TYPICAL WEEK’S WORK (CONTINUED). HERE was a little breathing-space for the busy toiler after the boy was sent away with the first portion of the sermon manuscript but, usually, other work at once claimed the Pastor’s attention. On his right-hand, and represented in the view here given, his private secretary, Mr. J. W. Harrald, had been busy opening the morning’s leters, and arranging those that required immediate answers. If there were any that he knew would be specially cheering, they were always placed where they would at once catch the eye of “the dear Governor.” This was always the case with large and unexpected donations for the Lord’s work under his care, — such as a Cheque for £500, which came as a substantial token of a father’s gratitude for Mr. Spurgeon’s efforts to be the means of blessing to the gentleman’s son at Mentone. Sometimes, there were anonymous letters, — complaining, or abusive, or even blasphemous, — and it was with peculiar satisfaction that they were prevented from ever wounding the beloved servant of the Lord for whom they were intended by those who wrote them. The Pastor occasionally dictated replies to a few of the letters before continuing his sermon-revising; but, more often, with his own hand, he wrote the answers in full, for he never spared himself if he could, give greater pleasure to others. In later years, as the number of donors to the various Institutions; increased so rapidly, he wets obliged to have a set of receipts lithographed in facsimile; but, even when using these, he added a few words which greatly enhanced their value in the opinion of those who received them. He found it necessary also to have a considerable variety of lithographed letters prepared, ready to send to applicants for admission to the College and Orphanage, or persons seeking situations, asking him to read manuscripts, or to write the Prefaces for new books, or to do any of the thousand and one things by which so many people sought to steal away his precious moments, and. at the same time to augment the revenue of the Post Office.
It was usually far into the afternoon before the last folio of the sermon was reached, and the messenger was able to start with it to the printing-office.
Then there were more letters to be answered, possibly books to be reviewed, magazine proofs to be read, or other literary work to be advanced to the next stage; and it was with the utmost difficulty that even a few minutes could be secured for a quiet walk in the lovely garden that, all day long, seemed to be inviting the ceaseless worker to come and admire its many charms. He could hear the voice of duty calling him in another direction, and soon it was time to get ready to start for the Tabernacle.
The clock in the illustration opposite shows that, when the photograph was taken, the Pastor had arranged to be at Newington at half-past five, either meeting the elders, and considering with them the very important matters relating to the church’s spiritual state which specially came under their notice, or presiding at the first part of a church-meeting, which often lasted throughout the whole evening, and was mainly occupied with the delightful business of receiving new members. As seven o’clock approached, he left the meeting in the charge of his brother, or one of the deacons or elders, that he might be at liberty to begin the prayer-meeting at the appointed hour. Sometimes, if he had engagements which would prevent him from being at the Tabernacle on Tuesday or Wednesday, he would get his sermon-revision completed before dinner, and, directly afterwards, go up to see enquirers and candidates, — a congenial but exhausting form of service which often continued right up to the hour of prayer.
On certain special Mondays in the year, the annual meetings of some of the smaller Societies were held, and on those occasions Mr. Spurgeon was at the lecture-hall in time to give out the “grace before tea.” His presence was greatly prized by the earnest and energetic sisters who carried on the various works of charity and beneficence; and they were much encouraged by his hearty words of cheer, and by the financial help which always accompanied them. It was really surprising to, notice, year after year, how much he varied his addresses at these gatherings, for the audience mainly consisted of the same persons each time. The three principal Societies were the Poor Ministers’ Clothing Society, the Ladies’ Maternal Society, and the Ladies’ Benevolent Society, — or, as they were sometimes humorously described, the big box Society, the little box Society and the Christmas box Society, only that the bounty of the third was bestowed all the year round, as well as at Christmas time, when there was an extra manifestation of generosity. The dear Pastor found a constant theme for merriment in the Reports presented at these meetings. At one time, the ladies recorded that so many “cases” had been relieved; and when he pointed out objections to that term, they substituted “objects” with no better success; but the climax was reached when it was announced that so many “sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and other garments” had been given away during the year! Such harmless fun brightened up the proceedings that might otherwise have become monotonous, and it was perhaps indulged in on purpose to show the good sisters how to associate as much cheerfulness as possible with work that must often have sorely depressed their spirits as they heard of the poverty among ministers of the gospel and other tried children of God.
