Sermon – Bridge Opening – 1805

Joseph Lathrop (1731-1820) Biography:

Lathrop was born in Norwich, Connecticut. After graduating from Yale, he took a teaching position at a grammar school in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he also began studying theology. Two years after leaving Yale, he was ordained as the pastor of the Congregational Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts. He remained there until his death in 1820, in the 65th year of his ministry. During his career, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from both Yale and Harvard. He was even offered the Professorship of Divinity at Yale, but he declined the offer. Many of his sermons were published in a seven-volume set over the course of twenty-five years.

This sermon was preached on the opening of a bridge over the Connecticut River in Massachusetts.





OCTOBER 30, 1805.

On occasion of the Completion and Opening




Between the towns of Springfield and West-Springfield.

Pastor of the First Church in West-Springfield.

At a Legal Meeting of the Proprietors
October 30, 1805—

Voted—That the thanks of the corporation be presented to the Reverend Doctor Lathrop, for his excellent discourse this day delivered, on the completion of the Bridge; and that Thomas Dwight, Justin Ely, and John Hooker, Esquires, be a Committee to present the same and to request a copy for the press.


GEORGE BLISS, Proprietor’s Clerk.


God himself that formed the earth and made it….he created it not in vain….he formed it to be inhabited.

Every rational being directs his operations to some end. To labor without an object, and act without an intention, is a degree of folly too great to be imputed to men. We must then conclude, that the Being, who created the world, had a purpose in view adequate to the grandeur of the work. What this purpose is the prophet clearly expresses in our text and a preceding verse. “He made the earth—he created man upon it—he formed it to be inhabited;” to be inhabited by men; by such beings as we are.

Let us survey the earth, and we shall find it perfectly adapted to this design.

Moses, in his history of the creation, informs us, that man was the last of God’s works. The earth was enlightened and warmed with the sun, covered with fruits and herbs, and stocked with every species of animals, before man was placed upon it. It was not a naked and dreary, but a beautiful and richly furnished world, on which he first opened his eyes. He was not sent to subdue a rugged and intractable wilderness, but to occupy a kind and delightful garden, where, with moderate labor, his wants might be supplied.

When Adam first awoke into existence, contemplated his own wonderful frame, surveyed the ground on which he trod, beheld the groves which waved around him, tasted the fruits which hung before him, and traced the streams which meandered by his side, at once he knew, that there must be an invisible Being, who formed this pleasant place for his habitation.

The same evidence have we, that the earth was made for the children of Adam.

The sun, that vast body of fire in the heavens, is so stationed, as to cheer and fructify the globe, and render it a fit mansion for human beings. By the regular changes of the seasons, those parts of the earth become habitable, which otherwise would be burnt with intolerable heat, or sealed up with eternal frost.

Around this globe is spread a body of air, so pure as to transmit the rays of light, and yet so strong as to sustain the flight of birds. This serves for the breach of life, the vehicle of sound, the suspension of waters, the conveyance of clouds, the promotion of vegetation, and various other uses necessary to the subsistence, or conducive to the comfort of the human kind.

The earth is replenished with innumerable tribes of animals, of which some assist man in his labors, some yield him food, and some furnish him with ornaments and clothing. “To man God has given dominion over the work of his hands: Under man’s power he has put all things; all sheep and oxen, the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth thro’ the paths of the deep.”

The productions of the earth are various beyond conception. Some spontaneous—some the effects of human culture—some designed for the support of the animal tribes, and some more immediately adapted to the use of man.

On the surface of the earth we meet with springs and streams at convenient distances to satisfy the thirsty beast, as well as to serve the purposes of the rational inhabitant. And beneath the surface there are, every where, continual currents of water, spreading, like the veins in a human body, in various ramifications, from which, with little labor, daily supplies may be drawn.

The great bodies of water, with which the land is intersected, furnish food for man, facilitate the commerce of nations, and refresh and fertilize the earth.

By the heat of the sun, and other co-operating causes, waters from the seas, rivers and fountains are raised into the cooler regions of the atmosphere, there condensed into clouds, wafted around by winds, and sifted down in kind and gentle showers. Thus, are our fields watered without our labor or skill.

The earth supplies us with timber, stone, cement, metals, and all necessary materials, from which we may fabricate implements for labor, coverts from cold and storms, Bridges for passing the streams, and vessels for navigating the seas.

The natural world is governed by uniform and steady laws. Hence we may judge, within our sphere, what means are necessary to certain ends, and what success may ordinarily attend the works of our hands.

Now to what end was all this order and beauty of nature—this fertility and furniture of the earth, if there were none to contemplate and enjoy them? Without such an inhabitant as man to behold the works, and receive the bounties of God, this earth would be made in vain; it might as well have been a sandy desert, or an impenetrable rock.

But still the earth, richly furnished as it is, would lose more than half of its beauty and utility, if man the possessor were not endued with a faculty of invention and action. “This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working—for his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.” God has done much for man; but has left something for man to do for himself. The materials are furnished to his hand; he must sit and apply them to actual use.

In the first stages of the world, when its inhabitants were few, its spontaneous productions in a great measure supplied human wants. But as men increased in numbers, they found it necessary to form society, institute government and introduce arts for a more easy, and less precarious subsistence, and for more effectual defense and security. History carries us back to the time when arts first began—when iron and brass were first wrought into utensils by the hand of the artificer—when tents and houses were constructed for human accommodation—when musical instruments were invented to amuse the mind, or to assist devotion. The history which we have of the beginning and progress of arts—the state in which we now see them, and the improvements made in them within the time of our own recollection, all tend to confirm the Mosaic account of the origin of the world.

The improvement in arts, tho’ in general but slow, has nearly kept pace with human exigencies. For some time past, their progress has been remarkable. Their present state of advancement would have been thought incredible a century ago. A century hence there may be such additional discoveries and improvements as would seem incredible now.

Not only in Europe, but also in our own country, especially since our late revolution, great progress has been made in astronomical discoveries, by which navigation is assisted;—in medical science by which diseases are prevented or cured—in agriculture by which our lands have much increased in their produce and value—in instruments and machines to expedite and diminish human labor—in the mechanical construction of mills and other water-works to effect the same and superior ends by a lighter impulse of water—in the formation and erection of Bridges to break the power of ices, and withstand the impetuosity of floods—in opening artificial canals by which the falls and rapids of streams are surmounted or avoided, and in “cutting our rivers among the rocks, and binding the floods,” so that an inland navigation is accomplished.

Who among us, twenty years ago, expected to see the two banks of Connecticut river united at Springfield by a Bridge, which should promise durability? Yet such a structure we see, this day, completed and opened for passage—a structure which displays the wealth and enterprise of the Proprietors, and the skill and fidelity of the artificers, and which will yield great convenience and advantage to the contiguous and neighboring towns and to the public at large.

“Except the Lord build the edifice, they labor in vain that build it; and except the Lord keep it, the watchmen wake in vain.” In a work of this kind, there is the same reason to acknowledge the favoring and preserving hand of God, as in all other enterprises and undertakings; and more in proportion to its complexity, difficulty and magnitude. The seasons have kindly smiled on the operations; and the work was nearly completed without any unhappy accident or evil occurrent.

We lament the casualty, by which a number of the workmen were endangered, some were wounded, and one lost his life, A NAME=”R1″>1 a life important to his family and valuable to society. And yet, considering the nature of the work, the length of time spent, and the number of people employed in it, we must gratefully ascribe it to the watchful care of providence, that no other casualty has occurred. And when we consider the suddenness and unforeseen cause of that event, by which so great a number were imminently exposed, we see great cause of thankfulness, that it was not more disastrous. They who escaped without injury, or with but temporary wounds, ought often to look back to the time, when there was but a step between them and death.

This work, tho’ the unhappy occasion of one death, may probably be the means of preserving many lives. If we were to calculate on the same number of men, employed for the same number of days, in constructing and erecting our ordinary buildings, we should certainly expect casualties more numerous and disastrous, than what have happened in this great, unusual, and apparently more dangerous undertaking.

The structure which we this day behold, naturally suggests to us a most convincing evidence of the existence and government of a Diety.

Let a stranger come and look on yonder Bridge; and he will at once know that some workmen have been there. Let him walk over it, and find that it reaches from shore to shore; and he will know that it was built with design, and will not feel a moment’s doubt what that design is. Let him then descend and examine the workmanship; and he will be sure, that much skill and the nicest art have been employed in it. And now let this same man cast his eyes around on the world, observe its numerous parts, the harmonious adaptation of one part to another, and of all to the use and benefit of man; and he will have equal evidence, that there is a God, who made, sustains and rules this stupendous fabric of nature, which he beholds every day, and which surrounds him wherever he goes.

Such a structure as yonder Bridge convinces us of the importance of Civil Society, and of a Firm and Stead Government.

It is only in a state of society and under the influence of government, that grand works of public utility can be effected. There must be the concurrence of many—there must be union and subordination—there must be transferable property—there must be a knowledge of arts—there must be some power of coercion; none of which can take place in a savage state. An agreement purely voluntary among a number of individuals, without any bond of union, but each one’s mutable will, would no more have been competent to the completion of this Bridge at Springfield, than it was anciently to the finishing of the tower on the plains of Shinar. It was necessary here, that there should be a corporation vested with a power of compulsion over each of its members, and with a right to receive gradual remuneration, for the expense of the work, from those who should enjoy the benefit of it. And such a corporation must derive its power and right, as well as existence, from superior authority.

The man of reason will pity the weakness, or rather despise the folly of those visionary and whimsical philosophers, who decry the social union, and the controlling power of government, and plead for the savage, as preferable to the civilized state of mankind, pretending that human nature, left to its own inclinations and energies, “tends to perfectability.”

If society were dissolved and government abolished, what would be the consequence? All the useful arts would be laid aside, lost and forgotten; no works of public utility could be accomplished, or would be attempted; no commercial intercourse could be maintained; no property could be secured, and little would be acquired; none of the conveniences and refinements of life could be obtained; none of the cordialities of friendship and relation would be felt; more than nine tenths of the human race must perish to make room for the few who should have the good fortune, or rather the misfortune, to survive.

Compare now the savage and the civilized state, and say; Is it better, when you are on a journey, to climb ragged mountains, and descend frightful precipices, than to travel in a plain and level road? Is it better to pass a dangerous stream by swimming with your arms, or by floating on a log, than to walk securely on a commodious bridge? Is it better to till your ground with your naked hands, or with a sharp stone, than with the labor of the patient ox, and with instruments fabricated by the carpenter and the smith? Is it better to cover your bodies with hairy skins torn from the bones of wild beasts, than with the smooth and soft labors of the loom? Is it better to starve thro’ a dreary winter in a miserable hut, than to enjoy a full table in a warm and convenient mansion? Is it better to live in continual dread of the ruthless and vengeful assassin, than to dwell in safety under the protection of the law and government?

When men plead for the preference of the savage to the social state, they either must talk without thought; or must wish to abolish a free government, that it may be succeeded by another more absolute, in the management of which they expect a pre-eminent share.

The work, which we this day see accomplished, suggests some useful thoughts, in relation to the nature of civil society.

The undertakers of this work have steadily kept their great object in view, have pursued it with unanimity and zeal, have employed artificers skillful in their profession, and workmen faithful to their engagements, and they have spared no necessary cost. Thus, they have seen the work completed to their satisfaction and to universal approbation.

Here is an example for a larger society. Let every member act with a regard to the common interest, and study the things which make for peace. In his single capacity, let him be quiet and do his own business; but when he acts in his social relation, let the general interest predominate. Let him detest that false and miserable economy, which, under pretext of saving, enhances expense, and ultimately ruins the contemplated object. Let him never consent to withhold from faithful servants their merited compensation. In the selection of men to manage the public concerns, let him always prefer the wise to the ignorant, the experienced to the rude, the virtuous and faithful to the selfish and unprincipled, the men of activity in business, to the sauntering sons of idleness and pleasure; and in such men let him place just confidence, and to their measures yield cheerful support. Thus he may hope to see the works of society conducted as prudently, and terminated as successfully, as the work which we this day admire.

In the work itself we see an emblem of good society. The parts fitly framed and closely compacted together, afford mutual support, and contribute, each in its place, to the common strength; and the whole structure rests firm and steady on a solid foundation. In society there must be a power of cohesion, resulting from benevolence and mutual confidence; and there must be a ground work sufficient to support it, and this must be Religion.

It is obvious, that no society can subsist long in a state of freedom, without justice, peaceableness, sobriety, industry and order among the members; or without fidelity, impartiality and public spirit in the rulers. It is equally obvious, that the basis of these virtues can be nothing less than religion. Take away the belief of a divine moral government, and the apprehension of a future state of retribution; and what principle of social or private virtue will you find?

It is too much the humor of the present day to consider religion as having no connection with civil government. This sentiment, first advanced by infidels, has been too implicitly adopted by some of better hearts….But it is a sentiment contrary to common experience, and common sense, and pregnant of fatal evils. As well may you build a castle in the air, without a foundation on the earth, as maintain a free government without virtue, or support virtue without the principles of religion. Will you make the experiment? Go, first, and tear away the pillars from yonder Bridge. See if the well-turned arches will sustain themselves aloft by their own proportion and symmetry. This you may as well expect, as that our happy state of society, and our free constitution of government will stand secure, when religion is struck away from under them.

If a breach should happen in those pillars, immediate reparation will doubtless be made. Let the same attention be paid to the state of religion and morals. Let every species of vice and every licentious sentiment be discountenanced—be treated with abhorrence—Let virtue and piety be encouraged and cherished—Let the means of religion be honored and supported. Thus only can our social happiness be maintained; thus only can we hope, it will descend to our posterity.

