WEEK-DAY SERVICES, 1858 — 1860.
Preach, preach twice a day,! can and will do; but, still, there is a travailing in preparation for it, and even the utterance is not always accompanied with joy and gladness; and God knoweth that, if it were not for the good that we trust is to be accomplished by the preaching of the Word, it is no happiness to a man to be well known. It robs him of all comfort to be from morning to night hunted for labor, to have no rest for the sole of his foot or for his brain, — to have people asking, as they do in the country, when they want to get into a cart, “Will it hold us?” never thinking whether the horse can drag them; — so they ask, “Will you preach at such-and-such a place? You are preaching twice, couldn’t you manage to go to the next town or village, and preach again?”
Everyone else has a constitution, the minister is supposed not to have any; and if he kills himself by overwork, he is condemned as imprudent. I bless God that I have a valiant corps of friends who, day and night, besiege God’s throne on my behalf. I would beseech you again, my brethren and sisters, by our loving days that are past, by all the hard fighting that we have had side by side with each other, not to cease to pray for me now. The time was when, in hours of trouble, you and I have bent our knees together in God’s house, and we have prayed that He would give us a blessing. You remember what great and sore troubles rolled over our head; and now that God has brought us into a large place, and so greatly multiplied us, let us still cry unto the living God, asking Him to bless us. What shall I do if you cease to pray for me? Let me know the clay when you give up praying for me, for then I must give up. preaching, and I must cry, “O my God, take me home, for my work is done!” — C. H. S., in sermon preached at the Music Hal/Royal Surrey Gardens, June 28, 1857.
I can say, and God is my witness, that I never yet feared the face of man, be he who or what he may; but I often tremble — yea, I always do, — in ascending the pulpit, lest I should not faithfully proclaim the gospel to poor perishing sinners. The anxiety of rightly preparing and delivering a discourse, so that the preacher may fully preach Christ to his hearers, and pray them, in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled to God, is such as only he knows who loves the souls of men. It is no child’s play to be the occupant of a pulpit; he who finds it to be so may find it to be something more fearful than devil’s play when the day of judgment shall come. — C. 1t. S., in sermon preached at Belfast, August, 18 58. WHEN the project for the building of the Tabernacle was fairly launched, the Pastor set to work most energetically in gathering the funds needed for the great enterprise. By means of his preaching, speaking, and lecturing, a very large proportion of the required amount was collected. In many cases, half the proceeds were devoted to local objects, and the remainder given to Mr. Spurgeon for his new chapel; but, in other instances, the whole sum was added to the Building Fund. Scarcely a single monthly list of contributions was issued without the inclusion of several of these items.
The congregation at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall was of such a special character that it was only on rare occasions that the young minister could be absent on the Lord’s-day. Once, when he did spend a Sabbath, as well as some week-days in Scotland, he was able, on his return, to pay into the treasury the sum of £391 as the net result of his visit to Glasgow and Edinburgh. He also continued, as far as he was able, to preach on behalf of various provincial churches which sought his aid; and it sometimes happened that where the collections had been given one year towards the new Tabernacle, the next year Mr. Spurgeon would go again, and raise as large a sum as possible for the funds of those who had previously helped him.
A bare outline of these week-day services, even if it could be made, would occupy far more space than can be spared in this work. There: is no need to attempt the task, for that campaign of love is recorded on high, and it is gladly and gratefully remembered in thousands of the cities, and tow. ns, and villages of the United Kingdom; and the story of it has been told, again and again, from sire to son, in almost every part of the land. Eternity alone will reveal how great was the young evangelist’s influence upon the religious life of that portion of the nineteenth century; and those who formed a part of his vast audiences may well treasure in their memories, and hand on to their descendants, reminiscences of the notable incidents of those long-past days. Just a few representative instances only can be given, from which may be gathered something of the character of the “labors more abundant” in which the New Park Street Pastor was engaged in addition to his arduous occupation in connection with his ever-growing church and work.
