THE TABERNACLE OPENED.
When I sometimes have such statements as these flung in my teeth, “This man was never educated at College; he came into the ministry totally unprepared for it in literary attainments; he is only fit to address the poor; his preaching is not polite and polished; he has had but little classical instruction; he cannot react many languages;”—I say, Precisely so; every word of it is true, and a great deal more to the same effect might be said. If you go on to say,—“ This man. takes a daring project in hand, and succeeds in it,”—I answer, Just so; I will agree to all you say, but I will remind you that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.” On this wise I will put it, and with the apostle Paul I will become a fool in glorying,—What have your College men done that is comparable to this work? What have the wisest and most instructed, of modern ministers accomplished in the conversion of souls compared with the blessing which has rested on the labors of the unlettered boy? It was God’s work, and God chose the most unlikely instrument, that He might have: the more glory. And He shall have the glory;—I will not take any of it to myself by pretending to an education I have not received, or an attainment I do not possess, or an eloquence which I never coveted. I speak God’s Word, and God, I know, speaks through me, and works through me, and unto Him be the glory of it all!...
I frequently hear in conversation such remarks as this, “It is no use trying to raise a self-supporting cause in such a place as this; there are none but poor people living in the neighborhood.” If there is a site to be chosen for a chapel, it is said, “You would never be able to keep a minister there; it is no use trying to do so in such a district.” You know that, in the City of London itself, there is now scarcely one Dissenting place of worship. The reason for giving up most: of the chapels, or transferring the church to the suburbs, is that all the respectable people live out of town, and, of course, they are the folk to look after. They will not stop in London, they will go out a few miles, and take villas; and, therefore, the best thing is to use the endowment, which belonged to the old chapel, in building a new place of worship somewhere in the suburbs where it can be maintained. “No doubt,” it is said, “the poor ought to be looked after; but we had better leave them to an inferior order of workers,—the city missionaries will do for them, or we can send them a few street-preachers.” But as to the idea Of raising a prosperous cause where all the people are poor, there is hardly a minister who would attempt it.
Now, my experience of the poor of Christ’s flock teaches me that all this kind of talk is folly. If there are any people who love the cause of God better than others, I believe it is the poor, when the grace of God takes real possession of their heart. In this place, for instance, I believe that we have but very few who could be put down among the rich. There have been some persons of position who have cast in their lot amongst us; but, still, the mass who did the, work of building this house, and who have stood side by side with me in the battle of the, last seven years, must be reckoned among the poor of this world. They have been a peaceable people, a happy people, a working people, a plain people; and I say, “God bless the poor!”
I would have no fear whatever in commencing a cause of Christ, even though the mass were! poor; for I am persuaded that the rich, who are truly the people of God, love to come and assist in such a case. If you cast out the poor, you cast out the Church’s strength, and you give up that which is, after all, the backbone of the Church of Christ.—C. H. S., in sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle shortly after the opening.
