T. De Witt (Thomas De Witt) Talmage.

The abominations of modern society online

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Modern Society.





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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S72, by


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washinijtoii.





This is a buoy swung over the rocks. If it shall
keep ship, bark, fore-and-aft schooner, or hermaphro-
dite brig from driving on a lee shore, "all's well."

The book is not more for young men than old.
The Calabria was wrecked " the last day out."

Nor is the book more for men than women. The
best being that God ever made is a good woman, and
the worst that the devil ever made is a bad one. If
anything herein shall be a warning either to man or
woman, I will be glad that the manuscript was caught
up between the sharp teeth of the type.

T. D. W. T.

Brooklyn, January ist, 1872.




The Curtain Lifted 9

Winter Nights 25

The Power of Clothes 38

After Midnight 59

The Indiscriminate Dance 79

The Massacre by Needle and Sewing-Machine 94

Pictures in the Stock Gallery 114

Leprous Newspapers 137

The Fatal Ten-Strike 154

Some of the Club-Houses 1S6

Flask, Bottle, and Demijohn 201

House of Blackness of Darkness 226

The Gun that Kicks over the Man who Shoots it off 241

Lies : White and Black 262

The Good Time Coming 276



Pride of city is natural to men, in all times,
if they live or have lived in a metropolis noted
for dignity or prowess. Ccesar boasted of his
native Rome ; Lycurgus of Sparta ; Virgil of
Andes; Demosthenes of Athens; Archimedes of
Syracuse ; and Paul of Tarsus. I should suspect
a man of base-heartedness who carried about
with him no feeling of complacency in regard to
the place of his residence ; who gloried not in its
arts, or arms, or behavior ; who looked with no
exultation upon its evidences of prosperity, its
artistic embellishments, and its scientific at-

I have noticed that men never like a place
where they have not behaved well. Swart-
hout did not like New York ; nor Dr. Webster,

lO The Abominations.

Boston. Men who have free lides in prison-
vans never like the city that furnishes tJie

When I see in history Argos, Rhodes, Smyr-
na, Chios, Colophon, and several other cities
claiming Homer, I conclude that Homer be-
haved well.

Let us not war against this pride of city,
nor expect to build up ourselves by pulling
Others down. Let Boston have its Covnnon,
its Fancuil Hall, its Coliseum, and its Atlantic
Monthly. Let Philadelphia talk about its Mint,
and Independence Hall, and Girard College.
When I find a man living in cither of those
places, who has nothing to say in favor of.
them, I feel like asking him, " What mean
thing did you do, that )-ou dc not like your
native city ? "

New York is a goodly city. It is one city
on both sides of the river. The luast River is
only the main artery of its great throbbing life.
After a while four or five bridges will span the
water, and we shall be still more emphatically
one than now. When, therefore, I say "New
York city," I mean more than a miUion of peo-

The Cicrtaiii Lifted. r i

pie, including everything between Spuyten
Duyvil Creek and Gowanus. That which tends
to elevate a part, elevates all. That which
blasts part, blasts all. Sin is a giant ; and he
comes to the Hudson or Connecticut River, and
passes it, as easily as we step across a figure in
the carpet. The blessing of God is an angel ;
and when it stretches out its two wings, one
of them hovers over that, and the other over

In infancy, the great metropolis was laid down
by the banks of the Hudson. Its infancy v/as
as feeble as that of Moses, sleeping in the bul-
rushes by the Nile ; and like Miriam, there our
fathers stood and watched it. The royal spirit
of American commerce came down to the water
to bathe ; and there she found it. She took it
in her arms, and the child grew and waxed
strong ; and the ships of foreign lands brought
gold and spices to its feet ; and, stretching itself
up into the proportions of a metropolis, it has
looked up to the mountains, and off upon the
sea, — one of the mightiest of the energies of
American civilization.

The character of the founder of a city will be

12 The Abominations.

seen for many years in its inhabitants. Romu-
lus impressed his hfe upon Rome. The Pil-
grims relax not their hold upon the cities of
New England. William Penn has left Philadel-
phia an inheritance of integrity and fair dealing ;
and on any day in that city you may see in the
manners, customs, and principles of its people,
his tastes, his coat, his hat, his wife's bonnet,
and his plain meeting-house. The Hollanders
still wield an influence over New York.

