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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

The Regular Course of Nature

page 88

The Regular Course of Nature.

Sir,—The writer of the article on the Bishop of Nelson's charge, has very justly criticised the astounding theory that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by a group of aerolites following in the train of a comet, which must have approached the earth just at the very time at which (by Divine pre-arrangement) the iniquity of those cities had culminated. But there is nothing new under the sun; and human nature is much the same in all ages, at least ordinary human nature. It may amuse your readers to be informed that precisely the same notion of harmonising special retribution with the regular course of nature, is put forward by the poet Cowper in his "Negro's Complaint," where he thus expresses himself—

"Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,
Is there one who reigns on high?
Has he bid you buy and sell us,
Speaking from his throne, the sky?

* * * *

Hark! he answers—wild tornadoes,
Strewing yonder sea with wrecks;
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,
Are the voice with which he speaks.
He, foreseeing what vexations
Afric's sons should undergo,
Fixed their tyrant's habitations
When his whirlwinds answer—No."

The coincidence is remarkable. One would have supposed that both bishop and poet would have been familiar with the book of Job, which is, in fact, a didactic poem on this subject, and also with the reproof with which Jesus himself rebuked the notion of the especial sinfulness of those who were crushed by the tower of Siloam. Yet are they, like children and novel-readers, not satisfied unless they see justice done within the compass of their own individual experience. We must acknowledge, however, that both bishop and poet are above the level of the English M.P. who attributed the Irish famine in 1846 to the increase of the Maynooth Grant in 1845. They are both evidently aware of the existence of natural laws; and in the vain attempt to reconcile the order of nature with the idea of special retribution for sin they are driven to invent a theory which your critic justly styles "as hard to believe as any miracle." People of this turn of mind should take a strong dose of George Combe on the "Constitution of Man," and on the "Relation between Science and Religion."

Don Quixote.