FIRST VISIT TO SCOTLAND. (At one of the services in Glasgow, during the tour described in the following chapter, Mr. Spurgeon referred to some ministers “who apologize for not preaching so often or so vigorously as they once did, because they are now fifty-seven years of age;” and then added, “Fiftyseven! only fifty-seven! What a happiness to preach till one is fifty-seven I wish I could preach till I was fifty-seven; how many souls I might be the means of converting by that time I” Mr. Spurgeon did preach till he was fifty-seven; and only the Lord knows how many souls had been up to that date brought to the Saviour through his ministry, nor how great will be the ultimate number saved through his printed sermons and other works.)\parMY first visit to Scotland was paid in July, 1855, and for many reasons it left lasting impressions on my memory. It began with some discomfort, for I journeyed from London to Glasgow by night, and travelling at that time was accomplished under conditions very different from those of the present day. On my arrival in the morning, I found my esteemed friend, Mr. John Anderson, ready to receive me, and to conduct me to his hospitable mansion. (This good brother must not be confounded with his namesake, Rev. John Anderson, of Helensburgh, whose acquaintance I did not make until several months later, but who, from our first meeting, became my lifelong champion and friend.) On the Sabbath, July 15, I preached in the morning at Hope Street Baptist Chapel (Dr. Patterson’s), and in the evening in West George Street Chapel, where the eminent Dr. Wardlaw had formerly ministered with great acceptance. It was a glorious sight to see the people crowding both places of worship, but it also increased my own sense of responsibility. I believe that we had the presence of God at each of the services, and that much good was done. Various newspapers gave reports, characterized by more or less truthfulness and kindly feeling; but in the case of one, the contrast to its. contemporaries, was all the more marked from the fact that it bore in its title the sacred name of Christian, while others were looked upon as secular papers. The Daily Bulletin, July I6, contained the following article: — “VISIT TO GLASGOW OF THE REV.MR.SPURGEON,OF LONDON. “The visit to Glasgow of this gentleman, when announced a few clays ago, was looked forward to with great pleasure by those who knew anything of his. extraordinary gifts and powers. He preached twice yesterday; in the forenoon, in Hope Street Baptist Chapel; in the evening, in West George Street Church. There was, on the first occasion, a full audience; on the second, many hundreds had to turn away, while every available inch within the church, and without it as far as the speaker’s magnificent voice could reach, was occupied. Mr. Spurgeon owes his celebrity to the possession of first-class oratorical gifts, which seem to have attained maturity of development at a very early age, so that he has established a reputation at a period of life earlier than that at which ordinary men enter upon a profession. His appearance indicates him somewhat beyond his actual age; and like his great model, Whitefield, he seems blessed with ‘no constitution,’ that is, he is endowed with a voice strong, clear, bell-like, which could be heard by an audience of very many thousands; and with a physical frame equal to a vast amount of hard work. In contour of face, he reminds us somewhat of the Rev. John Caird, and his eye has the lustrous light of genius in it. You cannot listen for a few minutes to the bright-eyed boy, whether he be preaching, or pleading in prayer, without feeling that no mere clap-trap rhetorician is before you. There is a force and massiveness about his thoughts and language, a touching, compelling sincerity, which give us the best idea we have ever had of the great early preachers. Like some of these, or like Rowland Hill or Whitefield, of later times, he descends to a homeliness of illustration, to anecdotage, even to mimicry, — a dangerous style, for great taste must be always exercised along with it; but in the ability to pass from the homely or the grotesque to the dizzy heights of imagination, the real power of the orator is seen. The impression is too vivid to permit of our entering on any critical review of the discourses of yesterday; — the subject of the one was, ‘ The Saviour on the Tree;’ and of the other, ‘ The Lamb upon the Throne.’ Suffice it to say that, as most brilliant and thrilling pulpit appeals, we have rarely heard them equalled; certainly, in some points of effect, never surpassed.”
The Glasgow Examiner, which had previously displayed a very friendly feeling, thus reported, in its issue of July e I, the first Sabbath’s services:— “THE REV. C. H.SPURGEON. “It having been for some time generally understood that this distinguished divine, for and against whom so much has been written and said, would visit Glasgow, the curiosity of the church-going people was thoroughly roused. So many and varied were the opinions of his critics that we believe many of the crowd assembled ‘in Hope Street Baptist-Chapel, last Sunday morning, expected to see a nondescript who, instead of elevating their thoughts to the throne of the Most High, would merely endeavor to excite laughter. But when the first tones of the speaker’s clear, full voice fell upon their ears, invoking, in language most sublime and beautiful, the presence and blessing of God, they must indeed have felt that truth had been said when he was compared to George Whitefield, the prince of preachers.
