THE ABSENT PASTOR’S CARE FOR HIS FLOCK WHENEVER the Pastor had to be away from his people, seeking necessary rest after arduous toil, or restoration after painful affliction, he gave them constant proofs that he still bore them upon his heart as much as when he was laboring in their midst.
Some of the choicest letters he ever wrote to the church and congregation under his charge were sent home from foreign lands, whence his thoughts flew back to the much-loved house of prayer where he was wont to keep holy clay with the great assembly. Many of these pastoral epistles have been. preserved; and one set of them — written early in the year 1874, — may be regarded as a fair specimen of tint: way in which Mr. Spurgeon continually manifested his earnest desire for the spiritual welfare of all who came within the sphere of his influence.
It will be noted that most of the letters in this series were written to the young people attending the Tabernacle; and, as a quarter of a century has elapsed since they were penned, those who first heard them read, if they are still living, are now in middle lite, and doubtless many of them are among the officers and members of the church who are helping to carry on the many departments of Christian work in which their fathers and mothers were engaged before them. The vital matters dealt with in these letters also make them just as suited to the lads and lasses, or the young men and maidens of to-day, as they were to those to whom they were originally addressed; and if the perusal of them, in these pages, Shall be made, through the Holy Spirit’s gracious operation upon youthful minds and hearts, the means of blessing to present-day readers, the glad tidings will speedily reach the happy dwellers in the glory-land, and cause increased “joy in the presence of the angels of God;” and, surely, no one will rejoice at such a result more than the beloved Pastor himself.
Before giving the special series of communications referred to above, one letter from an earlier period seems worthy of insertion. It was written during one of the journeys described in the preceding chapter; and, though undated, the heading of it indicates where Mr. and Mrs. Spurgeon were staying at the time, and consequently gives the clue to the date, — June, 1865. “Bel Alp, “Canton Valais. “My Dear Mrs. Bartlett, “‘With constant thanksgiving, I remember your work of faith and labor of love; and I pray the Lord to sustain you, and make you still a joyful mother in Israel.’ Your heart yearns; most for the souls under your care; and, therefore, when I have just thanked you with my whole heart for all you do for me and my Master’s cause, and have asked your continual prayers on my behalf, I will rather write to the class than to you. “To those of them who are saved, will you present their Pastor’s kindest remembrances, and say,. — I beseech you to walk worthy of your high calling? Watchfulness is to be our daily spirit; we must not sleep in an enemy’s land. Those who go near the brink of precipices may one day fall over them, and familiarity with sin may, sooner or later’, lead to the commission of it;; and our God alone knows the misery which a fall may cause to you and to those who love your souls. Our sisters form a numerous and influential part of the church; and when their hearts are in a thoroughly spiritual condition, they have a wonderful power for good. We want no better band of missionaries than the godly daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers in our midst. When it is ‘well with you, pray for me, and let this be your prayer, — that I may return to you ‘ in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.’ I am now writing far up in the mountains; the air is cold and bracing, the view is wide and lovely; the high hills, with their snowy heads, seem just: on a level with me; all is still and calm, and my body and soul are both growing well and strong. Now, in spiritual matters, I want you who belong to dear Mrs. Bartlett’s class to, live: on the mountain, high up, near to God, far from the world, where your view of Divine truth will be clear and wide; and I want you there to grow strong and healthy in Heavenly things, that you may do wonders in Christ’s Name. “To those who are unsaved; how shall I write? I must first pray, — O God, deliver them from their sins, and from Thy wrath! Last night, the lightning seemed to set the mountains on a blaze; it flashed from peak to peak, and made the clouds appear like great thrones or furnaces of fire; the terrible God was abroad, and we were awed with His presence. I could look on cheerfully:, and say, ‘My Father does it all; but what must it be to have this God for your enemy? Young friends, I beseech you to consider your condition as having an omnipotent God full of anger against you for your sins. May you realize your danger, and seek His face before you feel the terror of His hand! What a sweet short sentence is that, ‘ God is Iowa’! Think it over. If Satan tempts you to despair, hold it up before his face. If sins or doubts prevail, remember that ‘ God is love.’ But do not forget that He is c onsuming fire. He will either consume you or your sins, — you or your self-righteousness. Jesus felt His Father to be a consuming fire in the day when the Divine wrath fell on Him to the uttermost; if He had to endure it, what will those feel who live and die in sin? May you be led to trust Jesus with your’ souls now! May you all be saved! May we all meet in glory to part no more! Till then, I am,— “Your earnest minister, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