In London, Mr. Spurgeon’s services were constantly in request every day or hour that was not required to meet the claims of his pastorate; and he was ever the ready and willing advocate of all who were downtrodden and oppressed. In a discourse upon Isaiah lxii. 10, — ” Gather out the stones,” — delivered at the Scotch Church, Regent Square, on February 22, 1858, in aid of the Early Closing Association, he gave utterance to sentiments which are as appropriate to the present time as to the occasion when they were first spoken, although “early closing” has made great advances during the intervening period. After trying to remove, out of the way of those who desired to tread the Heavenly road, such “stones” as these, — (i) the supposed sacred character of the buildings in which the gospel was preached, (2) the obscure and learned language of many of the preachers, (3)the inconsistencies or gloominess of professors of religion, — Mr. Spurgeon thus referred to the object for which he had been asked to preach: — “And now, what else have you to say? Perhaps you reply, ‘ What you say is well and good; no doubt religion is a holy and Heavenly thing; but, sir, there is one more stone in my path, — can you take that away? I am so engaged in business that it is utterly impossible for me to attend to the concerns of my soul. From Monday’ morning to Saturday night, — or, rather, till Sunday morning, — it is work, work, work, and I scarcely seem to throw myself upon my bed before I have to rise in the morning, and resume my tasks. You invite me to come to your place of worship on the Sabbath morning; do you wish me to go there to sleep? You ask me to come and listen to the minister; if you fetched an angel from Heaven, and gave him Gabriel’s trumpet, with which he could wake the dead, then I might listen; but I require something almost as powerful as that to keep my poor eyelids open. I should be snoring while the saints were singing; why’ should I come to mar your worship? What is the use of the minister telling me to take the yoke of Christ upon me, because His yoke is easy, and His burden is light?. I know not whether Christ’s yoke be easy, but I know that the yoke a so-called Christian population puts upon me is not easy. I have to toil as much as if I were a slave, and the Israelites in the brick-kilns of Egypt could hardly have sweated more fearfully under the taskmaster’s lash than I do. Oh, sir, this is the great stone in the midst of my path; and it so impedes me, that it is all in vain for you to talk to me of Christianity while this obstacle is in my way!’ “I tell you all, that this barrier is like the great stone that was laid at the door of the sepulchre of the dead Christ. Unless you try to remove it, where is the hope of getting these people under the sound of the Word? It is for this reason that I came, this evening, to preach a sermon on behalf of the Early Closing Movement. I felt that I could not make that matter the staple of my discourse; but that I might bring it in as one of the points to which I would ask your very special attention, and I am endeavoring to do so. I do think, Christian people, that you ought to take this stone out of the path of those who are without; and to do so, you must put a stop to that evil but common custom of visiting shops and houses of business at a late hour. If you make a man work so many hours in the six days, — really, it is twelve days in six, for what is it better than that when he has two days’ labor crowded into every one? — how can you expect the Sabbath to be kept sacred by him? And even if the man is willing so to keep it, how can you imagine that he can be in a proper frame of devotion when he comes into the house of God? Our Lord Jesus Christ is able to save to the uttermost; were He not, the salvation of poor dressmakers, and young men employed in drapers’ and other shops, would be impossible; for it is saving to the uttermost when He saves them nothwithstanding their exhaustion, and gives them strength to feel and repent, when they have scarcely physical and mental power enough left for any effort at all. O brethren and sisters, gather out the stones! If you cannot take them all away, do not strew the road more thickly with them by unthink-ingly keeping your fellow-creatures at work when they ought to be at rest. “There are many young men and women, who are seeking something higher than the dust and ashes of this world, who might be converted to Christ, and who might be happy, but who are restrained because they have not the time which they desire for seeking the Lord. I say not that it is a valid excuse for them to make,-for very little time is needed for the exercise of repentance and faith; — but I do say that there are hundreds and thousands who are hindered from coming to Christ, and have theirearly religious impressions checked and damped, and their convictions stifled, and the first dawn of a better life quenched within them, because of the cruel system of the present state of society. I remember seeing a good farmer stop his chaise, and let his old grey pony stand still while he got down to pick off the road the bottom of a glass bottle, and throw it over the hedge, ‘Ah!’ he said, ‘I remember how my pony cut his foot by stepping on a glass bottle, and I should not like anyone to lame a valuable horse in the same way, so I thought I would get out, and remove the cause of danger.’ Let all of us act in the same fashion as that old farmer did,. and gather out all stones that may be an occasion of stumbling to any of our brothers and sisters.”
It must have been a memorable sight for those who saw the Surrey Gardens Music Hall packed on a week-day morning, — April 28, 1858, when Mr. Spurgeon preached the annual sermon of the Baptist Missionary Society from Psalm 46:8,9: “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire.”
The discourse is published in The New Park Street Pulpit, under the title, “The Desolations of the Lord, the Consolation of His Saints,” so it need not be described at length; but it is interesting to note Dr. Campbell’s comment on the new era which had dawned in connection with the Society’s anniversary: — “The missionary sermon of Mr. Spurgeon, on Wednesday, at the Surrey Music Hall, was a magnificent affair. The immense, edifice was crowded to overflowing at the early hour of 11 o’clock in the forenoon. The great preacher was, as; usual, completely at home, full of heart, vivacity, and business. Mr. Spurgeon cannot devote weeks, if not months, to the preparation of such a sermon, and then take a fortnight’s rest to recruit his strength before the great day. All his days are great; and ‘they come in such rapid succession as to exclude the possibility of finish and elaboration, even if he aspired to it. But, with him, there is no aiming at greatness; exhibition has no place in his thoughts. He scorns it. What the occasion:supplies, amid ceaseless toils, past and coming, is all that he seeks, and all that he’. gives. In the proper sense, he preaches; and preaches, not to the ministers, but to the people; and he has his reward. He has no conception of reading a treatise, by way of a May Meeting sermon, extending to two or three hours! This he would deem a perversion of his office, and an insult to his hearers. His discourse on Wednesday was of the usual length, and of the usual character, only throughout highly missionary. Common sense in this, as in most of Mr. Spurgeon’s doings, obtained for once a thorough triumph. The collection amounted to nearly £150.”
Two notable week-day sermons were preached by Mr. Spurgeon, on Friday, June 11, 1858, on the Grand Stand, Epsom race-course. The text in the afternoon was singularly suitable to such a place’ “So run, that ye may obtain;” in the evening, the discourse was a powerful gospel invitation founded upon Isaiah 55:1: “Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
There was a large congregation on each occasion, £60 was contributed towards the funds of a chapel in Epsom, and none who were present were likely to forget the unusual purpose to which “Satan’s seat” was that day devoted.
