MUTUAL LOVE BETWEEN PASTOR AND PEOPLE.
What a grand set of men some of the preachers of the past age thought themselves to be!
I trust those who played the archbishop have nearly all gone to Heaven, but a few linger among us who use little grace and much starch. The proud divines never shook hands with anybody, except, indeed, with the deacons, and a little knot of evidently superior persons. Amongst Dissenters it was almost as bad as it is in most church congregations, where you feel that the good man, by his manner, is always saying, “I hope you know who I am, sir; I am the rector of the parish.” Now, all that kind of stuckupishness is altogether wrong, one man can do good that way; and no benefit that all comes of assuming superiority over our fellows. I often regret that I have so large a congregation.
Perhaps you ask, “Why? Well, when I had a smaller company of hearers at New Park Street Chapel, there were many even then, yet I did get a shake: of the hand with every member sometimes; but now there are so many of you that I can scarcely recollect you all, good memory as I have, and I seldom have the pleasure of shaking hands with you, wish I had it much more frequently. If there is anybody in the wide worm whose good I long to promote, it is yours; therefore I want to be at home with you and if ever I should affect the airs of a great man, and set myself up above you all, and by proud manners cease to have sympathy with you, I hope the Lord will speedily take me down, and make me right in spirit again. C. H. S., in sermon at the Tabernacle, May 3, 1868.
I like to see the people coming here on the Lord’s-day or on a week-night; I often say that, as I am driving to the Tabernacle, I can tell the members of my congregation, for they have a way of walking and a happy look quite different from those who are going to some places of worship that I might mention. Those other folks are so solemn and sad, as if they were going to an execution. They look so grave, as if it were an awful work to serve God, as bad as going to prison to attend a service, and as disagreeable as the pillory to, stand up and bless the Lord. But I notice that you come here with joy, tripping along gladly as if you were pleased to crone, and as if you came to enjoy yourselves, as I believe you do. That is how God would have you worship Him, in the spirit of freedom, and not in the spirit of slavery. Does He want slaves to grace His throne? To rule over free men, should be the ambition of a monarch; and God will rule: over spirits that love Him, that delight in Him, that are perfectly free, and that: and their freedom in doing His will. — C. H. S., in sermon at the Tabernacle. I sat:, one day, by the bedside of one of my old members. I went to comfort her, for I heard that she was ill: but, instead of doing so, she set about comforting me, and I came away rejoicing. She began speaking to me in this fashion, “My clear Pastor, I shall never be able to tell to any soul what I owe to you, both personally arm relatively.” I said, “Now, my dear sister, do not talk about that.” She replied, “But I will, for my former Pastor, Joseph Irons, once preached a sermon upon the words,’ Thou, O Solomon, must have: a thousand, arm those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred,’ and that clear man of God said, ‘ Give Solomon his thousand; that is, render to the Lord all the glory that is due unto His holy Name; ‘but let His ministers, who are the keepers of the vineyard, have their two hundred; that is,, give them all the encouragement you can.’ Now,” said she, “that sermon did me great good. I used to be afraid to cheer ministers, by telling them what God had done for me through their preaching; I feared that I might make them proud; but, from that sermon, I !-earned that it was God’s business to keep them humble, and nay business to encourage them all I could.” I bless the Lord that, that-e have had many who have tried in discourage me, I have always had many more who have been ready and pleased to give me words of encouragement and cheer. — C. H. S.
ON the 9th of that month, he went, for the first and only’ time, to the Lord Mayor’s banquet, and immediately afterwards he was attacked by that trying; complaint, though happily not in its worst form in later years, whenever he was invited to the great City feast, he always playfully replied that he had only once been in such high society, and then he had caught the small-pox, so he had determined never again to form one of that company.
When his very special friend, Sir William McArthur, became London’s chief magistrate, he: tried hard to induce Mr. Spurgeon to join the: festive throng, but his pleading was all in vain; and, a few months afterwards, when the Lord Mayor took the chair’ at the annual supper in connection with the Pastors’ College Conference, the President: humorously repeated the story of the banquet of 1869, to the great delight both of the assembled guests and the genial chairman.
During the Pastor’s illness, his church-officers sent the following letter to cheer him; the manuscript shows that it was composed by Elder ‘W.