A little while before the. Pastor left home: for his holiday, in January, 1874, he commenced a young people’s prayer-meeting, in the Tabernacle lecturehall, for an hour before the usual Monday evening gathering. The effort: was a great success, and even during his absence an attendance of between six and seven hundred was maintained. It was, therefore, only natural that this very hopeful portion of the congregation should receive, a considerable share of Mr. Spurgeon’s attention while he was away. The four following letters were all addressed to the young people at the Monday six o’clock prayer-meeting: — “Paris, “Jan. 16. “Dear Young Friends, “I have your welfare continually upon my heart, and therefore thought I would pen a few sentences to you. I was much encouraged by the prayerful attention and deep feeling which I saw last Monday in many of you. It filled me with great hope concerning you. I see that you desire to have your sins forgiven, and to escape from the wrath of God, and I am therefore rejoiced; but I pray God that the signs; of grace may not end with these: mere beginnings and desires. Buds are beautiful, but we cannot be satisfied with them; they are only good because blossoms often become fruit. Mere blooms on the trees, and no fruit, would be a mockery of expectation. May it not be so with you. “I am writing in my chamber in Paris at midnight. I could not sleep till I had said to you, — Put your whole trust in Jesus at once. All that you want of merit, He will give you; all that you need of help in the Heavenly life, He will bestow. Only believe Him. You who are saved, be sure to wrestle with God for the. salvation of other young people, and try to make our new meeting a great means for good. You who are unawakened, we pray continually for you, for you are sleeping over hell’s mouth; I can see your danger, though you do not. It is therefore time for you to awake out of sleep. I send my earnest love to you all, praying’ that we may meet on earth in much happiness, and then at last in Heaven for ever. “Your anxious friend, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
MENTONE,AS SEEN FROM DR.BENNETGARDEN. “Mentone, “Jan. 23. “My Dear Young Friends, “I am delighted to hear that you came together in such large numbers last Monday in my absence, for I hope it shows a real and deep anxiety among the seekers to find the Savior, and among the saved ones to plead for others. You do not need the voice of any one man to secure your attention; the Word of the Lord Jesus, by whomsoever spoken, is life and power. It is to Him that you must turn all your thoughts. Sin has’ separated between you and your God, and Christ alone can bring’ you back to your Heavenly Father. Be sure that you remember what it cost Him to prepare the. way of reconciliation; nothing but His blood could have clone it, and He gave it freely, bowing His head to death upon the tree. It must have been no light matter which cost the Redeemer such a sacrifice; I beseech you, do not make light of it. Hate the sin which caused Him so much agony, and yield to the low which sustained Him under it. “I hear that in London you have had fogs and rain, here it is all flowers and summer, and the difference reminds me of the change which faith makes in the soul. While we are unbelievers, we dread the wrath of God, and walk in gloom; but when we believe, we have peace with God, and enjoy His favor, and the spring of an eternal summer has commenced. May the Spirit of God, like. the soft South wind, breathe upon you, and make your hearts bloom with desires, blossom with hopes, and bring forth fruits of repentance! From Jesus He proceeds, and to Jesus He leads the soul. Look to Him.
Oh, look to Him; to Him alone; to Him simply; to Him at once! “Your anxious friend, “C. H. SPURGEON.” “Mentone, “Feb. 5. “Dear Young Friends, “I am greatly cheered to hear that: you gather in such numbers, and shall be yet more glad when I hear or see that hearts are won for Jesus, and that with your mouths you make confession of Him. I look with so much hope upon you, that it would be a bitter disappointment if I did not hear that some of you are saved in the.
