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  • DIARY, LETTERS AND RECORDS -
    CHAPTER 62.


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    Deacons and Elders; Pastors and Teachers I do not think that, in the course of the next twenty years, you, as a church, will have such a choice of pastors as you have had during the last twenty years. If I should die, it may be so, I suppose; but I do not think that anything but death would get me to go away from this spot. I hardly agree with ministers, when they get beaten, showing the white feather, and resigning their charge. I feel that I am captain of a vessel; and if there: should be a Jonah in the ship, I shall, as gently and in as Christian a spirit as possible, pitch him out; I shall not think, because Jonah is there, that therefore I ought to leave, but I will stand by the ship in ill weather as well as in sunshine. I know that, by God’s grace, I was called to this place; and if God’s grace and providence shall move me, well and good; but nothing else ever will. I have not the slightest doubt but that, as our numbers shall increase in answer to earnest prayer, the: Spirit of God will be poured out yet more abundantly upon minister and people, and that we, being bound together yet more closely in ties of affection and of hearty cooperation, shall go from strength to strength in glorifying God and serving one another. Why should not this ancient church become as glorious in the future as it has been in the past?—C. H. S., in address at meeting of Tabernacle church shortly after the opening of the new building.

    It was very important that, during the short active lifetime of our savior,— a little more than three years,—He should confine His operation to a comparatively small district, so as to produce a permanent result there which would afterwards radiate over the whole world. He knew what was best for men, and therefore He restricted Himself to a very narrow area; and, my brethren and sisters, I am not sure that we are always wise when we want a great sphere. I have myself sometimes envied the man with about five hundred people to watch over, who could see them all, know them all, and enter into sympathy with them all, and so could do his work well. But, with so large a number as I have under my charge, what can one man do?—C. H. S., in exposition of Matthew 15:21 .

    AFTER the Tabernacle was opened, the church continued to grow so rapidly that it was found necessary, from time to time, to provide the Pastor with suitable helpers in his many-sided service. The following entries in the church-book show the different steps that were taken before a permanent appointment was made:— November 24, 1862.—“Our Pastor stated that he thought it desirable that we should revive the: office of TEACHER, which had formerly existed in this church, but had fallen into disuse. In looking over our church history, he found that, during the pastorate of Mr. William Rider, Mr. Keach had labored in the church under the name and title of Teacher, so that, upon the decease of Mr. Rider, a Pastor was at once on the spot in the person of the mighty man of God who had for twenty years been recognized as a Teacher among us. Again, in the pastorate of Benjamin Keach, the church elected Mr. Benjamin Stinton to assist the Pastor as a Teacher, and it again happened that, on the removal of Mr. Keach, Benjamin Stinton succeeded to the pastorate, and the church was spared the misery of long remaining without a Pastor, or seeking some unknown person from abroad. The Teacher, without dividing the unity of the pastorate, would, in the judgment of our Pastor, be a valuable aid for the edification of the saints in the matter of word and doctrine. Our Pastor also remarked that, when the Holy Spirit manifestly made a man useful in the church, and bestowed on him the real qualifications for an office, it seemed but fitting and seemly that the church should humbly recognize the gift of the Lord, and accept the brother in the Lord’s name. “Our Pastor proceeded to remark that: our Brother John Collins had commended himself, by his useful labors and teaching at New Park Street, to the love and esteem of all who knew him, and he should feel exceedingly happy if the church would acknowledge our excellent brother by calling him officially to do what he was already actually doing. The Pastor thought that, in this way, in future years, the church might have a number of useful preachers in her midst, and it might please the Great Head of the Church thus to provide for us a succession of Pastors from among our own brethren. Of course, the office of Teacher did not involve, of necessity, that the person holding it should be chosen to the pastorate; but, since the Lord had thus provided for the church in years gone by, it was right to act upon the precedent, and to expect that He would again raise up a Keach or a Stinton from our midst. “Severed brethren having expressed their hearty concurrence in the remarks made by our Pastor, and also their confidence in our Brother Collins the church unanimously agreed to appoint John Collins to the office of Teacher. Our brother was then called in, and informed of the office he had been appointed to fill by the vote of the church, which he accepted with all humility, asking our prayers, and pledging himself anew to serve the Lord and His people.”

    September 10, 1863.—“A letter was read from our Brother Collins, on behalf of the church at Southampton of which he had been chosen Pastor, requesting his dismission to their fellowship. It: was agreed that the request should be complied with, and that he should be released from the office of Teacher, with best wishes for his future success.”

