UNABATED AFFECTION BETWEEN PASTOR AND PEOPLE.
MANY of Mr. Spurgeon’s letters, published in previous chapters, answer to his own description of the brief “notes” which had to be hurriedly penned amid the heavy pressure of almost incessant toil. Yet he wrote other letters and, amongst the choicest of them, were those addressed to the officers and members of the church at the Tabernacle. Many of these have never been published, although carefully preserved; but it is impossible to convey a true idea of the Pastor’s correspondence without including at least a few specimens of his later epistles to the beloved brethren and sisters committed to his charge. In writing to them, he often seemed to pour out his very soul in his pleading with them to be consistent, prayerful, Christian men and women, earnestly laboring for the good of the people amongst whom their lot was cast.
The following selection comprises the letters written during one sojourn in the sunny South, although, in order to make the set complete, it is necessary to insert the last communication from the Pastor’s sick-room before he was able to start for his needed and deserved holiday — “Dearly-beloved Friends, “I am right glad that those who filled my place, last Sabbath, were so graciously enabled to feed your souls. It matters little who distributes the bread so long as it comes fresh from Jesu’s hand. I join you in earnest prayer that the brethren, who have so kindly come to my relief today, may have equally adequate assistance from our Lord and His Spirit. I thank them, but I also envy them; and would gladly pay a king’s ransom, if I had it, for the privilege of preaching this Sabbath. My envy condenses into a prayer that all my Lord’s ambassadors may have good speed this day, that so His Kingdom of peace may mightily grow in the land. “After enduring much intense pain, I am now recovering, and, like a little child, am learning to stand, and to totter from chair to chair.
The trial is hot, but it does not last long; and there is herein much cause for gratitude. My last two attacks have been of this character.
It may be the will of God that I should have many more of these singular seizures and, if so, I hope you will have patience with me. I have done all as to die to abstinence from stimulants, and so on, which could be done and, as the complaint still continues, the cause must be elsewhere. We call the evil ‘gout’ for want of a better’ word, but it differs widely from the disorder which usually goes under that name. “On the last two occasions when I broke down, I had an unusual pressure of work upon me. My service, among you is so arduous that I can just keep on, at a medium pace, if I have nothing extra to do; but any additional labor overthrows me. If I were an iron man, you should have my whole strength till the last particle had been ‘worn away; but as 1 am only flesh and blood, you must take from me what I can give, and look for no more. May that service which I can render be. accepted of the Lord! “I now commend you, dear friends, to the Lord’s keeping. Nothing will cheer me so much as to hear that God is among you; and I shall judge of this by importunate prayer-meetings, the good works of the church systematically and liberally sustained, and converts coming forward to confess their faith in Christ. This last token of blessing I look for and long for every week. ‘ Who is on the Lord’s side?’ Wounded on the battle-field, I raise myself on my arm, and cry to those around me, and urge them to espouse my Master’s cause, for if we were wounded or dead for His sake, all would be gain. By the splendor of redeeming love, I charge each believer to confess his Lord, and live wholly to Him. “Yours for Christ’s sake, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
Not very long after this letter was written, the Pastor was able to start for the South of France. On the way to Mentone, he made a short stay at Cannes, and from there wrote, on January 31 — “To my Beloved Church and Congregation, “Dear. Friends, “The journey here is long for one who is in weak health, and I have had but a few days of rest, but already I feel myself improving. The Master’s service among you has been very delightful to me; but it has grown to such proportions that I have felt the burden of it weighing very heavily upon my heart, and I have suffered more depression of spirit, and weariness of mind, than I could well express. Rest I could not find at home, where every hour has its cares; but here, I cease altogether from these things, and the mind becomes like an unstrung bow, and so regains its elasticity. “I wish I could work on among you continually, and never even pause; but many infirmities show that this; cannot be. Pray, therefore, that this. needful break in my work may strengthen me for a long spring and summer campaign. “Nothing can so cheer me as to know that all of you are living for Jesus, and living like Him. Our church has produced great workers in the past, and I hope the sacred enthusiasm which they manifested will never burn low among us. Jesus is worth being served with our best; yea, with our all, and that in an intense and all-consuming manner. May our young men and women love the Lord much, and win others to Him by their zeal for God; and may our elder brethren, and the matrons among us, prove ever the pillars of the church in their holy conversation and devout godliness! “Maintain the prayer-meetings at blood-heat. See well to the Sunday-schools, and all the Bible-classes, and other labors for Christ. Let nothing flag of prayer, service, or offering. We have a great trust; may the Lord make us faithful to it! My’ love is with you all, and my prayers for your welfare. “Oh, that you who are still unsaved may be led to Jesus through those who supply my lack of service! Peace be with the Co-pastor, deacons, and elders, and with you all! “From your loving but unworthy Pastor, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
In his humility, he called himself unworthy, but no one else would have used such an epithet concerning him. Never, surely, was there a more worthy as well as loving under-shepherd of the flock.
