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Chapter 9: The Sermon.


Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority ordered
the scattered people to condense. "Starboard gangway, there! side away
to larboard--larboard gangway to starboard! Midships! midships!"

There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a
still slighter shuffling of women's shoes, and all was quiet again, and
every eye on the preacher.

He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit's bows, folded his large
brown hands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered
a prayer so deeply 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 in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog--in such tones he
commenced reading the 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
howling of the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly turned
over the leaves of 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--'And God had prepared a great fish to swallow up

"Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters--four yarns--is one
of the smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what
depths of the soul does Jonah's deep sealine sound! what a pregnant
lesson to us is this prophet! 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 with him to the kelpy bottom of the waters;
sea-weed and all the slime of the sea is 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, and a lesson to me as a pilot
of the living God. As sinful men, it is a lesson to us all, because it
is a story of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly awakened fears, the
swift punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally the deliverance and
joy of Jonah. As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of
Amittai was in his wilful disobedience of the command of God--never
mind now what that command was, or how conveyed--which he found a hard
command. But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to
do--remember that--and hence, 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 the hardness of obeying God consists.

"With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah still further flouts at
God, by seeking to flee from Him. He thinks that a ship made by men will
carry him into 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 for Tarshish. There lurks, perhaps, a hitherto unheeded
meaning here. By all accounts Tarshish could have been no other city
than the modern Cadiz. That's the 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 those ancient days, when the
Atlantic was an almost unknown sea. Because Joppa, the modern Jaffa,
shipmates, is on the most easterly coast of the Mediterranean, the
Syrian; and Tarshish or Cadiz more than two thousand miles to the
westward from that, just outside the Straits of Gibraltar. See ye
not then, shipmates, that Jonah sought to flee world-wide from God?
Miserable man! Oh! most contemptible and worthy of all scorn; with
slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking from his God; prowling among the
shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the seas. So disordered,
self-condemning is his look, that had there been policemen in those
days, Jonah, on the mere suspicion of something wrong, had been arrested
ere he touched a deck. How plainly he's a fugitive! no baggage, not a
hat-box, valise, or carpet-bag,--no friends accompany him to the wharf
with their adieux. At last, after much dodging search, he finds the
Tarshish ship receiving the last items of her cargo; and as he steps on
board to see its Captain in the cabin, all the sailors for the moment
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 vain essays his wretched smile. Strong intuitions of the man assure
the mariners he can be no innocent. In their gamesome but still serious
way, one whispers to the other--"Jack, he's robbed a widow;" or, "Joe,
do you mark him; he's a bigamist;" or, "Harry lad, I guess he's the
adulterer that broke jail in old Gomorrah, or belike, one of the missing
murderers from Sodom." Another runs to read the bill that's stuck
against the spile upon the wharf to which the ship is moored, offering
five hundred gold coins for the apprehension of a parricide, and
containing a description of his person. He reads, and looks from Jonah
to the bill; while all his sympathetic shipmates now crowd round Jonah,
prepared to lay their hands upon him. Frighted Jonah trembles, and
summoning 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. So he makes the best of it; and when the sailors find him
not to be the man that is advertised, they let him pass, and he descends
into the cabin.

"'Who's there?' cries the Captain at his busy desk, hurriedly making
out his papers for the Customs--'Who's there?' Oh! how that harmless
question mangles Jonah! For the instant he almost turns to flee again.
But he rallies. 'I seek a passage in this ship to Tarshish; how soon
sail ye, sir?' Thus far the busy Captain had not looked up to Jonah,
though the man now stands before him; but no 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, still intently eyeing
him. 'No sooner, sir?'--'Soon enough for any honest man that goes a
passenger.' Ha! Jonah, that's another stab. But he swiftly calls away
the Captain from that scent. 'I'll sail with ye,'--he says,--'the
passage money how 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 the fare thereof' ere the craft did sail. And
taken with the context, this is full of meaning.

