EARLY WEDDED LIFE (CONTINUED) Sometimes we have seen a model marriage, founded on pure love, and cemented in mutual esteem. Therein, the husband acts as a tender head; and the wife, as a true spouse, realizes the model marriage-relation, and sets forth what our oneness with the Lord ought to be. She delights in her husband, in his person, his character, his affection; to her, he is not only the chief and foremost of mankind, but in her eyes he is all-in-all; her heart’s love belongs to him, and to him only. She finds sweetest content and solace in his company, his fellowship, his fondness; he is her little world, her Paradise, her choice treasure. At any time, she would gladly lay aside her own pleasure to find it doubled in gratifying him. She is glad to sink her individuality in his. She seeks no renown for herself; his honor is reflected upon her, and she rejoices in it. She would defend his name with her dying breath; safe enough is he where she can speak for him. The domestic circle is her kingdom; that she may there create happiness and comfort, is her life-work; and his smiling gratitude is all the reward she seeks. Even in her dress, she thinks of him; without constraint she consults his taste, and considers nothing beautiful which is distasteful to him. A tear from his eye, because of any unkindness on her part, would grievously forment her. She asks not how her behaviour may please a stranger, or how another’s judgment may approve her conduct; let her beloved be content, and she is glad. He has many objects in life, some of which she does not quite understand; but she believes in them all, and anything that she can do to promote them, she delights to perform. He lavishes love on her, and, in return, she lavishes love on him. Their object in life is common. There are points where their affections so intimately unite that none could tell which is first and which is second. To watch their children growing up in health and strength, to see them holding posts of usefulness and honor, is their mutual concern; in this and other matters, they are fully one. Their wishes blend, their hearts are indivisible. By degrees, they come to think very much the same thoughts. Intimate association creates conformity; I have known this to become so complete that, at the same moment, the same utterance has leaped to both their lips.
Happy woman and happy man I If Heaven be found on earth, they have it t At last, the two are so blended, so engrafted on one stem, that their old age presents a lovely attachment, a common sympathy, by which its infirmities are greatly alleviated, and its burdens are transformed into fresh bonds of love. So happy a union of will, sentiment, thought, and heart exists between them, that the two streams of their life have washed away the dividing bank, and run on as one broad current of united existence till their common joy falls into the ocean of eternal felicity. — C. H. S. THERE are one or two little pictures which memory has retained of events in that little front parlor whose window looks into the road. I will try to reproduce them, though the colours are somewhat faded, and the backgrounds blurred with age.
It is the Sabbath, and the day’s work is done. The dear preacher has had a light repast, and now rests in his easy chair by a bright fire, while, on a low cushion at his feet, sits his wife, eager to minister in some way to her beloved’s comfort. “Shall I read to you to-night, dear?” she says; for the excitement and labor of the Sabbath services sorely try him, and his mind needs some calm and soofhing influence to set it at rest. “Will you have a page or two of good George Herbert? Yes, that will be very refreshing, wifey; I shall like that.” So the book is procured, and he chooses a portion which I read slowly and with many pauses, that he may interpret to me the sweet mysteries hidden within the gracious words. Perhaps his enjoyment of the book is all the greater that he has thus to explain and open out to me the precious truths enwrapped in Herbert’s quaint verse; — anyhow, the time is delightfully spent. I read on and on for an hour or more, till the peace of Heaven flows into our souls, and the tired servant of the King of kings loses his sense of fatigue, and rejoices after his toil.
Another Sabbath night, and the scene is somewhat changed in character.
The dear Pastor is not only weary, but sorely depressed in spirit. “Oh, darling!” he says, “I fear I have not been as faithful in my preaching to-day as I should have been; I have not been as much in earnest after poor souls as God would have me be. O Lord, pardon Thy servant!” “Go, dear,” he continues, “to the study, and fetch down Baxter’s Reformed Pastor, and read some of it to me; perhaps that will quicken my sluggish heart.” So I bring the book, and with deep sighs he turns the pages till he finds some such passage as the following: — ”Oh, what a charge have we undertaken!