In August, 1858, Mr. Spurgeon paid his first visit to Ireland, and preached four sermons in Belfast. He gave his services freely, in order that the whole of the proceeds might help the Young Men’s Intellectual Improvement Association to build new school-rooms. That he was in a very unfit state of health for making such an effort, is evident from his remarks at the Music Hall service on the Sabbath morning after his return. Preaching on the words, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be,” he said: — ”Children of God, cannot you say that this has been true hitherto? /can. It might seem egotistical if I were to talk of the evidence I have received of this during the past week; but, nevertheless, I cannot help recording my praise to God.
I left this pulpit, last Sunday, as sick as any man ever left the pulpit; and I left this country, too, as ill as I could be; but no sooner had I set my foot upon the other shore, where I was to preach the gospel, than my wonted strength entirely returned to me. I had no sooner buckled on the harness to go forth to fight my Master’s battle, than every ache and pain was gone, and all my sickness fled; and as my day was, so certainly was my strength..”
The first sermon was an earnest appeal to the undecided; the text was Mark 12:34: “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God.”
Twenty-three years afterwards, Mr. Spurgeon received, from a missionary, the following cheering note: — “Your first sermon in Belfast caused me to decide finally to enter the ministry. Since then, I have given ten years to mission work in Damascus, where I built the first church ever erected for the spiritual worship of the true God in that city. I built two churches on Mount Hermon, and again and again I have preached there your sermons in Arabic; one of them was delivered on the top of Mount Hermon at a picnic given to our different villagers.”
The second discourse was upon a subject of which Mr. Spurgeon was especially fond. In those early days, if he was preaching several sermons at any place, one of them was almost certain to be founded upon Revelation 14:1-3 “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s Name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from Heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth;” — and in the course of the sermon, Mr. Spurgeon usually introduced a few sentences describing his love for the harp. It was so at Belfast, as the following extract shows: — “John says, ‘I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps.’ Surely, of all instruments, the harp is the sweetest. The organ has a swelling grandeur, but the harp has a softness and sweetness about it that might well make it a fit instrument for a royal musician like David. I must confess that a harp has so great a charm for me that I have sometimes found myself standing in the street, listening to some old harper making music on his harp. I have bidden him colne into the house and play to me, that I might prepare a sermon while he played; and I have found comfort, and my heart has been stirred within me, as I have listened to the thrilling strains. The singing in Heaven has all the tender melody of the harp, while it thunders like the rolling sea. Why is this? Because there are no hypocrites there, and no formalists there, to make a jarring noise, and spoil the harmony. There are — “‘No groans to mingle with the songs Which warble from immortal tongues.’ No pain, nor distress, nor death, nor sin, can ever reach that blessed place; there is no drawback to the happiness of the glorified spirits above. They all sing sweetly there, for they are all perfect; and they sing all the more loudly, because they all owe that perfection to free and sovereign grace.”
The text of the third sermon was Matthew 28:5: — “The angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that: ye seek Jesus, which was crucified,” — and was specially aimed at finding out and comforting true seekers.
The last of the four services was held in the Botanic Gardens, when it was estimated that 7,000 persons heard the discourse delivered from Matthew 1:21: “Thou shalt call His NameJESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.”
Towards the end of the sermon, Mr. Spurgeon told the story of Jack the Huckster, whose theology was comprised in the familiar lines, — “I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all, But Jesus Christ is my All-in-all.” In closing the service, the preacher said: — ”I have to thank you all for the kindness with which I have been received, and especially I have to thank the ministers of Belfast. I never was in a town in my life where I met with such a noble body of men who love the good old truth, and I can say that I love every one of them. I thank them for all the kind things they have said to me and concerning me, and [ wish them and all my friends a hearty good-bye, and may the day come when we shall all meet in Heaven!”
Mr. Spurgeon went to Ireland many times after this, and Irish friends contributed very generously to the building of the Tabernacle. On one of his visits;, after the great revival, when preaching in Exeter Hall, from Amos 9:13, — “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt,” — he said: — “Here we are told that ‘ the mountains shall drop sweet wine;’ by which we are to understand that conversions shall take place in unusual quarters.
Brethren, this day is this promise literally fulfilled to us. I have: this week seen what I never saw before. It has been my lot, these last six years, to preach to crowded congregations, and to have many, many souls brought to Christ; it has been no unusual thing for us to see the greatest and noblest of the land listening to the Word of God; but this week I have seen, I repeat, what mine eyes have never before beheld, used as I am to extraordinary sights. I have seen the people of Dublin, without exception, from the highest to the lowest, crowd in to hear the gospel; and I have known that my congregation has been composed in a considerable measure of Roman Catholics, and I have beheld them listening to the Word with as much attention as though they had been Protestants. I have noticed military men, whose tastes and habits were not like those of the Puritanic minister, but who have nevertheless sat to listen; nay, they have come again, and have made it a point to find the place where they could hear the best, and have submitted to be crowded if they might but hear the Word. I have heard, too, cheering news of men, who could not speak without larding their conversation with oaths, who have come to hear the Word; they have been convinced of sin; and I trust there has been a work done in them which will last throughout eternity. “But the most pleasing thing I have seen is this, and I must tell it to you.
