10th August 2020
When England experienced a major outbreak of cattle plague in 1865 J.C. Ryle, (1816-1900) later Bishop of Liverpool, drew attention to a factor which most of his contemporaries overlooked. Ryle called people to consider their national disaster as the Egyptians had in the time of Moses as ‘the finger of God’. Ryle called England to consider their national disaster in the same light.
Although the church has often struggled to find its prophetic voice and sometimes makes the comforting love of God a focus at the expense of the holiness or chastening of God, Ryle’s address reprinted by Banner of Truth Trust 1967 establishes the principle that calamities have sometimes historically been understood as the judgments of God.
Although Ryle describes a different, yet a strikingly similar world to that of our own where rapid and radical social change is occurring, he humbly admits that he writes as a Christian minister and that his interpretation of the times may be wrong.
While we may prefer to mount a sceptical argument that the current world Covid-19 pandemic reaches beyond Ryle’s world and that literal applications of the Old Testament text and references to a ‘plague judgement’ are largely irrelevant because we have made scholarly advances in textual interpretation, it is difficult to quickly dismiss the description of sweeping-universal calamities in the gospels listed as signs of the end times. Readers may judge for themselves how far Ryle’s words and amazing similarities apply to circumstances of 2020.
Only minor alterations to Ryle’s text have been made here beyond the old English context to provide current application. References to ‘cattle plague’ have been bracketed with ‘Covid-19 virus’, or ‘global pandemic’. Rev E.A. (Ted) Curnow August 2020