On December 18, 1859, we commenced our third series of services at Exeter Hall, which ended on March 31, 1861. A few of my remarks upon leaving that place may fitly be quoted here: f1 —“In the providence of God, we, as a church and people, have had to wander often. This is our third sojourn within these walls. It is now about to close. We have had at all times and seasons a compulsion for moving: sometimes, a compulsion of conscience; at other times, a compulsion of pleasure, as on this occasion. I am sure that, when we first went to the Surrey Music Hall, God went with us. Satan went, too, but he fled before us. That frightful calamity, the impression of which can never be erased from my mind, became, in the providence of God, one of the: most wonderful means of turning public attention to special services; and I do not doubt that.—fearful catastrophe though it was,—it has been the mother of multitudes of blessings. The Christian world noted the example, and saw its after-success; they followed it, and to this day, in the theater and the: music:—hall, the Word of Christ is preached where it was never preached before. Never could it be more manifestly seen than h! that place, that the gospel, when proclaimed simply and earnestly, is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. “In each of our movings we have had reason to see the hand of God, and here particularly; for many residents in the West End have: in this place, come to listen to the Word, Who probably might not have taken a journey beyond the river. Here, God’s grace has broken hard hearts; here have souls been renewed, and wanderers; reclaimed. ‘Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name.’ And now we journey to the. house which God has in so special a manner given to as, and this day would I pray as Moses said, ‘Rise up, Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before: Thee.’ “‘But what enemies have we?’ say you. We have multitudes. We shall have to do battle in our new Tabernacle with that old enemy of the Church, the scarlet beast. Rome has built one of its batteries hard by our place, and there is one who styles himself ‘Archbishop of Southwark.’ Then we shall have another enemy, almost as our next-door neighbor,—infidelity. There, has been one of its special place, for display. Yet, comparatively speaking, infidelity is but a very puny adversary; it is not half so cunning as Popery, and hath nothing like its might. But worse than this, we shall have to deal with the indifference of the masses round about us, and with their carelessness concerning gospel truth, and with the prevailing sin. and corruption how shall we deal with all this? Shall we invent, some socialistic system of reform? Shall we preach up some new method of political economy? No! the cross, the old cross is enough; this is the true Jerusalem blade, that divides like the razor of old with which Tarquin’s augur cut the pebble. We will preach Christ as the sinner’s Savior, the Spirit of God as applying Christ’s truth to the soul, and God the Father in His infinite sovereignty saving whom He wills, and in the bounty of His mercy willing to receive the vilest of the vile; and there is no indifference so callous, no ignorance so blind, no iniquity so base, no conscience so seared as not to be made to yield, when God wills it, before the might of His strength. So again I pray, ‘Rise up, Lord, and let these Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.’ ‘Rise up, Lord!’ O God the Father, rise up! Pluck Thy right hand out of Thy bosom, and let Three eternal purposes be accomplished! O God the Son, rise up; show Thy wounds, and plead before Thy Father’s face, and let Thy blood-bought ones be saved! Rise up, O God the Holy Ghost; with solemn reverence, we do invoke Thine aid! Let those who have hitherto resisted Thee, now give way! Come Thou, and melt the ice; dissolve the granite: break the adamantine heart; cut Thou the iron sinew, and bow Thou the stiff neck!
Rise up, Lord-Father, Son, and Spirit,—we can do nothing without Thee; but if Thou wilt arise, Thine enemies shall be scattered, and they that hate Thee shall flee before Thee.”
Under the date, January 6, 1861, there stands in our record, the following solemn declaration, signed by the Pastor, and officers, and leading friends:—“This church needs rather more than 4,000 pounds to enable it to open the New Tabernacle free of all debt. it humbly asks this temporal mercy of God, and believes that, for Jesus’ sake, the prayer will be heard and the boon bestowed,—as witness our hands.”
At the. end of February, the program of the opening services announced that about 3,000 pounds was still required, and contained the following appeal and intimation:—“The Committee beg the renewed assistance of all their friends in this their crowning: effort, and they wish it to be distinctly understood that no persuasion will prevail upon their Pastor to us,—the building for public worship on the Sabbath until the whole of the liabilities are discharged. Shall the house be closed a single Sunday? We believe in our gracious God, and trust that He will so influence His people that, by the end of the second week, or before the Good Friday has passed away, all will be accomplished; in which case, we shall meet there for regular worship on Lord’s-day, March 31. The proceeds of collections, alter payment of contracted liabilities, will be needed for the completion of the front boundaries, the fitting up of the schools, furnishing the students’ class-rooms, and other works which the Committee have not as yet commenced. Feeling it to be highly objectionable to run into debt, they have left many matters to be finished when the funds shall be forthcoming, and they are sanguine that, before these preliminary meetings are over, this great temple of the Lord will have been finished in every department,” It was most appropriate that the noble building, which had been erected for a house of prayer, should be opened with a meeting for prayer.
