Shortly after the great plague and the great fire of London, which between them killed many thousands of people, the Puritan Thomas Vincent wrote a book called God’s Terrible Voice in the City. (You can buy the book here or read it online here). It was based on the text in Micah 6:9: “Listen! The Lord’s voice cries unto the city. The man of wisdom shall see Your name. Hear the rod, and the One who has appointed it!” Among his first words were:
Friends, it is high time for all of you to retire yourselves, and bethink yourselves, and wisely to consider God’s dealings with you; to open your ear, and labor to understand these speaking judgments, lest, if God be provoked by your deafness and incorrigibleness, to speak a third time — it be in your utter ruin and desolation!
He went on to describe how God speaks by His Word and Works, especially His Works of judgment, and his graphic descriptions of the plague sound like a current CNN bulletin!
Descriptions of the plague
1. It is so poisonous a disease: it poisons the blood and spirits, breeds a strange kind of venom in the body, which breaks forth sometimes in boils, and ulcers, and great carbuncles; or else works more dangerously, when it preys upon the vitals more inwardly.
2. It is so repulsive a disease: It results in putrefaction and running sores, giving a most repulsive smell.
3. It is so infectious a disease: It spreads itself worse than the leprosy among the Jews; it infects not only those which are weak, and infirm in body — but also those that are young, strong, healthful, and of the best health.
4. It is so deadly a disease: It kills where it comes without mercy; very few do escape. And it kills suddenly! It gives no warning before it comes…So it gives little time of preparation before it brings to the grave.
The plague is not only terrible to those who have it but also to those who don’t “because of their danger of being infected by it; the fear of which has made such an impression upon some, that it has drained out of their hearts all affections of love and pity to their nearest relations and dearest friends.”
Reasons for the plague
1. Because people do not hearken to the voice of his Word and messengers. God speaks audibly by ministers, and when they are not regarded, he speaks more feelingly by judgments! He speaks first by threatenings, and when they are slighted, he speaks by executions. God first lifts up his voice, and warns by his Word — before he lifts up his arm, and strikes with his rod! When men grow dull of hearing the sweet calls of the Gospel, God is even forced to thunder, that he may pierce their ear! When God speaks to the ears and they are shut — God speaks to the eyes and other senses, that his mind may be known.
2. Because they do not hearken to the voice of his goodness and mercies. The goodness and forbearance of God, speaks unto men from him, and call upon them to forbear sin for shame; to repent and return to him, Romans 1:4. But when men despise the riches of his goodness, and deafen their ear unto the language of his mercies, and trample his patience under foot, yet sometimes his patience is turned hereby into fury, and his anger breaks forth into a flame, and consumes them by the blow of dreadful temporal judgments!
3. Because they will not hearken to the voice of lesser afflictions. When God’s Word is not heard, he speaks by his rod. When his rod is not heard, he shoots with his arrows and strikes with his sword. And if lesser afflictions are not minded, then God speaks by more dreadful awakening judgments: as the sins of men do precede the judgments of God, so usually lesser judgments do precede greater judgments; and as there are degrees and steps which men usually do make before they arrive to a great height in sin — so there are degrees and steps which God usually takes, in inflicting his judgments for sin.
Vincent used Leviticus 26:15-40 to prove that God sends increasing judgments upon increasingly deaf and unresponsive nations and peoples and warns:
Thus God proceeds by steps and degrees, in the execution of his fierce anger upon a rebellious people; when God speaks by ordinary diseases and is not heard — then sometimes he sends a plague! And if after a plague, people will not return to him who smites them, nor seek to pacify God’s anger which is kindled against them, but walk so much the more contrary unto him — then he will walk contrary to them in fury, and send fire into their cities to devour their habitations! And if the voice of the fire is not heard, he has other judgments in readiness — sword, famine, and the like! And if temporal judgments are not heeded — then he will bring upon them eternal judgments.
I couldn’t help but think that this faithful and courageous pastor sounds like the Al Mohler of his day.