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find a person who has been exempt from tribulation? where the heart which has not been conversant with grief? where the eye that has not wept bitter tears of sorrow where the tongue which has not had cause to complain? Where shall any one be found who has not been bereft of the loved? Were we to search creation through for such, we should search in vain.
But, in view of the solemn event which has convened us, let us leave our personal sorrows and griefs, to contemplate those afflictions which are of a national character.
Sin, whether of an individual or a national character, must be displeasing to God. He cannot behold it with allowance, or suffer it to pass unpunished. Hence, we are assured that "the way of the transgressor is hard," and that the finally impenitent will be destined “to indignation and wrath, to tribulation and anguish.” But, while future punishment may be inflicted upon the guilty individual, we must look to the present state for those corrections which national sins
And, in looking over the pages of history, sacred and profane, ancient and modern, where shall we find the nation that has been free from sin and, consequently, exonerated from affliction? If,
in our retrospect, we view the antediluvian world, we discover that their offenses were so numerous, so aggravating, as to cause the Being who spake them into existence, to sweep them from His footstool with the besom of destruction.
If we pass on through later times, we find that national offenses were always displeasing to God. Where are those mighty empires which once flourished in pride and luxury? Where are those magnificent cities which seemed invulnerable ? Alas! their name and place, and the very memory of some, have perished. The God of heaven has shown His aversion to sin by blotting out their very existence.
1. The Lord afflicts the nations sometimes by withholding the increase of the earth. True, the Lord hath said, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and Summer and Winter, and day and night shall not cease."
And this promise has not failed as to the general condition of mankind, though many nations have been punished with famine — Canaan, Egypt, and other peoples who have been grieved in this manner. And has our own beloved country always yielded bountifully? Can we not refer to seasons of scarcity? True, we have not been so straitened as some other nations; yet have we suffered sufficiently to know that the Lord has been displeased, and that our wickedness called forth that displeasure.
2. The Lord afflicts and grieves the nations by sending “the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noonday.” The history of the past is replete with instances of such chastisement.
You, my brethren, doubtless remember the choice which the Lord proposed to David, king of the Jews, who had given offense by numbering the hosts of Israel. One of three things was David permitted to select: famine, the sword, or pestilence. The last he accepted, believing it better to fall into the hand of a merciful God, as he esteemed such a visitation ; yet many were slain. It was indicative of the Divine displeasure with public and national sin.
May we not ask, where shall we find the nation which has not been visited of the Lord, and chastened through this medium ? Have we been exempt? No, my brethren; the destroying angel has been commissioned to go through the length and breadth of our Republic, and the thousands slain demonstrate that God has had a controversy with us, and that our national sins have called forth the just judgment of Jehovah. Shall we forget the cholera? We who were spectators of its mournful, its desolating power, we who through the fell destroyer were bereft of kindred, can nevermore forget its visitation. Shall we forget the short illness, the agonizing struggle, the last moments, the fatal issue? Nay; it has been indelibly engraven upon the tablets of our hearts; and often in the future we shall review the past, and call to remembrance the solemn scenes of the sad farewell! We remember, also, our fearful forebodings, that we might be the next victim to that fatal scourge.
3. The Lord afflicts nations by permitting war to spread desolation and devastation throughout the land.
We may say that the history of the nations is written in blood! Consider the myriads that have fallen in battle, the oceans of blood that have flowed, the floods of tears that have been shed, the sighs which have ascended to the ear of God, the hearts that have been broken, the cities that have been depopulated, the countries which have been made desolate; and then say, have not the children of men been conversant with afflictions ?
Look through the history of our own country, and from the time of the Pilgrim Fathers to the present, how many have fallen by the hand of man! The soil of this Republic has been stained by the blood of her children, and thousands have mourned the loss of loved ones slain by savage or foreign foes.
4. Once more: the Lord afflicts by removing those who have appeared essentially necessary to the good of the country.
History presents many examples of the removal by death of the leading men of a nation, ere their plans and purposes have been consummated. And hence national grief and dismay..
In this matter we have abundant cause to be unfeignedly thankful to God, who hitherto has so mercifully favored us. The Father of our country, through Divine goodness, was shielded from all harm during his military life, was permitted to accomplish the period assigned him as Chief Magistrate of the nation, and then peacefully to expire in that retirement from which the voice of his country had called him to guide her armies and execute her laws. Those who have succeeded him in office have mercifully been preserved to accomplish the labor for which they were chosen, save one only, who has just now been called to resign his trust. He has passed from earth, and sleeps with his fathers.