“Fits of depression come over most of us,” Charles Spurgeon once told his students. “The strong are not always vigorous, the joyous are not always happy.” Spurgeon himself was living proof, for he often suffered agonizing periods of depression. One of the worst occurred when he was only 22 years old. His congregation had outgrown its building, so Spurgeon arranged to rent Royal Surrey Garden Music Hall, London’s most commodious and beautiful building, for Sunday night services. Surrey Hall usually accommodated secular concerts, carnivals, and circuses. Using it as a place of worship was unheard of in its day, and the news spread through London like lightning.

On Sunday morning, October 19, 1856, Spurgeon preached at New Park Street Chapel, saying: “I may be called to stand where the thunderclouds brew, where the lightnings play, and tempestuous winds are howling on the mountain top. Well, then, amidst dangers he will inspire me with courage; amidst toils he will make me strong; we shall be gathered together tonight where an unprecedented mass of people will assemble, perhaps from idle curiosity, to hear God’s Word; see what God can do, just when a cloud is falling on the head of him whom God has raised up to preach to you. … ”

That evening 12,000 people streamed into Surrey Hall and an additional 10,000 overflowed into the surrounding gardens. The services started, but as Spurgeon rose to pray, someone shouted “Fire! Fire! The galleries are giving way!” There was no fire, but the crowd bolted in panic, and in the resulting stampede seven people were trampled to death. Twenty-eight more were hospitalized.

The young preacher, reeling in shock, was literally carried from the pulpit to a friend’s house where he remained in seclusion for weeks. He wept by day and suffered terrifying dreams at night. He later said, “My thoughts were all a case of knives, cutting my heart to pieces.” At last, while meditating on Philippians 2:10, the Lord’s Word began to restore his soul.

It was this disaster, horrible as it was, that vaulted Charles Spurgeon to overnight fame as a preacher all the world wanted to hear.

So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Philippians 2:10,11)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct.19.

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