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With Prefatory Note by Rev. Jacob Ide.


dToncjrEgational $untJa2=$cJ)ool aniJ ^ublisljtng Socictg,

congregational house,

Corner Beacon and Somerset Streets.





a i9«5 L

copyright, 1886, by
Congregational Sunday-School and Publishing Society



THE late Rev. Mortimer Blake, d.d., the author of
these discourses, was well known as a ripe scholar
and profound thinker. He had a mode of expression
singularly clear, forcible, and original. AVTien he was
seen in the pulpit, something more than the ordinary
exposition of Scripture was expected.

He seemed like one who had sailed over the ocean of
truth, not merely glancing at its surface, but exploring
its depths and bringing up rich treasures.

He skillfully avoided the seaweed and barnacles of
l^rofitless speciUation and dropped his lead where it was
sure to fasten itself to the i^riceless pearl. For this
reason the title Soundings has been given to this book.
Perhaps no other word could more concis(}ly and com-
prehensively indicate the nature of its contents. The
old proverb is reversed in this case; all is gold that
glitters here.

It is believed that no commendatory word will be
needed to induce those who were accustomed to listen to
Dr. Blake's pulpit addresses to renew the old and sacred
associations by the perusal of this volume.

To others, the testimony of one long connected with
him in a ministerial association may be interesting and
important. He says: " I have noticed when any dif&cult
2j subject was to be investigated, Dr. Blake was generally

2 appointed as the essayist."

O The rare wisdom and culture of one who was con-

cx^ suited by pastors and laymen far and near, in circum-

O stances of perplexity, are here partially exhibited, laying

^ the public under special obligations to his daughter, Mrs.



Evelyn L. Morse, who has prei^ared tMs work for the

It is a remarkable fact that these sermons appear in
print just as the author left them at his decease, scarcely
a sentence being added or changed.

The writer of these few prefatory words feels honored
by tliis privilege of calling attention to the writings of
one who was formerly his revered instructor, his prede-
cessor in the ministry at Mansfield, and his cherished
friend for many years.



Prefatory Note 3


I. Animate Nature. A Summer Sermon . 19

II. Christian Light-houses 32


IV. Meaning of Solomon's Song 54

V. Origin of Salvation 68

VI. Christ a Gift to the World .... 85

VII. Christ the First-fruits 98

Vni. Inner Strength of Christianity . . . 112

IX. Existing Antagonisms Approved of God 128

X. The Dream of Pilate's Wife .... 143

XI. Plea for the Little Ones 157

XII. AYeak Kinglings 172

XIII. Night Service 186

XIV. Christlajm Assurance of Heaven . . . 200
XV. Do THE Dead Know of Us ? 213



IN the year 1675, that part of Dedham which
afterward became Wrentham was hastily
deserted by its few inhabitants through fear of the
advancing braves of Philip of Pokanoket, who had
already burned and sacked Medfield. When, after
the close of hostilities, they returned to rebuild
their burned dwellings, there came with them
John Blake, of Sandwich, with his wife and their
son Robert. The boy grew up there and became the
father of ten children, of whom three were among
the original settlers of Keene, New Hampshire. A
fourth, Josiah, remained in Wrentham, and was a
lieutenant in the colonial troops. Of his large
family, Philip was among the young men who
rallied to the drum after Bunker Hill, and became
commissary - major at Dorchester Heights. He
afterward returned to Wrentham, was a deacon
in the church there, and in 1800 bought a farm in
Franklin and removed thither with his family.
Ira, one of his younger sons, developed special
skill as a worker in brass and iron, and also a fond-


ness for books and study. In his young manhood
he migrated to Maine, where he became school-
master, and also master-mechanic. He there met,
and in due time married, Laura, daughter of Cap-
tain Augustus and Chloe (Fisk) Mowry, a young
lady of rare beauty and of fine intellectual gifts.
Their eldest son, Mortimer, was born in Pittston,
Maine, on the east shore of the Kennebec River,
June 10, 1813. After the close of the War of 1812,
in which he had seen service, Ira and his family,
comprising now two children, removed to the old
home at Franklin, Massachusetts, where they
remained permanently.

