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EARTH’S HOLOCAUST
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Once upon a time—but whether in time past or time to come, is a matter of little or no moment — this wide world had become so overburthened with an accumulation of worn-out trumpery, that the inhabitants determined to rid themselves of it by a general bonfire. The site fixed upon, at the representation of the Insurance Companies, and as being as central a spot as any other on the globe, was one of the broadest prairies of the West, where no human habitation would be endangered by the flames, and where a vast assemblage of spectators might commodiously admire the show. Having a taste for sights of this kind, and imagining, likewise, that the illumination of the bonfire might reveal some profundity of moral truth, heretofore hidden in mist or darkness, I made it convenient to journey thither and be present. At my arrival, although the heap of condemned rubbish was as yet comparatively small, the torch had already been applied. Amid that boundless plain, in the dusk of evening, like a far-off star alone in the firmament, there was merely visible one tremulous gleam, whence none could have anticipated so fierce a blaze as was destined to ensue. With every moment, however, there came foot-travellers, women holding up their aprons, men on horseback, wheelbarrows, lumbering baggage-wagons, and other vehicles great and small, and from far and near, laden with articles that were judged fit for nothing but to be burnt.

“What materials have been used to kindle the flames?” inquired I of a bystander; for I was desirous of knowing the whole process of the affair, from beginning to end.

The person whom I addressed was a grave man, fifty years old or thereabout, who had evidently come thither as a looker-on; he struck me immediately as having weighed for himself the true value of life and its circumstances, and therefore as feeling little personal interest in whatever judgment the world might form of them. Before answering my question, he looked me in the face, by the kindling light of the fire.

“Oh, some very dry combustibles,” replied he, “and extremely suitable to the purpose—no other, in fact, than yesterday’s newspapers, last month’s magazines, and last year’s withered leaves. Here, now, comes some antiquated trash, that will take fire like a handful of shavings.”

As he spoke, some rough-looking men advanced to the verge of the bonfire, and threw in, as it appeared, all the rubbish of the Herald’s Office; the blazonry of coat-armor; the crests and devices of illustrious families; pedigrees that extended back, like lines of light, into the mist of the dark ages; together with stars, garters, and embroidered collars; each of which, as paltry a bauble as it might appear to the uninstructed eye, had once possessed vast significance, and was still, in truth, reckoned among the most precious of moral or material facts, by the worshippers of the gorgeous past. Mingled with this confused heap, which was tossed into the flames by armsfull at once, were innumberable badges of knighthood; comprising those of all the European sovereignties, and Napoleon’s decoration of the Legion of Honor, the ribands of which were entangled with those of the ancient order of St. Louis. There, too, were the medals of our own society of Cincinnati, by means of which, as history tells us, an order of hereditary knights came near being constituted out of the king-quellers of the Revolution. And, besides, there were the patents of nobility of German counts and barons, Spanish grandees, and English peers, from the worm-eaten instrument signed by William the Conqueror, down to the bran-new parchment of the latest lord, who has received his honors from the fair hand of Victoria.

At sight of the dense volumes of smoke, mingled with vivid jets of flame, that gushed and eddied forth from this immense pile of earthly distinctions, the multitude of plebeian spectators set up a joyous shout, and clapt their hands with an emphasis that made the welkin echo. That was their moment of triumph, achieved after long ages, over creatures of the same clay and same spiritual infirmities, who had dared to assume the privileges due only to Heaven’s better workmanship. But now there rushed towards the blazing heap a gray-haired man, of stately presence, wearing a coat from the breast of which some star, or other badge of rank, seemed to have been forcibly wrenched away. He had not the tokens of intellectual power in his face; but still there was the demeanor—the habitual, and almost native dignity—of one who had been born to the idea of his own social superiority, and had never felt it questioned, till that moment.

“People,” cried he, gazing at the ruin of what was dearest in his eyes, with grief and wonder, but, nevertheless, with a degree of stateliness—“people, what have you done! This fire is consuming all that marked your advance from barbarism, or that could have prevented your relapse thither. We—the men of the privileged orders—were those who kept alive, from age to age, the old chivalrous spirit; the gentle and generous thought; the higher, the purer, the more refined and delicate life! With the nobles, too, you cast off the poet, the painter, the sculptor—all the beautiful arts; —for we were their patrons, and created the atmosphere in which they flourish. In abolishing the majestic distinctions of rank, society loses not only its grace, but its steadfastness—”

More he would doubtless have spoken; but here there arose an outcry, sportive, contemptuous, and indignant, that altogether drowned the appeal of the fallen nobleman; insomuch that, casting one look of despair at his own half-burnt pedigree, he shrunk back into the crowd, glad to shelter himself under his new-found insignificance.

“Let him thank his stars that we have not flung him into the same fire!” shouted a rude figure, spurning the embers with his foot. “And, henceforth, let no man dare to show a piece of musty parchment, as his warrant for lording it over his fellows! If he have strength of arm, well and good; it is one species of superiority. If he have wit, wisdom, courage, force of character, let these attributes do for him what they may. But, from this day forward, no mortal must hope for place and consideration, by reckoning up the mouldy bones of his ancestors! That nonsense is done away.”

“And in good time,” remarked the grave observer by my side—in a low voice however—“if no worse nonsense come in its place. But at all events, this species of nonsense has fairly lived out its life.”

There was little space to muse or moralize over the embers of this time-honored rubbish; for, before it was half burnt out, there came another multitude from beyond the sea, bearing the purple robes of royalty, and the crowns, gloves, and scepters of emperors and kings. All these had been condemned as useless baubles; playthings, at best, fit only for the infancy of the world, or rods to govern and chastise it in its nonage; but with which universal manhood, at its full-grown stature, could no longer brook to be insulted. Into such contempt had these regal insignia now fallen, that the gilded crown and tinseled robes of the player-king, from Drury Lane Theatre, had been thrown in among the rest, doubtless as a mockery of his brother-monarchs, on the great stage of the world. It was a strange sight, to discern the crown-jewels of England, glowing and flashing in the midst of the fire. Some of them had been delivered down from the times of the Saxon princes; others were purchased with vast revenues, or, perchance, ravished from the dead brows of the native potentates of Hindostan; and the whole now blazed with a dazzling lustre, as if a star had fallen in that spot, and been shattered into fragments. The splendor of the ruined monarchy had no reflection, save in those inestimable precious-stones. But, enough on this subject! It were but tedious to describe how the Emperor of Austria’s mantle was converted to tinder, and how the posts and pillars of the French throne became a heap of coals, which it was impossible to distinguish from those of any other wood. Let me add, however, that I noticed one of the exiled Poles, stirring up the bonfire with the Czar of Russia’s scepter, which he afterwards flung into the flames.

The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
The xxxvj. Chapter.

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah King of Judah, came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying: Take a book & write therein all the words that I have spoken to thee, to Israel, to Judah and to all the people; from the time that I began for to speak unto thee (in the reign of Josiah) unto this day. That when the house of Judah heareth of the plague which I have devised for them, they may peradventure turn every man from his wicked way, that I may forgive their offences and sins.

Then did Jeremiah call Baruch the son of Neriah; & Baruch wrote in the book at the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which he had spoken unto him. And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying: I am in prison so that I may not come into the house of the Lord: therefore go thou thither and read the book that thou hast written at my mouth: Namely, the words of the Lord & read them in the Lord’s house upon the fasting day: that the people, whole Judah & all they that come out of the cities, may hear. Peradventure they will pray meekly before the face of the Lord & turn every one from his wicked way. For great is the wrath and displeasure that the Lord hath taken against this people.

So Baruch the son of Neriah did according unto all that Jeremiah the Prophet commanded him, reading the words of the Lord out of the book in the Lord’s house. And this was done in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah King of Judah, in the ix. month when it was commanded that all the people of Jerusalem should fast before the Lord & they also that were come from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.

Then read Baruch the words of Jeremiah out of the book within the house of the Lord, out of the treasury of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the Scribe, which is beside the higher loft of the new door of the Lord’s house: that all the people might hear. Now when Michaiah the son of Gemariah the son of Shaphan had heard all the words of the Lord out of the book, he went down to the King’s palace into the Scribe’s chamber, for there all the Princes were set: Elishama the Scribe, Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, Elnathan the son of Achbor, Gemariah the son of Shaphan, Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, with all the Princes. And Michaiah told them all the words that he heard Baruch read out of the book before the people.

