Here are snippets, and added summary headings, from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on the 1866 outbreak of Cholera in the city of London. (Full sermon transcript here) Let us be reminded of our Lord’s gracious purposes through pandemics (and enjoy the old English!).
SENSE THE PAIN
We have all felt grieved when reading our bills of mortality to observe the mysterious spread of cholera in our great city. It is high time that it should be made the subject of special prayer, and that the nation should seek unto the Lord for its removal. While as yet there has been but comparatively little of the evil, we should be humbled under it, that we may be spared a greater outbreak.
BE GRATEFUL FOR MEDICAL EXPERTS
I am thankful that there are many men of intelligence and scientific information who can speak well upon this point, and I hope they will never cease to speak until all men learn that the laws of cleanliness and health are as binding upon us as those of morality.
RECOGNISE THE SPIRITUAL APATHY OF SOCIETY
Constant neglect of the worship of God is a sin for which London is peculiarly and pre-eminently guilty. The masses of our people regard not God, care not for the Lord Jesus, and have no thought about eternal things. This dreaded cholera is but a gentle blow from his hand, but if it be not felt, and its lesson be not learnt, there may come instead of this a pestilence which may reap the multitude as corn is reaped with the sickle; or he may permit us to be ravaged by a pestilence worse than the plague; I mean the pestilence of deadly, soul-destroying error. He may remove the candle of his gospel out of its place, and may take away the bread of life from those who have despised it, and then, O great city! thy doom is sealed!
KNOW THE PANDEMIC IS NOT WITHOUT PURPOSE
My brethren, our God is too gracious to send us this cholera without a motive; and he is moreover too wise, for we all know that judgments frequently repeated lose their force. God therefore never multiplies judgments unnecessarily. The great Lion of vengeance has not roared unless sin has provoked him.
RECOGNISE THE NEED FOR MINISTRY
It is a most solemn fact that human nature can scarcely bear a long continuance of peace and health. It is almost necessary that we should be every now and then salted with affliction, lest we putrefy with sin. God grant we may have neither famine, nor sword; but as we have pestilence in a very slight degree, it becomes us to ask the Lord to bless it to the people that a tenderness of conscience may be apparent throughout the multitude, and they may recognise the hand of God. Already I have been told by Christian brethren labouring in the east of London, that there is a greater willingness to listen to gospel truth, and that if there be a religious service it is more acceptable to the people now than it was; for which I thank God as an indication that affliction is answering its purpose. There was, perhaps, no part of London more destitute of the means of grace, and of the desire to use the means, than that particular district where the plague has fallen; and if the Lord shall but make those teeming thousands anxious to hear the gospel of Jesus, and teach them to trust in him, then the design will be answered.
A WORD TO BELIEVERS
Is not the Lord speaking to all of us both saints and sinners, and warning us to be agreed with him? O you who are his blood-bought people, believers in Jesus, is there any sin that has parted you from communion with Christ? Have you fallen into anything which has provoked the Spirit, so that his comforts are withdrawn? At all times it is well for the Christian to acquaint himself with God and be at peace, but especially just now. How can you help others, if you yourself have lost the sense of the love of God shed abroad in your heart?
A WORD TO UNBELIEVERS
And oh! those of you who are not his people, can you bear to be at disagreement with God? How can he walk with you? You ask his protection, but how can you expect it if you are not agreed with him? Now, if two men walk together, there must be a place where they meet each other. Do you know where that is? It is at the cross. Sinner, if thou trustest in Jesus, God will meet thee there. Who can remove the iniquity which provokes the Lord to jealousy, except the dying Saviour, the Lord Jesus? He has put away sin by bearing it in his own body, and if thou trustest him, there shall be no sin in thee to provoke God.
A CHARGE TO REACH THE LOST
Let the presence of God infuse into you a more than ordinary courage and zeal. Men are always dying, time like a mighty rushing stream is always bearing them away, but now they are hurried down the torrent in increasing numbers. If you and I do not exert ourselves to teach them the gospel, upon our heads must be their blood.
A BENEDICTION OF HOPE
… may you seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near, for this is his word to you, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, …?” and Jesus adds his loving words, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;” and “the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”