The progress of arts naturally reminds us of the importance of revelation.

The acquisition of these is left to human experience and invention. Hence they are more perfect in the present, than they were in preceding ages. But to instruct us in moral duties and in our relations to the invisible world, God has given us a Revelation, and this he has communicated to us by men inspired with his own spirit, and by his son send down from Heaven. Some arts, known in one age, have been lost in succeeding ages. If we attentively read the book of Job, we shall find, that in his day, the arts, among the Arabians, had risen to a degree of perfection, of which some following ages could not boast. But the revelation, which God has given us, he has taken effectual care to preserve, so far that no part of it is lost to the world.

Now say, Why has God given a revelation to instruct us in the truths and duties of religion, and none to instruct us in the husbandry, astronomy, mathematics and mechanics? May we not hence conclude, that religion is a matter which demands our principal attention?

If a number of men should combine to exterminate the arts, who would not deem them enemies to mankind? Who would no rise to oppose so nefarious a design?—But these would be harmless men compared with the malignant enemies of revelation. Yet the latter may talk and write; and hundreds may attend to, and smile at their talk, and may read and circulate their writings; and few seem concerned for the consequences. Yea, some will scoffingly say, “If religion is from God, let him take care to preserve it;” as if they thought, none were bound to practice it, and none but God had any interest in it.

While we contemplate the progress of arts, we are led to believe a future state existence.

If this world was made for man, certainly man was not made merely for this world, but for a more exalted sphere. We have capacities which nothing earthly can fill—desires which nothing temporary can satisfy. This rational mind can contemplate the earth and the heavens—can look back to its earliest existence and forward to distant ages—can invent new arts—can improve on the inventions of others, and on its own experience—can devise and accomplish works, which would have been incredible to preceding ages—can make progress in science far beyond what the present short term of existence will allow. Its wishes hopes and prospects are boundless and eternal. There is certainly another state, in which it may expand to its full dimensions, rise to its just perfection, and reach the summit of its hopes and prospects…o, my soul, what is wealth or honor, a mass of earth or a gilded title to such a being as thou art, who canst contemplate the glorious Creator, partake of his divine nature and rejoice forever in his favor? The inhabitants of the earth, like travelers on the bridge, appear, pass away and are gone from our sight. They enter on the stage, make a few turns, speak a few words, step off, and are heard and seen no more! Their places are filled by others, as transient as they. How vast is the number of mortals, who in one age only, make their appearance and disappearance on this globe? Can we imagine, that these millions of moral and rational beings, who, from age to age, tread the earth, and then are called away, crop into eternal oblivion? As well may we suppose, that the successive travelers on that Bridge terminate their existence there. This surely is a probationary state. Here we are to prepare for a glorious immortality. For such a design the world is well adapted. Here God makes known his character and will, dispenses a thousand blessings, mingles some necessary afflictions with them, calls us to various services, puts our love and obedience to some trials, gives opportunity for the exercise of humility, gratitude, benevolence, meekness and contentment, and proves us for a time, that in the end he may do us good.

This world has every appearance of a probationary state—that it really is such, revelation fully assures us. Happy is our privilege in the enjoyment of a revelation, which instructs us, what beings we are, for what end e were created, what is our duty here, and what is the state before us.

God manifests himself to us in the frame of our bodies, in the faculties of our minds, in the wonders of his creation, in the wisdom of his providence, in the supply of our wants, and the success of our labors; but more fully in the communications of his word. Into our world he has sent his own Son, who, having assumed our nature, dwelt among mortals, taught them, by his doctrines and example, how they ought to walk and to please God, opened to them the plan of divine mercy, purchased for them a glorious immortality, and prepared a new and living way into mansions of eternal bliss.

Let us gratefully acknowledge and assiduously improve our moral and religious advantages; regard this life, as it is, a short term of trial for endless felicity and fullness of joy; and while we remain pilgrims here on earth, walk as expectants of the heavenly world.

Let us be fellow helpers to the kingdom of God. That is a kingdom of perfect benevolence. To prepare for that state, we must begin the exercise of benevolence in this. God is the great pattern of goodness. Our glory is to be like him. We then shew ourselves to be like him, to be his children and heirs of an inheritance in his kingdom, when we love our enemies, relieve the miserable, encourage virtue and righteousness, and promote the common happiness within the humble sphere of our activity and influence.

How active and enterprising are many in the present day, to facilitate an intercourse between different parts of the country by preparing smooth roads in rough places, by stretching Bridges over dangerous streams, and by opening canals around rapid falls, and through inland towns?—Their motives, we trust, are honorable; but whatever be their motives, they are advancing the interest and prosperity of their country. May all these works be a prelude to works more pious and more extensively beneficent. May the time soon come, when an equal zeal shall appear to remove all impediments, which lie in the way of a general spread of the gospel and a general conversion of mankind to the Christian faith. May the public spirit, which operates so successfully in the former cause, rise and expand until it ardently embraces the latter. May we soon hear a voice, crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make strait in the desert a high way for our God. Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling blocks out of the way of his people.” And may we see thousands and thousands promptly obeying the call. “Then shall every valley be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; the crooked shall be made strait, and the rough ways shall be made smooth. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”



1. Captain Amos Snow, of Ashford, Connecticut.

Sermon – Moral View of Rail Roads – 1851

sermon-moral-view-of-rail-roads-1851Samuel Clark Aiken (1791-1879) was born in Windham, Vermont. He became the first permanent pastor of Cleveland, Ohio’s well-known Old Stone Church (also known as First Presbyterian Church) in 1835; and pastored there until his retirement in 1861. Rev. Aiken was also an outstanding civic leader in Cleveland.

He preached several notable sermons including Theatrical Exhibitions (1836) and The Laws of Ohio in Respect to the Colored People, Shown to be Unequal, Unjust and Unconstitutional (1845).

Among the audience members for Aiken’s Moral View of Rail Roads discourse were the Ohio Governor, Speakers of the House and Senate, the presidents of two railroad companies, the mayors of Columbus and Cleveland, and others. In his discourse, Rev. Aiken cultivates a Christian worldview in his audience by presenting both a Biblical and historical context for transportation.

Moral View of Rail Roads

A Discourse, Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 23, 1851
On the Occasion of the Opening Of the Cleveland and Columbus Rail Road 1

By Rev. S. C. Aiken, D.D., Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.

Naham 2:4
The chariots shall rage in the streets: they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.

On reading this verse, one might naturally suppose that the prophet lived in the days of rail roads and Locomotives: But it was not so. His chariots of lightning were chariots of War armed and sent forth by the King of Babylon, to effect the conquest and ruin of the city of Nineveh. From the passage however, I shall take occasion to speak, not of war, which has proved such a curse to the world, and yet, has often been overruled for good but of the development and progress of a new power, which, we trust, is destined to supersede war and to introduce into our world, a new order of things, which seems to betoken the rapid fulfillment of prophecy: “Behold, I create new Heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind: “In the wilderness shall waters break out and streams in the desert  and a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The Way of Holiness.”

This prophecy, reminds me of an occasion similar to the one, that has called so many strangers to our city: when, on the opening of the Erie Canal, it was my privilege, on the Lord’s-Day, to address De Witt Clinton, and the Commissioners, in grateful recognition of the beneficent Providence, which had carried them on to the completion of a work, deemed chimerical by some and impolitic by others: but which has proved a highway for commerce, and made many a wilderness and solitary place to blossom as the rose.

In a moral and religious point of view, as well as social and commercial, to me, there is something interesting, solemn, and grand in the opening of a great thoroughfare. There is sublimity about itindicating not only march of mind and a higher type of society, but the evolution of divine purposes, infinite, eternal connecting social revolutions with the progress of Christianity and the coming reign of Christ.

To overlook such an event to view it only in its earthly relations, would be to overlook a movement of Providence, bearing directly upon the great interests of morality, and religion the weal or woe of our country, and of unborn millions. It is the duty of Christians, and especially of Christian ministers, to watch the signs of the times to see God, and lead the people to see Him, in all the affairs of the world, whether commercial, political or religious, in the varied aspects, in which He is presented to our view in His word.

The history of roads is one of the best commentaries upon the intellectual and social state of society. Of course, it will not become the time and place, to go into it any further than is needful as preliminary to my subject.

A road is a symbol of civilization the want of it, a symbol of barbarism. By its condition we may ascertain, with considerable accuracy, the degree of the one or of the other. “Let us travel,” says the Abbe Raynal, “over all the countries of the earth, and wherever we shall find no facilities of traveling from city to town, and from a village to a hamlet, we may pronounce the people to be barbarous.” The government is weak the inhabitants poor and ignorant. The road, then, is a physical index of the condition and character of any age or nation. Viewed from this standpoint, its history may correct one of our errors, and lead us to see, that we are not quite so far in advance of antiquity, as we are apt to imagine.

If we look back to the earliest period of the world, of which we have any record, we find that roads were the dividing line between civilization and barbarism. The first country, of which we have any definite knowledge, distinguished for the arts and sciences, was Egypt. Could we read its lost history, we should see that under the reign of its Pharaohs, it rose to a pitch of civilization and grandeur of which, probably, we have no conception. This fact is indicated by its pyramids and magnificent remains, which clearly show its former glory. If Thebes had its hundred gates, it is likely, that it had also its paved and spacious avenues leading from it into every part of the kingdom, on which the chariots of its kings and nobles rolled in splendor.

Nor was the Jewish commonwealth without its roads, constructed in the most durable manner, under the reign of Solomon. Those leading to and from the cities of refuge, have probably never been excelled. But in the uncivilized surrounding nations, we hear nothing of roads.

Mark also the Roman empire at the period of its highest prosperity and grandeur. The famous “Appian Way,” celebrated by Horace, built three hundred years before Christ, remains of which are still visible after the lapse of more than twenty centuries, is familiar to every reader of history. Two-thirds of it, from Capua to Brundusium, were built by Julius Caesar and formed one of the most splendid memorials of that Emperor’s reign. Its entire length was nearly four hundred miles graded so far as practicable to a level paved with hewn stone in the form of hexagonal blocks, laid in durable cement with a surface spacious and smooth. Besides this, there were other roads, constructed by different emperors, such as the Salernian, Flaminian, Ostian, and Triumphal, leading from the capital one of which extended four thousand miles, from Antioch on the north, to Scotland on the south at one place tunneling a mountain of rock, 2 at another, stretching over ravines and rivers by bridges and aqueducts, interrupted only by the English channel and the Hellespont.

Nor were the Romans so greatly behind us as to speed. History records the fact, that “one Cesarius went post from Antioch to Constantinople – six hundred and sixty-five miles – in less than six days. The modern traveler in his rail-car smiles at the statement; but he forgets, that the Roman horse was neither fire nor steam, and that he is indebted for his speed to the discovery of a new and wonderful power of which the ancients knew nothing.

Now turn and consider the old Saxons. Look at the Feudal age of comparative barbarism, when each community or county had its Baron and castle, built upon inaccessible rocks; – when the people dwelt in walled cities, with sentinels upon the towers; – when there were no roads – no wheeled vehicles, except a few, and those of the most cumbersome kind; – when the mode of travel was on foot or horseback, through fields and streams and forests. Then it was, that the arts, sciences, and religion were at a dead stand. There were no ducts for commerce – no life or motion. Day and night, the people lived in fear of robbers, and their only hope of safety lay in having no intercourse with one another, nor with distant neighborhoods and provinces. So it has always been. So it is now. Point me to a country where there are no roads, and I will point you to one where all things are stagnant – where there is no commerce except on a limited scale – no religion, except a dead formality – no learning, except the scholastic and unprofitable. A road is a sign of motion and progress – a sign the people are living and not dead. If there is intercourse, social or commercial, there is activity; “advancement is going on – new ideas and hopes are rising. All creative action, whether in government, industry, thought, or religion, creates roads,” and roads create action.

To an inquisitive mind, it is extremely interesting and instructive to mark the progress of mechanical invention. To one accustomed to trace effects to their causes, it is more than interesting. He sees something besides human agency at work in the provision of materials – in the adaptation of means to ends – in the wisdom, order, and regularity of general laws, which the practical mechanic has learnt to accommodate to his own purposes. But he is not the originator of those laws, nor of the materials on which he operates. He has discovered that certain agents will serve particular ends. Of these agents he skillfully avails himself, and the result he aimed at is produced.

The elements of water-power have been in existence since the world was made; and yet, there doubtless was a time when there was no waterwheel applied to a dashing current, to propel machinery. Why did not the human mind grasp at once the simple law, and dispense with animal power to grind meal for daily bread? On the principles of philosophy, this question is not so easily answered. To say that mind is slow in its development, does not solve the difficulty. From the earliest ages, it has accomplished wonders in the arts. It has built cities and pyramids – aqueducts and canals – calculated eclipses and established great principles in science.

The truth is, there is a providence in mechanical invention as well as in all the affairs of men. And when God has purposes to accomplish by this invention, he arouses some active spirit to search for the laws already in existence, and to arrange the materials with reference to the end.

In past ages, for all practical purposes, the world has done well enough with the mechanical powers it possessed. The water-wheel has moved the machinery attached to it. The stagecoach has trundled its passengers along, contented and happy with the slow pace, though not always convenient or comfortable, because they had no better mode of conveyance. The merchant has cheerfully committed his goods to the sail boat, because he knew of no more powerful agent than the winds. But the human mind has received a new impulse. It is waked up to unwonted energy. It is filled with the great idea of progress. It is leaving the things that are behind, and pressing onward.

