Upon a visit to the “cataract of Niagara” October 25, 1822

Friday, Oct. 25 I walked twenty-two miles to see the cataract of Niagara. I descended a spiral staircase of one hundred steps ; then casting my eyes upward, beheld the rocks towering one hundred and fifty feet above my head, while immense volumes of water poured from this height in awful majesty. These circumstances, tighter with the continued roar of the water falling into the awful gulf beneath, and then passing along in dreadful agitation – the trembling of the earth around the cataract—the rising spray, with the attending rainbow—united to form a scene more sublime and impressive, than any I had ever witnessed. Stupid must be the mind that can view such a wonder without being led to adore its Divine Author. On this occasion my heart adopted the language of the inspired penman, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the god! Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders.” “The heavens declare thy glory, and the firmament showeth thy handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.”

While beholding the constant motion of the stream, I was forcibly struck with its analogy to man’s voyage down the stream of time. A few miles above the falls, the river glides gently and undisturbed; is the morning of life passes smoothly away. As in a little distance, the smooth surface of the a water is broken in passing over the rocks, and with inconceivable swiftness is finally hurried down the tremendous precipice; — so after a few days, the fair appearances of earthly prospects are broken on the rocks of disappointment, and every passing moment hastens the living to that dread precipice, whence they must launch into eternity. Still, while the sons of vanity know this, they sport and amuse themselves with that which cannot profit, and that which renders their hearts insensible to their dreadful danger. Thus they remain stupidly ignorant of the horrid gulf into which, unless they soon awake, they will as surely plunge, as the waters of Niagara, in their course, plunge down the precipice. Should we not think people beside themselves, were we to see them enter a vessel a few mile s above the falls, suffer it to float with the current, and in the meantime waste their hours in sleep, or amuse themselves with frivolous reading, dancing, card playing, decking themselves with ornaments, or gorgeous and costly apparel, till they should find their bark leaving the gentle stream, and hastening with awful speed down the irresistible current? Then in vain they might turn their eyes from the danger; — in vain might they strive to forget their condition. Nothing now can save them from the sad and final doom! Should we not pity them? Should we not, before they are passed beyond the reach of help, labor diligently to aroused them from their stupidity; to warn them of their danger, and to turn them from their fatal course? Humanity answers, yes. And while men, floating rapidly down the stream of time, must soon launch into eternity—and, if not aroused from their insensibility to spiritual things, must sink into the burning lake; shall we labor less diligently for their eternal welfare—or be less anxious to save them from the far more dreadful destruction that awaits them? Heaven says, no. Reason and revelation say no. And conscience approves the decision. But, Oh! how astonishing the mournful truth—that men are offended when we seek their welfare; when we strive to awaken them from fatal stupidity; and from this count us enemies, and treat us as foes!


The Life and Memoirs of David Marks, Minister of the Gospel, Marilla Marks, Dover, 1846.


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