And shall we be unfaithful? Have we the stewardship of God’s own f~tmily, and shall we neglect it? Have we the conduct of those saints who must live for ever with God in glory, and shall we be unconcerned for them? God forbid l: I beseech you, brethren, let this thought awaken the negligent! You that draw back from painful, displeasing, suffering duties, and will put off men’s souls with ineffectual formalities; do you think this is an honorable usage of Christ’s Spouse? Are the souls of men thought meet by God to see His face, and live for ever in His glory, and are they not worthy of your utmost cost and labor? Do you think so basely of the Church of God, as if it deserved not the best of your care and help? Were you the keepers of sheep or swine, you might better let them go, and say, ‘They be not worth the looking after;’ and yet you would scarcely do so, if they were your own. But dare you say so by the souls of men?”
I read page after page of such solemn pleadings, interrupted now and again by his stifled heart-sobs, till my voice fails from emotion and sympathy, my eyes grow dim, and my tears mingle with his as we weep together, — he, from the smitings of a very tender conscience towards God, and I, simply and only because I love him, and want to share his grief. not for a moment do I believe there is any real cause for his self-upbraidings; but as that is a matter between himself and his God, I can only comfort him by my quiet sympathy. “The burden of the Lord” is upon his heart, and He lets him feel the awful weight of it for a time, that “the excellency of the power may be of God,” and not of man. “Who teacheth like Him?”
In the same small room occurred also a touching little scene which I have described in Ten Years After! but which cannot be left out of this history, for it has a right to a place here, revealing, as it does, the tenaerness of my beloved’s heart, while he still consistently put “first things first.” He was constantly away from home fulfilling preaching engagements of long or short duration, and these frequent absences were a trial to me, though I kept faithfully to my purpose of never hindering him in his work. But I remember how, while waiting for his return, late at night, from some distant place, I would tire of the cramped space of the tiny parlou~r, and pace up and down the narrow passage,edignified by the name of a “hall,” — watching and listening for the dear footstep I knew so well, and praying,m oh, how fervently f — that the Lord would care for his precious life, and avert all’ danger from him as he travelled back by road or rail. I can even now recall the thrill of joy and thankfulness with which I opened the door, and welcomed him home.
One morning, after breakfast, when he was preparing to go out on one of his long journeys, the room looked so bright and cosy that a sudden depression seized me at the thought of its emptiness when he was gone, and the many anxious hours that must pass before I should see him again.
Some tears would trickle down my cheeks, in spite of my efforts to restrain them. Seeing me look so sad, he said, very gently, “Wifey, do you think that, when any of the children of Israel brought a lamb to the Lord’s altar as an offering to Him, they stood and wept over it when they had seen it laid there?” “Why, no!” I replied, startled by his strange question, “certainly not; the Lord would not have been pleased with an offering reluctantly given.” “Well,” said he, tenderly, “don’t you see, you are giving me to God, in letting me go to preach the gospel to poor sinners, and do you think He likes to see you cry over your sacrifice?” Could ever a rebuke have been more sweetly and graciously given? It sank deep into my heart, carrying comfort with it; and, thenceforward, when I parted with him, the tears were scarcely ever allowed to show themselves, or if a stray one or two dared to run over the boundaries, he would say, “What I crying over your lamb, wifey l” and this reminder would quickly dry them up, and bring a smile in their place.
Ah, sweetheart I was there ever one like thee? These were the days of early married life, it is true, when love was young, and temper tranquil, and forbearance an easy task; but “the wife of thy youth” can testify that, with thee, these lovely things of good report strengthened rather than diminished as time went on, and that, during all the forty years she knew and loved thee, thou wert the most tender, gracious, and indulgent of husbands, ruling with perfect love and gentleness, maintaining the Divinelyordained position of “the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church,” yet permitting her heart and hand to influence and share in every good word and work. lind now that I am parted from thee, not for a few days only, as in that long-ago time, but “until the day break, and the shadows flee away,” I think I hear again thy loving voice saying, “Don’t cry over your lamb, wifey,” as I try to give thee up ungrudgingly to God, — not without tears, — ah, no! that is not possible, but with that full surrender of the heart which makes the sacrifice acceptable in His sight.
