Recollections of a Long Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 241 pages of information about Recollections of a Long Life.

In taking this, my retrospective view at four-score, I have noted many heart-cheering tokens of social and religious progress, and many splendid mechanical and material inventions to make the world better and happier.  Yet I have also seen some painful symptoms of decline and deterioration.  All the changes have not been for the better; some have been decidedly for the worse.  For example, while there is an increase in the number of the Christian churches, there is a lamentably steady diminution of attendance at places of religious worship.  Careful investigation shows a constant falling off in church attendance—­both in the large towns, and in the rural districts.  In spite of the blessed influence of the Sunday School, the Young Men’s Christian Association and Christian Endeavor, there is an increasing swing of young people away from the House of God, and therefore from soul-saving influences.  The Sabbath is not as generally kept sacred as formerly.  One of the indications of this sad fact is a decrease in church attendance, and another is the enormous increase in the secular and godless Sunday newspapers.  Materialism and Mammonism work against spiritual religion, and the social customs which wealth brings are adverse to a spiritual life.  As one illustration of this a distinguished pastor said to me:  “Forty years ago my people lived plainly, were ready for earnest Christian work, and attended our devotional meetings; now they have grown rich, our work flags, and our weekly services are almost deserted.”  Half-day religion is on the increase almost everywhere.  Sporting and gambling are more rife than formerly.  What is still worse, the gambling element enters more largely into transactions of trade and traffic.  Divorces have become more easy and abundant, and, as Mr. Gladstone once said to me:  “This tends to sap one of the very foundations of society,” All these are deplorable evils to which none but a fool will shut his eyes and by which none but a coward will be frightened. God reigns, even if the devil is trying to.  The practical questions for every one of us are:  how can I become better?  How can I help to make this old sinning and sobbing world the better also?

CHAPTER XVII.

A RETROSPECT, CONTINUED.

As I look over the changes that half a century has wrought in the social life of my beloved country, I see some which awaken satisfaction—­others which are not so exhilarating.  The enormous and rapid increase of wealth is unparalleled in human history.  In my boyhood, millionaires were rare; there were hardly a score of them in any one of our cities.  The two typical rich men were Stephen Girard in Philadelphia and John Jacob Astor in New York; and their whole fortunes were not equal to the annual income of several of the rich men of to-day.  Some of our present millionaires are reservoirs of munificence, and the outflow builds churches, hospitals,

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