SOWING THE SEED,
"Sow in the morn thy seed,
At eve hold not thy hand,
To doubt and fear give thou no heed,
Broadcast it o'er the land;
And duly shall appear,
In verdure, beauty, strength,
The tender blade, the stalk, the ear,
And the full corn at length."
WE do not measure great men by their specific opinions on this or that question, or by their adherence to this or that dogma. We rather estimate them by their volume of moral and spiritualising power, by the essential qualities of their manhood, by the leavening influences for righteousness that emanate from their own lives. Does true greatness consist in the accident of birth? Verily, no. This is a matter over which we have no control, and which brings with it only power and responsibility. Greatness is not hereditary. Hence we find the sons of some of our greatest men have only been "shadows of a mighty name."
"What can ennoble fools and cowards?
Not all the blood of all the Howards.
Honour and shame from no condition rise;
Act well thy part, there all the honour lies."
It was such a greatness that was so strikingly manifested and beautifully set forth in the busy life-work of him who
forms the subject of this brief sketch.
No man can occupy a prominent position for forty years, with the full blaze of public scrutiny directed on him and his work, and yet stand the test, and approve himself "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed ;" a man of mighty power and religious influence over his fellows, without being in its highest sense, and Divinest meaning, endowed with the elements of true greatness. Such a man has passed from our midst in the person of the beloved and revered Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and no matter what our individual opinions may be, we all instinctively recognise that a great man has departed this life--a prince has fallen in Israel.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born in the old-fashioned village of Kelvedon, in Essex, on the 19th of June, 1834, and it is somewhat remarkable that throughout his whole life he always displayed a strong .partiality for the county of his birth. To mingle with those he knew in his boyhood, and now and again to re-visit the scenes of his early days, was indeed to him a pleasure and delight. The Spurgeons come of an old Puritan stock, and they were a race of sturdy nonconformists. It is said that the founders of the family in Norfolk and Essex came from the Low Countries to escape the persecution of the bloodthirsty Duke of Alva, in the sixteenth century. There was certainly no lack of moral stamina, or of unflinching courage for "conscience' sake" in these lowly refugees from the Netherlands, who came to settle in our eastern counties. Thus we hear of one sturdy ancestor, Job Spurgeon, who, in the reign of Charles II., lay in Chelmsford gaol for fifteen weeks, rather than be a traitor to his convictions. It is somewhat remarkable that this family were all Paedo-Baptists, until the subject of our sketch, and his brother James, declared for believers' baptism by immersion.
Stambourne had a singular attraction for Mr. Spurgeon and this is certainly no cause for wonder, when we remember it was there, under the training and tuition of that godly Puritan grandfather, that the formation of his character was laid, and the seed sown, which was in after years to bring forth such an abundant harvest. His parents were blessed with seventeen olive branches to adorn their home; and with but scant means for their support, it was doubtless a great relief to them for their first-born to make, in a large measure, his grandfather's parsonage his home.
|HOUSE AT KELVEDON WHERE MR. SPURGEON WAS BORN|
The grandfather of Mr. Spurgeon was a man of sparkling wit, in whom local tradition afterwards discerned the original of "John Ploughman." We are not surprised at this conjecture when we read the following description of the deceased minister :--"The Rev. James Spurgeon. is still well remembered by many persons of our acquaintance as an elderly gentleman who dressed after the manner of the old-fashioned school, and who was of spare habit and rather short in stature. Retaining till the last a predilection for the old school of Calvinistic theologians, this veteran also ast times conld deal in that species of wit which is supposed to be characteristic of a Puritan ancestry." He was a Puritan all over, as was instanced in the rare spiritual force of his preaching. He accepted the pastorate of the Independent Church at Stambourne in 1810, and for more than half a century ministered to these simple village folk in holy things. And here it was that Charles was taken to live with his grandfather, as soon as he was old enough to leave home. There he spent a very happy childhood. He would spend hours in his grandfather's study in reading. He tells us how in those early days the thirst for knowledge made itself already felt. "It was in that dear old study," he says, "that I first made acquaintance with `Foxe's Martyrs,' `Bunyan's Pilgrim,' and, further on, with the great masters of Scriptural theology, with whom no moderns are worthy to be named in the same day. Even the old editions of their works, with their margins and old-fashioned notes, are precious to me. It made my eyes water a short time ago to see a number of these old books in the new manse. I wonder whether some other boy will love them, and live to revive that grand old divinity, which will yet be to England her balm and benison?"
We get a glimpse of a happy combination of good will existing in this old Essex village between the Squire, the Parson, and the Dissenting Minister. The Squire attended the church in the morning and the Independent chapel in the afternoon, and then the trio, which Charles often made a quartette, would adjourn to the kindly Squire's and fraternise over "the cup which cheers but not inebriates." One striking instance of the kindly feeling existing between the vicar and his parishioner, James Spurgeon, must be mentioned. Once having a fine joint of beef on the vicarage table, the worthy vicar cut it in halves and sent his man with it to the Independent parsnage while it was yet hot. Happy days! Happy people! Surely examples like these are worthy of imitation by our nineteenth century squires and parsons.