Dransfield, concerning whom Mr. Spurgeon wrote, when he was “called home,” in 1872, “he was one of the holiest and happiest Christians it was ever our privilege to know:”— “Metropolitan Tabernacle, “Nov. 22nd, 1869. “Beloved Pastor, “With more than usual pleasure, by desire of the elders and deacons, I sit down. to write you a few lines, in concurrence with which, I have no doubt, they will cordially sign their names. When we first heard the serious; nature of your affliction, and especially when ‘we considered dear Mrs. Spurgeon’s very delicate state of health, a deep gloom seemed to fall upon our spirits, and we did indeed very sincerely sympathize with you both under the heavy trial. But when we were told that the attack was not of a virulent nature and that the Lord was dealing very gently with you, the gloom was dispersed, the heavy load was removed from our minds, and gave place to a holy confidence that God, being very merciful, would restore you to us again with renewed health and vigor. “Beloved Pastor, the very striking providence’s which have taken place, in connection with the Orphanage, within the last few days, have made a deep impression upon our minds, and have afforded us a double pleasure, knowing the cheering and exhilarating influence they will have upon your spirits in your sick-room. Truly may you say, with the psalmist, ‘ I will praise Thee for ever, because Thou hast done it.’ “And now for the Coilede, which is so dear to you, be assured that we will rally round it, and support it by our prayers, by our influence, and with all the help that is in our power. May the Divine blessing continue to rest upon its President, its tutors,, and the dear young men who are training in it for the Christian ministry! “Our Co-pastor, your beloved brother, is laboring among us, during your absence, with indefatigable zeal and increasing success. He is daily growing in our affection and esteem; and we bless God for providing you with such a faithful coadjutor in the work: He has given you to do. You will be pleased to hear that all the services; at: the Tabernacle continue to be well attended, that our ‘supplies’ for the last two Sabbaths were very acceptable and profitable, that the spirit of prayer is ill no way diminished, but is in as full efficiency as ever, and that God is in the most of us indeed and of a truth. If the laying aside of Pastors, for a time, be sent to test their people’s love, then we are sure there never was a period in your ministry when you were more cordially and universally loved than you are at the. “And now, beloved Pastor, we leave you, with many prayers, in the hands of your Father and our Father. May He have you in His safe keeping preserve you from lowness and depression of spirits, cheer you with the light of His countenance, strengthen and sustain you by His gracious Spirit, and, in His own good time, bring you again to your beloved Tabernacle ‘ in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.’ This is our fervent prayer.” (Signed by the deacons and elders:) In the year 1871, Mr. Spurgeon had a long and painful illness, the course of which can be traced in the following letters to the congregation at the Tabernacle: — “Clapham. “Dear Friends, “The furnace still blows around me. Since I last preached to you, I have been brought very low my flesh has been tortured with pain, and my spirit has been prostrate with depression. Yet, in all this, I see and submit to my Father’s hand; yea, more, I bless Him that His paternal low’. has been more: than ever clear to me. ‘With some difficulty, I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the song’s of hope. “The peace of God be with every one of you, my beloved! My love in Christ Jesus beside you all! I rejoice that my very dear friend, Mr. Hugh Stowell Brown, is with you to-day. May his; words be marrow and fatness to your souls! “It must, under the most unfavorable circumstances, be long before you see me again, for’ the highest medical authorities are agreed that only long rest can restore me. I wish it were otherwise. My heart is in my work, and with you; but God’s will must be done.