Accordingly, at seven o’clock in the morning of Monday, March 18, 1861, more than a thousand persons assembled in the Tabernacle. The Pastor presided, and among those who took part in the proceedings were representatives of the deacons and elders of the Church and students of the College. Fervency and intense earnestness marked every petition.
On Monday, March 25, at 7 a.m., Rev. George Rogers presided over the second prayer-meeting, and addressed the brethren in a sweet and savory manner upon “The House of God, the Gate of Heaven.” At three o’clock the same afternoon, the. first sermon in the Tabernacle was preached by the Pastor from Acts 5:42: “And daily in the: temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ;” and in the evening, Rev. W.
Brock, of Bloomsbury Chapel, discoursed upon Philippians 1:18: “Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” It was remarked at the time how well the two sermons were adapted to one another, although the ministers were quite unaware what text each had selected.
The following evening, more than three thousand of the contributors to the Building Fund assembled in the Tabernacle, under the presidency of Sir Henry Havelock. The Pastor had undertaken, in the month of January, to bring in 1,000 pounds, at: the opening of the building, in addition to all that he had previously raised; and in the course of the meeting he announced that he had paid in 1,500 pounds, others had brought the total up to 3,700 pounds, so that the building was free from debt, although they still needed about: 500 pounds for various matters which could wait until the money was in hand. The architect (Mr. Pocock), and the builder (Mr. W. Higgs), were heartily thanked for their joint skill and liberality, and both gentlemen expressed their gratitude for the vote of appreciation.
The next: night, the ministers and members of neighboring churches, to the number of about four thousand, gathered under the chairmanship of Dr. Steane, to express their congratulations to the church at the Tabernacle on the completion of the beautiful and spacious structure. In the course of his address, the chairman first asked the ministerial brethren present, and then the whole congregation, to rise and so signify to Mr. Spurgeon how much they loved him, and how devoutly they wished him “God speed.” This spontaneous outburst of sympathy was gratefully acknowledged by the Pastor, who said that, while his own church had naturally raised most of the money for the new building, there was hardly any church in London which had not had some share in the work.
On “Good Friday,” March 29, the Pastor preached in the morning from Romans 3:24,25: “Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood,” and in the: evening, from the Song of Solomon, 2:16: “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” It was a fitting finale to these services to be able to announce that the whole sum required had been given, and the building, free from debt, was ready for Divine worship on the following Lord’s-day. That Sabbath evening, March 31, the Pastor preached from 2 Chronicles 5:13,14; and 7:1-3; and speaking upon the glory of the Lord filling the house, uttered a prophecy which has been abundantly fulfilled in every particular:—“ Let God send the fire of His Spirit here, and the minister will be more and more lost in his Master. You will come to think less of the speaker, and more of the truth spoken; the individual will be swamped, the words uttered will rise above everything.
When you have the cloud, the man is forgotten; when you have the: fire, the man is lost, and you only see his Master. Suppose the fire should, come here, and the Master be seen more than the minister, what then? Why, this church will become two, or three, or four thousand strong! It is easy enough for God to double our numbers, vast though they are even now.