Grand Old New York ! What southern
thoroughfare was ever smitten by pestilence,
when our physicians did not throw themselves
upon the sacrifice ! What distant land has cried
out in the agony of famine, and our ships have
not put out with bread-stuffs ! What street of
Damascus, or Bcyrout, or Madras that has not
heard the step of our missionaries ! What
struggle for national life, in which our citizens
have not poured their blood into the trenches !
What gallery of exquisite art, in which our
painters have not hung their pictures ! What
department of literature or science to which our
scholars have not contributed ! I need not
speak of our public schools, where the children

The Curtain Lifted. 13

of the cordwaincr, and milkman, and glass-
blower stand by the side of the flattered sons
of millionnaires and merchant princes ; or of the
insane asylums on all these islands, where they
who came out cutting themselves, among the
tombs, now sit, clothed and in their right
mind ; or of the Magdalen asylums, where the
lost one of the street comes to bathe the Savi-
our's feet with her tears, and wipe them with the
hairs of her head, — confiding in the pardon of
Him who said — " Let him who is without sin
cast the first stone at her." I need not speak of
the institutions for the blind, the lame, the deaf
and the dumb, for the incurables, for the widow,
the orphan, and the outcast ; or of the thousand-
armed machinery that sends streaming down
from the reservoir the clear, bright, sparkling,
God-given water that rushes through our aque-
ducts, and dashes out of the hydrants, and tosses
up in our fountains, and hisses in our steam-
engines, and showers out the conflagration,
and sprinkles from the baptismal font of our
churches; and with silver note, and golden
sparkle, and crystalline chime, says to hundreds
of thousands of our population, in the authentic

14 The Abominations.

words of Him who made it — " I WILL : BE TIIOU
CLEAN ! '.'

They who hve in any of the American cities
have a goodly heritage ; and it is in no depreci-
ation of our advantages that I speak, but be-
cause, in the very contrast with our opportu-
nities and mission, THE ABOMINATIONS
are tenfold more abominable.

The sources from which I will bring the array
of facts will be police, detective, and alms-house
reports ; city .missionaries' explorations, and the
testimony of the abandoned and sin-blasted,
who, about to take the final plunge, have stag-
gered back just for a moment, to utter the Avild
shriek of their warning, and the agonizing wail
of their despair.

I shall call upon you to consider the drunken-
ness, the stock-gambling, the rampant dishon-
esties, the club-houses so far as they are nefari-
ous, the excess of fashion, the horrors of un-
chastity, the bad books and unclean newspapers,
and the whole range of sinful amusements ; and
with the plough-share of truth turn up the whole

If we could call up the victims themselves,

The Cti7'taiii Lifted. 15

they would give the most impressive story. Peo-
ple knew not how Turner, the painter, got such
vivid conceptions of a storm at sea, until they
heard the story that oftentimes he had been
lashed to the dock in the midst of the tempest,
in order that he might study the wrath of the sea.
Those who have themselves been tossed on
the wave of infamous transgressions could give
us the most vivid picture of what it is to sin and
to die. With hand tremulous with exhausting
disease, and hardly able to get the accursed
bowl to his lips — put into such a hand the
pencil, and it can sketch, as can no one else, the
darkness, the fire, the wild terror, the headlong
pitch, and the hell of those who have sur-
rendered themselves to iniquity. While we
dare only come near the edge, and, balancing
ourselves a while, look off, and our head swims,
and our breath catches, — those can tell the story
best who have fallen to the depths with wilder
dash than glacier from the top of a Swiss- cliff,
and stand, in their agony, looking up for a relief
that comes not, and straining their eyes for a
hope that never dawns — crying, "O God!"
" O God!"

1 6 The Abominations.

It is terrible to see a lion dashing for escape
against the sides of his cage ; but a more aw-
ful thing it is to behold a man, caged in bad
habit, trying to break out, — blood on the soul,
blood on the cage.

Others may throw garlands upon Sin, pictur-
ing the overhanging fruits which drop in her
pathway, and make every step graceful as the
dance ; but we cannot be honest without present-
ing it as a giant, black with the soot of the forges
where eternal chains are made, and feet rotting
with disease, and breath foul with plagues, and
eyes glaring with woe, and locks flowing in ser-
pent fangs, and voice from which shall rumbl.»
forth the blasphemies of the damned.

