Page images
PDF
EPUB

or less foretell where it will break out. We know how to prevent its breaking out at all, save in a scattered case here and there. Of this there is no doubt whatsoever in the mind of any well-informed person.

But that does not prevent its being a visitation of God; yea, in most awful and literal earnest, a house-to-house visitation. God uses the powers of nature to do his work: of him it is written, 'He maketh the winds his angels, and flames of fire his ministers.' And so this minute and invisible cholera-seed is the minister of God, by which he is visiting from house to house, searching out and punishing certain persons who have been guilty, knowingly or not, of the offence of dirt; of filthy and careless habits of living; and especially, as has long been known by well-informed men, of drinking poisoned water. Their sickness, their deaths are God's judgment on that act of theirs, whereby God says to men—You shall not drink water unfit for even dumb animals; and if you do, you shall die.

To this view there are two objections. First, the poor people themselves are not in fault, but those who supply poisoned water, and foul dwellings.

True: but only half true. If people demanded good water and good houses, there would soon be a supply of them. But there is not a sufficient supply; because too many of the labouring classes in towns, though they are earning very high wages, are contented to live in a condition unfit for civilized men; and of course, if they are contented so to do, there will be plenty of covetous or careless landlords who will supply the bad article with which they are satisfied ; and they will be punished by disease, for not having taken care of themselves.

But as for the owners of filthy houses, and the suppliers of poisoned water, be sure that, in his own way and his own time, God will visit them; that when he maketh inquisition for blood, he will assuredly requite upon the guilty persons, whoever they are, the blood of those five or six thousand of her Majesty's subjects who have been foully done to death by cholera in the last two months, as he requited the blood of Naboth, or of any other innocent victim of whom we read in Holy Writ. This outbreak of cholera in London, considering what we now know about it, and have known for twenty years past, is a national shame, scandal, and sin, which if man cannot and will not punish, God can and will.

But there is another objection, which is far more important and difficult to answer. This cholera has not slain merely fathers and mothers of families, who were more or less responsible for the bad state of their dwellings; but little children, aged widows, and many other persons who cannot be blamed in the least.

True. And we must therefore believe that to them—indeed to all—this has been a visitation not of anger, but of love. We must believe that they are taken away from some evil to come; that God permits the destruction of their bodies, to the saving of their souls. His laws are inexorable: and yet he hateth nothing that he hath made.

And we must believe that this cholera is an instance of the great law, which fulfils itself again and again, and will to the end of the world, 'It is expedient that one die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.'

For the same dirt which produces cholera now and then, is producing always and all day long, stunted and diseased bodies, drunkenness, recklessness, misery, and sin of all kinds; and the cholera will be a blessing, a cheap price to have paid, for the abolition of the evil spirit of dirt.

And thus much for this very painful subject -of which some of you may say—What is it * to us? We cannot prevent cholera ; and,

blessed as we are with abundance of the purest 'water, there is little or no fear of cholera ever 'coming into our parish.'

That last is true, my friends, and you may thank God for it. Meanwhile take this lesson at least home with you, and teach it your children day by day—that filthy, careless, and unwholesome habits of living are in the sight of Almighty God so terrible an offence, that he sometimes finds it necessary to visit them with

a severity with which he visits hardly any sin ; namely, by inflicting capital punishment on thousands of his beloved creatures.

But though we have not had the cholera among us, has God therefore not visited us? That would surely be evil news for us, according to Holy Scripture. For if God do not visit us, then he must be far from us. But the Psalmist cries, 'Go not far from me, O Lord.' His fear is, again and again, not that God should visit him, but that God should desert him. And more, the word which is translated to visit,' in Scripture has the sense of seeing to a man, overseeing him, being his bishop. If God do not see to, oversee us, and be our bishop, then he must turn his face from us, which is what the Psalmist beseeches him again and again not to do; praying, 'Hide not thy face from me, O Lord, and crying out of the depths of anxiety and trouble, ' Put thy 'trust in God, for I shall yet give him thanks for

the light of his countenance;' and again, 'In 'thy presence is '—not death, but— life; at thy right hand is fulness of days for evermore.'

« PreviousContinue »