In his powerful description of the battle and the battlefield of Sedan, where the German army conquered the French in 1870, Victor Hugo says, "In the midst of the terrible plain I saw thee, O Thou Invisible One." The Invisible One is always present. The history of the world is the judgment of the world, and as a great history maker, Cromwell, put it, "What are all our histories but God throwing down and trampling under foot whatsoever He hath not planted?"
At the very hour of his greatest power and influence, Napoleon, against the advice of his wisest counselors, was tempted to invade Russia. Today the pyramids of French cannon and cannon balls that one sees piled up on the courtyard at the Kremlin at Moscow show the high-water mark of Napoleon's career of conquest. From Moscow to the Niemen his legions lay scattered in the snow, frozen in the rivers, dead on the fields of battle. In a single campaign the greatest victories of history were suddenly succeeded by one of the greatest of military disasters in the history of mankind. To this day—at least until the Russian Revolution—the Russian people, realizing that in their deliverance there was something more than the genius of Kutuzov, the snow, the wolves, and the Cossacks, celebrate that overthrow by chanting in their churches the great psalm which the Hebrews chanted when the hosts of Sennacherib, without an arrow shot against them, melted away before the walls of Jerusalem: "God is our refuge and strength. . . . The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted" (Ps. 46:1, 6).
One of the striking things about God in history is the way in which evil systems and evil causes begin suddenly to wither and crumble just when to the view of man they seem to be at the very zenith of power and worldly strength and pomp. The Spanish Armada, arrogantly called the "Invincible Armada," sailed out of Lisbon down the Tagus, bound for the coast of England, to crush that Protestant power; and invincible indeed it seemed, with its huge ships and its multitudes of soldiers and sailors and weapons of destruction. But he that sitteth in the heavens laughed. He held them in derision. The wind blew, and the Invincible Armada was scattered on the rocky coasts of the British Isles. The great conspiracy had come to naught. On the medal which was struck at that time the English stamped the words of the song of Moses after the overthrow of Pharaoh and his chariots in the Red Sea: "Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them" (Ex. 15:10).
One of the most eloquent of all books is Volney's Ruins, the book which almost made an infidel out of Lincoln because of its effort to put a fool's cap upon Christianity and all other religions. Yet in his account of the fall of ancient kingdoms Volney agrees with the Scriptures. They fell through their own sins and follies. Sitting one moonlight night on the shaft of a pillar and viewing the rows of columns at Palmyra of the Desert, Volney invokes the phantom of the past, the genius of the tombs, who rebukes the mortal for complaining against heaven, declaring the destruction of the civilizations of the past was due to man's folly and sin. "I will ask," says the mortal to the phantom, "the ashes of legislators by what secret causes do empires rise and fall." The Bible makes plain to us the reason for the fall of empires. There is a moral law at work among the nations, for nations are made up of men. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7); and whatsoever a nation soweth, that also shall it reap. As the great historian of Rome, Mommsen, put it, "God makes a Bible out of history."
The past is valuable as a guidepost, but dangerous if used as a hitching post.—Indiana Parent-Teacher
Teacher: "What distinguished Washington from his fellow Americans?"
Pupil: "He didn't lie."
My fourth grade teacher didn't teach history; she was so old she remembered it.
Teacher to class: "Name the outstanding accomplishment of the Romans."
Small voice from back of the room: "They understood Latin."—The Lookout
Teacher: "In what battle did General Wolfe cry, die happy!'"
Billy: "His last one."
Teacher: "Can you give me Lincoln's Gettysburg Address?"
Fred: "No, but he used to live at the White House."
The teacher was trying to impress upon her class the advantages of peace and disarmament. "How many of you object to war?" she asked.
Up went several hands. "Jimmy, tell us why you object to war."
Jimmy replied soberly, "'Cause wars make history."
In a fashionable school in New England the history teacher was telling the story of the settlement of the country.
"Miss Cabot," she said, "can you tell me who came over in the Mayflower?"
"Yes," said the girl, "I can. My ancestors and a few other people."—Journeyman Barber
Teacher: "Why haven't you studied your history?"
Willie: "Well, you said the world kept changing. I thought I'd wait until it settled down."—The Lookout
The faculty were arranging the order of examinations. It was agreed that the harder subjects should be placed first in the list. It was proposed that history should have the final place. The woman teacher of that subject protested:
"But it is certainly one of the easiest subjects," the head of the faculty declared.
The young woman shook her head, and spoke firmly:
"Not the way I teach it. Indeed, according to my method, it is a very difficult study, and most perplexing."
Down in Virginia, near Yorktown, lived an aged negro whose proud boast was that he had been the body servant of George Washington. As he was very old indeed, no one could disprove his claims, and he made the most of his historical pretentions. He was full of anecdotes concerning the Father of His Country, and exploited himself in every tale. His favorite narrative was of the capture of Lord Cornwallis by his master, which was as follows:
"Yassuh, it were right on dis yere road, jest over dar by de fo'ks. Gen'l Washin'ton, he knowed dat ole Co'nwallis, he gwine pass dis way, an' 'im an' me, we done hid behin' de bushes an' watched. Yassuh, an' when ole Co'nwallis, he come by, Gen'l Washin'ton, he jumped out at 'im, an' he grab 'im by de collah, an' he say, 'Yoh blame' ole rascal, dat de time what Ah done gone cotch ye!"