When I am asked to move, I must go away. I try to cast all my cares on God; but, sometimes, I think that you may get scattered. O my dear brethren, do not wander, for this would break my heard I might also feel deep anxiety for my great: works,, but I am sure my Lord will carry them on. It is, however, my duty to tell you what you can do, and what is needed. The Orphanage funds are lower just now than they have been these two years. God will provide, but you know that you are If-t is stewards. “You do pray for me, I know; but I entreat you not to cease your supplications. I am as a potter’s vessel when it is utterly broken, useless, and laid aside. Nights of watching, and clays of weeping have bee. n mine, but I hope the cloud is passing. Alas! I can only say this for my own personal and light affliction; there is one who lies nearest my heart whose sorrows are not relieved by such a hope. In this relative trial, a very keen one, I again ask your prayers. The Lord be with you evermore! Amen. So prays, — “Your suffering Pastor, “C. H. S.” “May 13th, 1871. “Dear Friends, “Yesterday finished a long six weeks of pain and weakness. I made a desperate push for the sea-side, and reached it; but I am in great doubt whether I shall not be obliged to go home again, for I am so very weak. Please pray for me, that the Lord would restore to me my strength. “I beg to thank the Lord, in your assembly, for graciously permitting me to live, and for giving me some hope that I shall yet again be among you in rigor. It must be long first; but you will have much patience, and your loving prayers will greatly help me to mend. “Dear friends, be sure to carry on every part of the Lord’s work with earnestness. If there has ever been any neglect, let there be none now; but all of you combine to make up for the lack of my service. I. et the prayer-meetings be better attended than ever, and may the petitions be still more intense! May God bless the brethren who minister among you in my place! I send my love to the deacons, elders;, and all friends. “During last week, very age help came in for the Orphanage, for which I bless the: Lord. “Yours truly, “C. H. SPURGEON.” “Clapham, “June 4th, 1871. “Beloved Friends, “I write you these little notes because I am told that you are pleased to hear from myself the state of my health, and certainly it would be very wrong if I did not write now; for I was not silent in my mourning, and therefore I dare not refrain now that I am able to rejoice. Thank God, the healing One:, with me, for, during this; week, I have each morning awakened refreshed, feeling that I was better than on the preceding day. The pain is gone, but extreme weakness remains. I am as feeble as a child; but each day I gather a little’, strength, and I hope I shall be able to preach to you on the 25th of this month. I cannot be sure, but this is my hope: and prayer; and, moreover, I desire to come among you with a sevenfold blessing, that we may all love Jesus more, do more for His glory’, and see greater think so than ewer done for the Kingdom. Shall Satan triumph over my twelve. silent Sabbaths?
Will not the Lord bring good oat of evil by leading us on to some higher service and greater work? The Lord be richly with you today!
May He smile on the Sabbath-school, send the dew of blessing on Mrs. Bartlett’s class, and did the Heavenly wind breathe upon all the Bible-classes! May’ the saints be fed with manna, and have the appetite, to enjoy it! May the unconverted among you be visited by the Holy Ghost, and renewed in heart, and that speedily’! “Accept my loving thanks to those especially who have: remembered me and my work by their deeds. Do not think that I am unmindful of your weeldy liberality., I know you give as unto the Lord’, but to me also you say, in language more powerful than words ‘ Do not feel any anxiety; we will not forget your work; and when you are: not with us;, we will be as faithful as when we hear your voice.’ The Lord reward you! Le:: not your prayers cease or be diminished. Prayer can have anything of God.
With the utmost hove, — “Yours until death, “C. H. SPURGEON.” “Clapham, “June 11th, 1871. “Beloved Friends, — whom I have in constant and affectionate remembrance, — “I am obliged again to take up the note of mourning, for I have been all the week suffering and the. most of it confined to my bed. The severe weather has draw me back, and caused a repetition of all my pains. Nevertheless, the Lord’s will be done! Let Him have His way with me. For He is love. I have be. en wearying to preach again; but it may be that my dumb Sabbaths are appointed for my chastisement, and their number is not yet fulfilled.
We must work for God while we can, for not one of us knows how soon he may be unable to take a share in the sacred service. At the same time, how unimportant we are God’s cause goes on without us. We all need Him, but He needs no one of us. “Beloved, hitherto I have had much solace in hearing that the Lord’s work among you goes on. I pray you, make earnest intercession that this may continue. I hope the. wee. k-night services will not droop. If you stay away, let it be when I am the r, but not now. May the deacons and elders find themselves surrounded by an untiring band of helpers at every meeting for worship! May abundance of grace rest on you all especially on the sick, the poor, and the bereaved! “Pray keep me, I entreat you. Perhaps, if the church met for prayer, I should be speedily” restored. I know thousands do pray, but should not the church do so as a church ? I must give up all hope of preaching on the 25th; but I trust the Lord will be merciful to me, and send me among you on the first Sabbath of July. “With deep Christian love from — “Your suffering Pastor, “C. H. S.”
The Pastor’s suggestion, that the church should meet: for prayer, was speedily carried into effect, and: the result was thus chronicled in the next letter: — “Clapham, “‘June 15th, 1871. “My Beloved Friends, “As soon as the church had resolved to meet for special prayer for me, I began rapidly to recover. It pleased C, H. S. to turn the wind at the beginning of this week, and the change in the temperature has worked wonders. We may truthfully say of the Wednesday meeting: for prayer, that the Lord fulfilled this Word: ‘ Before they call, I ‘will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.’
