! What
wonderful changes Congress makes in the tariff on liquors!
What is an oath? Anything solemn? Anything appealing to the Almighty?
Anything stupendous in man's history? No! It is "kissing the book!"
In a land where the name of God so often becomes the foot-ball of what
are called respectable circles, how can we expect that it can excite
any veneration when, in the presence of county clerk, or alderman, or
judge, or legislative assembly, it is used in solemn adjuration? This
habit lowers, bedwarfs, and destroys the entire moral nature. You
might as well expect to raise harvests and vineyards on the side of
belching Stromboli as to have any great excellency grow upon your soul
when it so often overflows with the scoriae of this awful propensity.
You will never swear yourself up. You will swear yourself down. The
Mohammedans, when they find a slip of paper they cannot read, put
it aside, for fear the name of God is on it. That, you say, is one
extreme. We go to the other.
You are willing to acknowledge this a miserable habit, and would like
to have some recipe for its cure.
Reflect much upon the uselessness of the habit. Did a volley of oaths
ever start a heavy load? Did curses ever unravel a tangled skein? Did
they ever extirpate the meanness of a customer? Did they ever collect
a bad debt? Did they ever cure a toothache? Did they ever stop a
twinge of the gout? Did they ever save you a dollar, or put you a step
forward in any great enterprise? or enable you to gain a position, or
to accomplish anything that you ever wanted to do? How much did
you ever make by swearing? What, in all the round of a lifetime of
profanity, did you ever _gain_ by the habit?
Reflect, also, upon the fact that it arouses God's indignation. The
Bible reiterates, in paragraph after paragraph, and chapter after
chapter, the fact that all swearers and blasphemers are accursed now,
and are to be forever miserable. There is no iniquity that has been so
often visited with the immediate curse of God.
At New Brunswick, a young man was standing on the railroad track
blaspheming. The cars passed, and he was found on the track with his
tongue cut out. People could not understand how, with comparatively
little bruising of the rest of his body, his tongue could have been
cut out. Not long ago, in Chicago, a man told a falsehood, and said
that he hoped, if what he said was not true, God would strike him
dead. He instantly fell. There was no longer any pulse. There was no
reason for his death, except that he asked God to strike him dead,
and God did it. In Scotland a club was formed, in which the members
competed as to which could use the most horrid oaths. The man who
succeeded best in the infamy was made president of the club. His
tongue began to swell. It protruded from his mouth. He could not draw
it in. He died within three days. Physicians were astounded. There was
nothing like it in all the books. What was the matter with him? _He
cursed God, and died!_ Near Catskill, N.Y., during a thunder-storm, a
group of men were standing in a blacksmith-shop. There came a crash
of thunder, and the men were startled. One man said that he was not
afraid; and he made a wager that he dared go out in front of the shop,
while the lightnings were flying, and dare the Almighty. He went
out; shook his fist at the heavens, crying, "Strike, if you dare!"
Instantly a thunder-bolt struck him. He was dead. He cursed God, and
God will not abide this sin. He will not let it escape. There is a
kind of manifold paper by which a man may, with a heavy pencil, write
upon a dozen sheets at once--the writing going down through all the
sheets. So every oath and blasphemy goes through, and is written
indelibly on every leaf of God's remembrance. Ah! how much our Father
bears! Can you make an estimate of how many blasphemies will roll up
from the streets and saloons of our cities to-night? If you go out
and look up you cannot see them. There will be no trail of fire on the
sky. But the air is full of them. The name of Christ is not so often
spoken in worship as in derision. God will be cursed to-night by
hundreds of lips. The grog-shops will curse him. The houses of shame
will curse him. Five Points will curse him. Bedford street will curse
him. Chestnut street will curse him. Madison square will curse him.
Beacon street will curse him. Every street in all our cities will
This blasphemy is an abomination that no words of mine can describe.