    March 31, 1864.—“Our Pastor Stated that the office of Teacher had not been filled up since Brother Collins had been chosen Pastor of the church at Southampton, and that he was very desirous that it should be occupied by an efficient brother who would labor with aim in the gospel. The oversight of so large a church rendered some assistance necessary to the- Pastor, and he therefore proposed that our Brother Thomas Ness, towards whom he entertained the most affectionate regard, be appointed Teacher, to assist the Pastor by visitation and other work as need should arise.

    Several of the brethren expressed their hearty approval, and spoke in the warmest terms of Mr. Ness, and of his suitability for the office. It was therefore unanimously agreed to by the church, and our Brother Ness signified his acceptance of the office,” October 19, 1865.” Our Pastor having alluded to the personal loss he would sustain by the removal of our Brother Thomas Ness to the pastorate: of the church at Stepney Green Tabernacle, and many of the officers and brethren connected with various departments of evangelistic labor in the church having also testified to the faithfulness, love, and zeal of our beloved brother, it was agreed that a general meeting of the church be held in order that all the members might, as a united body, join in a testimonial of their high esteem and affection, and give public expression to the church’s warmest prayers for the Divine: blessing on his future labors.”

    These experiments having failed, in each instance because the brother was called away to another field of labor, nearly two years were allowed to elapse before any further effort was made to relieve the Pastor from part at least of his ever-increasing burden of labor and responsibility. On October 16, 1867, a special church-meeting was held, of which the: church-book contains the following record:— “For nearly fourteen years, we have, as a church, enjoyed a most wonderful and uninterrupted prosperity, so that our present number of members is now more than 3,500,—a number far too great for the efficient oversight of one man. Although our deacons and elders labor abundantly, yet there is much work which no one can do but the Pastor, and which one Pastor finds himself quite unable to perform. The mere examination of candidates, and attending to discipline, entail most laborious duties. Moreover, the Pastor’s labors in Exeter Hall, the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, our own large Tabernacle, and the Agricultural Hall, have been most exhausting, and yet he has taken little rest, being perpetually occupied in preaching the Word, having proclaimed the gospel throughout England, Scotland, and Wales, and having journeyed for the same purpose to Geneva, Paris, Holland, and Germany. “In addition to all this, numerous Institutions have grown up in connection with our church, of which the chief are the College and the Orphanage, both of which require much care and industry in their right management.

    The Pastor conducts a Magazine which greatly aids him in raising funds, but which involves much writing. He publishes a sermon every week. He has been one of the foremost in founding the London Baptist Association, and serves on its Committee, and accepts his share of work for other public Societies. Last of all, he has been for some months laid prostrate by severe illness, and will probably be attacked in the same manner again very speedily unless some little respite can be afforded him. He is not afraid of work, but he does not wish to commit suicide, and therefore asks for help. “The following resolution was then proposed by Deacon William Olney, seconded by Elder Dransfield, supported by Brethren Nisbet, Miller, and Stringer, and carried unanimously:—‘That, in the opinion of this church, the time has now arrived when some permanent help should be obtained to assist our beloved Pastor in the very arduous work connected with the pastorate of so large a church; also that we consider the most likely person to discharge this duty to the comfort of our Pastor, and the lasting benefit of the church, is our Pastor’s brother, the Rev. J. A. Spurgeon. It is therefore resolved that an invitation be. given to the Rev. James A.

    Spurgeon to give as much of his time as he can spare from his present engagements to assist our Pastor in any way considered by him most advisable for the advantage of this church, tot a period of three months, with a view to his being’ permanently engaged afterwards, if it is thought advisable at the expiration of that period; also that it be an instruction to our deacons to make any financial arrangement necessary to carry out this resolution.’ “It was also proposed by Deacon Thomas Cook, seconded by Elder Hanks, and carried unanimously:—‘That we desire to acknowledge with devout gratitude the goodness of our Heavenly Father in the rapid and continuous growth of our church, numbering now 3,500 members; also that our beloved Pastor has been enabled to discharge the duties of the pastorate without assistance for the period of fourteen years with ever-increasing zeal and devotedness. These matters claim at our hands adoring gratitude and renewed consecration to the work of the Lord.’” “At the adjourned church-meeting, held on October 22, in the absence of our Pastor in consequence of a return of his illness, the chair was taken by Brother W. Olney. “The resolution passed at the last meeting was read, and Mr. J. A.

    Spurgeon, being present, expressed his willingness to undertake the duties, as defined in the resolution, for the next three months. “The rest of the evening was spent in prayer-for God’s blessing on our brother in his new relation to the church, and for the speedy recovery of our beloved Pastor.”

