A TYPICAL WEEK'S WORK.
Preaching at the Tabernacle, on the text, "Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well," Mir. Spurgeon said— "It seems rather singular, but it is worthy of notice, that our Lord appears to have been more tired than His disciples were, for they had gone away into the city to buy meat; I suppose that He might have gone with them if He had not been more fatigued than they were,. He was quite worn out, and thoroughly spent; and so, while they went into Sychar to purchase provisions, He sat down on the well. I take it that, in all probability, the reason is this,-He had mental weariness associated with His bodily fatigue; and when the two things come together, they make a man wearied indeed. I know that there are some who fancy that, to think and to care for others, to preach and to teach, is not much of work. Well, my dear brother, I can assure you that you may keep on working much longer with your arm than you can with your brain; and I am speaking from experience when I say that careful thought, and great anxiety to do good, bring much wear and tear with them to a man's whole constitution. And if the life is taken out of anyone in two ways at once,-by fatigue of body, and by fatigue of mind, too,- then you will see that such a man will necessarily be the first to give way. "But my Lord, though He is very weary, has at last spied out the person for whom He is waiting and watching. Here she comes; and now His heart seems to beat more quickly, His eye is brighter than usual, He is not half so fatigued as He was. You may have seen the faint and tired hunter suddenly grow strong when, at last, he spies on the crag the chamois he has come to seek; or the fisherman standing wearily in the stream, holding his rod, and ready to go home to his long-needed meal, but, at last, the salmon begins to pull away at his line, now how strong a man he is! He will go on for an hour at that work, and he will not want to eat or drink. The whole of his being is in the fishing. So was it with my blessed Master. That woman was coming, and Christ was `all there,' as u e say. He was ready to speak the right word,-a word in season to one who was weary,-to speak the word of admonition, or of comfort, or of invitation; and He is `all here' at this moment. I thought, when I stood here tonight to speak to you, `I am constantly coming to the Tabernacle to talk to this great throng,' and something seemed to say to me, `You ought to be glad to have such an opportunity.' I thought, `Yes, and I am glad; and I will at my very best preach Christ to them as long as this tongue can move, for it is a delightful privilege to be allowed to tell men about my Master's pardoning love.' But, oh, if He were here in bodily presence, He would do it so much better than any of us can, for His heart is so much more full of love than our poor hearts are!"\parMANY people have wondered how it was possible for Mr. Spurgeon to do all the work that he was able to perform, for so many years, with such happy results. He had efficient helpers in various departments of his service, and he was always ready to render to them their full meed of praise. Yet, with all the assistance upon which he could rely, there still remained for the chief worker a vast amount of toil which he could not delegate to anyone. He was a splendid organizer, and he could find employment suited to the capacity of many individuals with greatly varied qualifications; and while he could keep them all busily occupied, he was himself so quick in all his labor that he would probably do single-handed as much as all of them combined could accomplish.
The following description of a typical week's work will afford at least a glimpse of the way in which the dear Pastor spent a considerable portion of his time, and it will also indicate some of the methods adopted by him in discharging the heavy responsibilities which devolved upon him. In such an active and far-reaching life as his was, no one week in the year could be quite like the rest, nor indeed did the occupations of any two days exactly resemble one another; but the particulars here given will supply all that needs to be known about a fairly representative week's work.
The week must consist of seven days, for the Day of Rest was, in many respects, the beloved preacher's busiest time; and, although he often tried hard to get a Sabbath for himself on the Wednesday, the ever-increasing and not always reasonable requests for services, all over the kingdom, frequently encroached upon the brief period of relaxation to which he was rightfully entitled, and which the claims of health imperatively demanded.
He was, perhaps, all the more willing to take a long holiday in the winter because he had toiled so strenuously and almost continuously through all the other months of the year; though it must also be recorded that during his seasons of rest, he probably did as much as most men do when in full work. `The sermon had to be issued every week, and the magazine every month, material for the Almanacks had to be arranged, there were always some new books in course of preparation, many letters followed the absent minister wherever he might go, and the care of his own church and many others, and the many forms of holy service in which he was; interested, left all too little leisure for the weary brain and the oft-suffering body. But if his holiday was a time of toil, what must have been the pressure when, for weeks and months at a stretch, it was almost literally "all work and no play"?