A little before seven o’clock, the happy season of talk was brought to a Close, a brief prayer for a blessing on the work and workers followed, and then the whole company ascended to the Tabernacle for the prayermeeting.
All who are familiar with. Mr. Spurgeon’s writings, know that he regarded the prayer-meeting as the thermometer of the church; and, judging by that test, the spiritual temperature of the large community under his charge stood very high. Not that he could ever induce all the members to be regularly present on the Monday night; but, for many years, the numbers attending filled a large portion of the area and first gallery, and the world-wide testimony was that the meeting was altogether unique, the only one that at all approached it being Pastor Archibald G. Brown’s Saturday night prayer-meeting at the East London Tabernacle. Nor was it remarkable simply for its size, but the whole spirit of the gathering made it a source of peculiar helpfulness to all who were in constant attendance, while occasional visitors carried away with them even to distant lands influences and impulses which they never wished to lose or to forget. Many years ago, Mr. Spurgeon gave, in The Sword and the Trowel , detailed reports of these hallowed evenings, in the hope that the record might be useful in awakening new interest in what he always regarded as the most important meeting of the week. He often said that it was not surprising if churches did not prosper, when they regarded the prayer-meeting as of so little value that one evening in the week was made to suffice for a feeble combination of service and prayer-meeting.
The gatherings at the Tabernacle on Monday nights were constantly varied.
Usually, some of “our own men” laboring in the country or abroad were present, and took part, while missionaries going out to China, or North Africa, or other parts of the foreign field, or returning home on furlough, helped to add to the spiritual profit of the proceedings. The Pastor always gave one or more brief addresses, and never allowed the interest to flag; and, all too soon, half-past eight arrived, and the meeting had to be concluded, for many of the workers had other prayer-meetings or services following closely upon that one.
Mr. Spurgeon’s day’s work was not yet complete, for various visitors were waiting for an interview; and, with them, some candidates or enquirers needed and secured a few precious minutes, — the conversation and prayer at such times being something to be remembered with gratitude as long as they lived. On some Monday nights, an extra service was squeezed in; and, leaving the Tabernacle a little before eight o’clock, the Pastor preached at Christ Church, Upton Chapel, Walworth Road Chapel, or some other neighboring place of worship; or spoke at some special local gathering, such as a meeting at the Newington Vestry Hall on behalf of the Hospital Sunday Fund. When, at last, he was really en route for home, his first question was, — “Has the sermon come?” and the second, — “What is the length of it?” If the reply was, “Just right,” it was joyfully received, for the labor of adding or cutting out any made the task of revising the proof still more arduous; and, if a distant preaching engagement had to be fulfilled the next day, the revision was obliged to be completed that night, or very early in the morning. On one occasion, when the London Baptist Association Committee met at “West-wood” for breakfast and business, it transpired that their host had taken time by the forelock, and begun his day’s work at four o’clock.
Ordinarily, the correction of the proof of the sermon was completed by about eleven o’clock on Tuesday morning, leaving a couple of hours for replying to letters, and attending to the most pressing literary work. When there were only four Thursdays in the month, an extra sermon was required to make the usual number for the monthly part, and that entailed heavy labor. The discourse available for this purpose were the shorter ones delivered on the Sabbath and Thursday evenings; and, as a rule, two or three pages had to be added to them. The facsimile on the opposite page is a good example of the method adopted in lengthening the sermon which had been set up from the reporter’s transcript, unrevised, and it is specially suitable to the present volume as it contains a striking passage in the dear preacher’s autobiography.
