LOVE, COURTSHIP, AND MARRIAGE IN July of this to combine a holiday with the fulfilment of many preaching engage a very bad plan this, as he afterwards found, for an overtaxed mind needs absolute repose during resting times, and sermons and spirits both suffer if this reasonable rule be broken. His letters to me during this journey are not altogether joyful ones; I give a few extracts from them, which will serve to outline his first experiences in a form of service into which he so fully entered in after years. On this occasion, he was not happy, or “at home,” and was constantly longing to return. This was, too, his first long journey by rail, and it is curious to note what physical pain the inexperienced traveller endured. In those days, there were no Pullman cars, or luxurious saloon carriages, fitted up with all the comforts and appliances of a first class hotel, so our poor voyager fared badly. He writes a note from Carlisle, just to assure: me of his safety, and then, on reaching Glasgow, he gives this account of his ride: — ”At Watford, I went with the guard, and enjoyed some conversation with him, which I hope God will bless to his good. At 10.45, I went inside, — people asleep. I could not manage a wink, but felt very queer. At morning-light, went into a secondclass carriage with another guard, and rejoiced in the splendid view as well as my uncomfortable sensations would allow. Arrived here tired, begrimed with dust, sleepy, not over high in spirits, and with a dreadful cold in my head. Last night, I slept twelve hours without waking, but I still feel as tired as before I slept. I will, I think, never travel so far at once again. I certainly shall not come home in one day; for if I do, my trip will have been an injury instead of a benefit. I am so glad you did not have my horrid ride; but if I could spirit you here, I would soon do it. Pray for me, my love.”
The next epistle I will give at length. I have been trying in these pages to leave the “love” out of the letters as much as possible, lest my precious things should appear but platitudes to my readers, but it is a difficult task; for little rills of tenderness run between all the sentences, like the singing, dancing waters among the boulders of a brook, and I cannot still the music altogether. To the end of his beautiful life it was the same, his letters were always those of a devoted lover, as well as of a tender husband; not only did the brook never dry up, but the stream grew deeper and broader, and the rhythm of its song waxed sweeter and stronger. “Aberfeldy, “July 17th, 1855. “My Precious Love, “Your dearly-prized note came safely to hand, and verily it did excel all I have ever read, even from your own loving pen. Well, I am all right now. Last Sabbath, I preached twice; and to sum up all in a word, the services were ‘ glorious.’ In the morning, Dr. Patterson’s place was crammed; and in the evening, Dr. Wardlaw’s Chapel was crowded to suffocation by more than 2,500 people, while persons outside declared that quite as many went away. My reception was enthusiastic; never was greater honor given to mortal man. They were just as delighted as are the people at Park Street.
To-day, I have had a fine drive with my host and his daughter. Tomorrow, I am to preach here. It is quite impossible for me to be left in quiet. Already, letters come in, begging me to go here, there, and everywhere. Unless I go to the North Pole, I never can get away from my holy labor. “Now to return to you again, I have had day-dreams of you while driving along, I thought you were very near me. It is not long, dearest, before I shall again enjoy your sweet society, if the providence of God permit. I knew I loved you very much before, but now I feel how necessary you are to me; and you will not · lose much by my absence, if you find me, on my return, more attentive to your feelings, as well as equally affectionate. I can now thoroughly sympathize with your tears, because I feel in no little degree that pang of absence which my constant engagements prevented me from noticing when in London. How then must you, with so much leisure, have felt my absence from you, even though you well knew that it was unavoidable on my part! My darling, accept love of the deepest and purest kind from one who is not prone tO exaggerate,-but who feels that here there is no room for hyperbole. Think not that I weary myself by writing; for, dearest, it is my delight to please you, and solace an absence which must be even more dreary to you than to me, since travelling and preaching lead me to forget it. My eyes ache for sleep, but they shall keep open till I have invoked the blessings from above — mercies temporal and eternal — to rest on the head of one whose name is sweet to me, and who equally loves the name of her own, her much-loved, C. H. S.”
The dear traveller seems to have had his Scotch visit interrupted by the necessity of a journey to fulfil preaching engagements at Bradford and Stockton. On his way to these towns, he stayed to see the beauties of Windermere, and sought to enjoy a little relaxation and rest; but he writes very sadly of these experiences. “This is a bad way of spending time,” he says, “I had rather be preaching five times a day than be here. Idleness is my labor. I long for the traces again, and want to be in the shafts, pulling the old coach. Oh, for the quiet of my own closet! I think, if I have one reason for wishing to return, more cogent than even my vehement desire to see you, it is that I may see my Lord, so as I have seen Him in my retirement.”
Of the services at Bradford, he gives this brief record: — “Last Sabbath was a day of even greater triumph than at Glasgow. The hall, which holds more people than Exeter Hall, was crammed to excess at both services, and in the evening the crowds outside who went away were immense, and would have furnished another hall with an audience. At Stockton, I had a full house, and my Master’s smile; I left There this morning at 8 o’clock.”
