The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1
"Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it."
—Micah vi. 9.
This world is not the place of punishment for sin; not the place; it may sometimes be a place, but not usually. It is very customary among religious people, to talk of every accident which happens to men in the indulgence of sin, as if it were a judgment. The upsetting of a boat upon a liver on a Sunday is assuredly understood to be a judgment for the sin of Sabbath-breaking. In the accidental fall of a house, in which persons were engaged in any unlawful occupation, the inference is at once drawn that the house fell because they were wicked. Now, however some religionists may hope to impress the people by such childish Stories as those, I, for one, forswear them all. I believe what my Master says is true, when he declared, concerning the men upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, that they were not sinners above all the sinners that were upon the face of the earth. They were sinners; there is no doubt about page 380 it; but the falling of the wall was not occasioned by their sin, nor Was their premature death the consequence of their excessive wickedness. Let me, however, guard this declaration, for there are many who carry this doctrine to an extreme. Because God does not usually visit each particular offence in this life upon the transgressor, men are apt to deny altogether the doctrine of judgments. But here they are mistaken. I feel persuaded that there are such things as national judgments, national chastisements for national sins—great blows from the rod of God, which every wise man must acknowledge to be, either a punishment of sin committed, or a monition to warn us to a sense of the consequences of sins, leading us by God's grace to humiliate ourselves, and repent of our sin.
O, my friends, what a rod is that which has just fallen upon our country! My poor words will fall infinitely short of the fearful tale of misery and woe which must be told before you can know how smartly God hath smitten, and how sternly he hath chidden us. We have to-day to mourn over revolted subjects, for to-day a part of our fellow countrymen are in open arms against our government. That, of itself, were a heavy blow. Happily the government of this land is so constituted that we know little of revolutions except by name; but the horrors of anarchy, the terrors of a government shaken to its foundations, are so great, that should I preach alone upon that subject, you might hear the rod, and cry aloud beneath its strokes. But this is as but the letting forth of water. A flood succeedeth. The men that have revolted were our subjects, and I challenge all the world to deny what I am about to say: they were our subjects rightly. Whatever the inhabitants of India might be (and undoubtedly that people have grave faults to find with us), the Sepoys had voluntarily given themselves tip to our dominion, they had themselves taken oaths of fealty to Her Majesty, and their officers, and they have no cause to murmur if they are made to endure the sentence uttered by a government of which they were the sworn and willing supporters. They were always petted, always dandled upon the knee of favoritism. Their revolt is not the revolt of a nation. If India had revolted, history might perhaps have taught us that she had patriots in her midst, who were delivering her from a tyrannical nation; but in the present case it it is only men who are impelled by a lust and ambition for empire, who have risen against us, And, ah! my friends, what crimes have they committed! Not to-day shall I detail, their acts of debauchery, bloodshed, and worse than bestiality—this tongue will not venture to utter what they have dared to do. Ye would rise from your seats and hiss me from the pulpit which I now occupy, if I should but dare to hint at the crimes which have been done of them, not in secret, but in the very streets of their cities.page 381
And, again, equally as painful, we have now rebels to be executed. I look upon every gallows as a fearful chastisement. I regard every gibbet as being a dreadful visitation upon our land; and I think that whenever the arm of the ruler is outstretched for the punishment of death, it must always be looked upon by the country as a serious affliction to it. Just as the father thinks it a high affliction to chastise his child, so should a country ever esteem it to be a visitation when they have to punish, especially with the punishment of death. Now, these men must be punished; both heaven and earth demand it. I am no soldier, I love not war; I do not believe that this is a war at all, in the proper sense of the term. We are not fighting with enemies; our troops are going forth against revolted subjects—against men who, by their crimes, by their murder, and by other unmentionable sins, have incurred the punishment of death; and as the arrest of a murderer by authority of the law is not war, so the arrest of Indian Sepoys, and their utter destruction is not war—it is what earth demands, and what I believe God sanctions. But it is a horrible necessity. It is a dreadful tiling to think of taking away the lives of our fellow-subjects; we must look upon it as being an affliction: and, to-day, amongst the other evils that we bemoan, we must bemoan this—that the sword must be taken out of its sheath, to cut off our fellow-subjects by their thousands. The rod, the rod, The Rod hath indeed fallen heavily; no mortal tongue can tell the anguish it hath caused, nor perhaps can we yet dream where its ill effects shall end.