Nothing has contributed more to wake up the mind from its sleep of ages – to draw out its powers and to set it on the track of discovery, than the invention of the steam engine. This event occurred about eighty years since, and the name of the inventor is inscribed on the tablet of immortality. It was no freak of chance – no random thought of the human intellect, unaided by that Infinite Intelligence, at whose disposal is all matter and mind; and who, in his own time and way, makes them subserve his own purposes. Was Bezaleel raised up by God and filled with wisdom “to devise cunning work – to work in gold and silver and brass” – to aid Moses in building the tabernacle? Was Hiram afterward endowed with great mechanical skill in the erection of Solomon’s temple? So was Watt. God raised him up to invent the steam-engine; and, when “he gave it to mankind in the form in which it is now employed for countless uses, it was as if God had sent into the world a legion of strong angels to toil for man in a thousand forms of drudgery, and to accomplish for man a thousand achievements which human hands could never have accomplished, even with the aid of such powers of nature as were previously known and mastered. The earth with the steam engine in it, and with all the capabilities which belong to that mighty instrument for aiding the industry and multiplying the comforts of mankind, is a new earth; – far better fitted in its physical arrangements for the universal establishment of the kingdom of
Christ, or in other words, for the universal prevalence of knowledge, liberty, righteousness, peace, and salvation.”

The application of steam, as a mechanical power, to locomotion on land and water, forms a new era in invention, and in the history of the world. Twenty years ago, the first successful experiment with the locomotive, was made between Liverpool and Manchester. Now, we can hardly compute the number of railways. Forty-three years ago the Hudson was first successfully navigated by a steamer. In the summer of 1838 the Atlantic ocean was crossed for the first time by vessels exclusively propelled by steam power. Now look at the progress. The steamer ploughs our navigable rivers – our great lakes – our coasts; – and asserts its supremacy over all other craft, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and from the Atlantic to the Indian ocean. The changes in the moral and physical condition of our world, by means of this wonderful agency, are what no one can witness, without mingled emotions of admiration and wonder. That the hand of the Almighty is in it; that he has some good and grand design to accomplish through its instrumentality, must be evident to all who believe Him to be the moral Governor of the world. Were a new planet to start into existence, I should as soon think it the result of a fortuitous conglomeration of atoms, as to disconnect the present revolutions by steam, from the wisdom and power of God.

Some good people, I am aware, look with a suspicious eye upon the iron-horse. They fancy there is a gloomy destiny in it – a power to subvert old and established customs; – to change the laws and ordinances of God and man; – to introduce moral and political anarchy, ignorance and impiety, and to make our degenerate race more degenerate still.

Now, I am not troubled with such specters. I look for evils to be multiplied with the increase of travel. But order will reign – law will reign – religion will reign, because there will be an increase also of counteracting agents. If the effect should be the increase of wealth only, we might well pre-predict, fearful consequences. To look upon the railroad simply as an auxiliary to commerce – as a great mint for coining money; is to take but a superficial and contracted view of it. If we would contemplate it in all its bearings, we must consider it as a new and vast power, intended by Providence to act upon religion and education – upon the civilization and character of a nation in all the complicated interests of its social organism. This is a great subject, and while I have neither time nor ability to do it justice, I can see in it matter that may well employ, and will yet employ the best heads and hearts which God has bestowed on mortals. Without anticipating evils there are certain benefits to follow, which will prove more than an antidote. To name a few.

The increase of commerce and wealth is a consideration which I leave to the political economist. In no country should they be overlooked, much less in our own. Wealth is power, and when properly used, is a source of unspeakable good.

As to commerce, there are two aspects – aside from its bearing on wealth – in which I love to contemplate its connection with the railroad.

One is, as a preventive of war. This remark applies more to commerce as now conducted by steam on the ocean. It is bringing the nations together, and making them feel the sympathetic throbbings of one family heart – of one great brotherhood. Would the idea of a World’s Fair have been conceived, had it not been for steam navigation? It was a noble thought! Let the people of every tongue, and kindred, and nation from under heaven assemble. Let them gather under the same magnificent crystal palace, and through its transparent dome, raise their eyes to the same God, and feel that he has made them all of one blood, and united them, by one common tie of interest and affection, to the same father and to one another; and we may expect to hear that a motion has been made and carried by acclamation, to “beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

The other view of steam-commerce is, its tendency to unite more closely the states – bringing them into more intimate relations, and subjecting them to the influence of mutual intercourse.

Owing to emigration, we are becoming a heterogeneous people – unlike in habits, language and religion, and scattered over a vast territory, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. How States, formed out of such a population, thus widely dispersed, can be held together and consolidated, is a question vitally interesting and important. One thing is certain; it cannot be done by law, nor by military power alone. Sectional interests and jealousies will spring up against which the Constitution and brute force will form no barrier. Under circumstances so unprecedented in the history of nations, our only hope, it seems to me, lies in the general diffusion of religion and education, and in the kind and frequent intercourse which the railway is calculated to promote, – bringing distant portions of the country into the relation of neighborhoods, and thus removing sectional jealousies and animosities, and inspiring mutual confidence and affection.

It is for this reason, as well as others, I rejoice in the construction of a railroad, connecting, us I may say, with the Southern States. The influence, according to all the laws of our social being, cannot fail to be peaceful and happy. On a little better acquaintance, our brethren of the South will feel more kindly towards us, and we towards them; and, possibly, some mistakes and misapprehensions, on both sides, will be corrected and removed By means of recent intercourse with foreigners, the Chinese begin to think it doubtful whether the earth is a plane, and they in the center of it, and all upon the outside barbarians. By a law of our nature, minds in contact assimilate, and, for this reason, we hope to see good result from the intermingling of the North with the South; and, could a railroad. be extended to the Pacific, it would do more to promote union in the States – to circulate kind feelings – to establish our institutions in California, Oregon, Utah, and New Mexico, and to consolidate our glorious confederacy, than all the legislation of Congress from now until doomsday. A new and vast trade would at once spring up between the parent States and those more recently formed, also with the numerous islands of the Pacific, and with the populous regions of eastern Asia. In its tendency all legitimate commerce is peaceful and happy, because its benefits are mutual and reciprocal. Every new railway, therefore, constructed in our country, is another link in a chain of iron, binding the States together.

Another benefit. In one respect, the railroad. is a leveler, but it levels up, not down. Its tendency is to place the poor on a level with the rich, not by abolishing the distinction of property – it is no socialist – not by depressing the rich, but by elevating all to the enjoyment of equal advantages. It is like the Press. Before the art of printing, the poor had no books. Now, the possession of books is no very distinctive mark of wealth. Manufactories are leveling in the same way, by bringing to the firesides and wardrobes of the poor, articles of comfort and luxury, which once were attainable only by the rich. So with the railway The poor can travel with as much ease, rapidity and cheapness as the rich. They are not doomed, as formerly, to spend life within the limits of a parish or a city; but, can take their seat beside the millionaire, breathe the pure air of the country, recreate and recruit health and spirits in its valleys and on its mountain tops. But there are other advantages still greater.

One is the general diffusion of education. “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” The motion of the body quickens the mind. The rapid passing of objects – the active interchange of commodities in commercial intercourse, is attended with the interchange of ideas. Then, possibly, such active intercourse maybe unfavorable to education. In a passion for travel, there is danger of cultivating the senses more than the intellect. Should knowledge degenerate into mere sight-seeing and become superficial, the effect will be deplorable. But as an offset to this evil, which we hardly anticipate, we see everywhere the multiplication of schools and a disposition in the people, and especially in our rulers, to patronize and encourage education. Happily for the world, rulers are beginning to see, that they are invested with power not
for themselves, but for the people; that the interest of one is the interest of both; and, that in shaping their policy so as to advance general knowledge, industry, equal rights and privileges; they are laying a broad foundation in the intelligence and affection of the masses for permanent peace and prosperity.

In political science, this is a great advance from the old gothic notion that God made the people for the king and the king for himself. This branch of my subject I cannot close better, than in the words of an eloquent writer. Speaking of governments, he says: – “Having it for their problem to make every man as valuable as possible to himself and to his country, and becoming more and more inspired, as we may hope, by an aim so lofty, every means will be used to diffuse education, to fortify morals and favor the holy power of religion. This being done, there is no longer any danger from travel. On the contrary, the masses of society, will, by this means, be set forward continually in character and intelligence. As they run, knowledge will be increased. The roads will themselves be schools, for here they will see the great world moving, and feel themselves to be a part of it. Their narrow, local prejudices will be worn off; their superstitions forgotten. Every people will begin to understand and appreciate every other, and a common light be kindled in all bosoms.”

The effects to result from the great facilities for travel, in regard to the general interests of religion is another subject on which a large portion of community feel a deep interest. And well we may. Whatever tends to loosen the bonds that bind society together – to uproot law and order – to introduce anarchy and misrule, guilt and wretchedness.

There is one fact, however, which encourages us to hope that the influence of railways will be favorable to religion. As I have already said, they mark a new era in the world. They are destined to erect a great revolution in all the departments of society. Now, if we look back on the past half century, we see nothing but a succession of revolutions in government – in the arts and sciences – in the conditions of political and social life; and yet, where is there one that has not immediately or remotely favored the extension of Christianity – given prosperity and power to evangelical truth, and caused the heart of Christian philanthropy to beat more intensely for the happiness of universal being? On that one, I cannot place my eye. It is not in memory. It is not on record. Wrongs deep and dreadful there have been, and are still; but every attempt to perpetuate them – as is obvious to the nice observer – is working out, slowly it may be, but surely, their removal.

When railroads were first projected, it was predicted, and not without some reason, that they would demolish the Christian Sabbath. But what has been the result? So far as ascertained, I confess I see no occasion for alarm. True, this sacred season of rest, given to man by his Creator, and which his physical nature imperiously demands – being able, as has often been demonstrated, to do more labor with it than without it – is shamefully desecrated by steamers, railcars and other modes of conveyance. But, so far as railroads are concerned, experience both in this country and in England is gradually deciding favor of remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy. If correctly informed,
several lines are already discontinued and others will be. Wherever the voice of community favors it, Directors are not backward to let their men and enginery remain quiet on this day; for it is found that nothing is gained and much lost by running. All the business can be done in six days of the week; while, not only one-seventh part of the expense is saved, but the hands employed are refreshed and invigorated by rest, and better prepared with safety and fidelity to discharge their duty. Thus the evil is working out its own remedy. The truth is, the law of the Sabbath is written, not only in the Bible, but upon the constitution of man; and such are the arrangements of Providence that it cannot be violated without incurring loss. The penalty will follow, and if religion does not enforce obedience, self-interest will. All that is necessary is, to direct the attention
of considerate men to the subject, and leave it with conscience and common sense to decide. This done, I have no fears of the result.

Another thing. When a railway is managed as it should be, and as I confidently believe ours will be, it is found to be an important auxiliary to the cause of temperance. In a concern involving so great an amount of life and property, it is worse than folly to employ men who are not strictly temperate. The public expect and have a right to demand, for the sake of safety if nothing else, the most scrupulous adherence on the part of directors to the principles of temperance; in the appointment of their agents. This will inspire confidence in the traveling community, and secure patronage; and if no higher motive actuates, its influence will be good, at least upon a large class of persons necessarily connected with such an establishment.

But it is in the power of directors – and that power can be easily exercised, especially at the first start of a railroad. – to extend the healthful influence of temperance, along the whole line; – operating benignly upon the population at large, through which it passes. They can and ought to control the eating-houses and depots maintained for its accommodation; and if this be so, the prohibited use of intoxicating liquor in them, by its example, will do good to the whole state. If this wise and practicable measure be adopted, as it has been on some other roads, and with entire success, it can readily be seen how powerfully it will aid the cause of temperance. For years past, one prolific source of intemperance, has been the taverns and grog-shops upon our great thoroughfares. Persons who drank but little at home, under the excitement or fatigue of traveling, have thought it pleasant if not necessary to indulge in the intoxicating cup, especially where none but strangers could be witnesses to their delinquency. As these sources will in a great degree cease to corrupt, if others are not opened on the railroad., incalculable good will result to the public. May we not hope that the noble stand will be taken and maintained, and that our railway, so big with promise to other interests, will apply its mighty fires and forces to dry up the poisonous fountains of intemperance? It will be an achievement worthy of the age. It will reflect honor upon our State. Its example will tell upon other railroads and upon the nation. In a few years,
it will save money enough to repay the building of the road. It will scatter unnumbered blessings of contentment, peace, prosperity, and religion over our great commonwealth!

Let me, in conclusion, recall your minds to the thought already suggested; that the hand of the Almighty is concerned in the vast system of railroads. In their construction, the object of man may be commerce, convenience, pleasure, profit, or national glory. But “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” What God intends to accomplish, we are incompetent fully to determine; but we may rest assured, that he has some great and glorious object in view, and will make man’s agency in this earthly enterprise instrumental in bringing it about.