Then all the Princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelamiah, the son of Cushi, unto Baruch, saying: Take in thine hand the book, whereout thou hast read before all the people and come. So Baruch the son of Neriah took the book in his hand & came unto them. And they said unto him: Sit down & read the book that we may hear also. So Baruch read, that they might hear. Now when they had heard all the words they were abashed one upon another & said unto Baruch: We will certify the King of all these words. And they examined Baruch, saying: tell us, how didst thou write all these words out of his mouth? Then Baruch answered them: he spake all these words unto me with his mouth and I alone was with him & wrote them in the book.

Then said the Princes unto Baruch: Go thy way & hide thee with Jeremiah so that no man know where ye be. And they went into the King to the court. But they kept the book in the chamber of Elishama the Scribe & told the King all the words that he might hear. So the King sent Jehudi to fetch him the book, which he brought out of Elishama the Scribe's chamber. And Jehudi read it, that the King & all the Princes, which were about him, might hear. Now the King sat in the winter house, for it was in the ix. Month & there was a good fire before him. And when Jehudi had read three or four leaves thereof, he cut the book in pieces with a pen knife & cast it into the fire upon the hearth, until the book was all burnt in the fire upon the hearth.

Yet no man was abashed thereof or rent his clothes: neither the King himself, ner his servants; though they heard all these words. Nevertheless Elnathan, Delaiah & Gemariah besought the King that he would not burn the book: notwithstanding the King would not hear them, but commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, Seraiah the son of Azriel & Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to lay hands upon Baruch the Scribe & upon Jeremiah the Prophet: but the Lord kept them out of sight. After now that the King had burnt the book & the sermons which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah: The word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying: Take another book and write in it all the foresaid sermons: that were written in the first book, which Jehoiakim the King of Judah hath burnt.

And tell Jehoiakim the King of Judah: thus saith the Lord: thou hast burnt the book & thoughtest within thyself: Why hast thou written therein that the king of Babylon shall come and make this land waste, so that he shall make both people & cattle to be out of it? Therefore thus the Lord saith of Jehoiakim the king of Judah: There shall none of his generation sit upon the throne of David. His dead corpse shall be cast out, that the heat of the day & the frost of the night may come upon him. And I will visit the wickedness of him, of his seed & of his servants. Moreover all the evil that I have promised them (though they heard me not) will I bring upon them, upon the inhabitors of Jerusalem and upon all Judah. Then took Jeremiah another book and gave it Baruch the Scribe the son of Neriah, which wrote therein out of the mouth of Jeremiah: all the sermons that were in the first book, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah did burn. And there were added unto them many more sermons than before.

Craters of the Moon
Craters of the Moon
Rainbow Lake

“The smell of singed garments is quite intolerable here,” observed my new acquaintance, as the breeze enveloped us in the smoke of a royal wardrobe. “Let us get to windward, and see what they are doing on the other side of the bonfire.”

We accordingly passed round, and were just in time to witness the arrival of a vast procession of Washingtonians—as the votaries of temperance call themselves now-a-days—accompanied by thousands of the Irish disciples of Father Mathew, with that great apostle at their head. They brought a rich contribution to the bonfire; being nothing less than all the hogsheads and barrels of liquor in the world, which they rolled before them across the prairie.

“Now, my children,” cried Father Mathew, when they reached the verge of the fire—“one shove more, and the work is done! And now let us stand off, and see Satan deal with his own liquor!”

Accordingly, having placed their wooden vessels within reach of the flames, the procession stood off at a safe distance, and soon beheld them burst into a blaze that reached the clouds, and threatened to set the sky itself on fire. And well it might. For here was the whole world’s stock of spirituous liquors, which, instead of kindling a frenzied light in the eyes of individual topers as of yore, soared upward with a bewildering gleam that startled all mankind. It was the aggregate of that fierce fire, which would otherwise have scorched the hearts of millions. Meantime, numberless bottles of precious wine were flung into the blaze; which lapped up the contents as if it loved them, and grew, like other drunkards, the merrier and fiercer for what it quaffed. Never again will the insatiable thirst of the fire-fiend be so pampered! Here were the treasures of famous bon-vivants—liquors that had been tossed on ocean, and mellowed in the sun, and hoarded long in the recesses of the earth—the pale, the gold, the ruddy juice of whatever vineyards were most delicate—the entire vintage of Tokay—all mingling in one stream with the vile fluids of the common pot-house, and contributing to heighten the self-same blaze. And while it rose in a gigantic spire, that seemed to wave against the arch of the firmament, and combine itself with the light of stars, the multitude gave a shout, as if the broad earth were exulting in its deliverance from the curse of ages.

But the joy was not universal. Many deemed that human life would be gloomier than ever, when that brief illumination should sink down. While the reformers were at work, I had overheard muttered expostulations from several respectable gentlemen with red noses, and wearing gouty shoes; and a ragged worthy, whose face looked like a hearth where the fire is burnt out, now expressed his discontent more openly and boldly.

“What is this world good for,” said the Last Toper, “now that we can never be jolly any more? What is to comfort the poor man in sorrow and perplexity?—how is he to keep his heart warm against the cold winds of this cheerless earth?—and what do you propose to give him, in exchange for the solace that you take away? How are old friends to sit together by the fireside, without a cheerful glass between them? A plague upon your reformation! It is a sad world, a cold world, a selfish world, a low world, not worth an honest fellow’s living in, now that good-fellowship is gone forever!”

This harangue excited great mirth among the bystanders. But, preposterous as was the sentiment, I could not help commiserating the forlorn condition of the Last Toper, whose boon-companions had dwindled away from his side, leaving the poor fellow without a soul to countenance him in sipping his liquor, nor, indeed, any liquor to sip. Not that this was quite the true state of the case; for I had observed him, at a critical moment, filch a bottle of fourth-proof brandy that fell beside the bonfire, and hide it in his pocket.

The spirituous and fermented liquors being thus disposed of, the zeal of the reformers next induced them to replenish the fire with all the boxes of tea and bags of coffee in the world. And now came the planters of Virginia, bringing their crops of tobacco. These, being cast upon the heap of inutility, aggregated it to the size of a mountain, and incensed the atmosphere with such potent fragrance, that methought we should never draw pure breath again. The present sacrifice seemed to startle the lovers of the weed, more than any that they had hitherto witnessed.

“Well;—they’ve put my pipe out,” said an old gentleman, flinging it into the flames in a pet. “What is this world coming to? Everything rich and racy—all the spice of life—is to be condemned as useless. Now that they have kindled the bonfire if these nonsensical reformers would fling themselves into it, all would be well enough!”

“Be patient,” responded a staunch conservative;—“it will come to that in the end. They will first fling us in, and finally themselves.”

From the general and systematic measures of reform, I now turned to consider the individual contributions to this memorable bonfire. In many instances, these were of a very amusing character. One poor fellow threw in his empty purse, and another, a bundle of counterfeit or insolvable banknotes. Fashionable ladies threw in their last season’s bonnets, together with heaps of ribbon, yellow lace, and much other half-worn milliner’s ware; all of which proved even more evanescent in the fire, than it had been in the fashion. A multitude of lovers, of both sexes—discarded maids or bachelors, and couples, mutually weary of one another—tossed in bundles of perfumed letters and enamored sonnets. A hack-politician, being deprived of bread by the loss of office, threw in his teeth, which happened to be false ones. The Rev. Sydney Smith—having voyaged across the Atlantic for that sole purpose—came up to the bonfire, with a bitter grin, and threw in certain repudiated bonds, fortified though they were with the broad seal of a sovereign state. A little boy of five years old, in the premature manliness of the present epoch, threw in his playthings; a college-graduate, his diploma; an apothecary, ruined by the spread of homoeopathy, his whole stock of drugs and medicines; a physician, his library; a parson, his old sermons; and a fine gentleman of the old school, his code of manners, which he had formerly written down for the benefit of the next generation. A widow, resolving on a second marriage, slily threw in her dead husband’s miniature. A young man, jilted by his mistress, would willingly have flung his own desperate heart into the flames, but could find no means to wrench it out of his bosom. An American author, whose works were neglected by the public, threw his pen and paper into the bonfire, and betook himself to some less discouraging occupation. It somewhat startled me to overhear a number of ladies, highly respectable in appearance, proposing to fling their gowns and petticoats into the flames, and assume the garb, together with the manners, duties, offices, and responsibilities, of the opposite sex.

