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.