We shall have the lecture-hall beneath this platform crowded at each prayer-meeting, and we shall see in this place young men devoting themselves to God; we shall find ministers raised up, and trained, and sent forth to carry the sacred fire to other parts of the globe, Japan, China, and Hindustan shall have heralds of the cross, who have here had their tongues touched with the Divine flame. Through us, the whole earth shall receive benedictions; if God shall bless us, He will make us a blessing to multitudes of others. Let God but send down the fire, and the biggest sinners in the neighborhood will be converted; those who live in the dens of infamy will be changed the drunkard will forsake his cups, the swearer will repent of his blasphemy, the debauched will leave their lusts,— “‘Dry bones be raised, and clothed afresh, And hearts of stone be turned to flesh.’” On Monday evening, April 1, Rev. John Graham, of Craven Chapel, preached from 2 Thessalonians 1:12; and the next night, the great building was crowded by London Baptist brethren. Sir S. Morton Peto, Bart., presided; and the Pastor, in welcoming the assembly to the Tabernacle, said:—“ This chapel belongs not specially to me or to my church, lout to the whole Baptist denomination. I feel tonight as if I were rendering up the: trust-deeds to the proper proprietors,—acknowledging that this house belongs not to any man, but, first, to the God of the whole world, and, next, to those who hold the pure primitive ancient apostolic faith. We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. ‘We did not commence our existence at the Reformation, we were: Reformers before Luther and Calvin were born; we never came out of the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line: of succession up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ; and our principles, though sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which has persecuted others; nor, I believe, has any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man: We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove; but we are not willing, to accept any help from the State, or to prostitute the parity of the Bride of Christ by any alliance with earthly Governments.”
Later in the evening, the Pastor, in urging the Baptist brethren present to more earnest efforts for the spread of their principles, said:—“I have been the means of commencing two new churches within the last eighteen months, and I hope to start some more. I wish we could, as a body, open fresh places, and give our services for six months, taking it in turn until ‘we worked the cause up. I do not think there is the slightest reason why we should not double our numbers in the next two years;; it seems to me that we have obtained such a hold upon the public mind that we only want to bring our principles out, and we shall greatly increase. I know they will say that we are getting desperately Baptistical; we must be that, we shall never tell upon the age until we are. We must hold inviolable the essential unity, of the Church of Christ; we must stand to it that all God’s people are one in Him; but why should we lower our standard any more than any other denomination? What is there about believers’ baptism that we should be ashamed of? What is there about the history of our church, the power of our ministers, our poets, our divines, that we should be ashamed of? When we know that we: have borne the palm in poetry with John Milton, in allegory with John Bunyan, and stand second to none in the ministry with Robert Hall, I think we have no reason whatever to be ashamed. Let us come straight out:, determined that we will conceal no part of the truth. I am glad that we have here brethren representing different views amongst us. Here am I, a strict Baptist as to membership, and believing in open communion; some of our brethren are strict in membership and also in communion; others are neither strict in membership nor in communion. I think I am nearest: right of any, but you all think the same of yourselves, and may God defend the right!” After this denominational gathering, it was most fitting that, the following evening, an equally’ large company of friends should meet together “for the purpose of hearing addresses on Christian unity, and testifying to the essential union of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The chairman was Edward Ball, Esq., M.P., one of the Pastor’s Cambridgeshire friends, who had witnessed his early efforts to serve the Lord, and lovingly watched his career from Waterbeach and onwards to the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
On Thursday evening, April 4, Dr. Octavius Winslow preached from the words, “It is finished;” on Lord’s-day, April 7, the Pastor occupied the pulpit both morning and evening, and presided at the first communion service held in the Tabernacle; the next night, a family gathering of our own church was held under the presidency of the Pastor’s father, Rev.
John Spurgeon; and on the Tuesday evening, Rev. Hugh Stowell Brown, of Liverpool, preached on “Christian Baptism,” and the Pastor conducted the first baptismal service, concerning which Dr. Campbell wrote, in The British Standard, April 12:— “The probable effects of the Metropolitan Tabernacle become the subject of interesting speculation. While these, effects will be great and glorious, they will form no exception to the course: of human affairs. Imperfection attaches to everything that appertains to man. The building will inevitably form a powerful magnet, especially to young people in all quarters of the city, who will hardly endure the old-fashioned churches and chapels of their fathers. The result will be to confer on it a leviathan monopoly. This monopoly will operate in two ways: it will bring multitudes from the world to Christ,—an event in which we shall most sincerely rejoice. It will also draw multitudes from the churches to the water,—an event in which we do not rejoice. This Metropolitan Tabernacle, we believe, will do more to make proselytes than all the other Baptist chapels in London united. It will lift the thing into respectability, and even dignity. It will become an object of ambition with sentimental young women and poetic young men to be plunged into a marble basin; so beautiful that it might adorn a palace, and so spacious that dolphins might play in it! Then Mr. Spurgeon knows well how to go about this matter; his noble catholicity has not sufficed wholly to eliminate his baptismal bigotry. His manly eloquence will most powerfully minister to the triumph of the polished marble. He showed last Sabbath evening that, while prepared to die for the gospel, he is not less prepared to fight for the water. “On the evening of Tuesday, the ordinance of baptism, by immersion, was administered to some. twenty people. It was eminently fitted to produce very serious consequences in families and churches. First came a sermon from a man of great mental power and pulpit efficiency,—Mr. H. S.