Hervey once said, ‘Each floating ship, a floating hell.’ Of all classes of men, the sailor has been supposed to be the one least likely to be reached, by the gospel. In crossing over from Holyhead to Dublin and back, — two excessively rough passages, — I spent the most pleasant hours that I ever remember. The first vessel that I entered, I found my hand very heartily shaken by the sailors. I thought, ‘What can these men know of me?’ They began calling me ‘Brother.’ Of course, I felt that I was their brother; but I did not know how they came to talk to me in that way. It is not usual for sailors to call a minister ‘ Brother.’ They paid me the utmost attention; and when I made the enquiry, ‘What makes you so kind?’ ‘Why!’ said one, ‘because I love your Master, the Lord Jesus.’ I enquired, and found that, out of the whole crew, there were but three unconverted men; and that, though the most of them had been before without God, and without Christ, yet, by a sudden visitation of the Spirit of God, they had nearly all been converted. I talked to many of these men; and more spiritually-minded men, I never saw. They have a prayer-meeting every morning before the boat starts, and another prayer-meeting after she comes into port; and on Sundays, when they lie-to off Kingstown or Holyhead, a minister comes on board, and preaches the gospel. Service is held on deck when it is possible; and an eye-witness said to me, ‘The minister preaches very earnestly, but I should like you to hear the men pray; I never heard such pleading before, they pray as; only sailors can pray.’ My heart was lifted up with joy, to think of a ship being made a floating church, — a very Bethel. “When I came back by another steamer, I did not expect to have my previous experience repeated; but it was. The same kind of work had been going on among these sailors; I walked among them, and talked to them.
They all knew me. One man took out of his pocket an old leather-covered book in Welsh, and said to me,’ Do you know the likeness of that man in front?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘! think I do; do you read those sermons?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ he answered, ‘ we have had your sermons on board ship, and I read them aloud as often as I can. If we have a fine passage coming over, I get a few around me, and read them a sermon.’ Another man told me the story of a gentleman who stood laughing while a hymn was being sung; so one of the sailors proposed that they should pray for him. They did so, and the man was suddenly smitten down, and on the quay began to cry for mercy, and plead with God for pardon. ‘Ah! sir,’ said the sailors, ‘ we have the best proof that there is a God here, for we have seen this crew marvelously brought to a knowledge of the truth; and here we are, joyful and happy men, serving the: Lord.’
Now, what shall we say of this blessed work of grace, but that the mountains drop sweet wine? The men who were loudest with their oaths, are now loudest with their songs; those who were the most daring sons of Satan, have become the most earnest advocates of the truth; for, mark you, once get sailors converted, and there is; no end to the good they can do. Of all men who can preach well, seamen are the: best.. The sailor has seen the wonders of God in the deep; the hardy British tar has got a heart that is not made of such cold stuff as many of the hearts of landsmen; and when that heart is once touched, it gives big beats, and sends great pulses of energy right through his whole frame; and with his zeal and energy, what may he not do, God helping him, and-blessing him?”
So far as can be ascertained, Mr. Spurgeons first sermons to aWELSH audience were delivered in the ancient village of Castleton, midway between Newport and Cardiff, on Wednesday, July 20, 1859. Pastor T. W.
Medhurst, who kindly forwards this information, says: — “This visit is still greatly talked about by the aged people in the district; I have often been delighted to see their glistening eyes as they have related their recollections of this red-letter day in their past experience. Never in the annals of the village, either before or since, has there been anything at all approximating to the scene which was witnessed that day. For some time previously, it had been made known through Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire that the popular preacher, C. H. Spurgeon, would deliver two discourses in the open air at Castleton. The excitement among the people, and especially among the inhabitants of the hill-districts, in anticipation of the services, was immense. The question, ‘Are you going to hear Spurgeon?’ took the place of the usual remarks about the weather.
The various railway companies ran excursion trains, and the result was an enormous gathering of people from all parts. “The first service began at eleven o’clock in the morning, in a field which was admirably adapted for the occasion, as it gradually sloped to a level at the bottom. The seats were arranged in a semi-circular form. Everyone had a full view of the preacher, and his powerful voice was distinctly heard by the ·nine or ten thousand persons assembled. Before announcing his text Mr. Spurgeon said: — ‘My dear friends, I most earnestly and humbly entreat your prayers that I may be enabled-to preach the gospel with power this day. I do not know that at any time I ever felt my own weakness more than I do now. I recollect to what mighty men of God some of you have sometimes listened, ministers whose names ought to be held in reverence as long as any man’s name endures on the face of the earth. I can scarcely hope to tread in the footsteps of many of those preachers whom you have heard. This, however, I can say to you, — you may have men in Wales who can preach the gospel in a better manner than I can hope to do, but you have no one who can preach a better gospel. It is the same gospel from first ‘to last, and tells of the same Saviour, who is ready to receive the meanest, the feeblest, the most guilty, and the most vile, who come unto God by Him. May the Holy Spirit graciously rest upon us now! I will read my text to you from the Gospel according to Matthew, the twenty-eighth chapter, and the fifth verse, and then Mr. Davies, of Haverfordwest College, will read it to you in Welsh, — a feat which I cannot accomplish.’ “The sermon was a most powerful discourse, delivered with impassioned earnestness and fire, never surpassed by the most eloquent of the .Welsh preachers. The text in the evening was Revelation 14:1-3. Every word of the preacher was plainly audible to the whole of the vast audiences at both the services; and at the close of the day it was remarked that his voice was as clear and as vigorous as at the commencement.”