Mortimer as a child was not of vigorous consti-
tution ; but he inherited from his father a passion-
ate love of books, and from his mother an unusual
mental endowment and a fine memory. His tastes
in this direction were fostered not only by the
common school but more by the privilege, which
he eagerly seized, of delving in the small but solid
libraries in Franklin. One of these, abounding in
heavy quartos and folios, was the gift of Benjamin
Franklin, for whom the town was named. There
was another, owned by share-holders, comprising a
hundred or more volumes of history. His grand-
father, Philip Blake, and the town doctor, Spencer
Pratt, had books which were freely put at his dis-
posal. He has himself drawn, in a few lines, a
humorous picture of the boy of ten tugging away
the huge folios of the Franklin Library, while Dr.


Emmons, the custodian, looked on with kindly-
smile. He refused nothing and skipped nothing,
whether history, medicine, or theology, albeit
sometimes a little staggered by hard words in
such tough works as "Lardner on the Logos."
But the difficulties only stimulated his desire to
conquer them, and so, when one day he discovered,
in a chamber cupboard of a family at the City
Mills, a Latin grammar, he felt that his fortune
was made. That incident he afterward marked
as the determining point of his whole future life.
Alone and unaided, in the intervals of farm labor,
he wrestled with the unknown tongue. Soon after
he purchased, in Providence, an Ainsworth's Dic-
tionary for a dollar and a half, which nearly emptied
his pocket, and in due time secured a Virgil. He
was not yet fifteen. For two years he worked
patiently by himself, with such good effect that
some of the leading gentlemen of the place urged
that he should have a college education.

Just at this time, in 1829, Rev. Elam Smalley
was settled in Franklin as the successor of Dr.
Emmons. Mortimer's grandfather one day hinted
to him that if the new minister would hear his
recitations, he would pay the tuition. No grass
grew under his feet that day as he hurried to
the minister's, and finding him responsive, syste-
matic study was begun forthwith. The young
parson was pleased with his puj^il, assuring his
landlady that the boy learned " as easily as water
runs down hill."


In the same winter a German Jew named Seixas,
whilom a teacher of Hebrew at Harvard, came to
live in town, and gathered a Hebrew class from
the neighboring ministers. Jacob Ide and Sewell
Harding, of Medway, and Elisha Fisk, of Wren-
tham, were in the class, and so was Mortimer
Blake, by Mr. Smalley's special suggestion ; and
the shrewd Jew kept the clergy wide awake at
their work by now and then calling up the lad in
the corner to prompt them when they lagged.

In the autumn of 1830, Medway Academy was
started by Abijah R. Baker, a recent graduate of
Amherst. Thither Mortimer went, and the year
following entered the freshman class at Amherst.
It would be interesting, did the limits of this brief
sketch allow it, to follow him as he traveled, by such
conveyance as could be had, to the Hampshire Hills;
to look in on the routine of the college day, from
the pitiless rising-bell at five o'clock in the morn-
ing to the retiring-bell at nine p.m., and to catch a
few glimpses of his life there as it is described in a
few letters which have been preserved. We should
find him already developing the versatility that
marked his after life : playing the flute in the
college orchestra of seventeen pieces ; teaching
music with a class of twelve on the flute ; draw-
ing with a facile pencil ; interested in all that went
on about him while paying strict attention to col-
lege duties. But we can only draw back the cur-
tain from a single event, in his junior year, which,


like the finding of the Latin grammar in his boy-
hood, marked a life crisis. In March, 1834, he
wrote home of a quickened spiritual feeling
throughout the college, and of the new-found rest
that some had reached. Of himself he wrote
modestly, tremblingly, but in the repressed exu-
berance of his hope, which made him long to see
the beloved faces again, and especially to talk with
his affectionate and revered grandfather concern-
ing the new light that was dawning within him.
It had cost him a hard struggle : he had been with-
stood by grim unbelief in his own breast ; but he
had looked the doubt in the face, and cried for
grace to help, and had triumphed, and though
alternating for some time between hope and fear,
he pressed steadily on from that point.