After singing, he read a chapter in the New Testament, expounding as he went along, — a method which it is to be regretted our ministers do not more often adopt, as it affords such an excellent opportunity of dispelling the difficulties which so often arise in reading the Scriptures. The subject of discourse was from Matthew 27:36: ‘And sitting down, they watched Him there.’ Seldom has a discourse, so thrillingly eloquent, been delivered in Glasgow. The arrangement was exceedingly neat, the ideas original, while the whole breathed a spirit of most genuine piety. One thing in particular we noticed, Mr. Spurgeon follows the example of the great Teacher of Christianity in illustrating his meaning from external objects, — a mode which cannot be too highly recommended, it so much aids the retention of the discourse upon the memory. “In the evening, West George Street Chapel was filled in every part, and, long before: the appointed hour, many were unable to gain admittance. The text was from Rev. xiv. I. Many parts of the sermon were distinguished by exceeding pathos and strength of imagination, and the preacher’s allusions to the Covenant and martyrs of Scotland showed that he had discovered the nearest way to the strong brave hearts of the Scottish people. One incident proved that he had completely thawed their hearts. On coming out of the chapel, every one, to whom it was possible, rushed forward to shake hands with him, so that it was with considerable difficulty he entered the carriage which stood in waiting. “When Mr. S. again preaches in Glasgow, we hope’ that it will be in a larger chapel, as doubtless many more will wish to hear him from the report carried away by those who had that privilege yesterday.” The Christian News, July 21, published an article in quite another strain: — “C. H.SPURGEON. ‘Heralded by certain paragraphs, for which those who know how to ‘sound a trumpet before them’ are able, by some occult influences, to find a place in not a few of the newspapers (albeit they are occasionally extinguished by the avant-coureur, ‘Advertisement,’ or snubbed by the dogged and dogging ‘ Communicated ‘), the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon made his debut in this city on Sunday last. In the morning, he .amused, or disgusted, a respectable audience in Hope Street Baptist Chapel; and in the evening, he flung out platitudes and stale anti-Arminianisms to a large audience in West George Street Chapel, where was (sic)wont to be heard the silver tones of the classic Wardlaw. We did not form part of the morning audience; but, from credible reports, we have not ceased, since till now, congratulating ourselves that we neither witnessed the buffoonery of that exhibition, nor listened to the commonplace denunciation of bigotry (repeated, by the way, in the evening) which Mr. S. consistently hedged round by’ doctrines or dogmas of the most rampant exclusiveness. The evening’s exhibition was, we are informed, a little., quieter than the morning one. Perhaps the preacher had heard, in the interval, that Scotland is not so thoroughly Calvinistic as he in his dreams had fancied[; and it may have been hinted to him that the pulpit in which, by some unaccountable oversight, we may not say manoeuvring, he was to be permitted to stand, had been consecrated to the intelligent proclamation of doctrines certainly, even in their deficiencies, more heart and mind satisfying than the mire and dirt with which he has himself become muddled, and by casting forth which he seeks to muddle the minds of others .... We must also remind those who play lackey to Mr. S., that their strength or weakness is apt to be known from the company they keep, so that, striking hands with bigots and buffoons, they may be suspected of a fellowship therewith, notwithstanding any halfhearted disclaimers they may put forth. If you can’t alone fight Arminianism, do engage one for the contest who knows what Arminianism is, and do not bring disgrace upon yourselves and your creed by endeavoring to screen both behind the mask of the down. In compassion, too, upon the boy who has fallen into your hands, remember the mischief you may bring upon him, if it be not already brought, and against which Paul guards in 1 Tim. iii. 6. There may be occasion to deal a blow to the mask; — if so, let the masker look to himself.”
As I had gone to the North partly for a holiday, during the week I journeyed on to the Highlands, where I revelled in the grand scenery of the country of which Sir Walter Scott wrote: — “Caledonia! stern and wild, Meet nurse for a poetic child!
