“With my spirit within me I will seek Thee early; for when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Isaiah XXVI, 9.
It needs a shock or break in all our easy taking of things for granted…. We have realised it in our own times. A great disaster befalls us. It may be the sudden loss of a great ship, the Birkenhead or the Eurydice, an awful mine accident like the accident at the Hartley coal pit, or in the Rhondda Valley or at Wigan, a fire in a theatre where hundreds of children perish in a few moments, the giving way of a vast bridge while a train is passing over as at the Tay Bridge, or a terrible reverse to British arms such as happened in the Boer War at Colenso, and then the nation begins to turn its mind inward, is pulled up sharp and made to think. Always, at these times, a judgment throne is set and the books are opened and we feel that this life is not all, and that there are better things for the souls of all of us than complacency and self-satisfaction and a callous want of sympathy which has become second nature, because in our selfish taking of things for granted we have forgotten to exercise that diviner gift of thought for others day by day. (p. 21)….
This power of the earthquake to make men feel their helplessness and their need of a helper was known to Jesus Christ, or He never would have foretold that before the coming of the end the beginning of sorrows should be heralded by earthquakes in divers places, nor have suggested that as prelude to the appearance of the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, there should not be earthquake only, but heavenquake also, “the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” (p. 21)….
One hundred thousand, some say one hundred and fifty thousand, men, women and children, quietly asleep and in their beds ten minutes ago, are suddenly buried alive or broken to fragments out of all human recognition by the earthquake, which is the angel of the Lord. And clear above all the horror, God has spoken, God has come near, and men see and know at such a moment, that awful as is the method, there is deep purpose in the power of calamity to make us hear the voice of the Almighty. What says the voice to us here to-day? It says, Learn sympathy with suffering all the world over. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one toward another.” It tells us that the brotherhood of men is a reality, and we must realise it; and that if one part of humanity suffer, the whole body corporate, for whom Christ died, must feel for it and share its sufferings. It tells us more. It speaks of the need of men to live a little more loosely than most of us habituate ourselves to do to this life; that “here we have no abiding city, but seek one to come”; that though we eat and drink, and marry, and are given in marriage, and build up cities to dwell in, and lay land to land, our true citizenship is in heaven; that all our hopes, if they are only centred on the earth, are as unstable as sand; that all those things perish in the using; but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. It bids us set our affection on things above, not on the earth, not n money and possession, but on the heavenly treasures—love, joy, peace. And it calls upon us to see behind the calamity some deep purpose of the Divine, and to understand the words of the inspired writer: “With my spirit within me will I seek Thee early; for when Thy judgments are in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (p. 22)
(Christian World Pulpit, 75 (13 January 1909), 20-22)