They who live in any of the American cities have a goodly heritage; and it is in no depreciation of our advantages that I speak, but because, in the very contrast with our opportunities and mission, the abominations are tenfold more abominable.
The sources from which I will bring the array of facts will be police, detective, and alms-house reports; city missionaries’ explorations, and the testimony of the abandoned and sin-blasted, who, about to take the final plunge, have staggered back just for a moment, to utter the wild shriek of their warning, and the agonizing wail of their despair.
I shall call upon you to consider the drunkenness, the stock-gambling, the rampant dishonesties, the club-houses so far as they are nefarious, the excess of fashion, the horrors of unchastity, the bad books and unclean newspapers, and the whole range of sinful amusements; and with the plough-share of truth turn up the whole field.
If we could call up the victims themselves, they would give the most impressive story. People knew not how Turner, the painter, got such vivid conceptions of a storm at sea, until they heard the story that oftentimes he had been lashed to the deck in the midst of the tempest, in order that he might study the wrath of the sea.
Those who have themselves been tossed on the wave of infamous transgressions could give us the most vivid picture of what it is to sin and to die. With hand tremulous with exhausting disease, and hardly able to get the accursed bowl to his lips—put into such a hand the pencil, and it can sketch, as can no one else, the darkness, the fire, the wild terror, the headlong pitch, and the hell of those who have surrendered themselves to iniquity. While we dare only come near the edge, and, balancing ourselves a while, look off, and our head swims, and our breath catches,—those can tell the story best who have fallen to the depths with wilder dash than glacier from the top of a Swiss cliff, and stand, in their agony, looking up for a relief that comes not, and straining their eyes for a hope that never dawns—crying, “O God!” “O God!”
It is terrible to see a lion dashing for escape against the sides of his cage; but a more awful thing it is to behold a man, caged in bad habit, trying to break out,—blood on the soul, blood on the cage.
Others may throw garlands upon Sin, picturing the overhanging fruits which drop in her pathway, and make every step graceful as the dance; but we cannot be honest without presenting it as a giant, black with the soot of the forges where eternal chains are made, and feet rotting with disease, and breath foul with plagues, and eyes glaring with woe, and locks flowing in serpent fangs, and voice from which shall rumble forth the blasphemies of the damned.