The next epistle shows that he had reached his destination — “Mentone, “Wednesday evening. “To my Dear Friends at the Tabernacle, “It is only a few days since I wrote to you, and therefore I have nothing fresh to report, except that, each clay, I feel the need and the value of the rest which I am beginning to enjoy. I have only arrived here this afternoon; but the warm sunshine and the clear atmosphere make me feel as if I had reached another world, and tend greatly to revive my weary mind. “It would be well it I could write without mentioning myself, and for your edification only. Forgive the need which there is of alluding to my health; it would best please me if I could work right on, and never have the wretched item of self to mention. My mind runs much upon the work at home, — the services, the College, the Orphanage, the Colportage, the Sabbath-school, the coming special meetings, and so on. I picture all things in my mind’s eye, and wonder how all are going on; then I pray, and leave the whole with ‘ that great Shepherd of the sheep.’ “My brother and all the officers will watch for the good of the church; and the more spiritual and full-grown among you will also care for the state of the work; and so the’ Lord will use your instrumentality for His glory. We are set for a sign and token of the power of the old-fashioned gospel, and we are bound to prove to all around, not only that the truth can gather, but that it can hold. It will not only forcibly draw men together, but it will bind them together; and that, too, not through some favored preacher, but by its own intrinsic force. This assertion needs proof, and you will prove it. “May God, the Eternal Spirit, abide over you all, beloved, and cause you to be strong by the anointing of the Holy One! May the poor be comforted, the sick supported, the warriors be strengthened, and the laborers be sustained! My hearty love is ever with you. “There my best friends, my kindred, dwell, There God my Savior reigns.’ “Yours in Christ Jesus, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
“KEEP UP THE PRAYER-MEETINGS.”
The following week, this letter was written — “Mentone, “February 7. “My Beloved Friends, “After enjoying a few restful nights and quiet days, I feel myself coming round again, and my heart is full of praise and thanksgiving to our gracious God. Your prayers have been incessant, and have prevailed; and I am very grateful to you all. As long as I am able, it will be my joy to be of service, to you; and my only grief has been that sickness has weakened my powers, and rendered me less able to discharge my happy duties among you. The post I occupy needs a man at his best, and I have of late been very much the reverse.
However, we know who it is that giveth power to the faint, and so we trust that feeble, efforts have not been ineffectual. “I shall be doubly indebted to the goodness of our Lord if the remainder of my rest shall confirm the beneficial work which has commenced.. The further repose will, I hope, make me stronger for the future. “I have not yet heard tidings of the special services, but I hope that every member is at work to make them a success. Pray about them, speak about them, attend them, assist in them, bring others to them.