Tuesday afternoon, with rare exceptions, was devoted to the truly pastoral and important work of seeing candidates and enquirers at the Tabernacle; and in no part of his service was Mr. Spurgeon more happy and more completely at home. On reaching his vestry, at three o’clock, he always found some of his elders already at their post; and usually they had, by that time, Conversed with the first arrivals, and given them the cards which were to introduce them to the Pastor. If he was satisfied with the person’s own testimony, he put the name of the friend upon the list of those to be proposed for church-fellowship, and indicated the elder or deacon to be appointed as visitor, to make the necessary enquiries before the applicant could be admitted to baptism and membership. In the course of three or four hours, twenty, thirty, or even forty individuals were thus seen; and anyone who has had much experience, in such service knows how exhausting it is. Sometimes, the number was smaller, or it was made up with those who came about other matters. These were seen by Mr. Harrald, or the elders; and interviews with the Pastor were arranged if they were deemed advisable. At five o’clock, a brief interval was secured for tea; and, during that half-hour, the Pastor compared notes with his helpers concerning, those with whom he had conversed, and related specially interesting incidents which some of the candidates had described to him.
Then he returned to the happy task, and kept on as long as any were waiting; and, often, as the crowning of his day’s labor, he went down to the lecture-hall, to preside at the annual meeting of one or other of the Tabernacle Societies, such as the Sunday-school, the Almshouses Dayschools, the Evangelists’ Association, the Country Mission, the Loan Tract Society, or the Spurgeon’s Sermons’ Tract Society. He frequently said that the number of Institutions, Societies, Missions, and Sunday-schools connected with the Tabernacle was so large that it would have been possible to arrange for an anniversary of one of them every week in the year! The secretaries or leaders of many of these works always secured his presence and help at their meetings, if possible; and he used to describe the lecture-hall as his happy hunting-ground where he found recruits for the College. Among the most successful ministers and missionaries at home and abroad at the present time, are several who tremblingly spoke before him, for the first time, at these week-night gatherings. Some of them might scarcely recognize themselves by the description the beloved President gave of them then, as he pictured the “fledglings, with their callow wings, trying to soar away to the empyrean, but falling down flop into the arena!”
Sometimes, instead of meeting with a few hundreds of friends; in the lecture-hall, the Pastor presided over many thousands in the Tabernacle.
One such gathering took place on the night when the Jubilee Singers sang, and, by that one effort, the sum of L220 was added to the funds of the Fisk University; another notable meeting was held when our own black brethren, Johnson and Richardson and their wives, had their farewell before proceeding to Africa, “the land of their fathers;” — and an equally memorable occasion was the evening when Mr. John B. Gough gave one of his marvelous oratorical displays on behalf of the Pastors’ College and, in recognition of his kindness, the Pastor presented to him a complete set of his sermons. At other times, Mr. Spurgeon was not the chairman of the meeting; but he helped to contribute to the success of the proceedings by delivering an earnest address in aid of the Primitive Methodist Missionary Society, the Liberation Society, or some other great public movement for which the Tabernacle had been lent, and for which his personal advocacy was also desired.
Wednesday was the only possible time available as a mid-week Sabbath; and whenever it could be secured for rest, its benefits were immediately manifest. Each year, on his return from Mentone, Mr. Spurgeon told his secretary to keep his diary clear of all engagements on that day; but, alas! soon one, and then another, and yet others, had to be given up in response to the importunate appeals to which the self-sacrificing preacher had not the heart to say, “No,” although he knew that the inevitable result would be a breakdown in health, and the canceling for a time of all arrangements for extra services. Then, when he appeared to have recovered, the same process would be repeated, with an exactly similar sequel; but the requests for sermons, speeches, and lectures poured in upon him even during his worst illnesses, and it always pained him when he felt that he must refuse them.
