SERMONS OF THE PESTILENCE
 DEATH ARBITRARY
Funeral Sermon of Dr. P. Claiborne Gooch,
Who Died of Yellow Fever in Portsmouth, Va., Sept. 1855;
Delivered in Richmond, Va., March 2, 1856.
By J. L. Burrows.
A land of darkness, as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death, without
any order, and where the light is as darkness. Job. x. 22.
Richmond: Printed by C. H. Wynne. 1856.
Courtesy of the University of Virginia Library Special Collections.
RICHMOND, March 3, 1856.
Revd. Sir and Right Wor. Brother:
Enclosed we beg to hand you the action of the several Masonic bodies assembled on the melancholy occasion of the funeral of our late Brother, P. C. Gooch.
"We hope you will accede to the wishes of the Brethren in this matter. Allow us to assure you, it has seldom fallen to our lot to listen to anything more truly calculated to make an impression upon Masonic hearts, and as such we think it cannot be too widely circulated.
Yours respectfully and fraternally,
C. E. SNODGBASS, K. DUQUESNE, F. W. BOSIEK.
Rt. W. J. Lansing Burrows, P. G. C. of the G. L. of Penn.
* * * * * *
At a meeting of Loge Francaise, No 53, held in the Masons' Hall in the city of Richmond, on Sunday, 2d March, 1856, the following resolutions were unanimously agreed to.
Resolved, That the cordial thanks of this Lodge be tendered to Rev. Brother Burrows for the very impressive and Masonic sermon he this day delivered on the occasion of the Funeral of our deceased Brother, P. C. Gooch.
Resolved, That a Committee, consisting of Brothers Snodgrass and Duquesne, be appointed to wait on our Rev. Brother and request a copy of his discourse for publication.
F. W. ROSIER, W. M. No. 53.
Teste: P. A. H. Descayrac, Sec'y.
* * * * * *
At a Convocation of Richmond Encampment of Knights Templar, No. 2, held in their Asylum, in the Masons' Hall, city of Richmond, on Sunday, March 2, 1856, the following resolution was unanimously adopted.
Resolved, That the M. E. G Commander be appointed a committee to offer the sincere thanks of this Encampment to the Revd. Sir Kt. Burrows  for the splendid discourse he delivered on the occasion of the Funeral of our deceased companion, Sir Kt. P. C. Gooch, and request a copy of the same for publication.
F. W. ROSIER, G. C. No 2.
Teste: C. T. Paterson, Recorder.
* * * * * *
RICHMOND, VA., March 10, 1856.
I place at your disposal the manuscript of the discourse referred to in your communication of the 3d inst. Prepared without reference to publication, and amid a more than ordinary pressure of professional duties, I have felt some hesitancy in yielding it for the press; but as you kindly express the pursuasion, that its circulation may prove useful, I cannot permit myself to resist the influence of such a motive.
Sincerely and Fraternally Yours,
J. Lansing Burrows.
Bros: C. E. Snodgrass, R. Duquesne, F. W. Rosier, Committee.
* * * * * *
 FUNERAL SERMON.
Human life, by thoughtful men, inspired and uninspired, has often been compared to a journey, of which we know the starting point and the progress, for an undefined distance, but of the termination of the route and the destination of the travelers, we remain in melancholy ignorance, except as instructed by Divine revelation. Fancy yourself, as did the Patriarch, standing at some point whence you can view the multitudes on their life-journey. Along the broad road they crowd and jostle each other, and songs and laughs and jests mingle with oaths and groans and quarrels, ringing discordant clamors in every ear. The strong treads down the weak and tramples upon him in reaching after some elevation in the road; the cunning overreaches the simple, and the fast pass by the slow, and all are scrambling with haste proportioned to their capabilities towards—what? A gloomy impenetrable mist—a death-shade—a thick darkness—in which they successively disappear. And if along an elevated narrow path—the path of rectitude and piety—more sedate groups are pressing, the same black shadow envelopes the termination of the way. Into that impervious gloom, a thousand millions of men and women and children plunge and disappear every third of a century, thirty millions every year, ninety thousand every day, thirty-six hundred every hour, and every quick second, one. Imagine that you see, as from some height, the cloud-covered abyss and the whole mingled race, laughing childhood and tottering age, youthful beauty and emaciated suffering, manly strength and fainting feebleness, all impelled reverselessly toward "the dark bourne whence no traveler returns," or emerges within the limits of our vision. How profoundly would an hour of such watching impress us! How profusely and piteously would stream our tears over such a scene! But it is a reality as sad and stern as though we literally beheld it, and should not our knowledge of the melancholy facts profoundly and perpetually affect our hearts. What is all the havoc of war; what all the ravages of pes- tilence, compared with this unintermitting work of death? They are but his instruments by which he maintains the general average of destruction. But instead of this shadow of death remaining fixed, that the race may press toward it, imagine it movable, separated into a thousand distinct blacknesses, each enshrouding and hiding a victim every hour. In upon the mingled crowds, these clouds fall every hour and conceal from our eyes another form and life. Where or upon whom these shadows shall successively descend, no mortal can see. There seems no order, no uniformity in their movings. Whatever there may be in nature, death has no fixed laws. "Without any order," exclaims the Patriarch, are men enveloped in this shadow of death. If there are any uniform laws according to which death works, they are too complicated and secret for us to fathom. To our apprehension, all looks like chance, accident, contingency. That it is not so in fact, we believe, because we have confidence in the ever active omniscience and wisdom of the all-ruling Sovereign. But to us the swoops of death seem as capricious and arbitrary as the pouncings of a hawk upon his prey. The shadows descend, not according to any known laws of attraction. We cannot calculate any method or order by which, the last enemy selects his victims. Suppose there should be instituted a philosophical investigation into the laws according to which men die; suppose there should be collected the largest possible array of fact and statistics, and wise clerks were employed to arrange them under separate heads, so that, from some general principles or uniform antecedents, some satisfactory theory could be framed, that men might learn from tables the probable hour of dissolution: Perhaps the first enquiry would be, Are there any fixed laws of diseases that indicate a uniform order of deaths? We know, indeed, that there are many diseases that ordinarily terminate in death—some that are almost certainly fatal. We may even calculate, from past statistics, so many will probably die of consumption, so many of fever, so many from accident, so many from old age; but beyond this we can scarcely go. Who shall die of fever or who of phthisis? What antecedents shall indicate the result? Will the healthful, robust child certainly survive the puny, sickly one? Will that coughing consumptive die before the strong man that sits beside him? Look at them as they stand beside the altar, and tell me, if you can, which heart shall be widowed, that of the pale, delicate bride, or that of the muscular, vigorous bridegroom? We cannot even conjecture. A slight malady sometimes seems to kill in a day, and a mortal disease lingers for years. Infirm age trenches upon a second century, and sturdy childhood disappears in the first decade. This is a subject upon which we know absolutely nothing. No living man can stand up here, beside me, and point out which man, woman or child in this audience shall be the next to fill a coffin and be followed to a grave. It may be the stoutest—it may be the weakest, the ruddiest, the palest—but whom no rule of the past can teach us. No collocation of ages will aid us in searching even probabilities on this subject. Judging from the past, you cannot even say it is probable that the oldest will die first. There are no multiples of moments or hours; no specific number of days from birth that seem to be more fatal than others. Grand-sire and child—seventy and seven— walk side by side, but who can tell me which shall first step into the grave? Which shall live longest, fifty or fifteen? Take any case that suggests itself, and is there any possible method or theory by which you can decide. Go into the cemetery and measure the graves; they are of all lengths. Read the tomb-stone inscriptions; the ages are as varied as in the census register. Death seems to have no regard at all to ages, and with equal complacency severs with his sickle the bud, the flower, the tares and the bending wheat, and binds all together in his miscellaneous sheaves.
Nor is there any traceable reference to men's wishes or desires, in the workings of death. Men do not die any sooner, because they wish it; nor any later, because they dread it. The weary heart, disgusted with life, and longing for the rest of the grave, beats regularly on; and the buoyant heart, for which life is full of joy and hope, even while longing and praying to live, stops its pulsations. Nor do the desires of others influence the event. The impatient heir may eagerly wish to dig a grave for the wrinkled form that estops the coming of the inheritance, but the old man sorrowfully totters on his crutches to the grave of the heir. The mother may press her child close to her heart, and try to hide it in her throbbing bosom from the glaring eye, but death reaches for it there as indifferently as if the mother wished it dead. No law governing these events is to be found in connection with human emotions or affections.
Neither can we discover any particular localities which death specially prefers or avoids. In the healthfullest localities there are grave yards, and in the most sickly, men continue to live. He stalks  through palace chambers as grimly as through hospital wards, and embraces the beggar in his cabin as fondly as the lord proprietor in his mansion. The sovereign on his throne he clutches as rudely as the scullion in his kitchen or the thief in his dungeon. All places seem alike. He does not linger tardily, where the down is softest in the pillow, nor does he hasten more impatiently where the rags are blackest. On the dreaded sea the traveler yields his spirit, and in spite of his yearnings the sailor dies on the equally dreaded land. The maiden catches a glimpse of the trees that rear their heads over her childhood's home and longs to lie down beneath their shade, but she dies when only almost there. There is no order of localities with death.
We can discover no order of death growing out of the conditions and stations of men. The most useless and hurtful to society live on and carry the wise and beneficent to the grave. The drunken, brutal husband and father prolongs his noxious days, to the perpetual degradation and grief of his household, and next door, his industrious, upright, loving neighbor, upon whose willing exertions a happy circle is dependent, lies down to die. Alike impartial and indifferent, death smites the general, the statesman, the jurist, and the soldier, the voter and the client. There seems to be no choice as to whom he shall first touch, the physician or the patient, the master or the servant, the architect or the laborer, the officer or the prisoner. The bribings of wealth and the beggings of poverty are alike vain. Death is evidently without the slightest respect for class or caste; shrinks not in dread from the highest, nor in disgust from the lowest. He has no preferences or prejudices for class or station.
The same remarks are applicable to the characters of men. From his past doings, we cannot even form a conjecture whom he will first summon, the thief or the magistrate, the swindler, or the widow or orphan plundered by him. The good and pure are taken just when their example seems most precious, their influence most salutary and their lives most necessary; and the vile and godless are left to prolong their pestiferous influences in society. And this is not uniform, for often the wicked rot in dishonored graves, while the good live to breathe blessings on their kind. Death stalks over earth like a blind giant, scattering his darts at random, knowing not and caring not for the worth or worthlessness of those whom they pierce. So far as we can trace, there is no order, no uniformity of operation, no defined law, according to which men die.
What, then, are the lessons, which wisdom should deduce from these impressive facts?