And God hears it. They curse His name. They curse his Sabbath. They
curse his Bible. They curse his people. They curse his Only Begotten
Son. Yes; they swear by the name of Jesus! It makes my hair rise, and
my flesh creep, and my blood chill, and my breath catch, and my foot
Dionysius had a cave where men were incarcerated. At the top of the
cave was an aperture to which he could put his ear, and could hear
every sigh, every groan, every word of the inmates. This world is so
arranged that all its voices go up to heaven. God puts down his ear
and hears every word of praise offered, and every word of blasphemy
Our cities must come to judgment. All these oaths must be answered
for. They die on the air, but they have an eternal echo. Listen
for the echo. It rolls back from the ages to come. Listen:--"_All
blasphemers shall have their place in the lake that burneth with fire
and brimstone_." Some have thought that a lost soul in the future
world will do that which it was most prone to do in this world. If so,
then think of a man blaspheming God through all eternity!
This habit grows upon a man, until at last it pushes him off forever.
I saw a man die with an oath between his teeth. Voltaire rose from
his dying pillow, and, supposing that he saw Christ in the room, cried
out, "Crush the wretch!" A celebrated officer during the last war fell
mortally wounded, and the only word he sent to his wife was: "Tell her
I fought like hell!"
There are thousands of men who are having all their moral nature
pulled down by the fiery fingers of this habit. At last, pinched,
shrivelled, and consumed, they will get down on their beds to die, and
at the step of the doctor in the hall, or the shutting of the front
door, they will start up, thinking they hear the sepulchral gates
Who is this God that you should maltreat his name? Has he been
haunting you, starving you, or freezing you all your life? No! He is
your Father, patient and loving. He rocked your cradle with blessings,
from the time you were born. He clothes you now, and always has
clothed you. You never had a sickness but he was sorry for you. He has
brooded over you with wings of love. He has tried to press you to his
heart of kindness and compassion. He wants to forgive you. He wants to
help you. He wants to make you happy. He watched last night over your
pillow while you slept. He will watch to-night. He was your father's
God, and your mother's. He has housed them safe from the blast, and he
wants to shelter you. Do you trifle with his name? Do you smite him in
the face? Do you thrust him back by your imprecations?
Who is this Jesus Christ that I hear men swearing by? Who is he? Some
destroyer, that they so treat his name? What foul thing hath he done,
that our great cities speak his name in thousand-voiced jeer and
contempt? Who is he? A Lamb, whose blood simmered in the fires of
sacrifice, to save you. A Brother, who put down his crown of glory
that you might take it up. For many years he has been striving, night
and day, to win your affections. There is nothing in heaven that he
is not willing to give you. He came with blistered feet and streaming
eyes, with aching head and broken heart to relieve you. On the craft
of a doomed humanity he pushed out into the sea, to pick you off the
rock. Who will ever again malign his name? Is there a hand that will
ever again be lifted to wound him? If so, let that hand, blood-dipped,
be lifted now. Which one of my readers will ever again utter his
sacred name in imprecation? If any, now let them speak. Not one! Not
One summer among the New England hills there was an evening memorable
for storm and darkness. The clouds, which had been all day gathering,
at last unlimbered their batteries. The Housatonic, that flows
in silence save as the paddles of pleasure-parties rattle in the
row-lock, was lashed into foam and its waves staggered, not knowing
where to lay themselves. The hills jarred at the rumbling of God's
chariots. Blinding sheets of rain drove the cattle to the bars, and
beat against the window-pane as if to dash it in. The corn-fields
crouched in the fury, and the ripened grain-fields threw their crowns
of gold at the feet of the storm-king. After the night shut in, it
was a double night. Its black mantle was rent with the lightnings, and
into its locks were twisted the leaves of uprooted oaks, and shreds
of canvas torn from the masts of the beached shipping. It was such a
night as makes you thank God for shelter, and bids you open the door
to let in even the spaniel howling outside with the terror. We went
to sleep under the full blast of heaven's great orchestra, and the
forests with uplifted voice, in choiring hosts that filled all the
side of the mountains, praising the Lord.
We waked not until the fingers of the sunny morn touched our eyelids.
We looked out and. Housatonic slept as quiet as a baby's dream.
Pillars of white cloud set up along the heavens looked like the
castles of the blest, built for hierarchs of heaven on the beach of
the azure sea. The trees sparkled as though there had been some great
grief in heaven, and each leaf had been God-appointed to catch an angel's
tear. It seemed as if God our Father had looked down upon earth, his
wayward child, and stooped to her tear-wet cheek, and kissed it.