The tact and resolution displayed by Charles even in his youthful days are remarkable. Let the following instance suffice:--One of the members of his grandfathers church was in the habit of frequenting the public house, greatly to the grief of his pastor. Charles saw what trouble the man's conduct caused, and startled the parsonage by exclaiming, "I'll kill old Rhodes, that I will!" "Hush! hush! my dear," said the grandfather; "you must not talk so; it's very wrong you know; and you'll get taken up by the police if you do anything wrong" "Oh, but I shall not do anything bad; but I'll kill him though! that I will." Soon afterwards the boy came home saying, "I've killed old Rhodes; he'll never grieve my dear grandpa any more" Nothing more could be learned from the boy, but soon Rhodes himself appeared on the scene. "I am very sorry, indeed," he said, "my dear pastor, to have caused you such grief and trouble. It was very wrong I know, but I always loved you, and wouldn't have done it, if I'd only thought." He had been sitting in the public house having his pipe and glass of beer, when the boy stepped in, and pointing with his finger said, "What doest thou here, Elijah ! sitting with the ungodly, and a member of a Church, and breaking your pastor's heart. I'm ashamed of you! I wouldn't break my pastor's heart, I'm sure." The child walked away, but conscience was aroused, and the man was saved. He sought God's forgiveness and vowed that he would never grieve his minister any more.
Nearly forty years ago the Rev. Richard Knill was a visitor to the Stambourne parsonage, and a strong attachment sprang up between the well-known missionary and the pastor's grandson. Surely none can say it was mere guess work that led this man of God to express his belief that the boy would grow up to preach to crowds of immense magnitude. These two, like Eli and Samuel, had sweet intercourse. In the early morning they met to speak of a Saviour's love; the elder prayed for the younger, making the garden arbour their sanctuary. When they parted, sixpence was given to Charles on condition that he learnt Cowper's hymn, "God moves in a mysterious way," etc., and a further stipulation was made, that should he ever preach in Rowland Hill's pulpit, that hymn was to be used. Knill's prophecy was fulfilled. The boy became a preacher to thousands. He lived to occupy the Surrey pulpit, and, needless to add, Cowper's hymn was sung. Here again we see the seed sown; "the bread cast upon the waters is found after many days."
Not only at the Stambourne parsonage, but in the old homestead, was there seed sown that was to bring forth precious fruit in due season. John Spurgeon, the father of Charles, was for several years pastor of the Independent Church at Cranbrook, Kent. Both Mr. and Mrs. Spurgeon made great sacrifices to give a good education to their children, and both parents were equally solicitous respecting the spiritual welfare of their offspring. The parents of the popular preacher well maintained the prestige of their family. The mother, who died not very long since, was a devoted Christian woman. She would gather her children around her to pray for them individually, and was accustomed to be especially fervent in asking heaven's blessing on behalf of her eldest boy. The Rev. John Spurgeon, who is still living, contributes the following touching testimony :--"I had been from home a great deal, trying to build up weak congregations, and felt that I was neglecting the religious training of my own children while I toiled for the good of others. I returned home with these feelings. I opened the door, and was surprised to find none of my children about the hall. Going quietly up the stairs, I heard my wife's voice. She was engaged in prayer with the children. I heard her pray for them one by one by name. She came to Charles and especially prayed for him. I felt and said, Lord, I will go on with Thy work; the children will be cared for."
Mrs. Spurgeon's solicitude about her oldest boy was deep and ernest. One day she said to him, "Ah, Charley! I have often prayed that you might be saved, but never that you should become a Baptist." To that Charles replied, "God has answered your prayers, mother, with His usual bounty, and given you more than you asked."
The moral and religious development in young Spurgeon was undoubtedly due to a very great extent to the careful and prayerful training of his devoted mother. Herself a daughter of eminently pious parents, she inherited traits of character, and possessed religious instincts which could not but have a great influence on the minds, character, and dispositions of her children. Few mothers have succeeded so well in their difficult task. The spiritual prosperity of her children was dearer to her heart than their intellectual progress. Eternity alone will reveal to how large an extent the prayers offered by that pious mother in the little home sanctuary have been answered.
DAWNING OF THE LIGHT
the age of seven years, Charles Spurgeon was sent to school at Colchester, where his parents were then living. There he acquired some knowledge of Latin, Greek, and French, and always headed the list at every examination. His vacations were passed in the manse at Stambourne, his time being principally spent in studying the religious books and the Puritan writings which adorned his grandfather's library. But Spurgeon was a born genius, and in a very few years had far outridden the intelligence of his would he teachers.