I open to you a door, through which you
see — what ? Pictures and fountains, and mirrors
and flowers ? No : it is a lazar-house of disease.
The walls drip, drip, drip with the damps of
sepulchres. The victims, strewn over the floor,
writhe and twist among each other in contortions
indescribable, holding up their ulcerous wounds,
tearing their matted hair, weeping tears of
blood : some hooting with revengeful cry ; some
howling with a maniac's fear ; some chattering

The Curtain Lifted. 17

with idiot's stare ; some calling upon God ; some
calling upon fiends ; wasting away ; thrusting
each other back ; mocking each other's pains ;
tearing open each other's ulcers ; dropping with
the ichor of death ! The wider I open the door,
the ghastlier the scene. — Worse the horrors.
More desperate recoils. Deeper curses. More
blood. I can no longer endure the vision, and
I shut the door, and cover my eyes, and turn
my back, and cry, " God pity them ! "

Some one may say, " What is the use of such an
exposure as you propose to make ? Our families
are all respectable." I answer, that no family,
however elevated and exclusive, can be inde-
pendent of the state of public morals.

However pleasant the block of houses in
which you dwell, the wretchedness, the tempta-
tion, and the outrage of municipal crime will put
its hand on your door-knob, and dash its awful
surge against the marble of your door-steps, as
the stormy sea drives on a rocky beach.

That condition of morals is now being formed,
amid which our children must walk. Do you
tell me it is none of my business what street
profanity shall curse my boy's ear, on his way to

1 8 The Abominations.

school ? Think you it is no concern of yours
what infamous advertisements, placarded on the
walls, or in the public newspaper, shall smite the
vision of your innocent little ones ? Shall I be
nervous about a stagnant pool of water, lest it
breed malaria, and be careless when there are in
the very heart of our city thousands of houses,
devoted to various forms of dissipation, which
day and night steam with miasma, and pour out
the fiery lava of pollution, and darken the air
with their horrors, and fill the skies with the
smoke of their torment, that ascendeth up for-
ever and ever? If a slaughter-house be opened
in the midst of the town, we hasten down to the
Mayor to have the nuisance abated. But now
I make complaint, not to the Mayor or Com-
mon Council, but to the masses of the people,
who have the power to lift men up to office,
and to cast them down, against a hundred thou-
sand slaughter-houses in our American cities.
In the name of our happy homes, of our refined
circles, of our schools, of our churches, — in the
name of all that is dear and beautiful and vali:-
able and holy, — I enter the complaint. If you
now sit unconcerned, and leave to professed

The Cicrtain Lifted. 19

philanthropists the work, and care not who are
in authority or what laws remain unexecuted,
j-ou may li\e to see the time \\hcn }^ou will
curse the day in which your children were born.

My belief is that such an exposition of public
immoralities will do good, by exciting pity for
the victims and wholesale indignation against
the abettors and perpetrators.

Who is that man fallen against the curbstone,
covered with bruises and beastliness? He was
as bright-faced a lad as ever looked up from
your nursery. His mother rocked him, prayed
for him, fondled him, would not let the night
air touch his cheek, and held him up and looked
down into his loving eyes, and wondered for
what high position he was being fitted. He
entered life with bright hopes. The world beck-
oned him, friends cheered him, but the archers
shot at him ; vile men set traps for him, bad
habits hooked fast to him with their iron grap-
ples ; his feet slipped on the way ; and there
he lies. Who would think that that uncombed
hair was once toyed with by a father's fingers ?
Who would think that those bloated cheeks
were e\'er kissed by a mother's lips ? Would

20 The Abominations.

you guess that that thick tongue once made a
household glad with its innocent prattle ? Ut-
ter no harsh Avords in his ear. Help him up.
Put the hat over that once manly brow. Brush
the dust from that coat that once covered a
generous heart. Show him the way to the
home that once rejoiced at the sound of his
footstep, and with gentle words tell his chil-
dren to stand back as you help him through the

That was a kind husband once and an in-
dulgent father. He will kneel with them no
more as once he did at family prayers — the
little ones with clasped hands looking up into
the heavens with thanksgiving for their happy
home. But now at midnight he will drive
them from their pillows and curse them down
the steps, and howl after them as, unclad, they
fly down the street, in night-garments, under the
calm starlight.