Do you think it derogatory to Him who creates worlds and guides them in their orbits, to have thing to do with railroads? Or, do you adopt the Epicurean theory, revived by the author of “Vestiges of Creation” – a work replete with palpable and enormous blunders – a work based on the principle, that God, after creating the world, left it to take care of itself, and retired into the bosom or eternity? Revelation forbids the thought. Reason forbids it. The presence and action of universal laws forbid it. Look at the wisdom, order and harmony of these laws. Look at their unity, and in that unity, see the agency of one Infinite Mind upholding and governing all. Or do you take another view of the subject less revolting to the Christian mind? Is God in nature, but not in its movements and evolutions? Is he in matter, but not in the mind that molds it? Is he in the stars, but not in the telescope, nor in the mechanic that made it? Is he in the bow in the cloud, but not in the beautiful mechanism of the eye that looks upon it? And is he in the fires of Etna, and not in the locomotive? Give me the philosophy of David, rather than that of Laplace. “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.” David looked up only to adore. Laplace never worshipped. David saw God everywhere. His boundless glory filled the universe. Laplace looked into the temple of omnipotence to scrutinize the principles of its structure, but saw nothing of “its Builder and Maker who is God.” Let us not be equally blind, unbelieving or irreverent. Let us not say, God is a spirit, infinite, omniscient, omnipresent; and yet deny him an agency in those mechanical forces destined to change the face of the world. Rather let us love and adore. Let us rejoice in the truth, that God reigns and “doeth his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”

It is this view of the subject which I love to contemplate; and it is because deeply impressed with this view of it, that it is in my heart to congratulate the President and Directors, and my fellow citizens generally, on the completion of the first railway connecting Cleveland with the Capital, and with a great inland city upon the beautiful banks of the Ohio. I feel it to be a noble achievement – worthy our state – worthy the age; and while I praise God, who has furnished the men and the means, the skill and the talent, to carry it forward, amidst toils and difficulties, to a successful termination; I must not forget to mention the only drawback upon our rejoicings.

In the prosecution of the work there was one, who from its commencement has sustained a high and honorable part in it. Of his forecast, integrity, mechanical skill, incessant toil and uncompromising energy and perseverance, I need not speak. In connection with this road, the name of Harbach will long live in our affectionate remembrance. Strange, that just as it was completed, he should drop into the tomb! But we know that active mind lives, and is active still; and who can tell the interest it may now take, viewing events in the clear light of eternity – in the wonderful developments connected with his short but useful career!

“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”

Those most useful – whose services to the world seem indispensable, are often, as was our friend, suddenly called away. Let the dispensation, mournful to us all, and especially to the bereaved partner and family, with whom we deeply sympathize, teach us, that in the midst of life we are in death; – that life is only good and great as it works out the problem of a higher destiny, in the realization of a blessed hope of immortality through Jesus Christ.

My Friends, the stirring scenes through which we are passing – the movements of which we are spectators, and in which we are actors, are great to us. And, indeed, connected with the progress of our race, and with the destiny of our country and world, they are great in reality. But another existence is before us. Other scenes are yet to open – scenes of still deeper interest – vastly different in their nature – of a higher order – spiritual, eternal; and we are all approaching them in the great railcar of time, with a speed more rapid than lightning – more irresistible than chariots of fire.

God grant, that through infinite mercy in Jesus Christ, we may be faithful in our day and generation – live to some valuable purpose – that when we reach the great depot of our earthly existence, and go out of this tabernacle, we may enter into the building of God – “An house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”


[1] For the information of persons at a distance, it may be well to say a word respecting the occasion which gave rise to this discourse. By invitation from the Common Council of Cleveland, the Legislature of Ohio, now in session, and the Common Councils of Cincinnati and Columbus were induced to unite with the citizens of Cleveland in celebrating Washington’s birthday and the opening of the Cleveland and Columbus Rail Road. Accordingly the Legislature adjourned for this purpose; and, accompanied with numerous gentlemen and ladies, the first train of cars passed over the road on the 21st inst., with entire ease and safety, and the guests remained until the Monday following. The Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, anticipating the presence of strangers on the Sabbath, had determined to speak on the absorbing topic of the day, and had intimated the same to one or two friends. It so happened, that one of our editors hearing of it, inserted his own responsibility a notice of it in his paper, which circumstance will account for the large number of strangers at the Stone Church.

[2] The under ground tunnel of Pozzuoli, near Naples, is said to have been half a league, or, in American measure, one mile and a half. The passage was cut through solid rock fifteen feet square.

Sermon – New Planet – 1847

Cyrus Augustus Bartol (1813-1900) graduated from Harvard divinity school in 1835. He was a co-pastor with Charles Lowell at the West Church in Boston in 1837 and became the sole pastor of that church in 1861.





Between the






Proverbs xvi. 11. A just weight and balance are the Lord’s.

The public attention has been lately much drawn to the discovery of a new planet, in that system of the heavenly bodies, to which our earth belongs. This remarkable fact has been the subject of many scientific comments. It may also however be regarded in various religious aspects. I know not that it has been considered in the point of view now proposed, as presenting an analogy between the material and moral universe. But this analogy is so perfect, so fixed in the principle and manner of the discovery, and leads to views so consolatory, as well as instructive, that we may profitably trace it.

“A just weight and balance are the Lord’s.” His creation is but an exact balance of worlds. Planets orderly revolving at various proportionate distances about the sun, lesser moons and satellites, in orbits as precise, moving round the planets, and the whole solar system as it were one single globe, rolling obedient to some mighty centre, which a late astronomer professes to have descried in the depths of the starry space.

For a considerable number of years, it had been supposed, that the solar system, of which our world is part, was all brought into the field of view and scientific knowledge; one bright body after another, with perhaps its attendant orbs, having revealed its station to the observer’s eye, nearer to, or farther from the sun,—from Mercury thirty-six millions of miles distant, to Herschel at the astonishing remoteness of more than eighteen hundred millions. And at length the heavenly lyre, to use a favorite figure with astronomical authors, was thought to be complete,—the planet Herschel being the last chord in this glorious harmony to the Creator’s praise. But still another note is now added, in the discovery of a new world vastly exceeding in size that appointed for our mortal dwelling. It is the principle and mode of this discovery, which I wish to note, as suggesting the analogy to which I have referred.

Le Verrier, the sagacious explorer of the celestial spheres, to whom we owe this great achievement of the age, was led into the track of the new planet, by detecting some perturbations. The perturbations of a planet are deviations or diversions from its regular separate course about the centre, which are occasioned by the attraction of other bodies. It was at first thought, these perturbations would finally derange the universe, and bring into inextricable confusion and destructive chaos that whole portion of nature in which we are placed.

But further insight into the process, by which these mighty masses of matter are drawn or driven along their glittering pathways, has shown that God’s creation is fashioned wiser than man’s fearful supposition, and that the compensations for these disturbances are so wonderfully wrought out, that the very mingling and apparent clashing of almost innumerable forces preserves the equilibrium of the whole, and, so far as we can see, will secure the stability of the universe. Of the perturbations however in question there had been no previous explanation.

But the question arose in the explorer’s mind, as through the lenses of his searching tube he gazed on that bright sphere, so long supposed to tread on the very verge and outermost circle of those stars that sing together in our little sister-band of God’s infinite family of worlds,—as he gazed and, with his armed, instructed eye, saw it tremble and sway from the line it should in obedience to the sun and its fellow travelers maintain, the question arose, what affection it could feel to make it thus lean aside; and, with a bold prudence, he judged that it must have beyond some other companion, which human eye had not yet seen. He scans these perturbed inclinations more exactly, measures their amount, ascends to their adequate cause, and though that cause still lay darkly ranging on, with to earthly vision undiscernible luster, he yet predicts its place, and course, and time of arrival into the focus of human sight. His prediction is recorded, to be entertained by some, or incredulously smiled at by others.

But lo! In due time the stranger comes as announced, to fulfill this “sure prophetic word” of the divinely inspired understanding of man; and a glorious new world swims into his telescopic view, sailing on the farthest rim of solar attraction, more than three thousand millions of miles away,—a world immense in its proportions as compared with this narrow surface of human action and passion. It comes and sets up its blue, brilliant disc in the heavens, in addition to the broad, lustrous face of Jupiter, the shining ring of Saturn, the soft beauty of Venus, and the red shield of Mars.

“A just weight and balance are the Lord’s.” I believe we may with equal justice say, as we examine the order and observe the perturbations of the moral universe. The motions and trembling and disturbances of the human heart also refer to a world beyond.

The disorders and wrongs and sufferings of human life demand a rectification and balance, as much as the swayings and wanderings of a material orb. For God is a spirit. His nature is essentially moral, and He cannot have made the moral and spiritual system of things less perfect than his outward and coarser handiwork. Let us consider, then, some of these moral perturbations, and inquire what the compensation must be.

And first, there is a perturbation of the human heart in view of death, and, so far as we can see, it is peculiar to the human heart. The animal seems to have no proper fear of death; he knows nothing of that peculiar horror with which the soul of man starts back aghast from the gulf of annihilation. That horror and perturbation belong to the human nature. It is made a part of us by the Author of our nature. It is felt not by the bad and conscience-stricken only; but by the good and self-approving also. Indeed, in proportion as faithful culture has opened the nobler faculties and expanded the better affections towards God and man, it is felt more deeply.

What, then, is it that thus draws our heart aside from the orbit of mortality, and makes it unwilling to keep true to the line that leads only to the grave? Shall we not conclude, like the astronomer, that it is another world, another system of moral being, that attracts and claims fellowship with it, and sways it up and on, over the white mark of the inscribed tombstone,—a real world, though yet unseen by human eye,—a world more glorious than the present, though no ray of it has yet actually reached us—a world that shall yet at length swim out from the darkness and distance, in which it is now kept and mysteriously involved, and when the veil of blinding flesh is taken off, and our eye purged of these mists of mortal ignorance, rush into the field of vision, and to those who doubt or believe, appear as a majestic reality?

There is a second perturbation of the human heart in view of sin. It feels that it was made for holiness, that its true nature is not (as it has been called) evil and depraved, but that it is constituted of God to love and worship and be like Him. And yet it is aware how short it falls of the noble mark. It is led away by appetite and passion, it succumbs to the power of temptation, it is wounded and sorely scarred in its enlistments in the base service of sin, and it moves but halt and slowly in the race of well-doing and virtue which its Creator ordained.

But, note and confess this fact: it is not content thus; it mourns bitterly over its backwardness; it is remorseful at its transgressions; it repents of its excesses; it calls itself an outcast, an enemy of God, yea, a thing of shame and woe, in the extravagance of its sorer mortification; and yet, notwithstanding, even in its degradation, it cries out with inextinguishable hope, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” for it feels, in the intensest experience which its consciousness reveals, that this guilty shame is not its appointed and final destiny. By the grace of God and its own conspiring it must be cleansed from these stains, whose defilement is eating into its life and destroying its peace.

It sees however the road to perfection running before it, no short, no smooth, no level pathway, but long, and rough, and interminably ascending; and if the date of mortal existence is its date, then it must fail of its destiny: aye, in its best, purest development,—in the most perfect of men, it is still short of the mark, as they, especially, with an honest sadness confess. Yes, if that quiet enclosure of the body’s resting-place, with its thick-strewn hillocks, over which the shadows play from the rustling leaves and creaking boughs of the trees,—if that be the term of all,—then there is a perturbation of the human heart, for which no compensation exists,—then there is a break in the order of Divine workmanship,—then the moral world is ajar and unbalanced, while the material world, in all its parts and systems, rolls on and sings, as it shines, in everlasting harmony,—then the heavy clouds of the narrow pit press down, not upon an exhausted and decaying organization merely, but upon the untimely interruption, upon the unaccountable failure, upon the miserable wreck of the finer and spiritual fabrics, the vessels of an excelling honor, launched on their career with the strongest and most determined impulse of the hand of Omnipotence; launched with yet loftier and farther reaching aims than those lustrous globes sailing on their eternal voyage through the heavens. But no! the very thoughts refuse to pursue the absurd and impious hypothesis. “A just weight and balance are the Lord’s.” And the moral explorer of God’s works, as well as the material, concludes upon the existence of another world,—though yet unseen by actual vision, another world to balance and complete the present. Does it not indeed lie off there in the depths of his power, held aloft steadily by His Almightiness, even as the sparkling sphere that rides inconceivably remote along its sure but trackless way through measureless space to adjust and finish the balance of the material creation?

Yes, thou swift traveller through the unfathomable deeps,—untraceable but by the wondrously marking pencil of science,—one of the morning stars that sang together over the fastened foundations and laid corner-stone of earth!—thou teachest me a lesson of my Maker’s justice, as rounding every mass, and with his plummet ruling every motion, and speeding along every imponderable beam of material splendor, to make His boundless universe perfect as a diamond-scale through all its vastness, finished exactly to the finest stroke and particle: and justice stopping?—oh no, not stopping in its marvelous quality and matchless workmanship there, but running on with equity as infallible into the moral world, into the soul of man. Thou seemest to speak with a never before perceived utterance, and from thy high post and divine watch-tower, (as though that were the purpose of thy discovery,) to declare that there is a spiritual eternity corresponding to the material infinity; that man’s observations and conceptions are not baseless illusions, but the figures and shadows of a transcendent and now incomprehensible reality; a reality not less but greater than our most enlarged and glowing fancy. And though mute, save in reason’s ear, thou dost prophesy to the faithful struggler with sin and temptation here, a suture freedom from these disturbances in a world to come!