1. That God is an absolute sovereign, having life and death at His own disposal. Doubtless God has good reasons for all He does or permits. But He does not condescend to vindicate his providences to us. He only reveals to us that we are helplessly in his hands. If He can dispose at His will of life, then all the interests that are dependent upon life are at His control. All our purposes and projects He can thwart or disappoint, at any instant, by sending death to us or to those upon whom we are dependent. The power over life is thus equivalent to power over all things. Upon no living man or class of men is Jehovah dependent for the accomplishment of His purposes. He will employ them indeed in effecting these purposes, but He will show them too that He can work without them. No babe is so helplessly dependent upon its mother, as we are helplessly dependent upon the ever-living God. This truth God would have us recognize that we may order all our affairs with reference to His will.
2. You perceive, too, that the time or circumstances of one's death furnishes no indication of God's approval or disapproval of his life. There is a great deal of unwise speculation over death-beds. But we have seen that the impervious shadow covers them, which we cannot penetrate. When the young reprobate dies, we have no authority for pronouncing it a judgment of God, for a pious, lovely youth has died the hour before, and hardened transgressors, far viler than that reprobate, continue to live. If Death was an evidence of God's peculiar displeasure against individual transgressors, then all the wicked would be first slain, and in an order somewhat corresponding to the degrees of their guilt. But it is evidently not so. Nor can we say that it is a special mark of God's favor when the righteous are removed, for many equally righteous with the departed are preserved. We cannot say my life is perpetuated, because I am a better and more useful man than my neighbor, nor can we say that that neighbor was a viler man in God's sight than ourselves. The facts will warrant no such theories. Faith lives submissively before these shadows, and assured of the infinite benevolence of Jehovah, piously exclaims, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" "Even so Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight."
3. But let us remember, too, that if death is mysterious, so is life. You can apprehend no reason, why you did live, any more than why your brother did die. It is not for your virtues, for he was virtuous too; not because of your vigorous, physical constitution, for he
was more robust than you. There is no reason, physical, social, or religious, which you can discover, why your existence has been prolonged. Much less is your wickedness a reason for your continued life. It is not merely to give you space for repentance and reformation, for millions have been cut off without any such protracted opportunities. Through diseases that have slain others, we live; through dangers that have destroyed others, we issue unharmed; the very perils that have overwhelmed them we have escaped. Why! Who can answer why? The mysteries of life are as inexplicable as those of death.
4. But let us be assured that the shadows that veil the grave are shadows only to our mortal vision. To God's eye "the darkness shineth as the light." There is no mystery to Him in these death-shades. There is a sufficient reason for every event, procured or permitted. Some good shall be secured, or some evil over-ruled, in every case. Every event has its reasons and its bearings in the mind of God, and though not revealed to us, and probably beyond the stretch of our faculties if they were revealed, yet we may rejoice in the belief that a higher wisdom and a purer benevolence than man's presides over all.
5. In this very uncertainty of death may we find impressive motives to live habitually prepared for its coming. I know not when I shall die. What then? Why then, says godless unconcern, make the most of life. Press out of the flying moments all the amusement they can furnish, all the selfish pleasure they can bring, all the treasures they can gather. Put away the melancholy thought of the final hour. It may be ten—twenty—years hence. Then let me live as long as I can for self and the world. Oh, insane conclusion! It might be more excusable, if you were sure to live till seventy. But even with such assurance, it would be folly. But when you may die to-morrow, it is stark madness to trifle thus. I know not when
I shall die—what then? Why then, says common prudence, even superficial wisdom, then let me be constantly prepared for so solemn an event. Another hour may bring me to my doom. How then shall I pass the present hour? Upon that unforeseen, unheralded event,  everlasting interests are hanging. What I am when death strikes me, I shall be forever. It will fix my character, habits, tastes, affections as it finds them, never to be changed except in degree. Am I ready for that stamp? Would I like to live forever with my affections flowing in the currents that now float them? Would an intensifying of my present emotions, to their utmost capacity, make me happy? If not, then there must be a change in me, and during the single step that is between me and death, that change must be made. Then my first, chiefest business in life is, to prepare for the eternity beyond death.
A most affecting illustration of the truth, that the shadows of death fall without any order or uniformity, is furnished us in the ravages of the pestilence that slew its thousands during the past summer in the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. That fierce battle is over, and the slain have been counted. And how sad to gaze upon the vacant places! How many empty chairs in the family circle! How many a bright eye is quenched—how many a cheerful laugh silenced for ever! The familiar footsteps of the husband and father no more make music on the stair. Many of the best and many of the worst of the citizens lie side by side in the crowded cemeteries. The bad were not all taken, nor were the good all spared. Death did there just as every where. He followed no order in his movements. Here he struck the mother and spared the child; but, next door, he took the child and left the mother to grieve. Here he swept a whole household—in the next house he took but one. From this house the master, from that the servant. Here the useful Christian, there the injurious knave. Here the devout minister of Christ, there the hardened gambler. The shafts flew like the zigzag lightning, flashing abruptly, in all bewildering directions, and prostrating a victim at every angle.
Were those unhappy cities places to visit during the reign of the dire pestilence? The ordinary traveler turned far out of his course to avoid them; and many of the terrified inhabitants abandoned their homes. Yet, was there found a band of noble men, and women, too, who steadily turned their faces thitherward, and who walked calmly into the pestiferous cloud. Not pleasure did they seek, nor did trade lure them by her gains, nor did personal friendships win them from their homes. They would not have been there at all had the towns been prosperous, and their atmosphere salubrious. They were there, because the pestilence was there. There was no other reason for their visit. They were there to grapple with the dread enemy, to snatch the victims from his fangs, if they could; to allay their pains and minister to them in their dying struggles, if they could do no more.
No armed soldier, in the battle-field, ever exhibited more heroic daring, nor faced a foe with motives more pure and sublime.
All honor to that hero band, who, from North to South, met together as strangers, and remained together as friends, on that deadly station. Into a narrower Thermopylae than the famed Spartans sought; into closer battle, with a fiercer foe, did they throw themselves. Not in ignorance of their own danger, not in reckless defiance of a power they despised; but with studied professional knowledge of their peril did they sternly face it. Many a dying glance rested gratefully upon them, and many a rescued sufferer blesses them for their beneficent skill und care.
True heroism and heavenly charity shall no longer win the admiration of human hearts, when we permit ourselves to forget such impressive illustrations of both.
Will not Death pass by, unbanned, this generous company of physicians and nurses, who are there only because the dying call for them? Will the Inexorable interrupt them by his cold touch, while in their very mission of mercy?
My healers, the answer is here! Within that narrow house is confined all that was mortal of one of those heroic men. Where shall we find a more forceful or affecting illustration of the truth of the text, that death is without Order, that he is governed by no law that we can apprehend.
We have tears for his memory, sorrow for his early fall, sympathy with the woeful mother and kindred, and yet struggling above all is honor for his devotion and admiration for his brave self-sacrifice.
Seldom has death found a victim engaged in a more honorable service. In a letter to his mother, announcing his second visit to Portsmouth, Dr. Gooch, as though feeling this sentiment, says; "I think there is no danger for a well, hearty person; and if there is, what do we live for unless to do good when it can be done?"
Gathered around this coffin are the associates of his youth and manhood. You have known him as a generous, frank-hearted companion, not without faults, but with excellencies of character that  rose above them and won affection. Those faults we forget, or remember them in silence only to admonish ourselves. Those excellencies we remember, to praise and to commend to ourselves and others.
Here are bended heads and sobbing hearts, whose healing griefs are freshly opened by these sad ceremonies. Those whose name he bore, and to whose hearts he was linked by the strong chain of consanguinity, weep again to-day as for a fresh loss. Mourning kindred, let me affectionately commend you to that Compassionate Heart which bears our sorrows and carries our griefs. Deeper than human sympathy can penetrate, the sweet solacing whispers of the Holy Spirit may be heard by those who piously bend the ear of the soul to catch their utterance. Jesus can heal every wound, and line the darkest cloud with light. May God comfort you by the precious communications of His grace.
The professional associates of our departed brother are here to participate in these melancholy rites. Physicians are here reminded that there are limits to all human knowledge and skill. Long and bravely you may contend against Death, but he must prove victor in the end. There comes some disease to all, physicians and patients alike, for which pharmacology knows no remedy. Here repose, all unconscious of the uttered sighs and words that his own sad fate suggests, the form that enclosed an intelligent, cultured spirit, which has often responded to yours in genial intercourse. And in like lifelessness shall lie every human form. You, gentlemen, become professionally familiar with death in all its phases. But no familiarity can retard its coming, or abate its solemnities, when it bears a personal summons. Then the Good Physician, alone, whose own remedial blood is the only catholicon, can sustain and comfort and cheer the soul. May all our spiritual maladies be healed through His grace, and everlasting life and health be secured to us through His mediation.
I am reminded, too, that a soldier has fallen from the ranks. We often speak boastfully of our courage and prowess, of our discipline and skill in arms, and in haughty defiance warn our scowling foes. Well, gentlemen, learn once more, to-day, that there is an inevitable battle to be fought through by each of us, in which the courage of the bravest will quail. There is a conflict in which "the sword is no defence," and in which "a horse is a vain thing for safety." With every measured step we are marching to meet it,
"And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave."
Thank God! there is a possibility that we may be victorious in that last contest. The directions of the Captain of our Salvation, sincerely obeyed, will indicate a narrow path along which we may calmly pass, and shout the triumphant watchword of the dying Christian, "Oh, death, where is thy sting! Oh, grave, where is thy victory!" In weightier words than any I can frame, I exhort you, to-day, over the dead body of your mourned comrade, "Take to yourselves the whole armor of God, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye may be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
And here is gathered, too, another band of brethren and companions, connected by still other ties with a departed brother. Does not all this indicate, what many of you remember without such remindings, that our friend was of a genial, companionable, social spirit? There are so few of such in this selfish world, that when one is removed we can but feel and mourn the loss. Brethren, the tools of another master are laid aside; another mark is obliterated; beyond the last mysterious veil another companion has disappeared forever from our mortal vision; the trumpet which no Knight can disobey has summoned another warder from the walls; he has tasted the bitterest earthly cup pressed to the lips of mortals, and passed in his place in the ceaseless procession, where we, in our turn, shall each follow into the presence of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Through a sincere faith in the loving Immanuel, through hearty obedience to Him, who, for us, was crucified, may we each attain a happy resurrection from the dead, and from Him through whose merits and grace we subdue ourselves and overcome our foes, be given "to eat of the hidden manna, and receive the white stone; and in the stone  the new name written, which no man knoweth save him that receiveth it."
And upon us all, may grace, mercy and peace, from God our Father, Redeemer and Comforter, rest evermore. Amen.
IN BEHALF OF THE
SUFFERERS OF NORFOLK AMD PORTSMOUTH, VA.
