LETTERS ON PRIVATE AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS LETTERS CONCERNING LEGACIES.
THE following letter, relating to an estate of the value of L5,000, may be inserted as a specimen of many which Mr. Spurgeon had to write, on other occasions, with reference to financial matters about which he ought never to have been troubled. In several instances, when money was bequeathed to him which he thought should have gone to the relatives of the testator or testatrix, he paid it over to them without the least hesitation, and it often grieved him that he could not do the same with’ legacies, left to his Institutions, which ought to have been given to needy relations. In the case here referred to, he had simply to refuse what he regarded as an unjust and unreasonable demand — “Clapham, “June 13, 1868. “Dear Sir, “Although Mr.___’s will certainly makes me his residuary legatee absolutely, he gave the solicitor to understand that he left the money to me because he was sure I should not appropriate it to myself, but would use it for religious and charitable purposes. This request he also wrote me, and it was sent by his solicitor. The Law of Mortmain prevented him from leaving his money as he desired, therefore he put it in my hands, very much to my discomfort. I shall, not, on any account, accept a farthing for myself from this estate, but carry out the testator’s known wish. “I do not consider this to be any barrier to my making awards to claimants who may have moral claims of a sound character against the estate, for it is not to my mind to give to religion or charity till justice has been done. Hence I have, to the best of my judgment, with the kind advice of the executors, met each claim, not only of a legal, but of a moral kind, and there is now no balance remaining to be disposed of; or so small as to be not worth mentioning. There will be no more funds available during the existence of two lives; and, consequently, the claims of Mr.___ and others must wait, even if they can be attended to at any time. “The executors do not believe in the claims of Mr.___ ; but they, as gentlemen, would advise, me with impartiality, and if you convince them, you convince me; only I cannot be expected to disburse money which I have not received, from an estate with which personally I have no profitable connection, left by an utter stranger. “I see no grounds for your severe language towards me; and as for your threat to publish the matter abroad, so far as I am concerned, I neither court nor fear publicity in any of my actions; and, in this case, if the simple truth be published, it will little concern me what the public think of ray proceeding. I am the gainer of much trouble and annoyance by’ this unhappy legacy, and nothing more. “Yours truly, “C. H.SPURGEON.” “P.S. — Please send future letters on this business to the executors.”
One of many letters, which had to be written at a later period with reference to great fortunes said to have been left to Mr. Spurgeon, may also be given — “Westwood, “March 26, 1884. “Dear Sir, “In speaking or a supposed large fortune left to me, you very wisely say, ‘If it is so!’ Several times, such rumors have gone abroad; — much smoke; from a very small fire. In the present case, there may be something; ‘but how little none can tell.’ This rumor brings to me begging letters and requests of the most amazing kind; and, in a measure, stops supplies for my many enterprises, and so causes me much trouble. Please, therefore, say in your paper that the large fortune is a myth. With many thanks for your kind remarks, “I am, “Yours in much weakness, “C.H.SPURGEON.
CORREPONDENCE RE LECTURES AND SERMONS IN THE UNITED STATES.
In the year 1873, Mr. Spurgeon, in addressing his church and congregation, made the following reference to a proposal which he had received — “I had a letter from a gentleman well known in America, giving me the offer of 25,000 dollars for twenty-five lectures. On these terms, the twenty-five nights would give me £5,000, and in a hundred nights I should have £20,000. Besides this, I should be allowed to lecture for as many more nights as I chose, so that I might, in the course of a year, be worth £40, 000, and no doubt the persons who undertook the arrangement would earn ten times that amount. What do you suppose was my answer to this offer? I wrote, ‘If you were to multiply it a hundred times, and again a hundred times, I should feel it as easy to decline as I do now, when I say that I cannot cross the ocean to lecture upon any subject whatever. I am a minister of the gospel, and never lectured for money, and do not intend to do so now.’” Although the refusal was so emphatic, other offers continued to come. In 1876, a paragraph appeared in some American papers stating that “The Revelation Mr. Spurgeon writes that he will visit the United States in the autumn.” This elicited the following letter — “Boston, Mass., U.S.A., “June 23, 1876. “Rev. C H. Spurgeon, “Dear Sir, “Is the above paragraph true? We have tried so long, and so hard, for so many years, to secure you, that we thought it impossible, and long since gave up all hope. We are agents (exclusive agents) for all the leading lecturers in the country, and do nine-tenths of the lecture business of America, and we are responsible for what we offer. We will give you a thousand dollars in gold for every lecture you will deliver in America, and pay all your expenses to and from your home, and place you under the most popular auspices in this country. Will you come? “Yours truly, “THE REDPATH LYCEUM BUREAU.”
