Early Instances of Blessing
ROM the very first, instances were reported of blessing received through the reading of the printed sermons, and some of the earlier cases may here find a fitting place. They cannot be told better than in C. H. Spurgeon's own words"As soon as the publication of the sermons was commenced," he says, "the Lord set His seal upon them in the conversion of sinners, the restoration of backsliders, and the edification of believers; and, to His praise, I rejoice to write, that, ever since, it has been the same. For many years, seldom has a day passed, and certainly never a week, without letters reaching me from all sorts of places, even at the utmost ends of the earth, telling me of the salvation of souls by means of one or other of the sermons. There are, in the long series, discourses, of which I may say, without exaggeration, that the Holy Spirit has blessed them to hundreds of precious souls; and long after their delivery fresh instances of their usefulness have come to light. For this, to God be all the glory!"
"There were certain remarkable cases of blessing through the reading of some of the very earliest of the sermons; I mention these not merely because of the interest naturally attaching to them, but because they are representative of many similar miracles of mercy that have been wrought by the Holy Ghost all through the years which have followed. On June 8, 1856, I preached in Exeter Hall from Hebrews 7:25, 'Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.' The sermon was published under the title, 'Salvation to the Uttermost,' and more than thirty years afterwards I received the joyful tidings that a murderer in South America had been brought to the Savior reading it. A friend, living not far from the Tabernacle, had been in the city of Para, in Brazil. There he heard of an Englishman in prison who had, in a state of drunkenness, committed a murder, for which he was confined for life. Our friend went to see him and found him deeply penitent, but quietly restful and happy in the Lord. He had felt the terrible wound of blood guiltiness in his soul, but it had been healed, and he was enjoying the bliss of pardon."
"Here is the story of the poor fellow's conversion as told in his own words'A young man, who had just completed his contract at the gasworks, was returning to England; but before doing so, he called to see me and brought with him a parcel of books. When I opened it I found that they were novels, but being able to read I was thankful for anything. After I had read several of the books, I found one of Mr. Spurgeon's sermons (#84, "Salvation to the Uttermost"), in which he referred to Palmer, who was then lying under sentence of death in Stafford Gaol, and in order to bring home the truth of his text to his hearers he said that, if Palmer had committed many other murders, if he repented and sought God's pardoning love in Christ, even he would be forgiven! I then felt that if Palmer could be forgiven, so might I. I sought the Savior, and blessed be God, I found him; and now I am pardoned, I am free; I am a sinner saved by grace. Though a murderer, I have not yet sinned beyond "the uttermost," blessed be His holy Name!'
"It made me very happy," added C. H. Spurgeon, "when I heard the glad news that a poor condemned murderer had thus been converted, and I am thankful to know that he is not the only one who, although he had committed the awful crime of murder, had, through the Spirit's blessing upon the printed sermons, been brought to repentance and to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. There was another man who had lived a life of drunkenness and unchastity, and who had even shed human blood with his bowie knife and his revolver, yet he, too, found the Savior and became a new man; and when he was dying he charged someone who was with him to tell me that one of my discourses had brought him to Christ. 'I shall never see Mr. Spurgeon on earth,' he said, 'but I shall tell the Lord Jesus Christ about him when I get to Heaven.' It was a sermon read far away in the backwoods that, through sovereign grace, was the means of the salvation of this great sinner."
Here is another early instance. "One Saturday morning in November, 1856, when my mind and heart were occupied with preparation for the great congregation, I expected to address the next day at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, I received a long letter from Norwich from a man who had been one of the leaders of an infidel society in that city. It was most cheering to me, amid the opposition and slander I was then enduring, to read what he wrote."
"'I purchased one of the pamphlets entitled "Who is this Spurgeon?" and also your portrait (or a portrait sold as yours) for 3d. I brought these home and exhibited them in my shop window. I was induced to do so from a feeling of derisive pleasure. The title of the pamphlet is, naturally, suggestive of caricature, and it was especially to convey that impression that I attached it to your portrait and placed it in my window. But I also had another object in view; I thought by its attraction to improve my trade. I am not at all in the book or paper business, which rendered its exposure and my motive the more conspicuous. I have taken it down now. I am taken down too. . . . I had brought one of your sermons of an infidel a day or two previously. In that sermon I read these words, "They go on; that step is safe,they take it; the next is apparently safe,they take that; but their foot hangs over a gulf of darkness." I read on, but the word darkness staggered me; it was all dark with me. I said to myself, "True, the way has been safe so far, but I am lost in bewilderment; I cannot go on as I have been going. No, no, no; I will not risk it." I left the apartment in which I had been musing, and as I did so the three words, "Who can tell?" seemed to be whispered to my heart. I determined not to let another Sunday pass without visiting a place of worship. How soon my soul might be required of me, I knew not; but I felt that it would be mean, base, cowardly, not to give it a chance of salvation. "Ay!" I thought, "my associates may laugh, scoff, deride and call me coward and turncoat; I will do an act of justice to my soul." I went to chapel; I was just stupefied with awe. What could I want there? The doorkeeper opened his eyes wide and involuntarily asked, "It's Mr., isn't it?" "Yes," I said, "it is." He conducted me to a seat and afterwards brought me a hymn-book. I was fit to burst with anguish. "Now," I thought, "I am here, if it be the house of God, Heaven grant me an audience and I will make a full surrender. O God, show me some token by which I may know that Thou art and that Thou wilt in no wise cast out the vile deserter who has ventured to seek Thy face and Thy pardoning mercy!" I opened my hymn-book to divert my mind from the feelings that were rending me, and the first words that caught my eyes were
"Dark, dark indeed the grave would be . . .
Had we no light, O God, from Thee!"'
After mentioning some things which he looked upon as evidences that he was a true convert the man closed up by saying, 'O sir, tell this to the poor wretch whose pride, like mine, has made him league himself with hell; tell it to the hesitating and the timid; tell it to the desponding Christian that God is a very present help to all that are in need! . . .Think of the poor sinner who may never look upon you in the world, but who will live to bless and pray for you here and long to meet you in the world exempt from sinful doubts, from human pride and backsliding hearts.'
"After that letter," concludes C. H. Spurgeon, "I heard again and again from the good brother; and I rejoiced to learn that, the following Christmas day, he went into the market-place at Norwich and there made a public recantation of his errors and a profession of his faith in Christ. Then, taking up all the infidel books he had written or that he had in his possession, he burned them in the sight of all the people. I blessed God with my whole heart for such a wonder of grace as that man was, and I afterwards had the joy of learning from his own lips what the Lord had done for his soul, and together we praised and magnified Him for His marvelous mercy."
Such instances might be multiplied, but the few given above will show that the printed sermons were as efficacious in meeting the needs of those with spiritual doubts and difficulties as the preached word, and they further prove that C. H. Spurgeon's power did not lay in mere oratory, but that it was the substance of his discourses which led to his success and popularity.