The Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cable

by Glenn Conjurske

In a sermon on “Dependence on the System” in our last number, we referred to the trans-Atlantic cable as one element in the “progress” of the mystery of iniquity. Though primitive enough in the light of subsequent developments, it was at the time a significant step forward in reversing the judgement of the Almighty, which he inflicted on the race at the tower of Babel. We suppose that judgement was not so much to punish man for his presumption—-for it was extremely mild as a punishment—-as to restrain him from success in his enterprise. The effect of the divine judgement was not the destruction of the sinners, but only that “they left off to build the city.” The reversal of that judgement of God is a simple necessity to the success of the devil’s agenda, and as a matter of fact the trans-Atlantic cable was hailed in its time as a reversal of the judgement of Babel, and that reversal was attributed to God by short-sighted Christians. They did not have the same vantage point which we do, and it was perhaps not so easy for them to see the hand of the devil in this “progress” as it is for us. Yet the fact remains that few see it today, though we stand on the very threshold of the final success of Satan’s program. We suppose that the real difficulty is not the lack of a proper vantage point, but ignorance of the Bible, and that too often coupled with worldliness of heart. We aim to provide an antidote to both.

Shortly after printing the proof sheets of our sermon on “Dependence on the System,” we ran across (providentially, as we suppose) a number of articles on the trans-Atlantic cable in The Guardian for 1858. The wild delight with which the completion of the cable was celebrated may serve to demonstrate the real character of “the mystery of the iniquity,” for the devil does not show his cloven foot in his present operations. Not until he has all things secured beyond the possibility of failure will he take off his mask, and openly demand the worship of the world. Till then he works in secret—-and this is the meaning of the Greek word rendered “mystery”—-in the dark, behind the scenes, always keeping himself out of view, and always disguising the true nature and real ends of his programs.

He conceals those things by means of two lies, and those two lies, taken together, give us a fairly comprehensive view of “the wiles of the devil.” Those two lies present the devil’s operations as, first, a benefit to man—-even a benefit to the cause of Christ—-and, secondly, as a boon from heaven. Neither can we deny that there is a measure of truth in those lies—-in what lie is there not?—-but whatever benefit or blessing is to be found in the operations of Satan is always designed on his part as a present and temporary benefit to man, bought at the expense of his future and permanent undoing. The benefits which the devil gives to the human race are but the choice corn used to fatten the ox for the slaughter, and selfish and short-sighted man is as easily gulled as the ox. The glowing enthusiasm with which those benefits are embraced is a telling indication of the success of the infernal agenda. We expect that enthusiasm from the world, but we are grieved that the children of God know no better. The same excitement with which they greeted the trans-Atlantic cable was subsequently bestowed upon the radio, and now the Internet. Yet it must be obvious to any who will think that the real effect of all this is to reverse the judgement of God, and build again the tower of Babel.

The first message crossed the Atlantic by cable on August 16, 1858, and though the cable ceased to work three weeks later, it was in use long enough to take hold of the popular mind as a great advance in all that goes by the name of “progress.”

The London Guardian of August 25, 1858, records the American reaction to the completion of the cable. “The first reports were held ‘too good to be true.’ In New York the state of feeling could not be described even by the Herald. At Washington the feel (sic) shown amounted to ‘transport.’ At Albany people were ‘wild with excitement.’ At Boston there was ‘great rejoicing;’ at Worcester 100 guns were fired; at Rochester a ‘feeling of glorification’ seized the citizens; Utica was illuminated; at Syracuse a band and a company of militia went about, ‘spirited’ speeches were made,” &c., &c.

A week later, “America has gone mad to a great degree on the subject of the Atlantic Telegraph. Besides the demonstrations we mentioned last week, there were others all over the continent. August 17th was the day agreed upon for a simultaneous demonstration. At New York the day broke with salvos of artillery, including one of 100 guns from the City-hall. At noon there was a further salute of 200 guns, the bells of all the churches were rung, youngsters kept up the fusillade throughout the streets with small arms, and by way of making as much noise as possible, the whistles of all the steam-engines in the city screeched continuously from twelve to one o’clock.” Bonfires and fireworks, speeches and parades, bells ringing and lamps blazing, were the order of the day throughout the land.

Nor did the excitement quickly subside. On Sept. 6 the American correspondent of the Guardian wrote, “The prevailing topic which has almost absorbed everything else for the past month has been the successful laying of the Atlantic Cable. The people have been almost wild with the excitement, and scarce a village throughout the land which has not had a celebration of the event.”

In all this we see how little anyone suspected the hand of the devil in any of it. We see, in other words, how successful he was in keeping the iniquitous purposes of his working in mystery, or secret.

