Today I drove past the site of the horrific accident that occurred on Field’s Hill, Pinetown, South Africa–10 minutes drive from my home. Both sides of the road are marked by large white crosses, marking the number who died in an impossibly unpredictable split second. On September 5th, in an indescribable instant of horror, 24 lives were dispatched to eternity by a careening truck, effecting 30 families, and rocking our community. The vehicle’s hydraulic breaks failed and it became an unstoppable torpedo.
Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, has a section that has sent chills down my spine every time I’ve read it. When I saw the footage of the crash these words began to play in my mind as my hand went to my quivering lips in a reflex of stunned incredulity. It’s a lengthy quote, but worth meditating on…
It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world.The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable.
Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment.
All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God’s hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.
This is this same stalwart who, at age 17 penned these two of his ambitious 70 Resolutions:
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
Our culture does possess a morbid fascination with morbidity. But there is a sense in which it is better to at least occassionally dwell on the inescapability of death, than to anesthetize ourselves with amusement.
Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
The gentleman who caught the catastrophe on video showed up at our church the following Sunday. I was moved to see him and talk about his experience. I said to him, in all sincerity, and with more feeling than I’ve uttered to any previous visitor, “I’m glad you are here.” Of all people in the world, he understood what Jonathan Edwards meant.
For those not familiar with South African taxi’s, these vans routinely cram between 15 and 20 people in them. They were at capacity that fateful night. The camera his company manufactures was recording from his dashboard, as it always does. Please be warned, this footage is not entertainment. It’s raw.
Here is what he saw:
Here is an ariel view from a traffic camera. It shows the pedestrians who narrowly missed eternity…
May our Lord use this footage to shake the spiritually lethargic out of their languor and into a state of alertness to God’s warnings and offer of the gospel.