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Chapter 9 The Sermon

  • Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority ordered th_cattered people to condense. “Star board gangway, there! side away t_arboard—larboard gangway to starboard! Midships! midships!”
  • There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a stil_lighter shuffling of women’s shoes, and all was quiet again, and every eye o_he preacher.
  • He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit’s bows, folded his large brow_ands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered a prayer s_eeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea.
  • This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a bell i_ ship that is foundering at sea in a fog— in such tones he commenced readin_he following hymn; but changing his manner towards the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy—
  • The ribs and terrors in the whale,
  • Arched over me a dismal gloom,
  • While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,
  • And lift me deepening down to doom.
  • I saw the opening maw of hell,
  • With endless pains and sorrows there;
  • Which none but they that feel can tell—
  • Oh, I was plunging to despair.
  • In black distress, I called my God,
  • When I could scarce believe him mine,
  • He bowed his ear to my complaints—
  • No more the whale did me confine.
  • With speed he flew to my relief,
  • As on a radiant dolphin borne;
  • Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone
  • The face of my Deliverer God.
  • My song for ever shall record
  • That terrible, that joyful hour;
  • I give the glory to my God,
  • His all the mercy and the power.
  • Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high above the howlin_f the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly turned over the leave_f the Bible, and at last, folding his hand down upon the proper page, said: “Beloved shipmates, clinch the last verse of the first chapter of Jonah—‘An_od had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.’”
  • “Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters— four yarns—is one of th_mallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what depths of th_oul does Jonah’s deep sealine sound! what a pregnant lesson to us is thi_rophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in the fish’s belly! How billow- like and boisterously grand! We feel the floods surging over us, we sound wit_im to the kelpy bottom of the waters; sea-weed and all the slime of the se_s about us! But what is this lesson that the book of Jonah teaches?
  • Shipmates, it is a two-stranded lesson; a lesson to us all as sinful men, an_ lesson to me as a pilot of the living God. As sinful men, it is a lesson t_s all, because it is a story of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly awakene_ears, the swift punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally the deliveranc_nd joy of Jonah. As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son o_mittai was in his wilful disobedience of the command of God— never mind no_hat that command was, or how conveyed— which he found a hard command. But al_he things that God would have us do are hard for us to do—remember that— an_ence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein th_ardness of obeying God consists.
  • “With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah still further flouts at God, b_eeking to flee from Him. He thinks that a ship made by men, will carry hi_nto countries where God does not reign but only the Captains of this earth.
  • He skulks about the wharves of Joppa, and seeks a ship that’s bound fo_arshish. There lurks, perhaps, a hitherto unheeded meaning here. By al_ccounts Tarshish could have been no other city than the modern Cadiz. That’_he opinion of learned men. And where is Cadiz, shipmates? Cadiz is in Spain; as far by water, from Joppa, as Jonah could possibly have sailed in thos_ncient days, when the Atlantic was an almost unknown sea. Because Joppa, th_odern Jaffa, shipmates, is on the most easterly coast of the Mediterranean, the Syrian; and Tarshish or Cadiz more than two thousand miles to the westwar_rom that, just outside the Straits of Gibraltar. See ye not then, shipmates, that Jonah sought to flee worldwide from God? Miserable man! Oh! mos_ontemptible and worthy of all scorn; with slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking from his God; prowling among the shipping like a vile burgla_astening to cross the seas. So disordered, self-condemning is his look, tha_ad there been policemen in those days, Jonah, on the mere suspicion o_omething wrong, had been arrested ere he touched a deck. How plainly he’s _ugitive! no baggage, not a hat-box, valise, or carpet-bag,—no friend_ccompany him to the wharf with their adieux. At last, after much dodgin_earch, he finds the Tarshish ship receiving the last items of her cargo; an_s he steps on board to see its Captain in the cabin, all the sailors for th_oment desist from hoisting in the goods, to mark the stranger’s evil eye.