Mr. Spurgeon preached in the Principality on several occasions afterwards; the service to which he refers on page 93 was probably the one held at Abercarne on Wednesday, May 3o, 1860, when it was estimated that 20,000 persons heard the discourse which he delivered in the open air.
Among all the notable week-day services in his earlier years, few were more memorable to both preacher and people than those held in Paris, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, February 7-9, 1860. The record of them is preserved in a pamphlet of thirty-two pages. On the title-page of Mr. Spurgeon’s own copy is inscribed, in his handwriting: — ”By Rev.
Wm. Blood, who escaped at the burning of the Amazon.” This gentleman was temporarily officiating as minister of the American Church in Paris, and he thus narrates the circumstances which resulted in Mr. Spurgeon’s visit: — “I had not been long in Paris, when it occurred to me that a good opportunity presented itself for inviting my friend, the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, to preach in the French capital; hoping that, thereby, with the blessing of God, a revival might commence in this land of superstition and error. And well knowing that France and the Continent offered a fine field for missionary enterprise, though awfully neglected since the days of the Reformation, I did not see why an attempt should not be made to enkindle the smoking embers of pure religion, which might eventually send forth a flame of light and heat which would spread over the entire country. It was a solitary monk, in his lonely cell, who, discovering the Word of God, read it, and, finding that it cheered his otherwise dismal hours, and gave light and warmth to his heart, determined that others should be made happy by the celestial fire. He snatched the torch of Divine truth, went forth from his darkness, and held it up, that all might see the. living light; other hearts were illumined by the same flame; and, soon, a blaze of Heavenly truth spread all over Germany. Why should there not be another and even a better Luther raised up in beautiful France? Why not many? Why should not the ministry of the Lord’s servant, which has been blessed to the conversion of so many souls in Great Britain, be also blessed in this great country? “Still, there were obstacles to encounter. Mr. Spurgeon had engagements made for almost every day for two years to come, and he had refused to go to America, even for a short time; although f20,000 had been offered to help build his chapel in London. I had, it is true, preached for him under peculiar circumstances when he had been seized with severe illness. But would it not be ‘uncanonical’ for a clergyman to invite one to preach not ‘in holy orders’? But is he not ‘in holy orders,’ God having evidently ‘ordered’ him to preach the gospel of peace; for he can already point to thousands of sinners made ‘holy’ by his preaching, and say, ‘The seals of my ministry are ye, in the Lord.’ The matter was then decided. I at once applied to my friend, Mr. Curtis, — a generous and noble-spirited American, who had originated the erection of the American Chapel, — for the use of that building, expressing the desire that, if any collection were made, it might be given to liquidate the debt on the chapel, or for the poor.
The Committee met immediately, when the following resolution was agreed to:— “‘Paris, January 18, 1860. — The Committee have unanimously resolved to give up the American Chapel to the Rev. William Blood, to be disposed of as he thinks proper for the use of his friend, the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon; but they decline the collection for the American Chapel, preferring to give it towards the erection of the chapel for Mr. Spurgeon.’ “Application was next made to the Consistoire of the Reformed Church of France for the use of a much larger building, — the Eglise de l’Oratoire, nearer the centre’, of Paris. The application was at once responded to by the following resolution: — “‘The Consistoire held a council last night, and decided to lend the Eglise de l’Oratoire to the Rev. W. Blood, for the predications of his friend, the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon.’ “This was accompanied by a few lines from one of the venerable Pastors, the Rev. Dr. Grandpierre, in which he said: — ’I fervently [)ray that the Holy Spirit may bless the predications of our brother, Mr. Spurgeon, to the conversion of many souls, and the strengthening of the regenerate in the faith.’“ Mr. Spurgeon was then asked if he would go to Paris, and he cheerfully consented to preach three sermons. To the further request that he would deliver two discourses on each of the three days of his visit, he replied: — “My Dear Mr. Blood, “I am willing to preach once on Tuesday, in the evening, wherever you pleas(:. Then twice on Wednesday, and twice on Thursday; but I must return the first thing on Friday morning. I thought I was coming over to serve the American Church; but, as the Committee prefer to give the collection for the chapel in London, I am content.
Let me stay in some quiet house, where I shall not be overwhelmed with visitors. The lionizing is the worst [)art of my labors. I hope the visit will be blessed by God. “Yours very heartily, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
Mr. Blood was especially impressed with the self-abnegation manifested by this note; and, writing after the services had been held, he thus referred to Mr. Spurgeon’s disinterestedness in being willing “to serve the American Church” in Paris, when he had need of such a large amount to complete the Tabernacle: — “He had no idea that the building of his chapel would be benefited by his visit. He expressed astonishment when he heard for the first time that it was proposed to be so. This ought at once to silence the slander of some evil-disposed correspondents of the London newspapers in their false reports of the collections made in the American Chapel. Had those collections been made properly, as I suggested, either for the American Chapel or that in London, or for the poor of Paris, or had Mr. Spurgeon been in the least degree anxious on the subject, the collections might have been f6oo, instead of f60. But Mr. Spurgeon was not at all consulted, neither did he pass a thought upon the matter; for he was invited for one object, and for that a/one he came, — viz., to seek to lead souls to Christ; and, thank God, this great result has been attained in several cases already known! If it were prudent, many instances might be given as illustrations of this remark. One fact, may, however, be stated here. An English gentleman, occupying a high position in Paris, who had not entered any church for years, was led by curiosity, from the reports of the popularity of the preacher, to go and hear him. Some days after, a friend of the writer called to see him at his office, and was astonished to find him in a state of great excitement, weeping as if some great calamity had fallen upon his household. The Bible, which he had been reading, was open before him.
