In 1665 Bubonic Plague, the “Black Death” as it was called at the time, broke out in the city of London, and thousands died. Almost immediately, the royalty left the city, followed quickly by the rich, and then as one wag put it in his history of the time “Most of the clergy suddenly decided they could best minister to their flocks from far, far away.” The scenes of horror recounted in the various plague journals kept by those who stayed are piteous. Hospitals were crammed full of the dying and quickly overwhelmed whatever doctors and nurses had not either fled or died themselves.
But then in the midst of all that terrible sickness and sorrow, and death, who do you think it was who heard the cry of those suffering and returned in droves to minister to the sick and dying, to pastor congregations whose ministers had fled with the king to country estates, to go day by day into the hospitals and read the Word of God to those who were lost and dying without hope and without a Savior? It was the ejected ministers. When the king and his hirelings had all fled, it was the men they despised most who heard the call of Christ and returned. Thomas Vincent, ejected from the living of St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street, in 1662 was but one of many ministers long remembered by the inhabitants of London for his fearless preaching amidst the dying multitudes in the Great Plague.
Now, why did those men do that? They didn’t have the power to lay hands on the people and heal them, in fact, many of those ministers themselves became sick and died. The answer is that they knew Jesus Christ, and they knew his Compassion because He had worked it in their hearts by His Holy Spirit.
Matthew 9:35-36 tells us “35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”
Those ministers saw the multitudes in London, weary and scattered, sheep without shepherds, and as faithful servants of the master who saved them and called them, they took up the call and they went amongst them preaching the good news of the Kingdom, bringing light where there was only darkness and hope where there had only been despair. Although they could not cure their bodily ills, yet they could and MUST point them to Jesus, the great physician of the soul. Through faith in him, death could not hurt them. Its sting was gone, and the grave was forever robbed of its victory.