American Clergyman, Preacher and Divine in the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church
Thomas De Witt Talmage
American Clergyman, Preacher and Divine in the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church
If the bones of all those who have fallen as a prey to intemperance could be piled up it would make a vast pyramid. Who will gird himself for the journey and try with me to scale this mountain of the dead--going up miles high on human carcasses to find still other peaks far above, mountain above mountain, white with the bones of drunkards.
We see that brow bruised; we hear that dying groan; and while the priests scoff and the devils rave, and the lightnings of God's wrath are twisted into a wreath for that bloody mount, you and I will join the cry, the supplication, of the penitent malefactor, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
If the statistics of any of our cities could be taken on this subject you would find that a vast multitude of women not only support themselves, but masculines also. A great legion of men amount to nothing, and a woman by marriage manacled to one of these nonentities needs condolence. A woman standing outside the marriage relation is several hundred thousand times better off than a woman badly married.
What may we expect of people who work all day and dance all night? After a while they will be thrown on society nervous, exhausted imbeciles.
If you should turn back from this land to Europe the foreign ministers of the Gospel, and the foreign attorneys, and the foreign merchants, and the foreign philanthropists, what a robbery of our pulpits, our court rooms, our storehouses, and our beneficent institutions, and what a putting back of every monetary, merciful, moral, and religious interest of the land! This commingling here of all nationalities under the blessing of God will produce in seventy-five or one hundred years the most magnificent style of man and woman the world ever saw. They will have the wit of one race, the eloquence of another race, the kindness of another, the generosity of another, the aesthetic taste of another, the high moral character of another, and when that man and woman step forth, their brain and nerve and muscle an intertwining of the fibres of all nationalities, nothing but the new electric photographic apparatus, that can see clear through body and mind and soul, can take of them an adequate picture.
You are a free man, and let no organization come between you and your best interests. Do not let any man, or any body of men, tell you where you shall work, or where you shall not work, when you shall work, or when, you shall not work. If a man wants to belong to a labor organization, let him belong. If he does not want to belong to a labor organization, let him have perfect liberty to stay out. You own yourself. Let no man put a manacle on your hand, or foot, or head, or heart.
If your path had been smooth, you would have depended upon your own surefootedness; but God roughened the path, so you have to take hold of His hand. If the weather had been mild, you would have loitered along the watercourses, but at the first howl of the storm you quickened your pace heavenward.
You have a valuable house or farm. It is suggested that the title is not good. You employ counsel. You have the deeds examined. You search the records for mortgages, judgments and liens. You are not satisfied until you have a certificate, signed by the great seal of the State, assuring you that the title is good. Yet how many leave their title to heaven an undecided matter! Why do you not go to the records and find it? Give yourself no rest day or night until you can read your title clear to mansions in the skies.
A lawyer is sometimes required to search titles, and the client who thinks he has good right to an estate, puts the papers in his hands, and the attorney goes into the public records and finds everything right for three or four years back; but after a time he comes to a break in the title. So he finds that the man who supposed he owned it owns not an acre of the ground which belongs to someone else. I trace the title of this world from century to century until I find the whole right vested in God. Now to whom did he give it? To his own children. All are yours.
Logic has its use and metaphysics has its use, but neither of them is of much help in the making of a creed.
A monster such as never ranged African thicket or Hindustan jungle hath traced this land, and with bloody maw hath strewn the continent with the mangled carcasses of whole generations; and there are tens of thousands of fathers and mothers who could hold up the garment of their slain boy, truthfully exclaiming, "It is my son's coat; that evil beast, Intemperance, hath devoured him.
Mother - that was the bank where we deposited all our hurts and worries.
Again, I remark, relief will come to the laboring classes through the religious rectification of the country. Labor is appreciated and rewarded just in proportion as a country is Christianized. Show me a community that is thoroughly infidel, and I will show you a community where wages are small. Show me a community that is thoroughly Christianized, and I will show you a community where wages are comparatively large. How do I account for it? The philosophy is easy. Our religion is a democratic religion. It makes the owner of the mill understand he is a brother to all the operatives in that mill. Born of the same heavenly Father, to lie down in the same dust, to be saved by the swine supreme mercy. No putting on of airs in the sepulcher or in the judgment.
Oh! if you could only hear Intemperance with drunkards' bones drumming on the top of the wine cask the Dead March of immortal souls, you would go home and kneel down and pray God that rather than your children should ever become the victims of this evil habit, you might carry them out to Greenwood and put them down in the last slumber, waiting for the flowers of spring to come over the grave-sweet prophecies of the resurrection. God hath a balm for such a Wound, but what flower of comfort ever grew on the blasted heath of a drunkard's sepulcher?
