by J.C. Ryle
“This is the Finger of God!” Written during the Great Cattle Plague of England, 1865-1867.
Look at the words which form the title of this article, 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 God sent one of the famous plagues 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 we all were as wise as these Egyptians!
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, 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 the livestock of Egypt in the reign of Pharaoh (Exodus 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 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 as much now, as He was in the Old Testament days. I believe that wars, famines, pestilences, and 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? I believe that the only cause that we must come to as last is: This 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, then why not allow that God manages it?
Away with this modern skepticism! 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. This cattle plague is the finger of God!
by J.C. Ryle