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  • DIARY, LETTERS AND RECORDS -
    CHAPTER 42


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    “IN LABORS MORE ABUNDANT” (CONTINUED). OUR first sojourn at Exeter Hall, from February 11 to Max 27, 1855, like the later assemblies in that historic building, was one long series of “special services, which gave the church at New Park Street a position it had not previously attained The simple record in our church-book scarcely conveys an adequate idea of the importance of the “forward movement” that was about to be inaugurated: — “Our Pastor announced from the pulpit that our place of worship would be closed for enlargement for the eight following Lord’s-days, during which period the church and congregation would worship in the large room at Exeter Hall, Strand, on Lord’s-days, morning and evening, and that accommodation had also been provided for the usual week-evening services to be held at Maze Pond Chapel.”

    The following paragraph, published in The Globe, March 22, was extensively copied into other papers; and the comments upon it, both favorable and otherwise, helped still further to attract public attention to our services: — “The circumstances under which the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon has recently come before the public are curious, and demand a passing notice. Some months since, he became minister of New Park Street Chapel; and it was soon found that the building, capacious as it was, was far too small to accommodate the crowds of persons who flocked to hear the young and eloquent divine. In this state of affairs, there was no alternative but to enlarge the chapel; and while this process was going on, Exeter Hall was engaged for him. For some weeks past, he has been preaching there ,-=very Sunday morning and evening; but he has filled the great hall, just as easily as he filled New Park Street Chapel. A traveller along the Strand, about six o’clock on a Sunday evening, would wonder what could be the meaning of a crowd which literally stopped the progress of public vehicles, and sent unhappy pedestrians round the by-streets, in utter hopelessness of getting along the wider thoroughfare. Since the days of Wesley and Whitefield, — whose honored names seem to be in danger of being thrown into the shade by this new candidate for public honors, — so thorough a religious furor has never existed. Mr. Spurgeon is likely to become a great preacher; at present, his fervid and impassioned eloquence sometimes leads him a little astray, and sometimes there is a want of solemnity, which mars the beauty of his singularly happy style.”

    Before we had completed the two months for which we had engaged Exeter Hall, we found that it was advisable to continue there for eight more Sabbaths (making sixteen in all). Our return to our own chapel is thus recorded in the church-book: — “The meeting-house in New Park Street was re-opened, after the enlargement, on Thursday, May 3ISt, 1855, when two sermons were preached, that in the forenoon by the Rev. James Sherman, of Blackheath, and that in the evening by our Pastor.”

    It was a very wet day, and, although I am not a believer in omens, I told the people that I regarded it as a prognostication of the “showers of blessing” we hoped to receive in the enlarged building; and that, as it had rained literally at the re-opening services, I prayed that we might have the rain spiritually as long as we worshipped there. To the glory of God, I am grateful to testify that it was so. I also quoted to the crowded congregation Malachi iii. 10, — ”Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it;” — and reminded the friends that, if they wished to have the promised blessing, they must comply with the condition attached to it. This they were quite ready to do, and from the time of our return to our much-loved sanctuary until the day when we finally left it, we never had “room enough to receive” the blessings which the Lord so copiously poured out for us.

    There were two evenings — June 22, and September 4, 1855, — when I preached in the open air in a field in King Edward’s Road, Hackney. On the first occasion, I had the largest congregation I had ever addressed up to that time, but at the next service the crowd was still greater. F5 By careful calculation, it was estimated that from twelve to fourteen thousand persons were present. I think I shall never forget the impression I received when, before we separated, that vast multitude joined in singing — “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” That night, I could understand better than ever before why the apostle John, in the Revelation, compared the “new song” in Heaven to “the voice of many waters.” In that glorious hallelujah, the mighty waves of praise seemed to roll up towards the sky, in. majestic grandeur, even as the billows of old ocean break upon the beach.