Brown, of Liverpool. ‘The argument and the appeal being over, then followed the illustration by the skillful hand of Mr. Spurgeon. What can stand against an attack so formidable, made on a congregated mass so little capable of self-defense? Pity the poor simple souls who eagerly rushed into the snares of the fowlers! Such was the anxiety to be present, that it is reported that actually between six and seven thousand tickets were issued!
Mr. Spurgeon, indeed, on Sunday evening stated that no more tickets would be distributed, since more. had received them already than could be accommodated, and that it would be the wisdom of many to keep away.
The night, we make no doubt, has been one of havoc among those who were, not only not ‘rooted and grounded,’ but not even taught the first principles of the doctrine of Baptism. “The interest of the thing was overpowering. We doubt if it: was a whir inferior to that of taking the veil in the Church of Rome. There was the young orator, the idol of the assembly, in the water, with a countenance radiant as the light; and there, on the pathway, was Mrs. Spurgeon, a most prepossessing young lady,—the admiration of all who beheld her,—with courtly dignity and inimitable modesty, kindly leading forward the trembling sisters in succession to her husband, who gently and gracefully took and immersed them, with varied remark and honied phrase, all kind, pertinent to the occasion, and greatly fitted to strengthen, encourage, and cheer. Emerging from the water, there were two portly deacons, in boxes at the side of the steps, with benignant smile, to seize their hands, and bring them up, throwing cloaks over them; two other deacons received them at the top of the steps, and other two politely led. them backward to the vestry. It was quite an ovation, an era in the history of the neophytes. It had really not been wonderful if all the ladies in the plate had been candidates for such distinction. We have ourselves seen several who were there, whose heads seem completely turned. Paedo-Baptist ministers, whatever their piety or ability, have no chance with Mr. Spurgeon in multiplying members. They operate only in one element, he: in two: to him, the land and the water are alike productive. We shall not be surprised if, in seven more years, his church be doubled, and the Metropolitan Tabernacle prove insufficient to accommodate even the members and their families. The largest chapel in the world, it will have the largest church.