Who slew that man ? Who blasted that
home ? Who plunged those children into worse
than orphanage — until the hands are blue with
cold, and the checks are blanched with fear,
and the brow is scarred with bruises, and the

The Ctirtain Lifted. i\

eyes are hollow with grief? Who made that
life a wreck, and filled eternity with the uproar
of a doomed spirit ?

There are those whose regular business it
is to work this death. They mix a cup that
glows and flashes and foams with enchantment.
They call it Cognac, or Hock, or Heidsick, or
Schnapps, or Old Bourbon, or Brandy, or
Champagne ; but they tell not that in the rud-
dy glow there is the blood of sacrifice, and in
its flash the eye of uncoiled adders, and in the
foam the mouth-froth of eternal death. Not
knowing what a horrible mixture it is, men
take it up and drink it down —the sacrificial
blood, the adder's venom, the death-froth — •
and smack their lips and call it a delightful

Oh ! if I had some art by which I could break
the charm of the tempter's bowl, and with mail-
ed hand lift out the long serpent of eternal de-
spair, and shake out its coils, and cast it down,
and crush it to death !

But the enchantment cannot thus be broken.
It hides in the bottom of the bowl ; and not un-
til a man is entirely fallen does the monster lift

22 The Abominations.

itself up, and strike with its terrific fangs, and
answer all his implorations for mercy with fiend-
ish hiss. We must arouse public opinion, un-
til city. State, and national officials shall no
longer dare to neglect the execution of the law.
We have enough enactments now to revolu-
tionize our cities and strike terror through the
drinking-houses and gambling-dens and houses
of sin. Tracts distributed will not do it ; Bi-
bles printed will not accomplish it ; city mis-
sionaries have not power for the work.

Will tracts do it? As well try with three
or four snow-flakes to put out Cotapaxi !

We want police officers, common councilmen,
aldermen, sheriff's, mayors, who will execute
the law. Give us for two weeks in our cities
an honest city hall, and public pgllution would
fall like lightning from heaven !

If you republicans, and you democrats, do
not do your duty in this regard, we will, after a
while, form a party of our own, and put men in
position pledged to anti-rum, anti-dirt, anti-
nuisances, anti-monopolies, anti- abominations,
and will give to those of you who have been so
long feeding on public spoils, careless of public

The Curtain Lifted. 23

morals, not so much as the wages of a street

We are not discouraged. Tt may seem to
many that all of our battling against these evils
will come to naught. But if the coral insects
can lift an island, our feeble efforts, under God,
may raise a brealc-watcr that will dash back the
surges of municipal abomination. Beside, we
toil not in our own strength.

It seemed insignificant for Moses to stretch
his hand over the Red Sea. What power
could that have over the waters ? But the east
wind blew all night ; the waters gathered into
two glittering palisades on either side. The
billows reared as God's hand pulled back upon
their crystal bits. Wheel into line, O Israel 1
March ! March 1 Pearls crash under the feet.
The flying spray springs a rainbow arch over
the victors. The shout of hosts mounting the
beach answers the shout of hosts mid-sea ; until,
as the last line of the Israelites have gained the
beach, the shields clang, and the C3'mbals
clap ; and as the waters whelm the pursuing
foe, the swift-fingered winds on the white
keys of the foam play the grand march of Is-

24 The Abominations.

rael delivered, and the awful dirge of Egyptian

So we go forth ; and stretch out the hand of
prayer and Christian effort over these dark,
boiling waters of crime and suffering. "Aha!
Aha ! " say the deriding world. But wait.
The winds of divine help will begin to blow ;
the way will clear for the great army of Chris-
tian philanthropists ; the glittering treasures of
the world's beneficence will line the path of our
feet ; and to the other shore we will be greeted
with the clash of all heaven's cymbals ; while
those who resist and deride and pursue us will
fall under the sea, and there will be nothing left
of them but here and there, cast high and dry
upon the beach, the splintered wheel of a char-
iot, and, thrust out from the surf, the breathless
nostril of a riderless charger.


The inhabitants of one of the old cities were
told that they would have to fly for their lives.
Such flight would be painful, even in the flush
of spring-time, but superlatively aggravating if
in cold weather ; and therefore they were told
to pray that their flight be not in the winter.