His visitor’ enquired what was the matter with him; and the gentleman replied that ‘ he had gone to hear that young man (Mr. Spurgeon) preach, his eyes had been opened to a consciousness of his real state before God, he had been led to see himself as a sinner of the vilest description, without God and without Christ in the world, and he was searching in the Holy Scriptures to try to find some ray of hope.’ This and similar language described his state of mind, while it so excited the sympathy and emotion of his friend that they wept together, and joined in praying to God for mercy. His daughter, too, was similarly affected. She was a lady of fashion, though a religionist of the most formal kind. She had been scrupulous, like the apostle in his unconverted state, in attending to all the ceremonial of outward religion. She had been ‘alive without the law once,’, and even having the law she was blind as to its spiritual nature and convincing power; but now, ‘the commandment came,’ applied to her conscience by the agency of the Holy Spirit, and she ‘ died’ in despair as to any hope that the violated law could give her life, or even the promise of life. She saw her need of the vicarious sacrifice of the Son of God; she shut herself up in her room, and there, in agony of soul, sought the Saviour, gave up all dependence on her own righteousness, and submitted herself to ‘ the righteousness of Christ.’“ One specimen of the reports published in certain London newspapers will show that Mr. Blood did not write at all too strongly when he alluded to “the slander of some evil-disposed correspondents” concerning the collections at the services:— “The unconquerable Spurgeon left Paris this morning, through which he passed, as it were, like a whirlwind. The Parisian public, however, seemed far less enchanted with him than he appeared to be with himself. Perhaps there might be good reason for this. Whatever may have been the moral result of Mr. Spurgeon s eloquence, it is certain that he has but little cause of complaint against the effect which he produced, for the extreme generosity of his congregations evinced itself in the well-filled plates, which, piled up with gold pieces; excited the astonishment of the few French listeners who had come, as usual, provided with their ten-souspieces, and who, on perceiving the magnificence displayed by the English portion of the audience, feeling ashamed of the contrast, passed by, and gave nothing at all. I have heard of a discontented individual, perhaps a rival French pastor, who left at the church a parcel of some weight and breadth, as his contribution to the erection of Mr. Spurgeon’s Tabernacle.
It was a tempting-looking packet, beautifully enveloped in silver paper, and carefully tied with rose-coloured ribbons. The chronicle speaks not of the varied emotions which must have agitated the heart of the person who opened it, but merely mentions that its contents consisted of a small brick from the factory of St. Germain, with a most polite note, in which the writer, regretting his inability to vie with the other contributors in money to that mighty work, begged to offer his petit possible in kind, expressing his opinion that, if every one of Mr. Spurgeon’s legions of admirers were to do the same, not merely a church, but a city might be built with the materials thus collected. The friends of Lamartine, like those of ‘ Holloway,’ ‘ Rowland,’ and ‘ Day and Martin,’ who never lose the opportunity of aiding their cause by the passing events of the day, have already made good use of the rouleaux of napoleons with which it was reported the plates of Spurgeon were well-nigh filled, and have pathetically compared the state of things they represent to that demonstrated by the miserable sum of five hundred thousand francs, subscribed by ‘ all France and foreign countries,’ which poor Lamartine is obliged to pocket while waiting for the rest, which does not come. “Mr. Spurgeon’s egotism and arrogance have carried him so far as to advertise his sectarian chapel as ‘The Metropolitan Tabernacle,’ thus ignoring all the other Dissenting chapels and ministers. The next step, doubtless, will be to call himself the ‘Metropolitan’ and his building the cathedral, thus ignoring also the Archbishop of Canterbury; but that humble and modest Christian will not dispute the point with this upstart, even though he were ready to advertise his ready-cash shop as’ The Metropolitan Tea Warehouse!!’ But pride and avarice will soon be discovered, especially when the holiest and most sacred subjects are used to fan the flame.”
