On a winter day in 2003, the Old Stone House Museum employees opened their mail to find collection of handwritten sermons. A museum in the state of Minnesota had been cleaning out their sermon archives and came across twenty sermons written by a Rev. Alexander Twilight. They found the Old Stone House in the Northeast Kingdom, and promptly mailed the documents.
We believe Twilight sent his sermons to a friend and former student, James W. Strong, who had moved to Minnesota in 1851. The twenty sermons were dated from 1842 to 1854, with most of them dated from 1853.
This sermon of Twilight’s speaks of the increase of knowledge in the world, but also of wars and slavery. His main points are highlighted in bold.
Daniel 12.4. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Onward is the great motto of the universe, which extends to all parts and to every individual. In the progress of time from the Creation the prophecy, from which our text is taken, was delivered by Daniel, about the year three thousand five hundredth year, and more than two thousand three hundred years ago. Previous to its delivery there were constant changes physically, morally and intellectually; and since that time similar changes have been the course of events, until the physical, moral and intellectual world is almost entirely another thing. Then the greatest speed was that of the most fleet animals which was no greater than what we now see by the same animals, but now we go with the speed of the wind and communications are made with the velocity of lightning. This great change is effected by the increase of knowledge, for many have gone to and fro and knowledge is increased and converted to the use of men……
The great engines for social intercourse which we enjoy, made not their appearance even printing for more than a thousand years after this period of which we are speaking. But knowledge increased, kept within the limits of philosophers, orators and poets who with the priest constituted almost the whole of the literati of the world, Wars, and subjugation was the grand movements of the day. The Medopersian overthrew the Babylonian empire, the Greek the Persian and finally Rome trampled them all down under her feet, which were part iron and part clay. Though blood and carnage was the order of the day, yet knowledge increased until finally universal peace was induced under the influence [of] a powerful Roman conqueror.
Wars are always attended by disastrous consequences, but sometimes with all their evils, good is mingled in their results. The late war of Britain with China though attended with the bad results of war, had also a favorable influence on China which can never be erased. It introduced European improvements taught the self conceited nation that those nations whom they despised, were far ahead of them in knowledge, and opened a wide door for the introduction of the Christian Religion. A knowledge of civilized life and many of its advantages are so associated with the liberal doctrines of the Christian Religion that they must be introduced with it.
But subjugation by war and superiority of physical or intellectual strength never gave man the right to reduce his fellow man to his service without his own consent. This however was the custom in antiquity and seemed to be quietly submitted to, till a recent date. This practice built the mighty pyramids of Egypt, and has handed down to us the errors of those times, when a hundred thousand men could be continued to work upon one pyramid for twenty years. It was a motto, that the right of valiant men lay in their swords; hence the multitudes of those employed by kings and warriors in building cities, temples, pyramids, triumphal arcs, and monuments to perpetuate the glory & distinguished bravery & renown of the mighty conqueror, the butcher of mankind.
From these practices of barbarism, ignorance and cruelty, arose our American slavery, so much detested now by enlightened nations, as knowledge has so much increased. That such remains of the past should be found at the present day, rests upon this fact that men do not advance alike or upon the same subjects at the same time, owing more to circumstances than any other cause.
– Preached by Alexander Twilight on July 10, 1853 in Brownington; and Feb 5, 1854 in Barton Landing, now known as Orleans.