Perhaps lack of riches was the best thing that could surround a youth with such a spirit, from the very fact that it most likely compelled him to call into action latent powers, which otherwise might have lain dormant in his mind.
Whilst making such rapid progress in his school life, the home teaching was not neglected, and there is no doubt this had an important bearing upon his future. Every day some Scripture lesson would be instilled into his memory, and some Scriptural truth implanted upon his mind. Thus we can understand how, even from the cradle, he was enlightened with spiritual teaching, which would be of invaluable benefit to him in after years.
At the age of fourteen Charles had to leave his home in Colchester; and having spent part of 1848 in an agricultural college at Maidstone he, in 1849, became a teacher at Newmarket, in a school kept by a Mr. Swindell. It was doubtless during his sojourn at New-market that a circumstance transpired, which was to revolutionise the whole tenor of his life. We suppose he would be paying a visit to Colchester, for it was in this town that the remarlcabIe event took place. We refer to his conversion, which could not be better given than in his own words. He says :--"The secret of my distress was this: I did not know the Gospel. For five years I had been in the most fearfull distress of mind. I was in a Christian land; I had Christian parents; but I did not fully understand the freeness and simplicity of the Gospel." Spurgeon's state of mind at this time was pitiable in the extreme. Tortured by doubts, surrounded by fears, beset by unbelief, he might well say, "Who will deliver me from the fear of death?" Evidently one task had been accomplished. One lesson had been learned. He had learned to know himself. How marvellously strange! Quick and apt to learn in other matters, he had yet to learn the nature and operation of simple, childlike faith. But he was not far from the kingdom. God would not leave such a soul long in darkness. The deliverance came from a very unexpected source. Not from the lips of the learned or the eloquent was the message delivered that was to give freedom to this sin-bound soul. No; but from a very poor man; one of the humblest disciples, and the weakest of instruments, was the chosen of God to bring words of peace to that tempest-tossed soul. How true it is,
"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform."
"God sent the snowstorm," says Spurgeon, "when I was going to a meeting room. When I could go no further, I came to a little chapel, containing a dozen or fifteen people." The preacher announced his text, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." After preaching for ten minutes, says Spurgeon, "he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. He then said, 'Young man, you look very miserable!' Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued, ' And you will always be miserable -- miserable in life and miserable in death--if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment you will be saved.'
"Then he shouted, 'Young man, look to Jesus Christ; look now.' He made me start in my seat, but I did look to Jesus Christ there and then. The cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that moment and sang with the most enthusiastic of them of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. O that somebody had told me that before. Trust Christ and you shall be saved. It was, no doubt, wisely ordered, and I must ever say--
"E'er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy wounds supplied for me,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall for ever be."
And yet, the manifestations of Divine grace on this never-to-be-forgotten day in the life of C. H. Spurgeon, were not yet complete. No, truly there was more to follow. From glory unto glory were tim leadings of his soul on that memorable Sabbath. In the morning, at the humble Primitive Methodist chapel, he found salvation to the joy of his soul.He possessed the assurance that was realised by a knowledge that there is "life in a look at the Crucified One." But the joy was not yet complete. The experience of full liberty and perfect freedom had yet to be known to be enjoyed. Says Spurgeon, "In the text, 'Look, look, look,' I found salvation in the morning. In the text, ' Accepted in the Beloved,' preached at the Baptist church iu the evening, I found peace and freedom." Yes,
|CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON|
(from photo by J. Russell & Son, Baker Street, London)
".... Tis done. the mighty deed is done,
And from the Father's glorious throne,
The silver trumpet now proclaims,
In sweet, melodious. heavenly strains,
A pardon free,
Through Christ the Saviour's bleeding veins."
Thus it was that the soul of him was set at liberty who was in his turn to tell the unsearchable riches of Christ, not only by his silvern tongue, but by the wielding of his pen, to hundreds of thousands of his fellow-men, a vast multitude of whom are already the crown of his rejoicing.
Oh! blessed change! glorious realization! unspeakable joy! Now, Lord, the change is wrought; the work is accomplished; the burden removed; the scales have fallen from the eyes; the emancipation from the bondage of the law has taken place. This is the assurance of salvation. This is the joy that springs from faith. This is the pardon enjoyed, and the peace obtained through believing. Go forth thou chosen of the Lord, baptized with this mighty faith, enriched with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost! And thousands obeying the call of your great Master's voice shall yet rise up to call you blessed.
It was just prior to his conversion that he was tempted to embrace scepticism. Speaking at Exeter Hall in 1855, he thus refers to that sad period of doubt and mistrust:- "There was an evil hour when once I slipped the anchor of my faith. I cut the cable of my belief; I no longer moored myself by the coasts of revelation; I allowed my vessel to drift before the wind! I said to reason, 'Be thou my captain ;' I said to my own brain, ' Be thou my rudder!' And I started on my voyage. Thank God, it is all over now! It was one hurried sailing over the tempestuous ocean of freethought."