In describing a typical week's work, a beginning can most appropriately be made with an account of the preparation for the hallowed engagements of the Sabbath. Up to six o'clock, every Saturday evening, visitors were welcomed at "Westwood," the dear master doing the honors of the garden in such a way that many, with whom he thus walked and talked, treasure the memory of their visit as a very precious thing. At the tea-table, the conversation was bright, witty, and always interesting; and after the meal was over, an adjournment was made to the study for family worship, and it was at these seasons that my beloved's prayers were remarkable for their tender childlikeness, their spiritual pathos, and their intense devotion. He seemed to come as near to God as a little child to a loving father, and we were often moved to tears as he talked thus face to face with his Lord. At six o'clock, every visitor left, for Mr. Spurgeon would often playfully say, "Now, dear friends, I must bid you `Good-bye,' and turn you out of this study; you know what a number of chickens I have to scratch for, and I want to give them a good meal tomorrow." So, with a hearty "God bless you!" he shook hands with them, and shut himself in to companionship with his God. The inmates of the house went quietly about their several duties, and a holy silence seemed to brood over the place. What familiar intercourse with the Savior he so greatly loved, was then vouchsafed to him, we can never know, for, even while. I write, I hear a whisper, "The place, whereon thou standest is holy ground." No human ear ever heard the mighty pleadings with God, for himself, and his people, which rose from his study on those solemn evenings; no mortal eyes ewer beheld him as he wrestled with the Angel of the covenant until he prevailed, and came back from his brook Jabbok with the message he was to deliver in his Master's Name. His grandest and most fruitful sermons were those which cost him most soul-travail and spiritual anguish;-not in their preparation or arrangement, but in his; own overwhelming sense of accountability to God for the souls to whom he had to preach the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Though he had the gift of utterance above many, preaching was to him no light or trifling task; his whole heart was absorbed in it, all his spiritual force was engaged in it, all the intellectual power, with which God had so richly endowed him, was pressed into this glorious service, and then laid humbly and thankfully at the feet of his Lord and Savior, to be used and blessed by Him according to His gracious will and purpose.
Sometimes, but not often, he would leave the study for a few moments, to seek me, and say, with a troubled tone in his clear voice, "Wiley, what shall I do? God has not given me my text yet." I would comfort him as well as I could; and, after a little talk, he would return to his work, and wait and watch for the Word to be given. It was to me, a cause for peculiar thankfulness when I was able to suggest to him a passage from which he could preach; and, afterwards, in referring to the sermon, he seemed so pleased to say, "You gave me that text."
Many years ago, on a Friday evening in Conference week, a number of the ministers met at "Westwood," as was usual with them, to talk over the doings of the past days, and to enjoy a chat with the President in his own home. During the evening, it was suggested that each one should explain his method of procedure in the most important matter of sermon-making; and the idea found great favor with the little company. Many of the brethren responded, and told, more or less interestingly, their manner of preparation; but it was evident that all awaited with impatience the moment when "the dear Governor" should speak, and reveal to them the secrets of his Saturday nights' work. Very eager were the faces turned to him as he sat, blissfully happy in his easy chair, the strain of the week over, and in full enjoyment of the free and holy fellowship which obtained on such occasions. I cannot recall his very words, but the purport of them was something like this — "Brethren, it is not easy for me to tell you precisely how I make my sermons. All through the week I am on the look-out for material that I can use on the Sabbath; but the actual work of arranging it is necessarily, left until Saturday evening, for every other moment is fully occupied in the Lord's service. I have often said that my greatest difficulty is to fix my mind upon the particular texts which are to be the subjects of discourse, on the following day; F5 or, to speak more correctly, to know what topics the Holy Spirit would have me bring before the congregation.