"Now Jonah's Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime
in any, 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 Captain prepares to test the length of Jonah's purse, ere he
judge him openly. He charges him thrice the usual sum; and it's assented
to. Then the Captain knows that Jonah is a fugitive; but at the same
time resolves to help a flight that paves its rear with gold. Yet when
Jonah fairly takes out his purse, prudent suspicions still molest the
Captain. He rings every coin to find a counterfeit. Not a forger, any
way, he mutters; and Jonah is put down for his passage. 'Point out my
state-room, Sir,' says Jonah now, 'I'm travel-weary; I need sleep.'
'Thou lookest like it,' says the Captain, 'there's thy room.' Jonah
enters, and would lock the door, but the lock contains no key. Hearing
him foolishly fumbling there, the Captain laughs lowly to himself, and
mutters something about the doors of convicts' cells being never allowed
to be locked within. 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. The air is close, and Jonah gasps. Then, in
that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the ship's water-line, Jonah
feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling 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 in Jonah's room; and the ship, heeling over towards the wharf
with the weight of the last bales received, the lamp, flame and all,
though in slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity with
reference to the room; though, in truth, infallibly straight itself, it
but made obvious the false, lying levels among which it hung. The lamp
alarms and frightens Jonah; as lying in his berth his tormented eyes
roll round the place, and this thus far successful fugitive finds no
refuge for his restless glance. But that contradiction in the lamp more
and more appals him. The floor, the ceiling, and the side, are all awry.
'Oh! so my conscience hangs in me!' he groans, 'straight upwards, so it
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-horse but so much the more strike his steel tags into him; as
one who in that miserable plight still turns and turns in giddy anguish,
praying God for annihilation until the fit be passed; and at last amid
the whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over him, as over the
man who bleeds to death, for conscience is the wound, and there's naught
to staunch it; so, after sore wrestlings in his berth, Jonah's prodigy
of ponderous misery drags him drowning down to sleep.

"And now the time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables; and
from the deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all careening,
glides to sea. That ship, my friends, was the first of recorded
smugglers! the contraband 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 the boatswain calls all hands to lighten her;
when boxes, bales, and jars are clattering overboard; when the wind
is shrieking, and the men are yelling, and every plank thunders with
trampling feet right over Jonah's head; in all this raging tumult, Jonah
sleeps his hideous sleep. He sees no black sky and raging sea, feels not
the reeling timbers, and little hears he or heeds he the far rush of the
mighty whale, which even now with open mouth is cleaving the seas after
him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship--a
berth in the cabin as I have taken it, and was fast asleep. But the
frightened master comes to him, and shrieks in his dead ear, 'What
meanest thou, O, sleeper! arise!' Startled from his lethargy by that
direful cry, Jonah staggers to his feet, and stumbling to the deck,
grasps a shroud, to look out upon the sea. But at that moment he is
sprung upon by a panther billow leaping over the bulwarks. Wave after
wave thus leaps into the ship, and finding no speedy vent runs roaring
fore and aft, till the mariners come nigh to drowning while yet afloat.
And ever, as the white moon shows her affrighted face from the steep
gullies in the blackness overhead, aghast Jonah sees the rearing
bowsprit pointing high upward, but soon beat downward again towards the
tormented deep.

"Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his cringing
attitudes, 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 test the truth, by referring the whole matter to high Heaven,
they fall to casting lots, to see for whose cause this great tempest was
upon them. The lot is Jonah's; that discovered, then how furiously they
mob him with their questions. 'What is thine occupation? Whence comest
thou? Thy country? What people? But mark now, my shipmates, the behavior
of poor Jonah. The eager mariners but ask him who he is, and where
from; whereas, they not only receive an answer to those questions,
but likewise another answer to a question not put by them, but the
unsolicited answer is forced from Jonah by the hard hand of God that is
upon him.