What favor was accorded to this scheme, I am unable to say; my attention being suddenly drawn to a poor, deceived, and half-delirious girl, who, exclaiming that she was the most worthless thing alive or dead, attempted to cast herself into the fire, amid all that wrecked and broken trumpery of the world. A good man, however, ran to her rescue.

“Patience, my poor girl!” said he, as he drew her back from the fierce embrace of the destroying angel. “Be patient, and abide Heaven’s will. So long as you possess a living soul, all may be restored to its first freshness. These things of matter, and creations of human fantasy, are fit for nothing but to be burnt, when once they have had their day. But your day is Eternity!”

“Yes,” said the wretched girl, whose frenzy seemed now to have sunk down into deep despondency; — “yes; and the sunshine is blotted out of it!”

It was now rumored among the spectators, that all the weapons and munitions of war were to be thrown into the bonfire; with the exception of the world’s stock of gunpowder, which, as the safest mode of disposing of it, had already been drowned in the sea. This intelligence seemed to awaken great diversity of opinion. The hopeful philanthropist esteemed it a token that the millennium was already come; while persons of another stamp, in whose view mankind was a breed of bull-dogs, prophesied that all the old stoutness, fervor, nobleness, generosity, and magnanimity of the race, would disappear; these qualities, as they affirmed, requiring blood for their nourishment. They comforted themselves, however, in the belief that the proposed abolition of war was impracticable, for any length of time together.

AN AMBER GLOWING

One unusual summer I set out to fill a roll of film with prize-winning scenic photographs. Of course I failed to take any photographs that would win the contest. But I received a few rewards from the trip that were infinitely greater. One of those rewards came from the effect of a sunrise I saw as the light filtered through the deep water of an historic lake. I photographed the event but not the intense beauty of it. I came into my other reward for the journey when the roll was finished. Nevertheless, I’m glad it was so because a photograph could never have portrayed the awe-inspiring scene.

My first photograph was taken at dusk. It was of the fishing boats beached along the sandy shore of a mountain lake. After night-time came I put away the camera to take on the role of a tourist. I had traveled on to a small tourist town and mingled with the crowds making their way through the tourist shops and attractions of this popular vacation spot. The town had grown after the lapse of many years since I had last been there. I walked into new shops inside little mall areas. Then I made my way to the old familiar streets. I came to the large gas filling station on the corner where they also had a sizeable store and gift shop on the inside.

Over two decades had passed since I first roamed the streets around that same familiar place. On a summer day, those many years ago, I came to this same corner store and filling station. They had set out a television by the picture windows at the front of the store for a most significant occasion. I happened to come by and noticed a crowd of customers and passers-by gathered there. So I joined them in watching the live newscast of the astronauts as they stepped out of their space capsule onto the moon. Unless I had been walking by just at that moment I would have missed it entirely. Such memories continued as I turned the corner and walked down the street with more tourist shops and restaurants on one side and the beginning of a dense forest on the other.

After a while I left there and went on a lonely excursion to Quake Lake located a few miles away. It was my first visit. I stopped in the scenic turnouts of the area and, because of the full moon, had no trouble reading the information about Quake Lake written on the signs and monuments. I read about the massive earthquake that years ago, when I was still a child, had devastated the area. It looked like half of a mountain was cut away and slung across the valley. Indeed, the mountain had contained within it a giant and massive pillar that broke away during the quake. The giant boulder rode the crest of the landslide clear to the other side of the valley. They had made it into a monument for remembrance of the many campers and fishermen who died and were buried under the landslide. The river was a famous fishing place before.

Then I read about how the area is a natural refuge for mountain sheep. There alone out on that mountainside that night I heard the resonating screams of a mountain lion coming from farther up the steep mountain-side.

Finishing my night-time tour I drove around until I found a vacant camp site. The next morning I got up before sunrise to go back to Quake Lake. I hiked along the dam while the sun was just coming up. During those moments an amber luminosity had filled the depths of the center of the lake. It appeared like the light was formed and embodied in a huge translucent glow. There was no way I could take a photograph that could portray its true wonder and beauty.

When the full light of dawn came I made my departure but soon pulled over to park in one of the scenic turnouts and have a small breakfast that I had packed. Afterwards I pressed on into Yellowstone Park. I stopped at various places along the highway to photograph some of the wildlife and other scenic attractions. I stopped along the Firehole River and took a photograph there.

Next I made it to the mud pots, then the geyser hot pools. All of these are beautiful sites. I was able to take a pretty good photograph of Old Faithful. From there I made it on to Fishing Bridge and walked up the mountainside trail to take a photograph of a wild flower with Fishing Bridge in the background. Making my way out of the park, I stopped at another place to take pictures where raindrops clung to the needles of an evergreen sapling. The droplets of water captured the light of the late afternoon sun that was descending on the horizon and gave off a tiny bright gleam of intense light.

Finally, I finished the roll of film with photographs of the Grand Teton mountain range. My plans for the day were to stop in the evening and find a restaurant where I could eat supper. I pulled over into a service station and stopped for gas. By the time I finished with filling the car something happened to completely dash the plans for supper and I decided to go on through the next town. It’s a good thing that I did.

As I drove around the winding curves of the highway I came into a rain shower. The sun was near setting. The raging rapids of the river were right below me. A speeding car came up close behind me, ignoring every indication of the need to slow down, and passed me. In this deep valley the sunshine of the setting sun was high on the mountain peaks with the dark clouds just above it. The light bounced down upon the mountainside and forest on the other side of the valley. I thought about looking for a place to turnout and park so I could take a photograph but decided not to. The sight of this velvety glowing wonder was so awesome that I gave it my reverence instead. The forest on the other side of the valley looked like it was coated with a thick, glowing amber dust.

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“And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.” (Ezekiel 1.27,28)

“And immediately I was in the Spirit: and behold a seat was put in heaven and one sat on the seat. And he that sat was to look upon like unto a jasper stone, and a sardine stone: And there was a rainbow about the seat, in sight like to an emerald.” Revelation, Chapter 4

This idea of a rainbow round about the throne is derived from Ezek. i. 28. … The rainbow is said to be like a smaragdus [σμαράγδινος]. …

The smaragdus ( = ברקת) has been identified with the rock crystal, the beryl, and finally with the emerald. Petrie (Hastings’ D.B. iv. 620) writes: “A colourless stone is the only one that can show a rainbow of prismatic colours; and the hexagonal prism of rock crystal, if one face is not developed (as is often the case), gives a prism of 60°, suitable to show a spectrum. The confusion with emerald seems to have arisen from both stones crystallizing in hexagonal prisms; and as the emerald varies through the aquamarine to a colourless state, there is no obvious separation between it and quartz crystal.”

The International Critical Commentary, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Revelation of St. John, by R. H. Charles, D.Litt., D.D. Volume I, Published by Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 38 George Street, 1920, pg. 114

 

 

Earthquake Lake, Montana

 

Fisherman's Bridge

Be that as it might, numberless great guns, whose thunder had long been the voice of battle—the artillery of the Armada, the battering-trains of Marlborough, and the adverse cannon of Napoleon and Wellington—were trundled into the midst of the fire. By the continual addition of dry combustibles, it had now waxed so intense, that neither brass nor iron could withstand it. It was wonderful to behold, how those terrible instruments of slaughter melted away like playthings of wax. Then the armies of the earth wheeled around the mighty furnace, with their military music playing triumphant marches, and flung in their muskets and swords. The standard-bearers, likewise, cast one look upward at their banners, all tattered with shot-holes, and inscribed with the names of victorious fields; and giving them a last flourish on the breeze, they lowered them into the flame, which snatched them upward in its rush towards the clouds. This ceremony being over, the world was left without a single weapon in its hands, except, possibly, a few old King’s arms and rusty swords, and other trophies of the Revolution, in some of our state-armories. And now the drums were beaten and the trumpets brayed all together, as a prelude to the proclamation of universal and eternal peace, and the announcement that glory was no longer to be won by blood; but that it would henceforth be the contention of the human race, to work out the greatest mutual good; and that beneficence, in the future annals of the earth, would claim the praise of valor. The blessed tidings were accordingly promulgated, and caused infinite rejoicings among those who had stood aghast at the horror and absurdity of war.