Even so will the darkness of our country's crime and suffering be
lifted. God will roll back the night of storm, and bring in the
morning of joy. Its golden light will gild the city spire, and strike
the forests of Maine, and tinge the masts of Mobile; and with one end
resting upon the Atlantic beach and the other on the Pacific coast,
God will spring a great rainbow arch of peace, in token of everlasting
covenant that the land shall never again be deluged with crime.
LIES: WHITE AND BLACK.
There are ten thousand ways of telling a lie. A man's entire life may
be a falsehood, while with his lips he may not once directly falsify.
There are those who state what is positively untrue, but afterwards
say, "may be," softly. These departures from the truth are called
"white lies;" but there is really no such thing as a white lie. The
whitest lie that was ever told was as black as perdition. No
inventory of public crimes will be sufficient that omits this gigantic
abomination. There are men, high in Church and State, actually useful,
self-denying, and honest in many things, who, upon certain subjects,
and in certain spheres, are not at all to be depended upon for
veracity. Indeed, there are multitudes of men who have their notions
of truthfulness so thoroughly perverted, that they do not know when
they _are_ lying. With many it is a cultivated sin; with some it seems
a natural infirmity. I have known people who seemed to have been born
liars. The falsehoods of their lives extended from cradle to grave.
Prevarication, misrepresentation, and dishonesty of speech appeared
in their first utterances and was as natural to them as any of
their infantile diseases, and was a sort of moral croup or spiritual
scarlatina. But many have been placed in circumstances where this
tendency has day by day, and hour by hour, been called to larger
development. They have gone from attainment to attainment, and from
class to class, until they have become regularly graduated liars.
The air of the city is filled with falsehoods. They hang pendent from
the chandeliers of our finest residences; they crowd the shelves of
some of our merchant princes; they fill the side-walk from curb-stone
to brown-stone facing. They cluster around the mechanic's hammer,
and blossom from the end of the merchant's yard-stick, and sit in
the doors of churches. Some call them "fiction." Some style them
"fabrication." You might say that they were subterfuge,
disguise, delusion, romance, evasion, pretence, fable, deception,
misrepresentation; but, as I am ignorant of anything to be gained by
the hiding of a God-defying outrage under a lexicographer's blanket, I
shall chiefly call them what my father taught me to call them--_lies_.
I shall divide them into agricultural, mercantile, mechanical, and
ecclesiastical lies; leaving those that are professional, social, and
political for some other chapter.
First, then, I will speak of those that are more particularly
_agricultural_. There is something in the perpetual presence of
natural objects to make a man pure. The trees never issue "false
stock." Wheat-fields are always honest. Rye and oats never move out
in the night, not paying for the place they have occupied. Corn shocks
never make false assignments. Mountain brooks are always "current."
The gold on the grain is never counterfeit. The sunrise never flaunts
in false colors. The dew sports only genuine diamonds.
Taking farmers as a class, I believe they are truthful, and fair in
dealing, and kind-hearted. But the regions surrounding our cities
do not always send this sort of men to our markets. Day by day there
creak through our streets, and about the market-houses, farm wagons
that have not an honest spoke in their wheels, or a truthful rivet
from tongue to tail-board. During the last few years there have been
times when domestic economy has foundered on the farmer's firkin.
Neither high taxes, nor the high price of dry-goods, nor the
exorbitancy of labor, could excuse much that the city has witnessed
in the behavior of the yeomanry. By the quiet firesides of Westchester
and Bucks counties I hope there may be seasons of deep reflection and
Rural districts are accustomed to rail at great cities as given up to
fraud and every form of unrighteousness; but our cities do not absorb
all the abominations. Our citizens have learned the importance of
not always trusting to the size and style of apples in the top of a
farmer's barrel, as an indication of what may be found farther down.
Many of our people are accustomed to watch to see how correctly a
bushel of beets is measured; and there are not many honest milk-cans.
Deceptions do not all cluster around city halls. When our cities sit
down and weep over their sins, all the surrounding counties ought to
come in and weep with them.
