Monday, January 27, 2014

The World of Chance

The following is a favorite story to my family. It is from Sander's Fifth Union Reader which was published in the mid-late 1800's.  This story was published around the time that Darwin's Origin of Species was popularized. It considers the fact that a world of order is a gift from a kind and omniscient Creator.  

      I'm posting this after learning of a recent poll that stated that 1/3 of Americans reject evolution outright.  The poll did not give options for the varied beliefs people have for evolution, but shows that, despite a strong propaganda campaign by government controlled schools to show only the position of naturalism, many people have not yet bought into the religion of naturalism.  Indeed, the world is filled with the testimony of God because "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20

The World of Chance

by John Todd.

      At the foot of a noble mountain in Asia stood a beautiful cottage. Around it were walks, and shades, and fruits, such as were nowhere else to be found. The sun shone upon no spot more beautiful or luxuriant. It was the home of Hafed, the aged and prosperous. He reared the cottage; he adorned the spot; and here, for more than fourscore years, he had lived and studied.

      During all this time, the sun had never forgotten to visit him daily; the harvest had never failed, the pestilence had never destroyed, and the mountain stream had never dried up. The wife of his youth still lived to cheer him; and his son and daughter were such as were not to be found in all that province.

      But who can insure earthly happiness? In one short week, Hafed was stripped of all his joys. His wife took cold, and a quick fever followed; and Hafed saw that she must die. His son and daughter both returned from the burial of their mother, fatigued and sick. The nurse gave them, as she thought, a simple medicine. In a few hours, it was found to be poison. Hafed saw that they must die; for the laws of nature are fixed, and poison kills.

      He buried them in one wide, deep grave; and it seemed as if in that grave he buried his reason and religion. He tore his gray hair; he cursed the light of day, and wished the moon turned into blood. He arraigned the wisdom of God in His government over this world, declaring that the laws which He had established were all wrong, governed by Chance, or, at least, that, at his death, he might go to a world where there was no God to fix unalterable laws.

      In the center of Hafed’s garden stood a beautiful palm-tree. Under this Hafed was sitting, the second evening after he has closed the grave over his children. Before him lay the beautiful country, and above him the glorious heavens, and the bright moon just pushing up her modest face. But Hafed looked upon all this, and grief swelled in his throat; his tongue murmured; his heart was full of blasphemous thoughts of God.

      As the night deepened, Hafed, as he thought, fell asleep with a heavy heart. When he supposed he awoke, it was in a new spot. All around him was new. As he stood wondering where he was, he saw a creature approach him, which appeared like a baboon; but, on its coming nearer, he saw that it was a creature somewhat resembling a man, but every way ill-shaped and monstrous.

      He came up, and walked around Hafed, as if he were a superior being, exclaiming, -- “Beautiful, beautiful creature!” “Shame, shame on thee!” said Hafed; “dost thou treat a stranger thus with insults? Leave off thy jests, and tell me where I am, and how I came here!” “I do not know how you came here; but here you are, in our world, which we call Chance World, because every thing happen here by chance.”

      “Ah! Is it so? This must be delightful! This is just the world for me. Oh, had I always lived here, my beautiful children would not have died under a foolish and inexorable law! Come, show me this world; for I long to see it. But have ye really no God, nor any one to make laws and govern you as he sees fit?”

      “I do not know what you mean be the word God. We have nothing of the kind here, -- nothing but chance. But go with me, and you will understand all about it. “ As they proceeded, Hafed noticed that every thing looked queer and odd. Some of the grass was green, some red, some white, some new, and some dying; some grew with the top downward; all kinds were mingled together; and; on the whole, the sight was very painful.

      He stopped to examine an orchard: here Chance had been at work. On a fine-looking apple-tree he saw no fruit but large, coarse cucumbers. A small peach-tree was breaking down under its load of gourds. Some of the trees were growing with their tops downward, and the roots branching out into the air. Here and there were great holes dug, by which somebody had tried to get down twenty or thirty feet, in order to get the fruit.

      The guide told Hafed that there was no certainty about these trees, and that you could never tell what fruit a tree would happen to bear. The tree which this year bears cucumbers, may bear potatoes next year, and perhaps you would have to dig twenty feet for every potato you obtained.