TRINITY CHURCH, WASHINGTON,
SEPTEMBER 9, 1855,
BY REV. GEORGE D. CUMMINS,
WASHINGTON: GEOEGE S. GIDEON. PRINTER.
NUMBERS XVI. 46.
"THERE IS WRATH GONE OUT FROM THE LORD: THE PLAGUE IS BEGUN."
There is a popular philosophy abroad in our times fraught with most pernicious error, and highly dishonoring to God. It is that common belief that ignores the presence and agency of God in His works, and virtually denies his providence over the world. It refuses to see, in all the operations of the universe, anything beyond the working of law—laws impressed upon matter by a Great Creator, but which go on working by themselves, or which He has committed to the control of a mysterious power which men call Nature, and which they mean to substitute for God.
Far different is the teaching of the Bible and a true Christian philosophy.
It does not indeed overlook or deny the agency of law. It rejoices to believe that the minutest particle of matter is under the control of law; and admits with delight that science, in all its discoveries, is only widening the domain of law, and proving that the most fitful things, the restless wave and the erratic comet and the fierce tornado, are alike under the all-pervading control of law. But while admitting this, it holds to the immediate presence and agency of God in His works.
 It denies that laws can act without a living agent, and it sees in all the laws of matter the manifestation of the will of God—the "God in whom we live and move and have our being."
Does the rain fall? It is God that "sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Is the lily arrayed in more glory than Solomon? It is God who "clothes the grass of the field."ss
Does day succeed night? It is our Father in heaven who "maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and turneth the shadow of death into morning."
Do the elements rage? Flames of fire are His messengers, stormy winds fulfil His word.
Does the seed sown in the earth germinate and come forth into new life from death? It is God who "giveth it a body, and to every seed its own body." Am I sick? It is His "rod" upon me. Am I in health? He healeth all my diseases. Does a sparrow fall to the ground? It is not without His agency. Do the kings of the earth consult together upon the mighty destinies of war and peace? He holds "the hearts of kings in His hand, and turneth them as rivers of water."
Let us apply this revealed philosophy to the subject now filling all thoughts—"the pestilence that walketh in darkness."
If we have learned the Bible aright, it teaches us—
I. That the pestilence is from God, His special minister and messenger. II. That it is sent as a punishment for man's sins, and as a mighty teacher to man of forgotten or neglected truths.
1. In Deuteronomy, chap 28, Moses is predicting the curses which shall come upon the Israelites if they should forsake the Lord; and in the midst of the fearful catalogue of evils, this occurs: "The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee until he have consumed thee from off the land: the Lord shall smite thee with a consumption and with a fever and with an extreme burning."
2. In the book of Numbers, chap. 16, which records the sin and destruction of Korah and his company, likewise tells of the heavy judgment upon the people, who said on the morrow to
Moses and Aaron, "Ye have killed the people of the Lord." The Lord said unto Moses, "Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. And they fell upon their face; and Moses said unto Aaron, 'Take a censer, and put fire thereon from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord: the plague is begun.' And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and behold the plague was begun among the people; and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the living and the dead, and the plague was stayed."
3. There is another record still more strikingly setting forth these great truths. In the days of David's highest prosperity and splendor, he sinned against God in a way that demanded a public chastisement from God. A prophet is sent to him to announce to him the coming wrath, and to offer him a choice of three evils: "Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or shall there be three days' pestilence in thy land?" And David said, "I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hands of the Lord, for His mercies are great, and not into the hand of man." So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even unto the time appointed; and there died of the people, from Dan even to Beersheba, seventy thousand men.
The angel of death appeal's to David in a vision, with his  hand stretched out over Jerusalem to destroy it; and he cried, Lo! I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let thy hand be against me and my father's house." And the Lord said to the destroying angel, "It is enough; stay now thine hand."
What can be plainer than that the pestilence is the minister of vengeance?—that it holds its commission from God?—and that He alone can stay its hand, and say, "It is enough?"— and that He will hearken to the prayer of true humiliation, and cease from His fierce anger?
Let us turn from God's dealings with ancient Israel to trace the work of the same dread angel of death in more modern times. Since the Christian era began, twenty extensive pestilences have desolated Europe and the East, besides others whose devastation was more restricted.
In the year 265 (I now use the facts collected by others) a pestilence began in the Roman Empire, then embracing the civilized world. For fifteen years it prevailed unabated, raging in almost every province and city of the Empire. Five thousand persons died daily in the city of Rome. The records of Alexandria show that above half the population of that city perished.
In the middle of the sixth century, Constantinople, then the capital of the world, was startled by the approach of a dire pestilence. It came from Egypt, and men fell before its silent, invisible march as the corn before the scythe of the reaper. For three months five thousand, and at length ten thousand persons died daily. Some cities of the East were left without inhabitants; the harvest and the vintage perished on the ground, and the earth was left untilled. It pursued a double path, passing to the east over Syria, Persia, and India, and along the coast of Africa, and over the continent of Europe. So malignant was its deadly poison, that it abated not by the change of seasons. Through summer and winter it pursued its work of destruction, and fifty-two long years elapsed before the air recovered its salubrity, and mankind were freed from the destroyer.
Again, in the fourteenth century, a pestilence came from the Levant to Europe. From the borders of the Mediterranean it ascended with resistless might towards Germany. The historians of that day state that it ceased seemingly only for the want of victims. It is calculated to have destroyed one-third of the population, or not less than 25,000,000 of lives.
You are more familiar with the plague of London, when in the corrupt reign of Charles II., sixty-eight thousand persons perished.
Can any man read the record of these things, and doubt whose work it is, and for what He works? We, too, alas! have been brought face to face with these mysterious messengers of God in our own short lifetime. A quarter of a century ago we heard of a pestilence rising in the East, and gradually spreading over Europe with terrible and irresistible fury. We thought the ocean rolling between us and the Old World might save us from its wrath. But in vain. Over the ocean's vast bosom it strode quickly, and soon began its work of destruction. And yet it lingers among us, and now and then renews its strength, and desolates some fair portion of our land.
And now another plague is upon us. Two years ago our hearts died within us as we read day by day of a fever in the city of New Orleans, whose unnumbered victims tainted the air for want of burial. Last year two other of our southern cities became for a time vast charnel-houses before the progress of this minister of wrath.
And now nearer still does it advance, until we can almost catch the sound of the wail of the dying and the desolate. Two  sister cities in our adjoining State, bound to many of us by ties of friendship, but two months ago were enjoying every blessing of earth. Nowhere could be found greater plenty, happier homes, nobler-hearted men and women. Without warning, the air of heaven, unchanged to any human sense, became loaded with seeds of death. The destroying angel was on the wing. Steadily advanced the harvest of death, until thousands fled from before it, feeling it vain to struggle with its might. But there were many who could not and some who would not flee—would not abandon the wretched to their fate, uncared for and unministered to. Noble and fearless physicians; faithful ministers of Christ; and not a few courageous men and women, stood firm at their post. Alas! stood only too often to fall and die. Need I tell you all the tale of horrors? Alas! it is too well known. The pestilence reigns sole master of the doomed cities. The marts of trade are now more silent than the gloomy avenues of the cemetery: for these are now ceaselessly pressed by the wheels of the swift-moving hearse. Whole families are swept away. Even childhood's face of health and beauty wears the hue of the destroyer. Noble men have died, whose monument will bo more enduring than marble; true-hearted women have folded their arms and died, whose memorial is on high with God. The unflinching physician, the self-sacrificing nurse, and the undaunted servant of God, deep alike, side by side, with those for whom they willingly offered their lives.
But I have no heart to dwell upon the details of this gigantic sorrow. One sentence of a sufferer amid the scenes sums it all up—"We have nothing left us to do, but to suffer and to trust in God."
Is it not this pestilence from God? Who can doubt it. Reflect but a moment upon some of its distinguishing features.
1. Its very severity proves it to be the minister of wrath. No human mind can fully conceive all its horrors. What an idea is given to us of its terribleness, that God should consider three days of pestilence equal to seven years of famine, or to three months of the ravages of a conquering army in the midst of a captive land?
2. Reflect, again, upon its mysterious character. It is "the pestilence that walketh in darkness." It is shrouded in impenetrable mystery. Who can tell its origin? It "bloweth where it listeth; but we cannot tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth." What science has yet discovered its cause? or revealed its hidden nature? How does it baffle human knowledge? Some simple change in the atmosphere, unseen and unfelt, occurs, and the plague is begun. No muttering wrath is heard in the firmament; no darkness's covers the sky; but the sun shines on as brightly, and the flowers bloom as sweetly as ever; but with the very air that is our life we drink in the infection.
What mystery, too, marks its progress! Upon what laws does it depend? Why pass over one territory and fasten upon another? Why desolate one city and spare another? Why should one family be taken and another left? Alas! we know not why. God is in the pestilence, and "He rides upon the storm."
3. Mark, moreover, its resistless might. As we cannot comprehend its nature or its sources, so are we unable to cope with it. Human skill, and the science of the schools, confesses its powerlessness before it. No barrier can withstand its onward, resistless progress. Men and brethren, the pestilence is the minister of God. It has a work to do for Him. It has a lesson to teach in His name. It is a punishment for sin. It is a warning as though spoken audibly from the lips of Jehovah against the sins, the folly, the vices, the reckless, heedless ungodliness of our age and nation.
Shall we say that the stricken communities upon which the  blow has fallen are guilty above all others because they suffer thus? God forbid! I speak from long experience among them, when I say that they are beyond most of the cities of our nation in morality, in practical religion, and in the love and fear of God. It is the whole land, to whom the rebuke is given.
Shall we say that we do not deserve the judgments of Heaven? Nay, every mouth is stopped as the record of our transgressions rises before us.
What monstrous and continued crimes are daily committed! What groveling vices pollute our cities! What profligacy, intemperance, Sabbath-breaking, desecrate the country! What lack of honesty, truth, integrity! What accursed lust of gold holds captive all classes, until it comes to pass that the sole god of many is the millionaire.
Above all, what recklessness of death, of eternity, of judgment, of the soul's unending destinies! what trampling on the blood of Christ, and crucifying the Son of God afresh, and crying "not this man, but Barrabas."
Let a poet draw the picture of our times:
"Why do they prate of the blessings of Peace? we have made them a curse,
Pickpockets, each hand lusting for all that is not its own;
And lust of gain, in the spirit of Cain, is it better or worse
Than the heart of the citizen hissing in war on his own hearthstone?
"But these are the days of advance, the works of the men of mind,
When who but a fool would have faith in a tradesman's ware or his word?
Is it peace or war? Civil war, as I think, and that of a kind
The viler, as underhand, not openly bearing the sword.
"Sooner or later I too may passively take the print
Of the golden age—why not? I have neither hope nor trust;
May make my heart as a millstone, set my face as a flint,
Cheat and be cheated, and die: who knows? we are ashes and dust.
