SERMON XVII. CHOLERA, 1866
Luke vii. 16.
There came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
You recollect to what the text refers? How the Lord visited His people? By raising to life a widow’s son at Nain. That was the result of our Lord’s visit to the little town of Nain. It is worth our while to think of that text, and of that word, ‘visit,’ just now. For we are praying to God to remove the cholera from this land. We are calling it a visitation of God; and saying that God is visiting our sins on us thereby. And we are saying the exact truth. We are using the right and scriptural word.
We know that this cholera comes by no miracle, but by natural causes. We can more or less foretell where it will break out. We know how to prevent its breaking out at all, save in a scattered case here and there. Of this there is no doubt whatsoever in the mind of any well-informed person.
But that does not prevent its being a visitation of God; yea, in most awful and literal earnest, a house-to-house visitation. God uses the powers of nature to do His work: of Him it is written, ’He maketh the winds His angels, and flames of fire His ministers.’ And so this minute and invisible cholera-seed is the minister of God, by which He is visiting from house to house, searching out and punishing certain persons who have been guilty, knowingly or not, of the offence of dirt; of filthy and careless habits of living; and especially, as has long been known by well-informed men, of drinking poisoned water. Their sickness, their deaths, are God’s judgment on that act of theirs, whereby God says to men,—You shall not drink water unfit for even dumb animals; and if you do, you shall die.
To this view there are two objections. First, the poor people themselves are not in fault, but those who supply poisoned water, and foul dwellings.
True: but only half true. If people demanded good water and good houses, there would soon be a supply of them. But there is not a sufficient supply; because too many of the labouring classes in towns, though they are earning very high wages, are contented to live in a condition unfit for civilized men; and of course, if they are contented so to do, there will be plenty of covetous or careless landlords who will supply the bad article with which they are satisfied; and they will be punished by disease for not having taken care of themselves.