A GOOD TIME COMING

As on some bitter cold night, while threshing our hands about to keep our thumbs from freezing, we have looked up and seen the northern lights blazing along the sky, the windows of heaven illumined at the news of some great victory, so from beyond this bitter night of abomination a brightness strikes through from the other side.

I have thought that it would be well, in these chapters on the sins of the times, to lift before you a vision of what our cities will be when the work of good men shall have been concluded and our population redeemed. I doubt not that sometimes men have shut this book, thinking that the gigantic wrongs we depict may never be discomfited. Lest you be utterly disheartened, I will show you that we fight in a war in which we will be completely victorious. This is to be no drawn battle; for, when it is done, the result will not be disputed by a man on earth, or an angel in heaven, or a devil in hell. We shall have captured every one of the strongholds of darkness. You and I will live to see the day when gambling-hells will be changed into places of Christian merchandise, and houses of sin swept and garnished for the residence of the purest home circles.

Beethoven was deaf, and could not hear the airs he composed; but when the song of universal disenthralment arises, and white Circassian stands up by the side of black Ethiopian, and tropical groves wave to the Lebanon cedars, we shall, standing somewhere, know it and see it, and hear it. If gone from earth, we will be allowed to come out on the hills and look.

We do not talk about impossibilities. We do not propose a medicine about which we have to say that it will "kill or cure." For this balm that oozes from the tree of heaven will inevitably cure.

I remark that this coming time of municipal elevation will be a time of financial prosperity. Many seem to suppose that when the world's better days come, the people will forsake their industries, and give themselves to perpetual psalm-singing, and, being all absorbed in spiritual things, will become reckless as to dress and dwelling; and very rigid laws then governing the commercial world, all enterprise and speculation will cease, and all hilarity be stricken out of the social circle. There is no warrant for such an absurd anticipation. I suppose that when society is reconstructed, where there is now, in the course of a year, one fortune made, there will be a hundred fortunes made. Every one knows that the commercial world thrives in proportion as there is confidence between man and man; and the extirpation of all double-dealing and fraud from society will increase this confidence, and hence greater prosperity. The heavy commercial disasters that have smitten this land were the work of godless speculators and infamous stock-gamblers. It is crime that is the mightiest foe to business; but when the right shall hurl back into ruin the plots of bad men, and purify the commercial code, and thunder down fraudulent establishments, and put into the hands of honest men the keys of commercial prosperity, blessed will be the bargain-makers of the city.

That will be a prosperous time, for taxes will be a mere nothing. Every style of business is taxed now to the utmost. City taxes, county taxes, State taxes, United States taxes, license taxes, manufacturing taxes, stamp taxes,—taxes! taxes! taxes! Our citizens must make a small fortune every year to meet these exactions. What hand fastens to all of our great industries this tremendous load? Crime! We have to pay the board of every man and woman who, by intemperance, is cast into the alms-house. We have to support the orphans of those who plunge themselves into their graves by beastly indulgences. We support from our pockets the large machinery of municipal government, which is vast just in proportion as the criminal proclivities of the city are great. What makes necessary hospitals, houses of refuge, police-stations, and alms-houses, the Tombs, Sing Sing, and Moyamensing?

In that good time coming there shall be no exhaustive taxation; no orphans homeless, for parents will be able to leave their children a competency; no prisons, for crime will have given place to virtue. Then the vast swindles which now, from time to time, disgrace our cities, will be unheard of. No voting of public money that, on its way to some city improvement, falls into the pockets of those who voted it. No courts of Oyer and Terminer, at vast expense to the people. No empanelling of juries to inquire into theft, arson, murder, slander, and black-mail. In that day of redemption there will be better factories, grander architecture, finer equipages, larger estates, richer opulence.

