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Babylonian empire. And when in prophetic vision the man of God hears “the noise of a multitude in the mountains, . . . a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together" against the doomed city, it is no chance gathering, no human hand directs the heathen bands; "the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.” Well did the fierce Hun who made his inroads on the Roman empire in the days of its degeneracy and corruption choose his own title, and well is he known as Attila, “the scourge of God.”
The thoughtful reader of history will be at no loss to find in its bloody annals abundant instances of the signal punishment of atrocious sin by atrocious sinners. The national law of blood-revenge conspicuously works out the judgment of God. Perhaps no more remarkable exhibition can be found than in the famous, or infamous, French Revolution, a scene of sweeping retribution to which the historian cannot close his eyes. The cause of that convulsion was unquestionably corruption, deep and wide; where the outer rapacity and iniquity rested on an inward wreck of moral and religious principle, of which Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau were the expositors. Retribution waited till the cup was full, then followed its victims in almost regular order of priority down from rank to rank. Most culpable of all had been the high church functionaries, the aristocracy, and the court. The storm of avenging passion fell first upon the clergy and consigned them to robbery, exile, and death. Next were the nobles stripped of privilege and property and put to flight;
and then flowed the royal blood. The old landmarks were removed and the nation upheaved from its foundations. Yet vengeance was but begun. There was a retribution for the retributors. The Constitutionalists had been swept away by the forces they had let loose; and the Girondists who had overwhelmed them were in turn overwhelmed and destroyed by the volcanic passion still rolling upward from below. Next perished Danton and his friends, who had infuriated the populace against the Girondists. Then emerged that memorable Committee of Public Safety, whose strokes of vengeance, directed by a Robespierre, cut ever deeper and deeper into the ranks of the bloodhound populace, till his own comrades turned against the man of blood and took his life. For" in the lowest deep a lower still stood opening to devour."
But with the Reign of Terror the retribution of the godless nation was not complete. From the foaming depths of that vast anarchy loomed a monster military despotism in the person of Napoleon. He seems to have come a minister of vengeance on France and on Europe too. For over the long subjection, of Prussia, the manifold humiliations of Austria, and the burning of Moscow, the secular historian has remembered the partition of Poland; and in the youthful forms that fell in the last battles of Napoleon men read the tale of exhaustion which its iron-handed emperor had carried into every corner of France. The man came to do God's work of vengeance. And how safely did God keep him like a very jewel in its casket till his work
was done. Hundreds of thousands fell around him in every rank, yet on he went unharmed. On the terrible bridge of Lodi the bullets hailed and whistled harmlessly around his head ; vain was the cannon ball at Ratisbon ; innocent the exploding shell at Bautzen; and the Cossack at Brienne dropped his spear from a dead hand at the very feet of this man of destiny. They could not touch that charmed life till the avenger of God's justice had fulfilled his task; and then this greatest military genius of the world's history lay stranded on a barren island, to be a schoolboy's theme; stranded there by his own boundless selfishness, falsehood, and rapacity; and France is still drinking the sediments of its bitter cup of sin, incapable of a good and stable government till moral and religious health shall have been diffused through the nation.
Yet this signal series of events is but one of a multitude of instances which, as time rolls on, render it more and more obvious to the seeing eye that behind and above all the seeming confusion of human and national affairs God rules and overrules.
IV. God often overrules human wickedness, whether in its milder or fiercer forms, to the establishment and diffusion of true religion. Pride, avarice, ambition, lust, as well as open enmity, have often been thrust into his treadmill and chained to his galleys. It is an interesting and a curious study to observe all along the line of history conflicting forces traveling the same path, and the most opposite purposes and motives centering in the same material act. What Joseph said to his brethren, “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good,” is the clew to many a transaction before and since the coming of Christ, and even of the Saviour's own earthly fate. The base heart of Judas betrayed him who was yet“ delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God"; and when mad Pharisees would kill the hated reprover of their sins, they offered up the world's great sacrifice on Calvary. It was the hand of persecution which drove forth the first disciples from Jerusalem "every where preaching the word.” Saul aided at the death of the first Christian martyr, and it is hardly too much to think, with Augustine, that “the church owes Paul to the prayer of the dying Stephen."
So it has often been from that day to this. In any great anti-religious movement the thoughtful reader of history may often learn to recognize the preparation for some great movement of God, and not seldom the very work of God wrought out all unconsciously by his hewers of wood and drawers of water. It is largely in this way that such a vast mass of thought and learning has been concentrated upon his written Word, till it is becoming steadily buttressed round by the scholarship of the world. Was it desirable that the truth of its historic records should be established for these distant times ? A bold German is stirred up to make an attack all along the line. And then learning rallied to the onset; the tombs and temples of Egypt and the bricks and tablets of Babylonia and Assyria broke the silence of two thousand years, and with their long
mute hieroglyphics and mysterious wedge-shaped characters vindicated the record. And the process is not ended.
Does it become important that Christians in modern times should be made certain of the substantial integ. rity of the New Testament text ? English skeptics, Collins, Tindal, and others, exultingly raise the cry vast and fatal variations, destructive of all confidence. Then came the grand rally. The old libraries, from the heart of Europe to the convents of Mount Athos and the Nitrian desert and the Sinaitic peninsula were ransacked for ancient manuscripts, the folios of the Christian Fathers were hunted through for quotations, hundred of years of toil were expended in the mere comparison of texts, until at last all the variations of nigh two thousand documents were found not to affect the substance of one historic fact or to change a single doctrine. So the textual foundation was made sure for all time.
Strauss' destructive “Life of Jesus was a startling apparition to Christian Europe. But it evoked dozens of constructive lives of Christ. It also demolished a spurious theory, the “accommodation ” theory of interpreting the Scriptures, and aroused a host of keen scholars to demolish his own “mythical” theory. His bulky book passed away to dusty shelves even before its author passed away with no God but a blind force and no hope of immortality, leaving behind him no rule of life but abandonment to destiny. He did more, perhaps, than any man of his day to make the thinking