Returning to Glasgow, rid Edinburgh, he preached in that city, and I afterwards had a doleful little note, in which he wrote bitter things against himself, — perhaps without reason. His words, however, show with what tenderness of conscience he served his God, how quick he was to discover in himself anything which might displease his Master, and how worthless was the applause of the people if the face of his Lord were hidden. He says: — ”I preached in Edinburgh, and returned here, full of anguish at my ill-success. Ah! my darling, your beloved behaved like Jonah, and half wished never more to testily against Nineveh. Though it rained, the hall was crowded, and there was I, — without my God ! It was a sad failure on my part; nevertheless, God can bless my words to poor souls.” (A further reference to this incident will be found in the chapters in which Mr. Spurgeon describes his Scotch tour in fuller detail than I have given.)
A hurried excursion to the Highlands, — a day’s sight-seeing in Glasgow, — another Sabbath of services, when enormous crowds were disappointed, — 20,000 people.being turned away, because admittance was impossible, — and then the Scotch journey — the forerunner of so many similar events, — was a thing of the past, and work at home was recommenced with earnestness and vigor.
Even at this early period of my beloved’s ministry, while he was still so youthful that none need have wondered had he been puffed up by his popularity and success, there was in his heart a deep and sweet humility, which kept him low at the Master’s feet, and fitted him to bear the everincreasing burden of celebrity and fame. This is manifest in so many of these letters of 1855, that I have felt constrained to refer to it, since even now some dare to speak of him as self-confident and arrogant, when, had they known him as his dearest friends knew him, they would have marvelled at his lowliness, and borne witness — as these have often done, — that “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” was one of the many charms of his radiant character. His dear son in the faith, Pastor Hugh D.
Brown, of Dublin, speaks truly when he says of· him, in a lately-published eulogy, “So wonderful a man, and yet so simple, — with a great childheart; — or rather, so simple because so great,:needing no scaffoldings of pompous mannerism to buttress up an uncertain reputation; but universally esteemed, because he cared nought for human opinion, but only for what was upright, open-hearted, and transparent, both in ministry and life; — we never knew a public man who had less of self about him, for over and above aught else, his sole ambition seemed to be, ‘ How can I most extol my Lord?’“ These thoughtful, discriminating words would have been applicable to him if they had been written in the long-past days, when his marvellous career had but just commenced, and his glorious life-work lay all before him.
The following letter reveals his inmost heart, and it costs me a pang to give it publicity; but it should silence for ever the untrue charges of egotism and self-conceit which have been brought against him by those who ought to have known better: — ”I shall feel deeply indebted to you, if you will pray very earnestly for me. I fear I am not so full of love to God as I used to be.
I lament my sad decline in spiritual things. You and others may not have observed it, but I am now conscious of it, and a sense thereof has put bitterness in my cup of joy. Oh! what is it to be popular, to be successful, to have abundance, even to have love so sweet as yours, — if I should be left of God to fall, and to depart from His ways? I tremble at the giddy height on which I stand, and could wish myself unknown, for indeed I am unworthy of all my honors and my fame. I trust 1 shall now commence anew, and wear no longer the linsey-woolsey garment; but I beseech you, blend your hearty prayers with mine, that two of us may be agreed, and thus will you promote the usefulness, and holiness, and happiness of one whom you love.”
Then, some months later, he wrote: — “The Patriot has a glowing account of me, which will tend to make me more popular than ever.MAY GOD PRESERVE ME! I believe all my little troubles have just kept me right. I should have been upset by flattery, had it not been for this long balancing rod.”
Let any impartial reader decide whether these are the words of a vain and self-complacent man!
The year 1855 was now drawing to a close, and we were looking forward, with unutterable joy, to having a home of our own, and being united by the holy ties of a marriage “made in Heaven.” My beloved went to spend Christmas with his parents in Colchester; and after a personal “Good-bye,” wrote again thus: — ”Sweet One, — How I love you! I long to see you; and yet it is but half-an-hour since I left you. Comfort yourself in my absence by the thought that my heart is with you. My own gracious God bless you in all things, — in heart, in feeling, in life, in death, in Heaven! May your virtues be perfected, your prospects realized, your zeal continued, your love to Him increased, and your knowledge of Him rendered deeper, higher, broader, — in fact, may more than even my heart can wish, or my hope anticipate, be yours for ever! May we be mutual blessings; — wherein I shall err, you will pardon; and wherein you may mistake, I will more than overlook. Yours, till Heaven, and then , — C. H. S.”