There is one more perturbation of the human heart in the view of sorrow. Linked together by the strong and various affections of life, we might be almost indisposed to look beyond the revolutions of this earthly scene. But if we are tempted to feel thus, the severing of the links in the sweet chain of domestic and social love, and the disappearance of the objects to which our whole being tended, soon comes to disturb this worldly orbit in which we have moved, and then our hearts sway from the earthly line, and go in search of the beloved. They are still affected by those objects though invisible; and, with yearning desire, they feel after them, if haply they may find them. As even heathen fable represents men as penetrating to the shades below in search of those dear to them, so the heart, educated in a better school, soars into the brightness above after the forms of the departed. It is never quite at rest in this lower atmosphere after their removal. It forsakes its ordinary path of action, and diverges from its habitual track of meditation. It veers from its present ecliptic of being, however clear and sunny that earthly ecliptic may be. It feels the perturbation of sorrow! And is it a causeless and unmeaning perturbation, referring to no substance, but excited in us by the Author of our frame for our mere mockery, baffling, and torment? Is there nothing but a blank, rayless void beyond corresponding to it? Oh no—these beating and sorrow-perturbed hearts before me cry out, Not so! There is a world there, a world of splendor, an inhabited and social world, a world larger and more comprehensive than ours, a more spacious mansion in our Father’s great house—our home—and for all the faithful, Death, God’s angel, but waiting to open the door.

Oh, Death, even as we gaze at the clay-cold ruins thou haste made, we feel it is so. As we trace the surviving influence of the disinterested and good, we feel it is so. Truly may it be said of the “loved, revered and honored head” which thou takest, that, even as it lies low and still upon the bier, “thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious.” * * “Strike, shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the ground to sow the world with life immortal.” See, if thou canst, beyond thy dark precincts, the released spirit, from the solitary deathbed or from the whelming sea, wing its way on an endless career of excellence!

From the peaceful purity of private life, and even from the guilt-stained scenes of earth, come testimonies that this beating and perturbed heart of man is made for a loftier destiny.

When, on that southern field, where we are waging this deplorable war, the Mexican woman comes out with comforts in her hands for suffering friend and foe mingling together in conflict, and is shot down by a chance bullet, and the soldiers afterwards with a touched feeling suspend their deadly strife on the soil ploughed by the cannon-ball, to give her decent burial, (well reversing their arms to dig that grave!) who does not feel that the human heart, though passionate, and though polluted, is yet appointed to a greater fate beyond the dust of the valley?

Our subject suggests one reflection respecting that Christian faith, which answers our longing interrogations of the future, and confirms all our best reasonings.

It is strange that any of the spiritualizing philosophers of the day should be incredulous as to the miraculous works and resurrection of Christ,—these facts so congenially meet the mind in its loftiest flights into the regions of spiritual truth,—meet it, not to contradict, not to narrow, not to baulk, but to illuminate, to exalt, and carry on its researches. These facts are the very crown of the intellect and soul of man.

Our argument to-day has been a rational argument, suggested by nature and encouraged by Scripture. But it lands us on the firm shore of the Christian revelation. It ends at the shining sepulcher of Jesus. It brings us to his glorious ascension, not as an appearance portentous and disorderly in God’s universe, not as a history to be caviled at as monstrous, and gnawed by the tooth of a jealous, unbelieving criticism, but to be accepted, welcomed, as something most probable and natural for God to do. While our minds strive and reason, let us thank Him for this superhuman instruction on a point so momentous. Even as the observations of the astronomer turned supposition into fact in regard to the planet, so Jesus Christ has actually revealed the world which the human mind had conjectured and made calculations upon. By his works he is the verifier of man’s loftiest ideas. He has sailed across the gulf of time, and disclosed the continent of eternity; he has dispersed the mists of the grave, and unveiled the world of spirits. Human hope had earnestly longed for, human imagination had brightly pictured, human reason had almost foreshown, that unbounded continent that upper world, as the soul’s immortal habitation; but no Columbus of the earth or the heavens had actually discovered it. Jesus Christ visited its shores, and came back with the tidings of its real existence. It is no longer the bourn from which no traveller has returned. We may still trace the analogies that indicate, and make the rational calculations that predict, and draw the images in our fancy that adorn it. Yet let us not slight, but greet with grateful souls the confirmations of supernatural evidence, by which our Saviour manifests and makes it sure. The Christian does not deprecate examination of his faith. And yet, oh Doubt, and oh Scepticism, could you prove the omens of man’s immortality to be all empty and salacious, boast not your triumph!

“Let wisdom smile not on her conquered field,
No rapture dawns, no treasure is revealed,”

as you dig the pit in this universal grave of the earth’s crust, and bury all the beauty, all the goodness, all the glory of the world! Boast not, smile not, but hang the head in sorrow and shame as you tell your melancholy story. But no! these omens cannot be made hollow to the human soul. Especially that great and wondrous omen, (but the climax of an ascending series,) of our Lord’s broken tombstone, will be significant forever. It meets indeed the perturbations of the human heart, to make them quiet and peaceful. It turns those perturbations into predictions. Whether our minds are excited or unexcited, whether our reasonings are strong or feeble, whether our imaginations glow or darken, this great omen of a risen Redeemer still cheers us. For it brings that future world out of the darkness in which it had revolved, to roll in celestial splendor to every believer’s eye, and gleam with inextinguishable promise to all generations.

Sermon – Moral Uses of the Sea – 1845

Horace Bushnell (1802-1876) graduated from Yale in 1827. He taught school briefly before being qualified for the bar (1831) but decided to study theology instead and became minister of the North Congregational Church in Hartford (1833-1853). Bushnell preached this sermon on board a ship in 1845.







AT SEA, JULY, 1845.




Having been requested, in the absence of the Author, to superintend the printing of this Discourse, I venture to promise the reader no ordinary gratification and delight; and to express my admiration that a performance so full of thought, and life, and beauty, should have been thrown off, at the moment, on the ship-board.



October 13, 1845.


Genesis i. 10.—“And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: And God saw that it was good.”

Not a few have wondered why God, in creating a world for habitation of man, should have chosen to hide three-fourths of its surface under a waste of waters. Doubtless it had been as easy for him to have made it a good round ball of meadow and plough-land. The field where leviathan plays might as well have been given to the reaper: the fickle domain of waters might as well have been erected into a firm continent of land, and covered with flourishing and populous empires. Why, then, asks the inquisitive thought of man, why so great waste in the works of God? why has He ordained these great oceans, and set the habitable parts of the world thus islanded between them? Why spread out these vast regions of waste, to suppress the fruitfulness and stint the populousness of his realm?

That He has done it we know. We also know his opinion of the arrangement—God saw that it was good. This should be enough to check all presumptuous judgments and over curious questions: God has done it, and in His view it is good.

Still, if our object be not to judge God, but to instruct ourselves, the whole field is open, and we may inquire at pleasure. And now that we are out upon this field of waters, cut off from the society of man, and from all the works of God, save the waters themselves, it cannot be inappropriate to inquire, What is the meaning and use of the sea? For what beneficent end or object may we suppose the Almighty Creator to have ordained its existence?

Were this question put by the natural philosopher, he would proceed at once to show that the sea tempers the climate of the land, making the heat less intense and the cold less rigorous; that the sea is a great store-house of provisions in itself, and also of waters for the land, without which even that were unfruitful; and many other things of a like nature, all of which may be true, and yet it cannot be said, with any confidence, that God could not have tempered the climate of the land as well, and made it as fruitful, without the sea.

It is only when we look at the moral uses of the world, its uses in the discipline of mind and character, where the free will of man, if it is to be preserved in its freedom, requires that God should condescend to particular means and expedients—it is only here that we seem to grasp those imperative and momentous reasons which can be said, with most confidence, to have determined God’s arrangement in the matter we are considering. Indeed, there is a kind of impropriety in considering physical ends or causes s being, in any case, the final causes of God’s works; for to God there is, in strict reason, no final cause but virtue or moral good. To this all things are subordinate; for this all things are done. When we say that the world is made for the habitation of man, we do not mean, if we rightly understand ourselves, that it is made to contain as many men as possible, in as much of plenty and ease as possible. In that case, most manifestly, God should have made as many acres of good productive land as possible; nay, He should have made the earth as large as possible. Having it for his problem to raise the most numerous possible herd of men, He has only to enlarge his pasture. For the same reason, too, there should be no rigors of heat or of frost, no deserts, whether of sand or snow, no tempests, no fruitless seasons. Most manifestly the world is made to be the habitation of man, in some other and far different sense. Rather is it built to bless him as a moral creature, so ordered and fitted up that it shall most powerfully conduce to make him truly a man, a creature of intelligence, society, love and duty. Having this for his design, He has rather sought to limit than to extend the number of our race; for a school of virtue, you will observe, may be too large, as well as too easy, for the benefit of the pupil. Therefore, He gives us a small globe to inhabit, narrows down our field still farther by rigors of perpetual frost, and barren mountains, and oceans of water—all that He may bring us into compass and compression, and set us under the holy discipline of danger, toil and hardship; for these are the best, the only sufficient instruments of knowledge and character. To such a being as man, virtue can only be a conquest.

Prepared by views like these, let us go on to ask, What are the moral uses of the sea? Wherein does it appear to have been added for the moral benefit of the world?

I think it will appear, as we prosecute this inquiry, that the ordinance of the sea is so thoroughly interwoven with all that is of the highest interest to man—the progress of society, art, government, science and religion—in a word, all that is included in moral advancement—that, without the sea, the world could not be considered a fit habitation for man. Nor will it be difficult for you, I trust, to believe that when the Almighty smiled upon the waters and the land, and pronounced them good, He had some especial reference to the moral benefit of that being whose residence He was preparing.

One great problem of God, in building a school for man, was, how to distribute the school; for it is manifest that no one government, or society, could fill and occupy the whole domain—certainly not, without producing indefinite confusion and oppression, and sacrificing many of the most powerful stimulants to energy and advancement of every sort. Neither could it be done, without exalting the throne or governing power to such a pitch of eminence as would probably attract the religious homage of mankind, and set it at the head of a universal Lamaism. But if the world is to be distributed into nations, or kingdoms, which are likely to be always jealous of each other and sometimes hostile, they need to be separated by natural barriers, such as will prevent strife by circling them within definite boundaries, and, when they are in actual strife, will fortify them against destruction one from the other. This is effected, in part, by interposing mountains n driers, but more effectually, and on a larger scale, by spreading seas and oceans between them. These great bodies of water can be passed more easily for purposes of convenience than for those of destruction. Indeed, it is impossible for whole nations to pour across them for purposes of invasion, as across a mere geographical line. Nature is here the grand distributor and fortifier of nations. She draws her circle of waters, not around some castle or fortified citadel of art, but around whole nations themselves. Then it is within these fortified circles of nature, that nations are to unfold their power and have their advancement. Such was Greece, cut off from all the world by boundaries of rock and water, which no Xerxes with his invading army could effectually pass; having, at the same time, enough of strife and struggle within to keep her on the alert and waken all her powers to vigorous exercise. Such is England now. England, for so many ages past he foremost light of Europe, the bulwark of law, the great temple of religion, could never have been what it is, or anything but the skirt of some nation comparatively undistinguished, had not the Almighty drawn his circle of waters around it, and girded it with strength, to be the right hand of his power. It is the boundaries of nations, too, that give them locality and settle those historic associations which are the conscious life of society and the source of all great and high emotions; otherwise they fly to perpetual vagrancy and dissipation—there is no settlement, no sense of place or compassion, and, as nothing takes root, nothing grows. Thus the ancient Scythian, roaming over the vast levels of the north, is succeeded by the modern Tartar; both equally wild and uncultivated—the father of three thousand years ago and the son of today.

Again it will be found that the oceans and seas have sometimes contributed, beyond all power of estimation, to the moral and social advancement of the race, by separating one part of the world even from the knowledge of another, and preserving it for discovery and occupation at an advanced period of history. Had the territory of the United States been conjoined to the eastern shore of Asia, or the western of Europe, or had there been no oceans interposed to break the continuous circle of land, it is obvious that the old and worn-out forms of civilization would have wanted a spur to reform and improvement that is now supplied. When, at length, the New World was discovered, then was man called out, as it were, to begin again. The trammels of ancient society and custom, which no mere human power could burst, were burst by the fiat of Providence, and man went forth to try his fortunes once more, carrying with him all the advantages of a previous experience. I set up for the United States no invidious claim of precedence. We acknowledge our rawness and obscurity, in comparison with the splendor and high refinement of more ancient nations. We only claim it as our good fortune that we are a new nation, peopled by men of a new world, who had new principles to be tested, for the common benefit of mankind. As such the eye of the world is upon us, and has been for many years. The great thought of our institutions—the happiness and elevation of the individual man—is gradually and silently working its way into all the old fabrics of legitimacy in Christendom, and compelling the homage of power in all its high places. Whatever motion there has been in European affairs for the last half century—all the mitigations of law, the dynasties subverted, the constitutions conceded, the enlarged liberty of conscience and the press, popular education—everything that goes to make society beneficent—has been instigated, more or less directly, by the great idea that is embodied and represented in the institutions of the United States. This same great idea, the well-being and character of the individual man, has been brought forth, too, to offer itself to the world, just at the right time. Without it, we may well doubt whether the institutions of Europe had not come to their limit, beyond which they had not, in themselves, any power of advancement. Had it come earlier, Europe was not ready for it. The immense advantage that is thus to accrue to mankind, as regards the great interests of truth, society and religious virtue, from the fact that our Western Hemisphere was kept hidden for so many ages, beyond an impassible ocean, to be opened, in due time, for the planting and propagation of new ideas, otherwise destined to perish, no mind can estimate. Nor is this process of planting yet exhausted. There are islands in the Southern Oceans larger than England, that are yet to become seats of power and of empire, and possibly to shine as lights of Antarctic history eclipsing those of the north; or, if not eclipsing, giving to all the northern climes, both of the Eastern and Western Worlds, the experiment of new principles, needful to their progress and happiness.