But I saw a grim smile pass over the scarred visage of a stately old commander—by his war-worn figure and rich military dress, he might have been one of Napoleon’s famous marshals—who, with the rest of the world’s soldiery, had just flung away the sword, that had been familiar to his right hand for half-a-century.

“Aye, aye!” grumbled he. “Let them proclaim what they please; but, in the end, we shall find that all this foolery has only made more work for the armorers and cannon-founderies.”

“Why, Sir,” exclaimed I, in astonishment, “do you imagine that the human race will ever so far return on the steps of its past madness, as to weld another sword, or cast another cannon?”

“There will be no need,” observed, with a sneer, one who neither felt benevolence, nor had faith in it. “When Cain wished to slay his brother, he was at no loss for a weapon.”

“We shall see,” replied the veteran commander.—“If I am mistaken, so much the better; but, in my opinion—without pretending to philosophize about the matter—the necessity of war lies far deeper than these honest gentlemen suppose. What! Is there a field for all the petty disputes of individuals, and shall there be no great law-court for the settlement of national difficulties? The battle-field is the only court where such suits can be tried!”

“You forget, General,” rejoined I, “that, in this advanced stage of civilization, Reason and Philanthropy combined will constitute just such a tribunal as is requisite.”

“Ah, I had forgotten that, indeed!” said the old warrior, as he limped away.

The fire was now to be replenished with materials that had hitherto been considered of even greater importance to the well-being of society, than the warlike munitions which we had already seen consumed. A body of reformers had travelled all over the earth, in quest of the machinery by which the different nations were accustomed to inflict the punishment of death. A shudder passed through the multitude, as these ghastly emblems were dragged forward. Even the flames seemed at first to shrink away, displaying the shape and murderous contrivance of each in a full blaze of light, which, of itself, was sufficient to convince mankind of the long and deadly error of human law. Those old implements of cruelty—those horrible monsters of mechanism—those inventions which it seemed to demand something worse than man’s natural heart to contrive, and which had lurked in the dusky nooks of ancient prisons, the subject of terror-stricken legends—were now brought forth to view. Headsmen’s axes, with the rust of noble and royal blood upon them, and a vast collection of halters that had choked the breath of plebeian victims, were thrown in together. A shout greeted the arrival of the guillotine, which was thrust forward on the same wheels that had borne it from one to another of the blood-stained streets of Paris. But the loudest roar of applause went up, telling the distant sky of the triumph of the earth’s redemption, when the gallows made its appearance. An ill-looking fellow, however, rushed forward, and putting himself in the path of the reformers, bellowed hoarsely, and fought with brute fury to stay their progress.

It was little matter of surprise, perhaps, that the executioner should thus do his best to vindicate and uphold the machinery by which he himself had his livelihood, and worthier individuals their death. But it deserved special note, that men of a far different sphere—even of that consecrated class in whose guardianship the world is apt to trust its benevolence—were found to take the hangman’s view of the question.

“Stay, my brethren!” cried one of them. “You are misled by a false philanthropy!—you know not what you do. The gallows is a heaven-oriented instrument! Bear it back, then, reverently, and set it up in its old place; else the world will fall to speedy ruin and desolation!”

“Onward, onward!” shouted a leader in the reform. “Into the flames with the accursed instrument of man’s bloody policy! How can human law inculcate benevolence and love, while it persists in setting up the gallows as its chief symbol? One heave more, good friends; and the world will be redeemed from its greatest error!

A thousand hands, that, nevertheless, loathed the touch, now lent their assistance, and thrust the ominous burthen far, far, into the centre of the raging furnace. There its fatal and abhorred image was beheld, first black, then a red coal, then ashes.

“That was well done!” exclaimed I.

“Yes; it was well done,” replied—but with less enthusiasm than I expected—the thoughtful observer who was still at my side; “well done, if the world be good enough for the measure. Death, however, is an idea that cannot easily be dispensed with, in any condition between the primal innocence and that other purity and perfection, which, perchance, we are destined to attain, after travelling round the full circle. But, at all events, it is well that the experiment should now be tried.”

“Too cold!—too cold!” impatiently exclaimed the young and ardent leader in this triumph. “Let the heart have its voice here, as well as the intellect. And as for ripeness—and as for progress—let mankind always do the highest, kindest, noblest thing, that, at any given period, it has attained to the perception of; and surely that thing cannot be wrong, nor wrongly timed!”

I know not whether it were the excitement of the scene, or whether the good people around the bonfire were really growing more enlightened, every instant; but they now proceeded to measures, in the full length of which I was hardly prepared to keep them company. For instance, some threw their marriage-certificates into the flames, and declared themselves candidates for a higher, holier, and more comprehensive union than that which had subsisted from the birth of time, under the form of the connubial tie. Others hastened to the vaults of banks, and to the coffers of the rich—all of which were open to the first-comer, on this fated occasion—and brought entire bales of paper-money to enliven the blaze, and tons of coin to be melted down by its intensity. Henceforth, they said, universal benevolence, uncoined and exhaustless, was to be the golden currency of the world. At this intelligence, the bankers, and speculators in the stocks, grew pale; and a pickpocket, who had reaped a rich harvest among the crowd, fell down in a deadly fainting-fit. A few men of business burnt their day-books and legers, the notes and obligations of their creditors, and all other evidences of debts due to themselves; while perhaps a somewhat larger number satisfied their zeal for reform with the sacrifice of any uncomfortable recollection of their own indebtment. There was then a cry, that the period was arrived, when the title-deeds of landed property should be given to the flames, and the whole soil of the earth revert to the public, from whom it had been wrongfully abstracted, and most unequally distributed among individuals. Another party demanded, that all written constitutions, set forms of government, legislative acts, stature-books, and everything else on which human invention had endeavored to stamp its arbitrary laws, should at once be destroyed, leaving the consummated world as free as the man first created.

Whether any ultimate action was taken with regard to these propositions, is beyond my knowledge; for, just then, some matters were in progress that concerned my sympathies more nearly.

“See!—see!—what heaps of books and pamphlets,” cried a fellow, who did not seem to be a lover of literature. “Now we shall have a glorious blaze!”

“That’s just the thing,” said a modern philosopher. “Now we shall get rid of the weight of dead men’s thought, which has hitherto pressed so heavily on the living intellect, that it has been incompetent to any effectual self-exertion. Well done, my lads! Into the fire with them! Now you are enlightening the world, indeed!”

“But what is to become of the Trade?” cried a frantic bookseller.

“Oh, by all means, let them accompany their merchandise,” coolly observed an author. “It will be a noble funeral-pile!”

The truth was, that the human race had now reached a stage of progress, so far beyond what the wisest and wittiest men of former ages had ever dreamed of, that it would have been a manifest absurdity to allow the earth to be any longer encumbered with their poor achievements in the literary line. Accordingly, a thorough and searching investigation had swept the booksellers’ shops, hawkers’ stands, public and private libraries, and even the little book-shelf by the country fireside, and had brought the world’s entire mass of printed paper, bound or in sheets, to swell the already mountain-bulk of our illustrious bonfire. Thick, heavy folios, containing the labors of lexicographers, commentators, and encyclopediasts, were flung in, and, falling among the embers with a leaden thump, smouldered away to ashes, like rotten wood. The small, richly-gilt, French tomes, of the last age, with the hundred volumes of Voltaire among them, went off in a brilliant shower of sparkles, and little jets of flame; while the current literature of the same nation burnt red and blue, and threw an infernal light over the visages of the spectators, converting them all to the aspect of part-colored fiends. A collection of German stories emitted a scent of brimstone. The English standard authors made excellent fuel, generally exhibiting the properties of sound oak logs. Milton’s works, in particular, sent up a powerful blaze, gradually reddening into a coal, which promised to endure longer than almost any other material of the pile. From Shakspeare there gushed a flame of such marvelous splendor, that men shaded their eyes as against the sun’s meridian glory; nor, even when the works of his own elucidators were flung upon him, did he cease to flash forth a dazzling radiance, from beneath the ponderous heap. It is my belief, that he is still blazing as fervidly as ever.

