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  • DIARY, LETTERS AND RECORDS -
    CHAPTER 56.


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    PASTORAL EPISTLES.

    DURING Mr. Spurgeons illness, mentioned in chapter 54, he wrote the following letters, which are interesting, not only for their own sake, but because they are probably the first of that long series of epistles from the sick room, or from the sunny South, in which the beloved Pastor manifested his deep affection and tender care for the large flock committed to his charge: — “Clapham, “October 26th, 1858. “Beloved Friends and Kindred in Christ, “The days seem like weeks, and the weeks seem like months, since I went up to the house of the Lord. My heart and my flesh are crying out for the assembly of the saints. Oh, how I long to hear once more the solemn shout of the festal throng, who, with the voice of joy and praise, keep holy day! I am slowly rallying. My great struggle now is with weakness. I feel as if my frail bark had weathered a heavy storm which has made every timber creak. Do not attribute this illness to my having labored too hard for my Master. For His dear sake, I would that [ may yet be able to labor more. Such toils as might be hardly noticed in the camp, for the service of one’s country, would excite astonishment in the Church, for the service of our God. “And now, I entreat you, for love’s sake, to continue in prayer for me. When ye find access to God, remember me. Mind, it is not by the words of your mouth, nor yet by the cravings of your heart, but it is by the precious blood of Christ you must draw nigh to God.

    And when you are in His sweet presence, and are bedewed with His holy anointing, then pour out your souls before Him, and make mention of me in your supplications. “Yours, to love and serve, in the gospel, “C. H.SPURGEON.” “Clapham, “November 2nd, 1858. “Dearly-beloved Friends, “I am a prisoner still. Weakness has succeeded pain, and languor of mind is the distressing result of this prostration of my physical powers. It is the Lord’s doing. In some sense, I might say with Paul,’ I am a prisoner of Jesus Christ.’ But, ah! my bonds are more easy and less honorable to wear than his. Instead of a dungeon, my lof is cast in an abode of comfort. I am not restrained from my accustomed ministry by a chain forged by man, but by the silken cord of God’s providence; no rough jailer, but loving relatives and friends attend upon me in these tedious hours of my bondage. I beseech you therefore, my beloved, let your many prayers to God on my behalf be each and all mingled with thanksgiving. Gratitude should ever be used in devofion, like salt of old was in sacrifice, ‘ without prescribing how much.’ “And now, though unable to stand in the pulpit, I will endeavor to give you a short address, — or rather, I will attempt to express the kindlings of my heart in a few broken sentences. “And, first, to you my well-beloved and trusty brethren and sisters in Christ, and in the family tie of church-fellowship; to you I tender my fondest regards, my sincerest thanks, my sweetest love. I feel refreshed by your sympathy, and my heart is overwhelmed at the estimation in which you hold me. It brings the hof blush to my cheek, and well it may. Tenderly as a husband thinks of the dofing affection of his wife, as the father receives the fond homage of his children, as a brother when he is held in honor by all the family circle, — so tenderly, and even more tenderly, I remember your care of me. The tone of your supplications during my affliction has made me beyond measure thankful. I rejoice that you have, with humble: submission, kissed the rod, not impatiently asking for my recovery, but meekly acquiescing in the providence of our Heavenly Father, craving most of all that the Lord would sanctify the pains of your Pastor, and guard the flock with His own watchful eye. ‘ Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.’ “Yet again, in the still chamber of retirement, I anxiously remember some who would have been, ere this, baptized on a profession of their faith, and received into membership with the church, had not my health been thus impaired. Be not fretful concerning this delay; accept it as an ordained trial of your patience. If a farmer has a field of corn severed by the sickle from its native earth, but not yet housed in the garner, is he not concerned lest he suffer loss? How much more, as a minister of Christ, am I concerned for you, — the converts God hath given me! O beloved, be steadfast! Commit not the great sin of apostacy. Beware lest Satan take advantage of you: ‘for we are not ignorant of his devices.’ Draw not back. It is written in the law, ‘No devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the Lord of all that he hath, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord.’ The Israelite might not take back for his own use the beast that he had dedicated from his flock or his herd for an offering unto the Lord; far less may the Christian, when he hath resolved to yield up his heart, his life, his soul, to Jesus, withhold any part of the sacrifice. I write not thus to grieve you. Think not that my jealousy bodes a suspicion, but rather that it betokens my love. ‘We are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.’ ‘My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.’ “To those who have worshipped with us, during the past two years, in the Surrey Music Hall, the preacher sends his greetings and his love. Ye have heard how the prophet Samuel set up a stone, and called the name of itEBENEZER, saying,’ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’ That stone marked the place where the Lord gave the children of Israel a great victory over the Philistines; but it likewise marked the very place where, twenty years before, the Israelites were defeat,M, and the ark of God was taken. Let us rejoice, O my people, with trembling! Two years ago, the Music Hall was the scene of such discomfiture, such dire calamity and death, as we hardly dare to think of. Surely that was the night of my heart’s bitterest anguish. ‘ Howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing.’ For ninety-nine successive Lord’s-days was I enabled to supply the pulpit; no congregation could have been more evenly sustained; never were sermons more widely echoed. God has owned these services to the quickening of many souls, to the establishing of many in our most holy faith, and by them, through His goodness, hath the blessed Spirit stirred up many of my brethren in the ministry to a righteous emulation. ‘According to this time it shall be said, What hath God wrought!’ Ah, sirs! if ye knew in what fear we began, and with what anxiety we have continued, — if ye knew the unrequited exertions of those beloved brethren, whose names are unknown to fame, but whose good offices were essential to keep the place open, — if ye knew, once more, how many a time your minister has prostrated himself as a brokenhearted sinner before God to renew his first vows of unreserved self-dedication, — if ye knew these things, ye would not be backward in adopting the psalmist’s ascription of praise, ‘ not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory.’ ‘Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.’ “Yet I have other friends. They are scattered far and wide throughout this country, and the sister isles. To you also let me write a word. Ye have received me most kindly; faster friendships were surely never made in fewer hours than I have cemented with some of you. ye are my spiritual kith and kin. I take you to record that my God hath graciously proportioned my strength to my days, while I have been among you ‘in labors more abundant.’ When I have labored most for His glory, I have feasted most on the provisions of His grace. And, blessed be God, when ofttimes called to visit a people heretofore unknown to me, He hath given me the key of David, to unlock the secret springs of your heart; nay, rather, He holdeth the key in His own hand; He openeth, and no man can shut. Keep, beloved, the Word of His patience, and He will keep you’ from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.’ “Finally, my brethren, I am cheered and comforted beyond measure by the joyous hope that, on the coming Sabbath, I shall again appear among you. This prospect is as oil to my bones; and, although I cannot hope to fulfil my ministry with my wonted vigor, yet to attempt to address you will be to me as strengthening medicine, a tonic to my fluttering heart. ‘Brethren, pray for us.’ “Yours in covenant, “C. H.SPURGEON.”

    In the early years of his London ministry, it was Mr. Spurgeon’s custom to write an annual letter to his people. This series of pastoral epistles, from 1857 to 1862, covers rather more than the period described in this volume, and gives a bird’s-eye view of the progress of the work from the memorable night of the great catastrophe in the Music Hall to the happy settlement of the congregation in the: Metropolitan Tabernacle. All of the letters show the Pastor’s intense desire for the growth in grace of the brethren and sisters in fellowship with the church, and for the ingathering of those who were still “out of the way.” With the exception of the last one, they were all addressed “To the Church in New Park Street,” so it is only necessary to give the date of the year’ to which each one belongs. 