The next thing that gave the church a blow was Statistics. We found by taking statistics that we could tell the average length of human life; that this human life did not depend upon infinite caprice; that it depended upon conditions, circumstances, laws and facts, and that these conditions, circumstances, and facts were during long periods of time substantially the same. And now, the man who depends entirely upon special providence gets his life insured. He has more confidence even in one of these companies than he has in the whole Trinity. We found by statistics that there were just so many crimes on an average committed; just so many crimes of one kind and so many of another; just so many suicides, so many deaths by drowning, so many accidents on an average, so many men marrying women, for instance. older than themselves; so many murders of a particular kind; just the same number of mistakes; and I say to-night, statistics utterly demolish the idea of special providence.
Only the other day a gentleman was telling me of a case of special providence. He knew it. He had been the subject of it. A few years ago he was about to go on a ship when he was detained. He did not go, and the ship was lost with all on board. "Yes!" I said, "Do you think the people who were drowned believed in special providence?" Think of the infinite egotism of such a doctrine. Here is a man that fails to go upon a ship with five hundred passengers and they go down to the bottom of the sea--fathers, mothers, children, and loving husbands and wives waiting upon the shores of expectation. Here is one poor little wretch that did not happen to go! And he thinks that God, the Infinite Being, interfered in his poor little withered behalf and let the rest all go. That is special providence. Why does special providence allow all the crimes? Why are the wife-beaters protected, and why are the wives and children left defenseless if the hand of God is over us all? Who protects the insane? Why does Providence permit insanity? But the church cannot give up special providence. If there is no such thing, then no prayers, no worship, no churches, no priests. What would become of National Thanksgiving? You know we have a custom every year of issuing a proclamation of thanksgiving. We say to God, "Although you have afflicted all the other countries, although you have sent war, and desolation, and famine on everybody else, we have been such good children that you have been kind to us, and we hope you will keep on." It does not make a bit of difference whether we have good times or not--the thanksgiving is always exactly the same. I remember a few years ago a governor of Iowa got out a proclamation of that kind. He went on to tell how thankful the people were and how prosperous the State had been. There was a young fellow in that State who got out another proclamation, saying that he feared the Lord might be misled by official correspondence; that the governor's proclamation was entirely false; that the State was not prosperous; that the crops had been an almost utter failure; that nearly every farm in the State was mortgaged, and that if the Lord did not believe him, all he asked was that he would send some angel in whom he had confidence, to look the matter over and report.