In the same article, Dr. Campbell thus referred to one of the many misleading paragraphs which continued to be inserted, from time to time, in various newspapers:— “The services of a Christian minister may, as a rule, be safely estimated by the light in which he is viewed by an ungodly world. If it exalt him, there is something wrong, it only ‘loves its own.’ But, if it pour out upon him the vials of its calumny, falsehood, ‘and scorn, the presumption is, that he is faithful to his God, and the friend of his race. The most splendid illustration of the last century, was Whitefield. in our own times, the. counterpart of Whitefield is Mr. Spurgeon. Regard being had to the changed and softened character of the times, he has been abused, slandered, libeled, and lied against quite as much. The London correspondent of a very able Scottish journal, professedly conducted on Christian principles, had the audacity, so late as last week, to write as follows:—‘Sympathetic Aberdonians need not trouble themselves to make up any more money-boxes for Mr. Spurgeon’s Tabernacle. All the debts have been paid, and the chapel was opened on Sunday evening. As the Tabernacle is Mr. Spurgeon’s own property, pewrents and all, he will probably be able to enjoy his “privilege” of riding in a carriage to the end of his days. This being the case, it. is sincerely to be hoped that he will now finally dissociate the work of the gospel from the pursuit of mammon.’ “Now, the great fact alleged in the foregoing is an unmitigated falsehood; and, as to cupidity’, it Were quite as just and true to charge Mr. Spurgeon with the guilt of murder as with the worship of mammon! No man in this great metropolis preaches one-third so much for all Evangelical sects, on behalf of all sorts of charitable objects, and he uniformly preaches for nothing! “‘But the carriage,’ says the correspondent. Well, the plain one-horse vehicle,—what of that? Living where his health requires him to live, a few miles in the country, in a very plain and far from commodious habitation, some conveyance is absolutely necessary to his great and unceasing toils. Is that to be denied him? To economize a little horse-power, would you abridge his leviathan labor’s for the cause of God and the souls of men? It is a curious fact that the miserable malignance of a former day brought it as a charge against Wesley and Whitefield, and in our own times against Collyer and Hill, that they kept a carriage! This suggests; the economist who wished the ointment to have been sold for the poor, ‘not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag.’ But enough: ‘Wisdom is justified of her children.’ All good and upright men ‘glorify God’ in Charles Haddon Spurgeon. They desire for him life and length of days, within a continuance of all his gifts and all his graces, and an increase of favor with God and man. He is still in the morning of life; and we trust he may have before him at least half-a-century of usefulness and honor ere he be called to the Upper World to take his place—among prophets, apostles, martyrs, and evangelists, who have turned many to righteousness,—to shine as a star for ever and ever.”
On Wednesday, April 10, a great communion service was held,—probably the largest since the day of Pentecost,—in order to set forth the essential oneness of the Church, and the real fellowship in the body of Christ which is the privilege of all her members. The following afternoon and evening, addresses we. re delivered upon the distinguishing doctrines of Calvinism,—Election, Human Depravity, Particular Redemption, Effectual Calling:, and Final Perseverance; and on the Friday evening, Henry Vincent, Esq., gave a brilliant oration on “Nonconformity,” Sir John Burgoyne:, Bart., G.C.B., presiding.
At the first church-meeting held at the Tabernacle, on Monday evening, May 6, seventy-two persons were proposed for membership, and the Pastor wrote in the church-book as follows:— “I, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the least of all saints, hereby set to my seal that God is true, since He has this day fulfilled my hopes, and given according to our faith. O Lord, be Thou praised world without end, and do Thou make me more faithful and more mighty than ever! “C. H. SPURGEON.”
The: following inscription, also in the Pastor’s handwriting’, is signed by himself, the deacons, the elders, and. a large number of the churchmembers, beginning with “Susie Spurgeon”:— “We, the undersigned members of the: church lately worshipping in New Park Street Chapel, but now assembling in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, desire with overflowing heart:; to make known and record the lovingkindness of our faithful God. We asked in faith, but our Lord has exceeded our desires, for not only was the whole sum given us, but far sooner than we had looked for it. Truly, the Lord is good, and worthy to be praised. We are ashamed of ourselves that we have ever doubted Him; and we pray that, as a church, and as individuals, we may be enabled to trust in the Lord at all times with confidence, so that in quietness we may possess our souls. In the Name of our God we set up our banner. Oh, that Jehovah-Jireh may also be unto us Jehovah-shammah and Jehovah-shalom!
To Father, Son and Holy Ghost we offer praise and thanksgiving, and we set to our seal that God is true.:” This entry closes the records in the church-book for the seven years from 1854 to 1861. It is worthy of note, as showing the unparalleled growth of everything connected with the work, that the two previous church-books had respectively lasted from 1757 to 1808, and from 1808 to 1854; while the next one, commenced on May 7, 1861, ended on January 11, 1866, and the following volumes were generally filled in about five years. All are large thick quartos, uniform in size, and the complete series formed one of the most precious treasures saved from the disastrous fire on April 20, 1898.