 "Peace sitting under her olive, and slurring the days gone by,
When the poor are hovell'd and hustled together, each sex, like swine,
When only the ledger lives, and when only not all men lie;
Peace in her vineyard—yes!—but a company forges the wine.
"And the vitriol madness flushes up in the ruffian's head,
Till the filthy by-lane rings to the yell of the trampled wife.
While chalk and alum and plaster are sold to the poor for bread,
And the spirit of murder works in the very means of life."
"Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord? shall not my soul be avenged on a nation such as this?" Who can answer, no? Who is not ready to cry, "Enter not into judgment with thy servants 0 Lord! Spare thy people, O God, and give not thy heritage to confusion!"
There may be other purposes to be subserved by this calamity. Is it presumptuous to suggest whether it may not be intended partly to rebuke the spirit of strife between the different sections of the country, and call us back to holier feelings? How does this deep response from every portion of this vast nation to the cry for help rebuke those who would sever the bonds of our union, and array us in deadly hostility against each other.
This deep sympathy, this prompt action, this unwearied effort to send succor; the rich giving of their abundance, and the poor man cheerfully yielding the wages of his daily toil; and above all, the martyr-spirit that has carried ever-to be-revered men and women from North and South, to watch by the bed of the sick and dying, and smooth the passage to the tomb, or help to bring back the sufferers' life and health: these things have a meaning—a voice—and it is the voice of God speaking through humanity, and saying, "Sirs, ye are brethren;" "let no man rend the bonds of your brotherhood!"
And then again, has this mighty affliction proved that the Christianity of our day is not a thing of name and profession only, but  of life, of reality, and of endurance. It has proved that there are Christian men and women, to whom there is something dearer and more precious than life, even duty to God, and heaven-born charity and love to men. It has proved, too, that the Protestant Christianity of our land is not wanting in such a spirit. For while we honor and admire the devoted Sisters of Charity who have hastened to the scenes of suffering, there have been found men and women, who, though not banded into an order, or recognized as constituting a profession, have been no less faithful and devoted. Oh! I can believe that not even the martyr of old will wear a more resplendent crown than the Christian men and women who have counted not their lives dear unto them in the plague-infested hospitals of Norfolk and Portsmouth!
We cannot doubt that the pestilence has another mission still. It is an awful lesson, spoken in thunder-tones, concerning the vanity and frailty of human life, and the infinite importance of eternity. It is God's terrible rebuke of our insensibility to the great truth of our mortality, our waste of this little span of life man's only state of probation for a life which is never to end.
It was the Psalmist's prayer, "Lord, make me to know how frail I am!" and it would seem almost a mockery of God thus to pray. Do we pray to know that the sun shines; that the tides ebb and flow; that the magnet points to the pole; that day follows night? And yet these truths are not better known to us than the certainty of our frailty—of our death.
But while we cannot and do not deny it, we feel it not. We live as though we were never to die. We live to buy, and sell, and get gain; we live for time, and sense, and earth. We ignore death and the grave. We risk the soul's undying interests beyond this fleeting life. We forget that our immortality is decided here; that eternity, whose sublime infinitude overwhelms the power of thought—eternity, whose mighty pendulum ticks millenniums and not seconds—is decided for us, by us, in our life of probation here. Oh! madness most fatal, to risk all that is grand and glorious and blessed beyond the tomb for a few days of fitful pleasure here. Hence it is that it needs some huge calamity like this striding among us, as Death appeared on the pale horse to St. John, going forth to trample down in his strength human pride and power—it needs some such thunderbolt of wrath to bring us to our knees, and bid us pray each for himself, "Lord, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am."
We have yet another duty to perform, ere we close. We have to echo the cry for help, still wafted to our ears with fresh intensity. There is a cry for bread to feed the famishing. There is a cry for clothing to cover the children of sorrow. There is a cry from the poor, from the orphan, from the widow, for help; all other means of subsistence are cut off, and charity must feed whole communities. The lecture-room of the House of God, where for six years it was my duty to preach the Gospel, is converted into an asylum for orphans, and orphans, too, made by this calamity. Oh! as ye are men, as ye are parents, as ye are Christian men, and women, as ye hope to win heaven and enjoy the smile of God, respond to these cries, and let your response be deep, full, generous, munificent!
[The collection made after the Discourse amounted to $325, and with that made two weeks since, amounts to $500, contributed by Trinity Church to this object.]
* * * * * *
Preached in the Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Va.,
on Sabbath, Dec. 2nd, 1855,
By George D. Armstrong, D. D., Pastor
Published by the Members of the Church
Richmond, Printed by Charles H. Wynne,
"He," (the Father of spirits, chasteneth us,) "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."—Heb. xii: 10.
About four months have elapsed since, as a congregation, we began to be scattered. Today, through God's good providence, we meet in full assembly again, in this, our accustomed place of worship. Four months! How short a period when measured by the ordinary rules for measuring time! Often has one been absent from us for a longer time than this, and yet, on his return, has found all things continuing so much as they were, that neither he that had gone, nor he that remained, had aught of interest to tell the other. It is not so now. The four months last passed have been four long months to us, measure them as we will. This summer of the pestilence has burned in its record upon the memory of every one of us.
To those who were away, these four months have been long months of harassing anxiety; anxiety which no kindness, no sympathy of those among whom you were temporary sojourners could alleviate; anxiety about known and loved ones left behind, about friends and neighbors, those with whom you associated in the business of the world, those whom you were accustomed to meet in the intimacies of social life, those with whom you had walked to the house of God in company. With painful interest you watched from day to day for the private letter, or turned to the public prints, that you might there read the list of the sick and the dead in our plague-stricken city. And when in the former you read a name you had honored or loved, with eager haste you sought the next day's paper, and yet, hardly dared to open it, fearing there to read that name repeated among the fallen—a transfer which the deadly character of the pestilence rendered  strangely familiar. Four long months of painful anxiety have they been to you. And their record is blotted with many a tear.
To those who remained, and who yet are numbered with the living, these four months have been long months of painful trial; and in many an instance, of labor and of suffering. In the record left upon the memory there is noted, first, a period of apprehension, as the pestilence was seen, day by day, widening its range, and darkling o'er us in its terrible might; days spent in ministering to the sick and helping to bury the dead, often succeeded by nights of broken slumbers—broken through sympathy with sufferings we could not alleviate; then, a period when we too were numbered among the sick, (for it is only here and there that one is to be found who escaped the fever altogether,) a period of which we know but little, save that it was a time of burning thirst, of irresistible nervous restlessness, of feverish anxiety; and then, in almost every instance, there is the remembrance of a dark hour of family affliction—the hour of parting with loved ones, when at the bedside we sat troubled watchers, and the heart, though it would not, it dared not, question either the wisdom or the grace of God, yet, in its anguish, sent up the cry, "Would God I might die for thee."
In the four months last passed, there has been crowded the incidents of years. And so thick and fast have the changes come upon us, that the mind can hardly yet take them in as a reality. How aptly descriptive of the pestilence from which we have suffered the phrase of Holy Writ, " the overflowing scourge"! Yes; as the swollen, overflowing torrent, which has o'ertopped its banks, and in its headlong might sweeps onward, often, in one short hour, obliterating every trace of the labor of years, so has this pestilence swept o'er us; and the mind can yet hardly realize the changes it has wrought.
I suppose I speak but the experience of many an one, when I say, that the crowded history of the past few months seems, at times, more like a dream than a reality; and we almost await the hour of awaking, when these shadowy, troublous visions of the night shall pass away. But no, it is not a dream. The evidences of its reality crowd upon us whichsoever way we turn. When gathered, as we are this day, in the house of God, the sight of almost every family clad in the habiliments of mourning; the  the vacant seats—now vacant, but a little while ago occupied, from Sabbath to Sabbath, by those who shall no more worship with us here on earth—tell us it is not a dream. And when we go from God's house to our homes, the vacant scats by the table and the fireside, and the lack of loved voices, long familiar to the ear, ever witness, it is not a dream. And even in the silent hours of the night—those waking hours, which the pestilence has left us as a part of its terrible legacy, when the eye is accustomed to expect no sight, and the ear no sound, and the access of every witness from without is barred—even then, the scarred heart, in its troubled throbbings, feels it is not a dream. No, it is not a dream. The "overflowing scourge" has swept o'er us.
When the fearful alternative was presented to David, for his sins, of a choice between "seven years of famine," and "three months of flight before his enemies," and "three days of pestilence in the land," in choosing the latter, his language is: "Let us fall now into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great; and let us not fall into the hands of man." And thus he speaks, not because David did not regard famine and war as a part of God's providence, but in the pestilence, the mysterious, the terrible pestilence, "the pestilence that walketh in darkness, the destruction that wasteth at noon-day," the soul instinctively acknowledges the presence of an agent, fresh from before the eternal throne.
"The pestilence which walketh in darkness!" "No words will more fitly describe the pestilence which has wasted our city, than these words of David. The pestilence! Why did it come among us? and whence came it?
Some have said, its coming is to be traced to the filthy condition of our city during the early months of the summer; and I have read, in papers published at a distance, of numbers of new wharves, and a long causeway, all filled in with rotting wood and mud from the river bottom, and to these has the fever been traced as its origin. Speaking among you who best know the facts in the case, I say, our city is one of the cleanest, best paved cities on the whole Atlantic seaboard; and during the early summer, its streets and alleys were as clean as usual. Of the long causeway, I know nothing; and whilst a large new wharf has been in  process of construction, that wharf is in the very opposite part of the city from that in which the fever first began to prevail. And further: In the neighboring town of Portsmouth, where the fever was as fatal as with us, no new wharf, that I know of, has been filled in for years. 'Tis true, the fever first located itself, and was most fatal in the lowest, most crowded, most uncleanly portions of the city; and, no doubt, the filth and crowded condition of those portions of the city aggravated the disease; but further than this, facts will not authorize us to go. The fever extended its ravages to every part of the city, and even into the surrounding country; and in all parts, if not equally, it was terribly fatal. From that which has always been regarded the healthiest portion of the city, but partially built up as yet, where there are no wharves, and no filth has been suffered to accumulate, I have accompanied to the cemetery, from one house, two corpses, side by side, in the same hearse.
Others have said, we are to trace the fever, in its origin, to that ill-fated steamer, the Ben Franklin, which in the early summer, was smuggled into our harbor, laden with its freight of death. But of this there is no certainty. It has been asserted by eminent physicians, that the first cases of the fever in Norfolk could not be traced to that vessel, and the one that seemed to be its radiating point in the city occurred in a person who had been bed-ridden for six months, and if not actually before the arrival of the steamer at Gosport, at least, so soon after, as not to be traceable to that vessel. No doubt, the poisoned air, the fatal miasm, let loose when the hold of that steamer was broken up, aggravated the disease in that one locality, and for a time at least, rendered it more fatal—but further than this, I do not think the known facts in the case, will authorize us to go. For one, I do not believe the pestilence came passenger in any barque built by mortal hands.
