IN THE SUNNY SOUTH (CONTINUED).
ON one of the visits to Mrs. Dudgeon at the Villa les Grottes, the Pastor and his secretary were photographed in her garden by her nephew, Mr. H. W. Seton-Karr. The above reproduction gives a slight idea of the view to be seen from one of the upper terraces; the high hills in the distance are beyond the Italian frontier.
For several years, Mr. Spurgeon stayed at the Hotel Beau Rivage. As he generally had several companions, or friends who wished to be near him, his party usually occupied a considerable portion of the small building, and the general arrangements were as homelike as possible, even to the ringing of a bell when it was time for family prayer. Not only were there guests in the house who desired to be present, but many came from other hotels and villas in the neighborhood, and felt well rewarded by the brief exposition of the Scriptures and the prayer which followed it. Those of the company who were members of any Christian church asked permission to attend the Lord’s-day afternoon communion service, and it frequently happened that the large sitting-room was quite full, and the folding doors had to be thrown back, so that some communicants might be in the room adjoining.
On the Sabbath morning, the Pastor usually worshipped with the Presbyterian friends at the Villa les Grottes; occasionally giving an address before the observance of the Lord’s supper, and sometimes taking the whole service. Although away for rest, an opportunity was generally made for him to preach, at least once during the season, at the French Protestant Church, when a very substantial sum was collected for the poor of Mentone. He also took part in the united prayer-meetings in the first week of the year, and sometimes spoke upon the topic selected for the occasion.
It is; scarcely possible to tell how many people were blessed under the semi-private ministry which Mr. Spurgeon was able to exercise during his holiday. He used, at times, to feel that the burden became almost too great to be borne, for it seemed as if all who were suffering from depression of spirit, whether living in Mentone, Nice, Cannes, Bordighera, or San Remo, found him out, and sought the relief which his sympathetic heart was ever ready to bestow. In one case, a poor soul, greatly in need of comfort, was marvelously helped by a brief conversation with him. Wine Pastor himself thus related the story, when preaching in the Tabernacle, in June, 1883: — “Some years ago, I was away in the South of France; I had been very ill there, and was sitting in my room alone, for my friends had all gone down to the mid-day meal. All at once it struck me that I had something to doout of doors; I did not know what it was, but I walked out, and sat down on a seat. There came and sat next to me on the seat a poor, pale, emaciated woman in the last stage of consumption; and looking at me, she. said, ‘ O Mr. Spurgeon, I have read your sermons for years, and I have learned to trust the Savior! I know I cannot live long, but I am very sad as I think of it, for I am so afraid to die.’ Then I knew why I had gone out there, and I began to try to cheer her. I found that it was very hard work.
After a little conversation, I said to her, ‘ Then you would like to go to Heaven, but not to die?’ ‘ Yes, just so,’ she answered. ‘ Well, how’ do you wish to go there? Would you like to ascend in a chariot of fire?’ That method had not occurred to her, but she answered, ‘Yes, oh, yes!’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘suppose there should be, just round this, corner, horses all on fire, and a blazing Chariot waiting there to take you up to Heaven; do you feel ready to step into such a chariot?’ She looked up at me, and she said, ‘ No, I should be afraid to do that.’ ‘ Ah!’ I said, ‘and so should I; I should tremble a great deal more at getting into a chariot of fire than I should at dying. I am not fond of being behind fiery horses, I would rather be excused from taking such a ride as that.’ Then I said to her, ‘ Let me tell you what will probably happen to you; you will most likely go to bed some night, and you will wake up in Heaven.’ That is just what did occur not long after; her husband wrote to tell me that, after our conversation, she had never had any more trouble about dying; she felt that it was; the easiest way into Heaven, after all, and far better than going there in a whirlwind with horses of fire and chariots of fire, and she gave herself up tot her Heavenly Father to, take her home in His own way; and so she passed away, as I expected, in her sleep.”
The testimony of one American minister is probably typical of that of many others who came under Mr. Spurgeon’s influence at Mentone. In on, of his letters to The Chicago Standard, Revelation W. H. Geistweit wrote — ” It has been said that, to know a man, you must live with him. For two months, every morning, I found myself in Mr. Spurgeon’s sitting-room, facing the sea, with the friends who had gathered there for the reading of the Word and prayer. To me, it is far sweeter to recall those little meetings than to think of him merely as the great preacher of the Tabernacle.
Multitudes heard him there while but few had the peculiar privilege accorded to me. His solicitude for others constantly shone out. An incident in illustration of this fact will1 never be forgotten by me. He had been very ill for’ a week, during which time, although I went daily to his hotel, he did not leave his bed, and could not be seen. His suffering was excruciating. A little later, I was walking in the street, one morning, when he spied me from his carriage. He hailed me, and when I approached him, he held out his left hand, and said cheerily, ‘Oh, you are worth five shillings a pound more than when I saw you last!’ And letting his voice fall to a tone of deep earnestness, he added, ‘Spend it all for the Lord ” A gentleman, who was staying in the hotel at Mentone, where the Pastor spent the winter of 1883, wrote — ” As an instance of the rapidity of Mr. Spurgeon’s preparation, the following incident may be given. There came to him, from London, a large parcel of Christmas and New Year’s cards.