To this communication, Mr. Spurgeon replied — “Clapham, “London, “July 6, 1876. “Gentlemen, “I cannot imagine how such a paragraph should appear in your papers, except by deliberate invention of a hard-up Editor, for I never had anys idea of leaving home for America for some time to come. As I said to you before, if I could come, I am not a lecturer, nor would I receive money for preaching. “Yours truly, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
In 1878, two other invitations came, the first of which Mr. Spurgeon answered thus — “I have not the slightest idea of visiting America. If ever I should do so, I could not preach or lecture for money. Excellent as your services doubtless are to those who need them, they could not possibly be needed by me. I should regard it as an utter prostitution of any gifts I possess if I were, as a servant of God, to use them to make money for myself in the way in which lecturers very properly do.”
The reply to the second request was — I am not open to any engagement either to lecture or to preach in America. I could not consider your offer for a single moment. I have on several occasions given a positive refusal, and can only repeat it in the plainest terms. I am not to be hired for any money.”
Another effort was made in 1879, when Major Pond was in England with Dr. Talmage, and the former wrote to Mr. Spurgeon, asking for an interview, and saying, among other things — “I want to see the man to whom I would pay the compliment to offer fifty thousand dollars for speaking fifty nights in my country, and to my countrymen.” To this note, Mr. Spurgeon replied — “Nightingale Lane, “Balham, “Surrey, “June 6, 1879. “Dear Sir, “I am not at all afraid of anything you could say by way of tempting me to preach or lecture for money, for the whole of the United States in bullion would not lead me to deliver one such lecture. It would only waste your time and mine for you to see me, though I feel sure that you are one of the pleasantest men upon the earth.
Your good-natured, pertinacity so admirable that I trust you will not waste it upon an impossible object; but be content to have my acknowledgment that, if success could have been achieved, you would have achieved it. “Yours truly, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
In 1883, a syndicate in the United States, Without even asking for Mr. Spurgeon’s opinion or consent, arranged for the transmission, by telegraph, of his Lord’s-day morning sermons, and their publication on the following day, in a number of papers in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, having an aggregate circulation of a million copies. The experiment was doomed to be a failure, for the instructions to the English agents were, “Cable Spurgeons Sunday morning sermons, omitting the little words.” The attempt to insert those words in the report received on the other side of the Atlantic produced such a strange result that Mr. Spurgeon wrote on the first copy he received — “Sermon a hash, but pretty well considering the hurry and double transmission to New York, and then to Cincinnati.” In reply to a complaint that the arrangement involved a great increase in Sabbath labor, the Pastor wrote — “Westwood, “June 8, 1883. “Dear Sir, “It is true that my Sunday morning sermons are taken by the United States Press Association, and are cabled so as to appear in the papers on Monday morning. So far as this occasions Sunday work, I regret it; but I have no more to do with it than you have. I have never been in any way consulted in the matter, and so I have not entered into any enquiry as to the labor involved. “Yours truly, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
Only a few weeks elapsed before the Pastor was able to write in The Sword and the Trowel — “The sermons were not long telegraphed to America, so that our friends who feared that the Sabbath would be desecrated may feel their minds relieved. We are not sorry; for the sermons which we saw in the American papers may have been ours, but they were so battered and disfigured that we would not have owned them. In the process of transmission, the eggs were broken, and the very life of them was crushed.
We much prefer to revise and publish for ourselves; and as these, forms of publication are permanent, their usefulness becomes in the long run greater than would come of a wide scattering of faulty reports.”