    Among the notable gatherings in various provincial towns, my visit to Trow-bridge has a special interest because of the singularity of an extra service that was crowded into my programme. I had promised to preach in one place of worship in the afternoon and evening of Monday, April 7, 1856, and in another chapel the following morning. At both the services on the Monday, the building was densely packed, and hundreds had to go away, unable to gain admission, so I offered to preach again at ten o’clock at night if the friends could make it known, and 15ring in a fresh congregation. Many remained after the first evening service, and before the appointed hour others came in such numbers that the place was again crowded.

    That was a memorable night, but it was quite eclipsed by another, which I spent in a meeting-house not far from the place which was the scene of the terrible explosion in the Risca colliery in December, 186o. That charming spot in South Wales has frequently yielded me a quiet and delightful retreat. Beautiful for situation, surrounded by lofty mountains, pierced by romantic valleys, the breathing of its air refreshes the body, and the sight of the eyes makes glad the heart. I have climbed its hills, I have seen the everwidening landscape, the mountains of Wales, the plains of England, and the sea sparkling afar. I have mingled with its godly men and women, and worshipped God in their assemblies. I have been:fired with the glorious enthusiasm of the people when they have listened to the Word; but that night I shall never forget in time or in eternity, when, crowded together in the place of worship, hearty Welsh miners responded to every word I uttered, with their “Gogoniants” encouraging me to preach the gospel, and crying “Glory to God!” while the message was proclaimed. They kept me well-nigh to midnight, preaching three sermons, one after another, almost without a break, for they loved to listen to the gospel. God was present with us, and many a time has the baptismal pool been stirred since then by the fruit of that night’s labor.

    Nor shall I ever forget when, standing in the open air beneath God’s blue sky, I addressed a mighty gathering within a short distance of that same place, when the Spirit of God was poured upon us, and men and women were swayed to and fro under the Heavenly message, as the corn is moved in waves by the summer winds. Great was our joy that day when the people met together in thousands, and with songs and praises separated to their homes, talking of what they had heard.

    I must mention the visit I paid to Stambourne, on May 27, 1856, when I preached, at my dear grandfather’s request, in commemoration of his ministerial jubilee. He had then been Pastor of the Congregational Church at Stambourne for forty-six years, and he had previously been minister at Clare, in Suffolk, for four years. I suppose such a service is almost unique; certainly, I have no recollection of any other instance in which a grandson has had the privilege of preaching for his grandfather under similar circumstances, and I bless God that this was my happy lot. On the previous Sabbath morning, at New Park Street Chapel, I delivered substantially The same discourse from Isaiah xlvi. 4, and it was published under the title, “The God of the Aged” (Nos. 81-2). Some fifteen hundred or two thousand persons assembled at Stambourne for the celebration; and to accommodate them, a large covered space was extemporized by the use of a barn, and tents, and tarpaulins. The proceedings were, naturally, full of interest. My venerable friend, Rev. Benjamin Beddow, who assisted me in the compilation of Memories of Stambourne, has recorded the following incident which, otherwise, I might .have forgotten:— “In the afternoon, Mr. C. H. Spurgeon made some allusions to Thomas Binney’s volume, How to make the best of both worlds, and expressed his opinion that no man could serve two masters, or live for more than one world. The ardent spirit of a Congregationalist minister was aroused, and he interrupted the speaker. This was a mistake; but though it raised discussion, it produced no result upon the evening congregation, which was as thronged and as enthusiastic as that which preceded it. We only refer to it for the sake of the sequel to the anecdote. Years after, the gentleman who interrupted had such an opinion of C. H. Spurgeon that, in a very kind and genial letter, he reminded him of the incident, and asking for a sermon from him, pressed the request by quoting the old saying about Cranmer, ‘ It you do my Lord of Canterbury an ill turn, he will be your friend all the days of your life.’ At that time it was not in the power of C.

    H. Spurgeon to grant the request, for the season had long been promised to others; but he felt that he would right gladly have done so had it been within the region of the possible. “Great were the crowds of that day’ very busy were: all the ladies of the region in making tea, and very liberal were the gifts. The venerable old man, whose ministerial jubilee was thus celebrated, seemed to feel rather the weight of the years than any special exhilaration because of their having reached to fifty. Within himself he held a quiet jubilee of rest, which the world could neither give nor take away.”