How many as they read these words will devoutly re-echo the "Thank God" that in this time of conflict he was so miraculously and wondrously delivered from the snare of the tempter.
We have referred at greater length than our space warrants to this interesting conversion and early experience with the "powers of darkness," simply because to our mind they are the most important epochs in this wonderful life. Had not the matchless grace of God been thus displayed in the delivery of His David from the Goliath of scepticism, this brief sketch would never have been penned. We feel sure that, could he speak, he would wish that the story of his conversion should be placed in the forefront, setting forth as it does the wonderful grace and amazing love of the Christ he loved so ardently and served so faithfully.
We cannot close this chapter without a word of explanation. A great deal of conjecture is displayed as to who was the actual preacher on that particular Sunday morning. Some writers assert that it was Robert Eaglan. One writer says, "It was no more Mr. Eaglan than Mr. Eaglan is Mr. Spurgeon." We have been at some considerable pains to ascertain the right version of this matter. From what we can gather, whoever the preacher was his name has never been disclosed, at least not publicly. After all this is only a small detail, and of little moment perhaps. Of one thing we feel confident we may be assured, that ere this the father and his spiritual child have met and exchanged their greetings on that "blood be-sprinkled shore." Even now, whilst we are penning these words, they are engaged in "looking" upon that face that was "scarred more than any man's;" and in unison singing the "song of Moses and the Lamb." "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name be all the glory."
COMMENCING THE FIGHT
a short stay at Newmarket, in 1851, Spurgeon removed to Cambridge to take the office of usher in an important school, under the principalship of a Mr. Leeding. From the testimony of one who lived under the same roof we gather that at this time he was of a very playful disposition, ready for almost any fun and mischief, willing to perpetrate the most outrageous jokes. Though of somewhat indifferent health, yet with a ponderous voice, his merry shouts and hearty laugh were constantly heard to ring through the house. But beneath the seemingly rough exterior, there was a sterling, deep, thoughtful interior. His life was as a diamond of incalculable worth, in its rough and unfinished state; yet one which, when polished and refined, was to occupy a prince's place in the hearts of the sons of Britain's worthiest subjects; and also to win the admiration of the world's greatest statesmen. It was in the early spring of this year that Mr. Spurgeon was baptized by immersion in the Triune name, according to the sacred command. Singularly enough it was on the birthday of his beloved mother that this Christian ordinance was administered. Not in some quiet, sheltered nook, away from scrutiny and observation; not secretly for fear of man was this solemn rite administered. No. In the river dividing two counties, C. H. Spurgeon publicly confessed his "profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," by being buried with Him in baptism. Two hours devoted to deep heart-searching, quiet prayer, holy meditation, was a fitting prelude to that which was to follow. For more than forty years a consistent, useful and blameless life testified to his sincerity and whole-heartedness in the Master's cause, and for whose service he thus proclaimed his discipleship.
It was at Cambridge that his faith seemed to have first been evidenced by his works. The spiritual nature was evidently stirred within him; and having received the "Truth as it is in Jesus," the natural desire was created to impart that "Truth" to others. The first time Spurgeon was called upon to testify as to his newly found faith was brought about in a very unexpected manner, at least to the then untried, unfledged, inexperienced youth. He was invited one Sunday evening by a gentleman to accompany him to a village preaching station some three miles from Cambridge. Whilst on their journey the question arose as to who was to officiate at the service; after much debate the lot fell upon Spurgeon. Thus it was in a small cottage (in the village of Teversham), with a pulpit in one corner of the room, the late renowned pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, then a lad of sixteen, spoke out ot the fulness of his heart of the preciousness of Jesus. "Uuto you therefore which believe He is precious," was the text. There was no breakings down or destitution of ideas in this first sermon. "To our own delight," says Spurgeon, referring to this memorable incident, "we did not stop short in the middle of the sermon, and at last the desired haven was in view. We made. a finish and took up the hymn book, but, to our astonishment, an aged voice cried out, ' Bless your dear heart, how old are you?' Our very solemn reply was, ' You must wait tilt the service is over before making such inquiries. Let us now sing." Having once entered upon this solemn duty, and finding acceptance with the people, the youthful preacher laid himself out for one service every eveuing, after attending to his duties in school during the day. The writer of this sketch, in speaking to a Baptist minister of Wisbech the other day respecting the great loss they had sustained, was agreeably surprised to hear him remark, "I know that little cottage at Teversham well; for it was there. in that little room, that I, like my revered predecessor, preached my first sermon."
