Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Railway gospel

Research on the Chapel Car Messenger of Peace will continue for years, and months will pass without any new discoveries. April 2009 was not one of those months. In that month, a tattered but complete brochure allegedly distributed from the Messenger of Peace arrived at the Museum.

In 1899 the Baptist Publication Society published a promotional leaflet entitled “The Gospel on Wheels.” Simple by 21st Century standards, there is little doubt considerable thought and expense went into the production of this tri-fold publication. It is printed in blue ink on smooth white paper and includes a description of chapel car work, statistics such as number of conversions, and a brief listing of the other six cars’ assignments. What is really interesting is how the publisher – a religious organization - linked the chapel car and its mission to the railroad. Notably, the front cover is adorned with four familiar railroad terms and each is paired with a Biblical citation:

Satisfying refreshments served enroute – Psalms 103:5

Stopping places – Mark 16:15

Note-passengers will not be allowed to stand on the platform – Luke 14:28

The terminus – Rev 22:14

Now check out the actual passages and compare:

Psalms 103:5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye unto all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Luke 14:28 And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and the hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

Railway history takes in many interesting and often seemingly unrelated directions, but all the details are important in attempting to understand the impact and influence of the railroad on our society.

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