During the month of May, 1861, four more church-meetings were held, at which seventy-seven additional members were proposed, and at the communion service on June 2, a hundred and twenty-one persons were received into full fellowship. This large increase: was thus gratefully recorded at the church-meeting on June 18:—“It was unanimously resolved that a record of our gratitude to God for His graciousness toward us should be made in the church-book. With our whole hearts, as a highlyfavored church and people, we magnify and extol the lovingkindness; of our God in so singularly owning the Word proclaimed among us, by giving So many souls to be added to our number. To God be all the glory! Oh, that we may be more than ever devoted to His honor and service!”
The Tabernacle is so well proportioned that many persons fail to realize its vast size. The building is a rectangle, measuring outside the walls 174 feet in length, and 85 feet in width; inside, the extreme: length, including the vestries, is 168 feet; the. main auditorium being 146 feet long, 81 feet broad, and 62 feet high. Estimates as to the seating accommodation of the Tabernacle’. have varied considerably; but the actual number of sittings that could be let, previous to the fire, was 3,600, and about 1,000 persons could occupy seats on the flaps in the aisles and other parts of the building.
Many hundreds of additional hearers could find—and for thirty years did find—standing-room in the great house of prayer, so that the preacher had regularly before him, Sabbath by Sabbath, between five and six thousand immortal souls listening to his proclamation of the Word of lite. As an instance of the misleading notions that people have entertained concerning the: capacity of large public buildings, it may be mentioned, on the authority of The Builder. May 4, 1861, that the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, which was supposed to hold 10,000 or 12,000 people, had a sitting area of 19,723 feet, while that of the. Metropolitan Tabernacle was 25,225 feet!
At the annual church-meeting, on January 22, 1862, the Building Committee’s audited balance-sheet was presented and adopted. It showed that the total expenditure up to that time had been 31,332 pounds 4s. 10d., all of which had been met. The two largest items in the account were— purchase of land, 5,000 pounds; and contract for the main building, 20,000 pounds. Among the receipts, the highest amounts were—collectors’ accounts, 7,258 pounds 5s. 2d.; donations and subscriptions, 9,034 pounds 19s. 2d.; per Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, 11,253 pounds 15s. 6d.
After the Tabernacle was ‘built, an earnest endeavor was made to retain New Park Street Chapel for the Baptist denomination, and to make it, if possible, the abode of another church. For some years, preaching was carried on, a brother supported, and considerable expenses incurred; but it was clear that a self-sustaining interest was not to be gathered in the neighborhood. Mr. John Collins, now of Lymington, worked very hard, and enjoyed much of the Divine blessing; but those who were converted under him had a pardonable tendency to gravitate towards the motherchurch at the Tabernacle., and it became evident beyond all question that it was useless for us to retain so large a building in such a situation, and so near our own. The property consisted of the chapel, schools, and almsrooms; and it was agreed, and arranged with the Charity Commissioners, that it should be sold, and the proceeds used for new schools and almsrooms.
In the Memorials of William Higgs , there is an interesting paragraph concerning this transaction:—” When the date of the auction was fixed, Mr. Higgs was requested to attend at the mart for the protection of the sale. He had before valued the property at a given sum, saying that he did not think it likely to fetch very much more. But, to the surprise of those friends who were also present, when this sum was reached, he himself put: in a bid at a still higher figure and ran up the amount until the property was; knocked down to him at a price considerably greater than that which he had in the first instance named. He was, of course, joked a little about his bargain, but he quietly replied that no doubt it would prove a good one.
And so it did; for, not very long afterwards, he went to Mr. Spurgeon with the news that he had sold the place at a profit of 500 pounds, adding that he had brought the money with him, as he could not, himself, think of keeping it.”