In vivid contrast to the above was the following article, written by Dr. Grandpierre, and published in the French religious paper, L’Esperance: — “The eminent preacher officiated three times at the American Chapel, Rue de Berri, and twice at the Church of the Oratoire. The subject of his first discourse in the American Chapel was, ‘Salvation’ (Acts 16:31); that of the second, ‘The Unfathomable Love of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:19); and the third, ‘Jesus, the Shepherd of the Faithful’ (Psalm 23:1). At the Oratoire, he preached, the first time, on ‘Prayer’ (Psalm 73:28), and the second, on ‘The New Song of the Redeemed’ (Revelation 14:1-3). “No one will feel inclined to contradict us when we declare that this celebrated orator fully justified, or even surpassed, the high opinion which the generality of his auditors had conceived of him. Mr. Spurgeon appears of a strong constitution, and nothing in his exterior betrays at first the excellence of the gifts which so particularly distinguish him. As a Christian, he is animated by the warmest piety; and, from his whole person, there seems to shine the sacred fire of the love of souls. One feels that he preaches especially for the salvation of unconverted sinners, and for the strengthening of the faith of those who are regenerate. As a theologian, his doctrine is clear, precise, square, — we might say; he is Calvinistic, incontestably,-but moderately so. It was, with peculiar satisfaction, that we heard him proclaim, from the pulpit of the Oratoire, with a vigor and a clearness equalled only by his eloquence, the perfect Divinity of the Saviour, and redemption by the expiation of His death, the eternal election of the children of God, and other essential points. “As an orator, he is simple and powerful, clear and abundant. The plans of his sermons are easy to comprehend and to follow; his developments are logical, and his language, always flowing and elegant, never fatigues. One would willingly hear him for hours at a time. Among the requisites to oratory which he possesses in a remarkable degree, three particularly struck us, — a prodigious memory, which furnishes him, on the instant, with the comparisons, facts, and images, best calculated to throw light upon his ideas; — a full and harmonious voice, which he modulates with peculiar ease, from the lowest to the highest tone, — and, lastly, a most fruitful imagination, giving colour to all his thoughts, constantly varying their expression, and painting to the eye of the mind the truths of Christ. “Mr. Spurgeon is in reality a poet. But without having heard him, an idea can scarcely be formed of the richness of his conceptions, — never, however, carrying him beyond the simplicity of the Christian pulpit, or the dignity of a minister of Christ. It is affirmed that Mr. Spurgeon has never been to College, and has been in the habit of preaching since the age of seventeen. He is not yet six-and-twenty; but once having heard him is enough to convince us that, in every respect, physically, morally, and spiritually, God has specially qualified him to be an orator, — and a Christian orator. He has left, in the hearts and minds; of his auditory, the most pleasing, and, let us hope, the most salutary impression. Before and after his preaching, special meetings for private and public prayer took place, in order to beg of God to bless his proclamation of the gospel. “We have no doubt that some souls have been converted. We are certain that all Christians must have felt their activity and inner life invigorated and reanimated. Our dear and honored brother has received the most fraternal reception from the Christians of every Evangelical denomination in this capital, and he quitted us, apparently touched, grateful, and happy, promising to return, if possible, shortly, to visit us again. For our part, we bless God that the Council of our Reformed Church at Paris has considered it an honor and a privilege to respond to the request of his friend, in opening for him the doors of its great temple, which, during both services, was filled with a compact crowd. In the midst of this vast assemblage, the members of our own church were: happily by no means in a minority. Our church has thus once more given proof that she possesses many families who value and appreciate the faithful and living exposition of the doctrine of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Even more remarkable was the article in the Journal des Debats, from the pen of M. Prevost-Paradol, its principal leader-writer, and one of the most popular and distinguished of the Parisian litterateurs; though a Romanist, he wrote in this appreciative strain of Mr. Spurgeon and his services: — “Mr. Spurgeon has fulfilled his promise. The indefatigable apostle has spent three:lays among us, and during his visit he preached five times without our being able to detect the slightest weariness in this gifted man.
Yet we do not think that any other orator could put more emphasis into his words, or give himself up more completely to his audience. Without posing, or getting too much excited, Mr. Spurgeon animates his discourse from beginning to end. The subject of his sermon is generally commonplace, and the end of it can be foreseen; but what is neither commonplace nor foreseen, and which is incomprehensible without hearing Mr. Spurgeon, is the persuasive, familiar, and yet forcible way in which he compels his audience to follow him, without fatigue, through the long continuous recitals, full of vivid pictures, exhortations, timely warnings or entreaties, with which he, by so much art, makes up the rich and solid groundwork of his discourses. But why speak of art, when gifts are in question, or rather, we would say, the most inspired oratory we have ever had the pleasure of hearing? Never has a sermon been preached with less apparent preparation, or given to the hearer the idea of a studied discourse; yet where is the audience that has noticed the least weakness, or the slightest hesitation, in his flowing and simple eloquence? One listens with pleasure to his powerful and sympathetic voice, which never rises or falls beyond proper limits, and yet fills the whole church with its sweet cadences. “The man who possesses these gifts, and uses them so generously, is not yet twenty-six years of age. It is impossible to look upon his energetic and loyal face without reading there conviction, courage, and earnest desire to do the right. This orator, who is the most popular preacher in a country where liberty of speech and conscience exercises such potent influence, is not only the most modest, but also the most simple of men. It is true that he has the happiness to address a nation which does not think it necessary to be unjust in its public criticism; but, after all, Mr. Spurgeon owes to himself alone the great and salutary influence which he has acquired, and yet no one could ever rightly accuse him of egotism. It is without affectation that he, unreservedly, ascribes all the glory to God. It seems to us that all disputes concerning religion ought to vanish before such an apostle; and to recognize his power, is but just. As for us, who have seen in this youthful and eloquent preacher one of the most happy examples of what modern Christianity and liberty can produce, we feel that it is an honor to come into contact with such a man as Mr. Spurgeon, and to exchange with him the grasp of friendship.”