As soon as any passage of Scripture really grips my heart and soul, I concentrate my whole attention upon it, look at the precise meaning of the original, closely examine the context so as to see the special aspect of the text in its surroundings, and roughly jot down all the thoughts that occur to me concerning the subject, leaving to a later period the orderly marshalling of them for presentation to my hearers. "When I have reached this point, I am often stopped by an obstacle which is only a trouble to those of us whose sermons are regularly printed. I turn to my own Bible, which contains a complete record of all my published discourses; and, looking at these I have preached upon the text, I find, perhaps, that the general run of thought is so similar to that which I have marked out, that I have to abandon the subject, and seek another. Happily, a text of Scripture is like a diamond with many facets, which sparkles and flashes; whichever way it is held, so that, although I may have already printed, several sermons upon a particular passage, there is still a fresh setting; possible for the priceless gem, and I can go forward with my work.
I like next to see what others have to say about my text; and, as a rule, my experience is that, if its teaching is perfectly plain, the commentators, to a man, explain it at great length, whereas, with equal unanimity, they studiously avoid or evade the verses which Peter might have described as `things hard to be understood.' I am very much obliged to them for leaving me so many nuts to crack; but I should have been just as grateful if they had made more use of their own theological teeth or nut-crackers.
However, among the many who have written upon the Word, I generally find some who can at least help to throw a side light upon it; and when I have arrived at that part of my preparation, I am glad to call my clear wife to my assistance. She reads to me until I get a clear idea of the whole subject; and, gradually, I am guided to the best form of outline, which I copy out, on a half-sheet of notepaper, for use in the pulpit. This relates only to the morning sermon; for the evening, I am usually content if I can decide upon the text, and have a general notion of the lessons to be drawn from it, leaving to the Lord's-day afternoon the final arrangement of divisions, sub-divisions, and illustrations.
This is as nearly as I can recollect, the dear preacher's own explanation of his mode of preparing his discourses; and when I have called my readers' attention to the accompanying facsimile of the rough notes and jottings made by him on one of those memorable Saturday evenings, I may resume my own portion of the narrative. "Will you come and help me tonight, Wiley?" he would say, as if I were doing him a favor, though the service was one which an angel might have coveted. I always found, when I went into the study, an easy chair drawn up to the table, by his side, and a big heap of books piled one upon the other, and opened at the place where he desired me to read. With those old volumes around him, he was like a honey-bee amid the flowers; he seemed to know how to extract and carry off the sweet spoils from the most unpromising-looking tome among them.
His acquaintance with them was so familiar and complete, that he could at once place his hand on any author who had written upon the portion of Scripture which was engaging his attention; and I was, in this pleasant fashion, introduced to many of the Puritan and other divines whom, otherwise, I might not have known. These seasons were of such special delight to me that I gave a brief account of them in my book, Ten Years of My Life; and, as the description then came fresh from my heart, and warm with the joy of sacred fellowship, I prefer to transcribe it here, rather than trust to my memory for details— "For some time, it has been the dear Pastor's custom, as soon as the text for the Lord's-day morning service has been given him by the Master, to call me into the study, and permit me to read the various Commentaries on the subject-matter in hand. Never was occupation more delightful, instructive, and spiritually helpful; my heart has burned within me, as the meaning of some passage of God's Word has been opened up, and the hidden stores of wisdom and knowledge have been revealed; or when the marrow and fatness of a precious promise or doctrine have been spread like a dainty banquet before my longing eyes. Shall I ever forget those solemn evenings when the sufferings of the Lord Jesus were the theme of tearful meditation; — when, with `love and grief our hearts dividing,' we followed Him throughout the night on which He was betrayed, weeping, like the daughters of Jerusalem, and saying, `There was never sorrow like unto His sorrow;' — or the more rapturous time when the topic for the morrow was to be, `the exceeding riches of His grace,' and `we were fairly bewildered by the inexhaustible treasures of love and mercy to be found in that fair `land of Havilah, where there is gold'? Gracious hours are those thus spent, and unspeakably precious to my soul; for, while the servant of the Lord is reaping the corn of the Kingdom for the longing multitude who expect to be fed by his hand, I can glean between the sheaves, and gather the `handfuls of purpose' which are let fall so lovingly. "There come delightful pauses in my reading, when the book is laid down, and I listen to the dear voice of my beloved as he explains what I cannot understand, or unfold meanings which I fail to see, often condensing into a few clear, choice sentences whole pages of those discursive old divines in whom he delights, and pressing from the gathered thoughts all the richest nectar of their hidden sweetness. Thus, a poor prisoner has the first sip of the `wines on the lees, well-refined,'-the first morsel from the loaves with which the thousands are to be fed and refreshed on the morrow. How shall I sufficiently thank God for this drink of the brook by the way, this `holy place' within my home where the Lord deigns to meet with me, and draw out my heart in adoration and worship?"
