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judgments. Let me refer you to a few examples of this description.
In the first place, look to some of those instances in which it is supposed our Father miraculously interfered to confer favors upon his children. As I have the autobiography of the late Dr. Adam Clarke now before me, and as he has been ranked the most learned man among the Methodists, I will select two examples from this publication. Listen to his own words. “Having occasion to bring home a sack of grain from a neighboring village; it was laid over the bare back of his horse, and to keep it steady he rode on the top; one end being much heavier than the other, he found it difficult to keep it on: at last it preponderated so much, that it fell, and he under it; his back happened to come in contact with a pointed stone; he was taken up apparently dead; a person attempted to draw some blood from his arm, but in vain, none would flow, and his face and neck turned quite black. He lay insensible for more than two hours, during the greater part of which time, he was not known even to breathe, so that all said he is dead. He was brought near the fire and rubbed with warm cloths; at length a plenteous flow of blood from the orifice in his arm, was the means of promoting that respiration which had been so long obstructed. All had given him over for dead, and even now that he began to breathe, but with an oppressive sense of the acutest pain, few entertained hopes that he could long survive this accident. In about twenty-four hours it was thought that he might in an easy chair be carried home, which was about a mile distant. He however utterly refused to get into the chair, but while the men carried it, held it with his right hand, and walked by its side, and thus reached his father's house; and in a short time, to the great surprise of all who had witnessed the accident, was completely
restored. Had he not been designed for matters of great and high importance, it is not likely in the ORDINARY course of nature he would have survived this accident.” Now in this relation there is nothing more remarkable than what has occurred to hundreds of others; and I believe any scoundrel of the same bodily powers would have passed through the accident in the same favorable manner.
Let me present you another example from the same author. This is his own statement. “Mr. Wesley's time allotted for his visit to these Islands being expired, he purposed sailing for Southampton by the first fair wind, as he had appointed to be at Bristol on a particular day; but the wind continuing adverse, and an English brig touching at Guernsey on her way from France to Penzance they agreed for their passage, Mr. Clarke having obtained Mr. Wesley's permission to accompany them to England. They sailed out of Guernsey road on Thursday, the sixth of September, with a fine fair breeze; but in a short time, the wind which had continued slackening, died away, and afterwards rose up in that quarter which would have favored the passage to Southampton or Weymouth, had they been so bound. The contrary wind blew in to a tight breeze, and they were obliged to make frequent tacks, in order to clear the Island. Mr. Wesley was sitting reading in the cabin, and hearing the noise and bustle which were occasioned by putting about the vessel, to stand on her different tacks, he put his head above deck and inquired what was the matter? Being told the wind was become contrary, and the ship was obliged to tack, he said, — Then
prayer. His own company, who were upon deck, walked down, and at his request Dr. Coke, Mr. Bradford, and Mr. Clarke went to prayer. After the latter had ended, Mr. Wesley broke out into fervent supplication, which seemed to be more the offspring of
let us go
strong faith than mere desire, his words were remarkable, as well as the spirit, evident feeling, and manner in which they were uttered. The power of his petition was felt by all; he rose from his knees, made no kind of remark, but took up his book and continued his reading. Mr. Clarke went upon deck, and what was his surprise when he found the vessel standing her right course, with a steady breeze, which slackened not, till, carrying them at the rate of nine or ten knots an hour, they anchored safely near St. Michael's Mount, in Penzance bay. On the sudden and favorable change of wind Mr. Wesley made no remark; so fully did he expect to be heard, that he took for granted he was heard.
Such answers to prayer he was in the habit of receiving; and therefore to him, the occurrence was not strange. Mr. Wesley was no ordinary man; every hour, every minute of his time was devoted to the great work which God had given him to do; and it is not to be wondered at that he was favored, and indeed accredited, with many signal interpositions of divine providence. Mr. Clarke himself has confessed, that high as his opinion was of Mr. Wesley's piety and faith, he had no hope that the wind which had long set in the opposite quarter, and which had just now changed in a very natural way, would immediately veer about, except by providential interference, to blow in a contrary direction. There were too many marked extraordinary circumstances in the case, to permit any attentive observer to suppose that the change had been effected by any natural or casual occurrence.” Now if Mr. Clarke can prove that the wind would not have changed if Mr. Wesley's prayer had not been offered, then the first step will have been taken to establish a special providence; but this can never be done, and consequently we have no evidence in the case whatever. suppose that God Almighty had made John Wesley an
" accredited” messenger of his providence requires a degree of credulity which I do not possess. These specimens are sufficient to show that no satisfactory proof exists in confirmation of modern miracles.
In the second place, look at the other side of the question. Instances have occurred in which individuals suppose that our Father interferes miraculously for the punishment and destruction of his children. Since I have selected the former examples from a Methodist book, I will still confine my remarks to the same denomination. When the unitarian church in this place was struck by lightning, some of the members of this sect pronounced it a special judgment. This was their calm and deliberate opinion. They believed that our Father had departed from his usual course to manifest his displeasure against our peculiar sentiments. Not long since the Methodist chapel in a neighboring town was struck in a similar manner and greatly damaged. Had it not been for the timely interference of human means the building would have been wholly destroyed. Now will they be consistent? Will they call this a special judgment, to manifest the divine disapprobation of their distinguishing belief. Not only so. It is but a few years since a vessel which was conveying a large number of their missionaries with their families from one island to another, was wrecked and all the passengers drowned. A more distressing accident has scarcely ever been recorded. Did God interfere for their destruction? Is there not as much evidence of this as there is that he interfered to save the life of Clarke and hasten Wesley on his voyage? Precisely the same. Will it be so regarded? By no means.
The truth of the case is simply this. When an unfortunate event happens to those who reject our creed we pronounce it a special interference of our Father for their punishment. But when
an occurrence precisely similar overwhelms any of our own denomination, we are ready to exclaim, whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth. Why may not the miser affirm that his property has been gained through the special assistance of divine Providence, since he has so far outreached his neighbors in the pursuit of wealth? Why may not the pirate attribute his success to the supernatural interference of heaven? I see no reason why they may not advance these claims with as much propriety as those religionists who pronounce the natural results of their zeal and activity and impudence special mercies. No. It is not possible to prove that God now interferes in a miraculous manner either to reward the righteous or punish the wicked. This is not his mode of governing his rational creatures. A day of perfect retribution will yet arrive; and then those who have flourished by their iniquity will receive the recompense of their labors, and those who have been crushed by the oppression of the depraved will rise in their true dignity, and enjoy the rewards prepared for all who live sober, righteous and godly lives. I have said sufficient to show that we have no evidence of miracles at the present day, either for the reward of the holy or the punishment of the sinful.
3. I will thirdly refer you to some of those instances of prosperity and adversity which are evidently the natural consequences of human conduct either wholly or in part; and the necessary results of the ordinary operations of the divine laws. Under this head I should include all uncommon success in mercantile, civil or religious affairs; all pestilence, war and persecution; all earthquakes, famines and conflagrations. A few illustrations may be mentioned.
In the first place, look at the success of some sect of religionists. I will refer in this instance to those in our