For all this great goodness, I pray you to unite with me in sincere and intense gratitude to the Lord our God. “I feel bound publicly to express my happiness of heart. This week has furnished me with the. liveliest proofs of your true love. I have been deeply touched with the various ways in which the affection of so many of you has sought to find expression. I value this, not only for my own sake:, though it is very sweet to be the object of such. hearty love, but because I see in it the evidence that our union has been cemented by years, and the earnest of future years of united effort, if God spares us;. The absence of unity is weakness; its indisputable, presence is strength. “On the losing day of my thirty-seventh year, I find myself the Pastor of a beloved flock, who have borne the test of twelve Sabbaths of their minister’s absence, and the severer test of more than seventeen years of the same ministry, and are now exciting more love to him than ever. I bless God, but I also thank you, and assure you that I never felt happier in the midst of my people than I do now in the prospect of returning to you. I am still weal,:, but the improvement in strength this week has been very surprising. I hardly dare speak of the future; but I earnestly hope we shall look each other in the face on the first Sabbath of July. “Peace be with you, and the Lord’s own anointing! May those who speak to you to-day be filled with the. Spirit! May the soft South wind or’ the Spirit’s love be among you, and nay you pour forth praise as flowers breathe perfume! “Yours very truly, “C. H. SPURGEON,” The dear sufferer’s expectation was realized, for he was able to preach at the Tabernacle on the morning of July 2. His subject was Psalm 71:14: “But I will hope continually, and will yet praise Thee more and more.” In the course of his sermon, he thus referred to his illness and restoration:— “I know one, who has been long privileged to lift up his voice in the choir of the great King. In that delightful labor, none ‘were more happy that he was; the longer he was engaged in the world, the more he loved it. Now, it came to pass that on a certain day, this songster found himself shut out of the choir; he would have entered to take his part, but he was not permitted.
Perhaps the King was angry; perhaps the songster had sung carelessly; perhaps he had acted unworthily in some other matter; or possibly’ his Master knew that his song would, grow more sweet if he were silenced for a while. How it was, I know not; but this I know, it caused great searching of heart. Often, this chorister begged to be restored; but he was as often repulsed, and somewhat roughly, too. I think it was for nearly three months that this unhappy songster was kept in enforced silence, with fire in his bones, and no vent for it. The royal music went on without him; there was no lack of song, and in this he rejoiced, but he longed to take his place again, I cannot tell you how eagerly he kinged. At last, the happy hour arrived; the King gave His permit, he might sing again. The songster was full of gratitude, and I heard him say, you shall hear him say it, ‘My Lord, since I am again restored, I will hope continually, and will yet praise Thee more and more’” Preaching at the Tabernacle, later in the same year, Mr. Spurgeon thus described how he wrestled in prayer, and prevailed with the Lord, in what proved to be the crisis of that season of suffering: — “ I have found it a blessed thing, in my own experience, to plead before God that I am His child. When, some months ago, I was ‘racked with pain to an extreme degree, so that I could no hunger bear it without crying out, I asked all to go from the room, and leave me alone; and then I had nothing I could say to God but this, ‘ Thou art my Father, and I am Thy child; and Thou, as a Father, art tender and full of mercy. I could not bear to see my child suffer as Thou makest me suffer; and if I saw him tormented as I am now, I would do what I could to help him, and put: my arms under him to sustain him. Wilt Thou hide Thy face from me, my Father? Wilt Thou still lay on me Thy heavy hand, and not give me a smile from Thy countenance?’ I talked to the Lord as Luther would have done, and pleaded this Fatherhood in real earnest. ‘Like as a further pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” If He be a Father, let: Him show Himself a Father, — so I pleaded; and I ventured to say, when they came back who watched me,’ I shall never have such agony again from this moment, for God has heard my prayer.’ I bless God that case came, and the racking pain never returned. Faith mastered it by laying hold upon God in His own revealed character, — that character in which, in our darkest hour, we are best able to appreciate Him. I think this is why that prayer, ‘ Oh! Father which art in Heaven,’ is given to us because, when we are lowest, we can still say,’ Our Father,’ and when it is very dark, and we are very weak, our childlike appeal can go up, ‘Father, help me! Father, excuse me!’