Lord. “I have just limped up a high hill into the cemetery here, and there I saw a text which struck me. ‘ But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him.’ Noah was her rest, as Jesus must be yours. Just notice that it is added, ‘he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.’ She was too weak to get in, but Noah’s kind hand ‘pulled her in unto him.’ Dear young friends, I pray the Lord Jesus to grasp those of you who are weary and weak, and pull you in. His promises are pulls, His invitations, and those of the kind friends who address; you, are so many pulls. Yield yourselves unto them, and be pulled in unto Him. No rest is there:, East, West, North, or South, for your soul’s foot, save: in the ark of sovereign grace; but there is rest there. As the dove turned her eye, and then her wing, to the ark, so turn your desires and prayers to Jesus; and as she dropped into Noah’s hand, so fall into the hand which was pierced that sinners might live. I pray for each one of you, and have entreated the great High Priest to bear each one of your names before His Father’s face upon His own breastplate. May the Lord save, sanctify, and preserve every one of us till the great: day of His appearing! “Your loving Pastor, “C. H. SPURGEON.” “Mentone, “Feb. 12. “Dear Young Friends, “I am full of delight at hearing of what the Lord is doing among you in saving souls; but will any of you be missed by the gracious visitation? Will the sacred rain leave some of you dry as the mountains of Gilboa? Is Jesus passing by, and will you not cry to Him? Is His grace felt by your brother, your sister, and your mother, and not by you? Unhappy soul, which shall manage to elude the blessed influences which are now abroad among us!
Surely, such an one must be dexterous in resisting; the Holy Spirit,. and desperately resolved to perish! What reason can be urged for such a course? What excuse for such suicide? Let those who are saved, pray much for others who remain hardened. “I am rejoiced that those of you who have found Jesus are not a. shamed to own Him. Why should you be? Only make sure that you are really converted; do not be content with shams. Seek the real thing. Lay hold, not on temporary hope, but on eternal life. True faith always has repentance for its twin-brother, love for its child, and holiness for its. crown. If you have looked to Jesus for life., be sure that you next look to Him for the pattern of life, so that you may walk as He also walked. As young Christians, you will be greatly tempted; pray, then, to be securely kept, that you may never dishonor your Lord. We shall soon meet, if the Lord will; and till then, my hove be with you all. Amen. “Yours heartily, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
While the young people in general were thus tenderly and affectionately remembered, the boys of the Stockwell Orphanage had the following letter specially written to them: — “Mentone, “Saturday evening, January 24th, 1874. “Dear Boys, “I have been much impressed by hearing that death has been to the Orphanage. Are you all prepared, if he should shoot another arrow into one of the houses, and lay another low? I wonder who will be the: next! Dear boys, would you go to Heaven if you were now at once to die? Wait a bit, and let each one answer for himself. You know, you must be born again, you must repent of sin, you must believe in Jesus. How is it with you? If you are not save. d, you are in great danger, in fearful peril!’ Be warned, I pray you! I cannot bear to think of one boy going from the Orphanage to hell; that would be terrible indeed. But to rise to Heaven, to be with Jesus for ever; why, this makes it worth while even to die a hundred deaths. “I hope my dear friend, Mr. Charlesworth, and all the teachers, and matrons, and nurse, s, are well; I send them all my kindest regards.
I often think about you all. I want to see you all happy here and hereafter. May you grow up to be honorable Christian men; and if God should take any of you away, may we all meet in Heaven! Will you pray a special prayer, just now, that the death of one boy may bring all of you to Jesus to find eternal life? Be diligent in school, be very’ kind in. the houses. Do not cause us pain, but give us all joy, for we all love you, and desire your good. “Mr. Chylesworth will, on my behalf, give you a couple of oranges all round, and I will pay him when I come home. “Your loving friend, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
One letter was addressed to the Bible-classes conducted by Elders Perkins and Bowker:— “ Mentone, “Feb. 5. “Beloved Brethren, “Peace be. to you and the dear friends who conduct your meetings! 1 am hoping to see a great revival of religion throughout our church and all its agencies, and I want your two classes not only to partake in it, but to lead the way in promoting it. “‘I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong.’ The influence which a choice band of young believers may have upon our own church and congregation, and the outlying neighborhood, is exceedingly great. Being yourselves soundly instructed in the faith, you are to aid in building up others, and especially to help in quarrying new stones from the pit of nature. The Spirit of God will rest upon you in answer to prayer, and then you will become vessels fit for the Master’s use. This you cannot be without personal holiness and individual consecration; let not these be lacking among you, and then you will not be barren or unprofitable. “Begin by doubling your own numbers, which I believe could be done if you laid it to heart, and resolved each one to introduce, at the least, one newcomer. Make each meeting All of life, power, prayer, love, and zeal. I confess I am sorry that the Catechism is not still your text-book, for I believe it is a good groundwork, and keeps you near the most important subjects. Discussions upon the new theories of the day drive away the Spirit of God; the old wine is the best. “Your leaders are men of experience, and have my fullest confidence, and, what is more, my most sincere love. Always support them, and back dram up; and then let your motto be, ‘Advance.’ Push into the unconquered regions. There ought to be more work done close at home around the Tabernacle. The time for outdoor services will soon be upon us; see what you can do beyond what is yet done. Sunday-schools in many places are ping for want of teachers, and Ragged-schools still more: so. Where there is a gap, fill it. “The Lord be with you!