Sin extraordinary incident occurred in this early period of our history. One Saturclay evening, my dear husband was deeply perplexed by the difficulties presented by a text on which he desired to preach the next morning. It was in Psalm. 110:3: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning:
Thou hast the dew of Thy youth;” and, with his usual painstaking preparation, he consulted all the Commentaries he then possessed, seeking light from the Holy Spirit upon their words and his own thoughts; but, as it seemed, in vain. I was as much distressed as he was, but I could not help him in such an emergency. At least, I thought I could not; but the Lord had a great favor in store for me, and used me to deliver His servant out of his serious embarrassment. He sat up very late, and was utterly worn out and dispirited, for all his efforts to get at the heart of the text were unavailing. I advised him to retire to rest, and soothed him by suggesting that, if he would try to sleep then, he would probably in the morning feel quite refreshed, and able to study to better purpose. “If I go to sleep now, wifey, will you wake me very early, so that I may have plenty of time to prepare?”
With my loving assurance that I would watch the time for him, and call him soon enough, he was satisfied; and, like a trusting, tired child, he laid his head upon the pillow, and slept soundly and sweetly at once.
By-and-by, a wonderful thing happened. During the first dawning hours of the Sabbath, I heard him talking in his sleep, and roused myself to listen attentively. Soon, I realized that he was going over the subject of the verse which had been so obscure to him, and was giving a clear and distinct exposition of its meaning, with much force and freshness. I set myselfi with almost trembling joy, to understand and follow all that he was saying, for I knew that, if I could but seize and remember the salient: points of the discourse, he would have no difficulty in developing and enlarging upon them. Never preacher had a more eager and anxious hearer! What if I should let the precious words slip? I had no means at hand of “taking notes,” so, like Nehemiah, “I prayed to the God of Heaven,” and asked that I might receive and retain the thoughts which He had given to His servant in his sleep, and which were so singularly entrusted to my keeping.
As I lay, repeating over and over again the chief points I wished to remember, my happiness was very great in anticipation of his surprise and delight on awaking; but I had kept vigil so long, cherishing my .joy, that I must have been overcome with slumber just when the usual time for rising came, for he awoke with a frightened start, and seeing the tell-tale dock, said, “Oh, wiley, you said you would wake me very early, and now see the time! Oh, why did you let me sleep? What shall I do? What shall I do? ....
Listen, beloved,” I answered; and I told him all I had heard. “Why! that’s just what I wanted,” he exclaimed; “that is the true explanation of the whole verse! And you say I preached it in my sleep? .... It is wonderful,” he repeated again and again, and we both praised the Lord for so remarkable a manifestation of His power and love. Joyfully my dear one went down to his study, and prepared this God-given sermon, and it was delivered that same morning, April 13, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel. It can be found and react in Vol. 2. of the sermons (No. 74), and its opening paragraph gives the dear preacher’s own account of the difficulty he experienced in dealing with the text. Naturally, he refrained from telling the congregation the specia.1 details which I have here recorded; but, many years after, he told the tale to his students at one of their ever-to-be-remembered Friday afternoon gatherings, and some of them still keep it fresh in their memories.
About this time I recall a visit to Stambourne which I paid with my dear husband. I saw, and loved at first sight, the dear old grandfather, so proud of “the child” who had grown into a great and gracious preacher. How kindly he received his grandson’s wife! With what tender, old-fashioned courtesy he cared for her! Everything about the place was then exactly as my beloved has described it in the first volume of this work; nothing had been altered. The old Manse was still standing, though not as upright as in its youth; the ivy grew inside the parlor, the old flowered chintz curtains still hung in their places, and the floor of the best bedchamber where we slept was as “anxious to go out of the window” as ever; indeed, a watchful balancing of one’s self was required to avoid a stumble or a fall. It was all very quaint, but very delightful, because of so many precious memories to him who had lived there. The occasion of our visit was the anniversary, either of the meeting-house, or the revered Pastor’s ministry, and the house was crowded with visitors, and unremitting hospitality seemed the order of the day. How delighted and interested the home folks and neighbors all were, and how much loving fuss was made over the young Pastor and his wife! It was charming to see him in the midst of his own people. He was just “the child” again, the joy of the old man’s heart; but when he preached, and the power of God’s Spirit burned in his words, and he fed the people to the full, the grandfather’s bliss must have been a foretaste of the joys of Heaven.
