Lemuel K. Washburn: “The Judgment of God”


We hear less of what is called the “judgment of God” than formerly, but quite enough to show that this foolish superstition still lingers in the human mind. It used to be believed that God was on the lookout for the bad boy who went fishing or skating on his holy sabbath and that when he caught him he immediately made use of him to prove his loving-kindness and tender mercy by making him get into the water where he could drown him. It was never related that God took this boy by the shoulder or even by the ear and led him back home to his parents with the request that they take better care of him in the future. This was not God’s way. There would be no judgment in this. God must murder the poor boy who could see no difference in the conduct of the birds and fishes on Sunday from their conduct on Saturday, and have him carried back to his father’s arms and his mother’s heart a corpse, a cold, dead thing, no longer needing love, kindness, and a parent’s great, forgiving charity. This was God’s way. He delighted in seeing a dead boy taken out of the frozen stream and laid down in the presence of his poor, grief-crazed mother. He thought this would make the mother love him more and other boys keep his holy sabbath. So when any misfortune befell on Sunday a human being who was not on his way to God’s house, or engaged in other pious occupation, it was believed to be a judgment of God and people took care to avoid a similar punishment. This kind of religious teaching does not enjoy the reputation that it once did for the reason that it has become discredited by human experience. All things considered it is just as safe to go sailing or swimming, fishing, or driving, on Sunday as on Monday and men have learned that no penalty attaches to violation of the fourth commandment. As people become sensible they cease to be religious.

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