Please pray for me, that I may return strengthened in spirit, and soul, and body. “With Christian love, “Yours very heartily, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
Another letter was written to Mrs. Bartlett’s class: — “Meltone, “Saturday evening. “Beloved Friends, “I write to salute you all. and especially your beloved mother in the gospel, my dear friend, Mrs. Bartlett. I hope you are enjoying times of power such as have been so usual with the class. The Lord’s own daughters among you — each one a princess, not in her own right, but by marriage to Kings.; Jesus, — are, I trust, living in the enjoyment of their high privileges. “‘Way should the children of a King Go mourning all their days?’ Yours it is to wear a girdle of joy; ‘ for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ See to it that your lives are consistent with your high callings, for it ill becomes the daughters of Zion to demean themselves like the children of earth. ‘ Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.’ Be watchful for the souls of others, and support by your prayers the earnest efforts of your beloved leader, Mrs. Bartlett. “For those of you who are unsaved, I have this word, — ‘How long halt ye between two opinions?’ Years roll on; and each one spent in alienation from God swells your dreadful account. Have you not sinned enough? Have you not run risks enough, that you must still imperil your souls? An hour even of the toothache is too much; but what is that compared with the disease of sin and the anger of God? Yet these: you bear as if they were mere trifles;. Will the time of decision never come? Or will you linger till you perish in your sin? ‘ Remember Lot’s wife.’ She is a monument of salt; take a little of that salt, and seasoft your’ thoughts with it. Your graves are yawning for you, hell also enlargeth itself. Flee from the wrath to come start up, like those who haw: been asleep upon the brink of death; and strive to enter in at the strait gate.’ “Yours lovingly, for Christ’s sake, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
The students of the College had this choice epistle from their ever-beloved President: “Mentone, “Saturday evening. “Beloved Brethren, “In my absence, I never cease to remember you, because.’ I have. you all in my heart, as the hope of the: church, and the future benefactors of the world. I trust every than is conscientiously laboring at his studies, never wasting an hour. Your time for study is so short, and so much will be required and expected of you, that I beseech you to quit yourselves like men. Every moment with you is worth a Jew’s eye, and its profiting will be a hundred-fold in the future. We have to cope with no mean adversaries. Our antagonists are well equipped and well trained. Our trust is in the Lord alone., and we go forth armed only with a sling and a stone; but we must practice slinging till we can throw to a hair’s-breadth, and not miss.
It was no unpracticed hand which smote so small a target as Goliath’s brow. Do not let the devil make fools of you by suggesting that, because the Lord works, you may be idle. I do not believe it of the least: among you. “Brethren, for our Lord’s sake, maintain a high degree of spirituality; may the Holy Spirit enable you so to do! Live: in God that you may live for God. Let the church see that her students are her picked men. I rely upon you, in my absence, to help in all meetings for prayer or revival to the utmost of your ability. Nothing would give me greater joy than to hear that. while I am away, the Lord was moving some of ‘you to make up for my lack of service. “I am much better. Here, ‘everlasting’ spring abides;’ and though flowers wither, there are always fresh ones to fill their places. The balmy summer air is as oil to my bones. “I send my sincere love to you all, and especially to your honored tutors, and the: venerable Principal, to whom be long life, and the same to you all! My dear brother will be to you all that I could have been, and you will pray for him, and also for — “Your loving’ friend, “C. H SPURGEON.”