In the present state of human science we know this pestilence but as "pestilence which walketh in darkness." As with respect to the cholera, which has girdled the earth, and scored its track among the nations with its breath of fire, the questions—why, and whence came it? and whither has it gone? are questions which God alone can answer; so with this terrible epidemic. Appearing in Rio five years ago, its march has been onward. God, who directeth its course, alone knoweth whither its steps are tending. All that man knoweth is, that its track is everywhere rough with new-made graves, and wet with tears.
But 'tis not alone in its origin that this pestilence appears mysterious. Its credentials as God's messenger may be read with equal distinctness in the mysterious character of the disease itself. Like to the ordinary yellow fever, it was in some of its features, perhaps a professional man would say, and say truly, like to it in its characteristic features; and therefore, to be regarded as that disease in its malignant, epidemic form. This may be, probably is, all true. And yet, this fever, in many a case and in some of its features, seemed most unlike the ordinary yellow fever, and in different cases, most unlike itself: and certain it is, that the most skillful physicians, and those of largest and longest experience in its treatment, often found themselves utterly at fault. I have seen those sick with this fever, raving maniacs, so that in their unnatural strength they could hardly be held, and have heard them, in their terrible agony uttering unearthly screams, such as put a spell even upon the spirit of the fierce watch-dog which guarded their dwelling. Blessed be God, such cases were few. And again, I have seen them sick unto death, where they have told me that they suffered not at all, where the mind was as clear as in hours of perfect health, and to the eye, no symptom of disease presented itself save a nervous tremor pervading the body: and yet again, there wore cases, in which, from the very inception of the disease, the patient was in a profound stupor, broken it may be, to return again and continue until death closed the struggle. And it would be hard to tell, in which of all its various forms, the fever was most fatal.
There were cases, in which the remedies resorted to, seemed at once to check the progress of the disease, and in a few days the sick man was well again: whilst in other cases, in which the attack seemed no more violent, and medicines seemed all to produce the immediate effect designed, the disease with steady tread, moved right onward to its fatal consummation. Nor is it possible to assign satisfactory reasons for this difference. 'Tis true, that intemperate habits of life aggravated the disease; and very few intemperate persons, once attacked, ever recovered. 'Tis  true also, that excessive fear seemed to render its subject more liable to attack, and the attack more fatal. But, at the same time, it is true, that some of our best and noblest-hearted citizen have fallen—persons of good constitution; of strictly temperate habits; imprudent, in so far as man could see, in nothing; and of whom, it would be a slander upon the dead, to say that they yielded to unreasonable fear. There was no age—there was no station in life—there was no condition of bodily health—there was no care of friends—there was no skill of the physician, which could effectually shield against the aimed arrow of the destroyer, or draw its barbed point when once it had struck its victim. Whilst the epidemic was yet raging, a physician, second to none in his profession, said to me, "I never felt so powerless in the presence of any disease, as in the presence of this; God's hand is upon us." And this was just the conclusion to which every ingenuous, thinking person among us had then come.
God's immediate providence in this epidemic is instinctively acknowledged by the soul, not alone in the mysterious origin and nature of the disease, but also in its terrible might. 'Twas "the destruction which wasteth, wasteth, at noon-day," as well as "the pestilence which walketh in darkness."
For several weeks after it first appeared in our city, the progress of the fever seemed to be but slow; and once or twice we were almost ready to hope that it had been checked altogether. Up to the time of the chill north-easterly storm which occurred during the last week in August, although the disease had been spreading for more than a month, there were not, I suppose, over three hundred sick in the city. During that storm and the day succeeding it, not less than a thousand new cases were added to this number. After the storm had passed, in going around among the families of our congregation, I witnessed such scenes as, I pray God, I may never be called to witness again. Some households were all sick, with not a single well one left to wait upon them. Other houses had been literally converted into hospitals, and although there were some of the family, in each instance, who had thus far escaped, yet were they hardly enough to attend upon the sick. In portions of the city there were the sick, the dying and the dead in almost every house, not deserted of its inhabitants. During the week succeeding, commencing with Sabbath, the 2nd of September, the pestilence raged with its greatest violence. 'Twas then, the plague-fly, a strange insect, of which none can tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; but whose appearance is said to make the crisis of the epidemic, was in all our dwellings. On that Sabbath, and the days immediately succeeding, I speak advisedly when I say, no man will over know the number of deaths that occurred in our city. This, however, I know, that from among the communicants of this church, there were more deaths on that Sabbath day, than the average yearly number of deaths, since I have been its pastor; and on that Sabbath and the Monday and Tuesday following, more deaths than during any one year of which I can find a note among the records of the church; and this, although two-thirds of our members were then away and beyond the range of the deadly epidemic. And now, that the pestilence has passed, as nearly as I can tell, our church stands, as to numbers, about where it did ten years ago—not altogether, but yet in large part, owing to the fearful ravages of the fever. In the space of a few weeks, God's own hand crumbled down the building of years. And throughout the city at large, the ravages of the pestilence were, I believe, even greater than among the communicants of our church.
During the first part of September, so great was the number of deaths, daily, that all the ordinary forms of burial had to be dispensed with. In those instances, in which a clergyman and a few friends could accompany the corpse to the cemetery, and this was the case with but a small part of the whole number that died, it was at a rapid gait we were driven thither, and after a brief prayer, the coffin was deposited, more frequently than otherwise, not in the grave, but at the spot where the grave was to be dug, and there left, to take its turn, for burial, at the hands of the overtasked grave-diggers. Our grave-yard, at that season of the year, usually so green, so quiet, so solitary, so fit a cemetery, a resting place for the dead, was then the busiest spot about our city; its avenues, the only dusty avenues to be found; its green sod, so broken every where, that God's acre wore the appearance of a ploughed field. On Wednesday, the 5th of September, I had occasion to go to the potter's-field in the after-  noon, and I there saw coffins and rough boxes, such as necessity compelled us, in many an instance, to substitute for coffins, lying in two separate places, piled up like cord wood, as high as a man could easily reach to pile them, all awaiting a place in the pits which were then being dug to receive them; and this I saw, after seeing in the old cemetery, through which I had passed on my way to the potter's-field, I know not how many coffins awaiting burial. I did not myself see any burial without, a box, at the least, surrounding the body; but that there were corpses thus buried, in one instance, eight in a single night, I have from the lips of one who helped with his own hands to bury them. And all this, not because our people are more careless about a proper respect for the dead than others; in this particular, I believe that the citizens of Norfolk will compare favorably with those of any city in our land. No. It was a terrible necessity which compelled us to the course we took. We buried them thus, because thus only could we keep pace with Death in his rapid strides. We buried them thus, because in this way only could the tainted air be kept from becoming so poisoned that our city would be left without inhabitant.
It did seem, during those fatal weeks, as if we were realizing the fulfillment of the Apocalyptic vision: "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, thrust in thy sickle, and reap, for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. And the wine-press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine-press, even unto the horse-bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." Rev. xiv: 14-20.
These are some of the darker shades in the history of the summer of the pestilence. Blessed be God, there was mercy mingled with his judgments; and in the midst of our sore rebuke and sharp chastisement, our God must be acknowledged as one "who knoweth our frame, who remembereth that we are dust." As with the natural sun, which tinges even the darkest cloud that comes in between it and earth, with enough of its own glory to witness, both that it yet is, and that it is in its nature, light; so with the God of providence, although clouds and darkness may be around about him, yet is there so much of grace mingled with his judgments, that even that darkness is made to bear testimony that "the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."
There was mercy mingled with God's judgments. That mercy appeared in the slow progress which the pestilence was permitted to make, for the first month of its existence among us. As already remarked, so slow was this progress, that once or twice we had almost begun to hope that it was checked altogether; and it was not until the last week in August, that it burst upon us in its terrible might. It is altogether owing to this, that so large a portion of our population were enabled to escape from the city; and now, through God's good providence, are here, living men and women, this day. After the last of August, there were very few that went away, not because all desire to escape had ceased to be felt, but in many an instance, because there were sick in the family, and those yet well could not leave the sick. Had the cold storm, of which mention has already been made, with all its consequences, occurred at an earlier stage in the epidemic; when our people were yet at home, and no time had been given for physicians and nurses from abroad to reach us, the heart shrinks from attempting to conceive of the wide-spread desolation which must have ensued.
God's mercy appears in the prevalence of the panic, under the influence of which so many of our citizens fled the city. We can often get a more correct knowledge of a way by which we have traveled, in the retrospect, than we can by observations made as we passed along; so is it in many an instance with our judgment of God's providence. And as I look back over the incidents of the past summer, I cannot but regard that panic as like to "the noise of a great host," which the Lord made the Syrian army to  hear when encamped before Samaria—a providence by which he scattered our people that they might be saved. The quarantine regulations adopted by many of the towns and cities, and even counties, to which our citizens would naturally turn as places of refuge, together with the reports which prevailed from day to day, that each trip of the boats plying to and from our city would be their last, had much more to do in leading our people to flee, than any threatening aspect of the fever among us. It was not so much present danger from the pestilence, or danger distinctly apprehended from that source, as it was the idea that we were being shut in to grapple with it, be it what it might; that unless the then present opportunity of escape were improved, we would be walled in, with no way of egress, even though our city should become one vast charnel-house. This it was, which caused so many to flee during the earlier stages of the epidemic, whilst flight was yet possible. I have spoken of this as a part of God's providence; I have spoken of it thus, the more confidently, because, when the time of real trial came, this wall around us was prostrated as by the breath of some mighty one. And the cities which had been first to shut us out, now threw wide open their homes and their hearts to us, saying come—come if you must even with the fever on you—but by all means come. Who but He that holdeth all hearts in his hand, could have wrought this change?
There was mercy, too, in the sympathy awakened for us, throughout the length and breadth of our land. Besides the abundant evidence of such sympathy, which the records of the Howard Association will furnish, I myself received many a letter expressing the warmest interest, assuring me that our stricken city was not forgotten in the prayers of God's people, and enclosing generous aid for the afflicted; and this from brethren in distant States; brethren whose faces I have never seen, and never expect to see on earth, and who could know nothing of us, excepting that we were their brethren, and in deepest affliction. Had famine come, and but for this generous aid from abroad, I see not what could have prevented its coming, and adding its ravages to those of the pestilence, few would have been left to tell the sad story of our sufferings.
