Charles Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers of the Victorian era. Known as the ‘Prince of Preachers’, it is estimated that he preached the gospel to over a million people, and personally baptised 15,000 new believers converted under his ministry. He was called to pastor New Park Street Chapel in Southwark, London in April 1854 aged just 19 years old. Later that summer there was a cholera epidemic.
Lessons from the cholera epidemic
This epidemic resulted in over 600 deaths, a mortality rate of 12.8% in some parts of the city. Three quarters of the residents of Soho fled the area in one week. I think there is much to learn from how Spurgeon responded to cholera that is relevant to how we should respond to coronavirus today. Geoff Chang has helpfully written about Spurgeon’s pastoral response, drawing largely on Spurgeon’s autobiography. In this article, I want to look at what Spurgeon said in his sermons at the time to see what lessons can be drawn from them.
In a sermon preached on 18 February 1855 Spurgeon spoke of the fear of death:
“Who is the man that does not fear to die? I will tell you. The man that is a believer. Fear to die! Thank God, I do not. The cholera may come again next summer—I pray God it may not; but if it does, it matters not to me: I will toil and visit the sick by night and by day, until I drop; and if it takes me, sudden death is sudden glory.”
On 14 October 1855, in a sermon on Psalm 90:1 he spoke of experiencing God’s protection:
“Hast thou known what it is to dwell securely in God, to enter into the Most High, and laugh to scorn the anger, the frowns, the sneers, the contempt, the slander and calumny of men; to ascent into the sacred place of the pavilion of the Most High, and to abide under the shadow of the Almighty, and to feel thyself secure? And mark thee, thou mayest do this. In times of pestilence it is possible to walk in the midst of cholera and death, singing—
‘Plagues and deaths around me fly, Till he please, I cannot die….’
Read it all.