Ah! my husband, the blessed earthly ties which we welcomed so rapturously are dissolved now, and death has hidden thee from my mortal eyes; but not even death can divide thee from me, or sever the love which united our hearts so closely. I feel it living and growing still, and I believe it will find its full and spiritual development only when we shall meet in the glory-land, and worship “together before the throne.”
There is just one relic of this memorable time. On my desk, as I write this chapter, there is a book bearing the title of The Pulpit Library; it is the first published volume of my beloved’s sermons, and its fly-leaf has the following inscription: — In a few days it will be out of my power to present anything to Miss Thompson.
Let this be a remembrance of our happy meetings and sweet conversations.
Dec. 22/55 C. H. Spurgeon The wedding-day was fixed for January 8th, 1856; and I think, till it came, and passed, I lived in a dreamland of excitement and emotion, the atmosphere of which was unfriendly to the remembrance of any definite’, incidents. Our feet were on the threshold of the gate which stands at the entry of the new and untrodden pathway of married life; but it was with a deep and tender gladness that the travellers clasped each other’s hand, and then placed them both in that of the Master, and thus set out on their journey, assured that He would be their Guide, “even unto death.” I have been trying to recall in detail the events of the — to me — notable day on which I became the loved and loving wife of the best man on God’s earth; but most of its hours are veiled in a golden mist, through which they look luminous, but indistinct; — only a few things stand out clearly in my memory.
I see a young girl kneeling by her bedside in the early morning; she is awed and deeply moved by a sense of the responsibilities to be taken up that day, yet happy beyond expression that the Lord has so favored her; and there alone with Him she earnestly seeks strength, and blessing, and guidance through the new life opening before her. The tiny upper chamber in Falcon Square was a very sacred place that morning.
Anon, I see a very simply-dressed damsel, sitting by her father’s side, and driving through the City streets to New Park Street Chapel, — vaguely wondering, as the passers-by cast astonished glances at the wedding equipage, whether they all knew what a wonderful bridegroom she was going to meet!
As we neared our destination, it was evident that many hundreds of people did know and care about the man who had chosen her to be his bride, for the building was full to overflowing, and crowds ¢f the young preacher’s admirers thronged the streets around the chapel. I do not remember much more. Within the densely-packed place, I can dimly see a large wedding party in the table-pew, dear old Dr. Alexander Fletcher beaming benignly on the bride and bridegroom before him, and the deacons endeavoring to calm and satisfy the excited and eager onlookers.
Then followed the service, which made “us twain most truly one,” and with a solemn joy in our hearts we stood hand in hand, and spake the few brief words which legally bound us to. each other in blessed bonds while life lasted. But the golden circlet then placed on my finger, though worn and thin now, speaks of love beyond the grave, and is the cherished pledge of a spiritual union which shall last throughout eternity.
It would not have been possible for me to describe the marriage ceremony, or recollect the prayers and counsels then offered on our behalf; but, as reporters were present, and I have preserved their notes, I am able to record (in a much-condensed form) some of the Doctor’s kind and earnest words on the memorable occasion. The service was commenced by the congregation singing the hymn, — “Salvation, O the joyful sound!” Dr. Fletcher then read the 100th Psalm, and offered the following prayer: — ”Father of mercies, our God and Father in Christ Jesus, we approach Thy throne in the Name of our great Surety, ‘our Intercessor, now pleading for us before Thy face! Glory to God in the highest, that salvation is provided for our ruined race! May it be the happiness of all here, constituting this immense assembly, to be interested in that salvation! Oh, that each individual now present on this joyful occasion may be enabled to say, in the language of appropriating faith, ‘ Salvation, and pardon, and acceptance are mine; Jesus is mine, and I am His!’ Lord, look upon us in mercy in this place! Give us Thy presence, give us Thy countenance and smile! Multitudes of prayers have ascended to Thy throne on behalf of our beloved young friends, now about to be united by the most sacred union existing under the heavens. Oh, let Thy Spirit descend upon them! May they feel that they are now enjoying the light of Thy countenance, and that this important event in their history is under Thy blessed sanction, by Thy blessed direction, and shall be crowned with Thy blessing while they live, to be followed by blessings lasting as eternity, when they are called to their Heavenly home! Thou, Lord Jesus, who wast present at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, be tenderly with us at this time, and fill this house with Thy glory! These, our feeble supplications, we present before Thy mercyseat in the Name of our exalted Advocate, and to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be ascribed the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
ADDRESS. “Allow me, my respected friends, to address you only for a few moments, previous to that most important event which we have met to celebrate.
Marriage is not the invention of man, it is the institution of God. It originated in God’s wisdom and mercy; and, if necessary for man while in a state of innocence, it is much more indispensable for us in our fallen condition. It bears the impress of the Deity, and so important is it that it is presented to us in the Scripture as a figure of the union that is; formed betwixt Christ and His chosen people, — that marriage union which is never to end. Christ has honored this institution by comparing Himself to the Husband of the Church, and by designating the Church as His bride. ‘ I have espoused you,’ says the apostle Paul, when writing to the believing Corinthians, ‘I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.’ Look at the advantages marriage confers upon individuals, and families; on communities, on nations, and on the Church of Christ. The founding of families is an epitome of the organization of nations, without which they could never be properly consolidated.
