« PreviousContinue »
ter acquainted with the subject, but I should have the whole country for an audience; and it has been a deliberate plan of my ministry, whenever I am going to try to do anything especial for God, or humanity, or the church, to do it in such a way that the devil will always advertise it free gratis for nothing! That was the reason I gave two weeks' previous notice of my pulpit intentions. The result has been satisfactory.
Standing within those purlieus of death, under the command of the police and in their company, I was as much surprised at the people whom I missed as at the people whom I saw. I saw bankers there, and brokers there, and merchants there, and men of all classes and occupations who have leisure, there; but there was one class of persons that I missed. I looked for them all up and down the galleries, and amid the illumined gardens, and all up and down the staircases of death. I saw not one of them. I mean the hard-working classes, the laboring classes, of our great cities. You tell me they could not afford to go there. They could. Entrance, twenty-five cents. They could have gone there if they had a mind to; but the simple fact is that hard work is a friend to good morals. The men who toil from early morn until late at night when they go home are tired out, and want to sit down and rest, or to saunter out with their families along the street, or to pass into some quiet place of amusement where they will not be ashamed to take wife or daughter. The busy populations of these cities are the moral populations. I observed on the night of our exploration that the places of dissipation are chiefly supported by the men who go to business at 9 and 10 o'clock in the morning and get through at 3 and 4 in the afternoon. They have plenty of time to go to destruction in and plenty of money to buy a through ticket on the Grand Trunk Kailroad to perdition, stopping at no depot until they get to the eternal smash-up! Those are the fortunate and divinely-blessed young men who have to breakfast early and take supper late, and have the entire interregnum filled up with work that blisters the hands, and makes the legs ache and the brain weary. There is no chance for the morals of that young man who has plenty of money and no occupation. Ton may go from Central Park to the Battery, or you may go from Fulton Street Ferry, Brooklyn, out to South Bushwick, or out to Hunter's Point, or out to Gowanus, and you will not find one young man of that kind who has not already achieved his ruin, or who is not on the way thereto at the rate of sixty miles the hour. Those are not the favored and divinely-blessed young men who come and go as they will, and who have their pocketcase full of the best cigars, and who dine at Delmonico's, and who dress in the tip-top of fashion, their garments a little tighter or looser or broader striped than others, their mustaches twisted with stiffer cosmetic, and their hair redolent with costly pomatum, and have their hat set farthest over on the right ear, and who have boots fitting the foot with exquisite torture, arid who have handkerchief soaked with musk, and patchouli, and white rose, and new-mown hay, and "balm of a thousand flowers;" but those are the fortunate young men who have to work hard for a living. Give a young man plenty of wines, and plenty of cigars, and plenty of fine horses, and Satan has no anxiety about that man's coming out at his place. He ceases to watch him, only giving directions about his reception when he shall arrive at the end of the journey. If, on the night of our exploration, I had called the roll of all the laboring men of these cities, I would have received no answer, for the simple reason. they were not there to answer. I was not more surprised at the people whom I saw there than I was surprised at the people whom I missed. Oh! man, if you have an occupation by which you are wearied every night of your life, thank God, for it is the mightiest preservative against evil.
But by that time the clock of old Trinity Church was striking one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve—midnight! And with the police and two elders of my church we sat down at the table in the galleries and looked off upon the vortex of death. The music in full blast; the dance in wildest whirl; the wine foaming to the lip of the glass. Midnight on earth is midnoon in hell. All the demons of the pit were at that moment holding high carnival.. The blue calcium light suggested the burning brimstone of the pit. Seated there, at that hour, in that awful place, you ask me, as I have frequently been asked, "What were the emotions that went through your heart?" And I shall give the rest of my morning's sermon to telling you how I felt.
First of all, as at no death-bed or railroad disaster did I feel ati overwhelming sense of pity. Why were we there as Christian explorers, while those lost souls were there as participators? If they had enjoyed the same healthful and Christian surroundings which we have had all our days, and we had been thrown amid the contaminations which have destroyed them, the case would have been the reverse, and they would have been the spectators and we the actors in that awful tragedy of the damned. As I sat there I could not keep back the tears—tears of gratitude to God for his protecting grace—tears of compassion for those who had fallen so low. The difference in moral navigation had been the difference in the way the wind blew. The wind of temp* tation drove them on the rocks. The wind of God's mercy drove us out on a fair sea. There are men and women so merciless in their criticism of the fallen that you might think th<;t God had made them in an especial mold, and that they have no capacity for evil, and yet if they had been subjected to the same allurements, instead of stopping at the up-town haunts of iniquity, they would at this hour have been wallowing amid the horrors of Arch Block, or shrieking with delirium tremens in the cell of a police station. Instead of boasting over your purity and your integrity and your sobriety, you had better be thanking God for his grace, lest sometime the Lord should let you loose and you find out how much better you are than others naturally. I will take the best-tempered man in this house, the most honest man in this city, and I will venture the opinion in regard to him that, surround him with all the adequate circumstances of temptation, and the Lord let him loose, he would become a thief, a gambler, a sot, a rake, a wharfrat. Instead of boasting over our superiority, and over the fact that there is no capacity in us of evil, I would rather have for my epitaph that one word which Duncan Matthewson, the Scotch evangelist, ordered chiseled on his tombstone, the name, and the one word, "Kept."
Again: Seated in that gallery of death, and looking out on that maelstrom of iniquity, I thought to myself, "There! that young man was once the pride of the city home. Paternal care watched him; maternal love bent over him; sisterly affection surrounded him. He was once taken to the altar and consecrated in the name of the 'Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; but he went away. This very moment,0 I thought to myself, "there are hearts aching for that young man's return. Father and mother are sitting up for him." You say, "He lias a night-key, and he can get in without their help. Why do not those parents go sound to sleep?" What! Is there any sleep for parents who suspect a son is drifting up and down amid the dissipations of a great city? They may weep, they may pray, they may wring their hands, but sleep they cannot. Ah! they have done and suffered too much for that boy to give him up now. They turn up the light and look at the photograph of him when he was young and untempted. They stand at the window to see if he is coming up the street. They hear the watchman's rattle, but no sound of returning boy. I felt that night as if I could put my hand on the shoulder of that young man, and, with a voice that would sound all through those temples of sin, say to him, "Go home, young man; your father is waiting for you. Your mother is waiting for you. God is waiting for you. All heaven is waiting for you. Go home! By the tears wept * over your waywardness, by the prayers offered for your salvation, by the midnight watching over you when you had scarlet fever and diphtheria, by the blood of the Son of God, by the judgment day when you must give answer for what you have been doing here to-night, go home!" But I did not say this, lest it interfere with my work, and I waited to get on this platform, where, perhaps, instead of saving one young man, God helping me, I might save a thousand young men; and the cry of alarm which I suppressed that night, I let loose to-day in the hearing of this people.