This experience made so to an impression upon Mr. Spurgeon’s mind and heart that he never forgot it. Those who are. familiar with his writing’s must have noticed how often he referred to it, and how he urged other tried believers to do as he: had done. On one occasion, when he was speaking at the Mildmay Park Confidence Hall, he narrated this incident with very telling effect.
The Tabernacle church make a special record of this trying period and of the Lord’s gracious answer to the united supplications of his people. At the church-meeting, on July 4, 1871, it was resolved that the following statement should be entered on the Minute: — “It having pleased our Heavenly Father to lay His afflicting hand upon our beloved Pastor, he: was compelled to cease his; public labors in our midst on the 2nd of April, and for a period of twelve Sabbaths we were deprived of his Githful ministrations. During this time he addressed to us several letters, which we insert upon our records as a proof of the: close mutual love and esteem which link us together as Pastor and people. Our public prayers have been many, and our private supplications have been unceasing. On June 14th, we met as a church for special prayer, and God was pleased to hear his cry, and once more to restore His servant to some part of his wanted strength, so that he preached on the morning of July 2nd. We therefore met to give thanks to God on Wednesday, July 5th, when it was resolved:— “That his church desires, to leave upon record its sense of gratitude to Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, for having restored our beloved Pastor to so much of health, as permits him again to minister in our midst, and we: pray that he may speedily regain his accustomed vigor, and enjoy still more of the comfort and preciousness of the: truth he so eloquently and faithfully preaches. We implore for him at yet fuller measure of the Holy Spirit, and enlarged success in all the many labors to which he has set his hand and whilst thus recording our thanks and petitions, we also desire to convey to our beloved Pastor our expressions of sincerest sympathy with him ill his; severe and protracted illness. We have learned to prize more highly than ever those loving ministrations under which so many of us have been savingly blessed, and all of us have been greatly helped. We rejoice exceedingly that he can again occupy his accustomed place, to which he is welcomed by a people more than ever prepared to co-operate with him in all his labors, and to love him, aver with a pure heart fervently.
Our prayers shall still mingle at the private and public altar that himself, his dear wife, and their sons may be long spared to enjoy that blessing which our covenant God alone can bestow.”
The next special manifestation of the love of the people for their Pastor commemorated three notable events in his history. The Minutes of the annual church-meeting, held at the Tabernacle on January 8, 1875, contain the following entry: — “Proposed by Brother William Olney, seconded by Brother John Ward, and carried unanimously. That we desire, as a church, to record our devout gratitude to our Heavenly Father on the completion of the 21st year of our Pastor’s ministry amongst us. We also desire to present our hearty congratulations to him that he has been. privileged to Complete the 20th volume of his printed sermons, and also, during the past year,, to accomplish the erection of the New College Buildings. We feel it desirable that a permanent record should be made of these important events, and therefore agree that it shall be entered in our church-book, and that a suitable address, handsomely framed and beautifully illuminated, shall be presented to our Pastor as an expression of our loving sympathy with him, which was never felt by us to a greater degree than at the present time.”
At the. church-meeting, on April 1, 1875, Pastor J. A. Spurgeon reported that a meeting of the church and congregation had been held, on Tuesday, March 30, to welcome the senior Pastor, on his return from the Continent, after an absence from the: pulpit for eleven Sabbaths, and at that gathering the testimonial authorized by the church had been duly presented. A reduced facsimile of it is reproduced on the following page.
A reference to the letter of Mr. William Olney, in Volume I., page 346, will show that one of the reasons he: mentioned in urging “the boy-preacher” at Water-beach to accept the invitation to the pastorate at New Park Street Chapel was, that he hoped his brother Henry would be converted through the young minister’s preaching, which had even then greatly impressed him. This result happily came to pass, and dear old “Father Olney” had the joy of seeing all his sons members of the church of which he had so long been a deacon. In October, 1875, Mr. Henry P. Oh my was “called home;” and, as soon as the news reached Mr. Spurgeon, he wrote the following letter to Mr. Thomas H. Olney: — “Nightingale Lane, “Clapham. “(October, 1875.) “Dear Friend, “I could not say much to Mr. Macgregor, for I felt stunned by the tidings of your brother’s death, and could not realize it; indeed, I cannot now. “God bless you, beloved brother; and as; He comes so very’ near in solemn deeds, may He come just as near in love\ Peace be to you in the hour of sore amazement! “I send my deepest sympathies to the bereaved wife. I can do no better than pray that she may now be very graciously sustained. If she can calmly bow before the Lord, it will be for her own good.