Four’ years later, another attempt was made to arrange for the early publication, on an extensive scale, of summaries of Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons; but this also failed. He was unable even to entertain the proposal made to him in the following letter, for he never knew “ten days in advance” what the subject of his discourse would be; otherwise, in this case, there might not have been the same objection as on the former occasion as the effort need not have involved any increase of Sunday labor — “New York Syndicate Bureau, “No. 1, William Street, “New York, “Sept. 20, 1887. “Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, “Dear Sir, “We have arrangements about perfected by which we are to publish, every Monday morning, in all the large cities of this country, a synopsis of the sermons of six of the leading clergymen here. The idea is, to get advance notes of the sermons (about ten days in advance), and send them out to our syndicate of newspapers. It is necessary to get the matter so far in advance as we have to reach San Francisco. Those we intend publishing are, Rev. Phillips Brooks, of Boston; Dr. John Hall, New York; Dr. Talmage, Brooklyn; Cardinal Gibbons, Baltimore; Rev. John. P. Newman, Washington; and the Most Revelation Archbishop Ryan, Philadelphia. “While negotiations have been going on, we have received numerous requests from our subscribing Editors for a weekly synopsis of your sermon, and thinking that there might be an inducement in having your congregation increased into the millions, with the corresponding increase in the beneficial influence of your sermons, we have thought it wise to approach you on the subject. “Could you not cable, at our expense, about ten days in advance, the ideas of your sermon each week? The exact phraseology is not necessary, as the ideas are all that are wanted. Cable, say 250 to 300 words. For this courtesy, we would be pleased to forward, each week, our cheque at the rate of — a year. If you think favorably of the matter, kindly cable the one word ‘Yes’ to our registered address, ‘Exactness, blew York,’ and we will write you in regard to any detail that may be necessary. Hoping that you will render a favorable decision, “We are, “Yours very truly, “CHAS. R.BROWN, Editor.”
Any friends from the United States, who had ever worshipped at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and who saw, in The New York Herald , January 9, 1888, the report of the service in that building the day before, must have been somewhat surprised at what they read. In the course of a long cablegram purporting to have been received from the Heralds London bureau, the correspondent said — “There were fully five thousand in the audience to greet the Tabernacle orator on his return from Mentone. He looked remarkably better than when I interviewed him two months ago for the Herald on his departure. After a grand voluntary from the organ , during which the congregation silently studied the countenance of the great Baptist preacher, he and the audience standing, they sang Psalm 103, best known in music as ‘Benedice anima mea.’ Then an assistant read the second chapter of the first Epistle of John, first giving the revisers’ headnotes summarizing the contents of the chapter. After the choir, which is of high repute, had sung a hymn in which there was a charming contralto solo , Mr. Spurgeon preached from the text ‘If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’ — John 1 5: 7.”
The words printed in italics indicate some of the inaccuracies in these few sentences. As there was no “organ” or “choir” at the Tabernacle, so there was neither “voluntary” nor “contralto solo.” Mr. Spurgeon himself read and expounded John 15:1-8, and also 1 John 2, so his “assistant” had no opportunity of “giving the revisers’ head-notes.” The text was stated correctly, so the references to it, and to one of the chapters which were read, must have been telegraphed, with the number of the Psalm sung; but the descriptive matter in the “cablegram” must have been inserted by someone who knew nothing about the mode of worship adopted, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, however familiar he might be with the practices prevailing on the other side of the Atlantic.
Mr. Spurgeon was a true comforter of the suffering and sorrowing; his frequent personal afflictions, added to his own sympathetic disposition, made him “a succorer of many.” This cheering and helpful note was written to a lady who had told him of her many trials — “Westwood, “March 9, ‘81. “Dear Friend, “You seem to me to be in the night school, — by no means pleasant lessons, few holidays, and no cakes and sugar-sticks; — but a wise preacher, and a guarantee of becoming a well-trained disciple in due time. This is much better than to be pampered with joyous excitements, and to be thereby really weakened in faith.
How could you honor Christ, by trusting Him as He is revealed in Scripture, if you were always having new revelations over and above His Word? Too much sight renders faith impossible. A certain measure of darkness is needful for the full exercise of faith.
Be of good comfort; for He who has redeemed you will not lose that which has cost Him so much. I hope you will yet recover strength. Why, you are only a young girl yet at thirty-seven! But I know how the spirits sink, and one feels as old as Methuselah. The Lord be ever your Comforter! “Yours, with much to do, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
One of Mr. Spurgeon’s dearest and most intimate friends was Mr. William Higgs, the builder of the Tabernacle, and a deacon of the church worshipping there. The following extracts from letters to Mrs. Higgs, when her dear husband was “called home,” will show how fully the Pastor sympathized with her and the whole of the bereaved family — “Westwood, “January 3, 1883. “Dear Friend, “How I wish that I could come and join you in your grief, even if I could not give you comfort! But I am too lame to move. Ah, me! what a blow! We were all afraid of it, but did not think it would come just now. Doubtless it is best as it is but it is a sharp gash in the heart. He was a dear soul to us all, but specially to you. I beg the Lord to bear you up under this the heaviest of all trials. All is well with him. ‘There is our comfort. His pains and wearinesses are over, and he rests. I will come as; soon as I can travel, but this swollen right foot holds me like a fetter of iron. “Loving sympathy to every one of you. God bless you! “Yours ever heartily, “C. H.SPURGEON.” “Westwood, “January 6, “Dear Mrs. Higgs, “L___ and G___ have now told me all about our dear one’s death.