Marriage is the foundation of all those distinguished privileges which are enjoyed by us in this island of the sea. I have referred before to the presence of Christ at the marriage at Cana; what a lovely sight it must have been to see the blessed Jesus in the midst of that little assembly! He blessed the bridegroom, and He blessed the bride; He diffused joy.through the hearts of all around. Your beloved Pastor has many times, in his preaching, alluded to Christ’s smiles; and if He smiled upon little children, whom He took up in His arms and blessed, He must Surely have smiled upon the bride and bridegroom whose marriage feast was graced by His presence.
Lord Jesus, Thou art here! Thy humanity is in Heaven, but Thy Deity pervades the universe. With the eyes of our faith we can see Jesus in the midst of us, ready to bless both bride and bridegroom. He has blessed them already, and He has more blessings in reserve for their enjoyment, felicity’, and usefulness; and we trust He will crown them, through life, and through all eternity, with lovingkindness and tender mercy.” [The ceremony was then performed in the usual manner.] A portion of Scripture was read, the congregation joined in singing “the Wedding Hymn,” and Dr. Fletcher again engaged in prayer: — “Look down, O Lord, with great kindness, complacency, and grace on our beloved young friends who have now entered into this sacred covenant with each other! We praise Thee for that grace which Thou hast given them, an inheritance infinitely more precious than the wealth of empires.
We praise Thee for the love to Jesus which Thou hast enkindled in their hearts, and for that mutual affection which they cherish, and by which they are united in the most endearing and sacred ties. Lord, bless them! Bless them with increasing usefulness, increasing happiness, increasing enjoyment of Thy fellowship! Long preserve them! May they live to a good old age, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless! May this most interesting relationship be accompanied with innumerable mercies, especially to Thy dear ministering servant, engaged in the most honorable of all employments, and placed by the great Head of the Church in a sphere of usefulness seldom, if ever, equalled in this land of our. nativity! Lord, this is Thy doing; Thou hast provided for him the sphere, and Thou hast fitted him by Thy providence and grace to fill it. May he be preserved in bodily vigor, as well as mental and spiritual strength, to prosecute that glorious work in which he has embarked; and may he long continue to serve Thee, and be as useful at the close of life as he is at the commencement of his career! We now commit him and the beloved partner of his days to Thine everlasting arms; we lay them in the bosom of Thy love. Lord, bless all here present! Vast is the multitude, but it is nothing compared with the plenitude of Thy mercy, or the abundance of Thy grace. We thank Thee for presiding over the assembly, and that no accident has happened to this large concourse of people. All we ask is in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all, now and for ever!
A London newspaper, of January 9th, 1856, contained the following notice of our wedding: — “Yesterday morning, a curious scene was witnessed in the neighborhood of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, a large building belonging to the Baptist body of Dissenters, at the rear of the Borough Market. Of this place of worship the minister is the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, a very young man. who, some months since, produced an extraordinary degree of excitement at Exeter Hall, where he preached during the time his chapel was in course of enlargement. Yesterday morning, the popular’ young preacher was married; and although the persons who evinced an interest in the proceedings were not quite of the aristocratic character of those who usually attend West End weddings, in point of numbers and enthusiasm they far outstripped any display which the West End is in the habit of witnessing. Shortly after eight o’clock, although the morning was dark, damp, and cold, as many as five hundred ladies, in light and gay attire, besieged the doors of the chapel, accompanied by many gentlemen, members of the congregation, and personal friends. From that hour, the crowd increased so rapidly, that the thoroughfare was blocked up by vehicles and pedestrians, and a body of the M division of police had to be sent for to prevent accidents. When the chapel doors were opened, there was a terrific rush, and in less than half-an-hour the doors were closed upon many of the eager visitors, who, like the earlier and more fortunate comers, were favored with tickets of admission. The bride was Miss Susannah Thompson, only daughter of Mr. Thompson, of Falcon Square, London; and the ceremony was performed by the Rev. Dr. Alexander Fletcher, of Finsbury Chapel. At the close of the ceremony, the congratulations of the congregation were tendered to the newly-married pair with heartiest goodwill.”
Mr. Spurgeon’s own inscription in our family Bible, recording the marriage, and adding a loving comment eleven years afterwards, is as follows. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Susannah Thompson were by the precious management of Vivine Providence, most happily married at New Park Street Chapel by Dr. Alexander Fletcher on Tuesday, January 8th 1856. “And as year wills after year “Each to other still more dear.