Sermons on the Great Exhibition

Rev George Clayton


Added by Nicholas Fisher, Director, Cultural History, University of Aberdeen

[Editorial note: the following transcription contains the page numbers in the original in the following form: [1/2] marks the end of page 1 and beginning of page 2.]

Rev George Clayton, [Three] Sermons on the Great Exhibition.
Preached in York St Chapel, Walworth.
London: Benjamin L Green, [1851]. pp. 36.


[/25] Sermon III: ENCOURAGEMENT AND ADVANTAGES CONNECTED WITH THE GREAT EXHIBITION

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow into it," Isa.ii.2.

"And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Juda, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongue the wonderful works of God," Acts ii.5-11.

We pass on from noticing the dangers and duties connected with the Exhibition of the Arts and Industry of all Nations, upon which all eyes are now fastened, to consider some of those circumstances which give it an aspect of ENCOURAGEMENT, and hold out the promise of ADVANTAGE. It would indeed be a dark and depressing scene were it characterized only by the perils which attend it — were it a concentration of unmixed ill and unrelieved danger. Then might many of the duties enjoined upon you in relation to it be dispensed with, and your obligations briefly summed up in those words of inspired wisdom, "Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." But it is our full conviction, that all those who have the opportunity ought to visit the extraordinary edifice, and examine those productions from far distant lands, which have been collected with so much care, arranged with so much taste, and are displayed on certain days upon terms [25/26] so reasonable, as to bring them within the ken of vision to the humblest classes of the land. It is not a spectacle exclusively for the royal and the noble, for the merchant and the manufacturer, for the erudite scholar, the ingenious mechanic, and the cunning artificer. It is for the people — the people of all nations, to whom the invitation is cordially addressed,"Come and see."

I. You will behold there A MONUMENT OF NATIONAL GREATNESS. Britain, viewed in her insular situation and her geographical dimensions, is amongst the least of all the nations of the earth. Her own immediate territories of England, Scotland, and Ireland, are, comparatively speaking, of very limited extent. What are we in relation to France, Austria, Russia, or America? A mere speck in the bosom of the ocean deep; yet the sea is our strong rampart, our chosen element, and our undisputed empire; and great indeed is Britain, by the confession of every tongue. To think, and speak, and write of things as they really are, is in no wise contrary to genuine humility. Humility always consists with truth. Who then can fail to discover in the themes under consideration, an indubitable evidence of England's greatness and glory? Think of the palace which she has builded, of the invitation she has sent abroad, the attraction she has put forth, the impulse she has given to the inhabitants of the remotest realms; think of the impartial justice which she has shown, in presenting as great facilities for display, to the stranger as to her home-born sons. Her capabilities for presenting such a scene as this, and her disposition to open her maritime ports and city gates to welcome the teeming thousands of her visitors from every clime, are demonstrative proofs of her real greatness. And great she truly is — great in her trade and commerce -- great in her laws and constitution — great in her freedom, both civil and religious — great in the power, the character, and the virtues of her queen, nor less in those of her royal consort, to whom this Exhibition is [26/27] primarily attributable — great in the resources of her wealth, in the number and extent of her colonial possessions — great in the multitude of her subjects — great in the moral and Christian bearing of a large proportion of her people — great in the cultivation of the mind and morals of the rising population of her inhabitants — great in the distribution of her Bibles, in her mission to the heathen, in the emancipation of the slave, and in the circulation of her countless tracts for the instruction of universal man — great in her means of defence and security — great in the presence and protection of her God. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God shall help her, and that right early; even He that rideth for her help, in his excellency in the sky, and encircles her with the everlasting arms. Not unto us, O Lord, for these amazing distinctions, this high eminence, these precious immunities; not unto us, but to thy name be the glory.

II. This repository of wonders may be regarded as a BENEFICIAL STIMULUS TO HUMAN DILIGENCE AND INDUSTRY. To those who have paid due attention to the constitution and qualities of our race, it must often have occurred as an unspeakable advantage, that occupation is everywhere supplied to the great masses of mankind, both as to their corporeal activities and their mental energies. No condition can be worse than the stagnation occasioned by indolence and sloth, involving, as it does, the waste of mind and the loss of happiness — unless, indeed, it be mischievous direction of the faculties. What would be our Social state and character if the vast amount of human talent were in a state of habitual inoccupancy? Labour is friendly to man's best interests, and conducive to his enjoyment. How much evil is prevented by it — how much good secured! The character of the Cities of the Plain, by which they were fated to destruction, is well sketched by the inspired prophet — "Pride, fulness of bread, and ABUNDANCE OF IDLENESS". It cannot, then, be doubted that the exhibition of the works of art, the products of ingenuity, the results of industry, must be, in the highest [27/28] degree, beneficial. It is no inconsiderable benefit to the industrial classes of the community in this and other countries, that they are furnished with a point of contact, conference and comparison, at which they may congratulate each other upon their respective achievements. It is an honour to have a name and place in this building, to secure a niche in this temple of real fame. A populace unemployed and misemployed must be a curse to any country, and hasten its maturity for destruction. If, therefore, we desire to see our people employed, and well employed, let us lend every possible encouragement to the labours of a peaceful industry, yielding, as it is sure to do, under the Divine blessing, the pleasant fruits of usefulness and delight. The facts of history abundantly prove, that while the exclusive study and pursuit of what are called the fine arts, have had a demoralizing tendency, the cultivation of the useful arts have had a directly opposite effect. Let us, then, severally and collectively, shun with the utmost care the habits of indolence and inglorious repose — let us accept the stimulus which this passing scene administers to useful activity, and ever bear in mind the words of an admired poet:

III. Among other advantages, we may note that the EXHIBITION IS PROVOCATIVE TO HEALTHFUL AND HONOURABLE EMULATION. I have already glanced at the danger of envy and jealousy amongst the competitors: that emulation which is numbered in Holy Writ amongst "the works of the flesh;" and these we strongly denounce. But who does not perceive that, contradistinguished from this, there is such a thing as a virtuous, wholesome, and generous competition, such as is often seen among scholars in our universities, and advocates in our courts of law; maintained, not only without unkindliness of feeling, but with a temper, and moderation, and magnanimity, which will allow the vanquished and disappointed to congratulate the successful on his victory, [28/29] and to assist in entwining around his brow the laurels of his well-earned triumph? The jealousies of little minds be far from the emporium of the world's industry! Let the man who deserves the palm bear it; and let the best specimens of finished excellence serve but to whet the talent, the effort, the persevering aim of others, to equal and surpass them! Who shall say to the skilfulness, laboriousness and perseverance of the artisan, "Hitherto shall thou come, and no further?" There are heights which he has not yet reached, depths which he has not yet explored, and lengths and breadths which he has yet to scan. We must attempt great things if we hope to achieve them.

IV. You have here an INDICATION AND PRESAGE OF THE AMELIORATION OF THE WORLD. To the call of Britain, on this unprecedented occasion, the whole earth has responded; and from the Siberian desert to the banks of the Ganges — from the Norwegian forest to the tea-fields of China, a contribution has been transmitted from every continent and every shore. This must obviously conduce to the enlargement of our sphere of observation, and by this means our acquaintance both with men and things will be considerably amplified. The prophet Daniel, describing the characteristics of a distant futurity, says, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." Secular knowledge has its value; but Divine knowledge, generally called "wisdom" in Holy Scripture, is of unappreciable worth. On this subject permit me to cite in your hearing a few verses from the 28th chapter of Job: "Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, it is not in me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, [29/30] neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?" "And unto man he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." May this prize be won by the multitudes recently congregated, and may the promise be fulfilled — "Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and the strength of thy salvation."

Contrasting all this, too, with the former attitude of foreign nations towards each other, with their hostile manifestoes, their bitter rivalries, their leagues, and their armaments, their marshalled troops, and navies charged with sulphur, cruelty, and death, who does not hail the delightful change? Truly this is progress — progress in the right direction -- progress to a desired consummation — universal peace and good-will among men. For, behold, they "beat the sword into the plowshare," "the spear into the pruning-hook." Besides this, the spectacle we now behold condemns that exclusive spirit which is the offspring of a depraved selfishness, and gives the death-blow to human claims and human prosperity. The principle of exclusive dealing is as hateful, as it is ruinous, whether directed against a nation or a man only; be it the village shopkeeper, the London merchant, the foreign market, against which our exclusive measures and manoeuvres are directed. This Palace of the Industry of ALL NATIONS cries out, "Shame, shame upon it!"

As that which is near akin to these maxims of hard-hearted selfishness and frigid exclusion in civil matters, permit me to observe, that our Crystal Palace is well fitted to stigmatize, as absurd and impolitic, RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION. To attempt to bind the conscience with chains, to coerce man's judgement in matters solely between him and his Maker, is as foolish as it is impolitic. What, I ask, taught Englishmen to become manufacturers? What brought into this country the loom and the shuttle in the fabrication of silken goods? What covered the large area of that district called Spitalfields, in our own capital, with the manufactories of that precious material, which has given beauty and splen- [30/31] dour to our court, and spread comfort in our cottages? — It was the revocation of the Edict of Nantz. To the persecution of the then existing government of France, to the flight of her refugees to our free country, and to the hearty welcome given to those denuded patriots and conscientious Protestant Christians, Britain owes the pre-eminence which she has reached, as a great, if not the greatest manufacturing Country under the whole heaven. Set your faces against all religious intolerance, come from what quarter it may. A religion of exclusiveness and persecution is not the religion of Jesus Christ. A religion which propagates itself by confiscations, by tortures, by burnings, by blood — wants the sign and superscription of the Prince of Peace. Never had we beheld the inviting spectacle, which wins the approbation of the wise, and the smile of the good, if the persecutions of France, directed against some of her own best subjects, had not made them exiles, and the expatriated citizens had not been permitted to settle here as members of the British commonwealth. Let all nations learn the lesson of the day, in effacing every vestige of persecution for conscience' sake. Thus will the whole world be ameliorated.

V. The spectacle we contemplate BRINGS NEARER TO OUR VISION THE FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY, IN RELATION TO THE ENTIRE EVANGELIZATION OF THE HUMAN RACE.

