BY ERIC W. HAYDEN DONNINGTON WOOD, SHROPSHIRE, ENGLAND On the first day of January, 1865, there appeared in England a new religious monthly magazine. It was soon to become well known on the other side of the Atlantic and in many other countries of the world. The Sword and the Trowel was the title given by Charles Haddon Spurgeon to his new venture (soon to be nicknamed “The Soap and Towel” by his college students!). The subtitle was: “A Record of Combat with Sin and labor for the Lord.” Referring to Nehemiah 4:17,18, Spurgeon aimed at a magazine that would provide material for working and ammunition for warring (battling and building with sword and trowel).
Spurgeon saw the magazine as “an extension of his pulpit ministry” and an opportunity of “urging the claims of Christ’s cause, of advocating the revival of godliness, of denouncing error, of bearing witness for truth, and of encouraging the laborers in the Lord’s vineyard.”
The magazine was used to inform interested friends of the work and witness of The Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, and also other Spurgeonic institutions: college, orphanage, almshouse, colportage association, and the many mission stations connected with the Tabernacle.
But primarily it was “to supplement our weekly sermon.” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit sermons have been reprinted on several occasions, although not in their entirety as a set as at present by Pilgrim Publications. The Sword and the Trowel contents, however, have never been reprinted, yet they contain a wealth of biographical material about Spurgeon, sermons not included in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit volumes, interesting book reviews, and many rare and choice contributions about many subjects by Spurgeon himself. Many of his published works first saw the light of day in his magazine: The Treasury of David, Lectures to My Students, John Ploughman’s Talks, The Bible and the Newspaper, Eccentric Preachers. to name but a few.
The extracts from these volumes will show the reader the kind of comments on then current events, fashions, theological trends, the state of the Baptist denomination and the Christian church at large. Some of the book reviews are examples for reviewers today, they are so honest. No wonder Spurgeon’s son, Thomas, said that it would be “better for the Sword to rust in its scabbard, and the Trowel to be buried beneath a mountain of rubbish, than. for the magazine established by C. H. Spurgeon ever to be disloyal to him.”
The author of this capsule history had the privilege of occupying the editorial chair of the magazine for several years while Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Some years later a notice appeared by his successor to the Pastorate, declaring: “It is with much sorrow that we announce that we are having to cease publication of The Sword and the Trowel.” The last issue was December 1968.
The magazine has been restarted by the present Pastor of the Tabernacle but is only a shadow of its former self. It is now described as “a tract for the times” and contains a sermon by the Tabernacle minister. Domestic news of the Tabernacle is issued separately. Gone are the book reviews, news of other Spurgeonic institutions and other articles of interest to admirers of C. H. Spurgeon.
It is splendid that Pilgrim Publications is re-issuing the works of Spurgeon from the original volumes of The Sword and the Trowel, allowing the Christian public a view of Spurgeon as an editor for thirty-six years.