Our two evangelists are the right instruments, but the hand of the Lord is needed to work by them. Call upon Him whose hand it is, and He will work according to His own good pleasure. The times are such that churches holding the old truths must be active and energetic, that the power of the gospel may be manifest to all. We need to uplift a banner because of the truth. So numerous a church as ours may accomplish great things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, if only we are once in downright earnest. Playing at religion is wretched; it must be everything to us, or it will be nothing. “Peace be with you all, and abounding love! “Your hearty friend, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
There is a gap in the correspondence here; for, even on the sunny shore of the Mediterranean, the Pastor’s constitutional enemy found him out, and inflicted fresh suffering upon him. After an interval of three weeks, he was able to write as follows — “Mentone, “February 28. “Beloved Friends, “I rejoice that the time of my return to you is now a matter of a few days, and that I have every prospect, if the Lord will, of returning with health established and mind rested. Perhaps never before have I been brought so low in spirit, and assured, never more graciously restored. May the Lord sanctify both the trial and the recovery, so that I may be a fitter instrument in His hand to promote His glory and your highest good! “The last fortnight of additional rest was wisely ordained by a higher hand than that of the good deacons, who suggested it to me; for, without it, I should not have had space to pass through an attack of pain which has .just swept over me, and left me improved by its violence. The last few days will, I feel, be the best of the whole, when I shall not have to be thoughtful of recovery, but altogether restful. “Good news from the Tabernacle continues to be as cold waters to a thirsty soul. You have had great times of refreshing; may their influence abide with you! We must not go to sleep on my return, nor at any other time; but steadily labor on, and ‘watch for souls.
Spurts are very helpful; but to keep up the pace at a high regular figure, is the most important thing. Even an invalid can make a great exertion when some remarkable occasion excites him to do so; but constant, unwearied effort belongs only to those who have stamina and inward force. May our whole church prove itself to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, by unceasingly carrying on its work of faith and labor of love! “In these days, we are regarded as Puritanical and old-fashioned; and this description, I trust, we shall never be ashamed of, but wear it as an ornament. The old orthodox faith is to us no outworn creed of past ages, but a thing of power, a joy for ever. In the Name of the Lord, who by that faith is honored, we press forward to proclaim again and again the doctrines of the grace of God, the efficacy of the blood of the Divine Substitute, and the power of the Eternal Spirit; and we feel assured that, whoever may oppose, the omnipotent gospel will prevail. “The multitudes, are hungering for that old-fashioned bread whereon their fathers fed, and too many preachers now give them newly-carved stones, and bid them admire the skill of the,. modern sculptors. We mean to keep to the distribution of bread, and the stone-cutters will meet with no competition from us in their favorite amusement. But, brethren, only a living church — holy, prayerful, active, — can make the old truth victorious. Linked with a mass of mere profession, it will perform no exploits. To you and to me there is a growing call for greater spirituality, and more Divine power, for the work before us increases in difficulty. “The Lord be with you all, and with your Pastor, deacons, and elders! So prays — “Yours lovingly, “C. H.SPURGEON.”
The officers and members of the church took many opportunities of assuring the Pastor of their unwavering attachment and unabated affection. His seasons of sickness afforded occasions for the expression of special sympathy and love. The following letter, written by Mr. B. Wildon Cart, and adopted at a full meeting of the church at the close of the service on a Lord’s-day evening, is a sample of the communications that helped to cheer Mr. Spurgeon when laid aside from active labor for the Lord — “Very dear and highly-esteemed Pastor, “Meeting around the communion table of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are all of us, this night, sad and sorrowful because of your illness; and one impulse fills every heart, we are unanimous in the desire to offer you some expression of our heartfelt sympathy. “We had hoped that, after a few days’ rest, you would have been relieved of the bodily pain, the physical weakness, and the mental depression with which it has pleased our Heavenly Father to visit you. The Lord has done it. We accept the affliction, as you do, from the hand of God. But we cannot help comparing you to a warrior wounded in action, or to a physician prostrated with exertions to prescribe for patients that importune him on every side.