There is often hostility on the part of producers against traders,
as though the man who raises the corn were necessarily more honorable
than the grain dealer, who pours it into his mammoth bin. There ought
to be no such hostility. The occupation of one is as necessary as that
of the other. Yet producers often think it no wrong to snatch away
from the trader; and they say to the bargain-maker, "You get your
money easy." Do they get it easy? Let those who in the quiet field and
barn get their living exchange places with those who stand to-day amid
the excitements of commercial life, and see if they find it so very
easy. While the farmer goes to sleep with the assurance that his corn
and barley will be growing all the night, moment by moment adding to
his revenue, the merchant tries to go to sleep, conscious that that
moment his cargo may be broken on the rocks, or damaged by the wave
that sweeps clear across the hurricane deck; or that the gold gamblers
may, that very hour, be plotting some monetary revolution, or the
burglars be prying open his safe, or his debtors fleeing the town, or
his landlord raising the rent, or the fires kindling on the block that
contains all his estate. _Easy!_ is it? God help the merchants! It is
hard to have the palms of the hand blistered with out-door work; but a
more dreadful process when, through mercantile anxieties, the brain is
In the next place we notice _mercantile_ lies, those before the
counter and behind the counter. I will not attempt to specify the
different forms of commercial falsehood. There are merchants who
excuse themselves for deviation from truthfulness because of what
they call commercial custom. In other words, the multiplication and
universality of a sin turns it into a virtue. There have been large
fortunes gathered where there was not one drop of unrequited toil
in the wine; not one spark of bad temper flashing from the bronze
bracket; not one drop of needle-woman's heart-blood in the crimson
plush; while there are other great establishments in which there is
not one door-knob, not one brick, not one trinket, not one thread of
lace, but has upon it the mark of dishonor. What wonder if, some day,
a hand of toil that had been wrung, and worn out, and blistered until
the skin came off, should be placed against the elegant wall-paper,
leaving its mark of blood,--four fingers and a thumb; or that,
some day, walking the halls, there should be a voice accosting the
occupant, saying, _Six cents for making a shirt_; and, flying the
room, another voice should say, _Twelve cents for an army blanket_;
and the man should try to sleep at night, but ever and anon be
aroused, until, getting up on one elbow, he should shriek out, _Who's
There are thousands of fortunes made in commercial spheres that are
throughout righteous. God will let his favor rest upon every scroll,
every pictured wall, every traceried window; and the joy that flashes
from the lights, and showers from the music, and dances in the
children's quick feet, pattering through the hall, will utter the
congratulation of men and the approval of God.
A merchant can, to the last item, be thoroughly honest. There is never
any need of falsehood. Yet how many will, day by day, hour by hour,
utter what they _know_ to be wrong. You say that you are selling at
less than cost. If so, then it is right to say it. But did that thing
cost you less than what you ask for it? If not, then you have lied.
You say that article cost you twenty-five dollars. Did it? If so,
then all right. If it did not, then you have lied. Suppose you are
a purchaser. You are "beating down" the goods. You say that that
article, for which five dollars is charged, is not worth more than
four. Is it worth no more than four dollars? Then all right. If it be
worth more, and, for the sake of getting it for less than its value,
you wilfully depreciate it, you have lied. _You_ may call it a sharp
trade. The recording angel writes it down on the ponderous tomes
of eternity--"Mr. So and So, merchant on Water street, or in Eighth
street, or in State street; or Mrs. So and So, keeping house on Beacon
street, or on Madison avenue, or Rittenhouse square, told one
lie." You may consider it insignificant, because relating to an
insignificant purchase. You would despise the man who would falsify
in regard to some great matter, in which the city or the whole country
was concerned; but this is only a box of buttons, or a row of pins,
or a case of needles. Be not deceived. The article purchased may be so
small you can put it in your vest pocket, but the sin was bigger than
the Pyramids, and the echo of the dishonor will reverberate through
all the mountains of eternity.
You throw out on your counter some specimens of handkerchiefs. Your
customer asks, "Is that all silk? no cotton in it?" You answer, "It
is all silk." Was it all silk? If so, all right. But was it partly
cotton? Then you have lied. Moreover, you lost by the falsehood. The
customer, though he may live at Lynn, or Doylestown, or Poughkeepsie,
will find out that you defrauded him, and next spring, when he again
comes shopping, he will look at your sign and say: "I will not try
there. That is the place where I got that handkerchief." So that, by
that one dishonest bargain, you picked your own pocket and insulted
Would you dare to make an estimate of how many falsehoods in trade
were yesterday told by hardware men, and clothiers, and fruit-dealers,
and dry-goods establishments, and importers, and jewellers, and
lumbermen, and coal-merchants, and stationers, and tobacconists? Lies
about saddles, about buckles, about ribbons, about carpets, about
gloves, about coats, about shoes, about hats, about watches, about
carriages, about books,--about everything. In the name of the Lord
Almighty, I arraign commercial falsehoods as one of the greatest of
abominations in city and town.