“Could a poet but light a lamp at that glorious flame,” remarked I, “he might then consume the midnight oil to some good purpose.”

“That is the very thing which modern poets have been too apt to do—or, at least, to attempt,” answered a critic. “The chief benefit to be expected from this conflagration of past literature, undoubtedly is, that writers will henceforth be compelled to light their lamps at the sun or stars.”

“If they can reach so high,” said I. “But the task requires a giant, who may afterwards distribute the light among inferior men. It is not every one that can steal the fire from Heaven, like Prometheus; but when once he had done the deed, a thousand hearths were kindled by it.”

It amazed me much to observe, how indefinite was the proportion between the physical mass of any given author, and the property of brilliant and long-continued combustion. For instance, there was not a quarto volume of the last century—nor, indeed, of the present—that could compete, in that particular, with a child’s little gilt-covered book, containing Mother Goose’s Melodies. The Life and Death of Tom Thumb outlasted the biography of Marlborough. An epic indeed, a dozen of them—was converted to white ashes, before the single sheet of an old ballad was half-consumed. In more than one case, too, when volumes of applauded verse proved incapable of anything better than a stifling smoke, an unregarded ditty of some nameless bard—perchance, in the corner of a newspaper—soared up among the stars, with a flame as brilliant as their own. Speaking of the properties of flame, methought Shelley’s poetry emitted a purer light than almost any other productions of his day; contrasting beautifully with the fitful and lurid gleams, and gushes of black vapor, that flashed and eddied from the volumes of Lord Byron. As for Tom Moore, some of his songs diffused an odor like a burning pastille.

I felt particular interest in watching the combustion of American authors, and scrupulously noted, by my watch, the precise number of moments that changed most of them from shabbily-printed books to indistinguishable ashes. It would be invidious, however, if not perilous, to betray these awful secrets; so that I shall content myself with observing, that it was not invariably the writer most frequent in the public mouth, that made the most splendid appearance in the bonfire. I especially remember, that a great deal of excellent inflammability was exhibited in a thin volume of poems by Ellery Channing; although, to speak the truth, there were certain portions that hissed and spluttered in a very disagreeable fashion. A curious phenomenon occurred, in reference to several writers, native as well as foreign. Their books, though of highly respectable figure, instead of bursting into a blaze, or even smouldering out their substance in smoke, suddenly melted away, in a manner that proved them to be ice.

If it be no lack of modesty to mention my own works, it must here be confessed, that I looked for them with fatherly interest, but in vain. Too probably, they were changed to vapor by the first action of the heat; at best, I can only hope, that, in their quiet way, they contributed a glimmering spark or two to the splendor of the evening.

“Alas, and woe is me!” thus bemoaned himself a heavy-looking gentleman in green spectacles. “The world is utterly ruined, and there is nothing to live for any longer! The business of my life is snatched from me. Not a volume to be had for love or money!”

“This,” remarked the sedate observer beside me, “is a bookworm—one of those men who are born to gnaw dead thoughts. His clothes, you see, are covered with the dust of libraries. He has no inward fountain of ideas; and, in good earnest, now that the old stock is abolished, I do not see what is to become of the poor fellow. Have you no word of comfort for him?”

“My dear Sir,” said I to the desperate book-worm, “is not Nature better than a book?—is not the human heart deeper than any system of philosophy?—is not life replete with more instruction than past observers have found it possible to write down in maxims? Be of good cheer! The great book of Time is still spread wide open before us; and, if we read it aright, it will be to us a volume of eternal Truth.”

“Oh, my books, my books, my precious, printed books!” reiterated the forlorn book-worm. “My only reality was a bound volume; and now they will not leave me even a shadowy pamphlet!”

In fact, the last remnant of the literature of all the ages was now descending upon the blazing heap, in the shape of a cloud of pamphlets from the press of the New World. These, likewise, were consumed in the twinkling of an eye, leaving the earth, for the first time since the days of Cadmus, free from the plague of letters—an enviable field for the authors of the next generation!

“Well!—and does anything remain to be done?” inquired I, somewhat anxiously. “Unless we set fire to the earth itself, and then leap boldly off into infinite space, I know not that we can carry reform to any further point.

“You are vastly mistaken, my good friend,” said the observer. “Believe me, the fire will not be allowed to settle down, without the addition of fuel that will startle many persons, who have lent a willing hand thus far.”

Nevertheless, there appeared to be a relaxation of effort, for a little time, during which, probably, the leaders of the movement were considering what should be done next. In the interval, a philosopher threw his theory into the flames; a sacrifice, which, by those who knew how to estimate it, was pronounced the most remarkable that had yet been made. The combustion, however, was by no means brilliant. Some indefatigable people, scorning to take a moment’s ease, now employed themselves in collecting all the withered leaves and fallen boughs of the forest, and thereby recruited the bonfire to a greater height than ever. But this was mere by-play.

“Here comes the fresh fuel that I spoke of,” said my companion.

To my astonishment, the persons who now advanced into the vacant space, around the mountain of fire, bore surplices and other priestly garments, mitres, crosiers, and a confusion of popish and protestant emblems, with which it seemed their purpose to consummate this great Act of Faith. Crosses, from the spires of old cathedrals, were cast upon the heap, with as little remorse as if the reverence of centuries, passing in long array beneath the lofty towers, had not looked up to them as the holiest of symbols. The font, in which infants were consecrated to God; the sacramental vessels, whence Piety had received the hallowed draught; were given to the same destruction. Perhaps it most nearly touched my heart, to see, among these devoted relics, fragments of the humble communion-tables and undecorated pulpits, which I recognized as having been torn from the meeting-houses of New-England. Those simple edifices might have been permitted to retain all of sacred embellishment that their Puritan founders had bestowed, even though the mighty structure of St. Peter’s had sent its spoils to the fire of this terrible sacrifice. Yet I felt that these were but the externals of religion, and might most safely be relinquished by spirits that best knew their deep significance.

“All is well,” said I, cheerfully. “The wood-paths shall be the aisles of our cathedral—the firmament itself shall be its ceiling! What needs an earthly roof between the Deity and his worshipper? Our faith can well afford to lose all the drapery that even the holiest men have thrown around it, and be only the more sublime in its simplicity.”

“True,” said my companion. “But will they pause here?”

The doubt, implied in his question, was well-founded. In the general destruction of books, already described, a holy volume—that stood apart from the catalogue of human literature, and yet, in one sense, was at its head—had been spared. But the Titan of innovation—angel or fiend, double in his nature, and capable of deeds befitting both characters—at first shaking down only the old and rotten shapes of things, had now, as it appeared, laid his terrible hand upon the main pillars, which supported the whole edifice of our moral and spiritual state. The inhabitants of the earth had grown too enlightened to define their faith within a form of words, or to limit the spiritual by any analogy to our material existence. Truths, which the Heavens trembled at, were now but a fable of the world’s infancy. Therefore, as the final sacrifice of human error, what else remained, to be thrown upon the embers of that awful pile, except the Book, which, though a celestial revelation to past ages, was but a voice from a lower sphere, as regarded the present race of man? It was done! Upon the blazing heap of falsehood and worn-out truth—things that the earth had never needed, or had ceased to need, or had grown childishly wary of—fell the ponderous church-Bible, the great old volume, that had lain so long on the cushions of the pulpit, and whence the pastor’s solemn voice had given holy utterances, on so many a Sabbath-day. There, likewise, fell the family-Bible, which the long-buried patriarch had read to his children—in prosperity or sorrow, by the fireside, and in the summer-shade of trees—and had bequeathed downward, as the heirloom of generations. There fell the bosom-Bible, the little volume that had been the soul’s friend of some sorely tried Child of Dust, who thence took courage, whether his trial were for life or death, steadfastly confronting both, in the strong assurance of immortality.

All these were flung into the fierce and riotous blaze; and then a mighty wind came roaring across the plain, with a desolate howl, as if it were the angry lamentation of the Earth for the loss of Heaven’s sunshine; and it shook the gigantic pyramid of flame, and scattered the cinders of half-consumed abominations around upon the spectators.

“This is terrible!” said I, feeling that my cheek grew pale, and seeing a like change in the visages about me.