But it is another and yet more impressive view of the moral utility of seas and oceans, that, while they have a disconnecting power operating in the ways first specified, they have at the same time a connecting power, bringing all regions and climes into correspondence and commercial interchange. Fortified by oceans and seas against injury from each other, they are yet united by the same for purposes of mutual benefit. Were there no seas, were the globe covered by a continuous sheet of land, how different the history of the past from what it has been! How different the moral and intellectual state of human society from what it now is! There being no medium of commerce, save that of land travel, no intercourse could exist between nations remote from each other. They would know each other only by a kind of tradition, as now we know the past. Tradition, too, in its long and uncertain transit across the longitude of the world, would clothe itself in fable, and we, instead of being made to feel the common brotherhood of man as now, should probably be fast in the belief that the opposite hemisphere of the world is peopled by giants, Centaurs, Anthropophagi, and such-like fabulous monsters. There would, of course, be no commerce, except between nations that are adjacent; and society, being life without motion or stimulus, would rot itself down into irredeemable bigotry and decrepitude. God would not have it so. On the ocean, which is the broad public highway of the Almighty, nations pass and re-pass, visit and revisit each other, and those which are remote as freely as those which are near. And it is this fluid element that gives fluidity and progress to the institutions and opinions of the race. It is only in the great inland regions of the world, as in Central Africa and Asia, that bigotry and inveterate custom have their seat. In these vast regions that never saw the sea, regions remote from the visits of commerce and the moving world, men have lived from age to age without progress, or the idea of progress, crushed under their despotisms, held fast in the chains of indomitable superstition, rooted down like their trees, and motionless as their mountains. In the mean time, the shores and islands of the world have felt the pulse of human society, and yielded themselves to progress. It is, in a word, this fluid sea, on whose bosom the free winds of heaven are wasting us to-day, which represents all mobility and progress in the human state. Without this interposed, the rock-based continents themselves were not more fixed than the habits and opinions of mankind. On the other hand, you will observe that the prejudices of men who live upon and by the waters are never invincible. They admit of change, somewhat by habit and association, as their element changes, and they shift their sail to the winds. Hence it was, in part, may we not believe, that our Saviour began his mission on the shores of Gennesaret, and among the boatmen there. Out of these, too, he chose his apostles, because they had the ductility requisite to receive new truths and new opinions of duty. Among them he had few prejudices to encounter, while at Jerusalem every mind was set against him with obstinacy as firm as the rocks of Zion. So it was never a Babylon, or a Timbuctoo, or any city of the inland regions, that was forward to change and improvement. But it was a Tyre, queen of the sea; a Carthage, sending out her ships, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, to Britain and the Northern Isles; an Athens, an Alexandria—these were the seats of art, and thought, and learning, and liberal improvement of every sort. So, too, it was the Italian commercial cities that broke up the dark ages, and gave the modern nations that impulse which set them forward in their career of art and social refinement, and, remotely speaking, of liberty.

The spirit of commerce, too, is the spirit of peace, its interest the interest of peace, and peace is the element of all moral progress, as war is the element of all barbarism and desolation. Every ship that sails the ocean is a pledge for peace to the extent of its value—every sail a more appropriate symbol of peace than the olive-branch itself. Commerce, too, has at length changed the relative position of nations. Once upon a footing of barbarism, they are now placed on a footing of friendship and civilization. In the most splendid days of Athens, piracy was a trade, not a crime; for it was the opinion that nations are naturally hostile, and will, of course, prey upon each other. But now, at length, commerce has created for itself a great system of international and commercial law, which, to a certain extent, makes one empire of all the nations, maintaining the rights of person and property, when abroad upon the ocean, or in other lands, as carefully and efficiently as if there were but one nation or people on the globe. Search the history of man, from the beginning till now, you will find among all the arts, inventions and institutions of the race, no one so beneficent, none that reveals so broad a stride of progress, as this. And it promises yet to go on, extending its sway, till it has given rules to all the conduct of nations, provided redress for all injuries, and thus lawed out forever all war from the earth.

The nations engaged in commerce will, of course, be the most forward nations. In perpetual intercourse with each other, they will ever be adopting the inventions, copying the good institutions, and rectifying the opinions, one of another; for the man of commerce is never a bigot. He goes to buy, in other nations, commodities that are wanted in his own. He is, therefore, in the habit of valuing what is valuable in other countries, and so, proportionally, are the people or nation that consumes the commodities of other countries. And so much is there in this, that the government, the literature, nay, even the religion of every civilized nation must receive a modifying influence from all the nations with whom it maintains an active commerce. In opinions, literature, arts, laws—nay, in everything—they must gradually approximate, till they coalesce, at last, in one and the same catholic standard of value and excellence. Commerce is itself catholic, and it seems to be the sublime purpose of God, in its appointment, to make everything else so, that, as all are of one blood, so, at last, they shall be one conscious brotherhood.

In the mean time, the nations most forward in art and civilization are approaching, by the almost omnipresent commerce they maintain, all the rude and barbarous nations of the world, carrying with them, wherever they go, all those signs of precedence by which these nations may be impressed with a sense of their backwardness, and set forward in a career of improvement. They need only be visited by the ships, or especially the steam-vessels, of European commerce, to see that they are in their childhood, and there must remain, except as they adopt the science and the institutions of European nations. What, consequently, do we behold? Not the wilds of Northern Russia only, not the islands only of the sea, becoming members of European laws, arts and manners—but the throne of Siam inquiring after the methods and truths of the West; all British India studying English, in a sense more real than the study of words; Muscat sending over to examine and copy our arts; both branches of the Mohammedan empire receiving freely, and carefully protecting, Christian travelers, and adopting, as fast as they can, the European modes of war and customs of society; China beginning to doubt whether she is indeed the Celestial Empire, and doomed, ere twenty years are gone by, to be as emulous of what is European as Egypt or Turkey now is. All this by the power of commerce. They feel our shadow cast on their weakness, and their hearts sink within them, as if they had seen a people taller than they. For the same reason, too, the false gods are trembling in their seats the world over, and all the strongholds of spiritual delusion shaking to the fall. The sails of commerce are the wings of truth. Wherever it goes (and where does it not?) the power of science, and of all that belongs to cultivated manhood, is felt. The universal air becomes filled with new ideas, and man looks out from the prison of darkness in which he has been lying, chained and blinded, sees a dawn arising on the hills, and feels the morning-breath of truth and liberty.

What I have said, thus far, is not so distinctively religious as some might expect in a Christian discourse. But you will observe that all which I have said, in this general way, of human advancement, as connected with the uses of the sea, involves religious advancement, both as regards knowledge and character. All the advancement, too, of which I have spoken, is, in one view, the work of Christianity; for this it is which has given to Christendom its precedence. And it is precisely the office of the Christian faith that it shall thus elevate and bless mankind—bless them, not in their devotions only, not in their sacraments, or in passing to other worlds, but in everything that constitutes their mortal life—in society, art, science, wealth, government—all that adorns, elevates, fortifies, and purifies their being. You will also perceive that the very tone of Christian piety itself, especially where it is not tempered, as in the United States, by the presence and toleration of all varieties of faith and worship, needs to be modulated and softened by the influence of a general intercourse with mankind; for such is the narrowness of man, that even the love of Christ itself is in perpetual danger of dwindling to a mere bigot prejudice in the soul; mistaking its mere forms for substance; becoming less generous in its breadth the more intense it is in degree; and even measuring out the judgment of the world by the thimble in which its own volume and dimensions are cast. The piety of the Church can never attain to its proper power and beauty till it has become thoroughly catholic in its spirit; a result which is to be continually favored and assisted by the influence of a catholic commerce. I do, indeed, anticipate a day for man, when commerce itself shall become religious, and religion commercial; when the holy and the useful shall be blended in a common life of brotherhood and duty, comprising all the human kindred of the globe.

Such an expectation, too, is the more reasonable, when you consider that commerce is so manifestly showing herself to be the handmaid of religion, by opening, as I just now said, the way for the universal spread of Christianity. It quells the prejudices of the natives, and shames away all confidence in their gods and institutions, and then the Church of God, as the ground is cleared, or being cleared, comes in to fill the chasm that is made, by offering a better faith. What, then, do we see, but that the ocean is becoming the pathway of the Lord? He is visiting the nations, and they shake before him! The islands give up first—the continents must follow! One thing is always sure—either commerce must fold up its sails, and the ocean dry up in its bed, (which few will expect,) or else every form of idolatry and barbarous worship must cease from the world. This I say apart from all the Christian effects and instrumentalities supplied by missions; for these are as yet insignificant, compared with those mighty workings of Providence whose path is in the sea. But if these precede, those must follow. As man is a religious being, God will never undertake to rob him of a false religion without giving him a better. Neither can any Christian mind contemplate the rapid and powerful changes which, in our day, have been wrought in the practical position of the heathen nations, without believing that some great design of Providence is on foot, that promises the universal spread of the Christian faith and the spiritual redemption of all the races of mankind. “Lift up thine eyes round about and see, all they gather themselves together come unto thee! The abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee!”

The sea has yet another kind of moral and religious use, which is more direct and immediate. The liquid acres of the deep, tossing themselves evermore to the winds, and rolling their mighty anthem round the world, may be even the most valuable and productive acres God has made. Great emotions and devout affections are better fruits than corn, more precious luxuries than wine or oil. And God has built the world with a visible aim to exercise his creature with whatever is lofty in conception, holy in feeling, and filial in purpose towards himself. All the trials and storms of the land have this same object. To make the soul great, He gives us great dangers to meet, great obstacles to conquer. Deserts, famines, pestilences, walking in darkness, regions of cold and wintry snow, hail and tempest—none of these are, in his view, elements of waste and destruction, because they go to fructify the moral man. As related to the moral kingdom of God, they are engines of truth, purity, strength, and all that is great and holy in character. The sea is a productive element of the same class. What man that has ever been upon the deep has not felt his nothingness, and been humbled, for the time at least, of his pride? How many have received lessons of patience from the sea? How many here have bowed, who never bowed before, to the tremendous sovereignty of God? How many prayers, otherwise silent, have gone up, to fill the sky and circle the world, from wives and mothers, imploring his protecting presence with the husbands and sons they have trusted to the deep? It is of the greatest consequence, too, that such a being as God should have images prepared to express Him and set Him before the mind of man in all the grandeur of his attributes. These He has provided in the heavens and the sea, which are the two great images of his vastness and power; the one, remote, addressing itself to cultivated reason and science—the other, nigh, to mere sense, and physically efficient, a liquid symbol of the infinitude of God. We ourselves, upon it resting in peace or quailing with dread, as if wasted by his goodness, or tossed by the tremendous billows of his will. It is remarkable, too, how many of the best and most powerful images of God in the Scriptures are borrowed from the sea. “Canst thou by searching find out God? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.”—“Thy judgments are a great deep”—“Who shut up the sea with doors? I made the cloud the garment thereof, and brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”—“Which alone spreadeth out the heavens and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.”—“Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters.”—“The waters saw thee, O Lord, the waters saw thee; they were afraid, the depths also were troubled!” Every kind of vastness—immensity, infinity, eternity, mystery, omnipotence—has its type in the sea, and there is as much more of God in the world, for man to see and feel, as the sea can express, and as much more of worship and piety as there is of God.

Doubtless it will occur to some of you, that the moral and religious character of the seafaring race does not favor the view I have taken of the benefits accruing to mankind from the sea. This, however, is rather the fault of the land than of the water. It is here, on land, that the vices of the sea have their cause and sustenance. There is not a more open, fine-spirited race of beings on earth than the seafaring race. But when they reach the land, they are too much neglected by the good, and always surrounded by the wicked, who hasten to make them their prey. Latterly, more has been attempted for their benefit, and the results accomplished are such as cannot but surprise us. Far enough are they from hopelessness, if so great a change can be wrought in so short a time, by means so limited. Indeed, I might urge it as one of the best proofs of the mitigating and softening influence of the sea, that no dejected race of landsmen could ever have been made to show the effects of Christian effort and kindness so speedily, or by so many and fine examples of Christian character. And I fully believe that the time is at hand when all that pertains to commerce is to be sanctified by virtue and religion, as of right it should be; when the mariners will be blended with all the other worshipers on shore, in the exercise of common privileges, and as members of a common brotherhood; when the ships will have their Sabbath, and become temples of praise on the deep; when habits of temperance, and banks for saving, will secure them in thrift, and assist to give them character; when they will no more live an unconnected, isolated, and therefore reckless life, but will have their wives and children vested here and there, in some neat cottage among the hills, to be to them, when abroad, the anchor of their affections and the security of their virtue; when they will go forth, also, to distant climes and barbarous shores, with all their noble and generous traits sanctified by religion, to represent the beauty of Christ to men, and become examples of all that is good and beneficent in his Gospel. Be it ours to aid a purpose so desirable, theirs to realize it in their conduct and character.

I cannot better conclude, than by referring to a thought suggested by my text, and illustrated by my whole course of remark, viz. this: That God made the world for salvation. Even in that earliest moment, when our orb was rising out of chaos, and reeking with the moisture of a first morning, God is seen to have been studying the moral benefit and blessing of our race. He did not make the seas too large. He laid them where they should be. He swept their boundaries with his finger, in the right place. The floods lift up their voice, the floods lift up their waves, but they are not too furious or dangerous. The Lord on High is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea. God manages and guides this army of waters—every wave is in his purposes and rolls at his feet. He is over all as a God of salvation, and the field He covers with his waters He makes productive. When He called the dry land earth, and the gathering together of the waters called the seas, then had He in mind the kingdom of his Son, and the glory and happiness of a race yet uncreated. He looked—He viewed it again—He saw that it was good. And the good that He saw is the good that is coming, and to come, when the sea shall have fulfilled its moral purpose, and all kindred and people that dwell upon its shores shall respond to the ever-living anthem it raises to its Author. Then let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands, and the hills be joyful together before the Lord!