But there were some red-letter days when, with a congenial companion, he would go off for a long drive into the country, as described in Vol. 3, Chapter 76. Yet, even then, before he started in the morning, or after he returned at night, he often accomplished what most other people would have considered enough for a hard day’s work. When there was only two or three hours available for a drive, a favorite route was over the Shirley Hills, and through Addington Park. The Archbishop of Canterbury kindly sent, each year, a card giving the right of free passage through his spacious grounds, and he, on several occasions, expressed his wish to have the pleasure of entertaining Mr. Spurgeon at Addington. On the acceptance of one invitation to lunch, Dr. Benson greeted his guest very heartily, and, pointing to his butler and footman, said, “There are two members of your congregation, Mr. Spurgeon. When I am in residence at Lambeth, they always go to the Tabernacle. I don’t name them, for I would do the same myself if I had the chance. When your coachman gets round to the tables, he will recognize another Tabernacle attendant; and I can truly say that they are all a credit to the instruction they receive from you.” This testimony was very pleasing to the dear Pastor, and he was further cheered by hearing of others on the estate who were readers of his sermons. The two preachers spent a very enjoyable time together; and, later on, during Mr. Spurgeon’s long illness, one of the letters which gave him great comfort was written by the Primate. In his friendly intercourse with the Tabernacle Pastor, Dr. Benson followed in the footsteps of one of his own predecessors, for, during the time that the bill for the abolition of church rates was before Parliament, Archbishop Tait frequently consulted Mr. Spurgeon upon several of the details of the measure.
Sometimes, instead of going through Addington Park, Mr. Spurgeon paid a visit to the Bishop of Rochester at Selsdon Park. A very intimate friendship existed between Bishop Thorold and the Pastor, and they enjoyed many happy hours together in the Selsdon home and garden. Usually, each year, as the time approached for the preparation of the addresses to be delivered in connection with his episcopal visitation, the Bishop invited Mr. Spurgeon to spend a long quiet day with him in prayer and conversation upon such matters as would help to put him in a right state of heart for the responsible task before him. On several occasions, he also visited his friend at “Westwood;” and the season of spiritual fellowship in the study must have been mutually profitable, for, when it was over, and the visitor was gone, Mr. Spurgeon always remarked, “Oh, we have had such a delightful time of talk and prayer together!” During the Pastor’s great illness, the Bishop called more than once to express his deep personal sympathy with the beloved sufferer, and his wife; and he wrote or sent many times to make tender, loving enquiries concerning the invalid.
One letter of Bishop Thorold’s, relating to Mr. Spurgeon’s visit to him, has a very special interest now that both of them have entered into “the glory.”
When the Pastor published The Clue of the Maze , he sent a copy to his friend, who at once wrote — “Selsdon Park, “Croydon, “Aug. 31, 1885. “My Dear Mr. Spurgeon, “Your remarkable book has reached me, with its affectionate inscription, which I prize even more. “Perhaps, some day, in the City of our King, we may look back at our stroll under the Selsdon elms, and our prayer in the little chapel, and feel them to have been an earnest of the glory at hand. “Ever your brother in Jesus Christ, “A. W.ROFFEN.”
Thursday morning was principally devoted to letter-writing and literary work in general. Mr. Spurgeon’s position naturally brought him into correspondence with vast numbers of people all over the world; and he willingly wrote those thousands of letters, which are now of almost priceless value to their possessor. Yet he often felt that he could have employed his time to far better purpose. Again and again, he sorrowfully said, “I am only a poor clerk, driving the pen hour after hour; here is another whole morning gone, and nothing done but letters, letters, letters!”
When reminded of the joy and comfort he was ministering to so many troubled hearts by that very drudgery, he agreed that it was work for the Lord as truly as the preaching in which he so much more delighted. Still, we often felt that quite an unnecessary addition to his already too-heavy load was made by the thoughtless and often frivolous communication, to which he was expected personally to reply. Perhaps someone says, “Then he should not have replied to them.” Yes, probably anybody but C. H. Spurgeon would have thrown many of them, unanswered, into the wastepaper basket; but his kind heart prompted him ever to minister to the pleasure and profit of other people, whatever the cost to himself might be.
Yet even he sometimes mildly protested against the unreasonableness of his correspondents, as the accompanying paragraph testifies — “No sooner was it known that 1 was going to Scotland for rest, than I received requests for sermons, not only from a large number of Scotch towns, and from places on each of the three lines of railway, but I was entreated just to make a few hours’ stay, and preach in North Wales, as also on the Cumberland coast, which, as everybody knows, are both on the road to Scotland if you choose to make them so! How many pence I have been fined, in the form of postage for replies to these insanely kind demands, I will not calculate; but it is rather too absurd. I am told, over and over again, that I could stop two hours, and go on by the next train; and this being done at a dozen places, when should I reach Scotland? This, too, when a man is out for a holiday! “Alas! the holiday itself had to be postponed for a while, through continued ill-health. Now, it may seem a very simple thing to write to these good people, and say, ‘No;’ but it is not so. It pains me to refuse anyone; and to decline to preach is so contrary to all my heart’s promptings, that I had rather be flogged than feel compelled to do it.”