    The probationary period having proved satisfactory, another special church-meeting was held on January 9, 1868, of which the church-book contains this record:— “On behalf of the deacons and elders, the Pastor reported that, believing the engagement of Mr. J. A. Spurgeon to be a matter of the utmost weight, they had frequently deliberated upon it, and had forwarded to him the following letter:— “To the Rev. James A. Spurgeon, “Dear Sir, “When, in the providence of God, our much-loved Pastor was laid aside from his incessant toils by a severe illness, we were all convinced that assistance was needed in conducting the pastorate of our very large church.

    Our Pastor not only concurred in this judgment, but pressed it upon us to find him a suitable helper. Our thoughts were at once directed to yourself as in every way the fittest person to render the necessary aid; we mentioned our views to the church, and with remarkable unanimity you were requested to render to your brother all the assistance you could for three months, with a view to a more lengthened engagement. In that unanimity we think we see the finger of God, and we trust that to you it may be a great encouragement, and a full assurance that you will be heartily welcomed by a loving people. “As we have now every reason to believe that you will be elected for a permanence with even greater cordiality, we, the officers of the church, are anxious, before the election, to communicate with you as to the exact position which you are invited to occupy. We write as the representatives of the whole church, and with the full concurrence of the Pastor, and we trust that no expressions which we may use will be regarded by you as for a moment implying the slightest distrust, or as meant to hamper you in your position among us; we write with the utmost affection and respect to you personally, but with the greatest plainness, in order to avoid questions in the. future. You will, we are sure, as a wise man, understand the importance of the step we are taking, and the need that everything should be done to secure the future peace and prosperity of the church. We will, with great brevity, define the modifications under which you are elected as Assistant-pastor of the church in the Metropolitan Tabernacle. “We wish you to have and enjoy among your ministerial brethren all the status and position of a Co-pastor, and we shall regard you as such, understanding the term with the exceptions hereafter mentioned. “We have enjoyed, through the Divine blessing, so large a measure of prosperity under your beloved brother’s presidency, that we could not, under any circumstances, wish to interfere with the precedence which we all most cheerfully accord to him in our councils and works. We wish him to act among us as though he were the sole Pastor, and we are sure: that you will not find it irksome to consider yourself as rather his assistant than as co-ordinate with him. Next to him, we shall esteem you; and in his absence, we shall wish you to preside at our meetings as our Pastor, and we shall gladly render to you all the brotherly respect which, is due to your office and character. “We do not invite you to become the preacher of the church; we: wish to leave the pulpit entirely in the hands of our beloved Pastor, who feels himself fully able to discharge all the duties of public ministry among us, and to whom the Lord has given such acceptance among us as will not soon fall to the lot of any other man. If you will relieve him in that matter, from time to time, as often as he may request you so to do, this is; all we: shall expect of you. In order that no legal difficulty or other dispute may arise, we think it expedient to ask of you a brief note to the effect that you will not consider yourself as having any claim to occupy the pulpit, or any rights of possession such as are supposed to belong to ministers in ordinary cases. “We ask your aid mainly in pastoral work, in visiting the sick, in seeing inquirers, in attending at church-meetings, and in such other works as naturally fall to the lot of a Pastor. Your brother has many great works in hand, and you have already so efficiently aided him in our College, and in the Orphanage, that we are sure that you will in all other things afford him such brotherly assistance as he may from time to time require. Our earnest prayer is that to us you may be a great blessing, leading on the entire church, both by your example and precept, in the path. of earnest labor for the Lord, who has redeemed us by His most precious blood. “Further, we affectionately and respectfully request you to agree that, should circumstances arise which, in the judgment of the Pastor alone, of the Pastor and the majority of the deacons and elders, or a majority of the whole of the church-officers, should render it desirable for you to cease from holding office among us, you will resign upon having twelve months notice, or the-immediate payment of one year’s stipend. “In the lamentable event of our Pastor’s decease during your lifetime, you will consider that event as being, ipso facto, a notice of your own removal in twelve months, and you will resign in that time, of before that period upon the payment as before mentioned, unless by a majority of the deacons and elders it should be thought expedient for you to continue in your office. “Your position is not to entitle you to succeed our Pastor in his office, nor are you to consider yourself as having any status in preference to any other preacher who may become a candidate for the pulpit. We trust that the emergency may not arise; but, if it should, you will, of course, ‘be as eligible as anyone else to be appointed by the vote of the church to the full ‘.pastorate; but we shall trust to your Christian honor and discretion that you will make no undue use of your position to compass such an election, but will leave the officers of the church entirely free to use their best discretion in bringing fitting candidates under the consideration of the church. You will, we trust, excuse our being so express upon this point; for, with the fullest confidence in yourself, we yet feel ourselves as put in trust with a most weighty business, and desire to discharge that trust with such fidelity that none may hereafter call us to account. “The deacons of the church are requested to make such provision for you from the church funds as shall be agreed upon between our Pastor and deacons and yourself. “Finally, in the name of the deacons assembled in their session of December 27th, 1867, and the elders gathered together, Dec. 30th, we offer you our most hearty brotherly love, and wish you abounding grace to wall; among us in all holiness, fidelity, zeal, and happiness, to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and the building up of His Church. “(Signed for the deacons and elders.)” “The Pastor then read the following reply, which had been received from Mr. J. A. Spurgeon:— “33, Elgin Crescent, “Notting Hill, “January 6th, 1868. “Dear Brethren, “I heartily concur in your definitions of my future position, and accept them with the earnest prayer that I may in that post be greatly blessed to the building up of the church, and to the salvation of souls. Agreeable to your request, expressly state that I shall not consider myself entitled to any such power over the pulpit as is usually connected with the office of Pastor. After my desire to glorify God, my sole object in relinquishing my previous independent position is to aid my brother as he may desire me, and certainly in no wise to supersede him in anything. “I think it is in my heart by nature, and I am sure: it is by grace, most cheerfully to give him that precedence which by birthright, talents, and position is so justly his due. I can yield to no one in my high esteem for him, and I feel that it is my privilege to be first in love to him, so that it is rather a joy than a fetter to be thus associated with him. “It is with trembling as well as rejoicing that I look forward to my future work with you. I am, however, cheered by the thought that I shall be sustained by your prayers, and shall find in sour counsels and brotherly love a growing’ strength and comfort. I believe that our aim and motive, our faith and Lord, are one; so may our action and spirit ever be, is the prayer of— “Yours, to serve in the Lord, “JAMES A. SPURGEON.” “TO the Officers of the Church at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.” “Proposed by Brother Olney, seconded by Brother Cook, and unanimously agreed:—‘That the church hereby endorses and adopts the first letter most heartily, and being thoroughly satisfied with the reply, elects Mr. James A.