The Lord has dealt well with him. I wonder how he lived so long to cheer us all and I feel relieved that he lived no longer, for it would have been great anguish to him. He has gone at the right time. The Lord will be your comfort and help. I meant to go to you this morning, but I found my foot would not let me go up and down steps. It is a double pain to be kept from you and your sorrowing family. We shall all meet again. Let us bless God. Can we? “Your loving friend, “C. H. SPURGEON.”
When Pastor T. W. Medhurst lost a daughter, Mr. Spurgeon wrote to him — “Westwood, “May 24, 1884. “Dear Friend, “May you be sustained under your heavy trial! Now that you and your dear companion are most fully realizing the void which is made in your household,, may you find living consolations flowing into your hearts! ‘It is well,’ and faith knows it is so; and worships the Lord from under the cloud. How time has flown! It seems but the other day that you were married; and now you are an old father, bereaved of a daughter. Dear Caleb Higgs, too, is gone home long ago. “We shall meet above before long. Till then, in our Lord’s business we will find solace, and in Himself delight. “Yours ever heartily’, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
The following letter was written to an Oxfordshire clergyman, with whom Mr. Spurgeon had long been in close personal friendship;he was always deeply interested in the open-air services under the oaks on Mr. Abraham’s farm (see Vol. 3), and induced all whom he could influence to be present — “Westwood, “June I2, 1884. “Dear Friend, “I casually heard from Mr. Abraham that you were ill, but I had no idea that it was a serious matter; but Mr. Rochfort has kindly given me further news. I feel very sad about it, but I am sure you do not.
The loss will be ours, and Heaven and you will gain. “Dear loving brother, you have nothing now to do but to go home; and what a home! You will be quite at home where all is love, for you have lived in that blessed element, and are filled with it. I shall soon come hobbling after you, and shall find you out. We are bound to gravitate to each other whether here or in glory. We love the same Lord, and the same blessed truth.. “May the everlasting arms be underneath you! I breathe for you a loving, tender prayer, — ‘Lord, comfort Thy dear servant, and when he departs, may it be across a dried-up river into the land of living fountains!’ “I am fifty next Thursday, and you are near your Jubilee. In this we are alike; but Jesus is the highest joy. Into the Father’s hands I commit you, ‘until the’ day break, and the shadows flee away.’ “Your loving brother, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
The good man did not linger long, and in the August number of The Sword and the Trowel Mr. Spurgeon inserted the following note — “Our dear brother, Revelation Thomas Curme, vicar of Sandford, Oxon, has passed to his reward. He was a sweet Christian, of calm and serene spirit, full of love and humility, yet firm as a rock in the doctrine of grace. When the denouncer of Baptismal Regeneration was shunned by many of the clergy, one of his brethren asked Mr. Curme, ‘How can you spend so much time in company with Spurgeon?’ His gentle answer was, ‘ It is more wonderful that he should associate with me than that I should meet with him.’ His love to us was wonderful, and constituted one of the joys of our life. He was beloved of all ‘who knew him, and we were one with him in the’ faith which is in Christ Jesus. He passed away full of years, ripe for his rest.”
When the mother of one of “our own men” was “called home” just after her son’s recognition service at Luton, Mr. Spurgeon wrote to him from Mentone — “Dear Mr. Feltham, “It is a great sorrow to lose such a mother, but also a great joy to know it is well with her. She could not have passed away under happier circumstances. She must have been glad to see her son so happily settled, and then gladder still to be with her Lord for ever.
No lingering sickness, no fierce pain; but gentle dismission, and instant admission into the glory. I envy her as much as I dare. The Lord be with you and your beloved, and comfort you to, the full! “Your sympathizing friend, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
The “grandmother” so tenderly mentioned in the following letter was, of course, the Mrs. Bartlett who so long conducted the large Bible-class at the Tabernacle — “Mentone, “December 14, ‘87. “Dear Mr. Bartlett, “I sorrow with you over the departure of your little Lillie; but you will feel that there is honey with the gall. She was a dear child, ready to take her place with the shining ones. Grandmother will receive her as a messenger from you. “May peace and consolation flow into the heart of yourself and wife! I send you a little cheque to ease the expense. I cannot ease your pain; but there is ‘another Comforter’ who can and will do so.