He graduated in the class of 1835 and returned
home. By his exertions an academy was started
in Franklin, and he became its teacher, studying
theology, meanwhile, with his pastor and former
tutor, Mr. Smalley. Rev. Jacob Ide, Jr., of Mans-
field, one of his pupils at that time, draws a
graphic picture of his work there, emphasizing
especially his rare tact and versatility, and the
success he had in inspiring his pupils with ardor
in their studies. Under his touch nothing was
dry : botany, geology, astronomy, were illustrated
by out-of-door rambles, and plainer studies by
ever-ready illustrations from his own experience
or research. He roused ambition and zeal, awak-


enecl curiosity, played skillfully on the love of
humor, and made school-life a fascination. He
had rare adaptation for this work, and only his
subsequent success in the ministry prevents a re-
gret that he could not have continued in it.

He was married, February 21, 1837, to Miss
Harriet Louisa, daughter of Joseph and Susan
(Fisher) Daniels, of Franklin, a union which
lasted for almost forty-eight years, and was only
sundered by his ov/n death. For one year he
taught the Hopkins Academy at Hadley, and
then began his pastoral work.

In the spring of 1838, in the town of Mansfield,
then a straggling village of twent}^-two houses,
two stores, and a meeting-house, occurred one of
those ecclesiastical excitements, so rife in those
days of the Unitarian exodus, and a few earnest
men and women withdrew from the old church
and set up worship in the school-house. In Au-
gust of the following year Mr. Blake preached one
Sunday for the young church, and two weeks later
was invited to supply the pulpit for six weeks,
with a view to candidacy. The result was a call
and its acceptance, and on the fourth of Decem-
ber, 1839, "on a cold and blustering day," he was
ordained to the ministry and to the pastorate of
the Mansfield Congregational Church, and there
for sixteen years he labored quietly and assidu-
ously in ever}^ good work.

It was a day of beginnings for both pastor and


people. A church of forty-nine members, a parish
of forty-nine families, a congregation of about a
hundred, and a Sunday-school of eighty-four, —
this was the equipment. Add to this that the
church owed eighteen hundred dollars on its
house of worship, and depended on the Home
Missionary Society for two hundred dollars a year
toward current expenses, and it becomes evident
that his position was no sinecure. A revival in
the first year added twenty-one to the church.
Then came six years of very plain and sometimes
discouraging but far from fruitless effort, since, at
the end of this time, the debt was paid and the
church assumed self-support.

We can not follow this history in detail. Here,
as always, Mr. Blake Avas not only pastor of the
church, but wielded in a variety of ways the tell-
ing influence of an educated Christian man in the
community. He had private pupils most of the
time ; he taught drawing and instrumental music ;
he was on the School Committee, and was the
means of establishing the High School, the first
teacher of which, Mr., afterward Rev., Josiah D.
Armes, studied theology under his tuition. Be-
sides all this, he found time to lecture on educa-
tion, temperance, and other matters of vital
interest in a New England town. His monthly
missionary concerts, held in the High School
building, were of exceptional interest. The min-
ister's house, too, was in those days a hotel, and a


motley company it was that passed in procession
through its doors for sixteen years. Among the
rest, in the dark days of fugitive-slave laws, was a
family of slaves, fatlier, mother, and children, en
route for the Canadian Canaan, and they found
this station of the "underground railway" trust-

During these years many invitations came to
him tg consider other fields, but he was too much
interested in his work to leave. At length, how-
ever, the Win slow Church of Taunton made a
more effectual plea, or the time had come when he
felt a change allowable, and amid universal regret
he left the Mansfield Church, now strong and well-
trained, for the more important county town.

He was installed in Taunton, on the fourth of
December, 1855, and here for the twenty-nine years
of his life remaining was his home and his work.