“Be of good courage yet,” answered the man with whom I had so often spoken. He continued to gaze steadily at the spectacle, with a singular calmness, as if it concerned him merely as an observer.—“Be of good courage—not yet exult too much; for there is far less both of good and evil, in the effect of this bonfire, than the world might be willing to believe.”

“How can that be?” exclaimed I, impatiently.—“Has it not consumed everything? Has it not swallowed up, or melted down, every human or divine appendage of our mortal state, that had substance enough to be acted on by fire? Will there be anything left us, tomorrow morning, better or worse than a heap of embers and ashes?”

“Assuredly there will,” said my grave friend. “Come hither tomorrow morning—or whenever the combustible portion of the pile shall be quite burnt out—and you will find among the ashes everything really valuable that you have seen cast into the flames. Trust me; the world of tomorrow will again enrich itself with the gold and diamonds, which have been cast off by the world of to-day. Not a truth is destroyed—not buried so deep among the ashes, but it will be raked up at last.”

This was a strange assurance. Yet I felt inclined to credit it; the more especially as I beheld, among the wallowing flames, a copy of the Holy Scriptures, the pages of which, instead of being blackened into tinder, only assumed a more dazzling whiteness, as the finger-marks of human imperfection were purified away. Certain marginal notes and commentaries, it is true, yielded to the intensity of the fiery test, but without detriment to the smallest syllable that had flamed from the pen of inspiration.

“Yes;—there is the proof of what you say,” answered I, turning to the observer. “But, if only what is evil can feel the action of the fire, then, surely, the conflagration has been of inestimable utility. Yet, if I understand aright, you intimate a doubt whether the world’s expectation of benefit will be realized by it.”

“Listen to the talk of these worthies,” said he, pointing to a group in front of the blazing pile.—“Possibly, they may teach you something useful, without intending it.”

The persons, whom he indicated, consisted of that brutal and most earthy figure, who had stood forth so furiously in defence of the gallows—the hangman, in short—together with the Last Thief and the Last Murderer; all three of whom were clustered about the Last Toper. The latter was liberally passing the brandy-bottle, which he had rescued from the general destruction of wines and spirits. This little convivial party seemed at the lowest pitch of despondency; as considering that the purified world must needs be utterly unlike, the sphere that they had hitherto known, and therefore but a strange and desolate abode for gentlemen of their kidney.

“The best counsel for all of us, is,” remarked the hangman, “that—as soon as we have finished the last drop of liquor—I help you, my three friends, to a comfortable end upon the nearest tree, and then hang myself on the same bough. This is no world for us, any longer.”

“Poh, poh, my good fellows!” said a dark-complexioned personage, who now joined the group—his complexion was indeed fearfully dark; and his eyes glowed with a redder light than that of the bonfire—“Be not so cast down, my dear friends; you shall see good days yet. There is one thing that these wiseacres have forgotten to throw into the fire, and without which all the rest of the conflagration is just nothing at all—yes; though they had burnt the earth itself to a cinder!”

“And what may that be?” eagerly demanded the Last Murderer.

“What, but the human heart itself!” said the dark-visaged stranger, with a portentous grin. “And, unless they hit upon some method of purifying that foul cavern, forth from it will re-issue all the shapes of wrong and misery—the same old shapes, or worse ones—which they have taken such a vast deal of trouble to consume to ashes. I have stood by, this live-long night, and laughed in my sleeve at the whole business. Oh, take my word for it, it will be the old world yet!”

This brief conversation supplied me with a theme for lengthened thought. How sad a truth—if true it were—that Man’s age-long endeavor for perfection had served only to render him the mockery of the Evil Principle, from the fatal circumstance of an error at the very root of the matter! The Heart—the Heart—there was the little, yet boundless sphere, wherein existed the original wrong, of which the crime and misery of this outward world were merely types. Purify that inner sphere; and the many shapes of evil that haunt the outward, and which now seem almost our only realities, will turn to shadowy phantoms, and vanish of their own accord. But, if we go no deeper that the Intellect, and strive, with merely that feeble instrument, to discern and rectify what is wrong, our whole accomplishment will be a dream; so unsubstantial, that it matters little whether the bonfire, which I have so faithfully described, were what we choose to call a real event, and a flame that would scorch the finger—or only a phosphoric radiance, and a parable of my own brain!

SEVENS

On a summer day in 1991, a middle-aged driver on a long journey, after an unusual happening, thought of taking up a most unusual plan. It was while driving through a landmark area that he happened to notice a coincidental reading of his car’s odometer. All the numbers were sevens—seven thousand, seven hundred, seventy-seven and seven tenths miles;—five sevens in a row. Since he had been a Bible student, he recognized seven as a frequently mentioned number in the Bible—and an important one. Directly afterwards, he arrived at the state institution where he had prayerfully set out for.

After taking care of the important matter in that place that was the main purpose of the journey, he took up the matter of a second purpose for the trip and left to travel to another state. First, though, as he was heading downhill on the steep incline of a city street, he found a place to pull over. He looked at a map and planned his route. He was delighted that there was a way on the map he could go and that the highway was designated Highway Seven. So he travelled on Highway Seven as far as it would take him. That evening he made a stop at a restaurant for supper. He ordered Salmon and a baked potato from the menu. He was overcome with delight when he went to the cash register to pay the check for the food. It was seven dollars and seventy-seven cents. It was an unusual exact amount for supper. So, with the Highway Seven he traveled on before getting to the restaurant and seeing all those sevens earlier in the mileage reading, it was most unusual indeed. But that is not nearly all.

He drove on to a town that had a beautiful lake and camped out there. The next morning he had breakfast at another restaurant, visited a park by the lake and headed out. The sky was cloudy and at times there were rain showers along the way. He crossed the border into the next state. The morning passed and his route led him to turn off the main highway onto another highway and there he continued his journey. Then he came to a place where in the sky he noticed a beautiful rainbow. The end of it was on a little hill next to a farmer’s field. He stopped and pulled over to take a picture of the beautiful rainbow. There a smaller road met the larger one and there was a sign beside the road that read, Rainbow Lake, Seven Miles. The rainbow was right behind the sign when he took the picture. Indeed, a rainbow itself has a strong biblical association with the number seven.

In the Bible God created heaven and the earth in six days. Then he rested on the seventh day and made it holy. Then, too, way back in ancient times, to make a promise meant that someone as much as sevened themself. It was sort of like making a bond to do as they said they would do and use seven cords in the bond. When God spoke to Noah, he told him that he was making a promise that the world would never be destroyed again by a flood. He gave Noah a sign and put the rainbow in the sky.

It is significant that the first person to see Christ after his resurrection was Mary Magdalene. Jesus had cast seven devils out of her. Christ told Peter to be merciful and forgive not just seven times but seventy times seven times. In the early Christian church, the apostles ordained seven deacons to serve the church. One of those seven deacons, Stephen, at the time he was martyred, must have greatly influenced Saul of Tarsus. Saul watched Steven being stoned to death and at the same time praying for his persecutors. Some time later, on the way to the ancient city of Damascus, Saul was converted. He saw Christ in a vision and heard him say words meaning that he was deeply pained in conscience over the suffering he inflicted upon the most godly persons. After this, Saul took the name of Paul. He became the great apostle, a chosen vessel, to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. By the most intense work of the apostle Paul and the other apostles, in the power of the Holy Spirit, Christianity was spread across the world.

In Revelation, the Apocalypse, John writes to the seven prominent churches of Asia. Christ the Lord, as John sees, is the only one at all who could open the seven seals of God's scroll. God is seated on a glorious throne with a bright and beautiful rainbow above. Sevens continue and are very noticeable throughout Revelation. As the seven seals are opened, the most devastating and threatening woes (that Christ prophesied of before) are sent forth. After the seventh seal is opened John sees seven angels who stand before God and they are given seven trumpets. Then a strong angel with a rainbow on his head comes down from heaven and gives John a little book. As he begins to write what the voice of seven thunders has uttered, a voice from heaven says to not write them but to seal the book.

Not so noticeable is the times, time and a half time in Revelation. This is a figure that great prophets of the Old Testament used in their apocalyptic sermons. It stands for three and a half. The figures in Revelation: a thousand two hundred and sixty days, and, forty-two months, both stand for three and a half years. James, in his epistle, notes that Elijah prayed and there was no rain on the earth for three years and six months. In the Old Testament prophets, a ‘time’ may possibly be something like a particular era. Now, it is important, that three and a half relates to seven. It is half of seven.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He grew up in Galilee, a place that was on the other side of a place called Samaria. He taught in the synagogues, preached to the crowds and made sick people whole. He would often travel south to Jerusalem. There he was a part of every feast and celebration that was established among his people. The feasts were held to remember the wonderful miracles God had done.