       They soon met another of the “chance men.” His legs were very unequal in length: one had no knee, and the other no ankle. His ears were set upon his shoulders, and around his head was a thick, black bandage. He came groping his way, and Hafed asked him how long since he had lost his sight.

      “I have not lost it,” said he; “but when I was born, my eyeballs happened to turn in instead of out; and the back parts, being outward, are very painful in the light, and so I put on a covering. Yet I am as well off as others. My brother has one good eye on the top of his head; but it look directly upward, and the sun almost puts it out.”

      They stopped to look at some “chance cattle” in a yard. Some had but three legs; some were covered with wool, under which they were sweltering in a climate always tropical. Some were half horse and half ox. Cows had young camels following them instead of calves. Young elephants were there with flocks of sheep, horses with claws like a lion, and geese clamping round the yard with hoofs like horses. It was all a work of Chance.

      “This,” said the guide, “is as choice collection of cattle. You never saw the like before.” “That is true-- truth itself,” cried Hafed. “Ah! But the owner has been at great pains and expense to collect them. I do not believe there is another such collection anywhere in all this ‘Chance World.’” “I hope not,” said Hafed.
     Just as they were leaving the premises, the owner came out to admire, and show, and talk over his treasures. He wanted to gaze at Hafed; but his head happened to be near the ground, between his feet, so that he had to mount upon a wall before he could get a fair view of the stranger. “Do not think I am a happy man,” said he, “in having so many and such perfect animals. Atlas! Even in the perfect and happy world there are drawbacks. That fine-looking cow yonder happens to give nothing but warm water, instead of milk; and her calf, poor thing! Died before it was a week old. 

    “Some of them are stone blind, some can not live in the light, and few of them can hear. No two of them eat the same food, and it is a great labor to take care of them. I sometimes feel as if I would almost as lief be a poor man.” “I think I should rather,” said Hafed.

      While they were talking, in an instant they were in midnight darkness. The sun was gone, and Hafed could not, for some time, see his guide. “What has happened? said he. “Oh, nothing uncommon,” said the guide! “The sun happened to go down now. There is no regular time for him to shine; but he goes and comes just as it happens, and leaves as suddenly, as you see.”

      “As I don’t see,” said Hafed: “but I hope he will come back at the appointed time, at any rate.” “That, sir, will be just as it happens. Sometimes he is gone for months, and sometimes for weeks, and sometimes only for a few minutes, just as it happens. We may not see him again for months, but perhaps he will come soon.”

      As the guide was proceeding, to the inexpressible joy of all, the sun at once broke out. The light was so sudden, that Hafed at first thought he must be struck with lightning, and actually put his hands to his eyes to see if they were safe. He then clapped his hands to his eyes till he could gradually bear the light. There was a splendor about the sun, which he had never before seen; and it was intolerably hot. The air seemed like a furnace.

      “Ah,” said the owner of the cattle, “we must now scorch for it! My poor wool ox must die at once! Bad luck, bad luck to us! The sun has come back nearer than he was before. But we hope he will happen to go away again soon, and then happen to come back farther off the next time.”

      The sun was now pouring down his heat so intensely, that they were glad to go into the house for shelter, -- a miserable-looking place indeed. Hafed could not but compare it with his own beautiful cottage. Some timbers were rotten; for the tree was not, as it happened, the same in all its parts. Some of the boards happened to be like paper, and the nails torn out; and these were loose and coming off.

      They invited Hafed to eat. On sitting down at the table, he noticed that each one had a different kind of food, and that no two could eat out of the same dish. He was told that it so happened, that the food which one could eat, was poison to another; and what was agreeable to one, was nauseating to another.

      “I suppose that to be coffee,” said Hafed, “and I will thank you for a cup.” It was handed him. He had been troubled with the toothache for some hours; and how did he quail, when, on filling his mouth, he found it was ice, in little pieces about as large as pigion-shot!

      “Do you call ice-water coffee here?” said Hafed, pressing his hand upon his cheek, while his tooth was dancing with pain. “That is just as it happens. We put water over the fire, and sometimes it heats it, and sometimes it freezes it. It is all chance at work.”

