by C.H. Spurgeon To the Students of the Words, Works and Ways of God:
DEAR READER AS mariners across the sea of time we have ploughed our way through another league of the great deep, and registered another year. Our longitude and latitude have altered somewhat, and our bearings are different, we are so much nearer the land of the setting sun, with a course due west. The country from which we set out is so much the further behind, let us hope that we are less mindful of it. The brave country ahead is somewhat closer, “for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” We have encountered rough weather as our log will show, and parted with portions of the cargo, which we were loath to throw overboard, but, blessed be God, our vessel’s back was not broken on the mountain billows, neither did the tempest drive her on the rocks. We lost our reckoning and made a deviation from our course, much to our sorrow, but now we keep her stem towards port, and we know whither we are going. Now and then a land-bird alights on the rigging and sings us an anticipatory welcome, and we have gathered stray boughs and branches of trees which flourish only on the shore we seek, and this leads us to believe that we are nearer port than some might think; at any rate by the best nautical almanac we know that we are “not far from home.” Our watches grow more solemn and yet more hopeful; we send a man to the masthead to look for land oftener than ever we did, and the vessel seems to feel the attraction of the shore even as a needle is agitated when the magnet is at hand. Comrades, what cheer? Is not the Lord of Hosts with us as our captain? Let us rejoice, and sing one of the songs of Zion, and salute the old year as we pass her on her voyage to eternity.
Dropping the metaphor, we salute our readers most cheerfully, while we thank them for bearing with us through another year: we have done our best, and never has it been more appreciated if kindly letters of thanks may be regarded as safe evidences. We have made mistakes in this magazine, as well as in our deeds and words, and there are those who have wanted to hang us up like Mordecai on a gallows of fifty cubits high, but we sit in the king’s gate still, and probably shall do when those who make a man an offender for a word are forgotten. Our true friends have, however, remained as faithful and as kind as ever, believing in our sincere desire to vindicate truth and to walk uprightly among men, and therefore being content to differ from us when they could not exactly agree. These, and they are legion, are the friends we desire, and it is a delight to serve them.
Our post is no sinecure, for we do really edit this magazine, and also write with our own pen no small part of it, and this has to be done at times when flesh and blood, and brain, and nerve, all say, “we pray thee have us excused.” To preach almost daily, study, write books, prepare college lectures, answer an enormous number of letters, manage an orphanage, and a hundred other things needs an industry which never lets the grass grow round its feet, and craves an indulgence which some are slow to grant. Will our readers go on bearing with us, and also kindly make some little effort to extend the circulation of the magazine, which is very cheering, but might be doubled, much to the advantage of the interests which it strives to promote?
Our College, Orphanage, and Colportage have been by divine Providence kept above all want through another year. To God be glory, and to the donors thanks. May they be rewarded by a sense of having done it unto the Lord. Such is our confidence in all that we have wrought hitherto.
We have finished and published the “Interpreter” during the year 1874, and it only remains to be placed in our friends’ houses to aid them in family worship. We feel sure that if they knew it they would value it, for hundreds acknowledge that it has been very helpful to them.
Another volume of the “Treasury of David,” Vol. IV., will also be issued at the close of the year, making two-thirds of our laborious work upon the Psalms. Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.
Our solemn testimony at the close of another year is that the Lord assuredly hears prayer, that faith in Him is always wisdom, and that He is a blessed God, and they are blessed who serve Him. Nothing quiets a troubled conscience like the atoning blood of Jesus, and nothing raises the mind from sadness like the comforts of the Holy Ghost; this also we know, for we have tasted and handled it. Reader, can you set your seal to these verities; if so, let us continue to tell the world so, till out of this unbelieving generation a remnant shall be gathered who shall praise the Lord.
Finally, may peace be with all the children of the God of peace. While traveling in Italy it was our good fortune to fall in with our esteemed friend, Dr. Jobson, a Wesleyan brother well known to fame as a preacher of the gospel, and known also to his numerous friends as an artist of no mean order. By his kindness we are able to present our readers with a view of the stairs on the north side of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, at Rome, which are superstitiously reputed to be the identical steps which our Savior descended when he left the judgment hall of Pilate. No mention is made of steps in the gospels, but that is of small consequence to the Church of Rome, which recognizes tradition as quite sufficient authority.