These were shown to some of the residents at the hotel, and a lady of our party was requested to choose one from them. The card she selected was a Scriptural one; it was headed,’ The New Year’s Guest,’ and in harmony with the idea of hospitality, two texts were linked together ‘ I was a stranger, and ye took Me in ;’ and ‘ As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become, the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.’ The card was taken away by the lady; but, on the following Lord’s-day, after lunch, Mr. Spurgeon requested that it might be lent to him for a short time. The same afternoon, a service was held in his private room, and he then gave a most beautiful and impressive address upon the texts on the card. The sermonette was printed in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Shortly after that date, and has always seemed to me a wonderful illustration of Mr. Spurgeon’s great power. Later in the day, he showed me the notes he had made in the half-hour which elapsed between the time the card came into his possession and the service at which the address was delivered; and these, written on a half-sheet of notepaper, consisted of the two main divisions, each one with several sub-divisions, exactly as they appear in the. printed address.” (Just as this chapter was being compiled, one of “our own men,” Pastor W.
J. Tomkins, thus reported a far more remarkable instance of the rapidity of Mr. Spurgeon’s preparation — ” One Thursday evening, during the time I was a student in the College, the dear President had been preaching in the West of England, — at Bristol, I think, — and by some cause was delayed on his way back to London. At the commencement of the service, Mr. James Spurgeon announced that he had received a telegram from his brother, mentioning the delay, and stating that he would arrive in time to preach. During the reading of the lesson, which was the 1st chapter .of the Second Epistle to, Timothy, the great preacher entered, to the intense delight of the large congregation present. Mr. James Spurgeon was giving an exposition of the chapter when his brother, who had quietly taken a seat behind him, intimated his presence by gently pulling his coat-tail. The reading was soon finished, prayer was offered, and a hymn sung, and the text was announced ‘Wherefore put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.’ After an interesting and instructive introduction, the Pastor proceeded to deliver a most orderly and helpful discourse, which seemed to bear the marks of careful preparation, and it was with astonishment we heard him say, in the College the next day, that the whole sermon of the previous evening flashed across his mind while sitting upon the platform during the reading of the chapter by his brother.”) Occasionally, Mr. Spurgeon sent home the outline which he had used at the Sabbath afternoon communion, with some account of the service. The facsimile on the opposite page relates to the address upon the words, “Thou hast visited me in the night,” which was published in The Sword and the Trowel for December, 1886, under the title, “Mysterious Visits.” It contained quite a number of autobiographical allusions, such as the fol1owing — ” I hope that you and I have had many visits from our Lord.
Some of us have. had them, especially in the night, when we have been compelled to count the sleepless hours. ‘ Heaven’s gate opens when this world’s is shut.’ The night is still; everybody is away; work is done; care is forgotten; and then the Lord Himself draws near. Possibly there may be pain to be endured, the head may be aching, and the heart may be throbbing; but if Jesus comes to visit us, our bed of languishing becomes a throne of glory. Though it is true that’ He giveth His beloved sleep,’ yet, at such times, He gives them something better than sleep, namely, His own presence, and the fullness of joy which comes with it. By night, upon our bed, we have seen the unseen. I have tried sometimes not to sleep under an excess of joy, when the company of Christ has been sweetly mine..”
The closing paragraph is a good illustration of the way in which Mr. Spurgeon made use of the scenes around him to impress his message upon his hearers — “Go forth, beloved, and talk with Jesus on the beach, for He oft resorted to the sea-shore. Commune with Him amid the olive groves so dear to Him in many a night of wrestling prayer. If ever there was a country in which men should see traces of Jesus, next to the Holy Land, this Riviera is the favored spot. It is a land of ‘vines, and figs, and olives, and palms; I have called it ‘Thy land, O Immanuel.’ While in this Mentone, I often fancy that I am looking out upon the Lake of Gennesaret, or walking at the foot of the Mount of Olives, or peering into the mysterious gloom of the Garden of Gethsemane. The narrow streets of the old town are such as Jesus traversed, these villages are such as He inhabited. Have your hearts right with Him, and He will visit you often, until every day you shall walk with God, as Enoch did, and so turn week-days into Sabbaths, meals into sacraments, homes into temples, and earth into I-leaven. So be it with us!
The atmosphere at Mentone was so favorable for photographers’ work that many portraits of the. Pastor were taken during his sojourns in the sunny South. One of the very best is here reproduced.
At the same time and place, the portrait of his private secretary, was; also taken.
Some good people were evidently under the impression that Mr. Spurgeon’s stay in the Riviera afforded him the opportunity of doing literary work for which he had not the leisure while at home. On October 3, 1887, he gave an address, at the Tabernacle, to the members and friends of the Open Air Mission, upon “Winning Souls for Christ.” Shortly afterwards, he received a letter from the secretary, Mr. Gawin Kirkham, thanking him for the address, and adding -” Naturally, we are asked, on every hand, ‘Will it be published?’ We say, ‘Yes, please God. in due time.’