Because of its history of evil and forsaking God, God brought punishment and judgement to the land of Samaria. It became mostly a land of outcasts in the eyes of the nation. Jesus did not see them with the same eyes. He freely traveled through Samaria where many proud-minded people of his day would not go. Passing through there with his apostles Jesus sat at the well that was called Jacob’s well, named for the one in ancient times who had dug the well.

There at the well, Jesus had an interview with an outcast Samaritan woman. Her life was, perhaps, also in shambles. Jesus loved her, just as God loves every person in all the world, and was kind to her. Surprisingly, this woman had faith to believe in the marvelous goodness of the coming Christ and Messiah who would be the Savior of the world. Jesus asked her (she was not an insignificant person to him) for a drink of water from the well. In their conversation together Jesus offered her everlasting life comparable with the way life works here on earth. “Jesus answered and said to her: if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you give me drink, you would have asked of him, and he would have given you water of life.” From this and the other things Jesus said, she came to know Jesus as a mighty prophet and then as the Messiah. After their interview, the woman with the changed life went into her town and told all the people about Jesus. This is what she said, “Is not this man Jesus the promised Christ. He told me everything in all my life that I have done.” That’s how well Christ Jesus knew her and how worshipful she became toward him.

As Jesus is portrayed in the Apocalypse of Revelation he is described with images of a lion and a lamb. The lamb has seven eyes. That means that Christ has all knowledge because he is all seeing. Just like that Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that Christ gave living water to that was the water of everlasting life who said that Christ knew all about her, Christ knows everything in our life that we are and that we have done. Christ knows us, each one, in a very marvelous way. It is a life-giving way to everyone who will believe in him—eternal and abundant life, full and never ending.

Matthew xxv.

When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations. And he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on the left. Then shall the King say to them on his right hand: Come you blessed children of my Father, inherit ye the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat. I thirsted, and you gave me drink. I was harbourless, and you lodged me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him saying Master, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed you or athirst, and gave you drink? when saw we thee harbourless, and lodged you? or naked and clothed you? or when saw we thee sick or in prison, and came unto you? And the King shall answer and say unto them: verily I say unto you: inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me.

Then shall the king say unto them that shall be on the left hand: depart from me you cursed, into everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat. I thirsted, and you gave me no drink. I was harbourless, and you lodged me not. I was naked, and you clothed me not. I was sick and in prison, and you visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him saying: Master when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or harbourless, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto you? Then shall he answer them and say: Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. And these shall go into everlasting pain: And the righteous into life eternal.

SEVENS, continued

—There was one particular summer when I knew that I ought to take a trip and visit my brother who was, then, in prison in a small town in the far northwest. I was living closer to him that summer since I was away from my own home and staying for an indefinite time with close relatives in that distant part of the country where I grew up. While I thought of visiting him I also kept in mind Christ’s words, “I was in prison and you visited me.” Because my brother was close to me in age and we grew up together I easily thought of him as a person first—not primarily as a criminal (as many others seeing a prisoner would think). On the other hand, the most innocent of all persons (Jesus), who was completely right in all that he did, was thought of first, by many of his day, without any proper consideration, as the worst criminal.

The trip to visit him was still a great distance even from there but much closer than it would have been from home. Somewhat naïve, I thought that the long trip would require nothing more than the time and expense it would take to get there, neglecting that it would require formal arrangements as well. Thus I was confronted with the frustrating likelihood that visiting him would be impossible.

Though there were difficulties, I reaffirmed a prayerful claim to the wonderful promise in the New Testament words “I was in prison and you visited me.” Later on, in accord with my step of faith, the necessary arrangements were completed to get me added to my brother’s visitors list. Moreover, I saw a literal fulfillment in this unusual expression of a promise because of providential circumstances surrounding the event that may also be seen as minor or inconsequential happenings. Finally the day came when I could make the journey that the visit required. That summer’s far distant travels ended up taking me through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world: Quake Lake, Yellowstone Park, Grand Teton National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Sun Valley, Lake Coeur d’Alene, and Glacier National Park.

A few hours after my trip began I stopped for some site seeing in the beautiful mountain city of Sun Valley. I walked around the paths in a large courtyard area and took photographs of the flowers and of the swans swimming in the cordial mountain stream flowing nearby. I visited the tourist shops across the way and walked inside one of the hotels. They displayed portraits of the famous celebrities and movie stars who had stayed there. One of them was a portrait of Ernest Hemingway, a favorite author. Then farther along on my walk I stopped to watch the ice skaters on the shaded outdoor skating pond where Peggy Fleming, the Olympic gold medalist, used to skate.

The day’s journey ended at a campground in the Sawtooth Mountains. Because I got so cold that night the next day’s journey began very early in the morning. Sometime later I stopped at a restaurant just outside of a small town in the mountains and ordered breakfast. After I finished eating I went to the cash register to pay my check. I noticed a display with an autographed portrait of the famous singer Tennessee Ernie Ford. There was also a personal letter from him and some other items. Among those things I read that he had a home in the area and was one of the restaurant’s steady customers while he was there.

After more traveling, the direction of my journey had changed from west to north. A direct route is impossible since so much of the state’s central part is set aside as primitive wilderness area. Traveling throughout the hours of the morning, I finally came to a canyon not far from my destination. My car was old and the odometer had already turned over. Driving down the highway, through what could be recognized as a landmark, I watched as it turned seven thousand, seven hundred seventy-seven and seven tenths miles. The coinciding numbers caught my attention.

Along with the spiritual significance of the number seven, I’m the sort of person who could afford myself of the taking of the liberty to make this little event of the 7,777.7 a message of significance. Internalizing the message, I determined that I would be visiting Christ himself in prison as I visited my brother, taking his words in the quote that I gave earlier as literally as I could. I planned to listen to my brother as if I were listening to Christ!

I arrived earlier than the scheduled time so drove slowly through town as I looked for the prison.

When the hour for visitation came I filed in along with the other visitors. I had a difficult time making it through the metal detector. Finally, they just waved me through with the explanation that it was a steel reinforcement in my boot or something like that, and I went with the crowd up the stairs to the visiting room.

As we sat at a table in a small lunchroom with the other visitors, prisoners and guards around us I listened carefully to each word my brother said. Finally, I heard the words I waited for that would also represent the same words of Christ who spoke of himself as a prisoner; identifying with the least of his brothers and even later on as he himself was held as a prisoner awaiting crucifixion. These words of my brother explained why he was there in prison. In his own case perhaps he could have told me how others, who were close to him, placed him in the most dangerous environment as far as giving in to temptation and committing gross wrongs is concerned. That would be true.—It isn’t what he said. Instead he said, “I’m here because this is the place where people want me!” Those words, by themselves, are exactly the reason Christ was imprisoned! Though Christ did no wrong and committed no criminal act he was viewed the same as a criminal by those powerful persons who spiritually could not see because of their foggy vision towards God’s work.

A couple of days ago, now, I was looking in the top shelf of the cabinet for some floss. I reached high and above my sight and felt something there and pulled out a pair of glasses from long ago. I cleaned the lenses and put them on. My vision became blurred and foggy. Those were the same glasses that my son took when he was very young and held them over the flame of a candle. “I wanted to see which one was stronger. The candle or the glasses,” he explained. That’s pretty much how Christ and his work are popularly seen—blurred and dim.

