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from The world's best orations, vol. 3 (1901)
edited by David J. Brewer (1837-1910), et alia



DANIEL W. CAHILL., D.D., celebrated as an American pulpit orator and lecturer on social, religious, and scientific subjects, had a remarkable command of fervid and picturesque eloquence. Born in Queens County, Ireland, in 1802, he studied at Carlow College and at Maynooth, where he was ordained a priest. He was for a time Professor of Natural History at Carlow College, and at another time editor of the Dublin Telegraph. He became a learned chemist and astronomer also, and, after living from 1851 to 1855 in England, came as a priest to America, where his labors gained for him a distinction that led to the publication of a large volume of his sermons and lectures after his death. He died in Boston October 24th, 1864.



(From a Sermon Delivered by Very Rev. D.W. Cahill, D.D., in St. Peter's
Church, Barclay Street, New York, on Sunday Evening,
November 29th, 1863)

THERE was a time when there was no earth, no sun, no moon, no stars; when all the eye now beholds had no existence; when there was nothing, — all darkness, chaos, — when the Divinity reigned alone; when no created voice was heard through God's territories to break the silence of illimitable space. Six thousand years only have elapsed since he built the present world and peopled the skies with the myriad spheres that hang in the arched roof above us. The mere shell, the mere framework of this world may, perhaps, be somewhat older, but we know when Adam was created with the certainty of a parish register. It may be about six thousand years ago: and since that period the history of man is one unbroken page of wickedness and infidelity. Heaven once, in anger, nearly extirpated our race; and once, in mercy, forgave us. Yet, since, the earth is stained with guilt red as scarlet; and the patience of a God — patience infinite — can alone bear it. Who can tell the amount of the crime of even one city for one day? But who can conceive the infinite guilt of all peoples, of all nations, and all ages, ascending and accumulating before God's throne since the beginning? God is great in power, great in goodness, great in mercy, great in wisdom; but he is more than great in patience, to bear the congregated offenses of countless millions, daily, hourly, provoking his anger and opposing his will.

  But, as the hour of man's creation and man's redemption was arranged by God, and in due time occurred, so the moment for man's total extinction on earth is approaching, and when the time written in the records of heaven shall have arrived, that unerring decree will be executed. By one word he made this world; by one word he can destroy it. By one stroke of his omnipotent pencil he drew the present picture of creation; by one dash of the same brush he can blot it out again and expunge all the work of the skies. Who can limit his power? In one second be can reduce all things to their original chaos, and live again as he did before creation began. He can, when he pleases, destroy all things — the soul excepted. The soul he cannot annihilate. He made the world himself — of course, he can himself destroy it. But Christ is the redeemer of the soul, and, therefore, its immortal existence is as indestructible as the eternity of God. Redemption is a contract between the Father and the Son. That contract cannot be broken without ignoring the Cross. Hence, while God is at liberty to blot out his own creation, he cannot annihilate the work purchased with the blood of Christ. Hence, in the coming wreck, the soul cannot be destroyed. And this is the idea that renders that awful hour a source of joy unlimited to the blessed, and of terrors unspeakable to the wicked. Yet although no one can tell when this fatal day will arrive, still it may be fairly presumed to be at hand, when Christ's passion will be disregarded on earth; when vice will so predominate over virtue that the worship of God may be said to cease; when the destruction of the earth will be a mercy, a duty of justice which God owes to his own character and to the eternal laws of his kingdom. When this time shall have arrived, we may fairly expect the day of the general judgment . . . .

  Who can paint Omnipotent power pulling down firmaments, and suns, and stars, and moons: his will reversing his former creation; the earth trembling in desolation? How minutely graphic is Christ in this terrible description; and have you noticed his last words, where he says: "Have I not foretold all to you?" This single phrase is worth the entire history; since it stamps the terrors of this day with the certitude of any other truth of faith, any other fact of the Gospel.

  St. Mark continues to detail the order of this terrible hour. Terror will follow on terror; curse upon curse, «till men will fall away with fear.» The sun being not quite extinguished, fatal gloom will be spread over all things like a veil over the face of the dead: terrific signs are seen in the heavens, and all things announce that time is at an end. St. John says, that before God pronounces the final word there is silence in heaven; and voices are heard in the air, on the water, and on the earth. At length the skies open and he pours out the first vial of his anger. And the end is come. God speaks the command; and all nature trembles as if in agony. The seas swell, and boil, and rise, and lash the skies. The mountains nod and sink, and the poles collapse. The lightnings flash, and the moaning tempests sweep over the furious deep, piling up ocean upon ocean on the trembling globe. The earth reels in convulsion, and the whole frame of creation struggles.

  A mighty conflagration bursts from the melting earth, rages like a hurricane roundabout, devouring all things in its storm and flood of fire, consuming the crumbling wreck of the condemned world. The heavens become terrible, as the kindling earth and seas show their overwhelming flashes on the crimson skies. The sun muffled, the moon black, the stars fallen, floating masses like clouds of blood sweep the skies in circling fury. The Omnipotence which, in the beginning of time, formed all creation, is now concentrated in a point; and, as it were, intensifies the infinity of his wrath, till his anger can swell no higher; and his voice is heard like thunder in the distance. With what eloquent terror does the Savior paint this scene in his own words: «Men fainting away with fear, running in wild distraction, calling on the ground to open and swallow them, and the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the face of the Lord.» The earth on fire: the skies faded: the sun and the stars darkened or extinguished: mankind burning, dying: the angry voice of God coming to judge the world: and Jesus Christ describing the scene, — are realities which the history of God has never seen before; and which never again will be repeated during the endless round of eternity.

  Reason asks: Oh, who is God? and what is nature? and whence is man? and where is heaven? and why is hell? and what is our destiny? Was the world made in pleasure, moved for a moment in trial and suffering, and then blotted out in anger? In one revolution of the earth on fire it is a blank. Like a burning ship at sea, sinking to the bottom on fire, the earth vanishes into nonexistence under the blue vault, where it once careered in its brilliant circle. Not a vestige remains of its omnipotent path. Its wide territory is a tenantless, dark waste — the myriad lamps of the skies extinguished: all former existences crumbled: silent forever: all chaos: things are as if they had never been: the history of Earth and Time a mere record of the forgotten past: a mere hollow vault in the infinitude of space.