Again: when our cities are purified the churches will be multiplied, purified, and strengthened. Now, denominations, and the individuals of the different sects, are often jealous of each other. Christians are not always kindly disposed toward each other; and ministers of the gospel sometimes forget the bond of brotherhood. In that day they will be sympathetic and helpful. There may be differences of opinion and sentiment, but no acerbity, no hypercriticism, and no exclusiveness. In that day all the churches will be filled with worshippers. We have not to-day, in the cities, church-room for one-fourth of our population; and yet there is a great deal more room than the people occupy. The churches do not average an attendance of five hundred people. The vast majority do not attend public worship. But in the day of which I speak there will be enough church-room to hold all the people, and the room will be occupied. In that time what rousing songs will be sung! What earnest sermons will be preached! What fervent prayers will be offered! In these days a fashionable church is a place where, after a careful toilet, a few people come in, sit down, and what time they can get their minds off their stores, or away from the new style of hat in the seat before them, listen in silence to the minister—warranted to hit no man's sins—and to the choir, who are agreed to sing tunes that nobody knows; and, having passed away an hour in dreamy lounging, go home refreshed.

I pronounce much of what is called "church music," in our day, a mockery and a farce. Though I have neither a cultured voice nor a cultured ear, no man shall do my singing. When the storms, and the trees, and the dragons are called on to praise the Lord, I feel that I must sing, for I know more about music than do the dragons. Nothing can take the place of artistic music. The dollar that I pay to hear Parepa or Nilsson sing is far from being wasted. But, when the hymn is read, and the angels of God stoop from their thrones to bear up on their wings the praise of the great congregation, let us not drive them away with our indifference. I have preached in churches where fabulous sums of money were paid to performers, and the harmony was exquisite as any harmony that ever went up from an Academy of Music; and yet, for all the purposes of devotion, I would prefer the hearty, out-breaking song of a backwoods Methodist camp-meeting. When these fancy starveling songs get up to the gate of heaven, how do you suppose they look, standing beside the great doxologies of the glorified? Let an operatic performance, floating upward, get many hours the start, and it shall be caught and passed by the shout of the Sailors' Bethel, or the hosanna of the Sabbath-school children.

I know a church where there was no singing except that done by the choir, save one old Christian man; and they waited upon him by a committee, and asked him if he would not stop singing, for he disturbed the choir!

The day cometh when all the churches will rejoice in this department of service, rightly conducted, and when from all the great audiences of attentive worshippers will rise a multitudinous anthem.

"O God! let all the people praise thee!" Again: when the city is redeemed, the low haunts of vice and pollution will be extinguished. Mr. Etzler, of England, proposes, by the forces of tide, and wind, and wave, and sunshine, to reconstruct the world. In a book of much genius, which rushed rapidly from edition to edition, he says:—"Fellow-men: I promised to show the means of creating a paradise within ten years, where everything desirable for human life may be had by every man in superabundance, without labor and without pay; where the whole face of nature shall be changed into the most beautiful forms, and man may live in the most magnificent palaces, in all imaginable refinements of luxury, and in the most delightful gardens; where he may accomplish without labor, in one year, more than hitherto could be done in thousands of years; may level continents; sink valleys; create lakes; drain lakes and swamps, and intersect the land everywhere with beautiful canals and roads for transporting heavy loads of many thousand tons, and for travelling a thousand miles in twenty-four hours; may cover the ocean with floating islands, movable in any desired direction, with an immense power and celerity, in perfect security, and with all the comforts and luxuries; bearing gardens and palaces, with thousands of families, and provided with rivulets of sweet water; may explore the interior of the globe, and travel from pole to pole in a fortnight; provide himself with means yet unheard of for increasing his knowledge of the world, and so his intelligence; leading a life of continual happiness, of enjoyment yet unknown; free himself from almost all the evils that afflict mankind except death, and even put death far beyond the common period of human life, and, finally, render it less afflicting. From the houses to be built will be afforded the most enrapturing views to be fancied; from the galleries, from the roof, and from its turrets may be seen gardens, as far as the eye can see, full of fruits and flowers, arranged in the most beautiful order, with walks, colonnades, aqueducts, canals, ponds, plains, amphitheatres, terraces, fountains, sculptured works, pavilions, gondolas, places for public amusement, to delight the eye and fancy. All this to be done by urging the water, the wind, and the sunshine to their full development." Mr. Etzler gives plates of the machinery by which all this is to be done. He proposes the organization of a company; and says small shares of twenty dollars will be sufficient—in all from two hundred thousand to three hundred thousand dollars—to create the first establishment for a whole community, of from three to four thousand individuals. "At the end of five years we shall have a principal of two hundred millions of dollars; and so paradise will be wholly regained at the end of the tenth year."

There is more reason in this than in many of the plans proposed; but mechanical forces can never recreate the world. I shall take no shares in the large company that is proposed; my faith is that Christianity will yet make the worst street of our cities better than the best street now is.

Archimedes consumed the enemies of Syracuse by a great sun-glass. As the ships came up the harbor, the sun's rays were concentrated upon them: now the sails are wings of fire; the masts fall, and the vessels sink. So, by the great sun-glass of the Gospel, the rays of heaven will be concentred upon all the filth and unchastity and crime of our great towns, and under the heat they will blaze and expire. When the day comes that I have shown will come, suppose you that there will be any midnight brawls? any shivering mendicants, kicked off from the marble steps? any droves of unwashed, uncombed, unfed children? any blasphemers in the street? any staggering past of inebriates? No! No wine-cellars. No lager-beer saloons. No distilleries where they make the XXX. No bloated cheeks. No blood-shot eyes. No fist-battered foreheads. The grandchildren of that woman who now walks up the street with a curse, as the boys stone her, will be philanthropists, and heal the sick, and manage great commercial enterprises.

When our cities are so raised, we shall have a different style of municipal government. The great question, in regard to the execution of the law, now is: "What is popular?" Our city governments slumber—great carcasses of insufficiency, sending up their stench into the nostrils of high heaven, while there are thousands of gambling-houses, and drinking-saloons, and more places of damnable lust than the decency of the country has time to count. Do you tell me that the authorities do not know it? They do know it. All the police know it. The sheriff and his deputies know it. The aldermen know it. The mayors know it. Everybody who keeps his eyes and ears open knows it. In the name of God I impeach the municipal authorities of many of our cities, that they neglect to execute the law. You cannot charge it upon any one party. Within the past few years both parties, and all kinds of parties, have been in power; but the work has never been done. You have but to pass the City Hall, or look in upon the rooms of some of our city officials, to see to what sort of men our cities have been abandoned. Look at the swearing, bloated, sensual wretches who stand on the outside of the New York City Hall, picking their teeth, waiting for some crumbs of emolument to fall at their feet; and then tell me how far it is from New York to Sodom. Who are those wretched women sent up in the city van to the police-court, apprehended for drunkenness? They will be locked up in jail; but what will be done with the groggeries that made them drunk? Who are these men in the city-prison? That man stole a pair of shoes; that boy, one dollar from the counter; that girl snatched a purse—all villanies of less than twenty or thirty dollars' damage to the community; but for that gambler, who last night took that young man's thousand dollars—nothing! For that man who broke in upon the purity of a Christian household, and by a perfidy and adroitness that beat the strategy of hell, flung that girl into the chasm of earthly despair, from which her lost soul goes shrieking to the bottomless pit—nothing! For those who "fleeced" a young man, and induced him to filch from his employers vast sums of money, until, in his agony, he came to an officer of the church, and frantically asked what he should do—nothing!

Verily, small crimes ought to be punished; but it were more just if our authorities would turn out from our jails and penitentiaries the small villains, the petty criminals, the infantile offenders, the ten-dollar desperadoes, and fill their places with some of these monsters of abomination, who drive their roan span through our fine streets until honest men have to fly to escape being run over; and if they would turn out from their incarceration the poor girls of the town, and put in some of the magnificent ladies who cover up the sidewalk with their unpaid-for fineries, and with scornful look, in the church-aisle, pass the daughters of poverty, who with their faded dress and plain hat dare to come to worship God in the same sanctuary.

But all these wrongs shall be righted. Our streets shall hear the tramp of a regenerated multitude. Three hundred and sixty bells were rung in Moscow when the prince was married; but when righteousness and peace shall "kiss each other" in all the earth, ten thousand bells will strike the jubilee. Poverty enriched. Hunger fed. Disease cured. Crime purified. The cities saved.

THE END.