For the work of Christ, you have been nigh unto death, not regarding your life, to supply a lack of service, toward us. “We cannot forget that this visitation came upon you immediately after a season of heavy labor, remarkable energy, and (as we cannot doubt) of heavenly joy in the service of Christ, of this church, and of other churches. It seems to us meet, therefore, that we should attribute the cause of it to a natural infirmity of the flesh, and not in any wise to the severity of the Lord’s chastening. “Beloved Pastor, we remember, with tender gratitude, how generously you have always associated us with you in all the success and prosperity that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have attended your ministry. We never could doubt your sincerity, in offering the praise to God, when we witnessed your humility in imparting so much of the credit (entirely due to yourself to the unworthy brethren and sisters who watch and pray with you, while we account it a high privilege to follow our Lord and Master, as you lead our forces. “With the affection we bear you, we can truly say that we should account it a happiness to bear your sufferings amongst us; some of us would gladly take them all, if we could thereby relieve you of the heavy cross that bows you down. As we sit before the Lord, we think of you, as the people said to David, ‘Thou art worth ten thousand of us.’ Kindly accept, then, our united expression of love in Christ Jesus, tendered to you in a solemn hour. It may be superfluous to you, but it is refreshing to us to get an opportunity of communicating with you in your sick chamber. “May the Lord look tenderly upon you in your affliction! May He graciously remember your work and labor o1: love, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister! May He be very attentive to our prayers and intercessions on your behalf, that you may be restored to us, not in weakness and decrepitude, but in the fullness of vigor, with your youth renewed like the eagle’s, — .and that right early!” (Signed, on behalf of the church, by fifteen deacons and elders.)
It is significant that only two of the church-officers whose signatures were appended to the letter — one deacon and one elder — still survive.
The following extracts from a letter, written by Mr. Carr to his absent Pastor at Mentone, will still further indicate the loving relationship which existed between Mr. Spurgeon and those who labored with him in the gospel — “My Dear Mr. Spurgeon, “I cannot doubt that you receive, through one and another, full accounts of all matters that relate to the Tabernacle, and the Institutions connected with it, in which many brethren feel the high honor of being associated with you. We are continually hearing of letters you have sent in reply to those that have been written to, you. “I often think that, if you could hear in what manner you are spoken of, and in what love and tender regard you are held by your church — officers, you would blush a little. And, then, if you heard the members of the church ask after your health, and say how sorry they were theft you purposed coming home so soon, and how sincerely they wished you would stay till these biting winds had ceased to blow, you would ‘be jealous of yourself with a jealousy that might be very justifiable. If you were to hear what the outside public are constantly saying of you. you might be astonished, but you would be gratified, for, very obviously, there are thousands, who love not the Lord Jesus Christ, who look upon you as one of the best men that ever lived, and one who is doing great good to his fellows. “Your long affliction, and your tedious banishment, have already borne some peaceable fruits. The stable character of your work has been proved. Had the church been built on the basis of your popularity as a preacher, the congregations would not have been so well kept up in your’ absence; but, so far from that being the case, the prayer-meetings and the weekly communion services are well attended, even when the severe weather, had you been here, would have bee. n sufficient to account for some deficiencies. This has been no ordinary winter. ‘four brother was saying, the other day, that, although we have not yet completed the first quarter of the year, the deaths have already exceeded the average for the halfyear.
That may not be so gloomy as it sounds. The depression in the temperature has possibly hastened the exit of some whose constitutions would not have held out for the,, year, and so the average, of which he speaks, may tell no more than its usual tale when the next annual meeting comes round. It, then, the number of your twinges and groans has been reduced by the retreat to a more sheltered locality, let us be thankful, and hope for you a full community on your return. “What a nice deacons’ meeting we had on Friday! There was; a fill muster of brethren; not one was absent, but the one to whom we all look as Pastor, President, father, and friend. And yet, to the imagination of each one, he was present. No matter was broached without a distinct intimation, on the part of every one,, to consult his wishes. This was the rallying-point of harmonious thought and feeling that became almost pathetic as the meeting proceeded. The secretary will have his work cut out if he tries to make the minutes reflect the business of the evening. I will not attempt it. From resolutions we abstained; and the recommendations were left to our chairman, the Co-pastor, to formulate, and forward for your approval.”
