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16 Go to now,
of others, but we are insensible to it in our
Men wonder that the soldier, the sailor, the miner, should so often lead careless lives, surrounded as they are by danger and death, forgetting the while that they live amidst perils, latent indeed, but no less real than theirs : “All men think all men mortal but themselves." We marvel at the insensibility of others, and are ourselves as insensible as they. ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain : whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
The other fact to which men are prone to be so strangely insensible, is their constant and entire dependence on the providential care of God, to guard them amidst manifold and impending dangers, to preserve them in their exceeding frailty, and to sustain their lives till the “appointed time” for their departure shall have come.
Around and “ underneath us are the everlasting arms ;" but because we feel no sensible pressure, we forget their sustaining might. He“ in whom we live and move and have our being is not far from any one of us,"
yet how apt are we to forget his presence and our dependence, because he does not make it manifest by any tangible or visible token! The very constancy and ceaselessness of his care tend to confirm vur insensibility to it. The equable, unvarying flow of Divine goodness, preserving our lives from sudden jars and shocks, often makes us unmindful of its existence. The broad deep river, moving noiselessly and majestically in its ample channel, seems, to a thoughtless passer-by, to be almost motionless, as compared with the shallow brook which dashes itself into foam against the rocks which obstruct its course and block up its bed. Just so in our lives, the very fact that God has removed out of our way the hindrances to a safe and easy course, often makes us forget that Divine care has been exercised at all. We need imminent and startling perils to remind us of our ceaseless and signal deliverances. Cecil, returning home one day, was met by his son, who said, “Father, I have had a merciful
escape since we parted; my horse fell under me, yet I was preserved unhurt.” “My son,” replied he, “ I have had a yet more wonderful escape;
I have ridden five hundred miles, and my
horse has not so much as stumbled.”
There is, however, an important difference as respects the mode in which the facts thus noted are treated by mankind. No one questions the certainty of death: “The living know that they must die.” God's providential care for us and control over the events of our history, is, however, regarded by many with doubt, and, by some, is met with a flat denial. There are various degrees of scepticism on this point, from the atheist," the fool who says in his heart, There is no God;"—the epicurean, who would place him at an unapproachable distance from his creatures, whence he cannot “humble himself to behold the things that are done upon the earth;"-the modern philosopher, who affirms that the Deity works by necessary, universal, and invariable laws, which will not bend and adapt themselves to special individual cases, admitting a general, but denying a particular providence;—down to the hesitating believer, whose feeble, languid faith is unable to grasp firmly the cheering truth that the very hairs of his head are numbered, and that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without the will of his Father who is in heaven.
In the following pages it is intended to adduce some instances of remarkable escapes from
peril, which may tend to give a more vivid and distinct appreciation of our constant dependence on the providence of God. Many of our readers probably will be able to recall from their own experience events similar to those recorded in our work, and it will be no small benefit if they are led by the perusal of this volume gratefully to recognise or recollect those manifest tokens of "the good hand of God" upon them. Some, whose lives have flowed on so equably and smoothly that they have no dangers or deliverances to remember, may learn from the experience of others, as here detailed, that should the moment of peril ever arise, God is able to deliver them in their utmost and extremest need.
With regard to the incidents narrated in this volume, the writer may be permitted to say that his chief difficulty has been that of selection; and that he was not prepared for the immense number of illustrative facts that crowded upon him on every hand so soon as his attention was called to the subject. In selecting the incidents for narration, only those have been adopted which seemed to be wellauthenticated and attested. Very many have been rejected because the evidence in their
favour was incomplete. In the great majority of instances, also, the words of the original narrative have been given with some abridgment, and condensation where the particulars were unimportant. Though this plan may occasion an inequality and even a frequent ruggedness of style, yet it has the preponderating advantage of conveying the exact truth, while it frees the writer from the suspicion of having coloured his statements to suit his purpose.
Before entering, however, upon the main subject of the volume, a few preliminary difficulties which may exist in the minds of some readers may be briefly dealt with.
These difficulties are of two kinds, or at least may be reduced to one of two classes which are diametrically opposed to each other.
The first of these would ascribe escapes from danger to chance or accident, and would resolve all deliverances from peril into mere casual and fortuitous coincidences. Now, if we attend to the meaning of the terms we use, it will become most evident that chance is a mere word and nothing more. It simply expresses our ignorance of the causes which have been at work to produce a given result, or else that the event was unexpected by us, and took us