There are twenty-eight marble steps of considerable breadth, and we are asked to believe that they were transported from Jerusalem to Rome by miraculous agency. We remember a cottage which was so dilapidated that, to our knowledge, the father gathered up the steps of the stairs, and sent his boy with them to the landlord, with the message, “Please, sir, father has sent you our stairs, and would be glad of a new set,” but these marble slabs are in excellent repair and of great weight, and must have required a considerable amount of angelic engineering to remove them to their present site. However, for many a long year doubters concerning the authenticity of the holy stairs have been judged to be rank infidels, and have been considered worthy of the direst pains of perdition. Those who adored the Pope, “And kissed — whatever he gave them to kiss, Toe, relic, embroidery, nought came amiss,” were of course reverent kissers of the staircase, but that is not all, for so powerful was the superstitious esteem for these steps that persons of a better sort who renounced other follies yet clung to the virtues of the Scala Santa, and cling to them even now. “But,” said one who had been convinced of the absurdity of worshipping the Virgin and the Bambino, “you cannot deny that the steps of the Scala Santa are very holy, and that it is well to pray upon them.”
Two years ago we stood at the foot of the staircase, and saw persons of both sexes, and all ages and conditions, climbing up these stairs upon their knees. The marble is protected by planks of wood, which, it is said, have been three times worn away by the knees of penitents, and as often renewed. We could quite believe it, for the kneeling traffic before us was very great. It was a mournful spectacle to look up and see poor human nature so degraded as to be crawling up a staircase with the view of reaching heaven, and it was sadder still to stand at the top and look down upon the faces of the ascending devotees. Some of them appeared to be going through the performance with light hearts, but others were quite absorbed in their prayers and genuflections. In the wood of the bottom, middle, and uppermost steps there is an opening, through which the marble appears, and here each climber pauses and kisses the stone, because there our Lord is reported to have fallen, groaned, or fainted, we forget which.
We were not permitted to walk up this blessed piece of deception, but we ascended by one of the parallel staircases which flank it on either hand, down which the penitents descend. At the top is a painting of the Savior, in which he is represented at the age of twelve as five feet eight inches in height; this famous daub is ascribed to St. Luke, and held in the utmost veneration. The present Pope has expended large sums upon the buildings which enclose the Scala Santa, both in repairs and decorations. Last year, on our second visit, the Scala Santa were but very scantily furnished with worshippers; indeed, business seemed to be at a very low ebb in most of the churches, and we were led to hope that the trade in “the Roman row” of Vanity Fair was going to the dogs, as it deserved.
Now, it is one thing to read and write this description, but it was quite another matter to be present in body and see the whole affair in actual operation. One can be cool and prudent at a distance, for the abomination does not strike the mind so vividly; but to stand there and see those detestable priests looking on with an ill-concealed contempt for the crawling crowd of deluded men and women, looking, as Luther would say, “as if the poor laity stank in their sacred noses,” made our blood boil, and gave our language a flavor akin to David’s fiercer psalms. Never did we more greatly marvel at the mercy of God, which holds back his thunderbolts from destroying those wretched shavelings who deceive the people. It was very wrong, no doubt, but a man must be even more perfect than John Wesley, or Pearsall Smith, if he can look upon such a scene without righteous indignation, intensified by a little mixture of human nature. We hope we did not imprecate vengeance upon anybody, Jesuit or Pope, but we do not feel quite sure about it. Happily for us we were at that time accosted by a gentleman, a member of the English Church, who expressed himself very forcibly upon the humiliating scene before us. This furnished us with a diversion, for we said to him, “This is what your church is coming to; the baptismal regeneration of the Prayer Book is rotting her through and through, and breeding in her all the evils of Popery.” He mildly expostulated, but added that after what he had seen of Romanism he did not wonder at honest men using the strongest possible language, and even going to an extreme in their protests. Our abhorrence of Popery and everything verging upon it rose to a white heat as we saw how it can lower an intelligent nation to the level of fetish worship, and associate the name of the ever-blessed Jesus with a groveling idolatry. If our mild milk-andwater Protestants could see Popery with their own eyes, they might have less to say against Orange bigotry; and if those who play at ornate worship could see whither their symbolism tends, they would start back aghast, and adhere henceforth to the severest simplicity. Perhaps Luther would never have become a Reformer had it not been for his visit to Rome and his ascent of these very stairs. In the city where he expected to find the church of God in all its holiness, he found sin rampant beyond all precedent. “It is almost incredible,” says he, “what infamous actions are committed at Rome; one would require to see it and hear it in order to believe it. It is an ordinary saying that if there is a hell, Rome is built upon it. It is an abyss from whence all sins proceed.” Nor did he speak as an exaggerating enthusiast, for Machiavelli’s witness was that the nearer you came to the capital of Christendom the less you found of the Christian spirit. “We Italians,” said the great historian, “are chiefly indebted to the church and the priests for our having become a set of profane scoundrels.” Undeceived as to the holiness of Popedom by his own actual observation in its chief city, Luther was in a fit state to be delivered from its thralldom, and the hand which set him free snapped his fetters for him upon the very stairs which we have described, and which our friend has depicted. The historian of the Reformation thus describes the sudden enlightenment of Luther’s mind : — “One day, among others, wishing to gain an indulgence which the Pope had promised to every one who should on his knees climb up what is called Pilate’s Stair, the Saxon monk was humbly crawling up the steps, which he was told had been miraculously transported to Rome from Jerusalem. But while he was engaged in this meritorious act, he thought he beard a voice of thunder which cried at the bottom of his heart, as at Wittemberg and Bologna, ‘ The just shall live by faith.’ These words, which had already on two different occasions struck him like the voice of an angel of God, resounded loudly and incessantly within him. He rises up in amazement from the steps along which he was dragging his body. Horrified at himself, and ashamed to see how far superstition has abased him, he flies far from the scene of his folly. “In regard to this mighty word there is something mysterious in the life of Luther. It proved a creating word both for the Reformer and for the Reformation. It was by it that God then said, ‘ Let light be, and light was.’
It is often necessary that a truth, in order to produce its due effect on the mind, should be repeatedly presented to it. Luther had carefully studied the Epistle to the Romans, and yet, though justification by faith is there taught, he had never seen it so clearly. Now he comprehended the righteousness which alone can stand in the presence of God; now he received from God himself, by the hand of Christ, that obedience which he freely imputes to the sinner as soon as he humbly turns his eye to the God-Man who was crucified. This is the decisive period in the internal life of Luther. The faith which saved him from the terrors of death became the soul of his theology, his fortress in all dangers, the stamina of his discourse, the stimulant of his love, the foundation of his peace, the spur of his labors, his consolation in life and in death. “But this great doctrine of a salvation which emanates from God and not from man, was not only the power of God to save the soul of Luther, it also became the power of God to reform the Church; a powerful weapon which the apostles wielded, a weapon too long neglected, but at length brought forth in its primitive luster from the arsenal of the mighty God. At the moment when Luther stood up in Rome, all moved, and thrilling with the words which Paul had addressed fifteen centuries before to the inhabitants of this metropolis, truth, till then a fettered captive within the church, rose up also, never again to fall. “Here we must let Luther speak for himself. ‘Although I was a holy and irreproachable monk, my conscience was full of trouble and anguish. I could not bear the words, ‘ Justice of God.’ I loved not the just and holy God who punishes sinners. I was filled with secret rage against him, and hated him, because, not satisfied with terrifying his miserable creatures, already lost by original sin, with his law and the miseries of life, he still further increased our torment by the gospel ..... But when, by the Spirit of God, I comprehended these words; when I learned how the sinner’s justification proceeds from the pure mercy of the Lord by means of faith, then I felt myself revived like a new man, and entered at open doors into the very. paradise of God. From that time, also, I beheld the precious sacred volume with new eyes. I went over all the Bible, and collected a great number of passages which taught me what the work of God was.
And as I had previously, with all my heart, hated the words, ‘ Justice of God,’ so from that time I began to esteem and love them, as words most sweet and most consoling. In truth, these words were to me the true gate of paradise.’” As the Scala Santa thus became the place of salvation to the great reformer, so may our reference to them be made serviceable to those of our readers who have not yet found peace with God. The motive which leads men to crawl upon their knees up these famous stairs is the worldwide principle of self-salvation. Do is the popular gospel of unregenerate human nature: It is all done is the glad tidings of the grace of God. You, dear reader, are perhaps trying to be better in act, better in feeling, better in resolution, and this with the view of commending yourself to the favor of God. What is this but your Pilate’s Stairs? You will find that all your efforts are labor in vain, for by the works of the law no man will ever be justified before God. The gospel does not promise eternal life to good works, or prayers, or tears, or horrible feelings; its one great utterance is, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” May the Holy Spirit with divine power force upon every self-righteous mind the conviction of its own ruin, and of the hopelessness of its own efforts, and so may the soul become willing to accept eternal life as the gift of God by Jesus Christ. “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set,, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they than mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” — Matthew 5:1-12. One enjoys a sermon all the better for knowing something of the preacher . It is natural that, like John in Patmos, we should turn to see the voice which spake with us. Turn hither then, and learn that the Christ of God is the Preacher of the Sermon on the mount. He who delivered the Beatitudes was not only the Prince of preachers, but he was beyond all others qualified to discourse upon the subject which he had chosen. Jesus the Savior was best able to answer the question, “Who are the saved?” Being himself the ever-blessed Son of God, and the channel of blessings, he was best able to inform us who are indeed the blessed of the Father. As Judge, it will be his office to divide the blessed from the accursed at the last, and therefore it is most meet that in gospel majesty he should declare the principle of that judgment, that all men may be forewarned.
Do not fall into the mistake of supposing that the opening verses of the Sermon on the mount set forth how we are to be saved, or you may cause your soul to stumble. You will find the fullest light upon that matter in other parts of our Lord’s teaching, but here he discourses upon the question, “Who are the saved?” or, “What are the marks and evidences of a work of grace in the soul?” Who should know the saved so well as the Savior does? The shepherd best discerns his own sheep, and the Lord himself alone knoweth infallibly there that are his. We may regard the marks of the blessed ones here given as being the sure witness of truth, for they are given by him who cannot err, who cannot be deceived, and who, so their Redeemer, knows his own. The Beatitudes derive much of their weight from the wisdom and glory of him who pronounced them; and, therefore, at the outset your attention is called thereto. Lange says that “man is the mouth of creation, and Jesus is the mouth of humanity;” but we prefer, in this place, to think of Jesus am the mouth of Deity, and to receive his every word as girt with infinite power.
The occasion of this sermon is noteworthy; it was delivered when our Lord is described as “seeing the multitudes.” He waited until the congregation around him had reached its largest size, an was most impressed with his miracles, and then be took the tide at its flood, as every wise man should.
The sight of a, vast concourse of people ought always to move us to pity, for it represents a mass of ignorance, sorrow, sin, and necessity, far too great for us to estimate. The Savior looked upon the people with an omniscient eye, which saw all their sad condition; he saw the multitudes in an emphatic sense, and his soul was stirred within him at the sight. His was not the transient tear of Xerxes when he thought on the death of his armed myriads, but it was practical sympathy with the host of mankind. No one cared for them, they were like sheep without a shepherd, or like shocks of wheat ready to shale out for want of harvest-men to gather them in. Jesus therefore hastened to the rescue. He noticed, no doubt, with pleasure, the eagerness of the crowd to hear, and this drew him on to speak. A writer quoted in the “Catena Aurea” has well said, “Every man in his own trade or profession rejoices when he sees an opportunity of exercising it; the carpenter, if he sees a goodly tree, desires to have it felled, that be may employ his skill on it; and even so the preacher, when he sees a great congregation, his heart rejoices, and he is glad of the occasion to teach.” If men become negligent of hearing, and our audience dwindles down to a handful, it will be a great distress to us if we have to remember that, when the many were anxious to hear, we were not diligent to preach to them. He who will not reap when the fields am white unto the harvest, will have only himself to blame if in other seasons he is unable to fill his arm with sheaves.
Opportunities should be promptly used whenever the Lord puts them in our way. It is good fishing where there are plenty of fish, and when the birds flock around the fowler it is time for to spread his nets.
The place from which these blessings were delivered is next worthy of notice: “Seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain.” Whether or no the chosen element was that which is now known as the Horns of Hattim, is not a point which it falls in our way to contest; that he ascended an elevation is enough for our purpose. Of course, this would be mainly because of the accommodation which the open hill-side would afford to the people, and the readiness with which, upon some jutting crag, the preacher might sit down, and be both heard and seen; but we believe the chosen place of meeting had also its instruction. Exalted doctrine might well be symbolized by an ascent to the mount; at any rate, let every minister feel that he should ascend in spirit when he is about to descant upon the lofty themes of the gospel. A doctrine which could not be hid, and which would produce a Church comparable to a city set on a hill, fitly began to be proclaimed from a conspicuous place. A crypt or cavern would have been out of all character for a message which is to be published upon the housetops, and preached to every creature under heaven.
Beside, mountains have always been associated with distinct eras in history of the people of God; mount Sinai is sacred to the law, and mount Zion symbolical of the Church. Calvary was also in due time to be connected with redemption, and the mount of Olives with the ascension of our risen Lord. It was meet, therefore, that the opening of the Redeemer’s ministry should be connected with a mount such as “the hill of the Beatitudes.”
Twas from that mountain that God proclaimed the law, it is on a mountain that Jesus expounds it. Thank God, it was not a mount around which bounds had to be placed; it was not the mount which burned with fire, from which Israel retired in fear. It was, doubtless, a mount all carpeted with grass, and dainty with fair flowers, upon whose side the olive and fig flourished in abundance, save where the rocks pushed upward through the sod, and early invited their Lord to honor them by making them his them his pulpit and throne. May I not add that Jesus was in deep sympathy with nature, and therefore delighted in an audience-chamber whose floor was grass, and whose roof was the blue sky? The open space was in keeping with his large heart, the breezes were akin to his free spirit, and the world around was full of symbols and parables, in accord with the truths he taught. Better than long-drawn aisle, or tier on tier of crowded gallery, was that grand hill-side setting-place. Would God we oftener heard sermons amid soul-inspiring scenery! Surely preacher and hearer would be equally benefited by the change from the house made with hands to the God-made temple of nature.
There was instruction in the posture of the preacher: “When he was set,” he commenced to speak. We do not think that either weariness or length of the discourse suggested sitting down. He frequently stood when he preached at considerable length. We incline to the belief that, when he became a pleader with the sons of men, he stood with uplifted hands, eloquent from head to foot, entreating, beseeching, and exhorting, with every member of his body, as well as every faculty of his mind; but now that he was, as it were, a Judge award the blessings of the kingdom, or a King on his throne, separating his true subject from aliens and foreigners, he sat down. As an authoritative Teacher, he officially occupied the chair of doctrine, and spake ex cathedra, as men say as a Solomon acting as the master of assemblies, or a Daniel come to judgment. He sat as a refiner, and his word was as a fire. His posture is not accounted for by the fact that it was the Oriental custom for the teacher to sit and the pupil to stand, for our Lord was something more that a didactic teacher, be was a Preacher, a Prophet, a Pleader, and consequently he adopted other attitudes when fulfilling those offices; but on this occasion, he sat in his place as Rabbi of the Church, the authoritative Legislator of the kingdom of heaven, the Monarch in the midst of his people. Come hither, then, and listen to the King in Jeshurun, the Divine Lawgiver, delivering not the ten commands, but the seven, or, if you will, the nine Beatitudes of his blessed kingdom.
It is then added, to indicate the style of his delivery, that “he opened his mouth,” and certain cavilers of shallow wit have said, “How could he teach without opening his mouth?” to which the reply is that he very frequently taught, and taught much, without saying a word, since his whole life was teaching, and his miracles said deeds of love were the lessons of a master instructor. It is not superfluous to say that “be opened his mouth, and taught them,” for be had taught them often when his mouth was closed.
Besides that, teachers are to be frequently met with who seldom open their mouths; they hiss the everlasting gospel through their teeth, or mumble it within their mouths, as if they had never been commanded to “cry aloud, and spare not.” Jesus Christ spoke like a man in earnest; he enunciated clearly, and spake loudly. He lifted up his voice like a trumpet, and published salvation far and wide, like a man who had something to say which he desired his audience to hear and feel. Oh, that the very manner and voice of those who preach the gospel were such as to bespeak their zeal for God and their love for souls! So should it be, but so it is not in all cases. When a man grows terribly in earnest while speaking, his mouth appears to be enlarged in sympathy with his heart: this characteristic has been observed in vehement political orators, and the messengers of God should blush if no such impeachment can be laid at their door. “He opened his mouth, and taught them,” — have we not here a further hint that, as he had from the earliest days opened the mouths of his holy prophets, so now he opens his own mouth to inaugurate yet a fuller revelation? If Moses spake, who made Moses’ mouth? If David sang, who opened David’s lips that he might show forth the praises of god? Who opened the mouths of the prophets? Was it not therefore well said that now he opened his own mouth, and spake directly as the incarnate God to the children of men? Now, by his own inherent power and inspiration, he began to speak, not through the mouth of Isaiah, or of Jeremiah, but by his own mouth. Now was a spring of wisdom to be unsealed from which all generations should drink rejoicingly; now would the most majestic and yet most simple of all discourses be heard by mankind. The opening of the fount which flowed from the desert rock was not one-half so full of joy to men. Let our prayer be, “Lord, as thou hast opened thy mouth, do thou open our hearts;” for when the Redeemer’s mouth is open with blessings, and our hearts are open with desires, a glorious filling with all the fullness of God will be the result, and then, also shall our mouths be opened to show forth our Redeemer’s praise.
Let us now consider the Beatitudes themselves, trusting that, by the help of God’s Spirit, we may perceive their wealth of holy meaning. No words in the compass of Sacred Writ are more precious or more freighted with solemn meaning.
The first word of our Lord’s great standard sermon is “Blessed.” You have not failed to notice that the last word of the Old Testament is “curse”, and it is suggestive that the opening sermon of our Lord’s ministry commences with the word “Blessed.” Nor did he begin in that manner, and then change his strain immediately, for nine times did that charming word fall from his lips in rapid succession. It has been well said that Christ’s teaching might be summed up in two words, “Believe” and “Blessed.” Mark tells us that he preached, saying, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel;” and Matthew in this passage informs us that he came saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” All his teaching was meant to bless the sons of men; for “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” “His hand no thunder bears, No terror clothes his brow, No bolts to drive our guilty souls To fiercer flames below.”
His lips, like a honeycomb, drop sweetness, promises and blessings are the overflowings of his mouth. “Grace is poured into thy lips,” said the psalmist, and consequently grace poured from his lips; he was blessed for ever, and he continued to distribute blessings throughout the whole of his life, till, “as he blessed them, he was taken up into heaven.” The law had two mountains Ebal and Gerizim, one for blessing and other for cursing, but the Lord Jesus blesses evermore, and curses not.
The Beatitudes before us, which relate to character, are, seven; the eighth is a benediction upon the persons described in the seven Beatitudes when their excellence has provoked the hostility of the wicked; and, therefore, it may be regarded as a confirming and summing up of the seven blessings which precede it. Setting that aside, then, as a summary, we regard the Beatitudes as seven, and will speak of them as such. The whole seven describe a perfect character, and make up a perfect benediction. Each blessing is precious, ay, more precious than much fine gold; but we do well to regard them as a whole, for as a whole they were spoken, and from that point of view they are a wonderfully perfect chain of seven priceless links, put together with such consummate art as only our heavily Bezaleel, the Lord Jesus, ever possessed. No such instruction in the art of blessedness can be found anywhere else. The learned have collected two hundred and eighty-eight different opinions of the ancients with regard to happiness, and there is not one which hits the mark; but our Lord has, in a few telling sentences, told us all about it without using a solitary redundant word, or allowing the slightest omission. The seven golden sentences are perfect as a whole, and each one occupies its appropriate place. Together they are a ladder of light, and each one is a step of purest sunshine.
Observe carefully, and you will see that each one rises above those which precede it. The first Beatitude is by no means elevated as the third, nor the third as the seventh. There is a great advance from the poor in spirit to the pure in heart and the peacemaker. I have said that they rise, bat it would be quite as correct to say that they descend, for from the human point of view they so; to mourn is a step below and yet above being poor in spirit, and the peacemaker, while the highest form of Christian, will find himself often called upon to take the lowest room for peace sake. “The seven Beatitudes mark deepening humiliation and growing exaltation.” In proportion as men rise in the reception of the divine blessing, they sink in their own esteem, and count it their honor to do the humblest works.
Not only do the Beatitudes rise one above another, but they spring out of each other, as if each one depended upon all that went before. Each growth feeds a higher growth, and the seventh is the product of all the other six. The two blessings which we shall have to consider have this relation. “Blessed are they that mourn” grows out of “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Why do they mourn? They mourn because they are “poor in spirit.” Blessed are the meek” is a benediction which no man reaches till he has felt his spiritual poverty, and mourned over it. “Blessed are the merciful” follows upon the blessing of the meek, because men do not acquire the forgiving, sympathetic, merciful spirit until they have been made meek by the experience of the two benedictions.
This same rising and outgrowth may be seen in the whole seven. The stones are laid one upon the other in fair colors, and polished after the similitude of a palace; they are the natural sequel and completion of each other, even as were the seven days of the world’s first week.
Mark, also, in this ladder of light, that though each step is above the other, and each step springs out of the other, yet each one is perfect in itself, and contains within itself a priceless and complete blessing. The very lowest of the blessed, namely, the poor in spirit, have their peculiar benediction, and indeed it is one of such an order that it is used in the summing up of all the rest. “Their’s is the kingdom of heaven “ is both the first and the eighth benediction.
The highest character namely, the peacemakers, who are called the children of God, are not said to be more than blessed; they doubtless enjoy more of the blessedness, but they do not in the covenant provision posses more.
Note, also with delight, that the blessing is in every case in the present tense, a happiness to be now enjoyed and delighted in. It is not “Blessed shall be,” but “Blessed are.” There is not one step in the whole divine experience of the believer, not one link in the wonderful chain of grace, in which there is a withdrawal of the divine smile or an absence or real happiness. Blessed is the first moment of the Christian life on earth, and blessed is the last. Blessed is the spark which trembles in the flax, and blessed is the flame which ascends to heaven in a holy ecstasy. Blessed is the bruised reed, and blessed is that three of the Lord, which is full of sap, the cedar of Lebanon, which the Lord had planted. Blessed is the babe in grace, and blessed is the perfect man in Christ Jesus. As the Lord’s mercy endureth for ever, even so shall our blessedness.
We must not fail to notice that, in the seven Beatitudes, the blessing of each one is appropriate to the character. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” is appropriately connected with enrichment in the possession of a kingdom more glorious than all the thrones of earth. It is also most appropriate that those who mourn should be comforted; that the meek, who renounce all self-aggrandizement, should enjoy most of life, and so should inherit the earth. It is divinely fit that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness should be filled, and that those who show mercy to others should obtain it themselves. Who but the pure in heart should see the infinitely pure and holy God? And who but the peacemakers should be called the children of the God of peace?
Yet the careful eye perceives that each benediction, though appropriate, is worded paradoxically. Jeremy Taylor says, “They are so many paradoxes and impossibilities reduced to reason.” This is clearly seen in the first Beatitude, for the poor in spirit are said to possess a kingdom, and is equally vivid in the collection as a whole, for it treats of happiness, and yet poverty leads the van, and persecution brings up the rear; poverty is the contrary of riches, and yet how rich are those who possess a kingdom! and persecution is supposed to destroy enjoyment, and yet it is here made a subject of rejoicing. See the sacred art of him who spake as never man spake, he can at the same time make his words both simple and paradoxical, and thereby win our attention and instruct our intellects. Such a preacher deserves the most thoughtful of hearers.
The whole of the seven Beatitudes composing this celestial ascent to the house of the Lord conduct believers to an elevated table-land upon which they dwell alone, and are not reckoned among the people; their holy separation from the world brings upon them persecution for righteousness’ sake, but in this they do not lose their happiness but rather have it increased to them, and confirmed by the double repetition of the benediction. The hatred of man does not deprive the saint of the love of God; even revilers contribute to his blessedness. Who among us will be ashamed of the cross which must attend such a crown of lovingkindness and tender mercies? Whatever the curses of man may involve, they are so small a drawback to the consciousness of being blessed in a sevenfold manner by the Lord, that they are not worthy to be compared with the grace which is already revealed in us.