Mrs. Spurgeon had the great joy of accompanying her dear husband on this visit. Deacon James Low, who was another of his Pastor’s companions on this occasion, gave the following account of an extra service of considerable interest: — ”By special invitation, Mr. Spurgeon visited the College at Passy, where there were several young men of great promise being educated for the mission field. Mr. Spurgeon received the students with much heartiness, and gave them a very touching and interesting address on the importance and duties of missionary work, especially urging them to preach Christ and Him crucified, as that doctrine would influence their hearers’ hearts more than any other theme. The President translated the address into French, and the students appeared very grateful for the visit. “Mr. Spurgeon was very much pressed by the various ministers and others to preach again in Paris as soon as possible. The results of the services were altogether most gratifying. To show the kindly feeling of the friends, collections were made, at the American Chapel, amounting to f64, towards the Tabernacle Building Fund. Two collections were also made at the Oratoire for the poor of Paris; they realized £40.”
Mr. Blood wrote: — ”It is gratifying to know that, not only in Paris was there a great wish to hear Mr. Spurgeon, but the same desire existed in different parts of France, in consequence of the articles which had been disseminated by the press. Several came hundreds of miles to attend the services; and amongst others, the ministers of Marseilles and Lyons. After the last service at the Oratoire, Mr. Spurgeon was invited to meet the Consistoire at the house of the Pastors. There was a great number of Christian friends present; in fact, the salons were crowded. Hymns of joy and praise were heartily sung, and fervent prayers were offered that God might bless the seed which had been sown, and cause it to take deep roof in many a heart. Mr. Spurgeon was cordially thanked for his kind help:to the Church in France, and he gave a brief farewell address. It was:indeed a sweet and solemn time, — a little Pentecostal season, not soon to be forgotten. This service was entirely in French.”
On his return home, Mr. Spurgeon wrote a loving letter of hearty greeting and thanks, from which the following extract may appropriately complete the records of that very memorable visit to Paris: — “Mon Eglise a offert au Seigneur ses plus instantes supplications pour la prosperite et l’extension de l’Eglise de Christ en France. Nous vous porterons desormais sur nos coeurs, et nous esperons occuper aussi une place dans vos prieres journalieres .... Puis-je repondre toujours aux temoignages d’estime que vous avez bien voulu m’accorder! Je m’incline jusqu’a terre sous le poids des misericordes dont le Seigneur a daigne me favoriser, et les marques d’affection que me donnent Ses enfants penetrent mon coeur de gratitude.”
This chapter may fitly be closed with a brief reference to the week-day services at the Tabernacle, Moorfields, which were among the fixed engagements of each year. Dr. John Campbell, who had long stood forth as the friend and advocate of the young Pastor, thus spoke of this annual visit: — ”Every 365 days, Mr. Spurgeon and his dear companion and the two little Princes Imperial honor my family with their presence for a whole day.
We count on it; it is a high day with us. By two sermons, on that occasion, Mr. Spurgeon almost entirely supports our City Mission at the Tabernacle.” In the reminiscences, of which mention is made in chapter41, Mr.Spurgeon referred to this happy compact in the following terms: — ”It was always a great pleasure to me to have been associated with good old Dr. Campbell, the Editor of The British Banner. He was a very dear friend of mine. I used to preach for him every year, and it was understood that, when I went, I must take my dear wife and our two little boys with me.
The day before we were to go, that great stern strong man, who had no mercy upon heretics, but would beat them black and blue, — I mean in a literary sense, not literally, — used to visit a toy-shop, and buy horses and carts or other playthings for the children. One time, when he sent the invitation for us all to go to his house, he wrote: — ’Our cat has had some kittens on purpose that the boys may have something fresh to play with.’ It showed what a kind heart the old man had when he took such pains to give pleasure to the little ones.”
One of the most memorable of these annual visit,.; was paid on Wednesday, March I4, 186o. There had been, near that time, a great many serious accidents and notable sudden deaths. A mill in America had fallen, and buried hundreds of persons in the ruins. A train had left the rails, and great numbers of the passengers were in consequence killed. The captain of the largest vessel then afloat, who had been brought safely through many a storm, had just said farewell to his family when he fell into the water, and was drowned. A judge, after delivering his charge to the grand jury with his usual wisdom, calmness, and deliberation, paused, fell back, and was carried away lifeless. Mr. Corderoy, a well-known generous Christian gentleman, was suddenly called away, leaving a whole denomination mourning for him. Mr. Spurgeon’s sermon — ”Memento Mori” — at Exeter Hall, the following Lord’s-day morning, contained a reference to these occurrences, and also to another which more directly affected Dr. Campbell. Preaching from the words, “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” Mr. Spurgeon said: — “It was but last Wednesday that I sat in the house of that mighty servant of God, that great defender of the faith, the Luther of his age, — Dr. Campbell; we were talking then about these sudden deaths, little thinking that the like calamity would invade his very family; but, alas! we observed, in the next day’s paper, that his second son had been swept overboard while returning from one of his voyages to America. A bold brave youth has found a liquid grave. So that here, there, everywhere, O Death! I see thy doings. At home, abroad, on the sea, and across the sea, thou art at work. O thou mower! how long ere thy scythe shall be quiet? O thou destroyer of men, wilt thou never rest, wilt thou ne’er be still? O DDeath! must thy Juggernaut-car go crashing on for ever, and must the skulls and blood of human beings continue to mark thy track? Yes, it must be so till He comes who is; the King of life and immortality; then the saints shall die no more, but be as the angels of God.”