And what was the cause of all this rejoicing? Verily just this, that the cable was universally regarded as both the work of God and a benefit to man. Some saw so clearly as to perceive it to be the undoing of the judgement of Babel, and explicitly said so, but they attributed that reversal of the judgement of God to God himself, never suspecting another hand in the matter. More on that anon.

An American journalist wrote, “The earth has witnessed nothing half as auspicious—-nothing so full of glad tidings to mankind—-since the birth of the Redeemer. If the ‘morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy’ at the creation of the world, surely the eye of faith, without impiety, may reverently recognise in this union of the two mighty physical divisions of that creation a providential dispensation that may inspire even the angels in heaven with delight. It is well, therefore, that in many of the churches yesterday, the ‘telegraph’ was in the pulpit, as elsewhere, the one idea—-for the Church and Christianity are, in the end, to gather in a rich harvest of its fruits. The golden chain of human brotherhood has had a strong bright link added to it, which, with God’s blessing, will in due time bring all nations, all kindreds, all tongues, within its friendly and loving embrace. The Orient and the Occident clasp hands! The East and the West are one, and with the universal diffusion of universal intelligence good men may hopefully look forward to the dawn of the blessed millennium.”

We have added the bold type to indicate how thoroughly this cable was regarded as the undoubted work of God, and a great benefit to mankind, and to point out also how thoroughly astray such thinking was. “Human brotherhood” is in reality a brotherhood without God, and the theme song of liberal theology. As for “all nations, all kindreds, and all tongues” being made one, we know that this shall occur indeed, when “the mystery of iniquity” shall give place to the revelation of the man of sin, for we read in express terms in Rev. 13:7, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”

Upon the completion of the cable the Mayor of New York said, “The important and beneficial results to our race which this great event promises cannot be wholly anticipated, but that it will tend to the perpetual peace and increased happiness of the two leading nations who have joined in the labour and cost of the enterprise, cannot be doubted, while itself the offspring of science, and that civilisation which is founded on Christian principles, it announces to the whole world the reign of lasting peace and good-will to all men.”

We certainly believe in “the reign of lasting peace” and in “good-will to all men,” but none of this is secured by the “progress” of the present evil world. “Good will to men” was brought down from heaven at the birth of the Redeemer, and “lasting peace” will be established when he comes again, and destroys the present world. That these terms are now in the mouths of myriads of the ungodly we know, but this is only the veil which hides “the mystery of iniquity.”

At a crowded church service, “An address, eloquent and appropriate, was delivered by the excellent [Episcopalian] Bishop of New Jersey; his powerful voice and earnest manner commanding the closest attention from the crowded congregation. He began with the message of the angels at Bethlehem; the message now of the Angli, by the Atlantic Telegraph, to their Western sons; and the Anglo-American message to the ends of the earth. ‘Was ever utterance so fit? Was ever fittest utterance so startling, so solemn, so sublime—-flashing out from the burning land of Christian hearts in Ireland; flashing along through the caverns of the sea; flashing along among the buried treasures of the deep, flashing along through the layers of old Leviathan, flashing along among the remains of them that perished in the Flood, flashing up among the primeval forests of Newfoundland, flashing out from there throughout the world.’ Now, it seems to me that among the thousand thoughts that crowd upon the heart in the contemplation of the great subject of this day’s assembling, the tendency to oneness is chief. It seems to me that in a sort the edict of Babel is reversed. The dispersion of the nations is to be undone in God’s time, and in God’s way, by bringing them together in Him. And I might almost venture to say that we have in prospect as it were a renewal and repetition of the Pentecostal wonder, when all the nations of the world shall hear in their own tongue the wonderful works of God, when man shall speak to man from one end of the world to the other, of the Gospel of Salvation, and of the glory of the Lamb. Space is, as it were, annihilated, and time is more than annihilated. In a sense there is no more sea.”

We think it a profanation of the message of the angels at Bethlehem to apply it to such an event as this. And observe the chief thought of the occasion, “the tendency to oneness.” This is the watchword of all ecumenicalism and internationalism, both of which are the workings of the same mystery of iniquity, in its more advanced stages. And mark the annihilation of space and time—-a thing no way needed for the progress of the kingdom of God, but essential to the triumph of the kingdom of Satan, for he aims at an outward and organized unity of world-wide dimensions. And while the devil lays the groundwork for this, short-sighted men attribute it all to God, even the reversing of the edict of Babel.

