TO WORKERS WITH SLENDER APPARATUS.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
WHAT are those ministers to do who have a slender apparatus? By a slender apparatus I mean that they have few books, and little or no means wherewith to purchase more. This is a state of things which ought not to exist in any case; the churches ought to take care that it should be rendered impossible. Up to the highest measure of their ability they should furnish their minister, not only with the food which is needful to sustain the life of his body, but with mental nutriment, so that his soul may not be starved. A good library should be looked upon as an indispensable part of church furniture; and the deacons, whose business it is “to serve tables,” will be wise, if, without neglecting the table of the Lord, or of the poor, and without diminishing the supplies of the minister’s dinner-table, they give an eye to his study-table, and keep it supplied with new works and standard books in fair abundance. It would be money well laid out, and would be productive far beyond expectation. Instead of waxing eloquent upon the declining power of the pulpit, leading men in the church should use the legitimate means for improving its power, by supplying the preacher with food for thought. Put the whip into the manger is my advice to all grumblers.
Some years ago I tried to induce our churches to have ministers’ libraries as a matter of course, and some few thoughtful people saw the value of the suggestion, and commenced carrying it out. With much pleasure I have seen here and there the shelves provided, and a few volumes placed upon them. I earnestly wish that such a beginning had been made everywhere; but;, alas! I fear that a long succession of starveling ministers will alone arouse the miserly to the conviction that parsimony with a minister is false economy. Those churches which cannot afford a liberal stipend should make some amends by founding a library as a permanent part of their establishment, and, by making additions to it from year to year, it would soon become very valuable. My venerable grandfather’s manse had in it a collection of very valuable, ancient Puritanic volumes, which had descended from minister to minister: well do I remember certain ponderous tomes, whose chief interest to me lay in their curious initial letters, adorned with pelicans, griffins, little boys at play, or patriarchs at work. It may be objected, that the books would be lost through change of users, but I would run the risk of that; and trustees, with a little care over the catalogue, could keep the libraries as securely as they keep the pews and pulpit.
If this scheme be not adopted, let another and simpler one be tried; let all the subscribers towards the preacher’s support add ten per cent. or more to their subscriptions, expressly to provide food for the minister’s brain. They would get back what they gave in the improved sermons they would hear.
If some little annual income could be secured to poor ministers, to be sacredly spent in books, it would be a God-send to them, and an incalculable blessing to the community. They do not expect a garden to yield them herbs from year to year unless they put something upon the soil; they do not expect a locomotive to work without fuel, or even an ox or an ass to labor without food; let them, therefore, give over expecting to receive instructive sermons from men who are shut out of the storehouse of knowledge by their inability to purchase books.
But the subject is, what are men to do who have no stores, who have no church library, and no allowance made them to provide books? Let us remark at once that, if these men succeed, greater honor is due to them than to those who have large appliances.
Quintin Matsys is said to have had his hammer and the taken from him by his fellow-workmen, and to have produced his famous iron well-cover without them; so much the more honor to him! None can tell what credit is due to those workers for God, who have done great things without helpful tools. Their labor would have been greatly lightened if they had possessed them; but what they have done is the more wonderful. At the present International Exhibition at Kensington, Mr.: Buckmaster’s School of Cookery is mainly admired because he produces such savory dishes from unpromising material; from a handful of bones and a little macaroni he serves up royal dainties. If he had all the materials employed in French cookery, and used them all, every person would say, “Well, anybody could do that;” but when he shows you scraps of meat and bones, and tells you that he bought them at the butcher’s for a few pence, and that he can make out of them a dinner for a family of five or six, all the good wives open their eyes, and wonder how on earth it can be done; and when he passes round his dishes, and they taste how delicious it is, they are full of admiration. Work away, then, poor brother, for you may succeed in doing great things in your ministry, and if so, your welcome of “Well done, good and faithful servant,” will be all the more emphatic because you labored under serious difficulties.
If a man can purchase but very few books, my first advice to him would be, let him purchase the very best . If he cannot spend much, let him spend well. The best will always be the cheapest. Leave mere dilutions and attenuations to those who can afford such luxuries. Do not buy milk and water, but get condensed milk, and put what water you like to it yourself.
This age is fall of word-spinners — professional book-makers, who hammer a grain of matter so thin that it will cover a five-acre sheet of paper; these men have their uses, as gold-beaters have, but they are of no use to you. Farmers on our coast used to cart wagon-loads of seaweed and put them upon their land; the heaviest part was the water; now they dry the weeds, and save a world of labor and expense. Don’t buy thin soup; buy the essence of meat. Get much in little. Prefer books which abound in what Dr. James Hamilton used to call “Bibline,” or the essence of books. You require accurate, condensed, reliable, standard books, and should make sure that you get them. In preparing his “Harae Biblicae Quotidianae,” which is an admirable comment upon the Bible, Dr. Chalmers used only the “Concordance,” the “Pictorial Bible,” “Poole’s Synopsis,” “Matthew Henry’s Commentary,” and “Robinson’s Researches in Palestine.” These are the books I use,” said he to a friend; “all that is Biblical is there; I have to do with nothing besides in my Biblical study.” This shows that those who have unlimited stores at their command, yet find a few standard books sufficient. If Dr. Chalmers were now alive, he would probably take Thomson’s “Land and the Book,” instead of Robinson’s “Researches,” and give up the “Pictorial Bible” for Kitto’s “Daily Bible Illustrations;” at least I should recommend the alteration to most men. This is clear evidence that some most eminent preachers have found that they could do better with few books than with many, when studying the Scriptures, and this, I take it, is our main business.
Forego, then, without regret, the many books which, like poor Hodge’s razors, of famous memory, “are made to sell,” and do sell those who buy them, as well as themselves. Matthew Henry’s Commentary having been mentioned, I venture to say that no better investment can be made, by any minister, than that peerless exposition. Get it, if you sell your coat to buy it.
The next rule I shall lay down is, master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and re-read them, masticate them, and digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times, and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them, as the classic proverb puts it “as the dogs drink of Nilus.” Little learning and much pride come of hasty reading. Books may be piled on the brain till it cannot work. Some men are disabled from thinking by their putting meditation away for the sake of much reading. They gorge themselves with book-matter, and become mentally dyspeptic.
Books on the brain cause disease. Get the book into the brain, and you will grow. In D’Israeli’s “Curiosities of Literature” there is an invective of Lucian upon those men who boast of possessing large libraries, which they either never read or never profit by. He begins by comparing such a person to a pilot who has never learned the art of navigation, or a cripple who wears embroidered slippers but cannot stand upright in them. Then he exclaims, “Why do you buy so many books? You have no hair, and you purchase a comb; you are blind and you must need buy a fine mirror; you are deaf, and you will have the best musical instrument!” — very welldeserved rebuke to those who think that the possession of books will secure them learning. A measure of that temptation happens to us all; for do we not feet wiser after we have spent an hour or two in a bookseller’s shop? A man might as well think himself richer for having inspected the vaults of the Bank of England. In reading books let your motto be, “Much, not many.” Think as well as read, and keep the thinking always proportionate to the reading, and your small library will not be a great misfortune.
There is very much sound sense in the remark of a writer in the Quarterly Review many years back. “Give us the one dear book, cheaply picked from the stall by the price of the dinner, thumbed and dog-eared, cracked in the back and broken in the corner, noted on the fly-leaf and scrawled on the margin, sullied and scorched, torn and worn, smoothed in the pocket and grimed on the hearth, damped by the grass and dusted among the cinders, over which you have dreamed in the grove and dozed before the embers, but read again, again, and again, from cover to cover. It is by this one book, and its three or four single successors, that more real cultivation has been imparted than by all the myriads which bear down the mile-long, bulging, bending shelves of the Bodleian.”
But if you feel you must have more books, I recommend to you a little judicious borrowing. You will most likely have some friends who have books, and who will be kind enough to let you have them for a time: and I specially advise you, in order to borrow again, to return whatsoever is lent, promptly, and in good condition. I hope there is not so much need that I should say much at this time about returning books, as there would have been a few months ago, for I have lately met with a statement by a clergyman, which has very much raised my opinion of human, nature; for he declares that he has a personal acquaintance with three gentlemen who have actually returned borrowed umbrellas! I am sorry to say that he moves in a more favored circle than I do, for I have personal acquaintance with several young men who have borrowed books and never returned them. The other day, a certain minister, who had lent me five books, which I have used for two years or more, wrote me a note to request the return of three of them. To his surprise, he had them back by the next “Parcels’ Delivery,” and two others which he had forgotten. I had carefully kept a list of books borrowed, and, therefore, could make a complete return to the owner. I am sure he did not expect their prompt arrival, for he wrote me a letter of mingled astonishment and gratitude, and when I visit his study, I feel sure I shall be welcome to borrow again. You know the rhyme which has been written in many a man’s book — “If thou art borrowed by a friend, Right welcome shall he be To read, to study, not to lend, But to return to me.
Not that imparted knowledge doth Diminish learning’s store, But books, I find, when once they’re lent, Return to me no more.” Sir Walter Scott used to say that his friends might be very indifferent accountants, but he was sure they were good “book-keepers.” Some have even had to go the length of the scholar, who, when asked to lend a book, sent word by the servant that he would not let the book go out of his chamber, but that the gentleman who sought the loan might come and sit there and read as long as he liked. The rejoinder was unexpected but complete, when, his fire being slow to burn, he sent to the same person to borrow a pair of bellows, and received for answer that the owner would not lend the bellows out of his own chamber, but the gentleman might come and blow there as long as he liked. Judicious borrowing may furnish you with much reading, but remember the man’s axe-head in the Scriptures, and he careful of what you borrow. “The wicked borroweth and payeth not again.”
In case the famine of books should be sore in the land, there is one book which you all have, and that is your Bible; and a minister with his Bible is like David with his sling and stone, fully equipped for the fray. No man may say that he has no well to draw from while the Scriptures are within reach. In the Bible we have a perfect library, and he who studies it thoroughly will be a better scholar than if he had devoured the Alexandrian Library entire. To understand the Bible should be our ambition; we should be familiar with it, as familiar as the housewife with her needle, the merchant with his ledger, the mariner with his ship. We ought to know its general run, the contents of each book, the details of its histories, its doctrines, its precepts, and everything about it. Erasmus, speaking of Jerome, asks, “Who but he ever learned by heart the whole Scripture? or imbibed, or meditated on it as he did?” It is said of Witsius, a learned Dutchman, author of the famous work on “The Covenants,” that he also was able, not merely to repeat every word of Scripture in its original tongues, but to give the context, and the criticisms of the best authors; and I have heard of an old minister in Lancashire, that he was “a walking Concordance,” and could either give you chapter and verse for any passage quoted, or, vice versa, could correctly give the words when the place was mentioned. That may have been a feat of memory, but the study needful to it must have been highly profitable. I do not say that you must aspire to that; but if you could, it would be well worth the gaining. It was one of the fortes of that singular genius, William Huntington (whom I will not now either commend or censure), that in preaching he incessantly quoted Holy Scripture, and was accustomed, whenever he did so, to give the chapter and the verse; and in order to show his independence of the printed book, it was his uncomely habit to remove the Bible from the front of the pulpit.
A man who has learned not merely the letter of the Bible, but its inner spirit, will be no mean man, whatever deficiencies he may labor under. You know the old proverb, “Cave ab homine unius libri” — Beware of the man of one book. He is a terrible antagonist. A man who has his Bible at his fingers’ ends and in his heart’s core, is a champion in our Israel; you cannot compete with him; you may have an armory of weapons, but his Scriptural knowledge will overcome you; for it is a sword like that of Goliath, of which David said, “There is none like it.” The gracious William Romaine, I believe, in the latter part of his life, put away all his books and read nothing at all but his Bible. He was a scholarly man, yet he was monopolized by the one Book, and was made mighty by it. If we are driven to do the same by necessity, let us recollect that some have done it by choice, and let us not bemoan our lot, for the Scriptures will be sweeter than honey to our taste, and will make us “wiser than the ancients.” We shall never be short of holy matter if we are continually studying the inspired volume; nay, it is not only matter that we shall find there, but illustration too; for the Bible is its own best illustrator. If you want anecdote, simile, allegory, or parable, turn to the sacred page. Scriptural truth never looks more lovely than when she is adorned with jewels from her own treasury. I have lately been reading the Books of the Kings and the Chronicles; I have become enamored of them; they are as full of divine instruction as the Psalms or Prophets, if read with opened eyes. I think it was Ambrose who used to say, “I adore the infinity of Scripture.” I hear that same voice which sounded in the ears of Augustine, concerning the Book of God, “Tolle, lege” — “Take, read.” It may be you will dwell in retirement in some village, where there is no one to converse with who is above your own level, and where you will meet with very few books worth your reading; then read and meditate in the law of the Lord both day and night, and you shall be “as a tree planted by the rivers of water.” Make the Bible the man of your right hand, the companion of every hour; and you will have little reason to lament your slender equipment in inferior things.
I would earnestly impress upon all, the truth that a man who is short of apparatus can make up for it by much thought. Thinking is better than possessing books. Thinking is an exercise of the soul which both develops its powers and educates them. A little girl was once asked whether she knew what her soul was, and, to the surprise of all, she said, “Sir, my soul is my think.” If this be correct, some persons have very little soul. Without thinking, reading cannot benefit the mind, but it may delude the man into the idea that he is growing wise. Books are a sort of idol to some men. As the image with the Roman Catholic is intended to make him think of Christ, and in effect, keeps him from Christ, so books are intended to make men think, but are often a hindrance to thought. When George Fox took a sharp knife and cut out for himself a pair of leather breeches, and, having done with all the fashions of society, hid himself in a hollow tree, to think by the month together, he was growing into a man before whom the men of the books speedily beat a retreat. What a flutter he made not only among the Poperies, and Prelacies, and Presbyteries of his day, but also among the well-read proprieties of Dissent. He swept no end of cobwebs out of the sky, and gave the bookworms a hard time of it. Thought is the backbone of study, and if more ministers would think, what a blessing it would be! Only, we want men who will think about the revealed truth of God, and not dreamers who evolve religions out of their own consciousness. Now-a-days we are pestered with a set of fellows who must needs stand on their heads and think with their feet. Romancing is their notion of meditation. Instead of considering revealed truth, they excogitate a mess of their own, in which error, and nonsense, and conceit appear in about equal parts; and they call this broth “modern thought.” We want men who will try to think straight, and yet think deep, because they think God’s thoughts. Far be it from me to urge you to imitate the boastful thinkers of this age, who empty their meeting-houses, and then glory that they preach to the cultivated and intellectual. It is miserable cant. Earnest thought upon the things which are assuredly believed among us is quite another matter, and to that I urge you. Personally, I owe much to many hours, and even days, spent alone, under an old oak-tree by the river Medway. Happening to be somewhat indisposed at the time when I was leaving school, I was allowed considerable leisure, and, armed with an excellent fishing-rod, I caught a few small fishes, and enjoyed many day-dreams, intermingled with searchings of heart, and much ruminating of knowledge gained. If boys would think, it would be well to give them less class work and more opportunity for thought. All cram and no digestion makes flesh destitute of muscle, and this is even more deplorable mentally than physically. If your people are not numerous enough to supply you with a library, they will make fewer demands on your time, and, in having time for meditation, you will be even better off than your brethren with many books and little space for quiet contemplation.
Without books a man may learn much by Keeping his eyes open. Current history, incidents which transpire under his own nose, events recorded in the newspaper, matters of common talk — he may learn from them all. The difference between eyes and no eyes is wonderful. If you have not books to try your eyes, keep them open wherever you go, and you will find something worth looking at. Can you not learn from nature? Every flower is waiting to teach you. “Consider the lilies,” and learn from the roses. Not only may you go to the ant, but every living thing offers itself for your instruction. There is a voice in every gale, and a lesson in every grain of dust it bears. Sermons glisten in the morning on every blade of grass, and homilies fly by you as the sere leaves fall from the trees. A forest is a library, a corn field is a volume of philosophy, the creek is a history, and the river at its base a poem. Go, thou who hast thine eyes opened, and find lessons of wisdom everywhere, in heaven above, in the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth. Books are poor things compared with these.
Moreover, however scant your libraries, you can study yourselves. There is a mystic volume, the major part of which you have never read. If any man thinks that he knows himself thoroughly, he deceives himself; for the most difficult book you will ever read is your own heart. I said to a doubter the other day, who seemed to have got into a maze, “Well, really I cannot understand you; but I am not vexed, for I never could understand myself;” and I certainly meant what I said. Watch the twists and turns and singularities of your own minds, and the strangeness of your own experience; the depravity of your heart, and the work of divine grace; your tendency to sin, and capacity for holiness; how akin you are to a devil, and yet how allied to God himself! Note how wisely you can act when taught of God, and yet how foolishly you behave when left to yourself. You will find the study of your heart to be of immense importance to you as a watcher over the souls of others. A man’s own experience should be to him the laboratory in which he tests the medicines which he is to prescribe to others. Even your own faults will instruct you if you bring them to the Lord. Perfect men would be unable to deal with imperfect men and women. Study the Lord’s dealings with your own souls, and you will understand others. Read other men; they are as instructive as books. Suppose there should come up to one of our great hospitals a young student, so poor that he could not purchase surgical books; it would certainly be a great detriment to him; but if he had the run of the hospital, if he saw operations performed, and watched cases from day to day, I should not wonder but what he might turn out as skillful a surgeon as his more favored companions. His observation would show him what books alone could not; and as he stood by to see the removal of a limb, the binding up of a wound, or the tying up of an artery, he might, at any rate, pick up enough practical surgery to be of immense service to him. Now, much that a minister needs to know he must learn by actual observation. All wise pastors have walked the hospitals spiritually, and dealt with inquirers, hypocrites, backsliders, the despairing, and the presumptuous. A man who has had a sound practical experience in the things of God himself, and watched the hearts of others, other things being equal, will be a far more useful man than he who knows only what be has read. It is a great pity for a man to be a sort of college Jack-a-dandy, who comes out of the class-room as out of a bandbox, into a world he never saw before, to deal with men he has never observed, and handle things with which he has never come into personal contact. “Not a novice,” says the apostle; and it is possible to be a novice and yet a very accomplished scholar, a classic, a mathematician, and a theoretical theologian. We should have practical dealings with men’s souls; and if we have much of it, the fewness of our books will be a light affliction. “But,” says an inquiring brother,” how can you read a man?” I have heard of a gentleman of whom it was said that you could never stop five minutes under an archway with him but what he would teach you something. That was a wise man; but he would be a wiser man still who would never stop five minutes under an archway without learning from other people. If you are wise enough you can learn as much from a fool as from a wise man. A fool is a splendid book to read from, because every leaf is open before you, and there is a dash of the comic in the style, which entices you to read on; and if you gather nothing else, you are warned not to publish your own folly. Learn from experienced saints. What deep things some of them can teach to us younger men! What instances God’s poor people can narrate of the Lord’s providential appearances for them; how they glory in. his upholding grace and his faithfulness to his promises! What fresh light they often shed upon the promises, revealing meanings hidden from the carnally wise, but made clear to simple hearts! Know you not that many of the promises are written with invisible ink, and must be held to the fire of affliction before the letters will show themselves? Tried spirits are instructors to those of us whose days are less rough. And as for the inquirer, how much is to be gathered from him! I have seen very much of my own stupidity while in conversation with seeking souls. I have been baffled by a poor lad while trying to bring him to the Savior; I thought I had him fast, but he has eluded me again and again with perverse ingenuity of unbelief. Sometimes inquirers who are really anxious surprise me with their singular skill in battling against hope; their arguments are endless and their difficulties countless. They put us to a non plus again and again. It is only the grace of God that at last enables us to bring them to the light. In their strange perversities of unbelief, the singular constructions and misconstructions which they put upon their case and upon scriptural statements, you will often find a world of instruction. I would sooner give a young man an hour with inquirers than a week in the best of our classes, so far as practical training for the pastorate is concerned.
Once more, be much at death-beds; they are illuminated books. There shall you read the very poetry of our religion, and learn the secrets thereof.
What splendid gems are washed up by the waves of Jordan! What fair flowers grow on its banks! The everlasting fountains in the glory-land throw their spray aloft, and the dew-drops fall on this side the narrow stream! I have heard poor humble men and women talk as though they were inspired, uttering strange words, aglow with immortal glory. These they learned from no lips beneath the moon; they must have heard them while sitting in the suburbs of the New Jerusalem. God whispers them in their ears amid their pain and weakness; and then they tell us a little of what the Spirit has revealed. I will part with all my books, if I may see the Lord’s Elijahs mount their chariots of fire.
Is not this enough upon our subject? If you desire more, it is time I remembered the sage saying, that it is better to send away an audience longing than loathing, and, therefore, Adieu!
HOW TO MAKE A.D. A YEAR OF OUR LORD WE have seen an oak in the New Forest which, according to the evidence of credible witnesses, frequently puts forth leaves at Christmas time. There is truth in the statement, for this oak, and two or three others in the forest, send forth premature buds in mild winters, but the connection between those hasty shoots and Christmas Day is mere poetry — pretty poetry, however, for it represents the very trees of the wood as glad at the birth of the Savior-King, and putting on their best attire to give him welcome.
Whatever may be said of the realm of nature, it is an indisputable fact that the kingdom of grace puts forth its noblest life when the Son of God approaches. It is no fiction that the drawing nigh of Jesus to the soul causes the heart to send forth summer shoots, even when all around tells of spiritual mid-winter. However sorrowful or backsliding the soul may have been, the sap within leaps at the Lord’s approach, quickens the entire inner life, and causes a blossoming of joy as beautiful as it is astonishing. Truly, as it is said of the stock of a tree which has been felled, “At the scent of water it will bud and send forth boughs like a pliant,” so may it be said of our hearts; Let but the scent of the good ointments of Jesus’ love be perceived, and the soul puts on her beauty and her comeliness, and hastens to bring forth fruit to her Bridegroom’s praise. Though we were dead as stones, and cold as icebergs, a glance from the eyes of our Beloved would enliven us, and kindle in us heaven’s own flame. The presence of Jesus in the soul penetrates to the heart’s core, and acts like a spell upon our entire spiritual nature: it is so potent over every regenerated faculty that it works marvels, and were it uninterrupted it would effect still more, for is it not omnipotent? Miracles would be hourly wrought if the Lord Jesus dwelt always in our hearts, for he is a wonder-worker wherever he takes up his abode. As when spring comes it sends a thrill down deep into nature’s heart, and rouses her from her long winter’s sleep to enter upon a summer of delight, even thus the uprising of the Sun of Righteousness within the soul quickens and awakens all the inner man, and produces a time of blissful fruitfulness. What abundant reasons have we, whose life and liveliness depend wholly upon him, to pray without ceasing, “Lord, abide with us!” Without Jesus we are nothing, but when he abides in us we are filled with all the fullness of God. “As some rare perfume in a vase of clay Pervades it with a fragrance not its own, So, when thou dwellest in a mortal soul, All heaven’s own sweetness seems around it thrown. “The soul alone, like a neglected harp, Grows out of tune, and needs that band divine:
Dwell thou within it; tune and touch the chords, Till every note and string shall answer thine. “Abide in me: there have been moments blest When I have heard thy voice and felt thy power; Then evil lost its grasp: and passion, hush’d, Owned the divine enchantment of the hour. “These were but seasons, beautiful and rare; Abide in me, and they shall ever be; Fulfill at once thy precept and my prayer, Come and abide in me, and I in thee.” Not alone does communion with Jesus quicken us, it also chases away all the evils which had been prowling within the recesses of our being, even as the light of dawn compels the beasts of the forest to hide themselves.
Sunlight is life and health to plants; they are sallow and blanched without it, and their juices grow poisonous; herein they fitly image our need of our good Lord’s light and love. They say in Rome that a room on the shady side of the street is to be avoided, for where the sun does not enter the physician must. Many believers have found out to their cost that it is ill living out of fellowship with the Well-beloved; bitter medicine has been required to drive out the maladies engendered by failing to continue in Jesus’ love. Yet there is no cure for the loss of fellowship, except fellowship itself. If absence of Jesus makes us sick, Jesus alone can work our cure. Virtue goes out of him, a touch heals us, an embrace confirms us in all that is pure and strong. If we are sick even unto death, there is no necessity to resort to the acrid remedies of remorse, or the sharp potion of Moses and Sinai; our wisdom is to send at once for Jesus only, for he is all we need. We need not hesitate because we have been so cold towards him; he will come and heal us, notwithstanding our misbehavior; no one is so slow to take offense as he is. When the Laodicean church was so infected with disease as to be at death’s door, she had a remedy close at hand, she had only to open the door to him who knocked so lovingly, and bid him enter and sup with her and all her lukewarmness would have vanished at once. She was wretched and miserable, and poor and naked, but she was not bidden to send her ships to far off lands to bring home rare aromatics and foreign gems: no, her own loving Lord said, “I counsel thee to buy of
ME.” In him was all that she needed from every point of view; there was no need to call in another. Jesus is not only the medicine of dying sinners, but also of sick saints. We may go to him always, even as we went to him at first: he saved us then, he will revive us now; our unfaithfulness has not diminished his power to save. In this weary time of declension, when men are hot for the world, and only cold towards their best Friend, when religion has become more a name than a reality, all saintly eyes should be directed to Jesus as the panacea for the diseases both of the world and of the church. Thither would we turn our eyes, and sigh within our soul for the near and dear companionship of our own Lord. “Oh, Jesus Christ, grow thou in me, And all things else recede; My heart be daily nearer thee, From sin be daily freed! “Make this poor self grow less and less, Be thou my life and aim.
Oh, make me daily, through thy grace, More worthy of thy name; “Daily more filled with thee my heart, Daily from self more free; Thou, to whom prayer didst strength impart, Of my prayer hearer be! “Let faith in thee, and in thy might, My every motive move; Be thou alone my soul’s delight, My passion and my love!” Since fellowship with Jesus so wonderfully quickens and heals the soul, it is wonderful that any believer can live without it, and yet how very few, comparatively, are in the constant enjoyment of it. If we were to ask many a professor, “How long is it since you enjoyed real communion with Jesus?” he would find it difficult to answer. The great mass of professors are too much taken up with the world, too busy, too careful, too frivolous, or too unbelieving. They might feast every day upon the bread of heaven, but they prefer to starve or fill their mouths with the husks of earth; they might dwell in the palace of the great King, but they are content to abide in the smoke-grimed tents of Kedar. Was there ever a drearier infatuation?
Milton pictures the fallen angel as wearing in Eve’s bower the form of a toad, but how much greater is the degradation when the Bride of Christ prefers to wear the appearance of a mole or an earthworm! It is shameful for an heir of heaven to choose this musty, mildewed world, and neglect the ever fresh and sparkling beauties of Immanuel. Our place is in the Savior’s bosom, and that always and for ever. There is no need for us to suspend our communion, and no need can ever arise. The order of the Lord’s household never renders it necessary that the bride of Christ should be on ill terms with her husband; all that mars their fellowship is outside of the Lord’s arrangements and sinful. Never shall it be said “Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount.” For ever here our rest must be. Jesus wearing the memorials of his dying love, and girt with the glories of his risen life, should be our perpetual company, his presence the sun which warms us, his love the atmosphere we breathe, his words our food, himself our all in all.
Brethren, the new year is within sight, and it will be a happy thing for us if we begin it upon a higher platform, with higher resolves, and enlarged faith. The time past may suffice us to have yielded to worldliness, and to the motions of sin in our members; it is time to rise out of the murky atmosphere of the fens of earth into the unclouded blue of “glory begun below.” We may live the life of heaven upon earth. We are not shut up to dull, cold formalism, to doubting and trembling, or to wandering and backsliding. The highest forms of fellowship with Jesus are as open to us as to those who have gone before us: faith can reach them beyond all question. Let our resolve be deeply fixed and earnestly carried out, and so 1874 will be a glad and lightsome year, a year of the right hand of the Most High, and in very deed aYEAR OF OUR LORD. C.H.S.
NOTES CONCERNING THE STOCKWELL ORPHANAGE.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
THE Orphanages of our country are a great blessing, but while alleviating a vast amount of distress, it cannot be denied that some of them incidentally create much sorrow. The system of admission by votes, entailing great labor and expense in canvassing, is in itself a heavy yoke; but when those who have done their utmost fail at the end of the election, the grief they feel is of the bitterest kind. We have a few hours ago received a letter commencing — “DEAR SIR, — By reading my printed appeal you will see that I have been for two years embarked in an expensive and fatiguing canvass, and the election on the 27th being our last permitted poll, I am well nigh desperate.”
Such instances frequently come before us. Widows will spend from £20 to £50 in trying to secure the election of their children, and lose their object after all. The Daily News mentions a case in which £60 was spent to secure admission into one of the hospitals (we suppose for incurables), and was spent in vain. Imagine the heartbreak of the defeated candidate!! A great effort has been made, friends have been hunted up, and their generosity well tested, and all for nothing; the grand struggle has come to a close, and the needy one is in greater straits than ever. The witness of the daily press is a sorrowful one. “When the poll is over, and the result is known, the most trying scenes are witnessed. The defeated immensely outnumber the successful candidates, and they give way to their disappointment and grief.
A poor widow has spent all she had or could get from her friends in the canvas for her crippled boy, and has failed. Two or three women have, undertaken six months’ work for a dependent relative, and their labor and sacrifices are in vain. The manifestations of disappointment are distressing.
And this is charity! this is how institutions supported ‘by voluntary contributions’ make so large a show to the world.”
Thank God, from the Stockwell Orphanage no widow ever goes away lamenting over time, labor, and money spent in vain. The worst that can happen to her is to be refused, because there is no room, or her ease is not so bad as that of others; not a shilling will have been drained from her to print cards, to post applications, or to purchase votes, nor a day spent in securing influence, and cringing for patronage. Her case is judged upon its merits, and the most necessitous wins the day. We have now so many applicants, and so few vacancies, that women with two or three children are advised not to apply, for while there are others with five, six, or seven dependent upon them, they stand but little chance. The trustees are not open to influence and decline to submit to private pressure, they leave the cases to the persons appointed to judge of their merits. Where donors give sums which more than cover the expense of a child, the trustees naturally defer to their wishes, and accept their recommendations if they can do so in accordance with the rules of the institution; but money sent with the view of promoting the election of A or B is respectfully returned, as this would lead to a course of action totally at variance with that which we have hitherto pursued. By our system cases are really inquired into, and, as a rule, the most destitute obtain the benefits of the school. This entails great labor, and frequently necessitates delay, for the investigations are carried on by gentlemen in business, whose time is much occupied, and no person is paid to do the work. The inquiries are intended to be thorough and searching, and as a rule they are so, though of course much must depend upon the tact and care of the person who acts as visitor to the case. Every effort is made to secure the benefits of the Orphanage to those who are most in need, and no applicant is left to the chances of a poll. Surely this must commend itself to the common sense of all benevolent persons, and they will do well to show their appreciation by aiding institutions so conducted.
It must not, however, be concealed that the common mode of electing orphans to schools by the votes of subscribers and canvassing is a great means of procuring funds. Very few of the institutions would live at all if the system were altered; it is essential to their very existence; the elections are their harvests, their sources of income, their props and pillars. Guineas are subscribed for particular cases, and the widows and their friends are practically collectors for the school, whippers-up of the donors, and pleaders for the charity. Rich old Hunks would not give his 10s. 6d. if he had not a voting-paper for it, nor even then, if it had not happened that the orphan’s father was killed on his premises. The plan is not the best in the world, but it is the most easy in practice, and it would be dangerous to do away with it at present. Better that a good thing should be done in the second-best manner than not done at all. Election by subscribers brings subscribers, canvassing reminds them of their obligations, and the poll secures the discharge of them. When a school receives children without voting or canvassing, it loses all these advantages, and must count upon no such assistances. It is not every orphanage which could venture to give up the old system, or would long survive if it did. The Stockwell Orphanage is an exceptional case altogether, it is conducted by those who believe in God’s power to supply the orphan’s needs, and they prayerfully leave their cares at his feet: it is also connected, through its president, with a large Christian church, and a body of earnest believers all over the world, who take an interest in its welfare. Hence it has no need to use doubtful modes of raising money; but can afford to follow the best rather than the most expedient way. Yet its managers feel that providing the needful funds is, from the human side of it, no light matter, and they dare not condemn the methods of others, nor would they join in the popular clamor which is likely to assail kindred institutions, for they feel that it is more easy to find fault than to suggest really practical improvements. Their own experience has, however, confirmed them in the belief that theirs is a more excellent way, and they appeal to all who approve of their method of procedure to support them in it by constant, regular, and generous gifts.
In the internal management of the Orphanage, our course has been, as a rule, very smooth and happy, but we could hardly expect it to proceed always without trouble and sorrow. Boys are boys all the world over, and their nature is not changed by entering within the enclosures of the Stockwell Home. All is done which can be done to render them obedient, industrious, truthful, and devout; and we are always; ready to learn, and to practice what others have proved to be valuable. The admission of new boys is always a trial. Children come into ordinary families as very welcome and very little strangers, but our increase comes to us sometimes in the form of boys of nine or ten, who have bad habits, evil antecedents, and ill dispositions. We do not pretend to take or to retain boys who are only fit for reformatories; but some such will get in, and they bring with them moral disease, which is as apt to spread as an epidemic. Then come times of battling with sin and crying to the Lord for help. Parents with a few children may imagine the heartaches which come to those who manage hundreds, and lovingly desire their welfare. Parents have, however, a hold over their children which we have not, for they are parents, and that fact confers upon them the mystic scepter of supreme authority. A wise writer has put our experience into a handy shape for us, and we quote her words. “It is sad to see the effects on the moral character of the lack of parental influence. Nothing is more difficult than to bring up the orphan well; and children whose parents are in India often show the same evil tendencies as do orphans — impatience of control, restlessness, and willfulness; healthy, loving, family discipline being unknown to them. Would that parents thought more of the ill effects upon their children of their long-continued separation from them, and that they would not content themselves with doing by proxy what God commands them to do, to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Orphanages are under a peculiar disadvantage as to education, the great moral lever of affection to parents being unknown to the children. Were it not for God’s most special and tender words as regards the orphan, Christians might well shrink from the anxiety and loll involved in educating these dear helpless ones.” So have we found it, but we have also found the grace of God equal to the emergency: and we are encouraged to persevere so long as the Lord enables us. We have not been without success; a gracious tone has been given to the little community, many have come under impressions, and others have been converted to God. Those who have gone out into situations have almost in every case given us much satisfaction; where failure has occurred, it has arisen either from a craving for the sea, or from the interference of an unwise mother, and we hope that time and grace will remedy the evil. Some of the lads are already in good positions, and command the esteem of their employers. We are far from being depressed under our load, rather do we thank God, and take courage. We do, however, earnestly ask for the prayers of the Lord’s people, that we may be graciously supported. Who is sufficient for these things? Who can hope to conduct such a work efficiently while a thousand other matters are upon his hands, unless divine strength be given?
Visitors are always welcome to inspect the Stockwell Orphanage, which is a place fair to look upon, and in summer will well repay a moderate journey. Those who have done so in former days have frequently written their opinions in the visitors’ book, and we will trouble our readers with a few of their jottings: — It has been quite a treat to me to visit this institution. Everything in order.
May the Lord prosper it. W. T.BUCKLAND.
Very much pleased and encouraged in addressing the dear children on total abstinence and gospel truth.JONATHANGRUBB.
Everything that is conducive to health and comfort. C. E.SAUNDERS, M.D.
I cannot speak too highly of all the arrangements, and of the admirable manner in which the institution is conducted. H.GERVIS, Esq., M.D., etc., etc.
Such an institution is a blessing to the country. J.LATHAM.
So delighted! So far surpassing what I had expected that I know not what to say. This I know, I find much to incorporate into my own work. W. C. VANMETER.
Worthy of its president and manager.REV. A. G.BROWN.
Nothing could be better than the arrangements. A most pleasant place to visit.REV.JOHNFOSTER.
Very much pleased with all the arrangements.REV.ALFD.BOURNE, B.A., Sec. British and Foreign School Soc.
Deeply interested and delighted with the boys.REV. T. G.HORTON.
An admirable institution. Good in design, and, if possible, better in execution. F. J.MONAH, M.D. H. M. J. H BRIDGES, M.D. Inspectors.
Looking over a few of the papers of application, and the information gathered for us by our friends who make investigations for us, we have jotted down a few of the cases which we have lately received into the school. They are fair specimens of the general run of admissions. The sorrow which comes under our notice when hearing the sad stories of the poor bereaved women is something terrible to think upon.
C. V. B., age seven. One of seven left unprovided for by death of father, youngest child five months old. Mother does cleaning, and earns 5s. a week. H. M, seven years old, and one of seven, Mother unable to follow any employment, because the children require her attention. There are no relations above the rank of domestic servants. The mother has long struggled to keep her family respectable, and is a very hard-working woman, but her husband was addicted to hard drinking. Her trials must have been great indeed while he was alive, and they are heavier now.
F. H. M., eldest of six, being himself only eight years of age. One child born after the father’s death. No sort of provision.
S. W., aged six. Has lost both parents, and is supported, together with his brother and sister, by his uncle, who earns a scanty living by selling winkles and dried fish. Father was a respectable clerk, and died suddenly by a fall down stairs. Uncle :finds that he is unable to continue to support the three children, and his own family also.
G. H. C. Father was a boiler-maker, and was killed by an accident. There are nine children, and another is expected. The two eldest keep themselves.
One child is blind and another imbecile. This boy is nine years of age.
Mother earns 3s. a week by needlework; has been occasionally helped by husband’s fellow-workmen. The contractors who employed her husband are aiding her for the present, but this will soon cease, and her prospect is distressing.
G. A., aged six, son of a farmer, who died leaving £10 a year, and his wife and nine children to live upon it. Mother gave way under the severe trial, and had to be sent to an asylum. Is now recovered, and keeps a little fancy shop, and works very hard with the needle, but her income is extremely scanty and precarious. No case can be more deserving.
Such details we could multiply without end, the difficulty is not which to select, but which to omit. We have to reject hundreds of deserving applicants, not because they are not needy, but because they are put out of court by others which surpass them in distress.
We have met with much gratitude from the poor mothers, and they have manifested it practically by collecting for the Institution. In all, the widows have brought in a very considerable sum, and thus have shown their interest in the work.
Sickness has but slightly assailed us, yet enough to make it wise to have a house at Ramsgate for the sickly ones during the season. So many of the fathers of our orphans died of consumption, that we are sure to have a number of rather weakly children, but, with kind care, they gather strength, and grow into vigorous men. Our diet is homely, but generous, and the boys thrive upon it.
A tailor advertises — “As for the boys who all day long Their clothes to pieces tear, We make them up so very strong That out they’ll never wear.” We do not intend to deal with this house, but should be delighted to meet with garments deserving such a description, for clothes are always a very heavy item in our expenditure. Under garments are generally provided for us by generous ladies. We owe to them far more than we can express. In their good work may they find, as we do, a reward most precious.
As a work of charity and a labor of piety, orphanage work stands in the front rank, and among all the many schools which it has erected, we claim an honorable place for our own peculiar charge, the Stockwell Orphanage.
The exchequer is just now but scantily furnished; hence this article, and the earnest request that, among the generous gifts which make Christmas so pleasant, we may have a share. It will help our friends to know what to send if we remind them that we need £10 every time the sun rises. For the boys’ sake, also, we want materials for an extra treat on Christmas-day.