Lord's-day morning. — Mr. Spurgeon always set a good example to his people by being early at the sanctuary. He usually reached the Tabernacle at least half an hour before the time for commencing the service. During that interval, he attended to any matters that were of special urgency, selected the hymns that were to be sung, and arranged with the precentor the tunes best adapted to them; and the remaining minutes were spent in prayer with all the deacons and elders who were not already on duty elsewhere. The dear preacher himself greatly valued that season of devotion, and his sermons contain many references to the petitions presented by the brethren in his vestry before joining in the public worship of the great congregation. During the thirty years that he preached in the beautiful building he had so largely helped to erect, there was practically no difference in the size of his audience, for the Tabernacle was always crowded, though sometimes the number of friends unable to gain admission, when the outer gates were closed, was larger than on other occasions. Punctually at eleven o'clock, Mr. Spurgeon was seen descending the steps leading to the platform, followed by the long train of officebearers, and, after a brief pause for silent supplication, the service began.
There is no necessity to describe in detail even one of those memorable assemblies. In the course of his long ministry, many hundreds of thousands of persons, from all parts of the globe, heard him proclaim that gospel which became to multitudes of them the power of God unto salvation; while, happily, by means of the printed sermons, the messages he delivered continue to reach an ever-widening circle of readers, not only in our own land and language, but in other climes and in the many Strange tongues into which the precious discourses have been and still are being translated.
Mr. Spurgeon himself often said that the pulpit was his throne, and that, when preaching, he envied no monarch in all the world, nor felt the slightest desire to exchange places with any man upon the face of the earth.
Yet was there, even to him, an inner shrine-the very holy of holies,-which was more sacred still. Many times he has testified that, when leading the great congregation in prayer, he has been so rapt in adoration, and so completely absorbed in the supplication or thanksgiving he has been presenting, that he has quite forgotten all his surroundings, and has felt even a measure of regret, upon closing his petition, and opening his eyes, to find that he was still in the flesh, in the company of men of like passions with himself, instead of being in the immediate presence of the Most High, sharing in the higher worship of the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. Mr. D. L. Moody must have been very deeply in sympathy with Mr. Spurgeon upon this matter, for he declared that, greatly as he had been blessed every time he heard the Pastor preach, he had been even more impressed as he had heard him pray. Other notable servants of Christ have borne a similar testimony.
The service being ended, — if it was the second Sabbath in the month, the Pastor joined the large company of communicants who usually filled the spacious lecture-hall; and there, around, the table of their Lord, another half-hour of hallowed Christian fellowship was enjoyed, completing and consummating the blessing received in the public assembly. To many of the most earnest workers of the Tabernacle Church, the morning was the only time when they could meet with their brethren and sisters in Christ in their own house of prayer for the afternoon and evening were devoted to Sunday-school and mission work, open-air preaching, or the many forms of Christian service in which they were engaged. The Pastor constantly referred to this happy arrangement; and urged others of the members to adopt the same method of both getting good and doing good, as it would help to develop their own gifts and graces, and it would also make the more room for the unconverted who desired to come to hear the Word at night.
Each Sabbath, except the second, the ordinance of the Lord's supper was observed at the close of the evening service,-the first Lord's-day evening in each month being the time for the great communion the Tabernacle, when the area and the larger part of the first gallery were reserved for communicants, and many hundreds of spectators were able to remain in other parts of the building. It was a most impressive scene,-sublime in its simplicity,-and those who have ever taken part in it can never forget it. Mr. Spurgeon had long held and taught that the apostolic precedents all appeared to indicate that the celebration of the sacred supper should take place each Lord's-day, and, therefore, whether at home or abroad, he always attended the communion every Sabbath if it was possible, and he often bore his willing witness that the frequent participation in the holy feast increased rather than diminished its value as a constant reminder of Him who said to His disciples, "This do in remembrance of Me."
