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covenant faithfulness of Christ, symbolized here by the rainbow upon his head, and his feet being as pillars of fire.
A new interest will hence be given to the closing events of this descent of Christ, now to be contemplated. Beholding them simply as military events, would be aside from the design of a religious lecture. But the faith of the child of God may fasten upon them as events of deep interest, which fulfil the judgments, and display the glory of the Captain of our salvation!
The terrible empire, which soon after the French revolution of 1789, burst upon the world, seemed about to trample all nations under foot. An universal military despotism was the manifest and most sanguine object of the first leader, the Corsican emperor! Some obstacles yet stood in his way, which he was resolved should be soon effectually removed: and probably what was published in our American Gazette of the day, as the declared sentiments of the Emperor Bonaparte, was but too correct ; that, after removing several remaining obstacles, "he would henceforth trample on all the rights of neutrality!" Russia and Britain were to be destroyed. An expedition was hence planned and undertaken by Bonaparte into Russia, with an army of vast preparation! an army of four hundred thousand men; the best appointed, probably, that was ever seen to move on the face of the earth! They were soon hundreds of miles in the enemy's territories, and pressing towards the heart of the Russian empire. But it ere long began to appear, that the power of Russia was not to be immediately crushed; and the arms of the terrible empire were not invincible! In a general battle at Borodino, in which 80,000 men fell in one day, a mortifying conviction was forced upon the invader, that his power was not omnipotent. It seemed doubtful which army might claim the victory. But the leader of the invading army was suffered to force his way onward to the ancient capital of the czars of the north; where he was made to read the death-warrant of his cause. For he found that, through the astonishing patriotism of his enemies, a sea of liquid fire had been destined to roll over that ancient capital; that the habitations of 250,000 people had been doomed to smoke in ashes, that they might afford no accommodation to the French. The astonishment of the
emperor, and of his invading army, is related by Count Segur (an eyewitness) as dreadful ! He had led his armies hither, fatigued and worn down; but with full expectation of finding the best of winter-quarters, with provisions and plunder, far more than they could manage. And now, to find the whole consumed by relentless flames; he seemed to read the death-warrant of his army! They were in this far distant and frozen region of Russia, at the commencement of a tremendous Russian winter! almost naked, and destitute of food, and now sunk in discouragement, with not a ray of light to dawn upon them! They were many hundreds of miles from their own country; in the heart of an empire of a powerful, numerous, and justly enraged foe, fully prepared for action, and intent on merited vengeance!
All will readily believe, when assured, that the rash emperor and his army at once commenced their retreat, and fled towards their own region! Too late they found the fact, that they were plunged in a fatal snare, had digged a pit, and fallen into it! The scenes of judgment upon them began to be tremendous. They were worn out with fatigue; dispirited, famishing, and freezing; and surrounded by frightful and well-appointed armies of foes, whom their invasion had rendered furious, and intent on vengeance! What could they do? The worst of certain deaths, with all their horrors, stared them in the face! The French emperor attempted to parley; and to obtain some relief: but all in vain! He was pointedly assured, that not a word should be heard of peace, so long as an invading army was in the heart of Russia! that he had come uninvited to their capital, and he might return as he could! The furious Russians assured him, that they were so far from being prepared to close the campaign, that they had but just opened it!
The scenes of horror which followed baffle all description, and seem too dreadful to be contemplated. But, as God did in them fulfil some of his predicted judgments on his enemies of the last day; so the events should be piously contemplated. As a general view of the scenes,this northern army was destroyed! and their emperor fled home, accompanied by but one man! Some particulars shall be given.