In the next place, I notice _mechanical_ lies. There is no class of
men who administer more to the welfare of the city than artisans. To
their hand we must look for the building that shelters us, for the
garments that clothe us, for the car that carries us. They wield
a widespread influence. There is much derision of what is called
"_muscular Christianity_;" but in the latter day of the world's
prosperity, I think that the Christian will be muscular. We have the
right to expect of those stalwart men of toil the highest possible
integrity. Many of them answer all our expectations, and stand at the
front of religious and philanthropic enterprises. But this class, like
the others that I have named, has in it those who lack in the element
of veracity. They cannot all be trusted. In times when the demand for
labor is great, it is impossible to meet the demands of the public, or
do work with that promptness and perfection that would at other times
be possible. But there are mechanics whose word cannot be trusted
at any time. No man has a right to promise more work than he can do.
There are mechanics who say that they will come Monday, but they do
not come until Wednesday. You put work in their hands that they tell
you shall be completed in ten days, but it is thirty. There have been
houses built of which it might be said that every nail driven, every
foot of plastering put on, every yard of pipe laid, every shingle
hammered, every brick mortared, could tell of falsehood connected
therewith. There are men attempting to do ten or fifteen pieces of
work who have not the time or strength to do more than five or six
pieces; but by promises never fulfilled keep all the undertakings
within their own grasp. This is what they call _"nursing" the job_.
How much wrong to his soul and insult to God a mechanic would save, if
he promised only so much as he expected to be able to do. Society has
no right to ask of you impossibilities.
You cannot always calculate correctly, and you may fail because you
cannot get the help that you anticipate. But now I am speaking of the
wilful making of promises that you know you cannot keep. Did you say
that that shoe should be mended, that coat repaired, those brick
laid, that harness sewed, that door grained, that spout fixed, or that
window glazed, by Saturday, knowing that you would neither be able
to do it yourself nor get any one else to do it? Then, before God
and man, you are a liar. You may say that it makes no particular
difference, and that if you had told the truth you would have lost the
job, and that people expect to be disappointed. But that excuse will
not answer. There is a voice of thunder rolling among the drills, and
planes, and shoe-lasts, and shears, which says: "All liars shall have
their place in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone."
I next notice _ecclesiastical_ lies; that is, falsehoods told for
the purpose of advancing churches and sects, or for the purpose of
depleting them. There is no use in asking many a Calvinist what an
Arminian believes, for he will be apt to tell you that the Arminian
believes that a man can convert himself; or to ask the Arminian
what the Calvinist believes, for he will tell you that the Calvinist
believes that God made some men just to damn them. There is no need of
asking a pedo-Baptist what a Baptist believes, for he will be apt to
say that the Baptist believes immersion to be positively necessary to
salvation. It is almost impossible for one denomination of Christians,
without prejudice or misrepresentation, to state the sentiment of
an opposing sect. If a man hates Presbyterians, and you ask him what
Presbyterians believe, he will tell you that they believe that there
are infants in hell a span long.
It is strange also how individual churches will sometimes make
misstatements about other individual churches. It is especially so in
regard to falsehoods told with reference to prosperous enterprises.
As long as a church is feeble, and the singing is discordant, and the
minister, through the poverty of the church, must go with threadbare
coat, and here and there a worshipper sits in the end of a pew having
all the seat to himself, religious sympathizers of other churches will
say, "What a pity!" But, let a great day of prosperity come, and even
ministers of the gospel, who ought to be rejoiced at the largeness and
extent of the work, denounce, and misrepresent, and falsify,--starting
the suspicion, in regard to themselves, that the reason they do not
like the corn is because it is not ground in their own mill.
How long before we shall learn to be fair in our religious criticisms!
The keenest jealousies on earth are church jealousies. The field of
Christian work is so large that there is no need that our hoe-handles
May God extirpate from the world ecclesiastical lies, commercial lies,
mechanical lies, and agricultural lies, and make every man, the world
over, to speak truth with his neighbor!