    My experiences in those early years were very varied, and some of them were so singular that I cannot easily forget them. At one place, I was preaching to a great crowd of people, and during the sermon many in the congregation were visibly affected. I felt that the power of the Lord was working there very manifestly; one poor creature absolutely shrieked out because of the wrath of God against sin.

    On another occasion, I had scarcely finished my discourse, when a Christian woman, who had been listening to it, dropped dead in her pew.

    That was at a village!in Kent. not very long afterwards, I went to Tollesbury, in Essex, to preach on a week-day afternoon on behalf of the Sunday-school at my father’s chapel. There was a large assembly of friends from the surrounding district; and at the close of the service, tea was provided for them in a tent. Before they had finished, the wife of one of the deacons was seized with a fit, and died in a few minutes. I had not arranged to preach in the evening; but, under the circumstances, I did so, taking for my text Paul’s words, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

    An old countryman once came to me, after a service:, and said, “Ah! young man, you have had too deep a text; you handled it well enough, but that is an old man’s text, and I felt afraid to hear you announce it.” I replied, “Is God’s truth dependent on age? If the thing is true, it is just as well to hear it from me as from anyone else; but if you can hear it better anywhere else, you have the opportunity.”

    I recollect one hearer that I had of quite ‘a different sort. Preaching about in the country, I had often noticed, in a certain county, a man in a smock frock who was a regular follower. He seemed to be amazingly attentive to the service, and thinking that he looked an extremely poor man, I one day gave him five shillings. When I preached twenty miles off, there he was again, and I gave him some more help fancying that he was a tried child of God. When I was preaching in another place in the same county, there he was again; and the thought suddenly occurred to me, “That man finds something more attractive in the palms of my hands than in the words of my lips,” — so I gave him no more. The next time I saw him, he put himself in my way, but I avoided him;.and then, at last, being again in the same county, he came up, and asked me to give him something. “No,” I said, “you will have no more from me; 1 see why you have come; you have followed me, pretending to delight in the Word, and to be profited by it, whereas it is profit you get out of me, not profit from the gospel.”

    In another part of the country, I was preaching once to people who kept continually looking round, and I adopted the expedient of saying, “Now, friends, as it is so very interesting to you to know who comes in, and it disturbs me so very much for you to look round, I will, if you like, describe each one as he comes in, so that you may sit and look at me, and keep up at least a show of decency.” I described one gentleman who came in, who happened to be a friend whom I could depict without offence, as “a very respectable gentleman who had just taken his hat off,” and so on; and after that one attempt I found it was not necessary to describe any more, because they felt shocked at what I was doing, and I assured them that I was much more shocked that they should render it necessary for me to reduce their conduct to such an absurdity. It cured them for the time being, and I hope for ever, much to their Pastor’s joy.

    On one of my many early journeys by the Eastern Counties Railway, — as the G.E.R. was then called, — I had a singular adventure, upon which I have often looked back with pleasurable recollections.’ I had been into the country to preach, and was returning to London. All at once, I discovered that my ticket was gone; and a gentleman — the only other occupant of the compartment, — noticing that I was fumbling about in my pockets as though in search of something I could not find, said to me, “I hope you have not lost anything, sir?” I thanked him, and told him that it was my ticket that was missing, and that, by a remarkable coincidence, I had neither watch nor money with me. I seldom wear a watch, and probably the brother whom I had gone to help had seemed to me in need of any coin that I might have had in my possession before I started on my homeward journey. “But,” I added, “I am not at all troubled, for I have been on my Master’s business, and I am quite sure all will be well. I have had so many interpositions of Divine providence, in small matters as well as great ones, that I feel as if, whatever happens to me, I am bound to fall on my feet, like the man on the Manx penny.” The gentleman seemed interested, and said that no doubt it would be all right, and we had a very pleasant, and, I hope, profitable conversation until the train had nearly reached Bishopsgate Station, and the collectors came for the tickets. As the official opened the door of our compartment, he touched his hat to my travelling companion, who simply said, “All right, William!” whereupon the man again saluted, and retired. After he had gone, I said to the gentleman, “It is very strange that the collector did not ask for my ticket.” “No, Mr. Spurgeon,” he replied, — calling me by my name for the first time, — ”it is only another illustration of what you told me about the providence of God watching over you even in little things; I am the General Manager of this line, and it was no doubt Divinely arranged that I should happen to be your companion just when I could be of service to you. I knew you we;re all right, and it has been a great pleasure to meet you under such happy circumstances.”

