A Faithful Minister grapples with the meaning of tragedy. In 1756, a
Presbyterian minister was sharing with his congregation in Virginia his conclusions from Scripture after agonizing over the tragic losses in the great earthquake which had struck Lisbon, Portugal in December of 1755. In 1759 this same Minister, Samuel Davies, would become the 4th President of Princeton University, then known as the College of New Jersey. His Biblical text:
“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will step into a snare. Destruction falls on you from the heavens. The earth is shaken beneath you. The earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused. The earth staggers like a drunkard. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for its sins are very great!”
There are several blogs as well as an op-ed in the Washington Post that are speaking of this tragedy in 1755 and its effects on philosophers and clergymen alike and suggesting contrasts with the way such news is received today. Basically, Samuel Davies is representative of Pastors all along the east coast following the time of the Great Awakening (ref. Jonathan Edwards sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”). They openly and clearly spoke of such tragedies as ‘judgments’ of the Providence of God and they got their ideas from their interpretation of the Holy Bible.
Without posting any of the sermon here, I will make the entire sermon available to E4Unity readers and urge you to read it in light of recent tragedies that have come to pass in our world. It also makes a serious read for the true spirit of the Lenten season.
Sermon Lisbon Earthquake
Farewell Sermon, July 1, 1759, to Hanover, Virginia congregation.
Note: Young Samuel Davies is one of a number of outstanding Ministers in Church history who died an ‘early’ death. He was only 37 years old.