EARLY WEDDED LIFE BY MRS. C. H.SPURGEON.
Matrimony came from Paradise, and leads to it. I never was half so happy, oefore I was a married man, as I am now. When you are married, your bliss begins. Let the husband love his wife as he loves himself, and a little better, for she is his better halfi He should feel, “If there’s only one good wife in the whole world, I’ve got her.”
John Ploughman has long thought just that of his own wife; and after thirty-five years, he is more sure of it than ever. There is not a better woman on the surface of The globe than his own, very own beloved. — John Ploughman. AGAIN the res onslble task lies before me of interweavin m own dearest pesr opnal me m oreis wthi my beloved’s Autobiography, that the picture of his life’s history may glow with the fair colours and present some of the finishing’touches which are needed to render it as complete as possible Alas, that his dear hand is powerless to furnish them! Every line I write fills me with regret that I cannot better set forth the remembrance of his worth and goodness.
Someone wrote to me, lately, saying that it was impossible for a man’s nearest friends to give a true and impartial idea of him; they ]ired in too close proximity to him, their vision was interrupted by their admiration, they could not see many things that others, looking on from a remoter and broader coign of vantage, could distinctly discern. This seems to me a great mistake, except indeed in cases where “distance lends enchantment to the view;” for who could so reasonably be supposed to understand and recognize the inner qualities and disposition of an individual’s character as the one who lived in constant and familiar intercourse with him, and to whom his heart was as a clear, calm lake, reflecting Heaven’s own light and beauty? Those who knew my husband best, can testify that intimate knowledge of his character, and close companionship with him, did but more clearly reveal how very near, t)y God’s grace, he had “come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” not in his own estimation, be it well understood;~he never spoke of himself as “having apprehended;”— he was always “a poor sinner, and nothing at all.”
So pre-eminently and gloriously was “Jesus Christ his All-in-all” that his gracious, gentle, lovely life testified daily to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in his heart, and the exceeding power of God which kept him through faith, and enabled him to “walk: worthy of the vocation wherewith he was called.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne used to pray:m,, O God, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be made!” and, to judge by my husband’s life, a similar petition must have been constantly in his heart if not on his lips.
Our brief wedding trip was spent in Paris; and, as I had made many previous visits to the fair city, beside spending some months in the Christian household of Pastor Audebez, in order to acquire the language, I felt quite at home there, and had the intense gratification of introducing my husband to all the places and sights which were worthy of arousing his interest and admiration. We had a cosy suite of rooms (by special favor) in the entresol of the H6tel Meurice, and every day we explored some fresh musge, or church, or picture-gallery, or drove to some place of hisfor!ic fame, all the charms of Paris seeming ten times more charming in my eyes than ‘they had ever been before, because of those other loving eyes which now looked upon them with me.
The city was then in the days of her luxury and prosperity; no Communistic fires had scorched and blackened her streets, no turbulent mobs had despoiled her temples and palaces, and laid her glories in the dust; she was triumphant and radiant, and in the pride of her heart was saying, “I sit a queen .... and shall see no sorrow.” Alas! there were days of calamity and tribulation in store for her, when war, and bloodshed, and fire, and famine ravaged her beauty, and laid waste her choice., habitations. But no forecast of such terrible visitations troubled our hearts; the halo of the present illumined all the future. We went to Versailles, to S~vres, to the Louvre, the Madeleine, the Jardin des Plantes, the Luxembourg, the H6tel de Cluny; in fact, to every place we could find time for, where Christian people might go, and yet bring away with them a clear conscience. A peep at the Bourse interested us very much. What a scene of strife it was! What a deafening noise the men made! My husband quaintly depicted the excitement in a few words: — ”The pof boiled more and more furiously as the hour of three approached, and then the brokers, like the foam on the top, ran over, and all the black contents followed by degrees!” Anyone acquainted with the place and its customs will recognize the accuracy and humour of this graphic description.
Naturally, the interiors of the churches attracted much of our attention; we alway,; found something to admire, though, alas! there was also much to deplore. When we visited the Cathedral of notre Dame, I was able to interest my companion by telling him that I had seen it in full gala dress on the occasion of the marriage of the Emperor Napoleon III. to his charming Empress Eugenie, and how glittering and gorgeous it then looked, with its abundant draperies of imperial purple velvet, embroidered all over with golden bees! All the wealth and riches of the great sanctuary were then pressed into service, and the result was magnificent. Without such adornments, the church has a simple and solemn grandeur of its own, very soofhing to the mind; and’ at the time of which I am writing, its sanctity was enhanced — in the opinion of its Roman Catholic worshippers, — by its possession of such ,;acred relics as part of the true cross, and the crown of thorns! These were shown to visitors on payment of an extra fee, as was also an amazing number of splendid vestments encrusted with gold and jewels, and worth a prince’s ransom. I believe that, at the time of the Commune, much of this treasure was carried away, or ruthlessly destroyed.
The beauty of the Sainte Chapelle specially delighted us, and we went there more than once. “It is a little heaven of stained glass,” was my beloved’s verdict; and, truly, its loveliness looked almost celestial, as we stood enwrapped in its radiance, the light of the sinking sun glorifying its matchless windows into a very dream of dazzling grace and harmony of colour.
Then there were St. Roch, St. Sulpice, Ste. Clotilde, and hosts of other churches, not forgetting St. Etienne du Mont, a grand edifice, containing the sumptuous shrine of Ste. Genevieve, — in its way, a perfect gem; — nor St. Germsin l’Auxerrois, with its ancient rose windows, and its pathetic memories of the betrayed Huguenots.
The Panth6on, too, once a temple, now a church, received a share of our interested attention. So far as I can remember, the building itself was almost empty, except for some statues ranged around it;but we descended to the cr3/pt, which contains the tombs of Rousseau, Voltaire, and other notable or noforious men, and we listened, with something like fear, to the thunderous echo which lurks there, and attracts visitors to these subterranean vaults. It is very loud and terrible, like a cannon fired off, and it gives one quite an uncanny feeling to heat such a deafening roar down in the bowels of the earth. After this experience, we were very glad to get into the fresh air again.
Of course, we went to St. cloud (now, alas[ in ruins). There is — or was — a lone]Ly, lovely walk through the Park to the summit of an eminence crowned by the lantern of Diogenes. From there, the view was glorious.
The Seine flowed far below, the suburbs of the city lay beyond; Mont Va16rien on the right, Paris straight before one’s eyes, with the gilded dome of the Invalides shining in the clear air; St. Sulpice, and the Pantheon, and countless spires and towers forming landmarks in the great sea of houses and streets, the twin heights of Montmartre and P~re la Chaise in the background; all these grouped together, and viewed from the hill, formed an indescribably charming picture.
I tried to be a good cicerone, and I think I fairly succeeded, for my companion was greatly delighted, and, in after years, in his frequent visits to the French capital with friends and fellow-voyagers, he took upon himself the rSle of conducfor, with the happiest and most satisfactory results. He was never at a loss where to go, or how to spend the time in the most pleasant and profitable manner. A little note, written from Paris, twenty years after our wedding trip, contains the following sentences: — ”My heart flies to you, as I remember my first visit to this city under your deal guidance. I love you now as then, only multiplied many times.”
Ahl “tender grace of a day that is dead,” thy joy is not lessened by distance, nor lost by separation; rather is it stored both in Heaven and in my heart’s deepest chambers, and some day, when that casket is broken, it will “come back to me,” not here, but in that happy land where the days die not, where “the touch of a vanished hand” shall be felt again, and “the sound of a voice that is still” shall again make music in my ravished ears! ‘Twas a brief, bright season, this wedding trip of ours, lasting about ten days, for my husband could not leave his sacred work for a longer time, and we were both eager to return that we might discover the delights of having a home of our own, and enjoy the new sensation of feeling ourselves master and mistress of all we surveyed l What a pure unsullied joy was that home-coming! How we thanked and praised the Lord for His exceeding goodness to us in bringing us there, and how earnestly and tenderly my husband prayed that God’s blessing might rest upon us then and evermore! How we admired everything in the house, and thought there never was quite such a delightful home before, will be best understood by those who have lived in Love-land, and are well acquainted with the felicity of setting up house-keeping there. On the table, in the little sitting-room, lay a small parcel, which, when opened, proved to be a dainty card-case as a wedding present from Mr. W. Poole Balfem, accompanied by the following lines, which I have transcribed and recorded here since they were truly our first “Welcome Home,” and, in a sense, prophetic of our future lives: — “A Nuptial Wish. “Dear friends, I scarce know what to say On this important nuptial day.
I wish you joy; and while you live, Such gifts as only God can give.
Whether life be short or long, Dark with grief, or bright with song, Whether sorrowful or glad, Whether prosperous or sad, Oh, that you, through Christ, may be Heirs of immortality; — Heirs of righteousness and peace, Heirs of life that ne’er shall cease, Heirs of glories yet to come, Heirs of the Eternal Home!
In the valley, on the height, In the darkness, in the light; Still possessed of living grace, Pressing on with eager pace; Ever keeping Christ in view, Meek and humble, just and true; Helpers of each other’s faith, One in Him, in life and death; By His Spirit taught and led, By His grace and mercy fed, Blessed and guarded by His love, Till with Him you meet above.” I think the circumstances under which my beloved and Mr. Balfern met, are also worthy of a passing notice. One Saturday, the time for sermonpreparation had arrived, and the dear preacher had shut himself up in his study, when a ministerial visitor was announced. He would not give his name, but said, “Tell Mr. Spurgeon that a servant of tJh~ Lord wishes to see him.” To this my husband replied, “Tell the gentleman that I am so busy with his Master, that I cannot attend to the servant.” Then word was sent that W. Poole Balfern was the visitor, and no sooner did Mr. Spurgeon hear the name, than he ran out to him, clasped his hand in both his own, and exclaimed, “W. Poole Balfem! The man who wrote Glimfises of Jesus! Come in, thou blessed of the Lord!” Describing that interview, long afterwards, Mr. Balfern said, “I learned then that the secret of Mr. Spurgeon’s success was, that he was cradled in the Holy Ghost.” It was a very remarkable expression, which I do not remember to have met with anywhere else; but it was as true as it was striking.