There is something in the winter season that
not' only tests our physical endurance, but, es-
pecially in the city, tries our moral character.
It is the winter months that ruin, morally, and
forever, many of our young men. We sit in
the house on a winter's night, and hear the
storm raging on the outside, and imagine the
helpless crafts driven on the coast ; but if our
ears were only good enough, we could, on any
winter night, hear the crash of a hundred moral

Many who came last September to town, by
cht. first of March will have been blasted. It
only takes one winter to ruin a young man.
When the long winter evenings have come,

26 The Ahoininations.

many of. our young men will improve them in
forming a more intimate acquaintance with
books, contracting higher social friendships, and
strengthening and ennobling their characters.
But not so with all. I will show you before I
get through that, at this season of the year,
temptations are especially rampant : and my
counsel is, Look out hoiu yoii spend yo?ir zvintcr
nights !

I remark, first, that there is no season of the
year in which vicious allurements are so active.

In warm weather, places of dissipation win
their tamest triumphs. People do not feel like
going, in the hot nights of summer, among the
blazing gas-lights, or breathing the fetid air of
assemblages. The receipts of the grog-shops
in a December night are three times what they
are in any night in July or August. I doubt
not there arc larger audiences in the casinos in
winter than in the summer weather. Iniquity
plies a more profitable trade. December, Jan-
uary, and February are harvest-months for the
devil. The play-bills of the low entertainments
then are more charming, the acting is more
exquisite, the enthusiasm of the spectators more

Winter Nights. 27

bewitching. Many a young man who makes
out to keep right the rest of the year, capsizes
now. When he came to town in the autumn,
his eye was bright, his check rosy, his step
elastic ; but, before spring, as you pass him
you will say to your friend, " What is the matter
with that young man ? " The fact is that one
winter of dissipation has done the work of ruin.

This is the season for parties ; and, if they are
of the right kind, our social nature is improved,
and our spirits cheered up. But many of them
are not of the right kind ; and our young people,
night after night, are kept in the whirl of un-
healthy excitement until their strength fails, and
their spirits arc broken down, and their taste
for ordinary life corrupted ; and, by the time
the spring weather comes, they are in the doc
tor's hands, or sleeping in the cemetery. The
certificate of their death is made out, and the
physician, out of regard for the family, calls the
disease by some Latin name, when the truth is
that they died of too many parties.

Away with these wine-drinking convivialities !
How dare you, the father of a household, trifle
with the appetites of our young people ? Per-

28 The Abovtinaiions.

haps, out of regard for the minister, or some
other weak temperance man, you have the de-
canter in aside-room, where, after refreshments,
only a select few are invited ; and }^ou come
back with a glare in your eye, and a stench in
your breath, that shows that you have been out
serving the devil.

Some one asks, " For what purpose are these
people gone into that side-room ? "

" O," replies one who has just come out,
smacking his lips, " they have gone in to see
the white dog ! "

The excuse which Christian men often give for
this is, that it is necessary, after such late eating,
by some sort of stimulant to help digestion.
My plain opinion is, that if a man have no more
control over his appetite than to stuff himself
until his digestive organs refuse to do their of-
fice, he ought not to call himself a man, but
rather to class himself among the beasts that
perish. I take the words of the Lord Almighty,
and cry, " Woe to him that putteth the bottle to
his neighbor's lips ! "

Young man, take it as the counsel of a friend,
when I bid you be cautious where you spend

Winter N'ights. 29

your zvintcr evenings. Thank God that }-ou
have Hvcd to see the glad winter days in which
your childhood was made cheerful by the faces
of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters,
some of whom, alas ! will never again wish you
a "happy New Year," or a "Merry Christ-

Let no one tempt you out of your sobriety,
I have seen respectable young men of the best
families drunk on New Year's day. The excuse
they gave for the inebriation was that the ladies
insisted on their taking it. There have been
instances where the delicate hand of woman hath
kindled a young man's taste for strong drink,
who after many years, when the attractions of
that holiday scene were all forgotten, crouched
in her rags, and her desolation, and her woe
under the uplifted hand of the drunken monster
who, on that Christmas mornin"- so lone ago

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Online LibraryT. De Witt (Thomas De Witt) TalmageThe abominations of modern society → online text (page 1 of 13)