On September 30, 1888, “Jack the Ripper” murdered his third victim, Elizabeth Stride, only five miles from last Sunday’s terrorist attack in Finsbury Park.
Terror seized Spurgeon’s London. Would the murders continue? Who would die next? (Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly)
The following morning, Spurgeon addressed Jack the Ripper’s murder of Elizabeth Stride in his opening prayer at the Metropolitan Tabernacle:
“We hear startling news of abounding sin in this great city. Oh! God, put an end to this, and grant that we may hear no more of such deeds. Let Thy Gospel permeate the city and let no monsters in human form escape Thee.”
Spurgeon was no stranger to terror. A madman once stormed through the door of his house with a club. Seizing the weapon, Spurgeon opened the door and bellowed at the top of his voice, “If you are not out of this house this very moment, I’ll break every bone in your body.” The man was paralyzed with fear and arrested.
Spurgeon was almost knifed, too, in Mentone, France (only 18 miles from the terrorist attack in the Nice airport in July 2016). The man barged into the hotel but Spurgeon forced him to leave.
In the recent wake of suicide bombers, knife attacks, and runaway vehicles, here are five ways Spurgeon coped with terrorism in London:
1. Mourn the Loss of the Victims.
“How Jesus would have wept in London! He could not stand in the front of a lone grave, about to look upon a single corpse, without weeping.”
2. Pray for the Terrorist’s Salvation.
“Ours it is to persist in loving, even if men persist in enmity. We are to render blessing for cursing, prayers for persecutions. Even in the cases of cruel enemies, we are to “do good to them, and pray for them.” We are no longer enemies to any, but friends to all. We do not merely cease to hate, and then abide in a cold neutrality; but we love where hatred seemed inevitable.”
3. Keep Calm and Preach On.
“Preach the gospel, the gates of hell shake; preach the gospel, prodigals return; preach the gospel to every creature, it is the Master’s mandate, and it is the Master’s power—‘the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth.’”
4. Forgive the Evil.
“The Christian man is not allowed to hate any one.”
5. Live Each Day in Light of Eternity.
“If God had willed it we might each one of us have entered heaven at the moment of our conversion . . . . Why then are they here? Does God delight to tantalise his people by keeping them in a wilderness when they might be in Canaan? Will he shut them up in prison when he might give them instant liberty . . . ? Why are God’s ships still at sea? One breath of his wind might waft them to the haven. Why are his children still wandering hither and thither through a maze, when a solitary word from his lips would bring them into the centre of their hopes in heaven? The answer is; they are here that they may glorify God, and that they may bring others to know his love. We are not here in vain, dear brethren.”
A Final Word
On the morning Jack the Ripper murdered Elizabeth Stride, Spurgeon preached:
“He by death has destroyed death, and by his resurrection has torn away the gates of the grave.”
The primary mission of the church is not to protect itself from the world, but to protect others from the world to come.
May God be especially near the victims of last Sunday’s terror attack in London, and may he embolden each of us to respond like Christ did when faced with the greatest terrorist attack in human history:
“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).