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood; Land of the mountain and the flood.” There was one place where my friend Anderson was particularly anxious for me to preach; that was Aberfeldy, an obscure and curious village. There was an Independent Chapel there, and the usual kirk, but nobody appeared even to have heard the name of Spurgeon, so there was some difficulty in knowing how to draw the people together to hear the Word. However, early in the morning, Mr. Anderson knocked at my door, and said, “I have thought of a plan for getting you a congregation to-night.” I answered, “I am not very particular about the plan, so you try it if you think it will succeed.” He sent round the crier at nine, and twelve, and three o’clock, with a notice to this effect: — ”Your auld acquaintance, Johnny Anderson, who used to live here in Aberfeldy, has arrived, and has brought with him his adopted son Timothy, who is going to preach to-night.” Then followed an account of my labors and successes in London, and an earnest invitation to all to be present. As the appointed hour drew nigh, the “brither Scots” began to assemble, and by the time for beginning the service, the chapel was well filled. The good minister gave out one of the Psalms, which was sung in a very devout style, but not with that heartiness to which I had been accustomed among my own warm-hearted friends. I then read and expounded a portion of Scripture, and was much pleased to see nearly’ every one following me most attentively, and very devoutly listening to the simple exposition which it is my custom to offer. After prayer and singing I began to preach; but there were no eyes of fire, and no beaming countenances, to cheer me while proclaiming the gospel message. The greater part of the congregation sat in. apparent indifference; they seemed made of lumps of ice fetched from Wenham Lake. I tried all means to move them, but in vain. At one time,’ a racy remark provoked a smile from two or three; but the rest, deeming it profane to laugh, sat like those two eminent Egyptian gentlemen in the Crystal Palace, looking at me with majestic, but affected solemnity. Then I advanced to more pathetic themes, and although I myself wept, not a tear came from the eyes of my audience, with but one or two exceptions. I felt like the Welshman who could make Welshmen jump, but could not move the English. I thought within myself, “Surely your blood is very cold here, for everywhere else I should have seen signs of emotion while: preaching Christ and Him crucified.”
Certainly, some did appear impressed; but, on the whole, I never saw so cold an assembly in my life. The sermon over, and the concluding prayer offered, a rush was made for the door; and before I could descend the pulpit stairs, the chapel was deserted, and the whole flock scattered abroad. Never did I see so hasty an evacuation, and I am certain that, if the village were ever threatened by the Russians, the inhabitants would be able to escape “over the hills and far away” at an hour’s notice, if they used the same expedition.
Feeling rather sad at our singular service, I went into the street, and was delighted to find that, although cold as marble in the building, they were now hearty and full of feeling. I will not limit the Holy One of Israel. I trust some secret work was done’ the earnest thanks for my trouble, and the eager request that I would come again, showed that there had been some appreciation of the service, despite that formality which their training had engendered. I retired to rest with the conviction that the last day would prove that the seed was not lost; and I confidently expect to see in glory some soul plucked from the burning by the arm of the Holy Spirit, through the message delivered by me to the people of Aberfeldy.
On my way back to Glasgow, I had an adventure which was somewhat unpleasant, and which might have had more serious consequences. The accounts of it were considerably exaggerated; my friends in London were told that I had been thrown into the water, and dragged out by the hair of my head. It was not so, though’ there certainly was some danger, as my letter, published in the North British Daily Mail, July 20, plainly shows: — “NARROW ESCAPE AT GOVAN FERRY. “To the Editor of the North British Daily Mail, “Sir, “The value of the press as the corrector of abuses is incalculable.
Will you allow me to avail myself of your columns to expose an individual who ought to suffer some more severe penalty for his folly? On returning, on Wednesday evening, from a tour in the Highlands, I requested to be set on shore at Govan Ferry. A boat was brought alongside, into which I entered, and was not a little distressed to find that strong drink had been doing mischief with the brains of the boatman. We were propelled, much to the dismay of the ladies on board, upon the track which a steamer then approaching was certain to take. The boat was, however, after some remonstrance, guided safely to the side of the other steamer, and then the manager of the boat, who was ‘as drunk as a lord,’ filled it until we stood so thickly together that we could not move, and the slightest motion must have sent us all to the bottom. “Now, sir, I have not the honor to be a Scotchman, but I may ask, — Are there no authorities who can prevent boats from being overcrowded, and call a man to account who was so drunk as to be incapable of anything except the lowest abuse and swearing?
Should an important ferry be in the hands of a man who has not sufficient respect for himself to avoid drunkenness, and is so careless of the lives of others that he can so foolishly expose them?