A GOOD TIME COMING.
As on some bitter cold night, while threshing our hands about to keep
our thumbs from freezing, we have looked up and seen the northern
lights blazing along the sky, the windows of heaven illumined at
the news of some great victory, so from beyond this bitter night of
abomination a brightness strikes through from the other side.
I have thought that it would be well, in these chapters on the sins of
the times, to lift before you a vision of what our cities will be
when the work of good men shall have been concluded and our population
redeemed. I doubt not that sometimes men have shut this book, thinking
that the gigantic wrongs we depict may never be discomfited. Lest you
be utterly disheartened, I will show you that we fight in a war in
which we will be completely victorious. This is to be no drawn battle;
for, when it is done, the result will not be disputed by a man on
earth, or an angel in heaven, or a devil in hell. We shall have
captured every one of the strongholds of darkness. You and I will
live to see the day when gambling-hells will be changed into places of
Christian merchandise, and houses of sin swept and garnished for the
residence of the purest home circles.
Beethoven was deaf, and could not hear the airs he composed; but when
the song of universal disenthralment arises, and white Circassian
stands up by the side of black Ethiopian, and tropical groves wave to
the Lebanon cedars, we shall, standing somewhere, know it and see it,
and hear it. If gone from earth, we will be allowed to come out on the
hills and look.
We do not talk about impossibilities. We do not propose a medicine
about which we have to say that it will "kill or cure." For this balm
that oozes from the tree of heaven will inevitably cure.
I remark that this coming time of municipal elevation will be a time
of financial prosperity. Many seem to suppose that when the world's
better days come, the people will forsake their industries, and give
themselves to perpetual psalm-singing, and, being all absorbed in
spiritual things, will become reckless as to dress and dwelling; and
very rigid laws then governing the commercial world, all enterprise
and speculation will cease, and all hilarity be stricken out of the
social circle. There is no warrant for such an absurd anticipation. I
suppose that when society is reconstructed, where there is now, in the
course of a year, one fortune made, there will be a hundred fortunes
made. Every one knows that the commercial world thrives in proportion
as there is confidence between man and man; and the extirpation of all
double-dealing and fraud from society will increase this confidence,
and hence greater prosperity. The heavy commercial disasters that have
smitten this land were the work of godless speculators and infamous
stock-gamblers. It is crime that is the mightiest foe to business;
but when the right shall hurl back into ruin the plots of bad men,
and purify the commercial code, and thunder down fraudulent
establishments, and put into the hands of honest men the keys of
commercial prosperity, blessed will be the bargain-makers of the city.
That will be a prosperous time, for taxes will be a mere nothing.
Every style of business is taxed now to the utmost. City taxes, county
taxes, State taxes, United States taxes, license taxes, manufacturing
taxes, stamp taxes,--taxes! taxes! taxes! Our citizens must make a
small fortune every year to meet these exactions. What hand fastens
to all of our great industries this tremendous load? Crime! We have
to pay the board of every man and woman who, by intemperance, is
cast into the alms-house. We have to support the orphans of those who
plunge themselves into their graves by beastly indulgences. We support
from our pockets the large machinery of municipal government, which is
vast just in proportion as the criminal proclivities of the city
are great. What makes necessary hospitals, houses of refuge,
police-stations, and alms-houses, the Tombs, Sing Sing, and
In that good time coming there shall be no exhaustive taxation; no
orphans homeless, for parents will be able to leave their children
a competency; no prisons, for crime will have given place to virtue.
Then the vast swindles which now, from time to time, disgrace our
cities, will be unheard of. No voting of public money that, on its way
to some city improvement, falls into the pockets of those who voted
it. No courts of Oyer and Terminer, at vast expense to the people. No
empanelling of juries to inquire into theft, arson, murder, slander,
and black-mail. In that day of redemption there will be better
factories, grander architecture, finer equipages, larger estates,
Again: when our cities are purified the churches will be multiplied,
purified, and strengthened. Now, denominations, and the individuals of
the different sects, are often jealous of each other. Christians are
not always kindly disposed toward each other; and ministers of the
gospel sometimes forget the bond of brotherhood. In that day they will
be sympathetic and helpful. There may be differences of opinion and
sentiment, but no acerbity, no hypercriticism, and no exclusiveness.