And let us not forget God's mercy, as it appeared in the  timely coming of so many skillful physicians and excellent nurses from abroad, to help us in our season of sorest extremity. You have seen a person when overwhelming misfortune has suddenly come upon him; although all is not lost, and there is hope, if he will but put forth his strength, yet standing still, bewildered. Such seemed to be the condition of our people when the pestilence burst upon us in its might. It was just at this juncture physicians and nurses from abroad began to come to our relief;. and their coming was a blessing to us, not only in the aid they rendered us directly, but also in the renewed hope and confidence their coming awakened in our hearts. Had you stood, as I did on one occasion, at the door of a house in which all were down with the fever, and hailing a physician passing, had begged him at least, to come in and prescribe for the sick; and received for answer, "I have already so many cases on hand, that I cannot honestly, conscientiously, undertake another"—an answer which you were constrained to acknowledge to be a righteous answer—you would then feel that our's was indeed a case of extremity. And at how great risk these physicians from abroad came among us, the score that lie buried in our cemetery this day bear witness. Honor, lasting honor, to those who so generously came to our aid. And thanksgiving to Him, mightier than they, whose hand guided them hither.
But some may ask, ought we to regard this pestilence as sent of God, when so many of God's own people were its victims? Is it not true, that many of those who bore the name of Christ, and whose lives were witness that they bore it not unworthily, are among the fallen? And not only so—but is it not true, that in many an instance it was just their, faithful discharge of Christian duty which was the immediate cause of their death? Was it not because the pastor would not forsake his suffering flock—the parent would not leave the sick-bed of the child—the wife would not turn from the husband—the sister would minister to the sister—the Christian would carry, at the least, a cup of cold water to the sick, for Jesus' sake; that the pastor, the parent, the wife, the sister, the follower of Jesus, are now numbered with the dead? To all these questions, the only answer which can with truth be given, is, yes—it is even so. I cannot speak so particularly of other churches; but of our own, it is true, that  some of the brightest, loveliest Christians among us, the pestilence has numbered with the dead; some at whose feet we loved to sit and ask their counsel—some, whose prayers and sympathy made us feel strong in the prosecution of every good work—some, whose holy life was ever a sufficient answer to the sneer of the infidel, "what do these Christians more than others?" They have been taken away, to meet with us no more on earth. In view of such facts as these, I have heard the question asked, "What becomes of God's justice, when the very discharge of duty is the immediate cause of death? When his disciples fall because they will visit the sick, for Jesus' sake? When his own ministers fall, because they will not desert his altar?
And is death necessarily and always an evil? To die, is it to all the great misfortune? If so, what meaneth an Apostle when he writes: "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ; which is far better. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Or come with me to the bedside of one of God's people, who, but a little while ago, was accustomed to meet with us here from Sabbath to Sabbath. His life is fast ebbing away, and yet his reason is as clear as in hours of perfect health. A friend sits by his bedside, and to quiet the nervous restlessness from which he suffered, that restlessness which is characteristic of the fever, she commences repeating the 23d Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake," and then hesitating a moment—the dying man takes up the sacred strain, and the last connected words he utters are: "Yea, though I walk through the valley and the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Think you, that death was to him an evil? Or come with me to the bedside of another. Long a devoted servant of Christ has she been, and yet often troubled, especially because conscious of an unwillingness to die. On mentioning this to her pastor, some twelve months before, he had reminded her of that precious promise, that great principle of the Christian life: "as thy day, so shall thy strength be." She is about to die; the fatal symptoms have appeared in her case, and no one understands them better than she. Reminding her pastor of their conversation a year ago, she says: "I wish to bear my testimony to the faithfulness of God. He has not forsaken me; He is with me; all is peace, sweet peace, perfect peace." Think you, that death was to such an one an evil? Come with me, yet again. A mother lies here awaiting her release. She has taken leave of her little ones, and her last charge to them has been, that when they think of her in coming years, they think of her, not as their mother in the grave, but their mother with Christ in heaven. A friend has said to her, it will be pleasant to meet again with those of your children who have been taken before you, to "our Father's house." Yes, she replies, that meeting will be pleasant; but the prospect is to me now a far more pleasant one, that I shall there see Jesus as he is, and love him as I ought. Have you ever known the Christian's conflict with the corruption of his own deceitful and desperately wicked heart? that conflict, which wrung from the lips of an Apostle the cry: "O wretched man man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" That knowledge, and that only, can unfold fully the meaning of that dying mother's words: "the prospect is to me now a far more pleasant one, that I shall there see Jesus as he is, and love him as I ought."
Life—death; the life, the death of the Christian, what are they? and what is the relation in which they stand the one to the other? "Let not your heart be troubled," said the blessed Jesus. "In my Father's house are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." The Christian's life; it is his journey along "the way," and a way it is in which many troubles, heart-troubles, are to be encountered. The Christian's death; it is his welcome to our Father's house, to be with Jesus.
A traveler on a desert way, has for many a long day been pressing forward toward his journey's end. He has found springs of sweet water by the way-side, where he has slaked his thirst; and green spots, where for a little season he has rested his weary limbs—and yet, he has quitted them, passed them by, one after another, ever pressing onward toward his journey's end.  Why this? Because in spite of springs and green oases, his way is a desert way still, and his father's house lies beyond. Yes, and besides this, he has a precious treasure committed to his charge, and this desert has ever been the abiding place of robbers; and all along the way, even amid the tall rank grass which waved by the spring-side, he has seen the bleaching bones of those, once pilgrims like himself, but who loitering, have been robbed and murdered. Many a long day has passed since first he took the pilgrim's staff, many a difficulty has he surmounted, many a danger has he braved, and all along, thoughts of his home, his father's house, have been his stay and solace. And now the desert way is almost past; his father's house, with doors wide open is just before him; his precious treasure is yet safe in his keeping; and blessed messengers, those "angels swift to do God's pleasure," whisper in his ear a glad welcome. To go forward, to enter that father's house, to be with Jesus, to be ever with him—this it is for the Christian to die.
That death is always and necessarily an evil, is a dictum of that shallowest of all shallow philosophy, which would blot eternity from view, and degrade immortal man to a level with the brutes that perish. And in no circumstances does such a philosophy appear more contemptible than in the circumstances in which we this day stand. Cast out of account eternity, and the problem of the pestilence is a problem involved in inextricable confusion. A fool, aye, a thrice-sodden fool is he, who can this day say, "there is no God."
In the pestilence, God's hand has been upon us, and so sore has the chastening been, that but for the mercies mingled with his judgments and his sustaining grace, we had "fainted at his rebuke." But why has God thus chastened us? Surely He who "is love," and whose might and wisdom are such that "none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?" cannot have chastened us thus by chance, nor without a purpose, and a purpose worthy of himself. Why has God thus chastened us? In the text, we have an answer, and an answer direct from heaven: "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."
Christian hearer, have not your own heart's utterances, as you have smarted under the rod, accorded with this voice from heaven? The pestilence, from day to day, separated between "chiefest friends"—parents and children, husbands and wives, pastor and people, friends and neighbors. And as we, the living, hastily committed the dead to the earth; some, in the confident anticipation of a glorious resurrection—others, in whose death we had no hope—oh! how did the thought that for them our last word had been spoken, our last deed done, our last prayer uttered, oppress the soul? Seemed there not something then to whisper in our ear, Fool that thou hast been, to live so much for this present world, so forgetful of the great end and aim of life? And was there not the purpose formed, if God spares me, I will, by his grace, become more fully a "partaker of his holiness;" I will, henceforth, be more decidedly on the Lord's side; more earnest in prayer; more constant in effort: more habitually faithful and humble, sitting at Jesus' feet, that I may learn of him?
The "over-flowing scourge" has passed by, and you are this day numbered among the living. Christian hearer, God has spared you. In his good providence, you go out again into the world, to take part in its business; you enter the social circle, that you may there exert a mighty influence for good or for evil; you meet with God's people, in the sanctuary, in the Sabbath-school, in the prayer meeting. And now, will you turn again to the impracticable, the foolish, the wicked work—for such God's word declares it to be, and such God's spirit made you to feel it to be, while the pestilence was among us—the impracticable, the foolish, the wicked work, of attempting to serve, at once, both God and mammon? Christian parent, yet a parent, through God's mercy, in the midst of many left to weep as did Rachel, because their children "are not," shall the business of your life, henceforth, be to rear your children for this present world; to make them accomplished, that they may be admired by the gay and the thoughtless; to teach them to heap together the gold of earth, and set their hearts upon it; to climb to high station in society, prizing the honor which is from man above the honor which is from God? Was it for such a purpose God spared you? No. The witness of God's Spirit, in his word, and in your own hearts too, is, that you have been chastened, yet not destroyed, that you might be "partakers of his holiness."
 I recollect, once, to have read an account of the battle of Waterloo, written by one who was a soldier in the British army on that occasion. A large portion of the British infantry were formed into hollow squares, and the fortunes of the day turned upon the preservation of those squares in their integrity. From time to time, one and another of them would be broken for a moment, by the French artillery or some furious cavalry charge; and then, the order would be heard "close up," and at once living men stepped forward to take the place of the fallen. And but for this, said he, we had lost the day. Christian brethren, we have, in this incident, a representation, at once, of our condition as a Church and of our duty. In our encounter with the pestilence, our ranks have been broken; many of those whose place was in the fore-front of the battle, have fallen; and now the order comes, "close up,"—the living must take the places of the dead—their places in the sanctuary, in the prayer-meeting, in the Sabbath-school, in the closet, in the family, in the world, if Christ's cause is to win the day. Oh, for God's Spirit, to teach us and enable us, each one, to meet fully and fairly the responsibilities of the day.
But many in this congregation, to-day, do not bear the name of Christ; make no profession of love or allegiance to him. The pestilence came, commissioned of God, to address itself to such, as well as to his professing people. And, as I stand here to-day, between you, the living, and the more than two thousand dead, who, within the last few months, have been buried on the outskirts of our city, methinks I can almost hear a voice from heaven uttering the solemn admonition, "Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh." Will you heed the admonition?
Do you say, It is not likely that another visitation of the pestilence, such as that from which our city has just suffered, will occur again for many years, perhaps not during the life-time of any one of us; and in a twelve months the business of the city will hardly shew a trace of the desolation which it wrought; I will, therefore, turn me again to the world, and dismiss, at least for the present, the serious thoughts which have for a time obtruded themselves upon me?
