Charles Spurgeon wrote this sermon two weeks after a horrific and senseless event at Surrey Gardens Music Hall. Spurgeon was a gifted preacher who regularly drew crowds in the tens of thousands. In order to accommodate his growing congregation, he rented the music hall at Surrey Gardens. On the very first evening Spurgeon was using the facilities, ten thousand came to listen while ten thousand waited outside. During the singing of the second hymn, one man yelled “Fire! Fire! The building is collapsing!” Of course there was no fire. The man simply men to derail the meeting. Nevertheless the attendees were quickly thrown into panic and fled from the building. In the ensuing chaos seven people were trampled to death. The weight of the incident sent Spurgeon into a severe depression which eventually manifested in illness. Two weeks later Spurgeon once again ascended the pulpit in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall to deliver the sermon I have posted below. I have read many sermons and much theology from the earliest Christian theologians through the reformers, the puritans and the modern era and I have seen no one apply the glory of Christ to his grief as this man does in the following sermon. He does not address tragedy directly, but you must keep in mind the events in the music hall and you will see the importance of what is being said. Read it.
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 had thought that the quiet and repose of the last fortnight had removed the effects of that terrible catastrophe; but on coming back to the same spot again, and more especially, standing here to address you, 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 should be obliged to be silent if I should bring to my remembrance that terrific scene in the midst of which it was my solemn lot to stand. God shall overrule it doubtless. 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; but 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 yet; ay, 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 to-day—the single reflection upon it had such a power of comfort on my depressed spirit. It is this:—”Wherefore God also hath 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 on 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.
I shall not attempt to preach upon this text; I shall only make a few remarks that have occurred to my own mind; for I could not preach to-day; I have been utterly unable to study, but I thought that even a few words might be acceptable to you this morning, and I trust to your loving hearts to excuse them. Oh, Spirit of God, magnify thy strength in thy servant’s weakness, and enable him to honour his Lord, even when his soul is cast down within him.
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