On May 10, 1881, Mr. William Olney wrote to his suffering Pastor a letter of loving sympathy, in which he gave a cheering account of the progress of various portions of the work at the. Tabernacle, and then added — ”You will, I am sure, excuse me for writing rather a long letter to you to-day, as it is my sixtieth birthday. I want to tell you how thankful I am that my lot has been cast, in the good providence of God, under your ministry, and how grateful I am to you for the many years of blessing and instruction I have spent sitting at your feet. I have had great pleasure, for many years, in daily commending you to God, and in doing what I can to assist you in your earnest efforts for God’s glory and the good of souls; but I fear I have done but little. Oh, that it were more! Words cannot express the debt of love I owe to you; and you must kindly excuse my infirmity in not being able to show it ‘better’ in deeds than I have done.”
To the end of his life, Mr. William Olrey’s loving esteem for his Pastor remained unchanged; and when he was “called home,” he was sorely missed.
The year which was to witness the joyful celebration of Mr. Spurgeon’s Jubilee opened for him under trying circumstances. He was away at Mentone, very ill; yet the following letter seems to have caught some of the brightness; of the sunny land where it ‘was penned — “Mentone, “January 10, 1884. “Dear Friends, “I am altogether stranded. I am not able to leave my bed, or to find much rest upon it. The pains of rheumatism, lumbago, and sciatic, mingled together, are. exceedingly sharp. If I happen to turn a little to the right hand or to the left, I am soon aware that I am dwelling in a body capable of the most acute suffering. “However, I am as happy and cheerful as a man can be. I feel it such a great relief that I am not yet robbing the Lord of my work, for my holiday has not quite run out. A man has a right to have the. rheumatism if he lilies when his time is his own. The worst of it is, that I am afraid I shall have to intrude into my Master’s domains, and draw again upon ,,,our patience. Unless I get better very soon, I cannot get home in due time’ and I am very much afraid that, if I did return at the date arranged, I should be of no use to you, for I should be sure to be laid aside. “The deacons have written me a letter, in which they unanimously recommend me to take two more Sundays, so that I may get well, and not return to you an invalid. I wrote to them saying that I thought I must take a week; but as I do not get a bit better, but am rather worse, I am afraid I shall have to make it a fortnight, as they proposed. Most men find that they go right when they obey their wives; and as my’ wife and my deacons are agreed on this matter, I am afraid I should go doubly wrong if I ran contrary to them. I hope you will all believe that, if the soldier could stand, he would march; and if your servant were able, he would work; but when a man is broke, n in two by the hammer of pain, he must ‘wait till he gets spliced again. “May the best of blessings continue to rest upon you! May those who supply my place be very graciously helped by the Spirit of God! “Yours, with all my heart; “C. H.SPURGEON.”
The Pastor often referred, as he did in this letter, to his “right” to be ill during his holiday; but the next communication from his church-officers shows that their regrets on account of his sufferings, at such times, were intensified by the knowledge that, instead of joyously resting and being refreshed, he was enduring painful afflictions..