You may be—you probably are, correct in your anticipations respecting the business of the city. You may be—you probably are, correct in your judgment respecting a recurrence of the pestilence. But is this the return you mean to make for God's long-suffering forbearance towards you? Is this the use you mean to make of the life which he has spared you? Is this a fulfillment of the vows you made in the hour of peril—vows unheard, it may be, of man, but heard and registered on high? Is not death just as certain, and may not death be to you just as near, in this time of general health, as in a time of pestilence? The mere circumstances in which death shall occur, are matters of very little moment. Whether a man shall die under the stroke of pestilence, when the city is so filled with the dead and the dying, that none shall follow his lifeless body to the grave, or at a time of general health, and when a long procession of weeping friends shall give him burial; whether a man shall die suddenly, and in great suffering of body, or by some lingering disease, his life fading away "as fades the light of even"—these, these, are but the trappings, the outward garniture of death. Death, in its reality, is the passage of an immortal being from a land radiant with gospel hope, and bordering close on heaven, to a land between which and heaven there is a gulf impassable—a land where God hath forgotten to be gracious. In this, its reality, death you must encounter. How late, how soon, God only knoweth. Death may be, even now, at your door. Living men, spared in mercy, whilst one was stricken down on your right hand and another on your left—you heard God's warning voice as he spake in the pestilence—oh, heed that voice; and to-day, even to-day, harden not your hearts.
* * * * * *
The True and the False in Prevalent Theories of Divine Dispensations.
Deliverd in the Unitarian Church, Washington City
on Sunday, September 16, 1855,
in behalf of the Norfolk and Portsmouth sufferers.
By Moncure D. Conway, Minister
Washington, D. C.: Taylor & Maury, 1855.
 Buell & Blanchard, Printers, 496 Sixth Street.
 When it was suggested by some who agreed with the sentiments "of the following discourse, that its publication might be beneficial, the writer, having prepared it in the ordinary course of his ministry, and without any view to publication, declined. Since that, the following Resolution has been issued by the Board of Aldermen and the Common Council:
Resolved, That as, in all time of our tribulation, it becomes us to acknowledge the hand of the Almighty, and, by prayer and supplication, call for His merciful aid and deliverance; that, therefore, the Mayor of our city be, and he is hereby, requested to set apart Wednesday, the 26th instant, as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer; that he request the citizens to assemble in their various places of public worship, and offer to Almighty God, in behalf of those he has seen fit to visit so sorely, and that he will be pleased to avert from us such terrible calamity.
Feeling that we cannot assemble on that day to "acknowledge the hand of the Almighty," and "call for His merciful aid and deliverance" from His own hand; nor assist in rendering persons less able to give for the relief of the sufferers, by a day's wages; nor bear our testimony, however feeble, in favor of a sanctity which deprives the People of thirty or forty thousand dollars, that the Council may have its conscience soothed by a day's crying of "Lord! Lordl" for its refusal to appropriate five or even one thousand dollars for the sufferers; nor petition Him to do the work of our Board in averting "from us such terrible calamity;" we shall not open our Church on that day.
In place of such ministrations, this discourse is offered to the public. The author does not anticipate much open sympathy with his sentiments, but has yet to learn that the Truth may not be most demanded by the time and place that give it the least welcome.
Washington, September 21, 1855.
 The dice of God are always loaded. Greek Proverb.
Mezdam is hid by excess of light. He is Lord of his wishes; not subject to novelties; and the great is small, and the tall short, and the broad narrow, and the deep a ford unto him.
Who causeth the shadow to fall. Persian Litany.
Romans, XI, 22.
Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God.
As when in the concert, where some unfolding symphony beareth heavenward the attentive heart, the silent rapture is broken by the sharp jar of some snapt string, and the soul falls back on the rugged, bare griefs of life, so is it with us to-day. The beautiful chorus of earth and water, air and sunlight, wherein the dear God forever
"Fills all the pipes of tuneful Nature full,"
bursts wildly off into wailing and sobs. Oh, south wind! whose kiss hath reddened the peach and the grape, whose step is traced in violets, what shriek is this thou bearest to our ears! Oh, air! who hast so often invigorated, who lookest down so tenderly in the blue sky above us, what painful rumor is this, that thou art poisoning men, women, and children! Oh, sun! who seest all, why gaze on so much wretch- edness; on corpses unburied; on those who wildly run from house to street, and cry, "Where are ye, oh, beloved and loving;" on mothers, who cry out piteously at the gates where Death hath taken their sons, but beaten them back to their sad earth! Oh, sun! why gaze on this? Were it not better not to rise, but let Night hide it all in her dark garment?
But let not one sight be hidden—a sad, noble, godlike sight! A nation kneeling in prayer, with its great thousand-sided Heart melted and overflowing, not in tears alone, but in self-forgetting charities. "We will nurse you, feed you, care for you, as a mother for her babe." Let it never more be said that nations have not souls, nor that man is but a mass of corruption. Ah, God! that this divine tenderness of humanity, these deep tears, this fervent sympathy and earnest prayer, should have been filling the hearts of men everywhere, like unsuspected wells of water beneath our careless feet, and now burst on us in sweet bounty, when occasion, with its wand, touches the otiter crust!
But something deeper lies muttering, murmuring down in the heart—a fearful questioning and doubting—all the more perilous because suppressed. "There is sorrow enough," says the voice, "but where is God? Must man be forever mending God's work? Can it be that any one has "plucked the reins of the world from his hand? Is there any modern Phaeton amongst the angels, who has been allowed the chariot of the Sun for a day, and has made these terrible blunders?" Most of us find that we accept, along with the prayer, the unmistakable tone of bitterness in the "People's Anthem:"
 "When wilt Thou save the People,
O, God of mercy, when?
The People, Lord! the People—
Not thrones or crowns, but men!
Flowers of thy heart, 0 God, are they—
Cast not Thou them as weeds away—
Their heritage a winter's day,
God save the People! "
Not more to the old Prophet, when his nation pined in Babylonish captivity, did the Spirit cry,
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people!"
than now to the Church.
Like others, I have been listening for the word which should touch Faith into a newer activity, that should master every doubt, which Christ would speak through his Church, with which He has promised to be in every age. But, alas, I found that Faith too would soon be victim of the fever, and nothing remain but rebellion! One declared that God had sent his scourge as a sort of general settling up of our liabilities; and I am sure we all departed, feeling as if we had done something mean in being rid of our penalties by the sufferings of others. Another sees in it a grand providence for the demonstration of the mutual dependence of two sections of the country which are at strife; as if one side should be whipped into terms, or the other take airs to itself for superior magnanimity in relieving distress; as if it were very surprising to find that Northern hearts are not made of stone! Most of them have united in declaring that it is an awful special judgment and mysterious visitation of Jehovah, giving one a painful apprehension that, in giving money for the relief of the  sufferers, he is in some way resisting God's just judgments; or else making it a matter of chivalry to take sides with the poor Portsmouth people against their vindictive God—with the weak against the strong.
Alas, that the poor d}dng men and women should not have sorrow enough, but they must be told, as they pass on with agony into the future—as they have been by their own pastors—that it is God's terrible judgment; and that they should have read to them, as the consolation of a dying hour, the legends of a barbarous age—of how the Lord in Egypt destroyed all the first-born, and sent many plagues on the unoffending people, because of the obduracy of one man, which He had caused; * of the pestilence, coming from Infinite Wrath, which, at first about to destroy all Israel, was pacified, and only destroyed fourteen thousand and seven hundred men, women, and children, including those who heeded the doubts of Korah in the wilderness, but many more who did not; of the seventy thousand that perished by pestilence, from Dan even to Beersheba, because one man, David, numbered the men of Israel, which God is represented as having moved David to do, and then got very angry at! † And this is the comfort that the "Church of Christ" gives suffering humanity to-day! Which is worse, the pestilence of a fever or of a false religion?
When, not long since, a pestilence appeared in a threatening form in some of the mining districts of
* Exod. viii, 13: And He hardened Pharoah'a heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
† 2 Sam. xxiv, 1: He moved David against them, to say, Go number Israel and Judah.
 England, and in the suburbs of some large cities, the clergy of Edinboro', I believe, addressed a petition to Lord Palmerston, the Premier, to appoint a day of national fasting and prayer, that the pestilence might be stayed. The Premier, who happened to be a man of thought and independence, replied that it was a law stamped on Nature by its Creator, that unclean streets and sewers, under certain states of the atmosphere, would exhale disease and death; that he had reason to know that such was the case with those sections where the epidemic had appeared, and that he would not appoint a clay for fasting and prayer, as he thought that would be a day of criminal idleness, until they had reformed the streets and sewers. I quote the circumstance and his admirable paper from memory, but this is the tone throughout. Of course, he was crucified along with the heretics, which the English and Scotch clergy are always crucifying; he was called infidel, atheist, blasphemer.
The same terms have been put in requisition lately, to describe those who affirm that the lesson of this and all plagues refers to Nature and its Laws; that there is no unusual judgment or wrath about it; that the same law brings health to this city and the epidemic to that, and may in a month reverse the case. "These philosophers," it is said, "would decide everything to be law; they would say that all is directed by certain laws, fixed by God on nature, and then left to work out their result without His interference." And this is decided as adverse to a Christian philosophy.
Nothing can be more astounding than the coolness  with which men limit God's empire in His universe, and then call the faith of all who oppose them unchristian or dishonoring to God. Now, what is law? or, a law of nature, if you please? Why, clearly, a certain rule or necessity which the Creator has assigned to what he has created. There can be no law except what was given by the Infinite Being; so the Laws of Nature must be the very best that could be—that is, they could never work out any but the very best results. If you say, for example, that it was not any law that produced a plague, but a special exertion of God's providence and will, unconnected from foregone and forthcoming events, you really say, "There came a time when God's Laws were not quite sufficient, some unforeseen case not quite met, which occasioned an extra reinforcement in form of a pestilence!" And under the cant phrase, "special providences," with all its sanctimonious sound, lurks such a blind unbelief as that. Special providences! All providences are special; as each atom is a unit as well as a fragment of a sphere. It is a special providence that we are here; that the sun rises and sets; that men live; that men die; that filth evaporates fever and death; that cleanliness conspires with health and life. Do you not see that when you speak of special providences, you really mean that some things are not providential, are merest chancework; that some devil has made a mark around God's Throne, and triumphantly cried, "Thus far shalt thou come, and no farther. Here I will revel in human misery and death!"
In the name of God, It is not so! The Eternal Mind could never have been better informed with regard to the human needs of to-day, than it was when the Spirit moved on ancient chaos, and motion and matter began their endless gestation. Any law impressed on Nature, which would not have included every result from that time forth, even to the falling or flying of a sparrow, would have been not fit for a God to make. One is reminded of how a minister is related to have told a brother of a notable instance of special providence, in his preservation, when his horse fell on a bridge, by falling near a post, thereby being saved falling in the river beneath. This was answered by a still more remarkable instance, in the case of the other, who, it appears, had crossed the identical bridge on the previous day, without even having his horse stumble! So this Law, which is so often a frightful spectre to theologians, is really the manifestation, not the limitation, of the Infinite—the only one of which we are capable. A healthy theology would find it the most serious occupation to trace the presence of law everywhere; and when it had traced the plague to the action of a certain state of the atmosphere on various artificial constituents, would go with the Statists, and see that plagues have their historic laws; that the sixteen which visited London, ranging from the year 752 to 1665, had their average interval; that more research and less superstition might finally predict their appearance with the exactness of the return of comets, and bid men prepare for them. For a wart or a cancer has its laws, as well as the eye or ear; and this universal presence of law is the sign of final restoration—for man may enter and control wherever he has discovered the laws. For law is forever good.  In every law of nature we see something which He surely did, with a complete knowledge of all the facts and circumstances, with the entire Universe for Eternity beneath his eye. Therefore, the Laws of Nature are the very best, and any suspension of them would be a censure from God on His own work; any change, an acknowledgment that they needed patching.