If Mr. Spurgeon’s correspondence was not quite as burdensome as usual, or if he had literary work that had to be done, — when the weather permitted, he liked to retire to this favorite retreat, where the hours fled all too swiftly as he wrote his comment on the Psalms, or some of the other books that now remain as permanent memorials of his studious and industrious life.
After dinner, the Pastor’s definite preparation for the evening service began, though the subject had probably been, as he often said, “simmering’“ in his mind all the morning. The Saturday evening process was to a great extent repeated, but one of his secretaries had the privilege of looking up anything that might help him to get the true meaning of his text. His private study, commonly called “the den,” became, on such occasions, his place for secret retirement and prayer; and very joyously he generally came forth, carrying in his hand his brief pulpit-notes; though, at other times, the message he was to deliver only came to him just in time.
For many years, Mr. Spurgeon had, on Thursday evening, in the Tabernacle lecture-hall, from six o’clock till nearly seven, what he termed “The Pastor’s prayer-meeting.” This was an extra gathering, specially convened for the purpose of pleading for a blessing upon the Word he was about to preach; and most refreshing and helpful it always proved both to himself and the people. From the New Park Street days, he had made little or no difference between the services on the Lord’s-day and on weeknights; and, throughout the whole course of his ministry, the Thursday evening worship afforded an opportunity for the attendance of many Christian workers of all denominations, who were not able to be present on the Sabbath; and, among them, were numerous Church of England clergymen and Nonconformist ministers. At the close, several of these hearers desired a few minutes conversation with the preacher, so that it was late before he could get away; and then, though not weary of his work, he was certainly weary in it.
On Friday morning, the usual routine of answering correspondence had, to some extent, to give way to the President’s more urgent work of preparation for his talk to the students of the College. He regarded this part of his service as so important that he devoted all his powers of heart and mind to it, and it was indeed a rich store of mental and spiritual instruction that he carried up, each week, to his “school or the prophets.”
Hundreds of “our own men” have testified that, greatly as they profited by the rest of their College curriculum, Mr. Spurgeon’s Friday afternoon class was far beyond everything else in its abiding influence upon their life and ministry. With such a responsive and appreciative audience, he was at his very best; and both student, and ministers have often declared that, not even in his; most brilliant pulpit utterances, hats he ever excelled, or even equaled, what it was their delight to hear from his lip, in those never-to-beforgotten days. From three till about five o’clock, there, was a continuous stream of wit and wisdom, counsel and warning, exhortation and doctrine, all converging to the one end of helping the men before him to become good ministers of Jesus Christ. Then, when the class was dismissed, another hour, or more, was ungrudgingly devoted to interviews with any of the brethren who desired personally to consult the President; and that this privilege was highly prized was very evident from the way in which it was, exercised.
Now and then, the Friday afternoon was made even more memorable by a special sermon to the students, at the close of which the Lord’s supper was observed, the whole service being peculiarly helpful to the spiritual life of the brethren. On other occasions, students from Harley House, or Regent’s Park, or Cheshunt College paid a fraternal visit to Newington; and, in due course, the Pastors’ College men returned the visit. At such times, Presidents, tutors, and students vied with one another in making their guests feel at home, and in conveying to them all possible pleasure and profit.
