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Highlights from The Sword & the Trowel 1875-1879

Geoff Chang August 31, 2021

This past spring we published the first ten years of The Sword and Trowel. Today, we are releasing five more years, 1875-1879. These were busy and fruitful years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. A prominent theme during these years was Spurgeon’s suffering. The “invalid Pastor” dealt with extended bouts of illness that kept him out of the pulpit for weeks and months at a time, forcing him to travel to warmer climates to recuperate his health. But despite these challenges, the church continued to flourish under the care of Spurgeon’s fellow elders and the work of the congregation. The membership of the church reached over 5,000 during these years. His sermons and books continued to be published and distributed all over the world. The institutions of the church also continued to grow as new ministries were established, including a second orphanage for girls and Susannah Spurgeon’s Book Fund for Pastors. The Pastors’ College also began to have an international reach as they sent out of a Portuguese student and received the application of students from America, Canada, and Europe. In 1878, the church celebrated Spurgeon’s 25th year of ministry with a commemorative service and a gift of £6,233, which Spurgeon promptly donated to the ministries of the church.

Amid all these events, The Sword and the Trowel remained one of the primary communication channels for the Metropolitan Tabernacle and all these Spurgeonic enterprises. Here are just a few articles from these five years. As you read through these issues, send us a note on Twitter (@SpurgeonMBTS) if you find anything interesting!

(To jump straight to the article, click on the link, then click the “View this Resource” button.)


Special Comforts for Cross-bearers – Spurgeon read this sermon from 1665 and was so encouraged by it in his own trials that he published a modernized reprint of it.

When your good Lord lays a cross upon your shoulders he has special consolations for your hearts. As the cross leads on to the crown, so some special beams of glory are lent us by the way, to make the cross less irksome and to give us foretastes of the eternal reward. Believers in the Lord, these words are written unto you; take comfort from them as bees suck honey out of flowers.

A Plea for the Pastors’ College – What was Spurgeon’s approach to pastoral training?

It is of the utmost importance to the church that her ministers should be men fully equipped for their sacred work. Under God the church will generally be very much what her ministers make her; for the old proverb, “like priest like people,” may be transferred from priests to pastors, and it will still hold good. When we reflect upon the influence for good or evil exercised by the pulpit, we feel that were all Christian people to concentrate their prayers upon that one point the object would be worthy of all their earnestness.


Laid Aside. Why? – Amid all the ministry opportunities, Spurgeon wrestled with the pain of his suffering. Why would God allow him to be laid aside when there was so much good work to do?

MYSTERIOUS are the visitations of sickness. When the Lord is using a man for his glory it is singular that he should all of a sudden smite him down, and suspend his usefulness. It must be right, but the reason for it does not lie near the surface. The sinner whose every act pollutes the society in which he moves is frequently permitted year after year to spend an unabating vigor in infecting all who approach him. No sickness removes him even for an hour from his deadly ministry; he is always at his post, energetic in his mission of destruction. How is it that a heart eager for the welfare of men and the glory of God should find itself hampered by a sickly frame, and checked in its utmost usefulness by attacks of painful disease?

Street Preaching – Spurgeon was a proponent of open-air preaching. There were many who would never set foot into a church. Therefore, it was necessary for Christians to bring the gospel to them. Times have changed and street preaching may look different today, but there is still wisdom to be gleaned from Spurgeon for our day.

I AM persuaded that the more of open air preaching there is in London the better, if it should become a nuisance to some it will be a blessing to others, if properly conducted. If it be the gospel which is spoken, and if the spirit of the preacher be one of love and truth, the results cannot be doubted: the bread cast upon the waters must be found after many days.


A Church We Know Of – How did things go at the Metropolitan Tabernacle when Spurgeon was away recovering his health?

In due time the pastor was gone — what then? Did matters flag, congregations fall off, and prayer-meetings decline? Far otherwise. Of course there was less of a crowd of outsiders at Sabbath services, but the people, the flock, did not wander; it was their point of honor to fill the house, and let the good men who occupied the pastor’s place feel that they were appreciated.


Certain Churches Revived – In addition to dozens of new church plants from the students of the Pastors’ College, they were also active in revitalizing old churches.

The resurrection and salvation of an old church is often a more difficult task than to commence a new one. They remind us of the man who used profanely to swear, “God mend me,” to whom a Christian man remarked, “It were better if he made you new.” In very many instances our young brethren have been remarkably successful in this work; but it is not easy to say much about it, for except the case is extraordinary, and altogether undeniable, there are always affectionate friends of the old cause and of the former ministers who feel greatly hurt at any statement which appears to bear hard upon them. To them, it may be, the new order of things may even be distasteful, for the noise and stir of large additions, and the introduction of new ways, causes them disturbance of mind, and is hardly counterbalanced by any joy at the manifest increase of numbers and development of resources. Therefore we confine ourselves to those instances in which the growth of the church seems to us at least to be specially remarkable.


Pastorless Flocks – Spurgeon addresses the problem of churches without pastors and provides a way forward.

One of the best things that a church can do is to catch a minister young, and train him for themselves. Some of the happiest and longest pastorates in our denomination commenced with the invitation of a young man from the country to a post; for which he was barely qualified. His mistakes were borne with, his efforts were encouraged, and he grew, and the church grew with him. His pastorate continued for many a year, since he was under no temptation to leave for another position, because he felt at home, and could say, like one of old, “I dwell among mine own people.” If our large churches will not try young men, but must all be provided with tried, experienced, eminent pastors, there will probably be many vacant pulpits.

The Serpent in Paradise – Gambling was a problem in the 19th century as it is in our day. Here, Spurgeon raises his protest against this societal “abomination.”

Our apology is the necessity of doing something towards ending an abomination which reeks before high heaven, and has been too long permitted to defile the earth; an abomination which has survived the removal of all others like it from among civilized men, as dangerous to society and ruinous to public morals; an abomination for which there is no excuse but the depraved appetite of the immoral public, and no remedy but its universal denunciation by all respectable men. Those who have set up the gaming tables of Monte Carlo have no conscience; it remains for the public to find them one, and this can never be till an enlightened public opinion is formed and expressed. We cannot tell where the following protest may make its way, we do, however, entreat all lovers of common decency, all lovers of their race, to use such influence as they have in assisting the effort to put down this bane of the Riviera, this pest-house of Europe, the gambling establishment of Monte Carlo.