The rude and begrimed insurgents are raised by their terrible purposes to a certain dignity. They are the avengers of time—the God-sent—the righters of the world’s wrongs—the punishers of the ineffably wicked. They do not mean to destroy the world; they will reform it—redeem it. They will make it a world where there shall be neither toil nor oppression. But, poor fellows! their arms are more potent for evil than their brains for good. They are omnipotent to destroy; they are powerless to create.
But still the work of ruin and slaughter goes on. The mighty city, with its ten million inhabitants, lies prostrate, chained, helpless, at the mercy of the enraged canaille. The dogs have become lions.
The people cannot comprehend it. They look around for their defenders—the police, the soldiery. “Where are they? Will not this dreadful nightmare pass away?” No; no; never—never. This is the culmination—this is the climax—“the century’s aloe flowers to-day.” These are “the grapes of wrath” which God has stored up for the day of his vengeance; and now he is trampling them out, and this is the red juice—look you!—that flows so thick and fast in the very gutters.
You were blind, you were callous, you were indifferent to the sorrows of your kind. The cry of the poor did not touch you, and every pitiful appeal wrung from human souls, every groan and sob and shriek of men and women, and the little starving children—starving in body and starving in brain—rose up and gathered like a great cloud around the throne of God; and now, at last, in the fullness of time, it has burst and comes down upon your wretched heads, a storm of thunderbolts and blood.
You had money, you had power, you had leisure, you had intelligence, you possessed the earth; all things were possible unto you. Did you say to one another: “These poor souls are our brethren. For them Christ died on Calvary. What can we do to make their lives bright and happy?” No; no; you cried out, “‘On with the dance!’ Let them go down into the bottomless pit!”
And you smiled and said to one another, in the words of the first murderer, when he lied to God: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Nay, you said further to one another, “There is no God!” For you thought, if there was one, surely He would not permit the injustice manifest in the world. But, lo! He is here. Did you think to escape him? Did you think the great Father of Cause and Effect—the All-knowing, the universe-building God,—would pass you by?
As you sowed, so must you reap. Evil has but one child—Death! For hundreds of years you have nursed and nurtured Evil. Do you complain if her monstrous progeny is here now, with sword and torch? What else did you expect? Did you think she would breed angels?
Your ancestors, more than two centuries ago, established and permitted Slavery. What was the cry of the bondman to them? What the sobs of the mother torn from her child—the wife from her husband—on the auction block? Who among them cared for the lacerated bodies, the shameful and hopeless lives? They were merry; they sang and they danced; and they said, “Gods sleeps.”