Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns—Joel 2:3 (ESV).
These words describe the ravages which the locusts would make in Judea when God, in just judgment, sent that scourge to lay waste the fruits of the earth. But they also forcibly depict the memorable scene witnessed on this day in 1666, when the city of London was visited with a tremendous conflagration. It was so universal that from the beginning, by a strange despondency, the people hardly stirred to quench it. All the sky was of a fiery aspect like the top of a burning oven, and the light was seen above forty miles round for many nights.
“God grant,” says an eye-witness, “mine eyes may never behold the like, who now saw ten thousand houses all in one flame. The noise, and crackling, and thunder of the impetuous flames, the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses, and churches was like a hideous storm, and the air all about so hot and inflamed, that at last no one was able to approach it; so that they were forced to stand still and let the flames burn on, which they did for nearly two miles in length and one in breadth. The clouds also of smoke were dismal and reached nearly fifty miles in length.”
But the judgment was tempered with mercy, for though the loss of property was incalculable, yet it is believed that not more than six or seven individuals perished; and the plague, which before the fire had carried off ten thousand in a week, after this appeared in London no more.
Sir Godfrey Gregg
Vice Grand Commanding Officer