    Spurgeon to become Co-pastor upon the terms and modifications laid down and accepted in the two letters.’ “Proposed by Brother W. Olney, seconded by Brother Hackett, and unanimously agreed:—.”That we: desire to record our hearty thanks to our beloved Pastor for the untiring labor and service which he has given us so many years, and also that there: is embodied in the letter to Mr. J. A.

    Spurgeon those sentiments which exactly meet the views and wishes of us all, and we are glad to know that, in this important step, we have his hearty approval and sympathy. We: gladly welcome our Brother James A.

    Spurgeon to the office he has been called to, praying that the increased strength given to the past. orate among us may result in a larger and richer blessing than we have hitherto enjoyed.”

    In The Metropolitan Tabernacle, its History and Work, a chapter, written by Pastor J. A. Spurgeon, contains the following paragraph:—“ Amongst the officers of the church, foremost stands the Pastor, who, though its servant, is so to rule, guide, and discipline it as God shall help and direct by His Holy Spirit. In connection with the church at the Tabernacle, two such officers are now laboring.

    It is a trite remark that, if two men ride a horse, one must sit behind, and he who is in the front must hold the reins and drive. Co-pastorships have been sources of discomfort: or blessing as this principle has been understood.

    Wherever it may have been disregarded, it is not (by the grace of God) likely to be so in the case in hand. Where one. of the two brothers has been so instrumental in creating the necessity for additional help, from the very fullness of blessing resulting from his labors; and is, moreover, so superior in talent, influence, and power, it is a privilege to follow in the order of nature and birth which God, from the first, had evidently designed.”