Into this work he put all the qualities, ripened
now by experience, which had made him a marked
man from his youth. He was never physically
vigorous, but his mental alertness and his sys-
tematic habit enabled him to accomplish a vast
amount of work, and to gain a quiet but predomi-
nant influence in the community and in all the
region round about. A shrewd and keen but
kindly observer of men and things, widely read in
the direction of his own aptitudes, full of quaint
and happy metaphor, abounding in quiet humor,
his preaching, unadorned by any oratorical method,


gained wide-awake and eager listeners. He had a
strong sympathy with young life and was apt in
addressing it. His historical tastes led him into
valuable work in the lines of local history. He
was a member of the Massachusetts Historic, Genea-
logical Society and of the Old Colony Historical
Society. In educational work no man has had
more influence in Taunton. As member of the
School Board, trustee of Bristol Academy, and
president of the trustees of Wheaton Seminary at
Norton, he exerted a marked influence. The City
Library owes much to his wise and fostering care.
In his Ministerial Association his influence is pre-
dominant, and he was scribe and manager of the
Taunton Conference of Churches during its whole
liistory. From far and wide he was sought for
counsel and suggestion, and his uniform tact and
courtesy, coupled with a shrewd sagacity, gave him
exceptional qualifications for such work. On the
executive committee of the Massachusetts Home
Missionary Society, and in connection with the
Congregational Sunday - School and Publishing
Society, part of the time as secretary, he proved
himself equal to wider tasks and a conservator of
broader interests.

He had strong convictions, but hated contro-
versy and knew the value of silence. He gained
a wide control of interests, but never by any^self-
assertion. His methods as a pastor were quiet and
undemonstrative but characterized by wisdom and


tact. As a citizen he fulfilled to an unusual de-
gree the ideal of an educated and Christian man,
applying his high theories of ethics and public
spirit in his relations to the community and the
state. His literary work, outside his professional
routine, was varied and multiform, though much
of it was not prepared for print. In essays,
reviews of books, and the special work of the Pub-
lishing Society he was always busy. He was fer-
tile in topics for his own work and that of others.
His published writings include two funeral sermons,
published in 1844 and 1845 ; " Gethsemane and
Calvary," 12 mo., 1844 ; " Address at the Erection
of the Emmons Monument at Franklin," 1846;
"Import of the Covenant, a Sermon," 1846; "The
Duty of Mutual Forbearance, a Sermon," 1846;
"The Maine Preventive, a Fast Day Sermon,"
1852; "History of the Mendon Association,"
358 pp., 1853 ; " History of Franklin," 1880.

In 1868 his Alma Mater conferred on him the
degree of doctor of divinity. In 1880, by the
kindness of his people, he had, what he was pecu-
liarly qualified to enjoy, a European trip, in com-
pany with his wife, and part of the way with his
younger son, who remained in Berlin to pursue the
study of physics under Helmholtz. His health,
which was improved by the trip, was, however,
too seriously impaired to be fully recovered.
Four years more he wrought on under difficul-
ties, and then passed into wider spheres. His


death occuiTed on the twenty-second of December,
1884, in his seventy-second year. He left behind
the companion of all his working years, four chil-
dren, — two sons and two daughters, — and five
grandchildren. His loss was, severely felt in his
church, in the city, and in all the region where he
had been so long and well know^n. It was a gen-
uine sorrow that followed his departure. His in-
fluence, incorporated in a hundred ways into the
life of the community, can never be eliminated.
Content to forego notoriety, he gained what is
infinitely better, — the hearty appreciation of
those who knew him and a lasting influence
for good in the sphere where his life was spent.

Taunton, February, 1886.





Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the
Lord.— Psalm 150: 6.

80 closes up the Book of Psalms, the hymn-
book of all ages. Moses, and David, and
Heman, and Asaph, and others had sung the
praise or implored the help of Jehovah from their
own separate experiences — soloists out of the
great company of the saints ; but their several
voices blend at last with the grand chorus of the
Church, in the one hundred and fiftieth psalm,
which closes with this magnificent outburst of

Notice the peculiar structure of this last of the
Psalms. It is a tenfold exhortation to praise, in
the same form of words enclosed between two
hallelujahs. It first tells where God is to be
praised, " in his sanctuary and in the firmament of
his power " — that is, on earth and in heaven ;
next, why he is to be praised — " for his mighty


acts, and for his excellent greatness " ; and then
how he is to be praised — by every kind of then
known instrument ; and lastly, that no voice or
sound-utterance shall be left out of this universal
paean, — the Psalmist closes, " Let every thing
that hath breath praise the Lord." It is a call
upon all earth-voices, all existences, to praise God.