"'I am a Hebrew,' he cries--and then--'I fear the Lord the God of Heaven
who hath made the sea and the dry land!' Fear him, O Jonah? Aye, well
mightest thou fear the Lord God THEN! Straightway, he now goes on to
make a full confession; whereupon the mariners became more and more
appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet supplicating
God for mercy, since he but too well knew the darkness of his
deserts,--when wretched Jonah cries out to them to take him and cast him
forth into the sea, for he knew that for HIS sake this great tempest
was upon them; they mercifully turn from him, and seek by other means to
save the ship. But all in vain; the indignant gale howls louder;
then, with one hand raised invokingly to God, with the other they not
unreluctantly lay hold of Jonah.

"And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea;
when instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea
is still, as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth
water behind. He goes down in the whirling heart of such a masterless
commotion that he scarce heeds the moment when he drops seething into
the yawning jaws awaiting him; and the whale shoots-to all his ivory
teeth, like so many white bolts, upon his prison. Then Jonah prayed unto
the Lord out of the fish's belly. But observe his prayer, and learn a
weighty lesson. For sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and wail for
direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He
leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with this, that
spite of all his pains and pangs, he will still look towards His holy
temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance; not
clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment. And how pleasing to
God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown 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 do place him before you as a model
for repentance. Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it like

While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking,
slanting storm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who,
when describing Jonah's sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself.
His deep chest heaved as with a ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed the
warring elements at work; and the thunders that rolled away from off his
swarthy brow, and the light leaping from his eye, made all his simple
hearers look on him with a quick fear that was strange to them.

There now came a lull in his look, as he silently turned over the leaves
of the Book once more; and, at last, standing motionless, with closed
eyes, for the moment, seemed communing with God and himself.

But again he leaned over towards the people, and bowing his head lowly,
with an aspect of the deepest yet manliest humility, he spake these

"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 teaches to all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still more to me,
for I am a greater sinner than ye. And now how gladly would I come down
from this mast-head and sit on the hatches there where you sit, and
listen as you listen, while some one of you reads ME that other and more
awful lesson which Jonah teaches to ME, as a pilot of the living God.
How being an anointed pilot-prophet, or speaker of true things, and
bidden by the Lord to sound those unwelcome truths in the ears of a
wicked Nineveh, Jonah, appalled at the hostility he should raise, fled
from his mission, and sought to escape his duty and his God by taking
ship at Joppa. But God is everywhere; Tarshish he never reached. As we
have seen, God came upon him in the whale, and swallowed him down to
living gulfs of doom, and with swift slantings tore him along 'into the
midst of the seas,' where the eddying depths sucked him ten thousand
fathoms down, and 'the weeds were wrapped about his head,' and all the
watery world of woe bowled over him. Yet even then beyond the reach of
any plummet--'out of the belly of hell'--when the whale grounded upon
the ocean's utmost bones, even then, God heard the engulphed, repenting
prophet when he cried. Then God spake unto the fish; and from the
shuddering cold and blackness of the sea, the whale came breeching
up towards the warm and pleasant sun, and all the delights of air and
earth; and 'vomited out Jonah upon the dry land;' when the word of the
Lord 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's bidding. And what was that, shipmates? To preach the
Truth to the face of Falsehood! That was it!

"This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of
the living 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 into a gale! Woe to him who seeks to please rather than
to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe
to him who, in this world, courts not dishonour! Woe to him who would
not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him
who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is
himself a castaway!"

He dropped and fell away from himself for a moment; then lifting his
face to them again, showed a deep joy in his eyes, as he cried out with
a heavenly enthusiasm,--"But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of
every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight,
than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than
the kelson is low? Delight is to him--a far, far upward, and inward
delight--who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever
stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong
arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has
gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the
truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out
from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight,--top-gallant
delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his
God, and is only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the
waves of the billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake
from this sure Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness
will be his, who coming to lay him down, can say with his final
breath--O Father!--chiefly known to me by Thy rod--mortal or immortal,
here I die. I have striven to be Thine, more than to be this world's, or
mine own. Yet this is nothing: I leave eternity to Thee; 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
his hands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people had departed,
and he was left alone in the place.