Grief so natural, and so likely to prove excessive:,., must be re. strained for the sake of herself and babes. God help her, poor soul!
What a loss is hers! “Yours lovingly, “C. H. SPURGEON,” When Mrs. Bartlett was “ called home,’; in August, 1875. the members of her class desired her son Edward to take his mother’s place. This arrangement met with Mr. Spurgeon’s full approval, and was; accordingly carried out. The annual meeting of the class was, for many years, the occasion for presenting to the beloved President of the College the contributions and collections of the members in aid of his much-heaved work. In the course of twelve: years, no less than 1,346 was thus received. The Pastor was particularly anxious to be present at the first anniversary under the new leadership, but he was unable to be there, and had to be content with writing the: following characteristic epistle: — “Nightingale Lane, “Clapham, “Feb. 22, 1876. “My Dear Mr. Bartlett, and Class, “If it were not that it is the Lord who has put me out of the way for a day or two, I should be very rebellious. All yesterday, I was weeping and sneezing, till I could not see out of my eyes. To-day, I feel that the turning-point has come, and that I shall soon be better; but it would be the utmost folly to leave my bedchamber as I now am. “This is a terrible disappointment to me as well as to your young friends, and I want you to tell them how sorry their Pastor is. I am glad they cannot see him, for he has, an awful nose, and such eyes!
Also let them know that he is very fond of Mrs. Bartlett’s class, and would sooner have disappointed the Queen than have been absent from the meeting to-night. Besides, he wanted to thank Mr.
Bartlett, and to say’ some kind things which are due all round. “I am anxious to do all I can to mitigate this trouble, and therefore I propose, ( 1 .) that you enjoy yourselves all you can tonight; ( 2 ) that I invite you all to tea another evening as soon as possible; or, ( 3 ) that I come to the class some Sunday afternoon; or, ( 4 ) that we do all the three thing. “May God bless you all! You are so good to keep together, and work on, and pray on. I hope we shall have hundreds of souls saved this year; let us aim at such a result. Dear Mr. Bartlett has my unfounded confidence and esteem. May every blessed abound towards him and you! “Don’t be alarmed about me. I have about 49 colds all at once. and lumbago into the bargain; but all will go in a day or two, I hope. I cannot tell how I could have got into such a sneezy, freezy, droppy, skivery, watery, coughy, fevery state’ I hope I shall soon get: out of it. “Yours ever lovingly, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
In the earlier days, when the dear Pastor was able more frequently to preside at the: Tabernacle church-meetings than he could in his litter years, he used to make brief but very interesting entries in the church-book.
Sometimes, they would be humorous, as when he wrote concerning the quality of the pens and ink supplied for use in the lecture-hall; occasionally, they were very sad notes, when some turned aside to sin or to error, and so pierced his heart through with many sorrows; but, more often, the comments were of a grateful and jubilant character, like the throwing, which was written at the: first meeting of the members after the communion service on Lord’s.-day evening, March 5, 1876: — “It is worthy of special note that four children of our beloved deacon, William Higgs, were added to the church on one evening, while others of his family have preceded them. As; he was the builder of the Tabernacle in which we meet, we rejoice that the Lord’s-day blesses his household.”
While Mr. Spurgeon never neglected the: comparatively few weaklier members of the church and congregation, he was; always accessible to their poorer sisters and brethren, and he constantly proved, in a most practical way, his sympathy with them, and his personal interest in their temporal and spiritual welfare, conspicuous instance of this manifestation of kindly feeling is thus recorded in the report of the annual church meeting at the Tabernacle on January 10, 1877: — “Before proceeding to the business of the evening, the Pastor stared that, in his own name, and on behalf of the church, he desired that some note should be taken of the fact that the Lord had spared to the church, for a period of 70 years, our aged sister, Miss Fanny Gay, during the while of which time she had been a usefulled consisted: member. The Pastor then handed to her a copy of 52, enlcrfireler, containino,’ the: following inscription: — “Presented to Miss Fanny Gay, upon completing her seventieth year of membership with the church ‘which now worships in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, with the love of the Pastors and members.
