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the manifold qualities which call forth admiration, Charles Haddon Spurgeon possessed the genius of good letter-writing, and thirty-one years after his decease the desirability of publishing a volume of his letters has been privately and publicly expressed by a number of his admirers, and on many sides there has been made manifest a longing to possess a collection, in a concrete form, of at least a chosen few of those communications which flowed from his heart and pen with such gracious and generous prodigality.
The present time seems to be propitious for the publication of such a work, and it is hoped that this gamering of some of the “finest of the wheat” from the vast field of his correspondence, may meet the need of those who have an appetite for such nutritious and delectable fare.
A number of friends, knowing that I possessed many of the originals of my father’s letters, and others who were willing to supply me with any they had, expressed the gracious opinion that the son of such an illustrious sire should edit a volume containing a collection of these valuable epistles.
I have yielded to this wish, desiring that his memory may be rendered increasingly precious, and his unique character more highly valued.
In order that a wider constituency may peruse the letters which are to be found in the Autobiography of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, issued in four volumes, this collection, including a large quantity of hitherto unpublished correspondence, is compiled, confident that a fresh luster will be shed upon a personality rich in love, sympathy, friendship, pious manliness, and religious fervor.
An endeavor has been made to set forth the many-sided nature of his character as indicated in the various relationships of life in gathering a collection of letters rich in the honest sentiments of his heart, and expressed in his own racy and rare style.
His letter-writing is redolent with that unique charm which he possessed to a remarkable degree, namely,” bon-hmnie,” while sweet humility, gentle kindness, sanctified wit, mighty faith, sound judgment, strength of will, and a vigorous mind are all clearly manifested in his correspondence. There is a piquancy about his writing which becomes an abiding flavor in the memory, full. and fresh with the sweet savor of sanctified genius.
The characteristics, which age mellowed, are to be found in the early correspondence of the “boy preacher.” His distrust of self, his dependence on God, and his doctrinal beliefs abide from first to last. Even in youth Mr. Spurgeon wrote, as he spoke, with the experience and certainty of one of riper years, and there was a maturity of thought and expression singularly surprising for a young man.
It is felt that the products of his pen ought to have an enlarged ministry through the Press, and the publication of a choice selection of his letters will greatly enhance the human interest of his individuality, and endear him more than ever to those who have derived the highest spiritual profit from his manifold writings.
When the Autobiography was compiled, a vast amount of correspondence was reviewed, and much was used, but the store was far from being exhausted.
Mr. Spurgeon, himself, selected a large number of letters, for he held, “A man’s private letters often let you into the secrets of his heart .... A man’s writing-desk should be used to make his biography.”
Mr. Spurgeon’s caligraphy was characteristic of himself. In early days it was like copper-plate, and to the end of his life, unless deformed by pain, was always singularly chaste and clear, and to the very last note he penned, it maintained its uniform neatness. His favorite ink was violet, though he judged “there is no better ink than that to be bought in penny bottles,” and his was usually the “pen of a ready writer,” and he did not take kindly to stylos and the like, for he says: “I am writing with a patent pen which carries its own ink, but I don’t think much of it for it seems to be very indistinct, and more like a pencil than a pen.” The variety of the paper that he used well illustrated his versatility, as he filled the sheets with “thoughts that glow, and words that burn.”
Of the innumerable letters which Mr. Spurgeon wrote, he preserved comparatively a few, and those who are the fortunate possessors of his communications are chary of parting with them, and in a very large number of instances the epistles are of such a private nature that it would be a breach of confidence, as well as of courtesy, to make them public. It will be observed that but few of his letters are fully dated, this being an exceptional idiosyncrasy.
His correspondence was voluminous, necessitating a great amount of time and labor on his part in replying to it. To a friend he once said, “I am immersed to the chin in letters,” and although multitudes of grateful acknowledgments for pecuniary help sent on behalf of his various Institutions were lithographed, he never allowed any letter of importance to escape his notice which called for a personal response in his own handwriting. He knew so well the power of letter-writing, and also how glad the recipients would be, and what lifelong friends he would secure.
There are hundreds of brief notes that he addressed to a multitude of inquirers, their very brevity displaying his genius, and comforming to the view he held when he wrote :m” We cannot write letters nowadays, but must be content to send mere notes and memoranda. When letters were reasonably few, and cost a shilling each, men had the time to write well, and thought it worth their while to do so. Now that the penny post is a public man’s sorest trial, the shorter we can make our epistles the better.”
At times he felt the burden of such a mass of correspondence, when added to his already too heavy load, and he often said, “I am only a poor clerk, driving the pen hour after hour; here is another whole morning gone, and nothing done but letters! letters letters “I am so pressed that I can only give a brief space to one person, and a rigid economy of time can alone allow even of this.”
It were well that after all the toil involved, these letters should have a wide circulation, and create in this printed form at least a modicum of joy akin to their written originals, which caused the receivers so much pleasure.
Unfortunately, many of the most touching and telling of his epistles were destroyed, and the old friends of the great preacher who received his letters have passed away, so that the task of gathering fresh correspondence has been rendered difficult.
I have, however, received nothing but kindness and help, and most gratefully acknowledge the aid afforded by the following friends who have placed their possessions at my disposal: Sir Samuel Barrow, J.P., Joshua Keevil, Esq., William Higgs, Esq., J. E. Passmore, Esq., W. Olney, Esq., and the Revs. William Cuff, William Stott, Walter J. Mayers, W. Y.
Fullerton, F. J. Feltham and A. Cunningham-Burley.
I am also indebted to Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton for permission to reprint the letters to my brother, the Rev. Thomas Spurgeon, from the Biography written by the Rev. W. Y. Fullerton; to the Religious Tract Society for granting me the favor of using some from Personal Reminiscences of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, by the Rev. W. Williams; to A. H. Stockwell, Esq., for allowing me to extract three or four from the volume The Rev. Joseph William Harrald, by Rev. A. Harwood Field; and also for the concession accorded to me by the holders of the copyrights, for letters to Rev. J. A. Spurgeon, D.D., LL.D., Rev. William Landels, D.D., which appear respectively in the Life and Memoir of each by Mr. G.
Nor can I omit to testify to the ability of my Private Secretary, Mr. Leslie W. Long, in saving me much time and labor by his excellent shorthand, transcribing, and typewriting, and I gratefully acknowledge the ever-kind and courteous treatment received from the Publishers, together with the gracious service rendered by the Rev. F. A. Jackson, in reading through the proofs.
Believing that those who knew and loved Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and others who revere the name, will find pleasure in reading his letters, I commend this volume to the blessing of my father’s God and my God.