Remember, however, the words of my text. It is a rod; but it is an appointed rod. Every deed that has been done against us has been appointed by God. God is most fully to be cleared from the sin of it, but it is undoubtedly true that he has overruled and permitted it. The rod was ordained of God. I myself see God everywhere. I believe that "the foreknown station of a rush by the river is as fixed as the station of a king, and the chaff from the hand of the winnower as steered as the stars in their courses." And I sec God in this war. The wheels of providence may revolve in a mysterious manner, but I am certain that wisdom is the axle upon which they revolve, so that at last it shall be seen that God, who ordained the rod, only permitted it that greater good might follow, and that his name might be exalted through the earth. The sin is man's own deed, but the affliction that we suffer through it, God hath ordained. Let us bow before it, and let us now hearken to the exhortation of the text—"Hear ye the rod, and him that hath appointed it."
I shall have your attention whilst as briefly as I can I endeavour to bid you hear this rod of God.page 382
First, let me remark, it would have been as well if we had heard this rod Before it Fell upon us. God's rod by the wise man may be heard before it smiteth. He that understandeth God's moral government, knows that sin carries punishment in its bowels. A wise man believing revelation, could have prophecied that God would visit us. The sins of the government of India have been black and deep. He who has heard the shrieks of tormented natives, who has heard the well-provoked cursing of dethroned princes, might have prophecied that it would not be long before God would unsheath his sword to avenge the oppressed. With regard to India itself, I am no apologist for our dominion there; with regard to the Sepoys, they are our voluntary subjects, they deserve the utmost rigour of the law. From their own oath they were our subjects; and if they have revolted let them suffer the punishment of their treason. But had it been the Indian nation that had revolted, I would have prayed God that they might have been brought under British rule again, for the sake of civilization, but I would not have preached a crusade against them, lest haply we should have been smiting patriots who were but delivering an oppressed country. My brethren, I say it would have been as well if the rod had been heard before it fell. If in the midst of sin the Indian government had paused, and endeavoured to undo the evil, it would have been well for them—if instead of following the policy of creed they had followed the policy of right, they might have looked for divine support. They never ought to have tolerated the religion of the Hindoos at all. I believe myself (for it in no way infringes the law of right), entitled to my religion; but if my religion consisted in bestiality, infanticide, and murder, I should have no right to my religion, unless, I were prepared to be hanged for it. Now, the religion of the Hindoos is neither more nor less, than a mass of the rankest filth that ever imagination could have conceived. The gods they worship are not entitled to the least atom of respect. Had they given a decent character to their demons, we might, have tolerated their idolatry; but when their worship necessitates everything that is evil, not religion, but morality must put it down. I do not believe that in this land there ever ought to have been any toleration for the Agapemone. A place of lust and abomination, where sin is committed before which God's sun might blush, never ought to be tolerated. Any religion that does not infringe upon morality is beyond the force of legislature. But when once religious teachers teach immorality, and when once a religion compels men to sin, down with it; no toleration to it. It is impossible that there should be any quarter shewn to vice, even though embellished with the name of religion. If it be any man's religion to blow my brains out, I shall not tolerate it. If it be any man's religion to meet me as the Thugs do, and garotte me, and page 383 murder me, I shall not tolerate his Thugism. If it be a man's religion to commit bestial acts in public, I for one would touch his conscience, but believing that he has none, I would touch him somewhere else. Such a religion as the religion of the Hindoo, the Indian Government were bound, as in the sight of God, to put down with all the strength of their hand. Rut they have allowed it, in some cases they have even aided and abetted their filthy deeds; and now God visits them; and, I repeat, it would have been well if they had heard the rod before it fell; they might have perhaps avoided all this evil, and certainly they would have avoided the remorse which some of them must feel in having thus brought it upon themselves.