      Hafed rose from the table in anguish of spirit. He remembered the world where he had lived, and all that was past. He had desired to live in a world where there was no God, where all was governed by chance. Here he was, and here he must live.

      He threw himself on a bed, and recalled the past, -- the beautiful world where he had once lived; his ingratitude; his murmurings against the wisdom and goodness of God. He wept like infancy. He would have prayed, and even began a prayer; but then he recollected that there was no God here; nothing to direct events; nothing but chance. He shed many and bitter tears of repentance. At last he wept himself to sleep.

      When Hafed again awoke, he was sitting under his palm-tree in his own beautiful garden. It was morning. At the appointed moment, the glorious sun rose up in the east; the fields were all green and fresh; the trees were all right end upward, and covered with blossoms; and the songsters were uttering their morning songs.

      Hafed arose, recalled that ugly dream, and then wept for joy. Was he again in a world where Chance does not reign? He looked up, and then turned to the God of heaven, the God of laws and of order, and gave Him the glory, and confessed that His ways, to us unsearchable, are full of wisdom. He was a new man ever afterward; nothing gave him greater cause of gratitude, as he daily knelt in prayer, than the fact that he lived in a world where God ruled, and ruled by laws fixed, wise, and merciful.

The End.
Source: Sander's Fifth Union Reader
Drawings are by my sister, Esther.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Message That Surpised Sodom

 Sodom's Response to A Strong Message
The following account comes from the autobiography of Charles G. Finney.  His autobiography gives many accounts of men submitting themselves to the living God.  Of particular interest to me is that the widespread revivals that he was an instrument of were in areas not far from where I live in the state of New York.  In this account he was holding revival services in Antwerp when he got an invite from an older gentleman to come to his community.  Little did Finney know what he was getting into. Here are his words describing the event:

Charles G. Finney (1792-1895)
On the third Sabbath that I preached there, an aged man came to me as I was entering the pulpit, and asked me if I would not go and preach in a schoolhouse in his neighborhood, about three miles distant; saying that they had never had any services there. He wished me to come as soon as I could. I appointed the next day, Monday, at five o'clock in the afternoon. It was a warm day. I left my horse at the village, and thought I would walk down, so that I should have no trouble in calling along on the people, in the neighborhood of the schoolhouse. However, before I reached the place, having labored so hard on the Sabbath, I found myself very much exhausted, and sat down by the way and felt as if I could scarcely proceed. I blamed myself for not having taken my horse.
But at the appointed hour I found the schoolhouse full, and I could only get a standing-place near the open door. I read a hymn; and I cannot call it singing, for they seemed never to have had any church music in that place. However the people pretended to sing. But it amounted to about this: each one bawled in his own way. My ears had been cultivated by teaching church music; and their horrible discord distressed me so much that, at first, I thought I must go out. I finally put both hands over my ears, and held them with my full strength. But this did not shut out the discords. I stood it, however, until they were through; and then I cast myself down on my knees, almost in a state of desperation, and began to pray. The Lord opened the windows of heaven, and the spirit of prayer was poured out, and I let my whole heart out in prayer. I had taken no thought with regard to a text upon which to preach; but waited to see the congregation. As soon as I had done praying, I arose from my knees and said: "Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city." I told them I did not recollect where that text was; but I told them very nearly where they would find it, and then went on to explain it. I told them that there was such a man as Abraham, and who he was; and that there was such a man as Lot, and who he was; their relations to each other; their separating from each other on account of differences between their herdmen; and that Abraham took the hill country, and Lot settled in the vale of Sodom. I then told them how exceedingly wicked Sodom became, and what abominable practices they fell into. I told them that the Lord decided to destroy Sodom, and visited Abraham, and informed him what He was about to do; that Abraham prayed to the Lord to spare Sodom, if He found so many righteous there; and the Lord promised to do so for their sakes; that then Abraham besought Him to save it for a certain less number, and the Lord said He would spare it for their sakes; that he kept on reducing the number, until he reduced the number of righteous persons to ten; and God promised him that, if He found ten righteous persons in the city, He would spare it. Abraham made no farther request, and Jehovah left him. But it was found that there was but one righteous person there, and that was Lot, Abraham's nephew. And the men said to Lot, "hast thou here any besides? Son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place; for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it." While I was relating these facts I observed the people looking as if they were angry. Many of the men were in their shirt sleeves; and they looked at each other and at me, as if they were ready to fall upon me and chastise me on the spot. I saw their strange and unaccountable looks, and could not understand what I was saying, that had offended them. However it seemed to me that their anger rose higher and higher, as I continued the narrative. As soon as I had finished the narrative, I turned upon them and said, that I understood that they had never had a religious meeting in that place; and that therefore I had a right to take it for granted, and was compelled to take it for granted, that they were an ungodly people. I pressed that home upon them with more and more energy, with my heart full almost to bursting. I had not spoken to them in this strain of direct application, I should think, more than a quarter of an hour, when all at once an awful solemnity seemed to settle down upon them; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them off their seats as fast as they fell. Indeed nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from this first shock that fell upon them. Every one prayed for himself, who was able to speak at all. Of course I was obliged to stop preaching; for they no longer paid any attention. I saw the old man who had invited me there to preach, sitting about in the middle of the house, and looking around with utter amazement. I raised my voice almost to a scream, to make him hear, and pointing to him said, "Can't you pray?" He instantly fell upon his knees, and with a stentorian voice poured himself out to God; but he did not at all get the attention of the people. I then spoke as loud as I could, and tried to make them attend to me. I said to them, "You are not in hell yet; and now let me direct you to Christ." For a few moments I tried to hold forth the Gospel to them; but scarcely any of them paid any attention. My heart was so overflowing with joy at such a scene that I could hardly contain myself. It was with much difficulty that I refrained from shouting, and giving glory to God. As soon as I could sufficiently control my feelings I turned to a young man who was close to me, and was engaged in praying for himself, laid my hand on his shoulder, thus getting his attention, and preached in his ear Jesus. As soon as I got his attention to the cross of Christ, he believed, was calm and quiet for a minute or two, and then broke out in praying for the others. I then turned to another, and took the same course with him, with the same result; and then another, and another. In this way I kept on, until I found the time had arrived when I must leave them, and go and fulfill an appointment in the village. I told them this, and asked the old man who had invited me there, to remain and take charge of the meeting, while I went to my appointment. He did so. But there was too much interest, and there were too many wounded souls, to dismiss the meeting; and so it was held all night. In the morning there were still those there that could not get away; and they were carried to a private house in the neighborhood, to make room for the school. In the afternoon they sent for me to come down there, as they could not yet break up the meeting. When I went down the second time, I got an explanation of the anger manifested by the congregation during the introduction of my sermon the day before. I learned that the place was called Sodom, but I knew it not; and that there was but one pious man in the place, and him they called Lot. This was the old man that invited me there. The people supposed that I had chosen my subject, and preached to them in that manner, because they were so wicked as to be called Sodom. This was a striking coincidence; but so far as I was concerned, it was altogether accidental. I have not been in that place for many years. A few years since, I was laboring in Syracuse, in the state of New York. Two gentlemen called upon me one day; one an elderly man; the other not quite fifty years of age. The younger man introduced the older one to me as Deacon W, elder in his church; saying that he had called on me to give a hundred dollars to Oberlin College. The older man in his turn introduced the younger, saying, "This is my minister, the Rev. Mr. Cross. He was converted under your ministry." Whereupon Mr. Cross said to me: "Do you remember preaching at such a time in Antwerp, and in such a part of the town, in the schoolhouse, in the afternoon, and that such a scene, [describing it], occurred there?" I said, "I remember it very well, and can never forget it while I remember anything." "Well," said he, "I was then but a young man, and was converted in that meeting." He has been many years a successful minister. Several of his children have obtained their education in our college in Oberlin. As nearly as I can learn, although that revival came upon them so suddenly, and was of such a powerful type, the converts were sound, and the work permanent and genuine. I never heard of any disastrous reaction as having taken place.

The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney