(Editor’s note: On August 12, 1866, during the cholera outbreak in London, Charles H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon from Amos 3:3-6, entitled “The Voice of the Cholera.” Some of the key thoughts in his sermon are relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic. We hope this will serve as a comfort to MD/DE Baptists during this time).
Excerpts from “The Voice of the Cholera”
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing? Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him? Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all? Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” Amos 3:3-6 (KJV)
We believe that God sends all pestilences, let them come how they may, and that He sends them with a purpose, let them be removed in whatever way they may; and we conceive that it is our business as ministers of God, to call the people’s attention to God in the disease, and teach them the lesson which God would have them learn.
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…
Amos had observed that a lion does not roar without reason. By this question he brings forward the second truth, that when God speaks it is not without a cause, and especially when He speaks with a threatening voice. 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. It is like the cry of “Wolf,” if there be no meaning in it, men disregard it. God therefore never multiplies judgments unnecessarily.
You see the bird aloft in the sky, on a sudden it flies to the ground, and is taken in the net; now, Amos says it would not be taken in the net unless a net had been designed laid to catch it. It is taken because the snare was meant to take it, and Amos means to remind us that men do not die without a design on God’s part. It is the same thought as before, but it is held up in another light. The bird is not taken in the net without the design of the fowler, and men do not fall into the net of death without an intent on God’s part. Death, with all which it involves on earth and in eternity, is not sent by God without a reason.
God rules and overrules all things, and He does nothing without a motive. Brethren, the falling of a sparrow to the earth is in the divine purpose, and answers an end. Every grain of dust that is whirled from the threshing-floor is steered with as unerring a wisdom as the stars in their courses, and there is not a leaf that trembles in the autumn from the tree but is piloted by the plan and purpose of the Lord.
Inasmuch as God had a purpose in sending tribulation, we may expect that He will not remove it until that design is answered … the fowler takes not away his net unless some bird be caught, and God takes not away the trouble which he sends unless He has answered his design by it.
It is much to be feared that a constant run of prosperity, perpetual peace and freedom from disease, may breed in our minds just what it has done in all human minds before, namely, security and pride, heathenism and forgetfulness of God. 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 recognize the hand of God. Already I have been told by Christian brethren laboring 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; and without a doubt the great Fowler will gather up his net. May it be so, O Lord, for thy Son Jesus Christ’s sake.
Be awake, Christian, and be aware of God’s design, for the trumpet is sounding, and when the trumpet sounds, the Christian must not slumber. Let the presence of God infuse into you a more than ordinary courage and zeal. My brethren, I wish I could speak to you this morning as I had hoped to have done, for then I would throw my whole soul into every word: I charge you, as you love Jesus, as you know the value of your own soul, now, if never before, be in earnest for the salvation of the sons of men. 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. It is God’s work we know to save, but then he works by instruments, and we have his own solemn word for it: “If the watchman warn them not, they shall perish, but their blood will I require at the watchman’s hands.” Are there no houses round your dwelling where Jesus is unknown? Is there no court, no lane, no alley near to where you reside, without God and without Christ? Have you no friends unconverted? Have you no acquaintance unsaved? May there not be even sitting in the pew with you, some un-pardoned person? May there not be, Sabbath after Sabbath, sitting in the next seat someone who knows not Christ, who was never warned of his danger or pointed to the remedy?
(Accessed from The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary, spurgeon.org.)