1857. “Dearly-beloved, “We have hitherto been assisted by our Covenant Head; let us pause and thank Him. Dark have been some of the dealings of providence towards us; but however much we may lament, we cannot alter, let us therefore give our time to action rather than regret. “Our numbers have been multiplied, and our zeal maintained; for this let us be grateful. And now that we enter upon another period of time, what shall we do in it? Let our answer be, that, through God’s grace, we will be devoted to His cause, and seek out means of glorifying Him. Our hearts are set Upon ALARGER TABERNACLE. Will we not labor to immortalize this year by laying the foundation stone ‘thereof? I am persuaded that God demands it; will we not delight to give Him all His cause requires? “The Lord has been on our side, and through much opposition He has preserved us unscathed. Let us build Him a house to His honor, which will be the means of making known His glory, and discomfiting His enemies. “The Church of Christ will help us; but, if all forsake us, by God’s help let us do it alone. We have hitherto had the answer to that prayer of Moses, ‘Let his hands be sufficient for him;’ and it shall not fail us now. We will toil together with one warm heart until the topstone be laid, and then our prayer shall be, ‘ Lord, fill the house with Thy glory!’ “May every blessing attend you in your families, in your businesses, and especially in your souls; and may Pastor and people meet in glory! “‘Trust in the Lord, and do good.’” 1858. “Dearly-beloved, “We again acknowledge the goodness of our Covenant Lord. Last year, we wrote in faith. Surrounded by dark clouds, we believed that all things would work for our good; and now, rejoicing in hope, we record the fulfilment of the promise. The huge waves which Satan stirred against us have not caused us damage; but, by God’s good grace, we have surmounted every billow, and are still sailing on to our desired haven. This has been the greatest year of all. Every Sabbath, crowds have filled the Music Hall; and every month, the pool of baptism has witnessed that they have not heard in vain. “Let us be grateful for past indulgence, and let us be on the lookout for trial. We must not expect to be let alone. Satan has many plofs; and though signally foiled in one, another may be ready. Be prayerful, that trial come not upon us as a thief in the night; be watchful, lest we ourselves should, by our slofh, become the instruments of our own ruin. “The Tabernacle Fund progresses beyond our hopes. It is most probable that, before the end of the year, we shall have far exceeded £5,000, which is no small sum. Another year of earnest effort, and the work will be nearing a conclusion. ‘ Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy Name.’ The Lord will prosper that which concerneth us; we shall continue in loving labor, knit together as the heart of one man; and, by-and-by, we shall raise the topstone to its place amidst the shouts of the people. “I am anxious beyond measure for your purity and unity. I pray you, watch over one another in the Lord, and may the Master Himself keep us all by His grace! Accept your minister’s most hearty love, with every good wish for yourselves and your families; and be not unmindful to offer fervent prayer for our success and preservation. Your minister’s mofto is, — “‘ON!ON!ON!’ “Let yours be,— “‘GO FORWARD.’“ 1859. “Dearly-beloved and longed-for, my joy and crown, “May the blessing of the Most High God descend upon you in answer to my earnest prayers’! This has been a year of prayer. I thank God for the daily supplications which you have presented at the throne of grace. Rest assured that your Pastor appreciates your affectionate earnestness on his behalf, and is greatly strengthened and encouraged thereby. It often brings tears of joy to my eyes when, in the midst of weary labor and cruel abuse, I remember your united prayers. May God hear you, and make me a better preacher, causing ray labors among you to be more successful, both in your edification and increase! “Permit me to counsel you as to the training of your families. I would have all our children fully taught the Word of God. Let me strongly recommend to you the use of The Assembly’s Catechism.

    Many a minister has derived his first doctrinal knowledge from that book; and, indeed, it has in it the very life-blood of the gospel. Let our youths and maidens study the Scriptures daily, and let them use The Baptist Confession of Faith, which they will find to be a useful compendium of doctrinal knowledge. My desire is, that I may have around me a well-instructed people, who shall be able to give a reason for the hope which is in them. “There are many among us who are, at present, cold or lukewarm; may the Divine fire, which is in some of you, be kindled in their hearts also! Cleave to the Lord ‘with purpose of heart, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with you!” 1860. “My Very Dear Friends, “I am glad of this opportunity to assure you of the continuance and increase of my hearty and undissembled love to you. Each year unites us more firmly. We have suffered together, and we have also rejoiced together. In the cause of our common Master, we have alike endured the reproach of men, and the reviling of the people; and in the success which has attended us, we have had to rejoice in the smile of a Covenant God, and in the energy of His Spirit.

