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Vol. XVII No. 33
17 May 2020

THIS IS THE FINGER OF GOD! (I)

Bishop J C Ryle

Look at the words which form the title of this booklet, and consider them well. They were spoken by heathen men more than three thousand years ago. They fell from the lips of Egyptian magicians when one of the famous plagues came on the land of Egypt. “Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh: This is the finger of God! (Exodus 8:19). It would be well if all Englishmen were as wise as these Egyptians!

There is an evil among us that demands our serious attention. It forces itself on our notice, whether we like it or not. It has seized the nation by the throat, and will have a hearing. That evil is the cattle plague [1865–1867].

It is a heavy calamity. Myriads of cattle have already died. Myriads more seem likely to die. The loss of national wealth, and the injury of private interests are something fearful to contemplate. It is as bad as if gold and silver were snatched from us and thrown into the sea. A vast amount of property is clean gone and cannot be restored.

It is a wide-spread calamity. There is hardly a county in England which is not suffering. There is not a family which will not sooner or later suffer. The meat on the rich man’s table, and the cheese in the cottage, the milk and butter which form so large a portion of our food, all will be affected by it. It will reach every home, and come home to all.

It is a perplexing calamity. No medicines, or remedies, or modes of treatment, appear to have any effect on the plague. After all the discoveries of science, after all that has been written by learned doctors, the skill of man is completely baffled. Even our statesmen and rulers seem at their wits’ end. With all the accumulated wisdom of the nineteenth century, we have found no foe that entirely beats us. Yet now the curse of helplessness seems upon the land.

Now I wish to speak of the cattle plague as a minister of Christ. I wish to draw attention to one or two things which, amidst the anxieties of the crisis now upon us, appear likely to be forgotten. Let members of Parliament view the cattle plague from the political side. Let physicians and men of science propound their theories of prevention and cure. I only ask permission to offer a few thoughts on the whole subject as a believer of the Bible, and as a Christian.

I. Let us consider, in the first place, from WHENCE does the cattle plague come?

I answer, unhesitatingly, that it comes from God! He who orders all things in Heaven and earth—He by whose wise providence everything is directed, and without whom nothing can happen—He it is who has sent this scourge upon us! It is the finger of God!

I shall not spend time in proving this point. I refer anyone who asks for proof to the whole tenor of God’s Word. I ask him to mark how God is always spoken of as the governor and manager of all things here below, from the very least to the greatest.

Who sent the flood on the world in the days of Noah (Genesis 6:17)? It was God!

Who sent the famine in the days of Joseph (Genesis 41:25)? It was God!

Who sent the plague on Egypt, and especially the murrain on the cattle (Exodus 7:5; 9:3)? It was God!

Who sent disease on the Philistines, when the ark was among them (1 Samuel 5:7; 6:3–7)? It was God!

Who sent the pestilence in the days of David (2 Samuel 24:15)? It was God!

Who sent the famine in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 8:1)? It was God!

Who sent the stormy wind and tempest in the days of Jonah (Jonah 1:4)? It was God!

I count it mere waste of time to dwell much on this point. I cannot understand how anyone can be called a believer of the Bible, who denies God’s providence over His world. For my own part, I believe thoroughly that God has not changed. I believe that He is governing all things on earth as much now as He was in the Old Testament days. I believe that wars, famines, pestilences, cattle plagues, are all His instruments for carrying on the government of this world. And therefore when I see a scourge like the cattle plague I have no doubt as to the hand that sends it. “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord has not done it?” (Amos 3:6). It is the finger of God!

Can anyone give a better account of the cattle plague? If he can, let him speak out like a man, and tell us why it has come. To say that it originated in another land; that it is not a new but an old plague; that it has done great harm in days gone by—all this is evading the question. I ask to be told why it has come upon us now? How and in what way can the outbreak be accounted for at this particular period? What possible causes can be assigned for it that have not existed for hundreds of years? I believe these questions cannot be answered. I believe that the only cause that we must come to at last is, the finger of God!

Does anyone regard my assertion as absurd and unreasonable? I have no doubt that many do so. Many, I suspect, think that God never interferes with the affairs of this world, and that pestilences and cattle plagues are only the result of certain natural laws which are always producing certain effects. I pity the man who thinks so.

Is he an atheist? Does he believe that this wonderfully designed world came together by chance, and had no creator? If so, he is a very credulous person.

But if he does believe that God made the world, where, I ask, is the absurdity of believing that God governs the world? If he allows that God framed the universe, why not allow that God manages it? Away with this modern scepticism! It is offensive and revolting to common sense. They are not to be heard, who would shut out the Creator from His own creation. He who made the world at the beginning by the finger of creating wisdom, will never cease to govern the world by the finger of His providence, until Christ comes again. This cattle plague is the finger of God!

Does anyone pretend to say that God is too loving to send us such a scourge as this, and that it is wrong to suppose that anything evil can come from Him? I pity the man who can argue in that way. Has he children? Does he never correct them? If he is a wise and sensible man, I have no doubt that he does. But does he hate them because he chastises them? Does he not show the highest love by checking them when they do wrong? And shall not our Father in Heaven do the same? Yes, indeed! God does not hate us: He is a God of mercy and love, and therefore He keeps up His providential government of mankind. There is love even in this fell scourge which is now upon us. The cattle plague is the finger of a wise and loving God!

[Thanks to sister Gaby Buijs for drawing to my attention Ryle’s sermon. JK]

EASTER TESTIMONIES V

A Million Thanks to God

When I was young I was often fascinated by the night sky, the moon and the stars. Just how did they come about? When I first read the Holy Bible, I turned to Genesis chapter 1 verse 1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Then were my queries answered.

After National Service I started to work. I was then inexperienced and didn’t know much. I got a job through my relative. After a year or two of extreme work pressure I broke down. I was then on sedative medication which made me very tired and couldn’t concentrate. Through the years of working I had to be on such medication. I couldn’t work and was very unhappy. Yet, I couldn’t stop working for I had to support my family and myself. Life was hard. I left for another job.

One day when I was home I called my colleague to locate for me Rev Philip Heng who spoke in his church. My brother-in-law who was present at that time when I called told me Rev Heng was his pastor. So my brother-in-law and sister drove me to see Rev Heng. It was through Rev Heng that I accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal Saviour. I confessed and repented of my sins. Psalm 50:15 says, “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”

After a few decades, I was on a newly discovered medication. Although I was not so tired, less uncomfortable, I was still lethargic. I thought I was lazy. Then after about 15+ years of this new medication, the dosage was reduced by half. Then I was active and very happy. Life is different.

A million thanks to God! To God be the glory! Amen and Amen. Benjamin F

God Gave Me Faith to Believe

I was an idol-worshipper, until one day my daughter shared with me the gospel, then I realised that in this world there is only one true God. He created us, and He died for us. How great God is. Therefore, I believed in Him. Every Sunday I will go to church to worship the Lord, to experience the peace and joy in the Lord.

Before this, for many years, my son and daughter have preached to me the gospel. I also attended gospel meetings. But I did not believe. Thereafter my daughter brought me to True Life BPC Chinese service. I felt peace, the church members are very good, all of them very kind and sincere. I also felt very happy.

I was in church listening to sermons for more than two years. Gradually, God gave me the faith to believe in Him. Thank the Lord for letting me see the true meaning of life, and I know one day I will be able to be with God forever. I believe Jesus is God; He is the Son of God. Jesus died on the cross for my sins and thereafter rose again. By this then we can be saved. I am very privileged to become a Christian. Chan CM

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