Observe also what child’s play this annihilation of space and time was, in comparison with the “progress” which has been made since then. What was the trans-Atlantic cable to telephones and radio and television and satellite communication and the Internet? Add to these airplanes and automobiles, and it appears that time and space are eliminated indeed for modern man. But who is the beneficiary of all this, God or the devil? We would not pretend to deny that the kingdom of God has reaped some little advantage from these things, though it could have prospered without them, but for every benefit conferred upon the kingdom of God by this technology, the kingdom of darkness gains a thousand. It must be apparent to all that electronic communications must in the nature of the case consist mostly of evil communications, the race of men being what it is. But this is the least of the matter. The real significance of modern rapid travel and communication is that it has brought the whole world together. It has reversed the judgement which was inflicted by God at the tower of Babel. It has created a global consciousness and a global agenda, which together constitute a new tower of Babel—-under the same head and with the same purpose as the ancient tower. The devil is the master-mind of all this, and the beneficiary also.

But in 1858 the (American) Presbyterian Magazine sang the same ecstatic song, saying, “The globe is now in electric union” —-apparently altogether unaware that the whole world lay yet in the wicked one, and that the globe was as godless as ever. We have seen a century and a half of “progress” since that primitive “electric union” of the globe, with radio and television, global telephone connections, satellite communications, and the Internet, but all the dreams of peace and unity, of righteousness and godliness—-of the very millennium—-by these electronic means have proved the veriest delusion, and any man who can today attribute all these things to God is surely as blind as he is infatuated.

The editor of the Presbyterian Magazine also explicitly interprets this event as the reversal of the judgement of Babel, and attributes it all to God:

“The promotion of the friendship of nations is one of the first natural advantages of the Atlantic Telegraph. The division of the world into different nations by means of mountains, rivers, and oceans, is a part of the arrangements of infinite goodness. Great ends of mercy, as well as of retribution, were answered by the confusion of tongues and the dispersion of mankind. In the progress of ages, the diversity, necessary to the best interests of the race, was to be relieved by the providential preparations for a more genial intercourse. The sharp, repulsive prejudices and rude hostilities of the earlier eras of civilization were to be superseded by a system of attracting influences. At the present day all the tendencies of the world’s advancement are towards intercourse, unity, and peace. The swift communication of thought is the best harbinger of universal concord. As the original dispersion of mankind was accomplished by the confusion of language at the tower of Babel, so its reunion in the bonds of peace is promoted by the creation of a new, universal language, surpassing the resources of combined human tongues.

“The wire itself symbolizes the union of all lands, and the fraternity, which Grace is to give to the nations.”

But as love is both blind and lynx-eyed, so is this theology—-keen-sighted enough to see that this electronic communication was a reversal of the judgement of Babel, but so blind as to suppose God the author of it. But where has God ever reversed that judgement, or repented of it? Was he unwise to impose it on the race? The kingdom of God stands in no need of any reversal of it. It is the kingdom of darkness which stands to gain by the reversal. And again I avow my opinion that the readiness with which men have attributed all this to God is really the proof of the success of the secret workings of the mystery of iniquity.

But Van Rensselaer has no understanding of the nature of the judgement of Babel. That judgement was a restraint placed upon man, by the restrainer, “who now letteth.” “And the LORD said, Behold, THE PEOPLE IS ONE, and they have ALL ONE LANGUAGE; and THIS THEY BEGIN TO DO: and NOW NOTHING WILL BE RESTRAINED FROM THEM, WHICH THEY HAVE IMAGINED TO DO. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.” It was precisely the “unity” and the “progress” and “advancement” of the race—-without God—-which called for this judgement, and how then does the (much augmented and more ungodly) modern “progress” call for its reversal? This is blindness. The theology which induced that blindness was of course post-millennialism, which equates progress in civilization with the advancement of the kingdom of God, and is utterly blind to the fact that the devil sits king over that progress and that civilization.

Van Rensselaer writes, “Another thought is transmitted through the Atlantic Telegraph, as a commemorative lesson to the immortal minds that celebrate its achievement. It is that this great event is among the most impressive, as well as the latest of the providential indications of THE APPROACH OF THE MILLENNIUM.” In this strain he continues for two pages, utterly unaware that “The whole world” yet “lieth in the wicked one,” forming an imaginary kingdom of God here in the devil’s lap, a new world without the judgement of the old one, and utterly setting aside the solemn asseveration of Christ that “as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

Such is the blindness of post-millennialism, but there are hosts of pre-millennialists who are as blind morally, who, with no doctrine to excuse their blindness, will yet attribute all of this “progress” in electronic communications and rapid travel to God, and suppose it is his kingdom which is advanced thereby.

Glenn Conjurske