  • Jonah sees this; but in vain he tries to look all ease and confidence; in vai_ssays his wretched smile. Strong intuitions of the man assure the mariners h_an be no innocent. In their gamesome but still serious way, one whispers t_he other—“Jack, he’s robbed a widow;” or, “Joe, do you mark him; he’s _igamist;” or, “Harry lad, I guess he’s the adulterer that broke jail in ol_omorrah, or belike, one of the missing murderers from Sodom.” Another runs t_ead the bill that’s stuck against the spile upon the wharf to which the shi_s moored, offering five hundred gold coins for the apprehension of _arricide, and containing a description of his person. He reads, and look_rom Jonah to the bill; while all his sympathetic shipmates now crowd roun_onah, prepared to lay their hands upon him. Frighted Jonah trembles. an_ummoning all his boldness to his face, only looks so much the more a coward.
  • He will not confess himself suspected; but that itself is strong suspicion. S_e makes the best of it; and when the sailors find him not to be the man tha_s advertised, they let him pass, and he descends into the cabin.
  • “‘Who’s there?’ cries the Captain at his busy desk, hurriedly making out hi_apers for the Customs—‘Who’s there?’ Oh! how that harmless question mangle_onah! For the instant he almost turns to flee again. But he rallies. ‘I see_ passage in this ship to Tarshish; how soon sail ye, sir?’ Thus far the bus_aptain had not looked up to Jonah, though the man now stands before him; bu_o sooner does he hear that hollow voice, than he darts a scrutinizing glance.
  • ‘We sail with the next coming tide,’ at last he slowly answered, stil_ntently eyeing him. ‘No sooner, sir?’—‘Soon enough for any honest man tha_oes a passenger.’ Ha! Jonah, that’s another stab. But he swiftly calls awa_he Captain from that scent. ‘I’ll sail with ye,’—he says,—‘the passage mone_ow much is that?— I’ll pay now.’ For it is particularly written, shipmates, as if it were a thing not to be overlooked in this history, ‘that he paid th_are thereof’ ere the craft did sail. And taken with the context, this is ful_f meaning.
  • “Now Jonah’s Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime i_ny, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers. So Jonah’s Captai_repares to test the length of Jonah’s purse, ere he judge him openly. H_harges him thrice the usual sum; and it’s assented to. Then the Captain know_hat Jonah is a fugitive; but at the same time resolves to help a flight tha_aves its rear with gold. Yet when Jonah fairly takes out his purse, pruden_uspicions still molest the Captain. He rings every coin to find _ounterfeit. Not a forger, any way, he mutters; and Jonah is put down for hi_assage. ‘Point out my state-room, Sir,’ says Jonah now, ‘I’m travel-weary; _eed sleep.” “Thou look’st like it,’ says the Captain, ‘there’s thy room.’ Jonah enters, and would lock the door, but the lock contains no key. Hearin_im foolishly fumbling there, the Captain laughs lowly to himself, and mutter_omething about the doors of convicts’ cells being never allowed to be locke_ithin. All dressed and dusty as he is, Jonah throws himself into his berth, and finds the little state-room ceiling almost resting on his forehead. Th_ir is close, and Jonah gasps. Then, in that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the ship’s water-line, Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of tha_tifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his bowels’ wards.
  • “Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp slightly oscillates i_onah’s room; and the ship, heeling over towards the wharf with the weight o_he last bales received, the lamp, flame and all, though in slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity with reference to the room; though, i_ruth, infallibly straight itself, it but made obvious the false, lying level_mong which it hung. The lamp alarms and frightens Jonah; as lying in hi_erth his tormented eyes roll round the place, and this thus far successfu_ugitive finds no refuge for his restless glance. But that contradiction i_he lamp more and more appals him. The floor, the ceiling, and the side, ar_ll awry. ‘Oh! so my conscience hangs in me!’ he groans, “straight upward, s_t burns; but the chambers of my soul are all in crookedness!’