In January, 1885, instead of being in the sunny South, as he had hoped to be, Mr. Spurgeon was still at home, too ill to travel. At a special churchmeeting, held at the Tabernacle, on January 12, it was unanimously and heartily resolved that the’. following letter should be forwarded to “Westwood” — “Dear Pastor, “We have heard, with profound grief, that you have been unable to go out on your proposed visit to Mentone in consequence of severe and painful illness during the past week. Our sincere sympathy’ is rather increased than lessened by the reflection that this season of affliction has not been borrowed from your time of service for the church, but from the period of recreation to which you have a perfect right as well as a hearty welcome. “While devoutly recognizing the hand of the Lord in this and in all other dispensations of His providence, we feel that it cannot be irreverent to seek some clear interpretation of the will of our Heavenly Father. Can we be mistaken in supposing that the. lesson to us and to yourself is transparent? Your arduous labors, and your incessant anxieties, so far exceed the average strength of your constitution that there is an imperative demand for you to take longer and more frequent occasions of retirement, and to take them, not when you have used up ‘ the last ounce of your strength,’ but when you are in unimpaired vigor. “Under present circumstances, we earnestly entreat you to consecrate at least three months to entire relaxation from the duties of your sacred office; and if it seem good to you, let the appointment of supplies for ),our pulpit be left to the Co-pastor and the deacons, subject always to their accepting any suggestion of yours, and ‘their communicating to you every arrangement of theirs, as is their habitual wont. “And accept, herewith, our assurance, as a church, that we will all unite in a strong’ determination to support the good work of the Tabernacle by constant attendance, both on Sundays and weekevenings, and by offering our full contributions to the support of the various institutions of the church. “With sincere affection, and unceasing prayers for your recovery, “We are, dear Pastor, “Yours ever lovingly,” (Signed by the church-officers.)
On his recovery, the Pastor left for Mentone, and he was therefore absent at the time of the annual church-meeting; but he wrote the following letter to be read to the members — “Mentone, “February 9, 1885. “To the Church in the Tabernacle, “Beloved in the Lord, “I salute you all right heartily. I regret that an annual churchmeeting should be held without me; but I know that all things will be done rightly, for the Spirit of God is among you. “I write only to send my love, and to assure you that I am greatly profiting by the rest which has been given me. I am weak indeed, but I feel much more myself again. I have learned, by experience, that I must go away in November each year, or else I shall be at home ill. If the Lord will help me through the other months of the year, I might rest in November and December with a clear economy of time. I want to do the most possible; and, on looking over the past, this appears to be the wisest way. “The other matter is, — the elders propose special services, and my whole heart say’s ‘Yes.’ If the church takes it up, the result will be, with the Divine blessing, a great ingathering. Members canvassing from door to door, and leaving a sermon, might do much good. I will subscribe £5 towards a fund for sermons, suitably selected, to be given away. The chief point is, to get the people in, not by bribing them with tea, etc., but by fair persuasion. Oh, for a great blessing! “I feel grieved to be out of the running, but I cannot help it. I can pray, and I do. Rally round your leaders. Pray with double earnestness. Be instant in season and out of season. Attempt great things;, and expect great things. “May the Lord bless, guide, comfort, strengthen and uphold the Co-pastor, deacons, elders, and every one of you, for Jesus’ sake! “Yours in hearty affection, “C. H.SPURGEON.” “I hope you will re-elect the treasurer and all the elders; they cannot be improved upon.”
On the proposition of Mr. William Olney, the following congratulatory resolution was sent to the Pastor — “Resolved that, in review of the past year, we congratulate our dear Pastor on the good hand of the Lord which has been with him, and with us. Three circumstances, each of double significance, haw distinguished this year from other years in our history. “The first is, that, while an unusually bright summer diminished the attendance of our church-members, an extraordinary influx of rural visitors to the ‘ Healtheries Exhibition’ secured the crowding of the Metropolitan Tabernacle to its utmost capacity. “The second is, that, although Mr. Spurgeon’s severe indisposition, in the autumn, deprived us of his services on many successive Lord’s-days, his son Thomas, home from New Zealand, most acceptably supplied the pulpit in his absence. “The third is, that, notwithstanding a long death-roll, our band of deacons remains unbroken; and only one of our beloved elders, a brother ripe in years as well as in grace, has been taken from among us. “To these reasons for heartfelt gratitude, we must add a fourth, which we record with unmingled satisfaction. It is that another volume of our dear Pastor’s sermons has been placed on our bookshelves, fully equal in freshness; and force, in unction and usefulness, to any of the twenty-nine volumes that preceded it.”
The following chapter will prove that the church-officers and members showed their sympathy with Mr. Spurgeon not only by loving letters and cordial resolutions, but also by practical and substantial tokens of their affection and esteem.