The New Zealand Evangelist
Services Commemorative of the Earthquakes.—
Services Commemorative of the Earthquakes.—
The 16th of October being the day on which the first of the severe shocks of earthquake was felt last year; on the 16th ult., the Ministers of the Evangelical Alliance in Wellington, held three united services, commemorative of these alarming events; in the forenoon in the Wesleyan Chapel, in the afternoon in the Primitive Methodist Chapel, and in the evening in the Scotch Church. The services were numerously attended, greatly more so than was anticipated; and all who were present engaged in the various exercises with the deepest interest and the most marked attention. Similiar services were held in the Hutt.
Most of our readers are aware that there exists in this settlement, as there does in many other places, the scanty remains of a very old religious, or rather non-religious, sect. Antiquarian writers have traced its existence to a very early period. One old ecclesiastical historian has shown, that it was numerous and powerful among the antediluvians. Some infer that Cain was its founder. A very ancient Jewish or Arabian poet, who flourished long before either Homer or Hesiod, has preserved what appears to be one of the leading articles of their creed; possibly it may be a fragment of one of their hymns:—
“They said unto God, depart from us:
What can the Almighty do to us?
What profit should we have if we pray to him?”
It is certain from the remains of Egyptian history that have come down to us, that the Pharaoh who was drowned in the Red Sea, was a leading member of this sect. One of the best known writers of the first century speaks of them, as familiarly known in his day, by the name of Scoffers; and a contemporary writer calls them by the name of Mockers. It is possible that these names may have been given them by their enemies, as nicknames, like Puritan and Methodist; but certain it is they have been long and extensively known by these and other synonymous appellations. They have been sometimes more, sometimes less prosperous, but they have never been extinct; and the Church of Rome herself has not been more distinguished for unity of sentiment and uniformity of practice.
One of the most marked heresies that ever sprung up among this fraternity, in this part of the world, was in October 1848. During the continuance of the earth quakes, from being Scoffers or Mockers they became, all at once, literally Quakers. We have not heard that they wore broad hats, but it is well known that they assumed very grave looks and put on very long faces, and that as often as the earth shook they quaked. But the times are changed and they are changed with the times. A few of them persevered in their heresy and finally joined the Bible sect; but their numbers were comparatively small. The cause of that change was from the earth, and like every thing terrestial it was passing. They continued to look down and not up—to earth and not to heaven, and when the earth became stable they stood firm, and when she smiled they again laughed. They are now heartily ashamed of their short-lived heresy, and most devoutly zealous to convince the world, that although to err sometimes, is human; yet they are as orthodox in sentiment, and as consistent in practice, as any of their forefathers ever were, since the times of primeval antiquity.
It is needless to say, that the members of the Evangelical Alliance have no sympathies in common page 176 with this sect. We are no alarmists. It was from no wish to excite alarm—from no special fear of an immediate return of such a catastrophe, that we observed the 16th of October, partly as a day of humiliation for sins, and partly as a day of thanksgiving for mercies. It is not that we regarded the observance of that day as of positive divine appointment; but that as the return of the year brought naturally a vivid recollection of the scenes through which we had passed, it appeared to be a fitting time, to revive the salutary impressions produced by these events, and to revise the important lesson that God had taught us then by the voice of his providence.
We know perfectly well that earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, thunder storms, cholera, fevers, and all these terrific phenomena, are the effects of natural causes. We can discover more or less distinctly the operation of the physical laws on which they depend. But we know also, that there is mind as well as matter—that mind is immeasurably superior to matter—that there is a system of laws for the regulation of mind, as well as for the regulation of matter, —that the governor of the universe is an intelligent Being—that the last link of the chain of both physical and moral causes terminates with him,—that God secures submission to his physical or natural laws by preventing disobedience, and to his moral laws by punishing disobedience—that as matter is made subservient to mind, so when the laws of matter traverse the laws of mind, the less must yield to the greater. We can see the lower links of the chain of both moral and natural causes, but not the higher. We know that prayer is an important link in the chain of moral causes. Neither prayer nor any secondary moral causes, affect the secondary natural causes; but prayer affects the Great First Cause, and he affects the secondary natural causes. Prayer does not effect the electric fluid, or the metallic bases, and hence we do not pray to the lightning or the earthquakes; but prayer, as a moral cause, by divine appointment, affects Jehovah; He controls electricity page 177 and other agents, and, in this way, prayer tells indirectly but no less powerfully upon earthquakes and all the phenomena of nature.
We know from the Bible that God employs all these agencies, as he sees meet, for the punishment of sin. (see 1 Kings, viii, 33, &c.) We are distinctly assured that the flood, brought about by purely natural causes, was occasioned by the heinous sins of that depraved and wicked generation. Ten righteous men would have saved Sodom, although the fires of heaven above it required only a spark to ignite them; but as there was only one righteous man, his righteousness saved only himself and the least guilty part of his family.
We believe in the Bible; we have unlimited confidence in prayer. We know that believing prayer,—prayer in the name of Christ—honest, earnest, persevering supplication, will either avert evils; or protect life and property amidst divinely sent judgments; or cause the most terrific calamities to work together for good—for securing the eternal salvation of the supplicants; so that temporal loss will become to them spiritual gain.
It would be not only unscriptural, as the merest child knows, but highly unphilosophical not to pray,—as unphilosophical here not to pray for preservation from earthquakes, as to neglect the most obvious principles of architecture in the construction of our buildings. The one is a protection against earthquakes only, the other is a protection against evil of every kind. God has many and mighty agencies at his command, with which to punish a guilty community,—but prayer and piety are invincible, because divinely appointed means of preservation.—“In six troubles he will deliver thee; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.”