In a very short time the youth of sixteen summers was continually occupying the pulpits of the surrounding villages, and so highly were his services appreciated that his visits generally had to be repeated again and again; and there was a unanimity of opinion that he had "an old head upon young shoulders?' His reputation spread amazingly, and in a short time he was engaged in week-night services in the pulpits of Cambridge, the first pulpit he occupied in that town being that of the father of the Baptist minister just referred to.
Another feature of his work came to the front at this period. Temperance principles were not so popular then as now, and temperance advocates could boast of few really godly lay helpers (much less clerical), so they were devoutly thankful for any raw recruits. It was rumoured that Spurgeon had joined their ranks. The addition of this young orator to their number was an important accession, and almost immediately he was announced to address a meeting on temperance. He did so with the greatest eloquence, and from his manner one would have concluded he had been an upholder of total abstinence all his days. At the close of the meeting a gentleman said, "And, pray, how long have you been a temperance man, Mr. Spurgeon ?" The answer was given with the greatest sang froid and coolness imaginable, "About three weeks, sir."
|MR. SPURGEON PREACHING IN THE CRYSTAL PALACE|
The villagers of the various rural districts around Cambridge were soon to lose the ministrations of Spurgeon. and be deprived of the privilege of listening to the "boy preacher" of the Fens. The Baptists of Water-beach gave him a call to be the pastor of their church, promising he should not be overburdened with an exorbitant stipend. Spurgeon, after much prayer and meditation, accepted the call, and went to minister to the people in an old square building, although many of its attendants looked upon it as sacred as the Ark of the Covenant. The position held by Spurgeon was indeed a marvellous one. Picture to your mind the scene in its varied aspects. Here is a youth of seventeen called to be the spiritual instructor to manv old enough to be his grandfather. Verily, the hand of the Lord was in all this. Some there were who boasted they were SOUND in the faith, the elect, according to the foreknowledge of God. Others there were, scrawed with a kind of Calvinism that was enough to make the ghost of Calvin appear among them and reprove them for their narrow-minded bigotry. Some writers have thought that these good souls must have had an important infiuence on the mind of the young minister; hence this would in some measure account for the very strong Calvinistic tone which pervaded his early sermons, although we should think even his narrowness would not be strong enough for these followers of good John Calvin. Now and agaiu, by a nod of disapproval, or a mournful shake of the head, they would show their non-acceptance of the truth as the preacher presented a full and free gospel for a needy and empty sinner. Be that as it may, for some two years Spurgeon ministered successfully to this village church. Members were added to the church, and their preaching place could not contain the numbers that flocked to hear him. The enormous stipend of forty pounds per annum, with a number of old-fashioned country deacons, and members who demanded three sermons every week, each of which sermons would occupy an hour at the very least, and must have the full weight of sixteen ounces to the pound, were not very tempting elements in a man's work to induce him to make a very long sojourn; and yet for a considerable period Spurgeon laboured harmoniously and contentedly with this people.
It is quite a mistake tn suppose that at this time the preacher, young as he was, was hidden in a corner or unknown to fame. The fact is, he was fast becoming one of the most popular preachers in the county. His services were in great requisition and constant request. Well does the writer remember Spurgeon preaching at Somersham at this period. It was at that time he wore the much talked of short jacket and turned-down collar. During the services he was the guest of the eccentric miller of Houghton, the late W. Porto Brown. Mr. Brown was a good, kind, charitable man; but his eccentricities made him less popular than he would otherwise have been. Speaking of his stay at the old man's house, Mr. Spurgeon quaintly remarks, "In our youth we preached at Houghton, and had the felicitous misery of being the good miller's guest." On Mr. Spurgeon making his appearance in the pulpit at Somersham, the old man was much surprised at his youthful appearance, and did not hesitate at the close of the service to tell him, "that his preaching was very well for an apprentice boy." Notwithstanding, this veteran descendant of a Quaker ancestry and the rapidly developing protege of the Stambourne Puritan formed a friendship that continued till the decease of the honest and outspoken miller.
The time was now drawing near that proved the youthful pastor of Waterbeach was destined to occupy a larger sphere, and to cover a large surface with his influence. The talents hidden in his mind were to extend their domain of exercise; the light which was irradiating a mere handful of people was to shine into the understandings of myriads, and the man who was an astonishment to these humble villagers was to excite the wonderment of the world's greatest intelligences. Yes, sovereign and subjects, rich and poor, wise and unwise, statesmen and senators, peers and peeresses, poet and preacher, philanthropist and philosopher, were yet to sit at his feet and learn of him, listen to his unapproachable eloquence, and acknowledge his unmistakable power.
The two years at Waterbeach must have been an exceedingly happy time, for in the heyday of youth work was indeed to him a pleasure, whilst the results of that work was helpful and stimulating in after years. Often were these early days of his ministry referred to by him who has left us all too soon, as seasons of mighty power, and "times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." By his ministry there a great reformation had been effected in the lives of the people. Not only had many joined the church, but the Sabbath was kept a holy day --drunkards became sober, the profligate abandoned his sinful life, backsliders were restored, and great power accompanied the ministry of the word. What was the true secret of the successes of this youthful pastor? He not only believed in but he preached as though he believed in the Bible as God's book, containing God's revealed will to man. He also was a firm believer in the work and office of the Holy Ghost, in the personal indwelling of that Holy Ghost. True it was, he lived and preached with a deep personal sense that God lived in him, and through Him in him, and by Him his ministry (as a true soldier of Jesus Christ) was begun, continued, and finally finished, with the sure and certain hope of "the recompense of reward," As a leading dignitary of the Church of England aptly puts it, "Charles Haddon Spurgeon made the people feel that the Bible was a book never to be suspected, not to be apologised for, but a book to be believed and trusted, and received as the very Word of God." Here, then, is the secret of the successes of that long and laborious life made manisest. From his childlike faith and whole hearted belief in Israel's God should spring forth a power that should be felt by his consecrated ministry and life. Here was born that love, begotten by Jesus Christ, that should carry with it an influence that should be felt in the hearts of multitudes long after he had ceased to labour and to work. Here shone forth a sympathy, lighted by the indwelling of the Spirit of "the Prince of Peace," that shed its lustre round about his pathway, "shining more and more unto the perfect day." Surely from the new-made grave in the quiet God's-acre at Norwood there comes a voice to every reader of this sketch, "Be not weary in well doing, for in due season ye shall reap if ye faint not."
year 1853 was an eventful one to Mr. Spurgeon. One Sabbath morning he had walked from Cambridge to Waterbeach to officiate at his beloved meeting-house. On this especial morning the pastor was all aglow with his brisk walk, and quite ready for his pulpit exercises. Sitting down in the "table pew," a letter was placed in his hands bearing the London post-mark. Referring to this incident twenty-five years afterwards, Spurgeon remarks, "It was an unnsual missive, and was opened with some curiosity. It contained an invitation to preach at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, the puipit of which had been formerly occupied by Dr. Rippon; the very Dr. Rippon whose hymn book was then before me, and out of which I was to choose my hymns for the service." The shadow of the good Dr. Rippon seemed to hover over Park Street Chapel, and led the subject of our sketch to view it with a considerable amount of awe. He passed the epistle over to the deacon, remarking that "it must have been sent to him in mistake, and was no doubt intended for a namesake of his resident in Norfolk." The dcacon quietly replied he feared it was no mistake. The fact being, he had expected some of the large adjacent churches would rob them of their shepherd; never dreaming his fame as a preacher had already reached the ears of Metropolitan Baptists. But it was time to begin the service, so the letter was laid on one side to be answered the next day. The correspondence which ensued resulted in the "boy preacher" receiving an invitation to supply the New Park Street Chapel.
Spurgeon's first impressions of the great city, Iike those of many others, were far from favourable. That was indeed a trying Saturday night for the youthful preacher. One of the deacons directed him to his apartments, where he met with other young clergylmen. We are not surprised that they wondered at the audacity of this young countryman in coming to preach to the City folks. Evidently his dress was not the ideal of what a cleric's should be. Like Eliab of old, so did these brethren in the ministry wonder at this young David's pride and haughtiness of heart in presuming to foist himself upon their notice as a teacher of tbe London people. Verily, they were indeed Job comforters to this stripling stranger. Ah, they knew not of the sling and stone of prayer and faith hidden in the secret of that young heart. Little thought they that in that youth they saw one whose name, in the days to come, was to be a household one in that great city. His first night in London was an anxious and troubled one. In the morning he wended his way through the streets to Park Street Chapel dreading to meet the worthy dignitaries of that important edifice. The ordeal was indeed a trying one, but depending upon the arm of Jeshurun's God, the "boy preacher .... came, saw, and conquered." The morning service was only sparsely attended, but at night, his fame having spread, a true London audience had to be faced; the lions he so much dreaded had to be and were confronted; and henceforth Spurgeon cared as little about facing a company of Londoners as he did meeting a few simple folks in a country village. The tremor of the early morn had for ever vanished; the "fear of than which bringeth a snare," had been removed; and when he returned that evening to his lonely lodgings, he did so a stronger and a braver man for the ordeal through which he had passed.
