Page images
PDF
EPUB

"Boys and gentlemen, perhaps you would like to hear sum'at about the West, the great West, you know, where so many of our old friends are settled down and going to be great men; some of the greatest men in the great Ilepublic, Boys, that's the place for growing Congressmen, and Governors, and Presidents. Do you want to be newsboys always, and shoeblacks, and timber merchants in a small way, by selling matches? If you do, you will stay in New York; but if you don't, you will go out West and begin to be farmers; for the beginning of a farmer, my boys, is the making of a, Congressman and a President. If you want to be loafers all your days, you will hang up your caps, and play around the groceries, and join fire engine and truck companies; but if you want to be the man who will make his mark in the country, you will get up steam and go ahead. There is lots of the prairies waiting for you. You havn't any idea of what you may be yet, if you will take a bit of my advice. How do you know but if you are honest and good and industrious, you may get so much up in the ranks that you will not have a general or a judge your boss? You will be lifted on horseback when you go to take a ride on the prairies, and if you choose to go in a wagon, or on an excursion, you will find that the hard times don't touch you there, and the best of ail will be that if it is good to-day it will be better to-morrow."

Is not a lad like that worth saving? There are thousands of them in New York. God have mercy on them!

As I came down off the steps of that benevolent institution, I said, "Surely, the evils of our cities are not more wonderful than their charities." Then I started out through New Bowery, and I came to the sign of the Howard Mission, famous on earth and in heaven for the fact that through it so many Christian merchants and bankers, and philanthropists have saved multitudes of boys and girls from eternal calamity. Last summer that institution, taking some children one or two hundred miles into the country to be taken care of gratuitously for two or three weeks on farms, the train stopped at the depot, and one lad, who had never seen a green field, rushed out and gathered up the grass and the flowers, and came back and then took out a penny, his entire fortune, and handed it to the overseer, and said, "Here, take that penny and bring out more boys to see the flowers and the country." Seated on the platform of the Howard Mission that night, looking off upon these rescued children, I said within myself, "Who can estimate the reward for both worlds to these people who put their energies in such a Christ-like undertaking?" What a monument for Joseph Hoxie and Mr. Van Meter, the counselors of the institution in the past, and for A. S. Hatch and H. E. Tompkins, its advisers- at the present, and thousands of people who in giving food through that institution have fed Christ, and in donating garments have clothed Christ, and in sheltering the wandering have housed Christ! God will pursue such men and women with His mercy to the edge of the pillow on which they die, and then, on the other side of the gate, He will give them a reception that will make all heaven echo and re-echo with their deeds. But oh! how much work—herculean, yea, omnipotent work—before all this vagrancy is ended! It is an authentic statistic that in this cluster of cities there are eighty thousand people over ten years of age who cannot write their names. Then what must be the ignorance of the multitudes under that age?

But I said to the driver, "We must hasten out on Broadway, for it is just the time when all the righteous and unrighteous places of amusement will be disbanding, and we shall see the people going up and down the streets. Coming from all sides, these are the great tides of life and death. The last orchestra had played. The curtain had dropped at the end of the play. The audiences of the concerts in the churches and the academies had all dispersed, moving up and down the street. Good amusements are very good. Bad amusements are very bad. He who paints a fine picture, or who sculptures a beautiful statue, or sings a healthful song, or rouses an innocent laugh, or in any way cuts the strap of the burden of care on the world's shoulders, is a benefactor, and in the name of God I bless him; but between -XJanal street and Fourteenth street there are enough places of iniquitous amusement to keep all the world of darkness in perpetual holiday. In fifteen minutes, on any street almost ofour city,you may find enough vicious amusement to invoke all the sulphur and brimstone that overwhelmed Sodom. The more than three hundred miles of Croton water pipes underlying New York city, emptied on these polluted places, could not wash them clean! You see the people coming out flushed with the strychnine wine taken in the recesses of the programme—some of the people in companionship that insures their present and eternal discomfiture, turning off from Broadway on the narrow streets running off either side! The recording angel shivered with horror as he penned their destiny.

Looking out of the carriage, I saw a tragedy on the corner of Broadway and Houston streets. A young man, . evidently doubting as to which direction he had better take, his hat lifted high enough so you could see he had an intelligent forehead, stout chest; he had a robust development. Splendid young man; Cultured young man. Honored young man. Why did he stop there -while so many were going up and down? The fact is, that every man has a good angel and a bad angel contending for the mastery of his spirit, and there was a good angel and a bad angel struggling with that young man's soul at the corner of Broadwav and Houston streets. "Come with me," said the good angel; "I will take you home; I will spread my wing over your pillow; I will lovingly escort you all through life under supernatural protection; I will bless every cup you drink out of, every couch you rest on, every doorway you enter; I will consecrate your tears when you weep, your sweat when you toil, and at the last I will hand over your grave into the hand of the bright angel of a Christian resurrection. In answer to your father's petition and your mother's prayer, I have been sent of the Lord out of heaven to be your guardian spirit. Come with me," said the good angel in a voice of unearthly symphony. It was music like that which drops from a lute of heaven when a seraph breathes on it. "No, no," said the bad angel, "come with me; I have something better to offer; the wines I pour are from chalices of bewitching carousal; the dance I lead is over floor tessellated with unrestrained indulgences; there is no God to frown on the temples of sin where I worship. The skies are Italian. The paths I tread are through meadows, daisied and primrosed. Come with me." The young man hesitated at a time when hesitation was ruin, and the bad angel smote the good angel until it departed, spreading wings through the starlight upward and away until a door flashed open in the sky and forever the wings vanished. That was the turning point in that young man's history; for, the good angel flown, he hesitated no longer, but started on a pathway which is beautiful at the opening, but blasted at the last. The bad angel, leading the way, opened gate after gate, and at each gate the road became rougher and the sky more lurid, and what was peculiar, as the gate slammed shut it came to with a jar that indicated that it would never open. Passed each portal, there was a grinding of locks and a shoving of bolts ; and the scenery on either side the road changed from gardens to deserts, and the June air became a cutting December blast, and the bright wings of the bad angel turned to sackcloth, and the eyes of light became hollow with hopeless grief, and the fountains, that at the start had tossed with wine, poured forth bubbling tears and foaming blood, and on the right side the road there was a serpent, and the man said to the bad angel/* What is that serpent?" and the answer was, "That is the serpent of stinging remorse.'' On the left side the road there was a lion, and the man asked the bad angel, "What is that lion?" and the answer was, "That is the lion of all-devouring despair." A vulture flew through the sky, and the man asked the bad angel, "What is that vulture?" and the answer was, "That is the vulture waiting for the carcasses of the slain." And then the man began to try to pull off of him the folds of something that had wound him round and round, and he said to the bad angel, "What is it that twists me in this awful convolution?" and the answer was, "That is the worm that never dies!" And then the man said to the bad angel, "What does all this mean? I trusted in what you said at the corner of Broadway and Houston streets; I trusted it all, and why have you thus deceived me?" Then the last deception fell off the charmer, and it said, "I was sent forth from the pit to destroy your soul; I watched my chance for many a long year; when you hesitated that night on Broadway I gained my triumph; now you are here. Ha! ha! You are here. Come, now, let us fill these two chalices of fire, and drink together to darkness and woe and death. Hail! Hail!" Oh! young man, will the good angel sent forth by Christ, or the bad angel sent forth by sin, get the victory over your soul? Their wings are interlocked this moment above you, contending for your destiny, as above the Apennines, eagle and condor fight mid-sky. This hour may decide your destiny. God help you. To hesitate is to die!

« PreviousContinue »