''Very well," says my orthodox friend; "you have taken the problem by the horns; now grapple with it as you best may."
It is not so hard. For you will readily see that if there are certain laws of nature, ever acting, which produce good results, we have only to give reasons why they should not be suspended in any special case where they seem severe. For example, we know that Death is the twin sister of Life; that in decay we have the suggestion and complement of life: "Verily, I say unto you, a grain of corn is not quickened except it die," said Christ, in stating this law. And we see continually that decayed substances are used for the grain; that the rotting leaves of one year are absorbed into the growth of the next. Thus it may also be proved that the laws of decay, evaporation, mingling of substances into fresh compounds, exhalation of gases, are really the inevitable beginnings of the work of life, which, by its nature, would reproduce all dead matter into some organic form. Now, if these gases and exhalations do produce sickness, they really are good, and a suspension of their law would involve the suspension of the law that relates to the very same elements in our own bodies, in both cases the law of life. Hence the Portsmouth sufferers die by the action of a law, which, if it had been suspended, would have been equally fatal. "The laws of decay and of life, of sickness and health, being unquestionable, where, then, is the fault?" All is to be traced to Human Ignorance. If a man says, because the law of gravity is good, and is what holds me to the earth, therefore I will trust it, by leaping from a precipice, he only shows that he is ignorant of the real good he gets from the law of gravity, or any other. In reality, he is seeking to destroy the law. So, in the process of decay and evaporation, we see what is excellent for its real uses—that is, for an entrance into those forms of life which derive health from it; but, inhaled by the lungs, the law is wrung from its proper channel, and vindicates its duty by causing disease.
"But why should disease, death, distress, be the result of any action of natural laws?" Why, simply, because if the laws were given, it must have been because they were the best for all. Obedience to them must be the real way of general good. Self-preservation being the first law of nature, these glorious laws address first that universal instinct, and depend on the investigation and obedience excited by such awful results, for their complete adoption. The law is never suspended, no matter how severe the results of violation, because it is the best law that could be made, else it would not have been made; and to suspend it, would be for God to do less than the best. Suspension in any one case would impair the entire authority of the law. If in any case a city should introduce poison as an article of food, and were all strong and healthy, the law which  would protect other cities would be doubted. But the authority of a law is in proportion to its invaria-bleness; and the law would not have been given, if it were not paramount to all considerations.
Toward harmony with these the earliest and latest rotations of life tend, as our system gravitates toward the constellation Hercules. A child doubtless suffers much from little bruises, burns, and all those means whereby it really is schooled into an acquaintance with the properties of earth, air, fire, and water —an acquaintance which is necessary to a life in the midst of agents so powerful. Nature is not in her dotage, that she should compliment us, and, in her fondness, make her children think they know enough. No! life is all too serious for that; the lesson must be learned, and, if need be, graven with pen of iron on the heart! It is true that the fever is a rough teacher—tears and death and shrieks are affecting books of instruction, but they are not so bad as ignorance of the Divine Lessons. What would it profit if the world were gained and they lost?
For let us not suppose that the knowledge flowing from such events relates to physical health alone. Natural health passes easily from body to soul; and one who has found a life in harmony with nature, producing the glow of health, will be more ready to follow a life in harmony with the laws of his spiritual nature; for there are many newer but few better prayers than the old poet's:
"Ut sit mens sana in corpore sano."
 A social life, which would be free from such epidemics, would involve all that we mean by the Education of Humanity.
I. Intellectually. How much scientific attainment or appreciation does it presuppose in a people, for them to know so "well the properties of things, the laws of nature, the causes of disease, the means of contagion and infection, as to he willing to take money, hitherto absorbed in luxury or otherwise misused, and devote it to sanitary reform. The ignorance is often because there has not been sufficient reason to examine. Many persons content themselves now, as ever, with ridiculing methods which fairly claim attention. It was old Cotton Mather who went about, in the midst of his congregation, beseeching them, to save themselves and their children from the ravages of the small-pox, hy the newly-discovered method of inoculation; and they either laughed at his credulity, or charged him with witchcraft. But we have learned better than that in that case. Yet how common is it now to pass with ridicule any new suggestions in methods of treatment; but when, times of fear come, and old methods stammer and mutter their ignorance, men are brought to feel at least the utter insufficiency of the old school, and to recognise that, however extravagant (as they doubtless are) new schools may be in many statements, yet every such movement means something, and has some good element, either by way of a new truth, or, as is perhaps more generally the case, in protest against some old error.
Thus we see that, by the impulse given hy these epidemics to the necessity of self-preservation, which  sets in motion the faculties of patient research and thrilled earnestness, the intellect is led to a discovery of great truths of philosophy, of science, of physiology, which really help to constitute the culture of mankind, as well as involve a strengthening exercise of the faculties, and a discipline which leads to still higher walks.
II. In such events, the highest moral and spiritual laws have their revelation. It was true, but yet a very partial statement of the truth, that I heard a minister make, that it might be the design of this pestilence to teach mutual dependence to the two sections of the Union. It must do more: it must establish the eternal law of Brotherhood, which affirms that not one man can suffer or be degraded, except at the peril of all the rest. In Alton Locke we are told of a wealthy young man, who was anxious to get as much work done for as little money as he could. His tailor, to make anything by this cheap system, has adopted the "sweating principle," by which poor journeymen become indebted, and are imprisoned, to all intents, and can only work on toward a liberation, which is carefully provided against, at poor wages, But the squalid rooms of these "sweaters" must breed diseases. Into this room the coat of the rich young man is taken. The poor tailor covers his diseased and dying wife and child with it. The young man gets his coat next day, cheaply, it is true, so far as money goes, but very dearly indeed, for he soon dies of the disease.
I think there is a terrible fact here. The rich and educated cannot afford, any more than the poor, that there should be any class so poor as to be squalid or unhealthy—so ignorant as not to know the laws of health, and have the means of its preservation. They, their lives, and their children, are deeply, vitally interested, that there shall be free schools; that lectures and works on science shall be supported; and that there shall be such a return made for labor of all kinds as will secure cleanliness and healthy food and lodging to the poor. Every epidemic has this voice, if only we would give heed to it: Oh, man, by oppression, by monopoly, by huddling together by unwise laws (as at Portsmouth) uneducated free negroes into an outcast lawless herd,, and degrading manual labor by evil institutions and social prejudices—by all these do you force men, women, and children, into the squalid homes of poverty, in the suburbs of your cities; by these you, the rich and powerful, hatch the cockatrice's eggs, which breed crimes; and in these nests we, the plagues, are born; from these tee come to blight the rich and poor alike with pestilential breath. Oh, man, you are one with your fellow -man ; what degrades him degrades you; the same disease destroys you; the same earth absorbs you.
And thus does man find through this rough schooling the greatest laws of virtue; the reverence for every man, however humble, and the limits of his own importance; learns that philanthropy and charity are safer than hoarding money; thus entering the path of love to man, which leads into the heavenly joy of love to God.
It is on us that these sad lessons, physical, mental, moral, should be impressed by these sad tidings of human grief. For it is manifest to all who have observed this city and its neighbors, that there are  few streets in either of them which are not calculated to act as lightning-rods in attracting the thunder-bolt of any passing pestilence. The only wonder is, that this city, and Richmond, and Baltimore, have been spared thus long. Thousands of dollars are devoted annually, in this city, to political wire-working and intrigue, to trashy publications, to useless luxuries, and worse purposes, which might make our sanitary arrangements tolerable, at least, which they are not now, and keep up a sufficiently active police to insure the preservation of them—which can scarcely be, however, until some system of sewerage is adopted. Let another year find us educated in this subject, and far more careful of the condition and necessities of the poor. Who can tell in what extremities they have been placed by the great rise in prices, which has so pressed on the cities during this year?
That those at Portsmouth should be the ones to teach these lessons to us, is no more mysterious than any other dispensation of God acting by law. It is clear that, under such a God as we believe in, nothing could happen to them which is not for the best, even to themselves; that there is no reason to suppose them deserving of unusual severity. It is sometimes worse for men to live than to die. You will remember the words of Christ, when there were present those who told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering, said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners, above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, No; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. By which Jesus would seem to teach that there is just as much evil in life as in death; and that affliction is no criterion of moral excellence or God's favor. For that matter, all must die; and none can say how or when it is best for themselves or others. I take it also that night and day divide the world as usual, also decay and death; that Mons. Quetelet will show you that his statistics of the proportion of births and deaths are not varied by a hair from the order by which the world has stood so long.
But we would not profane the mystery of the Universe. We know only: The Best is over all—AIVs for the Best. Yet how it is so—how evil ever works for good, is the prophecy and friend of good—we know not; and even so far as we can know, it is the unspeakable secret of the universe. That was a high thought which made a nation of the east worship a veiled Deity! The best is always hidden, always to come. Why weep over the falling blossom—see already the swelling fruit which destroyed it. The great posture for a man on this earth is that of expectancy; for, except our faith, what other stone have we added to the altar once raised at Athens to the Unknown God?
"Lift up your heart upon the knees of God,
Losing yourself, your smallness, and your darkness,
In His great light, who fills and moves the world,
Who hath alone the quiet of perfect motion."
 How true is it that every shadow points to the sun. In these dark times, we catch most gleams of our redemption. It seems as if just now the human heart had burst forth toward these poor sufferers with a love caught from God. No one is so poor but his humanity must coin itself into help; the daily earning forgets the toil and sweat it cost, and flies to relieve some want; and childhood throbs with the holy charity. Oh, thou breath of God, inflame our hearts with this love to-day! For it is God that worketh in us. The law that brings pestilence is not more certain than the law that brings relief and sympathy. When God made this world, brother, he did not forget to enfold about its heart somewhat of His own love, as a central fire. This is why the heart is so quick and fiery; for the nature of God in there ever warms the earthy part of us, as a sun the sod, causing the flowers and fruits of charity and duty to bloom; and when any harsh shock such as this comes, the seething fire itself leaps flaming out to its task.
So I need not beseech you to give. You know the wise proverb of the German: "Selfishness hoards itself poor; Charity gives itself rich." The God in each one of you cries out to give; you must feel that not to give were a far worse disease than the yellow fever; you must feel that these sufferers could not be more cast upon your love, if each one was a helpless infant, and you its parent.
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