    A somewhat similar instance of the presence of “a friend in need” occurred at a later period of my life, but it follows so appropriately upon the previous one that it may as well be related here. I was going to preach somewhere in the North of London; and to reach my destination, I had to pass through the City. When I was in Princes Street, near the Bank, my horse fell, some of the harness gave way, and one of the shafts of the carriage was broken. Almost at the instant that the accident happened, a hand was thrust in at the window, and the owner of it gave me his card, and said, “I know where you are going, Mr. Spurgeon; you have no time to lose in getting to the chapel. Take a cab, and go on about your Master’s business; I’ll stay with the coachman, and see what can be done with the horse and carriage.” I did as the gentleman suggested, and after I had preached, and was ready to return, there was the carriage at the chapel door, ready for me, and the coachman gave me the message that there was “nothing to pay.” I wrote to thank the generous friend for his timely and welcome help and gift, and in his reply he said, “I only hope that, next time your horse goes down, I may be close at hand, or that somebody else may be there who will feel it as great a pleasure to be of service to you as I have done. You do not know me, but I am well acquainted with one of your deacons, and through him I have heard a good deal about you.” So he took care of me for my deacon’s sake, and still more for my Lord’s sake; and many and many a time have I had kindnesses shown to me by those who, until then, had been complete strangers to me. other people may not think much of such incidents; but to me they are intensely interesting, and they fill me with adoring gratitude to God. (The following letters, written by Mr. Spurgeon to his very intimate friend, Mr. J. S. Watts, Regent Street, Cambridge, — to whom reference was made in Vol. 1., Chapter 22., of the Autobiography, — have been most kindly placed at Mrs. Spurgeon’s disposal by Miss Watts; they record the young Pastor’s experiences during the period now under review, and throw a vivid light on many of the notable incidents which occurred in 1854 — 1856: — ) “75, Dover Road, “August 25, 1854. “My Very Dear Friend, “I am astonished to find that fame has become so inveterate a fabricator of untruths, for I assure you that I had no more idea of coming to Cambridge on Wednesday than of being dead last week. “I have been, this week, to Tring, in Hertfordshire, on the border of Bucks. I have climbed the goodly hills, and seen the fair vale of Aylesbury below. In the morning, I startled the hare from her form, and at eve talked with the countless stars. I love the glades and dells, the hills and vales, and I have had my fill of them. The week before, I was preaching at Ramsgate, and then tarried awhile at Margate, and came home by boat. Kent is indeed made to rejoice in her God, for in the parts I traversed the harvest was luxuriant and all seemed thankful. “The Crystal Palace is likewise a favorite haunt of mine; I shall rejoice to take your arm one day, and survey its beauties with you. “Now for the cause at New Park Street. We are getting on too fast.

    Our harvest is too rich for the barn. We have had one meeting to consider an enlargement, — quite unanimous; — meet again on Wednesday, and then a committee will be chosen immediately to provide larger accommodation. On Thursday evenings, people can scarcely find a vacant seat, — I should think not a dozen in the whole chapel. On Sabbath days, the crowd is immense, and seatholders cannot get into their seats; half-an-hour before time, the aisles are a solid block, and many stand through the whole service, wedged in by their fellows, and prevented from escaping by the crowd outside, who seal up the doors, and fill the yard in front, and stand in throngs as far as the sound can reach. I refer mainly to the evening, although the morning is nearly the same. “Souls are being saved. I have more enquirers than I can attend to.