So many memories cling about our first home, and so many notable events of early married life transpired within its walls, that I must ask my readers kindly to refer to the view given in Vol. 1, that they may the more readily understand the description which follows. On the ground floor, the single windowmnow almost hidden by a tree, planted since the days of which I write, — marks the little front parlor or “living-room”, in old-fashioned parlance, where the greater part of the home-life was spent; above this, and boasting two windows, was a very fair-sized room, the best in the house, and, therefore, devoted to the best of uses, — the master’s study; and the two windows immediately over this belonged to a bedchamber of the same size, where afterwards our twin-boys first saw the light of day. It may not be out of place to say here that, in all the houses we have lived in, — four in all, — we never encumbered ourselves with what a modern writer calls, “the drawback of a drawing-room;” perhaps for the good reason that we were such homely, busy people that we had no need of so useless a place; — but more especially, I think, because the “best room” was always felt to belong by right to the one who “labored much in the Lord.”
Never have I regretted this early decision; it is a wise arrangement for a minister’s house, if ‘not for any other. When we first carne to: “Westwood,”, Where there is a fine room for society purposes,-there was much merry discussion as to how it should be furnished. Already, the large billiard-room was converted into a study, and filled with books from the floor to the arch of the ceiling; but more space was needed for my husband’s precious volumes, and his heart was set on”seeing the grand room turned into an equally grand library. I proposed, with great glee, that we should go on the “Boffin’s Bower” plan;— “She keeps up her part of the room in her way;~ I keeps up my part of-the room in mine;” and with shouts Of laughter we would amuse ourselves by imagining the big room fitted up for half its length as “my lady’s padour,” the-other half being devoted to literary pursuits~ and so arranged that “Silas Wegg” could come and “drop into poetry” whenever it so pleasted him! In time, the question settled itselfi It was quite twelvemonths before the huge bookshelves, which were to line the-room, were completed, and put in place, and then, it looked so fine a library, that none could doubt its right or ~:laim to this honorable appellation. But this is a digression.
We began housekeeping on a very modest:scale, and even then had to practise rigid economy in all things, for my dear husband earnestly longed to help young men to preach the gospel, and from our slender resources we had to contribute somewhat largely to the support and education of Mr. T.
W. Medhurst, who was the first to receive training for the work. From so small a beginning sprang the present Pastors’ College, with its splendid record of service both done and doing, of which fuller account will be given in future chapters. I rejoice to remember how I shared my beloved’s joy when he founded the Institution, and that, together, we planned and pinched in order to carry out the purpose of his loving heart; it gave me quite a motherly interest in the College, and “our own men.” The chief difficulty, with regard to money matters in those days, was to “make both ends meet;” we never had enough left over to “tie a bow and ends;” but I ctm see now that this was God’s way of preparing us to sympathize with and help poor Pastors in the years which were to come.
One of these good men, when recounting to me the griefs of his poverty, once said, “You can scarcely understand, for you have never been in the same position;” but my thoughts flew back to this early time, and I could truly say, “I may not have been in such depths of need as seem now likely to swallow you up; but I well remember when we lived on the ‘do without’ system, and only ‘ God’s providence was our inheritance,’ and when He often stretched forth His hand, and wrought signal deliverances for us, when our means were sorely straitened, and the coffers of both College and household were well-nigh empty.” I recall a special time of need, supplied by great and unexpected mercy. Some demand came in for payment, — I think it must have been a tax or rate, for I never had bills owing to tradesmen,-and we had nothing wherewith to meet it. What a distressing condition of- excitement seized us! “Wifey,” said my beloved, “what can we do? I must give up hiring the horse, and walk to New Park Street every time I preach!” “Impossible,” I replied, “with so many services, you simply could not do it.” Long and anxiously we pondered over ways and means, and laid our burden before the Lord, entreating Him to come to our aid.
And, of course, He heard and answered, for He is a faithful God. That night, or the next day, I am not sure which, a letter was received, containing £20 for our own use, and we never knew who sent it, save that it came in answer to prayer! This was our first united and personal home experience of special necessity provided for by our Heavenly Father, and our hearts felt a very solemn awe and gladness as we realized that He knew what things we had need of; before we asked Him. As the years rolled by, such eventful passages in our history were graciously multiplied, and even excelled; but perhaps this first blessed deliverance was the foundation stone of my husband’s strong and mighty faith, for I do not remember ever afterwards seeing him painfully anxious concerning supplies for any of his great works; he depended wholly on the Lord, his trust was perfect, and he lacked nothing.