posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.
This excerpt is from "Providence," a sermon preached April 11, 1858. That was exactly one week short of eighteen months after the infamous disaster at the Music Hall in Royal Surrey Gardensan event that had plunged Spurgeon into a deep depression from which many of his friends felt he never did quite recover. If you're familiar with that episode in Spurgeon's life, you'll understand why the events he recounts here gave him such a deep sense of gratitude, and focused his thoughts on the goodness of divine providence:
URING THIS WEEK my mind has been much directed to the subject of Providence,and you will not wonder when I relate a portion of one day's story.
I was engaged to preach last Wednesday at Halifax, where there was a heavy snow storm. Preparations had been made for a congregation of 8000 persons, and a huge wooden structure had been erected. I considered that owing to the severe weather, few persons could possibly assemble, and I looked forward to the dreary task of addressing an insignificant handful of people in a vast place.
However, when I arrived, I found from 5000 to 6000 people gathered together to hear the Word; and a more substantial looking place it has not been my lot to see. It certainly was a huge uncomely building, but, nevertheless, it seemed well adapted to answer the purpose. We met together in the afternoon and worshipped God, and again in the evening, and we separated to our homes, or rather, we were about to separate, and all this while the kind providence of God was watching over us.
Immediately in front of me there was a huge gallery, which looked an exceedingly massive structure, capable of holding 2000 persons. This, in the afternoon, was crowded, and it seemed to stand as firm as a rock.
Again in the evening there it stood, and neither moved nor shook.
But mark the provident hand of God: in the evening, when the people were about to retire, and when there was scarcely more than a hundred persons there, a huge beam gave way, and down came a portion of the flooring of the gallery with a fearful crash. Several persons were precipitated with the planks, but still the good hand of God watched over us, and only two persons were severely injured with broken legs, which it is trusted will be re-set without the necessity of amputation.
Now, had this happened any earlier, not only must many more have been injured, but there are a thousand chances to one, as we say, that a panic must necessarily have ensued similar to that which we still remember, and deplore as having occurred in this place. Had such a thing occurred, and had I been the unhappy preacher on the occasion, I feel certain that I should never have been able to occupy the pulpit again.
Such was the effect of the first calamity, that I marvel that I ever survived. No human tongue can possibly tell what I experienced. The Lord, however, graciously preserved us; the fewness of the people in the gallery prevented any such catastrophe, and thus a most fearful accident was averted. But we have a more marvellous providence still to record.
Overloaded by the immense weight of snow which fell upon it, and beaten by a heavy wind, the entire building fell with an enormous crash three hours after we had left it, splitting the huge timbers into shivers, and rendering very much of the material utterly useless for any future building.
Now mark thishad the snow begun three hours earlier, the building must have fallen upon us, and how few of us would have escaped we cannot guess. But mark another thing. All day long it thawed so fast, that the snow as it fell seemed to leave a mass, not of white snow, but of snow and water together. This ran through the roof upon us, to our considerable annoyance, and I was almost ready to complain that we had hard dealing from God's providence. But if it had been a frost instead of a thaw, you can easily perceive that the place must have fallen several hours beforehand, and then your minister, and the greater part of his congregation, would probably have been in the other world.
Some there may be who deny providence altogether. I cannot conceive that there were any partakers of the scene who could have done so. This I know, if I had been an unbeliever to this day in the doctrine of the supervision and wise care of God, I must have been a believer in it at this hour. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together; he hath been very gracious unto us, and remembered us for good.