    Mr. Spurgeon used often to say that his best deacon was a woman,— alluding to Mrs. Bartlett. In the summer of 1859, one of the teachers of New Park Street Sunday-school was; going away for a month, and asked Mrs. Bartlett to take charge of her class during her absence; but, on presenting herself at the school, the superintendent (Mr. Thomas Olney, Junr., as he was then called,) directed her to the senior class. There were only three young women in attendance that afternoon, but in the course of the month the number had so increased that she was asked to continue as teacher. She did so, and before long the class had outgrown its accommodation, an experience Which was again and again repeated until it was finally settled in the lecture-hall of the new Tabernacle, where there were some 600 or 700 regularly present. When Mrs. Bartlett was “called home,” in 1875, it was estimated that between 900 and 1000 members of her class had joined the church at the Tabernacle, and Mr. Spurgeon thus wrote concerning his esteemed helper:— “Mrs. Bartlett was a choice gift from God to the church at the Tabernacle, and the influence of her life was far-reaching, stimulating many others besides those who by her means were actually led to the Savior. We miss her sadly, but her spiritual children are with us still; ‘they have stood the test of years, and the most searching test of all, namely, the loss of her motherly counsel and inspiring words. She did not build with wood, hay, and stubble, for the edifice remains, and for this let God be glorified. “She was a woman of intense force of character. She believed with all her heart, and therefore acted with decision and power. Hence, she did not constantly look to the Pastor for help in her appointed service; but, beginning in a small and quiet way, toiled on till everything grew around her to large proportions. She took small account of difficulty or discouragement, but trusted in God, and went on as calmly sure of success as if she saw it with her eyes. When anything flagged, she only seemed to throw out more energy, waited upon God with more: fervency, and pushed forward with the resolve to conquer. Deborah herself could not have been more perfectly God-reliant than Mrs. Bartlett was. She did not beat the air, or run at an uncertainty, but such expressions as ‘I know God will help us.

    It must be done; it shall be done; sisters, you will do it!’ were just the sort of speeches that we expected of her. She flamed in determined earnestness at times when only fire could clear, a path, and then there was no withstanding her, as her class very well knew. “To her resolute will, God had added by His grace an untiring perseverance. On, and on, and on, year by year, she went at the same duty, and in the same way. New plans of usefulness for the class were opened up by her as she saw them possible and prudent, but the former things were never dropped, for fresh ideas, and novel methods were. not devised to the superseding of the well-tried plans. Her talk was always concerning ‘the old, old story,’ and never of new-fangled doctrines or imaginary’ attainments. She kept close to the cross, extolled her Savior, pleaded with sinners to believe, and stirred up saints to holy living. Of her theme she never tired, nor would she: allow other’s to tire. She looked as if it was treason to grow cold; her glance indicated that, to be indifferent about the Redeemer’s Kingdom, was a shameful crime. From first to last of her long leadership of her class, she appeared to be: almost equally energetic and intense. “It pleased God to make our sister an eminently practical woman. She was no dreamer of dreams, but a steady, plodding worker. She never wasted two minutes of her Pastor’s time with marvelous methods, and miraculous plans; she instinctively saw what could be done, and what should be done, and she did it, looking to God for the blessing. Her class has raised large sums for the College, and has done actual service in more ways than we have space to tell, for she trained her disciples into a band of laborers, and kept them all at it to the utmost of their abilities. Her addresses were always practical; never speculative, or merely entertaining. She aimed at soul, winning every time she met the class, and that in the most direct and personal manner. In pursuing this object:, she was very downright, and treated things in a matter-of-fact style. The follies, weaknesses, and temptations of her sex were dealt with very pointedly; and the griefs, trials, and sins of her class were. on her heart, and she spoke of them as real burdens. Her talk never degenerated into story-telling, or quotations of poetry, or the exhibition of singularities of doctrine; but he went right at her hearers in the name of the Lord, and claimed their submission to Him. “Amid all her abounding labors, Mrs. Bartlett was the subject of frequent pain and constant weakness. She had the energy of vigorous health, and yet was almost always an invalid. It cost her great effort to appear on many occasions, but then she would often succeed best, as she pleaded with her hearers, ‘as a dying woman’ to be reconciled to God. ‘Out of weakness...made strong,’ was her continual experience; in fact, much of her power lay in her weakness, for the observation of her pains and feebleness operated upon the sympathetic hearts of her young friends, and made them the more highly appreciate the counsels which cost her so much effort and self-denial. She has met many of her spiritual children above, and others are on the way to the sweet meeting-place. We are thankful for the loan we had of such a woman, thankful that she was not sooner removed as sometimes we feared she would have. been, thankful that she has left a son to perpetuate her work, and thankful, most of all, that there is such a work to be perpetuated.”

    On the monument over her grave in Nunhead Cemetery, is the following inscription, which was written by Mr. Spurgeon:— “In affectionate memory of LAVINIA STRICKLAND BARTLETT, Who departed to her blissful home, August 21, 1875, in her 69th year.

    The Pastors, Deacons, and Elders of the Church in the Metropolitan Tabernacle unite with her Class and the students of the College in erecting this memorial to her surpassing worth. She was indeed ‘a mother in Israel.’

    Often did she say, Keep near the cross, my sister.’ 43

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