  • “Like one who after a night of drunken revelry hies to his bed, still reeling, but with conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of the Roman race-hors_ut so much the more strike his steel tags into him; as one who in tha_iserable plight still turns and turns in giddy anguish, praying God fo_nnihilation until the fit be passed; and at last amid the whirl of woe h_eels, a deep stupor steals over him, as over the man who bleeds to death, fo_onscience is the wound, and there’s naught to staunch it; so, after sor_restling in his berth, Jonah’s prodigy of ponderous misery drags him drownin_own to sleep.
  • “And now the time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables; and fro_he deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all careening, glides t_ea. That ship, my friends, was the first of recorded smugglers! th_ontraband was Jonah. But the sea rebels; he will not bear the wicked burden.
  • A dreadful storm comes on, the ship is like to break. But now when th_oatswain calls all hands to lighten her; when boxes, bales, and jars ar_lattering overboard; when the wind is shrieking, and the men are yelling, an_very plank thunders with trampling feet right over Jonah’s head; in all thi_aging tumult, Jonah sleeps his hideous sleep. He sees no black sky and ragin_ea, feels not the reeling timbers, and little hears he or heeds he the fa_ush of the mighty whale, which even now with open mouth is cleaving the sea_fter him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship— _erth in the cabin as I have taken it, and was fast asleep. But the frightene_aster comes to him, and shrieks in his dead ear, ‘What meanest thou, O, sleeper! arise!’ Startled from his lethargy by that direful cry, Jona_taggers to his feet, and stumbling to the deck, grasps a shroud, to look ou_pon the sea. But at that moment he is sprung upon by a panther billow leapin_ver the bulwarks. Wave after wave thus leaps into the ship, and finding n_peedy vent runs roaring fore and aft, till the mariners come nigh to drownin_hile yet afloat. And ever, as the white moon shows her affrighted face fro_he steep gullies in the blackness overhead, aghast Jonah sees the rearin_owsprit pointing high upward, but soon beat downward again towards th_ormented deep.
  • “Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his cringin_ttitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The sailors mark him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him, and at last, fully to tes_he truth, by referring the whole matter to high Heaven, they all-outward t_asting lots, to see for whose cause this great tempest was upon them. The lo_s Jonah’s; that discovered, then how furiously they mob him with thei_uestions. ‘What is thine occupation? Whence comest thou? Thy country? Wha_eople? But mark now, my shipmates, the behavior of poor Jonah. The eage_ariners but ask him who he is, and where from; whereas, they not only receiv_n answer to those questions, but likewise another answer to a question no_ut by them, but the unsolicited answer is forced from Jonah by the hard han_f God that is upon him.
  • “‘I am a Hebrew,’ he cries—and then—‘I fear the Lord the God of Heaven wh_ath made the sea and the dry land!’ Fear him, O Jonah? Aye, well mightes_hou fear the Lord God then! Straightway, he now goes on to make a ful_onfession; whereupon the mariners became more and more appalled, but stil_re pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet supplicating God for mercy, since he bu_oo well knew the darkness of his deserts,— when wretched Jonah cries out t_hem to take him and cast him forth into the sea, for he knew that for hi_ake this great tempest was upon them; they mercifully turn from him, and see_y other means to save the ship. But all in vain; the indignant gale howl_ouder; then, with one hand raised invokingly to God, with the other they no_nreluctantly lay hold of Jonah.
  • “And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea; whe_nstantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea is still, a_onah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth water behind. He goe_own in the whirling heart of such a masterless commotion that he scarce heed_he moment when he drops seething into the yawning jaws awaiting him; and th_hale shoots-to all his ivory teeth, like so many white bolts, upon hi_rison. Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord out of the fish’s belly. But observ_is prayer, and so many white bolts, upon his prison. Then Jonah prayed unt_earn a weighty lesson. For sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and wail fo_irect deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He leave_ll his deliverance to God, contenting himself with this, that spite of al_is pains and pangs, he will still look towards His holy temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance; not clamorous for pardon, bu_rateful for punishment. And how pleasing to God was this conduct in Jonah, i_hown in the eventual deliverance of him from the sea and the whale.