Last:, but not least, the Pastor wrote to his church and congregation the closing epistle of the special series in 1874:— “Mentone, “Feb. 12. “Beloved Friends, “By the time this letter is; read to you, I shall, if the Lord will, be on my way back to you; and my prayer is that I may return ‘ in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.’ Very greatly have I been cheered by hearing of your prayers for me, and still more by the news of the: good and great work which the Lord is doing in your midst. It is glad tidings indeed. How grateful I am that dear brethren among you at home have been so highly honored that God has worked by them so abundantly! I rejoice in their joy. The report of conversions in the families of the members is peculiarly refreshing. God grant that not one family may be unblessed! “I am myself greatly better, and very thankful that it is so, for I long to be an eye-witness and a partaker in the revival work. Oh, that it may go, on till not one hearer shall remain unsaved! “Beloved friends, join all of you heartily in the work, and let none in any way damp it by unloving, unholy, or careless walking. The clouds of blessing will blow away from us if worldliness be allowed to prevail. Sin in the church will be the death of revival, or else the revival will be the death of sin. Let no one among- us besmear himself with the blood of souls by a careless conversation in such solemn times as these. May the Holy Ghost: quicken us all into newness and fullness of life! God Bless you all! So prays, — “Yours in Jesus, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
As the last letter is so short, and scarcely represents adequately the Pastor’s intense love and care specially for his great church and congregation while he was necessarily absent for a while from their midst, another of his communications, of later date, is appended, to make the series more fairly representative and complete:— “Mentone, “Feb. 13, 1877. “Beloved Friends, ‘I have heard, with the utmost satisfaction, of the enthusiasm with which the special services have been taken up by so many of you. It is a token for good which encourages my largest expectations. The anxiety of the church for conversions is, in a very distinct manner, connected with the desired result; for that desire leads to increased prayer, and so secures the effectual working’ of the Holy Spirit; and it also inspires an ardent zeal which sets believers working for the salvation of those around them, and this also is sure to produce fruit. I look, therefore, for the conversion of many with as much confidence as I look for the ships to arrive at their haven when a fair wind is blowing. “To those who are thus earnest for the Lord’s glory, I send my heart’s gratitude, and for those who are nor. as yet aroused to like ardor, I put up my fervent prayers that they may no longer lag behind their brethren. Our children are growing up around us, our great city is; daily adding to its enormous bulk, and our cemeteries are being gorged with the dead; so long as one soul remains unsaved, and in danger of the unquenchable fire, it behooves every Christian to be diligent to spread abroad the healing savor of the Redeemer’s Name. Woe unto that man who conceals the Light while men are stumbling in the darkness! Woe unto him who keeps back the Bread of life in the season of famine! Beloved, I am persuaded better things of you, though I thus speak. “Persevering, quiet believers, who in secret implore the Divine blessing, and then regularly give their aid to the continuous worship, service, and intercession of the church, are the strength of the brotherhood, the main body of the hosts of the Lord. Let all such rejoice because their labor is not in vain in the Lord. But we need also dashing spirits who will lead on in continually-renewed efforts, thoughtful, practical men and women who will suggest and commence aggressive movements. We have such among us, but others need to be pressed into the service. One should canvass, for the Sabbath-school, another should break up fresh: tract-districts, a third should commence a cottage service, and a fourth should preach in a court or alley which has not as yet been visited.
Brethren, we must all do all that can be done for Jesus, for the time is approaching when we must give in our account, and our Master’ is at hand. “Beloved in the Lord, my joy and crown, walk in all love to each other, in holiness towards God: and in uprightness and kindness towards all men. Peace be with you all! “May those who have heard the gospel among us, but have not as yet felt its power, be found by the Lord. during the services which have been held in my absence! If they have escaped the net when I have thrown it, may some brother-fisher of souls be more successful with them! It is very hard to think of one of our hearers being lost for ever, but how much harder will it be for them to endure in their own persons eternal ruin! May the great Lover of men’s souls put forth His pierced hand, and turn the disobedient into the way of peace! “I am most grateful to report that: my health is restored, my heart is no longer heavy, my spirits have revived, and I hope to return to you greatly refreshed. Loving friends in Christ, I beg to be continually remembered in your prayers. I send my love to my Co — pastor and true helper, to the deacons, elders, and every one of you in Christ Jesus. “Yours heartily, “C. H. SPURGEON.’