It was 1856 and things could not have been going better for Spurgeon.
Twenty-two years old, married for about a year, already with twin boys, Spurgeon was also experiencing great blessing in ministry. He was preaching to thousands. On October 19, 1856 some say almost 14,000 gathered to hear him preach, even though only 10,000 fit in the building. They were eager to hear this young pastor who preached the Bible. But there were many jealous people.
That night during the service at around 6 o’clock some people started shouting “fire!”
A stampede broke out, and in the midst of the panic, people trampled over each other causing the death of seven people.
There was no fire.
Because Spurgeon was so distraught over the events that occurred, he was unwilling to preach the next Sunday, he even thought about quitting the ministry altogether. And it wasn’t until the Sunday after that that he was willing to return to the pulpit. Here were his first words as he got up to preach that morning,
“I almost regret, this morning, that I have ventured to occupy this pulpit because I feel utterly unable to preach to you for your profit… I feel somewhat of those same painful emotions which well-nigh prostrated me before. You will, therefore, excuse me this morning if I make no allusion to that solemn event, or scarcely any. I could not preach to you upon a subject that should be in the least allied to it. I would be obliged to be silent if I should bring to my remembrance that terrible scene in the midst of which it was my solemn lot to stand. God shall doubtless overrule it. It may not have been so much by the malice of men, as some have asserted. It was, perhaps, simple wickedness— an intention to disturb a congregation—and certainly with no thought of committing so terrible a crime as that of the murder of those unhappy creatures. God forgive those who were the instigators of that horrid act! They have my forgiveness from the depths of my soul. It shall not stop us, however. We are not in the least degree daunted by it. I shall preach there, again, yes and God shall give us souls there and Satan’s empire shall tremble more than ever! “God is with us; who is he that shall be against us?” The text I have selected is one that has comforted me and, in a great measure, enabled me to come here today—the single reflection upon it had such a power of comfort on my depressed spirit. It is this—“Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”—Philippians 2:9-11.”
Christ’s exaltation was what brought him peace. Knowing that Jesus Christ knew what had occurred two weeks earlier, and that he had a master plan for this event brought him great comfort.
As we think about tragedy, we must train our minds to think eternally.
A lot of people are broken and they want to live a better life. A life that doesn’t involve fear, racism, and war. The sad reality is that there will always be injustice. Human beings in over 6000 years of world history have not been able to stop injustice. And although we should all strive to make this world a better place, through selfless love for one another, we have to resist the urge to put our hope in this life, because that is what has caused this mess to begin with.
We must tell them that hope can only come when we value what Christ does. And Christ reminds us constantly to buy stock in eternity, because he is going to be forever exalted.
The only way that justice is possible is if every individual who has ever lived will face God one day. And even better, every human being will bow the knee to Christ one day. His exaltation truly begins on the day foreshadowed by Paul in Philippians 2.
Spurgeon rejoiced in knowing that the men who shouted “Fire!” would one day exalt Christ by bowing their knee to Him.
Micah Xavier Johnson will one day bow the knee to Jesus.
Every cop will one day bow the knee to Christ.
Every president and king will one day bow the knee to Christ.
Every human being will bow their knee to Christ. And unless they repent and give their life to Christ, they will be forced to do so and cast to hell. And instantly justice will be served.
There will never be perfect justice in this life, but one day soon Jesus Christ will reign and he will rule perfectly and we will all be free from sin and its consequences.
Sometimes we treat Spurgeon and other heroes of the faith as super-human. But they were as vulnerable to despair as me and you. They wisely chose to think eternally in the midst of suffering. Eternal thoughts are the only thoughts that will give us comfort. We cannot hope in politics and we cannot hope in morality. We must focus instead on the day that Jesus will be exalted and when we will enjoy Him forever.