“Our Father Time is weak and gray,
Awaiting for the better day;
See how idiot-like he stands,
Fumbling his old palsied hands!”
SHELLEY’s Masque of Anarchy.
“STAGE ready, gentlemen! Stage for campground, Derry! Second Advent camp-meeting!”
Accustomed as I begin to feel to the ordinary sights and sounds of this busy city, I was, I confess, somewhat startled by this business-like annunciation from the driver of a stage, who stood beside his horses swinging his whip with some degree of impatience: “Seventy-five cents to the Second Advent camp-ground!”
The stage was soon filled; the driver cracked his whip and went rattling down the street.
The Second Advent,–the coming of our Lord in person upon this earth, with signs, and wonders, and terrible judgments,–the heavens robing together as a scroll, the elements melting with fervent heat! The mighty consummation of all things at hand, with its destruction and its triumphs, sad wailings of the lost and rejoicing songs of the glorified! From this overswarming hive of industry,–from these crowded treadmills of gain,–here were men and women going out in solemn earnestness to prepare for the dread moment which they verily suppose is only a few months distant,–to lift up their warning voices in the midst of scoffers and doubters, and to cry aloud to blind priests and careless churches, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!”
It was one of the most lovely mornings of this loveliest season of the year; a warm, soft atmosphere; clear sunshine falling on the city spires and roofs; the hills of Dracut quiet and green in the distance, with their white farm-houses and scattered trees; around me the continual tread of footsteps hurrying to the toils of the day; merchants spreading out their wares for the eyes of purchasers; sounds of hammers, the sharp clink of trowels, the murmur of the great manufactories subdued by distance. How was it possible, in the midst of so much life, in that sunrise light, and in view of all abounding beauty, that the idea of the death of Nature–the baptism of the world in fire–could take such a practical shape as this? Yet here were sober, intelligent men, gentle and pious women, who, verily believing the end to be close at hand, had left their counting-rooms, and workshops, and household cares to publish the great tidings, and to startle, if possible, a careless and unbelieving generation into preparation for the day of the Lord and for that blessed millennium,–the restored paradise,–when, renovated and renewed by its fire-purgation, the earth shall become as of old the garden of the Lord, and the saints alone shall inherit it.
Very serious and impressive is the fact that this idea of a radical change in our planet is not only predicted in the Scriptures, but that the Earth herself, in her primitive rocks and varying formations, on which are lithographed the history of successive convulsions, darkly prophesies of others to come. The old poet prophets, all the world over, have sung of a renovated world. A vision of it haunted the contemplations of Plato. It is seen in the half-inspired speculations of the old Indian mystics. The Cumaean sibyl saw it in her trances. The apostles and martyrs of our faith looked for it anxiously and hopefully. Gray anchorites in the deserts, worn pilgrims to the holy places of Jewish and Christian tradition, prayed for its coming. It inspired the gorgeous visions of the early fathers. In every age since the Christian era, from the caves, and forests, and secluded “upper chambers” of the times of the first missionaries of the cross, from the Gothic temples of the Middle Ages, from the bleak mountain gorges of the Alps, where the hunted heretics put up their expostulation, “How long, O Lord, how long?” down to the present time, and from this Derry campground, have been uttered the prophecy and the prayer for its fulfilment.