But it has fallen. The rod has smitten; the scourge has ploughed deep furrows upon India's back. What then? "Hear ye the rod" that has fallen. Now, it is an opinion published by authority—and who am I, that I should dispute the great authorities of England?—that one part of the reason for this dreadful visitation, is the sin of the people of England themselves. We are exhorted this day to humble ourselves for sin. Granting me that as being a truth—and mark, I am not the originator of it; it is in the Proclamation—who am I, that I should dispute such a high authority as that?—it is our sin that has brought it on us, so they say—what, then are our sins? Now, I will be honest with you—as honest as I can, and I will try and tell you. What are the most glaring sins for which, if it be true that God is now punishing us, are the most likely to have brought this visitation upon us?
First, there are sins in the community that never ought to have been allowed. O Britain, weep for deeds which thy governors have not yet strength of mind to stop. We have long been allowing the infamous nuisances of Holywell-street; bless God they are pretty well done for! But now what do I see every night? If I return from preaching in the country, in the Haymarket and in Regent-street, what stares me before my eyes If there be a crime for which God will visit England, it is the sin of allowing infamy to walk before our eyes thus publicly. I do not know whose fault it is—some say it is the fault of the police: it is somebody's fault, that I do know, and against that somebody I do now most solemnly protest. It is a most fearful thing that those who are honest and moral cannot walk the streets, without being insulted by sin in the robes of the harlot. My voice perhaps this day may reach some who have power to repeat this protest powerfully and successfully. I see before me gentlemen who are the representatives of the press. I believe they will do their duty in that matter; and if they will sting as some of them can sting, right sharply, they perhaps may be able to sting a little virtue into some of our governors, and that will be a good thing. page 384 But I do protest that this has been one of the causes why God has visited us, if indeed our sins have brought this evil upon us, as I verily believe. Look ye too, men and brethren, at some of those amusements of yours, in which ye are wont to indulge. God forbid I should deny you those of your amusements which are innocent, but I must maintain that they should be always moral; when we know that lords and ladies of the land, have sat in playhouses, and listened to plays that were a long way from decent, it is time that some voice should be lifted up against them. These are glaring sins. I am not raking now for private faults; we have had these things before our eyes, and there have been some that have dared to protest against them long ago. I say, these sins of the community, in part have brought the rod upon us.
But, my friends, I am inclined to think that our class sins are the most grievous. Behold this day the sins of the rich. How are the poor oppressed! How are the needy down-trodden! In many a place the average wage of men is far below their value to their masters. In this age there is many a great man who looks upon his fellows as only stepping-stones to wealth. He builds a factory as he would make a cauldron. He is about to make a brew for his own wealth. "Pitch him in! He is only a poor clerk, he can live on a hundred a year. Put him in! There is a poor time-keeper: he has a large family; it does not matter; a man can be had for less: in with him! Here are the tens, the hundreds, and the thousands that must do the work. Put them in; heap the fire; boil the cauldron; stir them up; never mind their cries. The hire of the labourers kept back may go up to heaven: it does not matter, the millions of gold are safe. The law of demand and supply is with us, who is he that would interfere. Who shall dare to prevent the grinding of the faces of the poor. Cotton-lords and great masters ought to have power to do what they like with the people: ought they not?" Ah! but ye great men of the earth, there is a God, and that God has said he executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. And yet the semptstress in her garret, and yet the tailor in his den, and yet the artizan in his crowded factory, and yet the servants who earn your wealth, who have to groan under your oppression, shall get the car of God, and he will visit you. "Hear ye the rod." It is for this the rod falleth on you.