For my part, I had a considerable share of petting and kind attention, and but one black drop in my cup of pleasure. This I mean literally; I was enjoying a large cup of tea, and thinking how good and refreshing it was on a hot day, when, as the boftom of the cup was becoming visible, I saw, to my horror, a great spider, — my special detestation, — dead, of course, his black body swollen to a huge size, and his long legs describing a wheel-like circle in the remaining fluid. And I had been drinking the boiled juice of this monster! Oh, the disgust of it! Alas! that we can remember the evil, and let go the good! My beloved’s sermon is forgotten; but the spider.has the power to make me feel “creepy “even at this moment!
I make a passing reference to the birth of our twin-boys, in order to contradict emphatically a story, supposed to be very witty, which was circulated extensively, and believed in universally, not only at the time it was told, but through all the following years. It was said that my dear husband received the news of the addition to his household while he was preaching, and that he immediately communicated the fact to his congregation, adding in a serio-comic way, — “Not more than others I deserve, But God has given me more.” I am sorry to say there are persons, still living, who declare that they were present at the service, and heard him say it!
Now the truth is, that the boys were born on Saturday morning’, September eo, z856, and my dear husband never left the house that day; nor, so far as I know, did he ever preach on the seventh day at any time, so the statement at once falls to the ground disproved. But I think I have discovered how the legend was manufactured. Looking through the sermons preached near to this date, I find that, on Thursday evening, September 25,mfive days after the event referred to, — Mr. Spurgeon delivered a discourse on behalf of the Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society, and in the course of it made the following remarks:~” When we take our walks abroad, and see the poor, he must be a very thankless Christian who does not lift up his eyes to Heaven, and praise his God thus, — “‘Not more than others I deserve, But God has given me more.’ “If we: were all made rich alike, if God had given us all abundance, we should never know the value of His mercies; but He puts the poor side by side with us, to make their trials, like a dark shadow, set forth the brightness which He is pleased to give to ofhe. rs in temporal matters.”
I have no doubt that some facetious individual, present at this Thursday evening: service, and being aware of the babies’ advent, on hearing these lines repeated, pounced upon them as the nucleus .of an attractive story, linked the two facts in his own mind, and then proclaimed them to the world as an undivided verity! Most of the sfories told of my dear husband’s jocoseness in the pulpit were “sfories” in the severe sense of the word; or possessed just so small a modicum of truth internally that the narrafors were able, by weaving a network of exaggeration and romance around them, to make a very presentable and alluring fiction. It was one of the penalties of his unique position and gifts that, all through his life, he had to bear the cross of cruel misrepresentation and injustice. Thank God, that is all left behind for ever!
Though I am quite certain that the lines in question were not quofed by my beloved, in public in reference to the double blessing God gave to us, I should scarcely be surprised if he made use of them when speaking to friends in private. If his heart were full of joy and gratitude, it would be sure to bubble over in some child-like and natural fashion. I have quite recently received a letter from a lady in the country, telling me of her visit to an old man, — an ex-policeman, nanled Coleman, — who, though bedridden, never tires of relating his memories of Mr. Spurgeon in those early days. He was stationed at New Park Street Chapel, on special duty, when the crowds came to hear “the boy-preacher,” and he delights to tell ~how, after a short while, the street became so blocked that the chapelgates had to be closed, and the people admitted a hundred at a time. “Ah!” said he, “he was a dear, good young man, he did not make himself anything; he would shake hands with anyone, he would give me such a grip, and leave half-a-crown in my hand; he knew that we policemen had a rub to get along on our pay. I know there were many he helped with their rent. He did look pleased, that Sunday mornino~, when he said, ‘ Coleman, what do you think? God has blessed me with two sons! ’ I used to go in’and sit just inside the door, and get a feast for my soul from his discourses. I shall see him again soon, I hope.”
Of course, this little story lacks the piquancy and sparkle of the former one; but it has the advantage of being true.
There was one other notable time in the front parlor. It recurs to me, at this moment, as the first falling of that black shadow of sorrow which the Lord saw fit to cast over our young and happy lives. It was again a Sabbath evening. I lay on a couch under the window, thinking of my dear one who had gone to preach his first sermon at the Surrey Music Hall, and praying that the Lord would bless his message to the assembled thousands. It was just a month since our children were born, and I was dreaming of all sorts of lovely possibilities and pleasures, when I heard a carriage stop at the gate. It was far too early for my husband to come home, and I wondered who my unexpected visitor could be. Presently, one of the deacons was ushered into the room, and I saw at once, from his manner, that somel:hing unusual had happened. I besought him to tell me all quickly, and he did so, kindly, and with much sympathy; and he kneeled by the couch, and prayed that we might have grace and strength to bear the terrible trial which had so suddenly come upon us. But how thankful I was when he went away! I wanted to be alone,, that I might cry to God in this hour of darkness and death! When my beloved was brought home, he looked a wreck of his former self, man hour’s agony of mind had changed his whole appearance and bearing. The night that ensued was one of weeping, and wailing, and indescribable sorrow. He refused to be comforted. I thought the morning would never break; and when it did come, it brought no relief.