    Comrades in battle, we are also co-heirs of victory. May the Lord, whom I serve in the gospel of His Son, abundantly bless you, and return into your bosoms a thousand-fold those acts of love, and those words of affection, by which you so perpetually prove your earnest attachment to me! Never had pastor a better flock; never did minister more sincerely long for the good of his people. And now, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation which I address to you: — “ 1 . In relation lo myself. I beseech you, cease not to plead with God on my behalf. I have always acknowledged and recognized the value of the supplications of my church, and I feel the necessity of your earnest prayers more than ever. I entreat you, as the spiritual father of very many of you, cease not to intercede with God on my behalf. “ 2. In relation lo the deacons and elders. Let me: indulge the hope that our church shall become as Scriptural in its order as in its doctrines; and let me go further, let me hope that we may not only walk in Scriptural order, but in spiritual power. Seek unitedly the purity and increase of the whole body. Rally round the officers of our little army, and submit yourselves to their guidance and counsel. Let every member know the elder who presides over his district; and should that brother fail to visit him, let the member visit the elder, and remind him that he has overlooked one of the sheep of his flock. endeavor to maintain meetings for prayer in each district of this great city; and if there be a door for other agencies, use them to the utmost of your ability. Each district, with its elder, should be a regiment with its officer; and then all the different bands, when called to united action, would be ready to achieve an easy victory. Honor the brethren who serve you in the gospel, and esteem them very highly in love, for the Lord’s sake. “ 3. In relation to one another. I admire the liberality of our poor brethren to the cause, and the zeal of all for the spread of the truth, and the love which exists among you one toward another. ‘ Let brotherly love continue.’ We are none of us perfect, and therefore need forbearance from others; our fellow-members are like ourselves, and therefore we must exercise the like charity towards them. We must mutually seek the comfort and sanctification of each other, ‘endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ “A meek and quiet temper will always tend to sustain you under injuries from others, and will prevent your dealing harshly with brethren. The character of Archbishop Leighton is one which it would be a noble thing for us to imitate to the letter. Speaking of his humility, Burner says ‘that he seemed to have the lowest thoughts of himself possible, and to desire that all other persons should think as meanly of him as he did of himself; and he bore all sorts of ill-usage and reproach, like a man that took pleasure in it.’

    And again, of his temperament, ‘ he had so subdued the natural heat of his temper that, in a great variety of circumstances, and in the course of intimate conversation with him for twenty years, he never observed the least sign of passion in him, but upon one occasion. The accidents and behaviour which usually disturb the temper had no power to ruffle the equanimity of Leighton. Whilst living at Dunblane, his man-servant, being desirous of fishing, went off one morning very early, locking the door, and taking the key with him, thus making his master a prisoner; nor did he return until the evening, when the only rebuke which he received from the Bishop was, “John, when you next go a-fishing, remember to leave the key in the door.”’ Perhaps it is too much to expect so great a degree of gracious temper in all; but, nevertheless, let us strive after it. This will make it easy work to maintain cordial and joyous communion. “ 4. In relation to other churches. Be careful to maintain your orthodoxy, and bear your witness against all error; but be even more mindful to secure the communion of saints, and avoid all bigotry and bitterness. “ 5. With regard to the world. Let it not seduce you; come out from it daily, and be separate; but strive daily for the salvation of souls; and may the Lord make you, in His hands, the salt of the earth, and the instructors of the people! Huge is our city, and hideous its sin; labor for the good of men, and, finally, when the chief Shepherd shall appear, may we all appear with Him in glory!” 1861. “Brothers and Sisters, “Bless God for the past, and trust Him for the future. It is far better to prepare for what lies before us than to congratulate ourselves upon that which is already accomplished. Great as have been ‘the blessings with which Almighty God has favored us, we are longing and looking for larger displays of His goodness. Permit me very lovingly to thank all of you for your hearty assistance in labors already performed, and allow me to entreat your continued aid in our new undertakings. Above all things, I most earnestly crave your prayers; and I am sure you will not deny them to me. “Pray for me in my ministry. It is no narrow sphere to which my Lord has called me. nothing but all-sufficient grace can enable me to discharge the labors which devolve upon me. Oh, I beseech you, as Aarons and Hurs, hold up my hands that my pulpit power may not abate! “Pray for me as Pastor. The church is of so great a magnitude, that no eye but that of Omniscience can oversee it all. AS a company of fallible men, we have many infirmities; and it is a matchless favor to deal faithfully with all, and yet maintain perfect peace; to be ever active in