Mark, again, the sins of merchants. Was there ever an age when the merchants of England had more fallen from their integrity? The mass of them, I believe, are honest to the core; but I do not know who among them are so. We can trust none in these times. Ye heap up your companies, and ye delude your myriads; ye gather the money of fools; ye scatter it to the winds of heaven, and when the poor call upon you ye tell them it is gone: but where? O England, thou wast once true, up- page 385 right, honest; men could not rightly call thee then Perfidious Albion;" but now, O Britain, alas! for thee! Unless thou dost recover thyself, who can trust thee? God will visit the nation for this, and it shall be seen that this alone is one of the things which God would have us hear, when we hear the rod.
There are many of you that are poor. I saw you smile when I spoke to the rich. I will have at you also. If we are to humble ourselves this day as a nation, ye have cause also to humble. Ah, my God, what multitudes there are of men who deserve but little of their employers, for they are eye-servers, men-pleasers, and do not with singleness of heart serve the Lord. Were men better workmen, their masters would be better. There are hundreds of you that are here to-day who are the best hands in all the world to prop up walls, when you ought to be busy at your own work—who, when your time is bought and paid for, steal it for something else. And how many there are in what are called the lower ranks—and God forgive the man that invented that word, for we are none of us lower than the other before the Judge of all the earth—how many are there that do not know what it is to look up to God, and say, "Though he has made me a servant, I will discharge my duty, and I will serve my master and serve my God with all my might." Many are the sins of the poor. Humble yourselves with the rich; bow your heads and weep for your iniquities; for these things God doth visit us, and ye should hear the rod.
It is impossible for me to-day to enter into all the sins of illiberality, of dcceit, of bigotry, of lasciviousness, of carnality, of pride, of covetousness, and of laziness which infest this land. I have tried to indicate some of the chief; and I pray God humble us all for them.
And now "Hear ye the rod." O church of God the rod has fallen, and the church ought to hear it. I am afraid that it is the church that has been the greatest sinner. Do I mean by "the church" that established by law? No, I mean the Christian church as a body. We, I believe, have been remiss in our duty; for many and many a year pulpits never condescended to men of low estate. Our ministers were great and haughty; they understood the polish of rhetoric, they had all the grandeur of logic; to the people they were blind guides and dumb dogs, for the people knew not what they said, neither did they regard them. The churches themselves slumbered; they wrapped themselves in a shroud of orthodoxy, and they slept right on, and whilst Satan was devouring the world, and taking his prey, the church sat still, and said, "Who is my neighbour?" and did not arouse herself to serve her God. I do hope that we have already seen the beginning of a revival. The last year has seen more preaching than any year since the days of the apostles. We are stirring in Ragged Schools, and in various efforts for doing good; page 386 but still the church is only half awake; I fear she still slumbers. O church of God! awake! awake! awake! for verily the rod has fallen for thy sake. "Hear thou the rod, and him that hath appointed it."
III. We have had many rods, friends; we have had many great afflictions, and we did bear them for a time; and now I close my sermon by saying, "Hear ye the rod, when the rod Shall Again be Still." we trust that in a little while our soldiers will carve us out peace and victory with their triumphant swords; we trust that, perhaps this very day, a great fight is being fought, and a great victory being won. I seem to hear to-day the shout of the triumphant warrior; I think I hear the trump of victory even now The hour of prayer is often the hour of deliverance. At any rate, we hope that ere long this black cloud will be overblown: and then I fear you will all forget it. You will pray today: will you pray when victory comes? You will buy some fireworks, will you not? That is how you will thank God! You had a victory over a potent enemy, and peace was established: your votive offerings consisted of rockets and illuminations—grand offerings to the Dread Supreme! If a heathen were here he would say, "Their God is the God of humiliation, not the God of victory; their God is a God of trouble, certainly not the God of blessings, for they forget him when they receive deliverance." I remember, when last time the cholera swept through your streets ye hurried to your churches, and ye prayed; terror sat upon your countenances, and many of you cried aloud for deliverance. It came. What did you do? Alas! for your piety! It was as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it