    From six to seven o’clock on Monday and Thursday evenings, I spend in my vestry; I give but brief interviews then, and have to send many away without being able to see them. The Lord is wondrous in praises. A friend has, in a letter, expressed his hope that my initials may be prophetic, — “C. H. S. “COMFORT.HAPPINESS.SATISFACTION. “I can truly say they are, for I have comfort in my soul, happiness in my work, and satisfaction with my glorious Lord. I am deeply in debt for your offer of hospitality; many thanks to you. My kindest regards to all my friends, and yours, especially your sons and daughters. I am sure it gives me delight to be remembered by them, and I hope it will not be long before I run down to see them.

    Hoping you will be blessed in going out, and coming in, “I am, “Yours truly, “C. H.SPURGEON.” “75, Dover Road, “Saturday [Oct. or Nov., 1854]. “My Dear Friend, “I do ‘not think I can by any means manage to see you. There is just a bare possibility that I may be down by the half-past-one train on Monday morning; but do not prepare for me, or expect me. I can only write very briefly to-day, as it is Saturday. Congregations as crowded as ever. Twenty-five added to the: church last month; twelve proposed this month. Enlargement of chapel to be commenced speedily. £1,000 required. Only one meeting held, last Friday evening, £700 or £800 already raised; we shall have more than enough. I gave £100 myself to start the people off. Friends firm. Enemies alarmed. Devil angry. Sinners saved. Christ exalted.

    Self not well. Enlargement to comprise 300 seats to let, and free sittings; 200 more to be decided on. I have received anonymously in one month for distribution, £18 5s., and have given it to poor Christians and sick persons. “Love to you all. Excuse haste. forgot to say, — Prayer-meeting, 500 in regular attendance.

    Glory to the Master! “‘Yours in Jesus, “C. H. Spurgeon.” “75, Dover Road, “March 23, 1855. “My Dear Friend and Brother, “Often have I looked for a note from you, but I have not reproached you, for I, too, have been negligent. Really, I never seem to have an hour to call my own. I am always at it, and the people are teasing me almost to death to get me to let them hear my voice. It is strange that such a power should be in one small body to crowd Exeter Hall to suffocation, and block up the Strand, so that pedestrians have to turn down by-ways, and all other traffic is at a standstill. “The Globe, of last evening, says that, never since the days of Whitefield was there such a religious furor, and that the glories of Wesley and Whitefield seem in danger of being thrown into the shade. Well, the press has kicked me quite long enough, now they are beginning to lick me; but one is as good as the other so long as it helps to fill our place of worship. I believe I could secure a crowded audience at dead of night in a deep snow. “On Fast-day, all Falcon Square was full, — police active, women shrieking, — and at the sight of me the rush was fearful .... Strange to say, nine-tenths of my hearers are men; but one reason is, that women cannot endure the awful pressure, the reding of clothes, etc., etc. I have heard of parties coming to the hall, from ten or twelve miles distance, being there half-an-hour before time, and then never getting so much as near the door. “Dear me, how little satisfies the crowd! What on earth are other preachers up to, when, with ten times the talent, they are snoring along with prosy sermons, and sending the world away? The reason is, I believe, they do not know what the gospel is; they are afraid of real gospel Calvinism, and therefore the Lord does not own them. “And now for spiritual matters. I have had knocking about enough to kill a dozen, but the Lord has kept me. Somewhere in nubibus there lies a vast mass of nebulae made of advice given to me by friends, — most of it about humility. Now, my Master is the only one who can humble me. My pride is so infernal that there is not a man on earth who can hold it in, and all their silly attempts are futile; but then my Master can do it, and He will. Sometimes, I get such a view of my own insignificance that I call myself all the fools in the world for even letting pride pass my door without frowning at him. I am now, as ever, able to join with Paul in saying, ‘ Having nothing, and yet possessing all things.’ “Souls are being converted, and flying like doves to their windows.

    The saints are more zealous, and more earnest in prayer. “Many of the man-made parsons are mad, and revile me; but many others are putting the steam on, for this is not the time to sleep in. “The Lord is abroad. The enemy trembles. Mark how the devil roars; — see Era, last week, a theatrical paper, where you can read about ‘EXETER HALL Theatre’ linked with Drury Lane, Princess’s, etc. Read the slander in Ipswich Express and the London Empire.