It is among the impenetrable mysteries of Divine Providence that so large a proportion of mankind, after the lapse of so many centuries from the time when the decree was issued, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," are still sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. Be it that the church of Christ has been inert, and slumbering over her appointed business and her appointed vocation; be it that her means and resources have been inadequate to the mighty task of converting the nations; be it that we have wanted men, and money, and co-operating labourers in the enterprise — after all, are we guiltless in this matter? There are hundreds of millions who have no teacher, no Sabbath, no gospel. Their ears have never been saluted by [31/32] the glad tidings of great joy, which you have heard, from your cradle, to the present hour. But take heart, desponding Christians. Say not, "How long, Lord, how long?" "When shall the day dawn, and the shadows flee away?"

If a royal personage conceiving the magnificent design of this Great Exhibition, and communicating his idea to others, has secured their generous co-operation, evoked their energies, and really moved the world in relation to its mundane interests and happiness, what may we not hope for the eventual triumph of our holy religion? There is One, whom God has exalted at his own right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour. To him all power is given in heaven and earth. His name is the "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God." Let him speak, and it is done — let him command, and it shall stand fast for ever and ever. When he shall "give the word, great shall be the company of them that publish it." "And many shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, at his bidding to sit down in his kingdom." Look at this prophecy of Isaiah: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow into it. Any many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord," Isa. ii. 2-5. All nations shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify they name. Is this practicable? Are there no difficulties, almost amounting to impossibilities, to be overcome? A voice from the emporium says, No. To him that believeth and worketh, nothing is impossible. Go to [32/33] the second chapter of the Acts of the apostles, observe the multitudes brought together on the occasion of the Pentecostal feast. There you find that men of many countries, tribes, and tongues, were convened at Jerusalem, and there was the Spirit of grace, according to God's promise, poured out upon the apostles. "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Juda, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongue the wonderful works of God. And they were amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, what meaneth this?" We often say in familiar speech, "What has been, may be;" and the fact of the Pentecostal effusion plainly proves that they who are labouring for the illumination and salvation of the world, are by no means engaged in a Utopian enterprise. We have the grand attraction — it is the Cross of the crucified Redeemer — the sublimest Exhibition which earth ever saw. We have the potent influence — it is that of the Spirit of grace. You have the magnet — exhibit it to the surrounding nations who are sitting in the shades of death. Thus you may hopefully attempt the conversion of the Jews, and the gathering together of the Gentile nations. Thus you may confidently expect the downfall of idolatry, and the subversion of the altars of false worship. With perfect ease will all these things be realized when the time, the set time, shall have come. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." [33/34] Let us study to do our part in humble, prayerful, devoted instrumentality, and God will fulfil the largest promise of his lips.

"Bid, bid thy heralds preach The peaceful blessings of thy reign, And when they speak of pardoning blood, The mystery to the heart explain."

Finally, THIS SCENE OF SUBLUNARY GLORY AFFORDS A FAINT REPRESENTATION, A HUMBLE TYPE OF THE HEAVENLY WORLD, WITH ALL ITS INCOMPARABLE BRIGHTNESS AND INCONCEIVABLE SPLENDOUR. If we may presume to enter into the comparison, then by the help of that which some of you have seen, and which to all has been described, let us soar on wings sublime, far above the reach of those inferior things, and take a glance "within the vail."

I invite you to behold the palace of the skies. I beg your attention to the place: "And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; and had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: on the east three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every second gate was of one pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life," Rev.xxi.10-27. Look at the throne, 'And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him," Rev.xxii.3. "And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne," Rev.iv.2. Listen to the music, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints," Rev.v.8. Listen to the song, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation," Rev.v.9. What a peal of harmony must that be — sonorous as the voice of many waters, and sweet as the whispers of the summer breeze! Look at the association. Good company is always a great attraction to ingenuous minds. "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb," Rev.vii.9-10.

Think of the exemptions which will contribute largely to the glories of this splendid place. "There shall be no night there;" no pain there; no sickness there; no separation there; no death there. Think of the eternal duration of the bliss. "What," it was asked by one who was entranced with delight as he gazed upon a Roman triumph, "What is wanting here?" To which a venerable and hoary-headed philosopher in the crowd replied, Continuance." This is the ingredient which is wanted in our Exhibition; for wait but a few short years, and the whole scene will have faded from your view.

Ah, there lies the mighty difference. "Here we have no continuing city;" nothing is stable, nothing abiding. Soon shall the Palace of Glass be demolished, and all its pomp and splendour fade from the view, and be as though it had never been. But there you have a tabernacle that shall never be taken down — a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The felicity will be perfect, and permanent as perfect; and on the whole scene, so complete, so enduring, ETERNITY will place its crown.

Whither are you travelling? Where is the place of your rest? What is your final home? Can you say, "We, according to this promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness?" "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you — and where I am there also shall my servant be!" May all who hear, and all who may read these pages, find a seat prepared for them in that Palace of the Skies, through the merit and grace of the Divine Intercessor. Amen.

[/36]
Main History Great Exhibition of 1851 Sermons: An Overview

Last modified December 2001