In that day all the churches will be filled with worshippers. We
have not to-day, in the cities, church-room for one-fourth of our
population; and yet there is a great deal more room than the people
occupy. The churches do not average an attendance of five hundred
people. The vast majority do not attend public worship. But in the
day of which I speak there will be enough church-room to hold all the
people, and the room will be occupied. In that time what rousing songs
will be sung! What earnest sermons will be preached! What fervent
prayers will be offered! In these days a _fashionable_ church is a
place where, after a careful toilet, a few people come in, sit down,
and what time they can get their minds off their stores, or away from
the new style of hat in the seat before them, listen in silence to the
minister--warranted to hit no man's sins--and to the choir, who are
agreed to sing tunes that nobody knows; and, having passed away an
hour in dreamy lounging, go home refreshed.
I pronounce much of what is called "church music," in our day, a
mockery and a farce. Though I have neither a cultured voice nor a
cultured ear, no man shall do my singing. When the storms, and the
trees, and the dragons are called on to praise the Lord, I feel that
I must sing, for I know more about music than do the dragons. Nothing
can take the place of artistic music. The dollar that I pay to hear
Parepa or Nilsson sing is far from being wasted. But, when the hymn
is read, and the angels of God stoop from their thrones to bear up
on their wings the praise of the great congregation, let us not drive
them away with our indifference. I have preached in churches where
fabulous sums of money were paid to performers, and the harmony was
exquisite as any harmony that ever went up from an Academy of Music;
and yet, for all the purposes of devotion, I would prefer the hearty,
out-breaking song of a backwoods Methodist camp-meeting. When these
fancy starveling songs get up to the gate of heaven, how do you
suppose they look, standing beside the great doxologies of the
glorified? Let an operatic performance, floating upward, get many
hours the start, and it shall be caught and passed by the shout of the
Sailors' Bethel, or the hosanna of the Sabbath-school children.
I know a church where there was no singing except that done by the
choir, save one old Christian man; and they waited upon him by
a committee, and asked him if he would not stop singing, for he
disturbed the choir!
The day cometh when all the churches will rejoice in this department
of service, rightly conducted, and when from all the great audiences
of attentive worshippers will rise a multitudinous anthem.
"O God! let all the people praise thee!" Again: when the city is
redeemed, the low haunts of vice and pollution will be extinguished.
Mr. Etzler, of England, proposes, by the forces of tide, and wind,
and wave, and sunshine, to reconstruct the world. In a book of
much genius, which rushed rapidly from edition to edition, he
says:--"Fellow-men: I promised to show the means of creating a
paradise within ten years, where everything desirable for human life
may be had by every man in superabundance, without labor and without
pay; where the whole face of nature shall be changed into the most
beautiful forms, and man may live in the most magnificent palaces,
in all imaginable refinements of luxury, and in the most delightful
gardens; where he may accomplish without labor, in one year, more than
hitherto could be done in thousands of years; may level continents;
sink valleys; create lakes; drain lakes and swamps, and intersect the
land everywhere with beautiful canals and roads for transporting heavy
loads of many thousand tons, and for travelling a thousand miles in
twenty-four hours; may cover the ocean with floating islands, movable
in any desired direction, with an immense power and celerity, in
perfect security, and with all the comforts and luxuries; bearing
gardens and palaces, with thousands of families, and provided with
rivulets of sweet water; may explore the interior of the globe, and
travel from pole to pole in a fortnight; provide himself with means
yet unheard of for increasing his knowledge of the world, and so his
intelligence; leading a life of continual happiness, of enjoyment yet
unknown; free himself from almost all the evils that afflict mankind
except death, and even put death far beyond the common period of human
life, and, finally, render it less afflicting. From the houses to be
built will be afforded the most enrapturing views to be fancied;
from the galleries, from the roof, and from its turrets may be seen
gardens, as far as the eye can see, full of fruits and flowers,
arranged in the most beautiful order, with walks, colonnades,
aqueducts, canals, ponds, plains, amphitheatres, terraces, fountains,
sculptured works, pavilions, gondolas, places for public amusement,
to delight the eye and fancy. All this to be done by urging the water,
the wind, and the sunshine to their full development." Mr. Etzler
gives plates of the machinery by which all this is to be done. He
proposes the organization of a company; and says small shares of
twenty dollars will be sufficient--in all from two hundred thousand to
three hundred thousand dollars--to create the first establishment for
a whole community, of from three to four thousand individuals. "At the
end of five years we shall have a principal of two hundred millions
of dollars; and so paradise will be wholly regained at the end of the
There is more reason in this than in many of the plans proposed; but
mechanical forces can never recreate the world. I shall take no shares
in the large company that is proposed; my faith is that Christianity
will yet make the worst street of our cities better than the best
street now is.