On every Sabbath morning in the. month, except the second, there was usually a long procession of friends from the country, or from foreign lands, waiting for just a shake of the hand and a hearty greeting from the Pastor; and it was interesting to notice how quickly he recognized those whom he had seen before, even if years had elapsed since they last met. All through the summer season, some hundreds of visitors from the United States helped, at each service, to swell the contingents from other parts; and most of them afterwards sought to secure a personal interview with the great preacher to whom they had been listening. Among them were usually some of the most noted of the American ministers of various denominations, to whom a hearty invitation was given to take part in the evening service, or the prayer-meeting the next night. Mr. Spurgeon loved to quote what one of these brethren said to him-"Well, Brother Spurgeon, I was here ten years ago, and heard you preach, and I find that you have not altered your doctrine in the least. You stand today exactly where you stood then." "Yes," replied the Pastor, "and if you come again in another ten years, you will, by the grace of God, find me still preaching the very same gospel, unless the Lord hats, in the meantime, called me home." Among the very special friends, from across the Atlantic, were such divines as Dr. John Hall, Dr. W. M. Taylor, Dr. Cuyler, Dr. Armitage, Dr. MacArthur, Dr. Lonmer,and Dr. H. L,. Wayland; and they were sure to be invited to call during the week, at the Pastor's home, and some of them had the still greater delight of spending a quiet day with him in the country, when that rare privilege was possible. Others, at mutually-convenient times, visited the Orphanage, and the rest of the Institutions, under his guidance, and thus they heard from his own lips the charming story of how the Lord had led him and blessed him in connection with all the different branches of his service.
The informal reception being over at last, the Pastor was able to leave,- unless, as not seldom happened, some poor trembling soul was waiting in the hope of having a word or two of cheer and direction from him, or one of the earnest workers, always on the watch for anxious enquirers, came forward, with radiant face, bringing one or another who had sought and found the Savior either during or since the service. While Mr. Spurgeon was residing at "Helensburgh House," he was able to return home to dinner on the Lord's-day; but, after removing to "Westwood," he soon found that the distance was too great, so he remained for the afternoon within easy reach of the Tabernacle, with friends who were only too glad to minister in any way to the comfort and refreshing of the one who had been so greatly blessed to them. Sometimes, there was a sick member whom the Pastor felt that he must visit after dinner; otherwise, he had an hour or so of rest and Christian conversation before retiring, at about four o,'clock, for the preparation of his evening discourse. Some, who were very little children then, can probably remember the injunction given to them on such occasions, "You must be very quiet, for Mr. Spurgeon is getting his sermon." Ere he was summoned to tea, as a rule, the brief notes which he was going to use in the pulpit were duly arranged. The evening sermon was usually shorter than the one delivered in the morning, and somewhat more evangelistic, in order to be specially adapted to the larger number of casual worshippers who might then be present. Yet, often, that order was changed; and the morning discourse more nearly resembled an earnest evangelist address, while the sermon in the evening was a closely-reasoned exposition of the doctrines of grace, which again and again led to the conversion of more sinners than did some of the appeals directly addressed to them, and which seemed as if they must reach the hearers' hearts.
For some years, once a quarter, the Tabernacle was thrown open, on the Lord's-day evening, to anybody who liked to come, the members of the church and congregation being asked to stay away for that night. It is not many preachers who could make such an experiment, but it was crowned with abundant success from the first. Mr. Spurgeon said, afterwards, that his regular hearers had so loyally complied with his request that they should worship elsewhere for that one occasion, that, in addition to the seat-stewards and other workers who were present, he could not recognize half-a-dozen persons in the whole assembly of five or six thousand people.
The discourses delivered to such a promiscuous audience were, naturally, evangelistic, and many were brought to the Lord through these special services.