It is needless to say the outspoken utterance of the boy-preacher created a profound impression; and these first services were highly appreciated. The second Sabbath services were even more strikingly successful (for the fame of this youthful expositor had spread abroad), and when the four probationary Sundays were over, Spurgeon went back to Cambridge confident of the fact that he had moved his hearers; whether that should lead Park Street Church to move him remained to be seen. It was soon manifest that even the youth of nineteen sunliners was to become a successor to the renowned Dr. Rippon, and other celebrated preachers who had been his forerunners in that pastorate. The attendance at Park Street Chapel had so much improved, and so greatly had God honoured the work of His youthful servant. that the prayer meetings were attended by larger numbers than had formerly been seem at the public preaching services. Who shall say what a mighty influence on the great preacher's life was exercised by the prayer meetings held in those early days in Park Street. On 28th April, 1854, Mr Spurgeon accepted the pastorate of Park Street Chapel.
Within twelve months Park Street Chapel had to be enlarged. It was admitted on all hands that an original genius had appeared in the English pulpit, and such crowds flocked to hear him that not even standing room could be obtained. So dense were the crowds that the atmosphere of Park Street Chapel was compared by the preacher to "the Black Hole of Calcutta." So crowded was the sanctuary on Sabbath nights that Spurgeon exclaimed, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, and by faith this wall at the back shall come down too." An aged and prudent deacon, at the close of the service, in somewhat denouncing terms said to him, "Let us never hear of that again, sir ;" upon which the great preacher promptly replied, "You will hear no more about it when it is done, therefore the sooner you set about doing it the better ;" and they did set about it early in 1855, the congregation meeting meanwhile in Exeter Hall.
No man, and that man a preacher of the Gospel, was more vilified and traduced than was Mr. Spurgeon at this time. Every man has to pay his price in some shape or form for popularity. Mr. Spurgeon was no exception. The treatment he received will ever be a standing disgrace to us as a people. We boast of our civilization in this nineteenth century, but the common hangman was treated with more respect than was rendered by a large portion of the nilneteenth century Babylonions to the sacred office held by Mr Spurgeon. Who at this time would have dared to prophesy that this was the man who, in a few years, should command the respect of Royalty itself, and be favoured with the friendship of the most gifted leaders of the Church? Oh! the vacillation of the world in which we live; it is wonderful; it is marvellous indeed! Today it greets the man with the most opprobrious shouts, and the coarsest jeers; to-morrow, it sings its hosannas of praise and eulogy to him.
The advent of Mr. Spurgeon to the metropolis was the occasion of sundry remarks of onlookers, which were neither charitable, Christianlike, or Christly, many affirming that the flush of success would be but a nine-days wonder; wiseacres prophesied various calamities; and even some of his own ministerial brethren thought--was the thought father to the wish?--the presumptuous boy would ere long have a most humiliating fall. But all these prophets prophesied falsely! Comments, of anything but a flattering nature, appeared in various journals. Caricatures entitled "Brimstone and Treacle," "Catch 'em alive O," etc., odorned the publisher's windows. Then arose a host of critics, votaries of the pencil and the pen, some of whom were friendly, some were neutral, others (and they a great multitude) were bitterly antagonistic. The most villanous stories were circulated; the most cruel falsehoods were invented; nevertheless, the work of God prospered, the multitude iucreased, and numbers were added to the Church.
Beside this outside persecution, there were other matters that were pressing heavily upon the mind of this youthful and devoted pastor. His experience at that time was a peculiar one; and he tells it in that characteristic way that no other could do. A paragraph from his "Treasury of David," on Psalm xci., most graphically describes this trying period. "When I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbour-hood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest. I felt my burden was heavier than I could bear. and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker's window in the Dover road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting those words: 'Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befal thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.' The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The Providence which moved the tradesman to place these verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvellous power, I adore the Lord my God."
One more instance of "the trial of his faith" which befel this mighty man of God, must be given ere we pass on to a brighter picture.
|THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE|
New Park Street Chapel, when enlarged, soon became far too small for the crowds which came to hear Spurgeon; and the deacons took the largest available building in London--the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall; and in October, 1856, he began his ministry there, and continued it till the Metropolitan Tabernacle was opened. What is so well known as the Surrey Gardens accident cost Mr. Spurgeon a serious illness, in fact. it is questioned by some whether he ever fully recovered the shock which it gave to his whole system. The following is an extract taken from the church book describing this terrible catastrophe:--
"Lord's day, October 19th, 1856.--On the evening of this day, in accordance with the resolution passed at the church meeting, held October 6th, the church and congregation assembled to hear our pastor in the Music Hall of the Royal Surrey Gardens. A very large number of persons (about 7,000) assembled on that occasion, and the service was commenced in the usual way by singing, reading the Scriptures, and prayer. Just, however, after our pastor had commenced his prayer, a disturbance was caused (it is supposed by some evil persons acting in concert), and the whole congregation was seized with a sudden panic. In the stampede that ensued. seven persons were killed outright, and twenty-eight others seriously injured. This lamentable occurrence produced very serious effects on the nervous system of our pastor. He was entirely prostrated for some days, and compelled to abandon his preaching engagements. Through the great mercy of our Heavenly Father, he was, however, restored, so as to be able to officiate in his own chapel, on Sunday, October 31st, and gradually recovered his wonted health and vigour. The Lord's name be praised."