It implies and assumes that every thing that
hath breath, that is, hath capabilities of expression,
can praise him : that is, all things on earth, when
we understand them, will, as if with a vocal call,
excite in us an exaltation of Jehovah. The
language suggests especially the non-intelligent?
and the oftenest overlooked, existences as exalt-
ing God. Let us take out this one suggestion
for our study to-day.

God is praised by his meanest works. In these
summer days, when every one loves to be out-of-
doors amongst the voices of non-intelligent things,
it is worth while to remember that they are really
telling us somewhat, and to try to understand
and detect, in the noises of held, wood, and shore,
the perpetual and universal song of praise which
goes up to God.

We generally lift our eyes up to the skies when
we would see the wonders of God : as if he were
praised only by the greatness of his works. The
vast blue canopj^, where God dashes his cloud-
pictures and brushes them away again with his
breath, on which he hangs his lamps when his


children go to bed, — this canopy we usually
turn to, to excite our praise of him who has hung
it upon nothing.

But now I would have you look down and
about your feet for the little voices in the shrubs
and grasses which say, softly but distinctly,
*' Praise ye the Lord."

First, observe closely the greatness and diversity
of this chorus of small singers, and second, their

The hills and the valleys are carpeted with
grass, pranked with a million flowers, of countless
variety of form and color and odor, yet each with
its own full complement of organs and juices,
and so exactly conformable to its pattern as to
admit of nicest classification. Every-where, from
mountain-top to dell-bottom, you find them in their
season. Not a thimbleful of earth collects in the
rock-crevices, but some lichen or fern starts up
from it. As if there were still scantiness of room
to show the possibilities of vegetable life, the dust
sediment in every pool throws up its spire and
flower-stalk, as a specimen of what may be under-
neath. Even the salt-sea depths rock their growths
to maturity by the deep waves, and then send them
ashore on the billows as samples of the work going
on below the waters in regions which man can not

The botanist Linnaeus said that he could cover
with one hand on the grass evidences enough


to confound all the skeptics in Sweden. He
was right. The greensward of the fields and
the pools of the sea-shore speak in one voice to
praise him who has filled them with the breath
of life.

It seems to me there was a divine intention in
the invention and use of the microscope so near
to that of the telescope — not fifty years' differ-
ence in their scientific use (1608 and 1658).

The telescope had just showed that worlds exist
all about us which the naked eye had never
detected, and it upset all the old hypotheses. It
removed our earth from its supposed place, in the
center of the universe, out amongst its smaller
satellites and dependences. Consequently man
shrank wonderfully in his self-importance. Skep-
ticism, always watching for such suggestions,
quickly concluded that man, the brief inhabitant
of this small patch of creation, could not be the
subject of enough consequence to the Creator to
have received a special revelation, a visit from the
Son of God, and a divine sacrifice for his salvation.
It seemed to be all over with our Bible and our

But just then the microscope revealed another
universe, tapering in the opposite direction,
toward nothingness ; and so man still actually
stood in the center of creation, where his Maker
had put him. If he was at the foot of an ascend-
ing series toward the cherubim, he was at the same


time at tlie head of a descending series toward the

Thus the name of Jehovah, so legibly written
by the stars as its letters, is read also in the mi-
nute characters writ on the leaves of the trees and
in the grass, and his praise is sung by the rustlings
and chirpings of insects as distinctly as by the
music of the spheres. We detect the one song in
the minutest flower, in the facet of crystal, in the
rays of the water-drop, and the motions of the
animalcules. Nothing is silent. Every smallest
thing has on it the mark of its Maker, and it is
by putting these together that we rise to an idea
of the manifold goodness of the Almighty.

But we must come down very much closer to
this microscopic creation if we will hear its small
voice praising the Lord. It may seem a very
humble service, but I would have you catch some
of the nameless harmony of voices from the high-
est to the lowest of creation. Please attend to
the evidences in the song : —

First, of the thoughtfulness of God.

You detect his thoughtfulness in the minute
and skillful finish of all, even the smallest of his
works. There is nowhere any sign of slighted,
half-finished negligence. There are no inefficient
failures of contrivance, no disappointed and for-
saken endeavor, no careless indifference of result.
Every thing shows the most studious inventive-

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