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THUNDER, by some, is thought to be the voice of God. To speak lightly of it, or jokingly, would be apt to provoke God's wrath, and the offender runs the risk of being punished by getting struck by lightning.
It is supposed that God some times punishes people for sin as soon as it is committed, and with unmistakable suddenness. Ananias and Sapphira, struck dead for lying, have many modern counterparts. Sudden death which comes to a bad man, or a man who has just been swearing or doing something evil, is by many thought to be a punishment inflicted by God. On the other hand, a man who narrowly escapes death is said to escape by reason of God's intervention. Ministers tell such stories as the following: A man was chopping in the woods. His axe slipped, and gashed his foot. If the cut had been a quarter-inch deeper it would have severed an artery, and he would very likely have lost his life. God in his mercy stopped the axe in its course.
Here is another example: A man had prepared to leave this country, and go to Asia as a missionary. He bought his steamer ticket, and was in New York ready to sail. On the morning the boat was to leave he had his coffee served in bed. The waiter was careless, and spilled the hot coffee on the man, so that he was severely scalded. He had to give up his intended journey. He bewailed the accident at the time as a great misfortune; but the ship that he was to have gone in was lost at sea, and all on board perished. The man went later to his chosen field, and did great work for the good cause. God's hand was in the accident that kept him from making that fatal voyage.
When right is apparently worsted, or good men are stricken, with only loss and pain discernible, it is considered a mysterious dispensation of Providence, or it is argued that there is nevertheless some unseen good in what seems on the surface evil.
When a church is struck by lightning, or is burned, that is supposed to come in the order of nature. But God's wrath is discerned by many when a theatre or saloon is destroyed. Some said that President Lincoln met his death because he had gone to see a play at a theatre.
In 1848 the first Holyoke dam built across the Connecticut was finished. After the escape of the water had been shut off, and the flood was piling up against the new structure, it is said that the builder exclaimed, "God Almighty couldn't sweep that dam away!" The words were no sooner out of his mouth than there was a cracking of timbers, and the whole structure gave way, and crumbled from sight in the torrent of water that then broke loose.
People commonly say that the days of miracles ceased nearly two thousand years ago. But in reality most people continue to believe that miracles still frequently occur. Not many think any person has now the power to make a sick man immediately well by laying on of hands, or in any other way. To tell a very sick man to "rise up and walk " with any expectation that he could do so, would be good proof that you were crazy. Yet it is thought that God in answer to prayer frequently restores to health those who would naturally die. This he rarely, if ever, does suddenly and at once, as in the days of old, but gradually, through the ordinary processes of nature. In 1881, when Garfield was shot, a national day of prayer for his recovery was appointed.
No person is so sick but that God, if he chooses, can restore health; but when a person is dead no one now expects God to give life back again, or prays for it. Nor does any one expect if a person loses a limb that God will make it whole again. It is not believed that such miracles have ever been done since Bible times; not but that God could do them, but he never does, and to ask that kind of impossibility of him is useless. The less likely a thing is to come about in the usual workings of nature, the less it is expected that God will interfere and make it come about. Rain is frequently prayed for privately, and in churches on Sunday, and, in extreme cases, on week days in mass-meetings, of people that have left business and come together for the purpose. It is not rain that will come of itself that is expected, but rain that God will send because it is needed, and is fervently prayed for by many people. Something supernatural — a miracle — is hoped for.
On such occasions, when the rain comes, it is by many thought that the rain was sent in response to the prayers without which it would have continued dry. There are those who think the people of the present are quite wicked, and bring much evil on themselves by not praying for what they need with the constancy and fervor and trust which characterized our grandparents' prayers.
It is a quite common belief that any unnecessary work done on Sunday will bring to grief the project with which it was connected, and that Sunday pursuit of pleasure is very apt to end in mishap.
In some New England families, no one is allowed to read anything but the Bible, the Sunday-school quarterly and Sunday-school books, the Home Missionary, and the Boston Congregationalist. They expect persons who go outside these lines to come speedily to some bad end.
An egg laid on Easter Sunday will never spoil. It will not rot, though it may dry up. This is equally true of an egg laid on Good Friday.
Wear three new things on Easter, and you will have good luck all that year.
The Baptists in times past used to immerse their converts in the streams. The immersing was done entirely independent of weather and seasons. Frequently baptism occurred in midwinter, and a hole had to be cut through the ice for the rite. It was said that in these baptizings no one ever took cold, or was harmed in any other way. In our present days faith has weakened, and the rite is performed in-doors, the converts are clad in suits of waterproof, and the water is warmed.