The pain and grief endured at this time by Mr. Spurgeon were greatly increased by the inconsiderate and virulent attacks, and cruel misrepresentations of the press. By one London daily paper, a type of many others, the broken-hearted preacher was described as a "ranting charlatan!" who uttered vile blasphemies, and hurled damnation at the heads of his sinful hearers. It is well known that these calumnies have been long since lived down, and the very newspapers, which twenty-five years ago thus sought to bring him and his work into obloquy and disrepute, are today the upholders of his character, the adherents of his institutions, and the staunchest of his friends. Verily, "Thou wilt make even the wrath of man to praise Thee, and the remainder of his wrath wilt Thou restrain?"
During the period in which Mr. Spurgeon was preaching in the Surrey Music Hall, large numbers of the aristocracy attended his ministry, amongst whom were the Lord Chief-Justice Campbell, the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of London, Earl Russell, Lord Alfred Paget, Lord Panmure, Earl Grey, Earl Shaftesbury, Miss Florence Nightingale, Lady Rothschild, Dr. Livingstone, and many other persons of learning and distinction. It was during that interim that Mr. Spurgeon paid one of his visits to Holland, was privileged to preach before the Dutch Court, and had a lengthened
interview with the Queen of that country.
On Tuesday, 16th August, 1859, the first stone of the Metropolitan Tabernacle was laid by Sir Morton Peto. The proceedings opened with the singing of the hymn, "Before Jehovah's awful throne." After prayer, a history of the church was read by Mr. W. B. Carr. In the evening a tea meeting was held in Rea's Repository, at which more than 2,ooo persons were present. The Lord Mayor, a Colchester man, presided at the evening meeting, and some racy speeches were made. One by Judge Payne contains the following play on Mr. Spurgeon's initials :--"C. H. S. means a clear headed speaker. who is clever at handling subjects in a cheerful-hearted style; he is a captain of the hosts of Surrey; he is a cold-hating spirit; he has a chapel-heating skill; he is a care-hushing soother; he is a Christ-honouring soldier; and he is a Christ honoured servant."
Truly we may say that now the sun was beginning shine through the clouds, which had so long hung around Mr. Spurgeon. He had fought a fierce battle. There are few men that would not have succumbed to a tithe of the difficulties which had surrounded him. These early years of his ministry had been times of persecution, suffering, and discouragement, but their lessons had been well heeded. Rich, ripe, and varied experience had been treasured up during these years of trial. How much he had had to encourage him in his work of faith and labour of love! When he first preached in London he had 200 hearers, now they numbered 1,178 members. During that period he had received into fellowship by baptism no less than 3,569 persons. None can deny he was a great and successful preacher. None more so. It is not too much to say that even at this time he was the "prince of preachers," towering high above his fellows. There was only one Spurgeon, and he stood alone in all he said or did. None could imitate or copy him successfully. He possessed one of the most vivid imaginations. He was a real man. To him sin was real; Christ was real; heaven was real; pardon was real. It was this reality that he carried with him into every detail of his life that made him speak "as a dying man to dying men." He owed not his success or his influence to the chance of circumstances, to his wit and raciness, to his wonderful and striking command of lauguage; no, to none of these things but to his firm and tenacious grasp of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That the reader may form some idea of Spurgeon's widely-spread popularity, we give the following instances as a fitting close to this chapter On 7th October, 1857, the day set apart for national humiliation on acconnt of the troubles in India, Spurgeon preached to 24,000 people in the Crystal Palace, when the munificent sum of 686 pounds was collected for the national fund Some two or three days prior to this great meeting, Mr. Spurgeon went down to the palace to make some special arrangements, and to test the acoustic properties of the vast building Asking a friend that accompanied him to take his stand at the farthest extremity of the building, Mr Spurgeon mounted the platform, and uttered the words, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," every word of which was heard distinctly by his friend. Soon after they left the building and returned home. About twenty - seven years afterwards Mr. Spurgeon was asked to visit a dying man who particularly wished to see him. He at once complied. On entering the sick chamber, the sufferer asked Mr. Spurgeon whether he remembered his visit with his friend to the Crystal Palace. "Perfectly well," answered Mr Spurgeon. "Well, sir," said the man, "on that day I was working just underneath where you stood. I was an unsaved man, living a sinful, wicked life. When I heard you give utterance that day to the words, 'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,' the Holy Spirit applied those words to my heart, and very soon after I found peace through believing. I thought I could not die till I had told you how God had used you as His instrument in my conversion."
The joy and pleasure that this death bed testimony gave the great preacher can be better imagined than described.
Continue with Chapter Five