|Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916.|
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
|The Judgment of Fire|
|By Edward Stillingfleet (16351699)|
From Sermon after the Great Fire of London
LOOK now upon me, you who so lately admired the greatness of my trade, the riches of my merchants, the number of my people, the conveniency of my churches, the multitude of my streets, and see what revolutions sin hath made in the earth. Look upon me, and then tell me whether it be nothing to dally with heaven, to make a mock at sin, to slight the judgments of God, and abuse His mercies, and after all the attempts of heaven to reclaim a people from their sins, to remain still the same that ever they were? Was there no way to expiate your guilt but by my misery! Had the leprosy of your sins so fretted in my walls, that there was no cleansing them, but by the flames which consume them? Must I mourn in my dust and ashes for your iniquities, while you are so ready to return to the practice of them? Have I suffered so much by reason of them, and do you think to escape yourselves? Can you then look upon my ruins with hearts as hard and unconcerned as the stones which lie in them? If you have any kindness for me, or for yourselves; if you ever hope to see my breaches repaired, my beauty restored, my glory advanced, look on London ruins and repent. Thus would she bid her inhabitants not to weep for her miseries, but for their own sins; for if never any sorrow was like to her sorrow, it is because never any sins were like to their sins. Not as though they were only the sins of the city, which have brought this evil upon her, no, but as far as the judgment reaches, so great hath the compass of the sins been, which have provoked God to make her an example of his justice. And I fear the effects of Londons calamity will be felt all the nation over. For, considering the present languishing condition of this nation, it will be no easy matter to recover the blood and spirits which have been lost by this fire. So that whether we consider the sadness of those circumstances which accompanied the rage of the fire, or those which respect the present miseries of the city, or the general influence those will have upon the nation, we cannot easily conceive what judgment could in so critical a time have befallen us, which had been more severe for the kind and nature of it, than this hath been.