In his book on London’s back-to-back seventeenth century disasters, the Great Plague of 1665 followed by the fire of ‘66—God’s Terrible Voice in the City—Puritan minister Thomas Vincent recounts the wrath of God in His judgment on the city. Over 7000 died a week at the plague’s peak. All who could afford it or had a place to go left the city, leaving the poorest to fend for themselves.  The churches’ preachers had fled with them. The nonconformist preachers, who had been put out of their pulpits when the monarchy was restored in 1660 under King Charles II, saw the desperate need of panic-stricken lost souls and selflessly stepped into the empty pulpits. Though unlawful, the unlicensed ministers fervently preached “…on the brink of the pit of hell into which thousands were tumbling.” Churches were filled to overflowing. Many would not live out the day, many more the week, all highly motivated to get right with God. In Vincent’s words:

“If you ever saw a drowning man catch at a rope, you may guess how eagerly many people did catch at the Word, when they were ready to be overwhelmed by this overflowing scourge which was passing through the city!… how they then did harken as for their lives, as if every sermon were their last, as if death stood at the door of the church…”

The dead were piling up so much faster than they could be buried there was the additional fear there would not be enough left alive to bury the dead and the city would be “quite depopulated by the plague.” 97,000 souls, out of a population of 460,000, lost their lives—21%. The percentage of deaths over the number who stayed in the ravaged city was at least double that.

Less than a year after the terrors of the Great Plague the survivors awoke on a September Sunday morning in ’66 to a horrifying conflagration like the fires of hell consuming “the greatest part of the city,” so hot that church bells were melting. They fled for their lives with whatever they could snatch and carry on their backs.  All else was turned to ashes—a seventeenth century Sodom. By all appearances London suffered the condemnation of an angry God’s judgment.

It is in His wrath that we most vividly see God’s holiness. Vincent paints the picture of God’s judgment on London, meticulously cataloguing the sins of the great city that justified a Holy God’s righteous anger. “It was the ungodliness of London which brought the plague and fire upon London.” It reads like the first chapter of Isaiah detailing the sins of Judah; it reads like Romans 1 describing the judgment of God on the unrighteous; it reads like the headlines of 21st century American news media.

John MacArthur, one of America’s foremost pastors, lists three stages of God’s judgment as proclaimed in the first chapter of Romans. 1.) Sexual Revolution, 2.) Homosexual revolution, 3.) Insanity—“a debased mind” (Ro. 1:28, 32)—from which there is no turning back. Sound familiar? In addition to the sins of Judah, the unrighteousness of Romans 1 and the sins of 17th century London, America has legalized sin, criminalized righteousness, mocked God, reviled His chosen, and gruesomely slain multi-millions of its own innocent offspring. The great gospel sin of unbelief in the God of the Bible abounds in the USA.

MacArthur says “It is too late for our nation [God’s judgment is here and we’re in stage 3!], but it is not too late for God’s elect.” In every age there is always a remnant of God’s elect, chosen by Grace. (Ro. 11:5, Isa. 6:13, Gen. 45:7 et al) Be in that number, friend. Get to church this week, with the urgency of a citizen of plague-stricken London. Isaiah’s nation under God’s judgment was laid waste and the people taken away into captivity. London under God’s judgement was destroyed by disease and fire. Whither America?    

See you in church tomorrow.

“Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come…” (Revelation 14:7).

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