Before the evening worship, on ordinary Sabbaths, the Pastor often saw an enquirer, or a candidate for church-fellowship, who found it difficult to get to the Tabernacle during the week; and, after preaching, except on communion nights, however weary he might be, he was never too tired to point a poor sinner to the Savior, and to act the part of the true shepherd of souls to those who were seeking entrance into the fold. By the time he reached his home, he had certainly "earned a night's repose;" yet his day's labor was not always finished even then; for, if he was going to preach a long way in the country, on the morrow, he was obliged to start at once revising the report of the discourse which he had delivered in the morning.
That, however, was quite an exceptional arrangement; and, as a general rule, his first work, every Monday, was the revision of the Lord's-day morning's sermon.
This was always a labor of love, yet it was a labor; and it is not surprising that, during a very severe illness, when his friends induced him to see an eminent physician, the doctor urged and almost ordered him to abandon this heavy task so soon after the great strain of the Sabbath services. But the Pastor knew that, to delay the publication even for a week, would materially affect the circulation; and he also said that, if he was to continue his gifts to the Lord's cause on the scale to which he had been accustomed, he must keep all his literary work up to the highest mark, and he could not bear the thought of lessening the help that he saw to be required in so many different directions. He used also playfully to say that the earth itself would cease to revolve if the sermon did not come out every Thursday morning; and, in advising the students occasionally to follow his early example, and to write out their discourses in full,-but not to read or recite them,-he told them that the revision of his sermons for the press gave him all the benefits that other preachers might derive from writing theirs.
As soon as the messenger' brought the reporter's manuscript, Mr. Spurgeon glanced at the number of folios,-to see whether the discourse was longer or shorter than usual, so that he might judge whether he had to lengthen or to reduce it in order that it might, when printed, fill the requisite space,-twelve octavo pages;-and at once began revising it. The fascimile, on the opposite page, will show how carefully and thoroughly this part of his work was done; it will also have, to many readers, a peculiarly pathetic interest from the fact that it formed part of the last sermon he ever corrected, and that, while writing in it about the glories of Heaven, he was describing what he was himself to witness on the very day that the discourse was to be read,-the never-to-be-forgotten January 31, 1892.
After Mr. Spurgeon had made the alterations which he deemed advisable, Mr. Keys, who sat on his left-hand in the study, was entrusted with the duty of verifying quotations, and seeing that the punctuation and other minor matters were all in order. Then, when about a third of the manuscript was ready, the messenger started off with it to the printers, returning for a second supply, and sometimes even for a third if the work of revision was at all delayed. (As this, chapter mentions the reporting of Mr. Spurgeon's sermons, it may be of interest to insert what Mr. T. A. Reed said of him in his lecture on "Speaking and Speakers from a Shorthand Writer's Point of View"-"When a speaker has a distinct articulation combined with a clear strong voice, the reporter who has to follow him is in Elysium;-that is, if the utterance is not too rapid, or the style of composition too difficult. The ,combination, however, is rare. It has, a very striking example in Mr. Spurgeon, who, without apparent effort, makes himself distinctly heard at the farthest end of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. To a clear, ringing, musical voice, he adds an almost perfect articulation. Canon Liddon is another illustration of the kind of elocution I have been speaking of. Preaching under the dome of St.
Paul's, his voice, clear and rich, penetrates the most distant aisles of the great cathedral, where the tones of an, ordinary speaker would die away unheard, save as taint reverberations. Canon Farrar also has an excellent voice, but it is not so melodious as either Mr. Spurgeon's or Canon Liddon's .... "The average rate of public speaking is about 120 words a minute. Some speakers vary greatly in their speech, not only on different occasions, but in the course of the same speech. I have, for example, a memorandum of a sermon by Mr. Spurgeon, showing that, during the first ten minutes, he spoke at the rate of 123 words; a minute; the second ten minutes, 132; the third ten minutes, 128; the fourth ten minutes, 155; and the remaining nine minutes, 162; giving an average of about 140 words a minute. Another sermon shows an average of 125 words a minute,-namely, the first ten minutes, 119; the second ten minutes, 118; the third ten minutes, 139; and the remaining sixteen minutes, 126. Taking the average of a number of sermons, his rate may be reckoned to be nearly 140 words a minute."