passed away. It will be so again. It is but as the lashing of the water; it is smitten, but it soon recovers itself, and all marks are effaced. It is so with this land; I fear it is so with each of us to a degree. How often have you and I been laid upon our beds with cholera, or with fever, or with some other disease which threatened to take us away! We prayed; we sent for the minister; we devoted ourselves to God; we vowed, if he would spare us, we would live better. Here thou art, my hearer, just what thou wast before thy sickness. Thou hast forgotten thy vow; but God hath not forgotten it. Thy resolutions were filed in heaven, and in the day of judgment, God shall take them forth, and say, "Here is one solemn covenant broken; here is another vow forgotten, another resolution made in sickness broken after recovery!" I do think that to-day will be a most solemn mockery, if our humiliation ends to-day. With some of you it will not even begin to-day, and therefore it will not end, for it is not begun. But the mass who will pray to-day, will they pray in a week? Not they; they will go their way, to heap again the faggots of their sins upon the pile of vengeance, and still stand by and weep, because the fire is burning, the fire which they themselves have kindled. Oh! my hearers, permit me to page 387 charge home to your hearts; and would God that he would make the charge of my language against your consciences as heavy as the charge of British soldiery against the enemy! How many of you have been awakened, convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment! How many times have you vowed you would repent! How many times have you declared that you did hear the rod, and that you would turn to God! And yet you have been liars to the Almighty; you have defrauded the Most High; and whilst the bill is due it still stands dishonored. Tremble! God may smite you yet; and if to-day you are despisers of Christ, remember, you have no guarantee that you will be in this world another hour. You may before this sun is set stand before your Maker's bar. What then? what then? what then? To perish for ever is no light matter; to be cast into the flames of hell is no little consideration. "Turn ye, turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, O house of Israel!" Repent! "The times of your ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." And remember that when he gives repentance and faith, he has appended the blessing to them. "Jesus Christ of the seed of David" was nailed to a cross; he died that we might not die, and to every believer heaven's gate is open, to every penitent the path to paradise is free. Sinner! dost thou believe? If so, Christ hath blotted out thy sin. Be happy! Soul! dost thou repent? Thou art safe. God has helped thee to repent, and inasmuch as he hath done that he hath proved that he loves thee.
Oh! if I might but have some souls won to Christ to-day, what would I give? What is all this great gathering to me? It is an extra labour, that is all. For this I do not labour. God is my witness, I sought you not; never once have I said a thing to court a smile from any man. When God first sent me to the ministry he bade me fear no man, and I have not yet met the man to whom I have feared to tell of God's truth. Nor you have I sought to please, nor you have I sought to gather here. I would preach the gospel; may God give me some souls as my reward! And if but one poor sinner shall look to Jesus, clap your wings, ye angels! enough is done, for God is honored.
I have done my sermon, but I want to make an appeal to you to give liberally.
Lives there a man in England who will this day refuse his help to those of his countrymen who have suffered? No; there does not live such a man—not such a Briton. Is there a miserable miscreant without a heart, who will, when God has given him enough, shut up his bowels of compassion against those whose sons and daughters have been murdered, and who themselves have escaped as by the skin of their teeth. No I will not slander you by such a supposition. I cannot think that I have such a monster Here. When the box shall pass round, give—give as page 388 you can afford; if it be a penny, let the working man give. You that are rich must not give pence, however. Many a man has Said, "There is my mite." He was worth a hundred thousand pounds, and it was not a mite at all; if he had given a thousand it would only have been a mite to him. Give as ye can afford it; may God be pleased to grant a liberal spirit!
The following Chorus was then sung—
Glory, honor, praise, and power,
Be unto the Lamb for ever;
Jesus Christ is our Redeemer,
After which, the benediction having been pronounced, the service terminated.
There were upwards of 24,000 persons present at this service; and the amount collected towards the Indian Relief Fund amounted to nearly £500, of which £25 was given by Miss Nightingale. The Crystal Palace Company contributed £200 in addition—making a total of nearly £700.
"To God be all the glory"