The Lord bless thee and keep thee. “C. H.SPURGEON. “January 10, for February, 1877.” The good sister lived until early in 1886; and when she was “called home,” Mr. Spurgeon wrote concerning her: — “The church at the Tabernacle has recently lost Miss Fanny Gay’, who has for many years been the first on the roll of membership. She joined the church in the year 1807, and had thus been a member nearly eighty years, and was within a few hours of ninetyseven years of age when she was called home. She was a great: sufferer for most of her long life, but her afflictions were patently, and even cheerfully, borne; and for many years she had been one of the happiest inmates of the Almshouses connected with the Tabernacle.”
The Tabernacle: church has long been a mother of churches; and, usually, when the brethren and sisters have been drafted off to found a new cause:, the Pastor has written a special letter to accompany the formal transfers.
When the church at James Grove, Peckham, was about to be constituted, no less than 75 members received their dismission from the Tabernacle, and the Pastor gave them his parting blessing and his wise and loving counsel in as hearty and genial a fashion as if he had been resolving that large contingent of adherents instead of losing’ them. “Metropolitan Tabernacle, “September 9th, 1878. “Beloved Brethren, ‘The Church of Christ at the Metropolitan Tabernacle has heard with pleasure of your wish to be turned into a separate community, and we hereby grant an honorable dismissed, to you all with that view. You are such beloved and useful members that ‘we should have been grieved to part with you under any other circumstances; but now we send you out as a father sends ore: his full-grown son to found another house, and to become himself the center of a family. W~.’ wish you every blessing. It is bur joy to see our Lord’s Kingdom increased; and, as we believe that your being gathered into it new church will tend to that grand design, we gladly part with you, wishing you the power and presence of the Lord henceforth and for even “Brethren, be of one heart and one mind. Suffer no ‘root of bitterness’ to spring up among you. Sustain your excellent Pastorelect; and, by your prayers, gird him with the power of the Highest.
Watch over your own personal walls, and let the world see what grace can do In you and by you. Do not forget to pray for the mother-church and its officers. We wish you the like blessings with us; what more could we desire for you? May the ministry among you be full of Divine power, and may thousands be thereby called out of darkness into light! Abound in confidence in God, and in His gospel. He is able to surpass your loftiest thoughts. Believe great things of God, and expect great things from God. To the Eternal Trinity we commend you by Christ Jesus. “Yours, on behalf of the whole church, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
This chapter may be appropriately closed with Mr. Spurgeon testimony to the piety and the unity of the’ Tabernacle church, together with a solemn warning as to what would happen if such a highly-favored company of people should ever prove unfaithful: — ‘I thank God that we have a great many very warm-hearted, earnest Christians in connection with this church, — I will make bold to say, such true and lovely saints as I never expected to live to see. I have beheld in this church apostolical piety revived; I will say it:, to the glory of God, that I have seen as earnest and as true piety as Paul or Peter ever witnessed. I have marked, in some here present, such godly zeal, such holiness, such devotion to the Master’s business, as Christ Himself must look upon with joy and satisfaction. God has been pleased to favor us with profound peace in the church. We have been disturbed by no word of false doctrine, by no uprising of heretics in our midst, or any separations or divisions. ‘This is a blessed thing; but: still, Satan may make. it a dangerous matter. We: may begin to think that there is no need for us to watch, that we shall always be: as we are; and deacons, and elders, and Pastor, and church-members, may all cease’, their vigilance, and then the ‘root of bitterness’ may spring up in the neglected corner that gets to deeply rooted for us to tear it up again. Though we: are not free from ten thousand faults, yet I have often admired the goodness of God which has elmbled us, with a hearty grip, to hold each other by the hand, and say, ‘ We love each other for Christ’s sake, and for the truth’s sake, and we hope to live in each other’s love: till we die:, wishing, if it were possible, to be buried side by side.’ I do thank God for this, because I know there is more than enough of evil among us to cause, distensions in our midst. We who bear office in the Church have the same nature as there; and therefore, naturally, would seek to have the supremacy, and every mail, if left to himself, would indulge an angry temper, and find many reasons for differing from his brother. We have all been offended often, and have as often offended others. We are as imperfect a band of men as might be found, but we are one in Christ. We have each had to put up with the other, and to, before and forbear; and it does appear to me a wonder that so many imperfect people should get on so well together for so long. By faith, I read over the door of our Tabernacle this text, ‘ When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?’ When some of our members were first taken into the church, I received a. very suspicious character with them. It was said, ‘Well. if Mr. Spurgeon accepts such-and-such a man, he has been so great a trouble in our church, that he will be the. beginning of wars at the Tabernacle.’ But those very persons, who came with that doubtful character, have become the most zealous of our working community; and, instead of differing and disagreeing, they have felt that there was so much to do that it would be a pity to spend one grain of strength in quarrelling with other children of God. If a man thinks himself to be some great one, his importance vanishes as soon as he joins our vast host. I have been warned, sometimes, by fellow-ministers ‘who have had a member who has proved troublesome to them, and who wished to come into our midst. I have been told that I must watch him very carefully, for he would be sure to be: a cause of anxiety to me; but I have answered, ‘No one ever troubles me; I do not let him.’ Many of these people, who are supposed to be so dangerous, only want something to do; they have too much energy to be unemployed. I set them to work, and they are no longer troublesome; if that does not cure them, I give them still more work to do.