Sermon – Atlantic Telegraph – 1858

This sermon was preached by Joseph A Copp on August 8, 1858 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. It was preached to celebrate the completion of a trans-Atlantic telegraph cable between America and England on August 5, 1858.







AUGUST 8, 1858,



The Atlantic Telegraph Cable was announced from Trinity Bay, Thursday, August 5th, and on the next Sabbath morning, the 8th, was the subject of the following Discourse to a joint congregation of the Broadway and Plymouth Societies, in the Church of the former; and at the earnest request of members of both, is now given to the public.




It is said that the first telegram sent over the experimental wire of Morse, and which was expressive alike of the good taste and piety of the inventor, was the appropriate Scripture, “What hath God wrought?” A text of similar import has been selected this morning, to discourse, in the way of religious improvement, on the last and grandest achievement of the electro-telegraph.

The subject which, at the present time, justly absorbs public attention throughout Great Britain and the United States, with demonstrations of universal joy, is the union, so happily established between the two countries, by the electric cable. Incredulity may no longer doubt—fears and misgivings are at an end—the marvelous work is done! The wonders of art and practical science in the past, are as children’s work—the creations of the nursery—when compared with this.

A few years ago, the electric telegraph was a thing unknown, a thing incredible to general science; but now it has become a matter of common experience, and of every day business. But to-day we witness another step in the wonderful art, more wonderful than any of its former triumphs—the crowning miracle of all. A few days ago, what was characterized as visionary and impracticable, under natural hinderances deemed insurmountable, and what was pronounced by some eminent scientific men impossible on scientific grounds, is to-day a certain, a pleasing fact. In the face of all reasonings and fears to the contrary, behold the reality! That bold work, against which mighty nature seemed to hurl defiance—to proclaim her prohibition in tempests and stormy waves—is done! Angry ocean may foam and rage, and skeptical science may hesitate and doubt, but the cable is laid!

An epoch worthy of commemoration and thankfulness dawns on us this holy day—worthy of most religious recognition, as coming from God. Today, mother England and her American daughter, heretofore separated for nearly three hundred years of time, and nearly three thousand miles of distance, are brought to shake hands across an annihilated ocean. A proximity of communion and intimacy is henceforth established between them, like that between the sister municipalities, in the midst of which it is our privilege to live. It is true, we cannot to-day hear the bells of Old England ring out her church-going people, but we might hear, along the wonderful cable, her Christians pray and her ministers preach, and lift their pious acclamation over this new and heaven-sent bond of union between the Christian millions of the two countries. Wonderful event! As we contemplate it, the heartfelt utterance rises spontaneously to our lips, “THE LORD HATH WROUGHT THIS!” An event so wonderful in itself, and so prophetic of good to mankind, must be ascribed to the wonder-working providence of Him “who sitteth on the circle of the earth”—who “laid the foundations thereof,” and “stretched the line upon it” of a far-reaching benevolence.


The Christian cannot doubt that this interesting event, from first to last, is of God. It may indeed be the fruit of genius, courage and unwearied toil. We would gladly ascribe all honor to the inventor, an illustrious son of Massachusetts, whose work confers glory on his country and his native State. But who inspired the fortunate train of thinking, which has led to the grand result? Who put it into the heart of the immortal Morse, to begin and maintain those tedious, expensive, and often disappointed experiments, through years of neglected toil and discouraged hope, which have to-day culminated in the last—greatest wonder of the world? The scientific discoverer himself, was the first to give the glory to God. Like Bezaleel, the son of Uri, he was “filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, and in knowledge.” His soul was touched by a spark brighter than electric light—a spark of heavenly wisdom itself—and the truth burst forth upon him. In that first dispatch, which his own hand sent over the speaking wire, he demonstrated the reality of the wonderful invention, and laid its honor, at the same time, at the footstool of God.

But let us pass from a truth, which atheism alone will deny, and contemplate that particular providence under which the Ocean Telegraph was finally accomplished.

Twelve months ago, when those two mighty ships, with their escort, went forth to do a work by which continents were to be joined, universal expectation was high and sanguine. Science and skill, it was supposed, had so nearly conquered every opposing difficulty, that the enterprise could hardly fail. Great, therefore, was the public disappointment, in the disaster that terminated the expedition. A year rolls round, and all the appliances of science and toil, within the reach of human power, have done their best to correct every error and imperfection, and to perfect the arrangements for a second and successful trial.

But God, to whom belongs, and should be ascribed, the glory of the work, will teach men their weakness and dependence; will make them feel, that in an enterprise on such a magnificent scale, and of such important moral bearings, success “is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” For a great work, men must be disciplined. Nothing great is accomplished in this world by human agency, as all history will show, without a previous training. So God will teach the leading minds in this great enterprise, and an interested public looking on, that success depends on His favor, who holds the winds in his fist, and the waters in the hollow of his hand. He had planted a mighty ocean between the continents, and before this stormy barrier of six thousand years shall be forced by modern art, and yield to the embracing nations, His permission must be obtained, and the world be made to know, that He consents to the union, and smiles on the work.

Previous failure and disappointment, had somewhat cooled the ardor of expectation, and schooled the minds of men; but the work of discipline was not complete. And now comes the final trial. Prepared for every contingency, as was supposed, the ships turn their prows to mid-ocean. But the winds of heaven are let loose against them, and the angry billows threaten with destruction the daring fleet. God, who measures out the tempest for discipline, and not for destruction, restrains its violence. The ships outlive the storm. One but just survives it. With thanksgivings to God for sparing mercy, they meet at the appointed place, and, with no little despondency, begin the work assigned them. We know the unhappy issue of another, and another trial. Deeply discouraged they return to Ireland, and by the failure of the undertaking spread discouragement over the civilized world. But the enterprise for which so much of mind, and labor, and money had been expended, cannot be abandoned. At least another effort must be made, to satisfy the public, and to sustain a noble company, and if possible a sinking stock, which had become almost worthless in the market.

Under these clouds of discouragement, the cable fleet set about making their last desperate trial. It again set sail, like a forlorn hope, braving the dangers of the fatal breach. The ships, henceforth ever memorable, return to mid-ocean. They return, as the world now felt, to the closing disaster—to throw away their precious cable, seal the financial ruin of the company, and stamp the whole enterprise as a visionary, daring, and impracticable thing. All men looked with sympathy on the noble band of scientific adventurers, and naval officers, doomed to be the victims of the failure.

But another scene awaits us, in which we find an illustration of the Christian proverb, that “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” The time, ordained in the eternal counsels of wisdom, had come for success. The managing minds, the men designing and executing, were now disciplined. Science and toil had done all that was possible, and were humbled. And now it was deeply felt, and frankly acknowledged, if God be favorable, it may be done—without a special providence it must fail. And here let us turn aside, and take a look into a secret chapter of this memorable expedition. What were the feelings and encouragements of those practical men, on whom rested the executive responsibilities? Of those on board the Niagara, we can only speak with certainty. These men were rebuked and humbled by past failure, and had come to commit the great work to God in prayer. Their own complete arrangements, were less an encouragement than dependence on the blessing of God. The commander of the ship, and the chief electrician, felt so profoundly the need of God’s blessing, that they sought it through the prayers of God’s people on shore, and humbly implored it in their own state-rooms on board. They invested their undertaking with a high moral importance, rising far above scientific achievement and commercial convenience, as looking to a future of love and good will, of peace and religious benefit to mankind; and thus, purified from low aims, they were prepared to commend the undertaking to Him whose purpose it is, that all things shall so work, as finally to make purity and virtue triumphant.

It is most interesting to know, that while the world of commerce and ambition,–while bankers and philosophers, cabinets of state, and faculties of science, were contemplating the affair from their own stand-points, and in the light of their own peculiar interests and pursuits, there were others, on the land, and in the cabins of the Niagara, a chastened band, praying over it, in the serene light of philanthropy and religion.

Heaven is not unconcerned, when men of pure intentions and humble confidence, call for an exercise of grace, or interposition of Providence in behalf of a worthy object. Under the lofty impulses of religion and humanity, God has given to the soul a large liberty of asking. “Where two or three (said the Saviour) are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them;” and if these “shall agree, as touching anything they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”

Such were the circumstances of moral discipline and of dependence, under which the two ships meet and make their last splice. No human power was equal to the contingencies of the undertaking. Disappointment had prepared them for the worst; and now, having committed all to God’s holy providence, these two ships separate, and hopefully, prayerfully, but tremblingly, bid on each other farewell.

And now a great and joyful surprise is about to break upon the world. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Had it been announced the other day, as the final dispatch, that the last effort had been unsuccessful, and the cable was lost, a feeling of regret, indeed, would have followed the announcement, yet no one would have been disappointed; it was already lost in the fears of the multitude. But the time had come for the stupendous work to receive the approval of God, that man might see the divine hand in the accomplishment, and his glory in the end.

And now the surprise that has gladdened the country, and thrilled the hearts of millions in America and Great Britain, is one, under the circumstances, that points emphatically to heaven, and declares, in the language of the Psalmist, “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”


An event in which the hand of God has been visible, must of course be for good. All things, however, are providential, in that they are wisely employed or overruled, and, directly or indirectly, move forward towards a great and benevolent end. The world, and all things in it and concerning it, are subject to an almighty will, and shall work out the purpose of infinite benevolence. God’s ultimate object cannot be defeated; it will be accomplished as certainly as there is omniscience to plan, and omnipotence to execute.

But in the view of man, some things are more obviously and directly providential than others. While God is actually in all events, yet in many of them he moves invisibly and mysteriously; but in others, his agency unveils itself to a conscious and awe-struck world. Thus Job said, “I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now, mine eye seeth thee.” Is it not so in the event before us? When all hope of success, under obstacles apparently insurmountable, had been well nigh abandoned, God reveals his own arm; he holds back the winds; he calms the troubled sea; he lays, as it were, with his own hand, the slender wire over that dark and mysterious plateau, hidden for unknown ages, in the depths of ocean, “that it might take hold of the ends of the earth.”

Now what is the design of a providence so signally displayed? We may say generally, and with confidence, some good of corresponding greatness and mercy to the children of men.

First, this telegraphic cable is to be a pledge and bond of peace. Two great Christian nations of the same origin, of the same language, and embarked on the same enterprises of civilization and humanity, ought never to contend but in the noble rivalry of doing good. To contend in low, brutal, wicked war, let us believe, will henceforth be impossible to these kindred nations. They have fought their last battle, and shed the last drop of fraternal blood. The bond of an everlasting union and sympathy is laid between them; it is the cord of love, “a threefold cord, not quickly broken.” It will bind the heart of Old England with noble, fraternal beatings, to that of Young America. Along this cord of connection, will flow those moral forces which, like the processes of life, excite to combine, and, conveying a healthful influence to every part, will serve to unite in harmony and strength, the general system. Through this wonderful medium, will pass and repass the utterances of commerce, of letters, of friendship and religion. Every pulsation of business, of science, and of society along the electric chain between the millions of either land, will strengthen the amity of the countries.

Acquaintance, is the practical philosophy of forbearance and love. Experience shows, the more we understand ourselves and others, the more improbable becomes hurtful difference and vulgar contention. Nations, like individuals, need but mutual acquaintance, to discover the common advantages which flow from peace and friendship. Wars among nations, like quarrels among individuals, are blunders and mistakes. Justice and humanity, no more than true policy, forbid them in every case; and it never can be the interest of men or of nations, to disregard their claims.

Let us therefore hail the success of the great experiment, as the pledge of increasing intimacy and acquaintance, and consequently of peace and good neighborhood between nations destined to control the empire of the world. In the struggle of the past, it was the distance of the Colonies that lost them to the mother country. Their wrongs were unknown, their cries unheard, their just demands unappreciated. The mother, afar off, became indifferent, and then cruel; and the daughter rebellious, and then independent. The result, in its present form, is very well; but henceforth all contention is needless, as it would be wicked between the nations. We therefore hail the success of the Ocean Telegraphs, as closing forever the gates of Janus between kindred millions, and pledging them to a long career of peace and prosperity. Let them go on in an alliance of friendship and love, to do the work of humanity and civilization for the less favored members of the family of mankind.

But, secondly, in this event, we see an omen of promise for Christian progress. Merchants and capitalists projected the Atlantic Telegraph, with worldly views and for worldly ends. Selfishness, very likely, labored to accumulate the wealth, that first moved in the mighty enterprise; and selfishness, it may be, has employed the means and agencies that have accomplished it. But God knows how to overrule the worldly views and ends of man, and turn the plans and labors of the selfish to the account of his kingdom. Commerce builds ships for her own gains and glory, but Religion employs them to send the Bible and the Missionary to the heathen. Capitalists lay railroads, but along the iron track, Christianity and its literature, and its thousand appliances for good, travel and are diffused. The improvements of art, and the facilities of modern traffic, are the ready avenues through which the grace of God pours the riches of mercy on a sinful world. And so in the case of this sub-Atlantic Telegraph; for whatever advantage of state, of commerce, or of letters, it may be regarded and used, God will employ it for the higher purposes of religion and humanity; along it will burn many a dispatch of mercy, to quicken the pulse of Christian activity and holy love of souls, in the old or new world. Transatlantic piety and American zeal, kindled up by intercommunicate flashes, drawn from the battery of heaven itself, will be felt reciprocally and simultaneously in both hemispheres. Wonderful vehicle! Like the spinal cord in the animal system, which conveys the impressions and volitions, from the seat of intellect in the brain, to the most distant members, deciding with instantaneous precision the most remote and complicated movements; so this international spinal connection will serve to convey and multiply the impressions of the divine will, to parts at hand, and to places afar off. Over it will run the living word of Christ, with the speed of lightning, the warmth of love, and the certainty of truth, to perform its saving work on either side of the globe. It is the fulfillment of prophecy—in a significant sense, “It is the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness (of waters), Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert (of deep ocean) a highway for our God.”

