Psalm xlvi. 1, 2.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.
No one, my friends, wishes less than I, to frighten you, or to take a dark and gloomy view of this world, or of God’s dealings with men. But when God Himself speaks, men are bound to take heed, even though the message be an awful one. And last week’s earthquake was an awful message, reminding all reasonable souls how frail man is, how frail his strongest works, how frail this seemingly solid earth on which we stand; what a thin crust there is between us and the nether fires, how utterly it depends on God’s mercy that we do not, like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram of old, go down alive into the pit.
What do we know of earthquakes? We know that they are connected with burning mountains; that the eruption of a burning mountain is generally preceded by, and accompanied with, violent earthquakes. Indeed, the burning mountains seem to be outlets, by which the earthquake force is carried off. We know that these burning mountains give out immense volumes of steam. We know that the expanding power of steam is by far the strongest force in the world; and, therefore, it is supposed reasonably, that earthquakes are caused by steam underground.
We know concerning earthquakes two things: first, that they are quite uncertain in their effects; secondly, quite uncertain in their occurrence.
No one can tell what harm an earthquake will, or will not, do. There are three kinds. One which raises the ground up perpendicularly, and sets it down again—which is the least hurtful; one which sets it rolling in waves, like the waves of the sea—which is more hurtful; and one, the most terrible of all, which gives the ground a spinning motion, so that things thrown down by it fall twisted from right to left, or left to right. But what kind of earthquake will take place, no one can tell.