At nightfall a traveler on an old highway saw a beautiful dog there on the side of the road. It looked like he was bleeding and injured but holding his head up and his eyes met the driver. The image compelled much pity and even a prayer, though he could not stop nor help. After a night and day passed and the trip ended, the still thoughtful driver arrived at their house. He gave their pet dog extra hugs and petted her especially well and was thankful to God for her health and care. She had grown up from a small puppy eating nearly the same food from the same plate as the one who was petting her. When considering all this we should, of course, many times be ashamed that dogs and pets call forth more pity than we have for the hurting and injured people we become acquainted with. Much contrary to our ways, Christ did pity those who were injured, diseased and suffering when they crossed paths. Moreover, he had the power to help them. A great part of his ministry, a tremendous part, was healing—making whole and giving salvation. It seems as if there were countless diseased, maimed and injured who Christ made whole.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healed all manner of sickness, and all manner diseases among the people. And his fame spread abroad throughout all Syria. And they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and gripings, and them that were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy: and he healed them. And there followed him a great number of people, from Galilee, and from the ten cities, and from Jerusalem, and from Judæa, and from the regions that lie beyond Jordan.” (Matthew 4)

So often when miracles are presented in the Bible they are dismissed as something impossible. Yet there is a way of thinking that is acceptable: “sickness, disease and injury are ordinary occurrences.” Truly, these are what could be called an anti-miracle. God’s creation and creatures were perfectly whole when he created them. Widespread disease, injury, deficiency and even death, followed representative rebellion, disobedience, and sin. A miracle is simply God forgiving and making whole again from the anti-miracle corresponding to sin and evil. The power to heal comes from Christ’s virtuous life and from the sinner believing in Christ.

In Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, there was a person whom the seemingly good people of his day despised. Yet this one did the very same thing that Christ would do. First a priest and then a Levite passed by an injured man who was wounded and robbed by thieves. Then the Samaritan, considered by the other two as an accursed person, stopped at that same place. When he saw a person who was suffering, he came to him. He ministered to his wounds, took him to lodging, paid for his care, and promised to pay any further expenses that the injured man required to be well again. These points of the caring ministry by one who was looked down upon are an exact fit to Christ and his ways.

Another popular thought concerning Christ and Christians is a strong association with hypocrisy. However, another major work of Christ was to defeat hypocrisy. He was the greatest champion against those religious hypocrites of his day. He boldly and purposely, over and over again, confronted religious hypocrisy. The results of this tremendous work of Christ is seen in the New Testament words declaring how many priests became Christians. “And the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6) Then too, Nicodemus, the Pharisee, became one of the people having an interview with Christ. And, in a way, Nicodemus also became a defender of Christ before the high priests and Pharisees. “Nicodemus said to them: He that came to Jesus by night, and was one of them. Does our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he has done?” (John 7) Also, the great Apostle to the Gentiles was a converted Pharisee, the Apostle Paul. And in these ways too Christ work as a champion against hypocrisy was both full and perfect.

As it is now, Christ was seen through the eyes of rejection and repulsion. Contrariwise, his Revelation (that he came for as major part of his work) is most glorious. The beauty of Matthew 7 abides still in the ears of the world. “Give not that which is holy, to dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine. … Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you. … Therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, even so do ye to them. … Enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction. … Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. … Whosoever hears of me these sayings and does the same, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house on a rock: and abundance of rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that same house, and it fell not, because it was grounded on the rock. And whosoever hears of me these sayings and does them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand: and abundance of rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Thus (along with many other examples in the scripture), as preacher, teacher and prophet this major part of Christ’s ministry was full and perfect.

There was much more that composed Christ’s ministry. He taught and trained his disciples and apostles to carry on his ministry. After the resurrection, the apostles healed the sick, raised the dead and preached Christ’s kingdom. Christ bestowed the Holy Spirit on them and through the Holy Spirit’s power Christianity began and churches were established throughout their world. It was as if Christ never left—the way the Apostles ministered so gloriously.

All of these parts of Christ’s ministry and purpose in coming to the earth as the Only Begotten Son of God (God incarnate), are facets of his most glorious work that he carried out with such humility. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords was despised and rejected and bore our sins on the cross. He died to save us from sin and death by taking upon himself the judgement each sinner deserves. It was the greatest tragedy of all time that he should have been so despised. It was the greatest work of all time that lost persons, diseased and injured of body, heart and soul, should be made whole. His work of redemption, carried out in full fellowship with God and perfectly fulfilling God’s will was the consummate work of his ministry on earth and brought about redemption for all sinful persons who will believe and repent.

“I’m here because this is the place where people want me!” My brother further explained what he meant by those words. He explained to me that whenever someone was offended by his behavior they would throw his past life right in his face. They even told him, “Why don’t you go back to prison where you belong.” Thus he placed himself, by doing wrong, in the harshest place where those who should have cared for him wished him to be.

The worst hour of reproach that a person may have come into still does not compare to the disregard, persecution, contempt, and turmoil that Christ so humbly bore on the way to the cross, and on the cross; his being troubled within and in severe agony; his dreadful suffering on the cross. Whereas, he was the one person in all of time that did human-kind the most good, he was in return mocked, abused, tortured, imprisoned, sentenced to death, and executed—innocent and submissive as he was. “The Son of Man is to be lifted up. Yes, but not on a throne in Herod’s palace. He was to be conspicuous, but as the brazen serpent had been conspicuous, hanging on a pole for the healing of the people. His elevation was certain, but it was an elevation by no mere official appointment, or popular recognition, or hereditary right, but by plumbing the depths of human degradation in truest self-sacrifice. There is no royal road to human excellence, and Jesus reached the height He attained by no blare of heralds’ trumpets or flaunting of banners or popular acclaim; but by being subjected to the keenest tests by which character can be searched, by passing through the ordeal of human life in this world, and by being found the best, the one only perfectly faithful servant of God and man.” (The Expositor’s Greek Testament)

What were Christ’s thoughts amidst his pain and suffering? His thoughts were about what the scriptures say. The twenty-second Psalm has those words, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This same Psalm also says with words of prophecy pertaining to that hour, “they pierced my hands and my feet.” And, “they part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” As Christ bore our sins and suffered for us, those words were in his heart and on his lips even as the prophecies concerning his death were being fulfilled. The truth that Christ was forsaken, at that moment on the cross as he bore our sins, is certain: for both the atrocity of sin and the heavy encumbrance of death that we all share, cause us to be forsaken of God, only to receive the blessing of his presence by the cross of Christ and his resurrection.

Early in his ministry, when Jesus came to his hometown the synagogue leader handed him the scroll to read as part of the Sabbath worship. In a most prophetic way he read a providential selection from Isaiah’s prophecy: “The Spirit of the Lord abides upon me, because he has anointed me: to preach the gospel to the poor he has sent me: and to heal the broken hearted: to preach deliverance to the captive, and sight to the blind, and freely to set at liberty them that are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” After reading those words of scripture that so wondrously pertained to that hour, the neighbors he grew up with became increasingly angry. They moved themselves into contention with Christ because he presented himself as one who has a strong identification with God. There was an awareness of a wonderful claim Christ made in his life being the fulfillment of prophesy. Thus he embraced God’s purpose in an extraordinary way, though he was only an ordinary person in their eyes. Therefore, many of them, as a wild mob, threatened to kill him.

All the while Christ’s ministry was pure and true. Even when the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, examined Christ he looked for a way to free him. Pilate offered to release Christ but the crowd demanded that Pilate release Barabbas, the robber, instead. (Earlier on in his ministry to the disciples, Christ says: “The thief comes not but for to steal, kill and destroy. I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly."—John 10) In essence, Christ, who was completely innocent and who was and is to come the glorious King of kings, became worse than a criminal (a robber or murderer) in the mind of the crowd.

So often the world still thinks this way. Our modern age can monitor a rover on Mars and send a probe to Titan. In a brief time, its medical techniques can completely heal a deep wound, thus saving a life. It can redouble computing power every few years. Yet still, with all of these wonderful things, it can hold in disdain faith in a real Creator. On occasion with great persuasion—though contrary to life’s most intensely exciting truth—our world can say, “There is no God.”

 

 

Old Faithful, Yellowstone

 

Morning Glory Pool
Tell me the story of Jesus,
   Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
   Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus
   sang as they welcomed his birth.
Glory to God in the highest.
   Peace and good tidings to earth.

Fasting alone in the desert,
   tell of the days that are past.
How for our sins he was tempted.
   Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of his labor.
   Tell of the sorrows he bore.
He was despised and afflicted,
   homeless, rejected, and poor.

Tell of the cross where they nailed him,
   writhing in anguish and pain.
Tell of the grave where they laid him.
   Tell how he liveth again.
Love in that story so tender;
   clearer than ever I see.
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
   Love paid the ransom for me.

 

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I Love You

 

Hymn — Tell Me The Story of Jesus
by Fanny J. Crosey

 

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