So, when you have time to revise it in the sunny South, we shall rejoice to receive it.”
The address was duly revised, and published, and its influence for good continues even to this day. The Pastor’s experience on that occasion was not at all unusual; for, very often, after he had preached or spoken on behalf of one or other of the Societies for which his help was constantly being asked, the sermon or address was sent to him, with a request for its revision. In such a busy life as his, ‘it was not easy to crowd in both the public testimony and the private toil which so frequently followed; yet, when it was possible, he gladly rendered the desired service in both its forms.
The sunshine and clear air at Mentone helped to increase the natural buoyancy of Mr. Spurgeon’s spirits, and so provided a large supply of pure fun for all who were there with him. Walking by the sea-shore, at a time when the Mediterranean was raging furiously, he asked, “What are the wild waves saying?” and then gave his own witty answer to the question, “Let us (s)pray!”
On the sad occasion when he fell down a marble staircase, he did not at first realize how seriously he had been hurt; and having turned a double somersault, in the course of which some money fell from his pocket into his Wellington boots, and having also lost a tooth, or teeth, in his descent, he ‘humorously described the whole transaction as “painless dentistry, with money to boot!”
One of the most amusing incidents at Mentone was associated with the lions represented in the illustration on page 221. When Dr. William Hanna was driving past these gates, Mr. Spurgeon most seriously assured him that, neither our own Zoologica1 Gardens, nor the Jardin d’Acclimatation at Paris, possessed a specimen of the species of lion to which these belonged, and the worthy doctor accepted the information with the utmost gravity; and it was not until he awoke, in the middle of the night, that he saw the meaning of his genial companion’s playful remark. The next day, when they met, the conversation naturally turned upon the necessity of a surgical operation in order to get an Englishman’s joke into a Scotchman’s head.
One evening, before table d’hote, it was noticed that Mr. Spurgeon was very busily writing something in which he appeared to be deeply interested.
After dinner, he went upstairs before the rest of the company; and when they arrived, he said he wanted to read to them a poem he had written, which was as follows — “Joseph Harrald.”
“Poor old Spurgeon we must urge on, Not so Joseph Harrald; Before: the sun he’s up, like fun, Ere the lark has carolled. ‘When worthy Stead has fired his lead, Not so Joseph Harrald; Sparkling wit is in his head, His puns are double-barreled. “Each other wight is wearied quite, Not so Joseph Harrald; On he works from morn to night; Beats poor Douglas Jerrold. “We appear in seedy gear.
Not so Joseph Harrald; In his glory he’ll appear, As Templars are appareled. “Wine’s; good drink, as others think, Not so Joseph Harrald; Truest blue, he’ll never shrink:
Let his brow be laureled. “When late he reads, sleep he needs, Even Joseph Harrald; Gapes with mouth, with which he feeds, With which he never quarreled. “Too familiar we, forget that he, Is the Reverend Joseph Harrald; From Geneva he; his theology Is Calvinized and Farelled.”
“Worthy Stead” was not Mr. W. T. Stead, but one of “our own men” who was then at Mentone. The Times of one day arrived the following evening; and it was not simply weariness, but dislike of the politics of the leading journal, especially in its attacks on Mr. Gladstone, that made the “late” reader feel the need of sleep. And, finally, “Joseph Harrald” had just as hearty a hatred of the title “Reverend” as ever was felt by his beloved Pastor and President, who, in this amusing fashion, exercised no little ingenuity in seeking to give pleasure to his private secretary and those dear to him.
On another occasion, Mr. Spurgeon wrote at Mentone what he called “A War-Song.” He included it in the programme of the following College Conference; and few who were then present are likely to forget the impression produced when, first, the hundreds of ministers and students, and, afterwards, the thousands gathered at the great public meeting in the Tabernacle, sang this soul-stirring hymn —
“Forth to the battle rides our King, He climbs His conquering car; He fits His arrows to the string, And hurls His bolts afar. “Convictions pierce the stoutest hearts, They smart, they bleed, they die; Slain by Immanuel’s well-aimed darts, In helpless heaps they lie. “Behold, He bares his two-edged sword, And deals almighty blows; His all-revealing, killing Word ‘Twixt joints and marrow goes. “Who can resist Him in the fight?
He cuts through coats of mall; Before the terror of His might The hearts of rebels fain. “Anon arrayed in robes of grace, He rides the trampled plain, With pity beaming in His face, And mercy in His train “Mighty to save He now appears, ‘Mighty to raise the dead, Mighty to stanch the bleeding wound, And lift the fallen head. “Victor alike in love and rams, Myriads around Him bend; Each captive owns His matchless charms, Each foe becomes His friend. “They crown Him on the battle-field, They press to kiss His feet; Their hands, their hearts, their all they yield:
His conquest is complete. “None love Him more than those He slew; His love their hate has slain; Henceforth their souls are all on fire To spread His gentle reign.”