Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached his first sermon at age sixteen. His style was to speak to the people in a manner that they could understand, as compared to the dry, academic, lofty sermons of the day.
His preaching became renowned, and at age nineteen Brother Spurgeon was called to preach at the New Park Street Chapel in London. This church seated two-thousand, but the congregation had dwindled to two-hundred. Within weeks of his first sermon there, the church was filled to capacity.
The church sought larger halls to handle the crowds of people. Eventually, they met at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall which had ten-thousand seats. The first time Brother Spurgeon spoke there was October 19, 1856. He was but twenty-two years old.
As the service began, some people began yelling “fire,” and “the balconies are collapsing.” In the ensuing panic seven people died and several were injured. There was no fire. The balconies were not in danger of collapsing. Seven people died because of what was described as “hooligans.”
It was not hooligans, it was demonic. The Devil hates the Gospel and those who preach it. Brother Spurgeon never emotionally recovered from that disaster. And to make a sad event worse, the media blamed Brother Spurgeon for the deaths. As the “Preacher” said, “there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
But here is the good news! First, Charles Spurgeon continued to successfully preach to thousands. His largest audience was 23,654 people – and no electronic PA system. He wrote books and hymns. He started the Pastor’s College. He started orphanages. He encouraged and financially supported the China Inland Mission.
Even better news is the Grace of God. The people who yelled “fire” and caused the deaths of seven people were guilty of sin. But, if they repented of their sins, turned from their sins and asked the Lord Jesus for Salvation, they were forgiven and saved.
It is difficult to understand and hard to explain, but God forgives because He is long-suffering and gracious. An outstanding example is Jesus, God in the form of man, and the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:3-11) Finding that no one accused the woman, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” It is that simple, and that wonderful!
Praise the Lord for His wonderful grace. Praise Him forever!