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The instances that illustrate this are too numerous, and the principle is too plain, to make it proper to dwell on the point now. The most obvious instance, perhaps, to illustrate this, is intemperance in the use of intoxicating drinks. In referring to this, I mean that there is a class of results as the consequence of this habit that flow directly from it; that are found nowhere else; that, as a great law, always follow from it sooner or later; and that, therefore, may be interpreted as an expression of the Divine view of that habit, and as a proof that some clear law of nature, armed with an appropriate penalty, has been violated. For, these effects are not such as follow a mode of life which God approves. They are effects which are found appended to no other course of conduct. They are results so uniform as to show that there is an infraction of law, and so fearful and destructive as to demonstrate that the law was one which He who made our frame meant particularly to guard. The babbling, the poverty, the disgrace, the ruin of the intellect, the corruption of morals, the debasement of manners, the blunting of the moral sense, the train of diseases, the liability to commit crime, the sense of personal misery, and the peculiar form of mania to which the inebriate is subject, and which so frequently closes life-these and kindred things are of the nature of penalty, and come upon men as an undoubted judgment for what God regards as wrong-doing-and what in all His dealings with men, in spite of all their devices, He will continue to regard as wrong-doing. Here we never make a mistake in connecting the judgment with crime ; nor is any other part of the Divine administration better understood than this.
There are multitudes of things in the world which, if not in all respects equally plain, are no less illustrative of the principle : things so numerous and so certain as to enable men to understand that there is a moral government over the world; to determine with a good degree of accuracy what its principles are; and to furnish constant confirmations, by the course of Providential dealings, of the laws which have been disclosed in the volume of revealed truth. Thus, licentiousness has its own 'most awful and unmistakable penalty; war has its penalty ; slavery has its penalty; avarice has its penalty ; pride has its penalty ; dishonesty, indolence, fraud, falsehood, all have their penalties. That is, there is a class of evils which spring out of each and every one of such things which spring from nothing else, and which would not be suffered if some law of God had not been violated, and its penalty incurred. It is not necessary to specify these things farther.
(2.) I turn, then, to the consideration of the second principle referred to. This relates more particularly to the case before us, and concerns a large part of the Divine dealings in this world. The case is that where the judgment-if it be a judgment-or the calamity, if it is to be regarded as a mere calamity (and whether it is or not, is the very point before us), cannot be shown to spring directly out of human conduct, and to be the regular result of a specific violation of law. This class would .embrace most of those things which are commonly spoken of as “ judgments,” and would comprehend the plague in its irregular but fearful visitations; the pestilence, in the various forms in which it appears ; famine whether more limited or more general ; tornadoes, tempests, earthquakes, conflagrations, inundations, perhaps the irruption of barbarians, and the ravages of an invading army. Under this head, also, might be brought revulsions in the commercial world ; a derangement of the monetary affairs of nations; the downfall of governments, and the revolutions of states and empires. The question before us is, How are these to be interpreted as connected with the Divine administration ? By what princi. ple are we to judge of them, and how are we to feel in regard to them, when we are visited by them? I design, in what I have yet to say on this point, to lay down a few principles which truth seems to me to warrant, of so general a nature as to be applicable to all of them; but to derive the illustrations solely from that fearful visitation with which our land has been afflicted, and which is the occasion of our assembling to-day.
(a.) The first principle, then, which I state is, that they are all under the control and the direction of God. I make this remark in opposition to a view which was adverted to in the former part of the discourse ; but I do not deem it necessary to attempt to prove its truth at length. If anything is under the control of God, it will be admitted that tempests, and storms, and earthquakes, and conflagrations are; that the plague, pestilence, and famine are his ministers. Certainly, in the apprehension of the mass of mankind, God is more likely to be recognized in these things than he is in the gentle sunbeam, the dew, the running fountain, the daily care that ministers to our wants : and among the mass of men, and especially in civil governments, the tendency is to recognize Him only in these tremendous displays of His power, and thus to regard His operations as lying somewhat in the regions of miracle. And certainly if we are to admit that God is in the world at all, it is proper to admit that He is in the midst of these great doings, so much adapted to impress the minds of men, and to produce changes on the earth. But I shall dismiss all that I have to say on this particular, by a reference to a few passages of Scripture pertaining to the very subject before us—the pestilence. “I will send the pestilence among you,” Lev. 26 : 25. “I will smite them with the pestilence,” Num. 14: 12. ^ The Lord shall make pestilence cleave to thee,” Deut. 28 : 31. “He gave their life over to the pestilence,” Ps. 78 : 50. “I will consume them by pestilence,” Jer. 14 : 12. “I will send to
her pestilence, and blood into her streets,” Ezek. 28: 23. “I have sent among you the pestilence,” Amos 4 : 10. And the text, “ Before him went the pestilence.” The design of quoting these passages is merely to show that the pestilence is uniformly spoken of as under the control of God, and as one of the instruments with which He accomplishes His purposes among men.
(6.) Another thing, then, which may be laid down in regard to it is, that it is to be presumed that God has some clear and definite designs which it is proper for men to regard, in such visitations. It cannot be that this is the mere play of His power; it cannot be that it is in wantonness or without purpose or end; it cannot be that He so departs from the ordinary and well-understood laws of His working without intending to convey some lesson that may be of use to mankind, or without some adaptation to His great and ultimate plans; it cannot be that He suddenly and in a fearful manner, cuts down multitudes of men of all classes, and with new and unusual forms of suffering, without intending to impress the minds of the living with some appropriate view of Himself. If these things are the mere operation of unconscious laws, they are one thing ; if the work of chance, or of fate, they are another; if they are the work of an intelligent, and jusi, and beneficent Father, they are another. Let those who believe in the former account of them, explain them as they may, and derive such consolations and instructions as they can from an explanation which excludes alike intelligence, design, benevolence, justice, and wisdom; but let us who have higher views of the universe, sit down reverently and ask what the Universal Father would have us learn from these wonderful dealings. And this brings us, then,
(c.) Directly to the inquiry to which all the remarks which I have made have been converging. That inquiry is, What are the lessons taught a people by such a fearful visitation as that which has come upon our land, and upon the world? Let us look at this as if it were, as it is in some respects, a new visitation of the nations—a new going forth of God upon the earth, and see if we can discern the reasons of our Maker's doings and ways. I will state, in their order, some of those lessons which this visitalion seems to me adapted to convey, and which should be before our minds in the services of this occasion. .