stirring up the whole company, and yet very tender and pitiful to the lambs of the flock. Pray for me, my beloved, for I wou![d rather renounce my office than lack your prayers. “Pray for me as an evangelist. I am incessantly itinerating through the cities, towns, and villages of this land. There are few large towns in which I have not uplifted the cross of Christ. These frequent journeyings require much physical strength; and constant preaching demands great mental power, and spiritual might. Ask e f my Lord that, everywhere, His Word may have free course, run, and be glorified. There are lifeless churches to be aroused, and careless sinners to be called. Entreat our Heavenly Father that my preaching may have a share of success in promofing these most important objects. “Pray for me as a teacher of teachers. The Lord put it into my heart to commence an Institution for the training of young ministers. With a very able coadjutor, I have constantly increased the number of young men. Prayer and faith have always supplied the means so far, although I have no society or regular funds to depend upon. I would rejoice greatly if m7 gracious Lord would send me pecuniary aid to enable me to increase the number at once to twenty. This I must leave ‘with Him. Much wisdom is needed in training uncultivated but earnest minds, and in finding suitable spheres for the men when they are ready for the work. Let this matter, then, be remembered at the mercy-seat so often as it shall be well with you. “Pray for me as an intercessor for others. Beg that the Lord may give me power in prayer. The most of a minister’s work must be done upon his knees. Weak here, we are weak everywhere. I desire to bear you ever on my heart before the throne; but how can I do this unless you shall pray the Lord to enable me? For this, I appeal to you, and beg your perpetual remembrances. “Finally, brethren, wait for the appearance of the Lord from Heaven, and be ye found with well-trimmed lamps and well-girt loins, that, when He cometh, you may rejoice before Him.” 1862. “To the Church in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, over which the Lord has made me overseer. “Beloved Friends, “Your faithfulness and affection are gratefully remembered in my daily thanksgivings, and in this public manner I tender you my’ warmest gratitude. Truly, I haw~. no cause to complain of fickle or lukewarm friends in the church. No abuse, however venomous, has shaken your confidence; no misrepresentations, however ingenious, have perverted your opinions; and no slanders, however scurrilous, have loosened your attachment. We have borne equally and cheerfully the cross of Christ. You have not repudiated the burden, as though it belonged only to the Pastor; but you have felt that an attack upon him was an assault upon yourselves, and any wounds which he might suffer have rankled in your:spirit as well as in his own. Persecution has been greatly blessed to us, for it has made us a united people; and we may add, a separated company, who are constantly constrained to contend for one another against the world, both religious and profane. A thousand times have the haters of our holy cause uttered the most villainous calumnies against your Pastor; but, as; one by one you have heard their report, they have no more alarmed you than the crackling of thorns in the fire, or the noise of summer insects among the trees. We can afford to endure this ‘ trial of cruel mockings,’ for a clear conscience, prevalence in prayer, and abundant success, are an armour quite sufficient for the church in her worst condition. “During the past year, we have entered upon our new Tabernacle, having no debt to encumber our future action. What a cause for gratitude to our all-gracious, prayer-hearing God! And what a claim upon us to exercise abundant faith and entire consecration to His cause! The Lord hath not dealt thus with every people; let us be glad and rejoice in Him. “Since the opening of the building, very many necessary works have been performed which have engrossed the larger part of the annual revenue; and much remains still to be done before the Tabernacle can be called complete; hence there will be: little or nothing to spare for the College, and the Pastor must look to your thankofferings for the support of this great cause. You have not been backward aforetime, and will certainly be ready now. “With regard to our spiritual interests, let us ask ourselves whether we have grown in grace this year, whether, like the living tree, we have put forth fresh branches and leaves, or whether we have stood like posts, on which the rain descends and the dew distils, but they remain as dead and unfruitful as before. Is our faith stronger? Is our love warmer? Is our hope brightel’? Have we advanced in courage, patience, virtue, and true holiness? Has grace in the blade become grace in the ear? Have we a deeper sense of the depravity of our nature? Are we more habitually looking out of self into Christ, and do we walk in closer fellowship with Him? Let us answer these questions, and then remember the injunction of the apostle, ‘ See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’ “And now that the lion-standard of the tribe of Judah is uplifted for another march, let us confidently and joyously follow it. Jehovah is with us, and the God of Jacob is our Refuge. Rise up, Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee! We shall tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shall we trample under our feet. ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’”

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