[From the Herald of Freedom of Sept. 30, 1842]
"Sermons in stones, and books in running brooks," &c., weather-cocks in straws - every thing shows how the whole concern is going on. Only notice every thing, and you will see it. I have been struck, within the last four and twenty hours, with this ding-dong-belling, going on in the village. It means and shows a good deal. The bell is the tongue of the times. It not only tells that time is gone, and how much of it - but it tells the times, and how they go. "One man in his time," says Shake', "plays many parts." I thought this morning it was true of some bells. There is a poor dinging slave hung up in the belfry of parson Cummings' house of Rimmon in this village. (I speak as I do, because I want to bring familiarity and irreverence over the pretensions of such folks.) It has to play many parts. It plays one good patrt - when the hammer of the town clock strikes it. The tower, where it hangs, does one good service - showing the face of the clock to the villagers, and giving them the time of day. All else, that I now think of, is mischievous. The solemn, doleful monkish knells, wailed out on the people's ear, to tell them when parson Cummings is to commence his magnificent performances, to keep his Baptists from straying into the paths of of truth and righteousness. Not but what the Baptists are as good as any of the solemn sects. They have been the best of any, in their humble day, when they were persecuted. That is the only time any of the sects are ever good for any thing, and it is then comparatively only. That dismal go-to-meetin' summons too - that priestly, canting tone, rung out to the bewildered multitude to hear Knapp [?] play upon their fears. It sounds priestly and ghostly. Those who obey it follow a Jack-a-lantern. God bids them not follow such leads. They trifle with all the guidance He has kindly furnished them, who muster at such summonses. A dismal, funeral sound - as from the tombs. The human ear never ought to hear such sounds, any more than human eyes ought to be blasted with the sight of ghosts and apparaitions. It is not right, and every body, in their right mind, knows it! If you want to use a bell for honest purposes - ring it out, honestly, as you do when there is a fire. (that is another good use for the Baptist bell, I had forgotten.) Don't let it whine out, like a canting divine. It only dismalizes the people. They ought not to be dismalized. They can't repent truly, when they are. They are only scared. There is no saving repentence in fright, or in dismality.
The Baptist bell, - I heard it ringing another of its clerical cries this morning, summoning the solemn converts of Sunday to the sister Court House. A more rapid and secular ding-dong, this call to court, - as well as more honest. There is no monkery in it. It is a devilish sound, to be sure, - full of quarrel and litigation, but it does not profess to be a sound from Heaven. How full of hurry it is! It calls to ruin - headlong ruin. Not the deep and everlasting destruction of the cathedral-going call, but ruin of estate and of temper, - which they in vain seek to to retrieve, by afterwards running to the meeting-house. The remedy is worse than the disease. When will mankind hearken to God, rather bthan to a human priesthood and its allies! The same bell can call to meetin' and to court, as handily as the same parson can perform at a Revival, and at opening the squabble of a Court Session. The tongue of the Reverend Bell and the Reverend Divine are alike versatile.
Another benefit I had forgotten in that belfry and steeple - a weather-cock on it tells the way of the wind. A minister's steeple is the very place for a weather-cock. There is one up in his pulpit, and the vain and steeple rod is not truer to the current. You can tell the way of the popular current to a certainty, by the heading of the pulpit weather-cock.
I like the cow-bell on the common, and the sheep-bell on the hill - and the dinner bell - and the railroad bell. That is a capital sound telling the starting of mighty cars - and the bell on the Steam Boat prow, ringing for a trip over the great Atlantic. I don't love the Factory Bell, or the State's Prison Bell, or the Court Bell, or the Sectarian meetin' bell. They all strike dismally on the heart of humanity.
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers