This life of ours is full of mysteries.
We rise in the morning, we go to bed at night, we toil and toil, and sleep and sleep, and then we die. The present alone is ours–the past a dream, the future all unfathomable. On the brink of time stands a man, eating his why by moments, plodding unconscious of the waste within, and wear and tear of that exquisite machine, the human body. Proud of the intellectual and physical achievements of the past, glorying in the conscious sense of strength in the present, boastful of the infinite power which God has given him, yet oft forgetful of the source form whence it sprung, man lives his little span, grumbling, delving, spinning, toiling, like the ant–a larger ant, less wise withal and grateful.
As he stands in his matchless symmetry and strength, peering through the Godlike light of reason into the unfathomable abyss of space, putting a girdle round the earth, and digging deep into its bowels, thinking, dreaming, praying, cursing, he knows not what a moment may bring forth, or when in the decree of an all-wise Providence his little lamp will cease to shine on earth. Man for the future can be reason from the past.
In a hundred years he has seen or heard of many changes on this wonderful globe he calls his home. Great souls have come and gone; great souls will come again; intellect has quickened the means of locomotion, lessened the Adamite course of toil; intellect will do so still. So he reasons, so his logic rests upon the past.
One hundred years ago the world traveled in lumbering coaches, sailed the seas in slow-going ships; today the iron horse goes tearing through the land and steamers bridge the widest ocean. Months have changed into weeks and weeks into hours.
One hundred years ago the traveler between New York and the Illinois wilds would have made up his mind to a three weeks’ trip in lumbering wagons, sleepy ferries and uncomfortable stages. In the year of 1875, two days and one night passed in ease and comfort, see him safe at his journey’s end.
When his majesty’s troops sailed from the shores of England to give these colonies a lesson, they were fortunate enough if three weeks tossing on the broad Atlantic brought them in sight of Newfoundland. To-day an eight-day passage is a matter of course.
Without multiplying illustrations, it is not in the least degree unnatural that the man of the hour, peering into the mists of dim futurity, should see in its dark unfathomable depths still greater strides towards that goal which his imaginations pictures as the ultima thule of inventive perfection. Electricity has added its spark of creative immortality.– What may not electricity bring forth? What motors fill the womb of pregnant time. Do we behold in the fragile air-ships of today the engine that is to waft our prosperity with unthought of speed from continent to continent? Are the worlds to draw together ere the end and man to stride the air and guide their barks through space? Shall tunnels bridge the seas, and steam go down before a greater force? Who knows what is to be? Already whisperings fill the air with wondrous motors; the busy brains of men are at work: “Across the ocean in fifty hours,” so reads the latest tale–a life boat raised by as and sailed by steam.
A hundred years hence! Who that is born to-day will live to see it–a daily balloon to London, an afternoon trip to Florida? Will the docks now echoing to the hiss of steam be filled by strange, unearthly shapes, with wings and fans and gaudy bags of gas? Will freight trains, drawn by noiseless power, pass swiftly beneath the sea, and parcels dart like lightning. Stranger things than these have happened in a hundred years, and some may live to see still greater wonders. And yet we cannot change the face of nature.
Man is the same to-day he was a hundred years ago; more nervous, restless and ambitious, but un-changed in feeling passion and thought. He was made in the image and likeness of his Maker; and however he may darken and obliterate that image, so shall he remain, and the sea shall not change, neither the dry land, at least to outward and unlettered sense, and the heavens shall tell the glory of God until the inevitable hour, when all created things shall pass away like a scroll, and the soul of man have learned the truth of everlasting weal or woe in the never ending mansions of eternity.
First printed 131 years ago
on 08 September 1875, in the “Farmer’s Cabinet”
P.S. See my predictions for one hundred years from now.