The Lord has mercifully blofted out from my mind most of the details of the time of grief which followed, when my beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent that reason seemed to tofter on her throne, and we sometimes feared he would never preach again. It was truly ‘!the valley of the shadow of death” through which we then walked; and, like poor Christian, we here “sighed bitterly,” for the pathway was so dark “that, ofttimes, when we lifted up our foot to set forward, we knew not where or upon what we should set it next!”
It was in the garden of a house belonging to one of the deacons, in the suburbs of Croydon, whither my beloved had been taken in hope that the change and quiet would be beneficial, that the Lord was pleased to restore his mental equilibrium, and unloose the bars which had kept his spirit in darkness. We had been walking together, as usual; — he, restless and anguished; I, sorrowful and amazed, wondering what the end of these things would be;rowhen, at the foot of the steps which gave access to the house, he stopped suddenly, and turned to me, and with the old sweet light in his eyes, (ah I how grievous had been its absence l) he said, “Dearest, how foolish I have been! Why I what does it matter what becomes of me, if the Lord shall but be glorified?” — and he repeated, with eagerness and intense emphasis, Philippians ii. 9all: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “If Christ be exalted,” he said, — and his face glowed with holy fervour, m” let Him do as He pleases with me; my one prayer shall be, that I may die to self, and live wholly for Him and for His honor. Oh, wiley, I see it all now f Praise the Lord with me!”
In that moment, his fetters were broken, the captive came forth from his dungeon, and rejoiced in the light of the Lord. The Sun of righteousness arose once more upon him, with healing ill His wings. But he carried the scars of that conflict to his dying day, and never afterwards had he the physical vigor and strength which he possessed before passing through that fierce trial. Verily, it was a thorn): path by which the Lord led him. Human love would have profected him at any cost from an ordeal so terrible, and suffering so acute; but God’s love saw The end from the beginning, and “He never makes a mistake.” Though we may not, at the time, see His purpose in the afflictions which He sends us, it will be plainly::evealed when the light of eternity falls upon the road along which we have journeyed.
While staying at Mr. Winsor’s hospitable home, where he so kindly received and sheltered us in the time of our trouble, it was decided that the babies should be there dedicated to the Lord, and His service. So, when our dear patient seemed sufficiently recovered to take part in the observance, a goodly number of friends gathered together, and we had a happy meeting for prayel’ and praise. Full details I am unable to give; the only photograph which my memory retains is that of the two little creatures being carried round the large room,~after the dedicafory prayers were ofiered, — to be admired, and kissed, and blessed. What choice mercies, what special favors, their dear father asked for them then, I do not remember; but the Lord has never forgotten that prayer, and the many petitions which followed it. He not only heard, but has been answering all through the years of their lives, and with the most abounding blessing since He saw fit to make them fatherless! No ceremoaial was observed, no drops of “holy water” fell on the children’s brows; but in that room, that evening, as truly as in the house, “by the farther side of Jordan,” in the days gone by, our infants were brought to Christ the Lord “that He would touch them;” and ‘it is not now a matter of faith, so much as of sight, that “He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.”
Ah, me! it is not so many years ago, since the elder of those twin boys brought his firstborn son to “Westwood,” and my beloved, in one of those tender outpourings of the heart which were so natural to him, gave the child to God;~and, not many months afterwards,~God answered lhe ibrayer, and took hhn to Himself! One of the brightest, bonniest babies ever seen, he was the delight and expectation of our hearts; but the gift was claimed suddenly, and the child, who was to have done,’ according to our ideas, so much service on earth, went to sing God’s praises with the angels! I wonder, sometimes, whether the little ransomed spirit met and welcomed his warrior grandfather on the shores of the Glory-land!