Receive my hearty sympathy. We are all going the same way. The little one has outrun us; we shall catch her up soon. “Yours very heartily, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
When the wife of Dr. S. O. Habershon was “called home,” Mr. Spurgeon wrote to Miss Ada R. Habershon — “Westwood, “April 30, 1889. “Dear Friend, “I I heard with deep regret of your dear father’s loss, — which is your mother’s gain. I do not wonder that the beloved man is not well. it is a crushing stroke, and he has a, tender heart. The Lord Himself sustain him! The Holy Ghost Himself has undertaken the office of Comforter because there is such need of comfort in the tried family, and because it is such work as only’ God can do effectually. I commend you to the’ other Comforter.’ I could not expect to see you at the College supper, but it is very kind of you to write me. You cheer me much by the reminder of the use of The Cheque Book to the dying one. God be praised! “I may send you my Christian love in this hour of sorrow, for I feel great sympathy with you and your father, and a hallowed oneness of heart with you in the faith of our Lord, and in service for His Name. May a sweet hush fall on your hearts! “Yours very truly, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
Miss Habershon thus explains the allusion to Mr. Spurgeon’s volume, The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith — “My dear mother read it daily; and, during her last illness, it was read to her as long as she could bear it. The last portion my dear father read to her was on April 8, — she fell asleep on the 13th, — and the words were singularly appropriate — ‘if there is no more work for you to do for your Master, it cannot distress you that He is about to take you home.’” A few months later, Dr. Habershon also received the summons, “Come up higher.” During this last illness, his daughter wrote to inform Mr. Spurgeon, and he replied as follows — “Westwood, “August 3, 1889. “Dear Friend, “You are now tried indeed, but all-sufficient grace will bear you through. I desire my tenderest love to your suffering father. If he is now going home, I congratulate him upon the vision which will soon burst upon him. If he tarries with us a little longer, it will be profitable for you. We have not the pain of choice. It is a great mercy that we are not placed in the perplexing dilemma of choosing either for ourselves or others, whether we live or die. I pray for you both. May you maintain the peace which now rules you, and find it even brightening into joy in the Lord’s will! Jesus said to the women at the sepulcher, ‘All hail.’ All is well. “Yours most heartily, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
Mr. Spurgeon’s presence and address at the funeral greatly comforted the mourners; and in thanking him, Miss Habershon consulted him with regard to the future, and. received the following reply — “Westwood, “September 6, 1889. “Dear Friend, “It would seem to be wise advice which would lead your brother to take your father’s house. In the profession, a measure of prestige is valuable, and this hangs even about the abode of a distinguished man when the name is the same. You and your sister will be rightly led, for you look up; and there is a finger which never misleads. “It was a great solace to be able to do anything to comfort your heart. Your thanks are far more than I deserve; but I did honestly endeavor to bear a testimony which I pray our Lord to impress on some for whom we felt anxious. “In these crises of life, the power to sit still is greater than that of activity — which frets into restlessness. I commend you to the Good Shepherd.HE will direct your path. “Yours very heartily, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
This chapter may be appropriately closed with a brief mention of the manner in which Mr. Spurgeon voluntarily increased his correspondence to a very considerable extent, and thereby became the means of untold blessing to many of those to whom he wrote. At one of the meetings during the College Conference of 1890, a very touching prayer was presented by Dr. Usher, who pleaded with great earnestness for the salvation of the children of the brethren. The beloved President was much moved by the petition, and the hearty response which it evoked; and he at once offered to write to all the ministers’ sons and daughters whose fathers intimated their wish for him to do so by sending to him their children’s names and ages. Two letters were written and lithographed, — one for the older boys and girls, the other for the little ones, — the name and date being, in every instance, filled in by Mr. Spurgeon himself. In this way, many hundreds of young folk, at home and abroad, received a direct communication from the dear Pastor, and he had the joy of reading a large number of replies testifying to the fact that the Holy Spirit had richly blessed the effort to the salvation of the youthful recipients.
Thoughtful and kind as the whole arrangement was, there remained a finishing touch which no one could give so lovingly as our Mr. Great-heart.
The lithographed letter to the elder children contained references to “father and mother” which made it scarcely suitable for the “mitherless bairns” whose fathers desired them to have a share in the favor of a letter from Mr. Spurgeon. The facsimile, on pages 118 and 119, will show how lovingly he read it through, and made the necessary alterations to adapt it to the dear girl who received it; and he did this on June 19, his own birthday, when he was overwhelmed with contributions for the Orphanage, which all had to be acknowledged before he went up to the Festival at Stockwell, at which he was expected to make several speeches. Surely, even he could hardly have given a more convincing proof of his delight in imparting pleasure to others whatever might be the cost to himself.