Perhaps, between six and seven o’clock, Mr. Spurgeon was free to start for home; but, more likely, there was another anniversary meeting — possibly, of the Evening Classes connected with the College, — at which he had promised to preside or there was some mission-hall, at which he had engaged to preach or speak; or there was a sick or dying member of the church to whom he had sent word that he would call on his way back from the College. It was utterly impossible for him to make any systematic pastoral visitation of his great flock; — that work was undertake, n by the elders; — but he found many opportunities of visiting his members; and his sermons contain frequent references to the triumphant deathbed scenes; that he had witnessed. He could not often conduct funeral services, yet there were some cases in which he felt bound to make an exception to his usual rule, as he did also in the matter of weddings. The Sword and the Trowel F6 has recorded typical instances of how thoroughly, on such occasion, he sorrowed with those who wept, and rejoiced with those who were full of happiness. Add to all this, the constant interruptions from callers, and the many minor worries to which every public man is subject, and readers may well wonder when Mr. Spurgeon could find time for reading, and study, and all the work he constantly accomplished! If they had known how much he was continually doing, they might have marveled even more, than they did. Surely, there never was a busier life than his; not an atom more of sacred service could have been crowded into it.
Saturday morning was the time for the Pastor and his private secretary to clear off, as far as possible, any arrears of work that had been accumulating during the week. The huge pile of letters was again attacked; various financial matters were settled, and cheques despatched to chapel-building ministers or those engaged in pioneer and mission work, or needing some special assistance in their labor for the Lord. The secretary also then reported the result of interviews with students, and various officials and workers in connection with the different Institutions, and received instructions as to the replies to be given to their requests, or with regard to various matters tending to the general efficiency of the whole work. It was usual, often, on that morning, for the President to see some of the applicants for admission to the College, or to examine the papers of others, and to dictate the letters conveying his decision, or making further enquiries if there was a doubt either with regard to acceptance or rejection.
Brethren just leaving for the foreign mission field, or some other distant sphere of service, were glad of the opportunity of a personal farewell, and of the tender, touching prayer, and tokens of practical sympathy, with which they were speeded on their way. Then there were magazine articles to be written or revised, Almanacks to be prepared, books to be read and reviewed, or sent to some of the brethren who helped (and still help) in that department of The Sword and the Trowel , and, by the time the gong sounded for dinner, the Pastor was often heard to say, “Well, we have got through a good morning’s work, even if there is not much to, show for it.”
The greater part of the afternoon was spent in the garden, if the weather was favorable; and one of the. few luxuries the dear master of “Westwood” enjoyed was to stroll down to the most secluded portion of the grounds, and to rest awhile in the summerhouse, to which he gave the singularly appropriate title, “Out of the world.” Here, with his wife, or some choice friend, the precious minutes quickly passed; and, by-and-by, other visitors arrived, for a cheery chat, and a peep at the numerous interesting things that were to be seen. It is needless to give the names of the many who shared in the delights of those happy afternoons; most of Mr. Spurgeon’s special ministerial and other friends and acquaintances were included amongst them. One visitor who was always welcome was the good Earl of Shaftesbury. His life also was a very busy one, so he could not often come; but, every now and then, when he was more than usually depressed and troubled by the aspect of affairs, religiously and socially, he found it a relief to have a talk with his Baptist friend, who largely shared his views concerning the state of the Church in general, but who also saw some signs of better and brighter days which the venerable nobleman had not perceived. The peer and the Pastor had such stores of good stories to tell, that the time rapidly and pleasantly passed, and they parted with the hope of meeting again on earth, and with the brighter hope of the reunion in Heaven, where there would be no parting for ever.
On several occasions, after the Earl had paid a visit to “Westwood,” Mr. Spurgeon instructed his secretary to insert in the scrapbook, then being compiled, a photograph, or engraving of his lordship, and he himself briefly recorded the fact that his venerable friend had again been to see him. The following page contains a reproduction of one of the best of these portraits, — taken by Messrs. Russell and Co. when the Earl attained his eightieth year, — with a facsimile of the inscription written on the back of it. On his part, Earl Shaftesbury preserved, in his diary and letters, many records of those enjoyable Saturday afternoons. The following entry in his diary probably refers to the very visit mentioned by Mr. Spurgeon — “July 10, 1881. — Drove to ‘Westwood’ to see my friend Spurgeon. He is well, thank God, and admirably lodged, his place is lovely. His wife’s health, too, is improved by change of residence. It is pleasant and encouraging to visit such men, and find them still full of perseverance, faith, and joy in the service of our blessed Lord.”