Archimedes consumed the enemies of Syracuse by a great sun-glass. As
the ships came up the harbor, the sun's rays were concentrated upon
them: now the sails are wings of fire; the masts fall, and the vessels
sink. So, by the great sun-glass of the Gospel, the rays of heaven
will be concentred upon all the filth and unchastity and crime of our
great towns, and under the heat they will blaze and expire. When the
day comes that I have shown will come, suppose you that there will
be any midnight brawls? any shivering mendicants, kicked off from the
marble steps? any droves of unwashed, uncombed, unfed children? any
blasphemers in the street? any staggering past of inebriates? No! No
wine-cellars. No lager-beer saloons. No distilleries where they make
the XXX. No bloated cheeks. No blood-shot eyes. No fist-battered
foreheads. The grandchildren of that woman who now walks up the street
with a curse, as the boys stone her, will be philanthropists, and heal
the sick, and manage great commercial enterprises.
When our cities are so raised, we shall have a different style of
municipal government. The great question, in regard to the execution
of the law, now is: "What is popular?" Our city governments
slumber--great carcasses of insufficiency, sending up their stench
into the nostrils of high heaven, while there are thousands of
gambling-houses, and drinking-saloons, and more places of damnable
lust than the decency of the country has time to count. Do you tell me
that the authorities do not know it? They do know it. All the police
know it. The sheriff and his deputies know it. The aldermen know it.
The mayors know it. Everybody who keeps his eyes and ears open knows
it. In the name of God I impeach the municipal authorities of many of
our cities, that they neglect to execute the law. You cannot charge
it upon any one party. Within the past few years both parties, and
all kinds of parties, have been in power; but the work has never been
done. You have but to pass the City Hall, or look in upon the rooms of
some of our city officials, to see to what sort of men our cities have
been abandoned. Look at the swearing, bloated, sensual wretches who
stand on the outside of the New York City Hall, picking their teeth,
waiting for some crumbs of emolument to fall at their feet; and then
tell me how far it is from New York to Sodom. Who are those wretched
women sent up in the city van to the police-court, apprehended for
drunkenness? They will be locked up in jail; but what will be done
with the groggeries that made them drunk? Who are these men in the
city-prison? That man stole a pair of shoes; that boy, one dollar from
the counter; that girl snatched a purse--all villanies of less than
twenty or thirty dollars' damage to the community; but for
that gambler, who last night took that young man's thousand
dollars--nothing! For that man who broke in upon the purity of a
Christian household, and by a perfidy and adroitness that beat the
strategy of hell, flung that girl into the chasm of earthly
despair, from which her lost soul goes shrieking to the bottomless
pit--nothing! For those who "fleeced" a young man, and induced him to
filch from his employers vast sums of money, until, in his agony, he
came to an officer of the church, and frantically asked what he should
Verily, small crimes ought to be punished; but it were more just if
our authorities would turn out from our jails and penitentiaries the
small villains, the petty criminals, the infantile offenders, the
ten-dollar desperadoes, and fill their places with some of these
monsters of abomination, who drive their roan span through our fine
streets until honest men have to fly to escape being run over; and
if they would turn out from their incarceration the poor girls of
the town, and put in some of the magnificent ladies who cover up the
sidewalk with their unpaid-for fineries, and with scornful look, in
the church-aisle, pass the daughters of poverty, who with their
faded dress and plain hat _dare_ to come to worship God in the same
But all these wrongs shall be righted. Our streets shall hear the
tramp of a regenerated multitude. Three hundred and sixty bells were
rung in Moscow when the prince was married; but when righteousness
and peace shall "kiss each other" in all the earth, ten thousand bells
will strike the jubilee. Poverty enriched. Hunger fed. Disease cured.
Crime purified. The cities saved.