We were safely landed, but not until one gentleman had been over his knees in the water; but should another time be less propitious, some life must be lost. I have written, not for myself, but top the other four-and-twenty who were placed in so perilous a situation. “Yours, etc., “C. H.SPURGEON.” (The following letter, written by Mr. Spurgeon to his .father, at this date, has been preserved: he had it copied, and laid aside with other material for his Autobiography .’ — ) “Fairfield, “Near Glasgow, “My Dear Father, “July 19, 1855. “During the past week, I have been among the noble mountains in the Highlands; and you will rejoice to hear how much better I feel.
Last Sabbath, I preached twice in Glasgow to immense crowds. “There is as much stir about me here as there is in London, and I hope souls are really being saved. I am sure you will excuse my being brief, since I have so many letters to answer, and I do not want to keep indoors, but to have all the air I can. “Oh, what must God be, if such are His works! I suppose Mother is back; kiss her for me, and give my love to all. I am happy, but had rather be home again; — you will guess the reason. I only want that one person to make the trip a very fine one; — but patience, Charles. “Best love to you, my very dear Father, “From your affectionate son, “CHARLES.”
I had promised to preach at Bradford, the following Sabbath (July 22); and on my way to Yorkshire, I made a short stay at Lake Windermere, round which I sailed, and greatly enjoyed the beauties of its scenery. On reaching Bradford, I found that the friends had engaged the Music Hall, which, they said, held a thousand persons more than Exeter Hall; but it was not large enough to contain the crowds that came. On the Sunday morning, almost as many had to go away as were accommodated in the building; in the evening, the streets presented a solid block of living men and women. The place was crammed to excess, and I had scarcely room to move about to deliver what I had to say to the people. At the end of the day, I was delighted to find that, not only had thousands of persons heard the Word, but they had given f144 towards the Sabbath-schools in connection with which the services had been held. From Bradford, I went to Stockton-on- Tees, and there again I preached to a very large congregation.
Journeying back again to Scotland, I conducted a service in Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh, on Wednesday evening, July 25. notwithstanding pouring rain, a great crowd of people again assembled. I was very delighted, after the sermon, to meet with a military officer who grasped my hand, and said, “For twenty years I have served her Majesty, yet never had I heard the Word of God to my soul’s profit until I stepped into Dr. Wardlaw’s Chapel, at Glasgow, a week ago last Sabbath. But now I am enlisted in the army of the King of kings. The Lord God of hosts bless you! The King of kings be with you! The God of Jacob help you everywhere!” I blessed the dear man, and retired to rest, conscious that, if I had done nothing else, yet, through my instrumentality, one of the heroes of the Crimea, who had not turned his back in the day of battle, was found numbered among the good soldiers of Jesus Christ, The Christian News, July 28, thus described this service: — “THE REV. C. H.SPURGEON IN EDINBURGH. “According to announcement in the newspapers and by placards, this reverend gentleman, whose appearances have created such an interest in Exeter Hall, London, preached a sermon in Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh, on Wednesday evening, 25th in,;t. favored with a seat which commanded an admirable prospect of the platform, we waited for three-quarters of an hour, in company with a multitude of sight-seers, who had been drawn together by the fame or notoriety of the preacher, and, as the sequel proved, were but rather sparingly rewarded for our pains .... Mr. Spurgeon’s oratory was unequal and clumsy in the extreme, — the Spirit having deserted him, according to his own confession. Might not this be a punishment for his non-preparation? for he glories that he never prepares, which in our ears, particularly from a minister, sounds very much like glorying in his shame, though he informed his audience that, at times, his eloquence is like the mountain torrent, and rolls along like a winged chariot. We were sorry for Mr. Spurgeon, more sorry for his friends, and most sorry for the audience, many of whom were competent persons, and had evidently come to listen to something extraordinary in the use of the pulpit. That Mr. Spurgeon should have become an idol in London, we do not wonder, for we remember Mr. Jay, of Bath, saying ‘ that the London public is the most gullible public on the face of the earth, and that any man who should vociferate standing on his head would gather immense congregations around him, whatever his vulgarity and insolence.’ Mr. S., in our estimation, is just a spoiled boy, with abilities not more than mediocre, and will for certain, if he do not retrace his steps, share the fate of the ‘early gooseberry’ or the ‘monster cucumber’, that appear almost annually in the columns of the newspapers, — sink into obscurity, leaving only the memorial of his career, that he was, and that he has descended to that nihility from which, by puffing and blustering, he originally and unworthily sprang.”
The reference, in the above paragraph, to desertion by the Spirit of God was a gross perversion of fact, for I had not neglected preparation for the service. The incident was very vividly impressed.upon my mind and heart, but I think the true lesson to be learned from it was the one I tried to teach my own people after I returned to London. I said to them: — ”Once, while preaching in Scotland, the Spirit of God was pleased to desert me; I could not speak as usually I have done. I was obliged to tell the people that the chariot wheels were taken off, and that the chariot dragged along very heavily. I have felt the benefit of that experience ever since. It humbled me bitterly; and if I could, I would have hidden myself in any obscure corner of the earth. I felt as if I should speak no more in the Name of the Lord; and then the thought came, ‘Oh, thou art an ungrateful creature! Hath not God spoken by thee hundreds of times? And this once, when He would not do so, wilt thou upbraid Him for it? Nay, rather thank Him that He hath so long stood by thee; and if once He hath forsaken thee, admire His goodness, that thus He would keep thee humble.’ Some may imagine that want of study brought me into that condition, but I can honestly affirm that it was not so. I think that I am bound to give myself unto reading, and not to tempt the Spirit by unthought-of effusions. I always deem it a duty to seek my sermons from my Master, and implore Him to impress them on my mind; but, on that occasion, I think I had prepared even more carefully than I ordinarily do, so that unpreparedness was not the reason for the lack of force I then mourned. The simple fact is this, ‘ The wind bloweth where it listeth;’ and, sometimes, the winds themselves are still. Therefore, if I rest on the Spirit, I cannot expect that I should always feel His power alike.
What could I do without His celestial influence? To that, I owe everything. other servants of the Lord have had experiences similar to mine. In the Life of Whitefield we read that, sometimes, under one of his sermons, two thousand persons would profess to be saved, and many of them were really so; at other times, he preached just as powerfully, and no conversions were recorded. Why was that? Simply, because:, in the one case, the Holy Spirit went with the Word; and in the other case, He did not. All the Heavenly result of preaching is owing to the Divine Spirit sent from above.”
On the next Sabbath (July 29), I preached twice more in Glasgow. The morning service was at West Nile Street Chapel (Rev. A. Fraser’s), and there again I found the necessity for a much larger building to hold all the people who wanted to be present. In the evening, I preached in Greyfriars’ Church (Dr. King’s), and that spacious house of prayer was crowded to its utmost capacity, while I was afterwards assured by the Editor of one of the papers that 2o, oo0 persons went away, unable to obtain admission. Once more I received the help of my gracious Master as I proclaimed His truth to the eager crowd that came to hear it.
John Smith, Esq., M.A., the Editor of The Glasgow Examiner, inserted in his paper an account of these two services, with a lengthy critique upon my ministry, commencing thus: — ”The way moth-eaten routine generally settles off anyone who dares to break away from its old, time-worn tracks is, by pronouncing him an empiric. Galileo, Columbus, Luther, Knox, the apostle Paul, and even the Author of Christianity Himself, were, by the accredited orthodoxy of their day, stigmatized as empirics; and so will it be with anyone who ventures to do or say otherwise than according to the existing modes and fashions .... Routine in religious services is extremely liable to beget a listless, lukewarm compliance with its prescribed forms, while the spirit or animus gradually subsides. The preacher speaks his usual time; the people sit patiently enough, perhaps; a few may even listen; the usual number of verses is sung, and the business of the day is over; there is generally no more about it. No one can deny that this is more or less than a simple statement of the real state of matters in the majority of our churches at the present day. Should the minister during his discourse sharpen his intellects with a sprinkling of snuff, let fall his handkerchief on the Psalmbook, or give one thump louder than usual with the fist ecclesiastic, that will be noted, remembered, and commented on, while there is all but total oblivion of the subject and the nature of the discussion. To break up this deadening process, to shake the dry bones and make them live, ought to be the great aim of the preacher at the present day; but it is not everyone who can do it. Affectation of manner or style won’t do it; talent — we may say, genius — of a peculiar nature is required; and we have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Spurgeon possesses the requisites in an unusual degree. No doubt many respectable and sensible men, when hearing of the odd, and to them, uncanonical expressions of this young preacher, would be very apt to find the word ‘empiric’ or ‘quack’ upon their tongue’s end. “We must ourselves plead guilty to some such expression when we first heard of his youth, unsystematic training, and official boldness. We, in common with our fellow-citizens, had seen and heard so much of boypreaching, lay-preaching, and bold preaching, that there was nothing uncharitable in entertaining some doubts of his intrinsic excellence; still, that large London audiences daily waited on his ministry, was a fact that could not be stifled with a sneer. It could not be any novelty in the theme itself, as there were thousands of preachers, and millions of books and tracts, dilating on it before Mr. Spurgeon made his appearance; it could not be any new doctrine, for this was the same as John Calvin preached centuries ago, and circumstantially the same as that preached by the Evangelical denominations around him; neither could it be his youth, as there are in the churches of Britain scores of preachers as young as he is; neither could it be the few outre sentences that were scattered through his discourses, for there are many in London who say stranger and odder things than any that he has yet uttered. But what was the Character of these crowds that went to hear him? Were they the profane, the ignorant and illiterate, the light-hearted and frivolous young people of the metropolis? There might have been some of these among the many; but, as far as we can learn, they were fair examples of the respectable churchgoing community, perfectly capable, of judging rationally on all subjects that engross public attention. We maintain that no man could have sustained such excitement, and kept together such crowds of people for two or three years, unless he was possessed of more than ordinary gifts.
But we do not now require to judge him by the effects of his preaching upon a metropolitan crowd. He has appeared amongst us, and the London verdict has been fully confirmed by immense audiences, that have been equally spell-bound by his oratory. According to reports, he indulged somewhat freely in the out-of-the-way expressions on the first Sabbath of his sojourn in this city; but such was not the case last Sabbath, and his discourses on that occasion were still more fascinating and attractive. In the first place, there is about him that hearty, open, English frankness, which has no hesitation in giving full and free utterance to its opinions, loves, and dislikes. Then there is the ready, acute perception which never fails to bring out fresh and striking illustrations from any text on which the.’ attention is directed. Again, there is an extensive acquaintance with literature, which, by the aid of a retentive memory, can a: a moment’s notice furnish the speaker with choice and appropriate material. And lastly, there is a power of voice, and volubility of utterance, which /maNe him to speak with great ease, and at the same time to give powerful effect to his sentiments. We may have -heard many preachers who could reason more correctly and profoundly, who displayed more classical elegance and polish, but we have not heard one who can more powerfully arrest the attention and carry the sympathies of an audience along with him .... “Though it has been extensively circulated that his prayers are irreverent, presumptuous, and blasphemous, there was nothing in them on Sabbath last which could with truth be so characterized. On the contrary, they were correct, appropriate, and beautiful. He certainly has not followed the usual pulpit style, but has opened his eyes on the state of society in all its forms and phases, and adapted his confessions, and petitions, and thanksgivings.
He confesses the peculiar sins of the times, as well as the inherent and changeless depravity of man’s nature; the sins of the parlor, the countinghouse, and the public assembly; the sins of individuals, families, and nations. He offers petitions for various classes of characters, — for the profligate and careless, for the old, the young, and for little children; petitions for churches, for nations, for the world, all in a somewhat novel manner. While he gives thanks for special blessings, and employs language which none but the genuine believer can appropriate, and which even he must sometimes acknowledge with hesitancy, he forgets not the common benefits which all share, and the common blessings with which all are crowned. We have heard much of undue familiarities and daring impieties, but we witnessed none of them. There was an earnestness, an unction, a fluency, and an urgency, which are but too seldom imitated. His reading and exposition of the Word of God, we reckon exceedingly good. Every word receives its proper emphasis and tone, and his remarks are generally terse, original, and instructive.”
On the following Thursday, my kind host, Mr. Anderson, invited about a hundred friends to meet me at his mansion, that I might bid them farewell. I gave them an account of the way the Lord had led me into the ministry, and of the blessing He had already bestowed upon my service; and, at their urgent request, I promised to go and see them once a year, if possible. I told them that they had treated me far better than I deserved, — surely, it was for my Master’s sake. I don’t know how it is that people are so good to me, — I have never sought the applause of men, — however, if God has given me any favor in the eyes of the people, it is for me to use that favor to His glory; not to be exalted by it, but to thank Him for it, and to employ it all in His service.
Though it belongs to the following year, part of the letter from Rev. John Anderson, of Helensburgh, which was published in The S cottish Guardian, April 18, 1856, may be appropriately inserted here: “Sir, — When Mr. Spurgeon was in Glasgow, last summer, the fame of his eloquence had reached me in my seclusion here, by the shores of the sounding sea, the noise of whose waves delights me more than the ‘ din of cities’ or the tumult of the people. I had heard him ‘spoken against’ by some, but spoken of by others as a preacher of remarkable, and, since the days of Whitefield himself, of unprecedented popularity. But being one of those who judge for themselves in the matter of preaching, and whose opinions as to what constitutes good preaching are somewhat peculiar, I did not attach much, I may almost say, any, importance whatever to what I heard of Mr. Spurgeon and his popularity in Glasgow. One of his printed sermons, however, having fallen in my way, I had no sooner read a few paragraphs of it than I said, ‘Here at last is a preacher to my mind, — one whom not only I, but whom Paul himself, I am persuaded, were he on earth, would hear, approve, and own.’ I forget what was the subject of the discourse; but I remember well saying to myself, ‘ I would rather have been the author of that sermon than of all the sermons, or volumes of sermons, published in my day.’ I had lately before this been reading Guthrie and Caird, but here was something entirely different, and, to my mind, in all that constitutes a genuine and a good gospel sermon, infinitely superior. “For some time after this, I heard little, and thought little, about Mr. Spurgeon. Having been, however, in London, on the last Sabbath of March, and having been unexpectedly released from an engagement to preach, I thought I could not do better than go and hear for myself the preacher of whom I had heard so much in my own country .... Though, from the crowd which choked the doors and passages, we did not see the preacher very well, we — and this was what we wanted, — heard him distinctly. When we entered, he was expounding, as is his custom, a portion of the Scriptures. The passage expounded was Exodus, x4th chapter, which contains an account of the Israelites at. the Red Sea, — a passage of Scripture peculiarly interesting to me, having stood on its shore, and sailed on the very spot where the waters were so wondrously divided.
The remarks of the preacher on each of the verses were very much in the style of Henry, and were rich and racy. His text was from the Io6th Psalm, and the subject of the discourse was the same with that of the chapter he had just expounded,= — ’ The Israelites at the Red Sea.’... “Such was the method of one of the richest and ripest sermons, as regards Christian experience, I ever heard, — all the more wonderful as being the sermon of so young a man. It was a sermon far in advance of the experience of many of his hearer:;; and the preacher evidently felt this. But, notwithstanding this, such was the simplicity of his style, the richness and quaintness of his illustrations, his intense earnestness, and the absolute and admirable naturalness of his delivery, it told upon his audience generally, and told powerfully. Many, indeed most of them, were of ‘ the common people,’ and when I looked on their plebeian faces, their hands brown with labor, and, in many cases, their faded attire, I could not help remembering Him of whom it is said,’ the common people heard Him gladly.’ Yes, Mr. Spurgeon is the minister of ‘ the common people;’ I am told he considers himself to be such, and well he may. Happy London people, if they but knew their happiness, to have such a minister! . . . Mr. Spurgeon is equally great in the tender and the terrible. Nor is he without humour. Here, many will refuse him their sympathy, and think him censurable. I scarcely think he is. others will think, and do think differently. His taste, according to others, is bad. It is, I admit, often so. But then, think of the immaturity of his years. I was told he was conceited. I saw no proofs of it; and if I had, was I on that account to think less of his sermons? I do not say I will not eat good bread, because the maker of it is conceited. His conceit may be a bad tiling for himself; — his bread is very good for me. I am far from thinking Mr. Spurgeon perfect. In this respect he is not like Whitefield, who from the first was as perfect as an orator as he was at the last. In respect of his power over an audience, and a London one in particular, I should say he is not inferior to Whitefield himself. Mr. Spurgeon is a Calvinist, which few of the Dissenting ministers in London now are. He preaches salvation, not of man’s free will, but of the Lord’s good will, which few in London, it is to be feared, now do. On all these accounts, we hail the appearance of Mr. Spurgeon with no ordinary delight, and anticipate for him a career of no ordinary usefulness. ‘ Happy are they which stand continually before him, and hear his words of wisdom.’ As for myself, I shall long remember with delight the day on which I stood among them, and recommend such of my countrymen as may have a Lord’s-day to spend in London, to spend it, as I did, in New Park Street Chapel, in hearing Mr. Spurgeon.”