Thus, science and wealth have unwittingly laid their contributions at the feet of our blessed Redeemer, to be employed in the promulgation of that saving truth, for which he lived, suffered, and died, and now liveth forever more. This grand achievement belongs to Christ,–to the glory of his kingdom and the progress of his truth we would consecrate it this day. He, to whom God has given all things, rightly claims the telegraph as his own. It is the angel of the Apocalypse, having the everlasting gospel to preach; the angel of heaven’s own lightning, hurrying with the speed of thought,–not through the clouds above, but, under depths, mysterious, profound, and awful, carrying the message of God, “Peace on earth and good will to men,” with angelic certainty and dispatch to the nations.

Thus we may rejoice to-day as Christians and philanthropists, in an event which will bring glory to God and good to man every where, and which will contribute in its future operations to that promised and long prayed for epoch, when Jesus shall reign universally, and

“His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.”

Sermon – Snow and Vapor – 1856

Cyrus Augustus Bartol (1813-1900) graduated from Harvard divinity school in 1835. He was a co-pastor with Charles Lowell at the West Church in Boston in 1837 and became the sole pastor of that church in 1861.










Ps. cxlviii. 8: “Snow and vapor.”

For many weeks, one universal object of sight, and subject of conversation, has been the snow; and as the snow is not only in the street, and in our talk, but also in the Bible, it may not be out of place in the pulpit. But some may say, What to do with religion has this frozen mist of the air, which, at certain seasons, comes to block up the ways, and make bad walking,—to chill the atmosphere, and require additional clothing for our warmth? There are those who allow themselves by it rather to be made irreligious; for they are even out of humor with the snow, and call it many hard names, as in it they walk staggering, or drive uneasily about; while not a few, I fear, will regard any attempt to give to it any thing like a spiritual meaning as the weakest play of fancy, and most superficial show of flowery rhetoric, quite unworthy the attention of a serious man. But evidently, to justify its introduction, I need only remind you that David elevates this creature of the snow into his choir of the divine praise; and, if he makes it worship, I may try to make it preach. For I would rather be of that sect which perceives a spiritual sense in every material thing, as in the mere mention in the Scripture of rain and dew, than belong to that other denomination of worldlings and skeptics, to whom nothing great or holy is suggested by the strong agencies, and fine motions, and visible spectacles, of the creation in which we live. Let the snow, then, in its extraordinary accumulation, be the burden of our discourse till we can humbly receive its religious teachings.

First, it impressively sets forth the divine power. “Snow and vapor,” the Psalmist well says; for snow is but vapor undergoing a change of structure as it passes out of one stratum of the atmosphere into another of different temperature. That by this simple law—which noiselessly turns a globule of moisture into a frosty flake, falling softly through the air, or borne as a feather before the wind—there should be gathered, from the treasure and boundless generation of the clouds, such an innumerable flock to whiten the ceiling of heaven and the floor of the world, making, north and south, the ocean-coast but one bank of spotless luster, and spreading westward till mountain and prairie are clad in the same thick, unblemished dress; that there should be marshaled such a mighty host of particles, each in itself insignificant, to hurl tempests athwart the unmeasured concave, more terrible and resistless than ten thousand armies with banners, rocking old ocean to its depths, and wrapping the earth in its winding-sheet, sifting down the closely folding, widely drifting substance so thick and copious from the sky, that, but for the “thus far and no farther” of God’s restraint, we should soon all be in our whited sepulchers, and all life of plant or animal gasp and die under the enormous load; this—shall I call it overwhelming avalanche from heaven, or light whirling of an instrument so delicate, to sweep the face of nature, and balk all the ability and mechanical contrivance of man—is surely a striking token of the Divine Almightiness. And it is good there should be such a demonstration of power, to convince us in and self-confident mortals that there is a Being at work, beside and above ourselves, for whom it wakens our acknowledgment and stirs our adoration. I know that this moving massive column, which the Creator wields, may seem like a scourge, as it stops the traveller on his journey, lays across the track its old bar, against which the fire-breathing engine—nothing else dare face—impotently frets its force away; puts out the lights that shine over the sea from the headlands, and blinds the poor sailor on the freezing deck or the stiffening shrouds; turns the deep into a gloomy pit, in which his laboring bark pitches to unknown ruin; casts away many a noble ship on the rocks, or founders her in the waves, and keeps back the precious cargo whose arrival would be wealth, and whose detention is poverty. I know well, from many a tale and many a sight, that, in alpine passes and fathomless ravines, its smooth and level look deceives and destroys the incautious wayfarer; that its huge piles slide in fury to overwhelm villages and plains in an instantaneous and unexpected grave; that it creeps in enormous glaciers, which I have seen and penetrated into and shuddered at, down the slopes, threatening the abodes of man; and shoots up into frowning peaks and mountains of ice, that, with eternal forbidding, warn him and his arts and cultivation for ever off. But all this is only material, bodily, worldly menace and harm. The exhibition of power that I speak of touches the soul, raises the heart’s ascriptions and doxologies to God, fetches men in fear and danger to the knees perhaps not bent before in supplication, or put anthems of deliverance on lips that had never sun, till David’s harp rings again, and our hymns flow with new meaning from our mouths; while, all over the land and the water, innumerable eyes, that had sought only pleasure or gain, look up trembling and grateful through the windows of heaven, thus terribly opened, to the Source of all things. And this, I say, is good: all these devotions or thanksgivings, born of the blast, are man’s best blessing in his tribute of awe to his Maker. Let the tempest come, if it will drive us to such refuge; let the hurricane blow, if it will make us pray; let the snow fall, if its descending lines are the pillars for our ascending thoughts! Tornado and gulf shall be welcome, if, tossed by the one or sinking in the other, we find out God. Business and intercourse are interrupted, you say. And is it not well, for such a diviner end, that their wheels, so fast and constant, should sometimes stop, restless creatures be brought to a stand, and a holy season instituted in the midst of the week? I pity the man, who, when the snow kept him one day from our temple, could not turn the hinderance itself into worship.

But it is not to ravage and lay waste that the storm is shaped from the clouds and precipitated upon the ground. The snow is a preacher of goodness as well as power, and has very important ministries, in the economy of nature, for human welfare. In our northern climate, it prevents the frost from penetrating so as to be fatal to the roots and seeds in the soil. While it appears to dart cold into every thing, it is but a garment to warm the ground; and, in polar regions, men resort, for protection from “the eager and nipping air,” to caves in the snow, which afford them comfort, and are the houses in which all their fatigues are refreshed and wants satisfied. In its melting, it fills the spr springs, and waters the fields, whose growth also, from its peculiar composition, it so stimulates and increases, that it has been called the fertilizer of the poor man’s farm. But what would be the richest landholder’s resources compared with its aid? All the labor and capital in the world could never compass the valuable ends it achieves. Are we dissatisfied with the snow? And do we wish it away, saying, as some do, We shall be glad when it is gone, and moving our foot impatiently as it slumps or slips in the road, and, it may be, indulging ourselves in some of those epithets and superfluous expletives of cursing or complaint, which arise always from our ignorance or folly, and express sometimes our impiety and sin? Or saying only, We are thankful at any signs of the winter’s breaking up, as though we could be thankful for nothing in the winter itself? But let us beware lest we cross our own interests, and maltreat our friends. The snow you spurn, dissolving in due time, and taking to itself wings from the air and the sunbeams, or making the clouds its chariot, may light in the flower whose fragrance you shall by and by inhale, or flow in the juices of the fruit or grain you shall relish. It shall run in the veins of the earth, or fly over the territory to infuse richness and drop fatness, producing verdure and blossoms and harvests, whose origin you may not suspect,—an unostentatious benefactor, concealing its gifts,—and, in the plenty it lavishes and the wide existence it creates and supports, atoning a million times over for the property or life which, in its assaults, it may have crushed. Useful beyond all estimate, exchanging its wintry pallor for summer glow, it unfolds the doctrine of love no less than of omnipotence.

But it were a poor treatment of the snow to stop with considerations of household economy. It is a preacher of beauty as much as of utility. Ye who love shining gems, behold it! Every particle of it is a perfect and magnificent crystal, in its momentary formation as exquisitely fashioned as the diamond which inconceivable ages are required subterraneously to mature. In its organization, it is as complete as any star that rides in the heavens, and sometimes lies in sight with a roundness and radiation as regular as the planetary sparkle and orb. Its fleece, the sudden production of nature, sent forth by God, as the Scripture says, like wool, is knit into a texture whose grace and delicacy no loom ever rivaled. Falling broad and gentle through the sky, what phenomenon is brighter, what meteor more attractive, what object more cheerful? Robing hill or alley, and, by its dazzling brightness, provoking comparison and contest even with the beauty of greenness and flowers, into which, at last, this Proteus of nature converts itself; crusting the trunks and branches of the forest, so that we are content they should exchange their garniture of waving leaves for such brilliance,—it would seem as if the Creator spread it out for a feast to the imagination, as well as, in its wondrous instrumentalities, for food to the palate; and that he would shut up joy for the heart, even in its sometimes biting and bitter quality, as he stores away the best of our happiness in the reservoirs of our pain and the discipline of his afflictive providence. Let not the vision, the beautiful apparition of the snow, be withdrawn till you observe the marvelous scenery with which it curtains this theatre of the world. How God himself must love beauty, and desire to feed with it his creatures, when he sends it not alone in softness on zephyrs, but with every fierce element and hard and cruel change in the creation!

I would never be fanciful in the thoughts or counsels of this place; but the snow has always, moreover, appeared to me a preacher of purity. Coming so clean and spotless from above, the most unstained of all things that ever reach the eye, it admonishes us of that raiment of innocence we should wear, and the immaculate purpose alone we should entertain. “Holy, holy, holy!” the angels cry to God; and this visible type seems to come down from above as the shadow of his holiness, and a lesson for our own purity. Yet how soon the snow is trodden under foot, contracts a soil, and flows in a muddy stream through the world! O “young men and maidens, old men and children,” let not your uncorrupted feeling be a cheap and common thing, to be thrown out by the wayside or trampled in the dirt! But as much of the snow, caught aloft on the pinnacles of temples or the summits of the earth, keeps its whiteness for ever, so maintain the purity of your heart.

I hope, in your thoughts, I trust in many of your deeds, you have anticipated one other point,—that the snow is a preacher of charity. It is God’s messenger to indicate the objects for your mercy and care, and awaken those humane affections in your breast which are the supreme blessing alike of those who cherish them and of those on whom they are fixed. Wherefore does the snow fall, but to direct you to ill-defended roofs, to the shivering poor, to unclad or houseless sufferers? What is its office but to summon you to supply the wants of unemployed laborers and hungry souls? What, indeed, does it immediately make of you, if you will, but a minister of Heaven’s bounty, with God’s gifts in your hands, seeking chambers where the fire has gone out and the board is unfurnished? Yes, the storm is your commission for that great and long war against human need and distress, grander than any war of man against his fellow-man. The snow is your investiture with the divine office of clothing the naked. Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, in your circles of industry, so to toil for this purpose, according to Christ’s precept. Let this cold winter itself warm our hearts to the needy! He who can sit in his comfortable room, and luxuriate at his abundant table, and fold about him his costly garments, and call for his carriage to convey him whither he lists, and be utterly deaf to the exhortation of the elements, to the command from the lowering clouds, to the charge laid upon him by darkness and ice, wind and hail, to attend to the necessities of the ragged and cold and weary and famishing,—this man may be a formal worshipper, and may pass for a respectable citizen; but he disobeys precepts writ as plain on the tables of nature as on the pages of God’s word. All God’s creatures, animate and inanimate, preach to us, as well as his book; and his creature of the snow is one of the most pathetic of his monitors, and its preaching the preaching of all duty. Its preaching, did I say?—nay, its practice, active and faithful servant that it is. In what a round of well-doing it goes! How it changes its shape to accomplish its beneficent errands! It rose distilled from the sea; it formed itself in vapor; it was congregated in the cloud; it journeyed through the sky; it descended to the ground; it has departed already, or is departing, in the circuit of the divine benignity, in currents over the earth or through the air, doing good at every step, reviving and cleansing, till it reaches again the parent ocean from which it came. What an example, in its little figure, to the soul to be diligent, never resting from the works of holiness and motions of kindness, till it, too, attain to its Source!

My friends, the snow, that now admonishes us with such lessons, will one day lie on our graves. It has fallen on the graves of many dear to us. Their mounds of earth are covered with a dress that may signify to us the white robes they wear, we trust, in glory. Would we might live such lives, that the falling snow may by and by be, over our poor mortal remains, no untrue emblem of our spirit! Oh, may it then only come from the heaven to which we have gone! May its descent remind those we leave behind us that we were as diligent in God’s service as are all the elements he makes the unconscious angels of his power and love. As they muse in memory of us, may they feel that something of the unspotted simplicity of childhood was left with us when we died, and that we have ascended where nothing that defileth can come!

C. A. B.