Almighty God! If it be thy will that man should suffer, whatever seemeth good in thy sight impose upon me. Let the bread of affliction be given to me to eat. Take from me the friends of my confidence. Let the cold hut of poverty be my dwelling-place and the wasting hand of disease inflict its painful torments. Let me sow in the whirlwind and reap in the storm. Let those have me in derision who are younger than I. Let the passing away of my welfare be like the fleeting of a cloud and the shouts of my enemies like the rushing of waters. When I anticipate good, let evil annoy me. When I look for light, let darkness come upon me. Do all this, but save me, merciful God! Save me from the fate of a drunkard!
On earth we sang harvest-songs as the wheat came into the barn and the barracks were filled; you know there is no such time on a farm as when they get the crops in; and so in heaven it will be a harvest-song on the part of those who on earth sowed in tears and reaped in joy. Angels shout all through the heavens, and multitudes come down the hills crying, "Harvest-home! harvest-borne!"
As long as you make drinking respectable, drinking customs will prevail, and the plowshare 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.
One good, hearty laugh is a bombshell exploding in the right place, while spleen and discontent are a gun that kicks over the man who shoots it off.
But though your forefathers may not have been much, if any, better than yourselves, let us extol them for the fact that they started this country in the right direction. They laid the foundation for American manhood. The foundation must be more solid and firm and unyielding than any other part of the structure. On that Puritanic foundation we can safely build all nationalities. Let us remember that the coming American is to be an admixture of all foreign bloods. In about twenty-five or fifty years the model American will step forth. He will have the strong brain of the German, the polished manners of the French, the artistic taste of the Italian, the stanch heart of the English, the steadfast piety of the Scotch, the lightning wit of the Irish, and when he steps forth, bone, muscle, nerve, brain entwined with the fibers of all the nationalities, the nations will break out in the cry: "Behold the American!" Columbus discovered only the shell of this country. Agassiz came and discovered fossiliferous America. Silliman came and discovered geological America. Audubon came and discovered bird America. Longfellow came and discovered poetic America; and there are a half-dozen other Americas yet to be discovered.
Social dissipation, as witnessed in the ball-room, is the abettor of pride, the instigator of jealousy, it is the sacrificial altar of health, it is the defiler of the soul, it is the avenue of lust and it is the curse of every town in America.
Drunkenness! Does it not jingle the burglar's key? Does it not whet the assassin's knife? Does it not cock the highwayman's pistol? Does it not wave the incendiary's torch? Does it not send the physician reeling into the sickroom; and the minister with his tongue thick into the pulpit? id not an exquisite poet, from the very top of his fame, fall a gibbering sot, into the gutter, on his way to be married to one of the fairest daughters of New England, and at the very hour the bride was decking herself for the altar; and did he not die of delirium tremens, almost unattended, in a hospital? Tamerlane asked for one hundred and sixty thousand skulls with which to build a pyramid to his own honor. He got the skulls, and built the pyramid. But if the bones of all those who have fallen as a prey to dissipation could be piled up, it would make a vaster pyramid.
Take not into your ear that scum of hell that people call tittle-tattle. Whosoever willingly listens to a slander is equally guilty with the one who tells it, and an old writer says they ought both to be hanged; the one by the tongue and the other by the ear. Do not smile upon such a spaniel, lest like a pleased dog, he puts his dirty paw upon you.
How well I remember that old Thanksgiving dinner! Father at one end, mother at the other end, the children between wondering if father will ever get done carving the turkey. O, that proud, strutting hero of the barnyard, upside down, his plumes gone and minus his gobble! Stuffed with that which he can never digest. The day before, at school, we had learned that Greece was south of Turkey, but on the table we found that turkey was bounded by grease. The brown surface waited for the knife to plunge astride the breast-bone, and with knife sharpened on the jambs of the fire-place, lay bare the folds of white meat. Give to the disposed to be sentimental, the heart. Give to the one disposed to music, the drumstick. Give to the one disposed to theological discussion, the "parson's nose." Then the pies! For the most part a lost art. What mince pies! in which you had all confidence fashioned from all rich ingredients, instead of miscellaneous leavings which are only short of glorified hash! Not mince pies with profound mysteries of origin! But mother made them, sweetened them, flavored them, and laid the lower crust and the upper crust, with here and there a puncture by the fork to let you look through the light and flaky surface into the substance beneath.
The Bible is a warm letter of affection from a parent to a child; and yet there are many who see chiefly the severer passages. As there may be fifty or sixty nights of gentle dews in one summer, that will not cause as much remark as one hailstorm of half an hour, so there are those who are more struck by those passages of the Bible that announce the indignation of God than by those that announce His affection.
I like the Bible folded between lids of cloth, or calfskin, or morocco, but I like it better when, in the shape of a man, it goes out into the world?a Bible illustrated.