(1.) A visitation of this kind is adapted forcibly to convey the truth that God rules in the nations of the earth. In a very distinct form, indeed, this truth is conveyed by all the interposi. tions of Divine Providence, and all the events that occur, if men would so regard it; but there is a peculiarity in the teaching con. veyed by the events which we are considering that is adapted in a most impressive manner to convey this lesson to the mind. This remark will apply to all those interpositions which are a departure from the ordinary and regular laws by which He governs the world :-to the pestilence and the plague ; to famines, conflagrations, tornadoes, earthquakes, and wars. In the ordinary course of events, as already intimated, we are prone to forget God. We fail to see Him in the sun-beain, the stars, the dews, the springing grass, the healthful action of our own frames, the opening leaf, the regular tides of the ocean. We learn to feel that we can explain these things without God. · We become confident in our own wisdom, and rely on our own sagacity, and pride ourselves on our skill. God comes, therefore, with the pestilence; with storms and tempests'; with commercial embarrassments ; with famine and war, and disturbs the self-confident tranquillity of our souls, and shows us how short-sighted is our wisdom, and how vain is our philosophy. He shows us that the lives of men are at His disposal ; that all nations are under His control; that cities, towns and people are continued by His sufferance; and that when He gives command, all that we deemed secure and firm is swept away in a moment. There is no skill that can anticipate Him; there is no invention that can ward off His approach; there is no power that can resist Him. This visitation that has come upon our land, and upon the world, has shown this, and is still showing it in a most impressive manner :-for where is the nation that is secure; where is the frame so stalwart and hardy that it may not soon be cut down; where is the talent, the eloquence, the piety, or the patriotism that constitutes immunity from the attack of the destroyer ?
(2.) Such a visitation of God to our world is fitted to show that He has hidden resources for effecting His purposes, yet unknown to us; that there are means of accomplishing His ends which are not yet developed. We are very apt to feel that, in regard at least to originality, the Divine resources are exhausted ; and that all we have to do in order to “find out God” is to study the methods in which He has been accustomed to go forth among the children of men; or, in other words, that all that there is in the Divine plans is now before us, and that there is to be nothing new. Even earthquakes, and famines, and tornadoes, we are endeavoring to reduce to the same laws, and are seeking, in our wisdom, to feel that God is limited in his operations, and that soon we can comprehend the mode and the reason of all His doings. So men endeavor to master the laws of disease, and vainly suppose they can classify, and arrange, and perhaps counteract all the maladies to which the human system is liable. Yet here is a new form of disease ; a new visitation of God to our world. It is but recently that it has become known. There are those now living who were living when it was first heard of on the earth. It was reported as a strange disease; suddenly cutting down one wing of an army while the other wing was secure ; descending on camps and villages apparently without any law, and sweeping off families and villages at once. But it was in a far distant land. It was supposed to be local in its character. It was regarded as connected with the peculiarities of equatorial climates. It was believed to have some singular affinity for the Asiatic temperament, and other nations were supposed to be secure. The strange visitant having domesticated itself on the other side of the globe; having retained its local character so as to bull the nations to repose ; having identified itself apparently with the diseases of a particular part of the world, suddenly left its home, and began its mysterious march to the West. It followed no beaten pathway; it observed no known laws. It paid no respect to climate, and seemed to have no predilection as to the course of its march. It invaded alike hills and valleys; descended on the city and the hamlet; was at home in hot regions and in cold ; pursued no regular line of march, except that it kept on its fearful journey to the West; was undismayed by walled towns, by deserts, and by oceans; now resting in some spot fearfully visited, and now slipping from place to place; now following the course of rivers, and now leaping from mountain to mountain. We heard of it from afar, and trembled; it came upon us, and was all, in the mystery and fearfulness of its visitations, that we had dreaded. No man understood it; no one could explain it. No sage in medicine, accustomed to explain everything, could tell what this was ; no one can tell now. Whether in the blood, or the atmosphere, or in some derangement of the electric fluid-who can tell ? Who knows the laws of its coming ? Who knows how to meet it ? Who can make himself secure from its assaults ? The short and most philosophical account of the whole matter is, that it is a new visitation of God among the nations; the lesson which we are to read in it is, that God has resources for accomplishing His ends which are not yet exhausted, and that in studying His ordinary dealings we have not yet “ found out the Almighty to perfection.” We see our Maker here going forth with a new form of manifestation. How much more He may have in reserve, unknown to us, who can tell ? The atmosphere; the electric fluid; the gases; the waters of the deep; the noxious and poisonous secrets of the vegetable world, are all under His control, and a touch of His finger, or a breath from His mouth, may send some infinitely more fearful form of calamity than this sweeping over the nations.
(3.) This is to be regarded as an extraordinary means of arresting the attention of mankind. We become accustomed to His ordinary dispensations, and cease to be warned or alarmed. Men move on in the business of their farms or merchandiseamidst their pleasures and their books—though their fellows are dying around them with the ordinary diseases to which our race