We have here a most tremendous reverse to the affairs
of France; which, for about twenty-four years, had been almost uninterruptedly successful, to the vast consternation of the world. This retreat became a flight, and that of the most disastrous kind. "Come, behold the works of the Lord! what desolation he hath made!" Truly, “God is known by the judgments which he executeth." Defeats and miseries were poured upon the straggling fugitive armies. And the roads were, for hundreds of miles, strewed with their dead and dying. Thousands upon thousands sunk under the accumulated horrors of cold, nakedness, famine, fatigue, snow storms, the sword, and showers of balls from the vengeful legions of the enemy. Count Segur (an eyewitness) gives a history of this retreat. He says: "The winter now overtook us; and, by filling up the measure of such individual suffering, put an end to that mutual support which had hitherto sustained us. Henceforth the scene presented only a multitude of insulated and individual stragglers. All fraternity of arms was forgotten; all the bonds of social feeling torn asunder; excess of misery had brutalized them. A devouring hunger had reduced these wretched men to the mere instinct of self-preservation; to which they were ready to sacrifice every other consideration. The rude and barbarous climate seemed to have communicated its fury to them. Like the worst of savages, the strong fell upon the weak, and despoiled them. They eagerly surrounded the dying, and often waited not for the last sigh, before they stripped them. When a horse fell, they rushed upon it, tore it in pieces, and snatched the morsel from each other's mouth, like a troop of famished wolves. If an officer, or a comrade, fell alongside of them, or before a wheel of a cannon, it was in vain that he implored their aid! he obtained not even a look. All the frozen insensibilities of the climate had passed into their hearts. Its rigidity had contracted their sentiments, as well as their features. All, except a few chiefs, were absorbed by their own sufferings, and terror left no place for pity. To stop for a moment, was to risk their own life. In this scene of universal destruction, to hold out your hand to your comrade, or to your sinking chief, was an admirable effort of generosity. When unable from total exhaustion to proceed, the individuals would halt, while winter with its icy hand seized on them for
its prey. It was then that in vain these unfortunate beings,-benumbed as they were,-endeavoured to rouse themselves! Voiceless, insensible, and plunged in stupor, they would move forward, perhaps, a few paces, like automatons; but the blood, already freezing in their veins, flowed languidly through their hearts, and, mounting to their heads, made them stagger like drunken men. From their eyes, now red and inflamed by looking on the snow, by smoke, and by want of sleep,-there sometimes seemed to flow forth tears of blood, accompanied by profound sighs. One would look on the sky,-then look at us, then upon the ground, with a fixed and haggish stare of consternation !-this was the last farewell. They dropped upon their knees, and then upon their hands, moving, for an instant, from right to left, or the reverse ;—while from their lips escaped the most agonizing moans. They then fell prostrate upon the snow, perhaps disgorging blood, and were here no more! Their comrades passed by them without ever stepping aside;-dreading to lengthen their march by a single step. They even turned not their heads to look at them; as the slightest motion of the head, to the left or right, was attended with torture; the hair of their heads and their beards being frozen into a solid mass.
Scenes of still greater horror took place in large loghouses, which were found, at certain intervals, along the road. Into these, soldiers and officers would rush, huddled together like cattle. The living not having strength to remove the dead that were close by the fire, sat down upon their bodies, until their own turn came to expire ;– when they also served as death-beds to others. Sometimes the fire would communicate itself to the wood of those sheds, and then all within the walls,-already half dead,-would expire in the flames. In Jaupranoni, the soldiers set fire to houses, in order to warm themselves a few minutes. This would attract crowds of wretched men, some of whom the intensity of the cold had rendered delirious, who would rush forward like madmen, gnashing their teeth, and, with demoniac laughter, plunge themselves into the flames, where they perished in horrid convulsions. Their famished companions looked on, without affright! and, it is but too true, that some of
them drew the half-roasted bodies from the flames, and ventured to carry to their lips the revolting food!
Those fleeing distracted legions came to the River Berezina. They must soon cross, or perish, as their furious foes were pressing upon them, and any escape to the right or left was impossible. Cannon, arms, implements of death, threatened to destroy them at once. In despair and terror, they flew towards the river, which was rolling with hills of ice. Some plunged in, and perished. Most of them laboured to gain the bridge, over which the emperor had just slipped, and fled! All order was banished. The roar of the Russian cannon and musketry filled the air; and the ground was covered with the dead and dying. The multitude pressed upon each other to gain the bridge, till the way was perfectly choked. Many were suffocated and trodden to death. Many hurled their comrades off the bridge, to gain their places. Thousands were plunged into the river, and lost among the blocks of ice. The air resounded with the shrieks and yells of the terrified and the dying, which fell upon the ear when the intervals of the firing of the Russians could permit them to be heard; which added to the matchless horrors! A great part of the residue of the huge army of the north, which till now remained, here sunk in death. The bridge over the river, while loaded with a jam of French soldiers, was set on fire, according to antecedent arrangement, to finish the fatal scene. Here men were at the same time frozen and burned! And while crowds were pressing upon the bridge, and upon each other, the whole bridge gave way, and all the multitudes upon it were precipitated into the rolling surges among the blocks of ice, and to inevitable death! The few who had passed the river were pursued, and most of them destroyed. Thus ended this huge army of the north! The origin of all the mighty operations for twenty-five years, had been a design to destroy the Christian religion, and all civil liberty from the earth. And the angel of the covenant interposed, as in this chapter, and blasted the impious design! The Russians picked up, and burned in piles, more than 213,000 bodies of their fleeing foe. And but very few of the 400,000 men ever reached their home.
The emperor, thus vanquished, had the address in France to raise new armies; and a number more of great