    The two latter have made an apology. “What a fool the devil is! If he had not vilified me, I should not have had so many precious souls as my hearers. “I long to come and throw one of my bombs into Cambridge; you are a sleepy set, and want an explosion to wake you. (Here omit a gentleman whose initials are J. S.W.) I am coming on Good Friday; is your house still the Bishop’s Hostel? Of course it is. Now, Do write me; I love you as much as ever, and owe you a vast debt.

    Why not come and see me? I know you pray for me. “With Christian love to you, and kind remembrances to all your family, “I am, “Yours ever truly, “C. H. Spurgeon.” “75, Dover Road, “Tuesday [April, 1855]. “Dear Friend and Brother, “(D.V.) Thursday, I shall be with you at 1.30 by the mail train. shall be glad to preach in St. Andrew’s Street Chapel, but shall disappoint you all. The people are silly to follow me so much. It now gets worse. Crowds awful on Sunday last. Collected f90 morning and evening at the hall. At Shoreditch, on Tuesday, there were eight or nine hundred where only six hundred should have been admitted; upon personally appealing to the throng outside, disappointed at not getting; in, most of them dispersed, and allowed the rest of us .to worship as well as we could with windows open to let those hear who remained outside. “Joseph is still shot at by the archers, and sorely grieved; (see Baptist Reporter, United Presbyterian Magazine, Critic, Christian News, et c., with a lot of small fry;) but his bow abides in strength, neither does he tremble. Oh, my dear brother, envy has vexed me sorely; — scarcely a Baptist minister of standing will own me! I am sick of man; but when I find a good one, I love him all the better because of the contrast to others. “I have just received a handsome silver inkstand, bearing this inscription: — ’ Presented to Mr. C. H. Spurgeon by J. and S.

    Alldis, as a token of sincere gratitude to him as the instrument, under Almighty God, of turning them from darkness to light, March 30, 1855.’ The devil may look at that as often as he pleases.; it will afford him sorry comfort. “And now, farewell.

    Christian love to you and yours, from — “Yours deeply in debt, “C. H. SPURGEON.” “New Kent Road, “Southwark, “Feb. 23, 1856. “My Dear Brother, “A wearied soldier finds one moment of leisure to write a despatch to his brother in arms. Eleven times this week have I gone forth to battle, and at least thirteen services are announced for next week. Additions to the church, last year, 282; received this year, in three months, more than 80; — 3o more proposed for next month, — hundreds, who are equally sincere, are asking for admission; but time will-not allow us to take in more. Congregation more than immense, — even The Times has noticed it.

    Everywhere, at all hours, places are crammed to the doors. The devil is wide awake, but so, too, is the Master. “The Lord Mayor, though a Jew, has been to our chapel; he came up to my vestry to thank me. I am to go and see him at the Mansion House. The Chief Commissioner of Police also came, and paid me a visit in the vestry; but, better still, some thieves, thimbleriggers, harlots, etc., have come, and some are now in the church, as also a right honorable hot-potato man, who is prominently known as ‘a hot Spurgeonite.’ “The sale of sermons is going up, — some have sold 15,000. Wife, firstrate; beloved by all my people, we have good reason mutually to rejoice. “I write mere heads, for you can fill up details. “I have been this week to Leighton Buzzard, Foots Cray, and Chatham; everywhere, no room for the crowd. Next week, I am to be thus occupied: — “Sabbath, Morning and evening, New Park Street. Afternoon, to schools.

    Monday, Morning, at Howard Hinton’s Chapel. Afternoon, New Evening New Park Street.

    Tuesday, Afternoon, Leighton Evening, Leighton Wednesday, Morning, Zion Chapel, Whitechapel. Evening, Zion Chapel, Thursday, Morning, Dalston. Evening, New Park Street.

    Friday, Morning, Dr. Fletcher’s Chapel. Evening, Mr. Rogers’ “With best love, “Yours in haste, “C. H.SPURGEON.”

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