They have too much vigor for small places, and need to be where their powers can have full scope, for then they have less time to notice, things with which they do not wholly agree. Possibly, my brethren, many of! you do not sufficiently prize the peace which reigns in our church. Ah! you would value it if you lost it. Oh, how highly you would esteem it if Strife and schism should ever come into our midst! You would look back upon the happy days we have had together with intense regret, and pray, ‘ Lord, knit us to, gather in unity again; send us love to each other once more;’ for, in a church, low: is the essential element of happiness. “If we as a church, prow.’ unfaithful; if we leave our first love; if we do not plead in prayer, and seek the conversion of souls, God may take away His presence from us as tie has done from churches that were once His, but which are not so now. The traveler tells you that, as in, journeys through Asia Minor, he sees the ruins of those cities which once were the seven golden candlesticks, wherein the: light of truth shorn: brightly. What will he now say of Thyatica? Where will he find Laodicea? These have passed away, and why may not this church? Look at Rome, once the glory of the Christian Church, her ministers many, and her power over the world enormous for good; and now she is the place where Satan’s seat is, and her synagogue is a synagogue of hell. How is this? Because she departed from her integrity, she left her first love, and the Lord cast her away. Thus will He deal with us also if we sin against Him. You know that terrible passage: ‘ Go ye now unto My place which was in. Shiloh, where I set My Name: at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel.’
God first of all had the tabernacle, pitched at Shiloh, but it was defiled by the sin of Eli’s sons, so the tabernacle, was taken away, and Shiloh became a wilderness. So may this flourishing church become. If justice should thus visit you, you may held your prayer-meetings, — probably those will soon cease, — but of what avail will your formal prayers be? You may get whom you will to preach, but what of that? I know what you would do, if some. of us were,, fallen asleep, and the faithful ones buried,-if the Spirit of God were gone, you would say, ‘Well, we are still a large and influential congregation; we can afford to pay a talented minister,, money will do anything; and you would get: the man of talents, and then you ‘would want an organ and a choir, and many other pretty things which we now count it our joy to do without. Then, if such were the case, all these vain attempts at grandeur would be unsuccessful, and the church would ere long become a scorn and a hissing, or else a mere log upon the water. Then it would be said, ‘We must change the management, and there would be this alteration and that; but if the Lord were gone, what could you do? By what means could you ever make this church, or any other church, revive again? Alas! for the carnal, spasmodic efforts we have seen made in some churches!
Prayer-meetings badly attended, no conversions, but still the people have said, ‘ It is imperative upon us to keep up a respectable appearance; we must collect a congregation by our singing, key our organ, or some other outward attraction;’ and angels might have wept as they saw the folly of men who sought almost anything except the Lord, who alone can make a house His temple, who alone can make a ministry to be a ministration of mercy, without whose presence the most solemn congregation is but as the herding of men in the market, and the most melodious songs but as the shoutings of those who make merry at a marriage. Without the Lord, our solemn Clays, our new moons, and our appointed feasts, are an abomination such as His soul hideth. May this church ever feel her utter, entire, absolute dependence, upon the presence of her God, and may she never cease humbly to implore Him to forgive her many sins, but still to command His blessing’ to abide upon her! Amen.”