  • Shipmates, I do not place Jonah before you to be copied for his sin but I d_lace him before you as a model for repentance. Sin not; but if you do, tak_eed to repent of it like Jonah.”
  • While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking, slantin_torm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who, when describin_onah’s sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself. His deep chest heaved a_ith a ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed the warring elements at work; an_he thunders that rolled away from off his swarthy brow, and the light leapin_rom his eye, made all his simple hearers look on him with a quick fear tha_as strange to them.
  • There now came a lull in his look, as he silently turned over the leaves o_he Book once more; and, at last, standing motionless, with closed eyes, fo_he moment, seemed communing with God and himself.
  • But again he leaned over towards the people, and bowing his head lowly, wit_n aspect of the deepest yet manliest humility, he spake these words:
  • “Shipmates, God has laid but one hand upon you; both his hands press upon me.
  • I have read ye by what murky light may be mine the lesson that Jonah teache_o all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still more to me, for I am a greate_inner than ye. And now how gladly would I come down from this mast-head an_it on the hatches there where you sit, and listen as you listen, while som_ne of you reads me that other and more awful lesson which Jonah teaches t_e, as a pilot of the living God. How being an anointed pilot-prophet, o_peaker of true things and bidden by the Lord to sound those unwelcome truth_n the ears of a wicked Nineveh, Jonah, appalled at the hostility he shoul_aise, fled from his mission, and sought to escape his duty and his God b_aking ship at Joppa. But God is everywhere; Tarshish he never reached. As w_ave seen, God came upon him in the whale, and swallowed him down to livin_ulfs of doom, and with swift slantings tore him along ‘into the midst of th_eas,’ where the eddying depths sucked him ten thousand fathoms down, and ‘th_eeds were wrapped about his head,’ and all the watery world of woe bowle_ver him. Yet even then beyond the reach of any plummet—‘out of the belly o_ell’—when the whale grounded upon the ocean’s utmost bones, even then, Go_eard the engulphed, repenting prophet when he cried. Then God spake unto th_ish; and from the shuddering cold and blackness of the sea, the whale cam_reeching up towards the warm and pleasant sun, and all the delights of ai_nd earth; and ‘vomited out Jonah upon the dry land;’ when the word of th_ord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised and beaten—his ears, like two sea- shells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean— Jonah did the Almighty’_idding. And what was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face o_alsehood! That was it!
  • “This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of th_iving God who slights it. Woe to him whom this world charms from Gospel duty!
  • Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God has brewed them int_ gale! Woe to him who seeks to please rather than to appal! Woe to him whos_ood name is more to him than goodness! Woe to him who, in this world, court_ot dishonor! Woe to him who would not be true, even though to be false wer_alvation! Yea, woe to him who as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preachin_o others is himself a castaway!
  • He drooped and fell away from himself for a moment; then lifting his face t_hem again, showed a deep joy in his eyes, as he cried out with a heavenl_nthusiasm,—“But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is _ure delight; and higher the top of that delight, than the bottom of the wo_s deep. Is not the main-truck higher than the kelson is low? Delight is t_im—a far, far upward, and inward delight— who against the proud gods an_ommodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self. Deligh_s to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of this bas_reacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives n_uarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluc_t out from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight,—top-gallan_elight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, an_s only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the waves of th_illows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake from this sure Kee_f the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness will be his, who coming t_ay him down, can say with his final breath—O Father!— chiefly known to me b_hy rod—mortal or immortal, here I die. I have striven to be Thine, more tha_o be this world’s, or mine own. Yet this is nothing: I leave eternity t_hee; for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?”
  • He said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered his face with hi_ands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people had departed, and he wa_eft alone in the place.