Here we pause for this present, and shall, by God’s help, consider one of the Beatitudes in our next homily.OUR subject is to be the minister’s common conversation when he mingles with men in general, and is supposed to be quite at his ease. How shall he order his speech among his fellow-men? First and foremost, let me say, let him give himself no ministerial airs, but avoid everything which is stilted, official, fussy, and pretentious. “The Son of Man” is a noble title; it was given to Ezekiel, and to a greater than he: let not the ambassador of heaven be other than a son of man. In fact, let him remember that the more simple and unaffected he is, the more closely will he resemble that child-man, the holy child Jesus.
There is such a thing as trying to be too much a minister, and becoming too little a man; though the more of a true man you are, the more truly will you be what a servant of the Lord should be. Schoolmasters and ministers have generally an appearance peculiarly their own; in the wrong sense, they “are not as other men are.” They are too often speckled birds, looking as if they were not at home among the birds of their native country; but awkward and peculiar. When I have seen a flamingo gravely stalking along, an owl blinking in the shade, or a stork demurely lost in thought, I have been irresistibly led to remember some of my dignified brethren of the teaching and preaching fraternity, who are so marvelously proper at all times that they are just a shade amusing. This very respectable, stilted, dignified, important, selfrestrained manner is easily acquired; but is it worth acquiring?
Theodore Hook once stepped up to a gentleman who was parading the street with great pomposity, and said to him, “Sir, are you not a person of great importance?” and one has felt half inclined to do the same with certain brethren of the cloth. I know brethren who, from head to foot, in garb, tone, manner, necktie, and boots, are so utterly parsonic that no particle of manhood is visible. One young sprig of divinity must needs go through the streets in a gown, and another of the High Church order has recorded it in the newspapers with much complacency that he traversed Switzerland ant] Italy, wearing in all places his biretta; few boys would have been so proud of a fool’s cap. None of us are likely to go as far as that in our apparel; but we may do the like by our mannerism. Some men appear to have a white cravat twisted round their souls, their manhood is throttled with that starched rag. Certain brethren maintain an air of superiority which they think impressive, but which is simply offensive, and eminently opposed to their pretensions as followers of the lowly Jesus. The proud Duke of Somerset intimated his commands to his servants by signs, not condescending to speak to such base beings; his children never sat down in his presence, and when he slept in the afternoon one of his daughters stood on each side of him during his august slumbers. When proud Somersets get into the ministry, they affect dignity in other ways almost equally absurd. “Stand by, I am holier than thou,” is written across their foreheads. A wellknown minister was once rebuked by a sublime brother for his indulgence in a certain luxury, and the expense was made a great argument. “Well, well,” he replied, “there may be something in that; but remember, I do not spend half so much upon my weakness as you do in starch.” That is the article I am deprecating, that dreadful ministerial starch. If you have indulged in it, I would earnestly advise you to “go and wash in Jordan seven times,” and get it out of you, every particle of it. I am persuaded that one reason why our working-men so universally keep clear of ministers is because they abhor their artificial and unmanly ways. If they saw us, in the pulpit and out of it, acting like real men, and speaking naturally, like honest men, they would come around us. Baxter’s remark still holds good: “The want of a familiar tone and expression is a great fault in most of our deliveries, and that which we should be very careful to amend.” The vice of the ministry is that ministers will parsonificate the gospel. We must have humanity along with our divinity if we would win the masses. Everybody can see through affectations, and people are not likely to be taken in by them. Fling away your stilts, brethren, and walk on your feet; doff your ecclesiasticism, and array yourselves in truth.
Still, a minister, wherever he is, is a minister, and should recollect that he is on duty. A policeman or a soldier may be off duty, but a minister never is.
Even in our recreations we should still pursue the great object of our lives; for we are called to be diligent “in season and out of season.” There is no position in which we may be placed but the Lord may come with the question, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” and we ought to be able at once to answer, “I have something to do for thee even here, and I am trying to do it.” The bow, of course, must be at times unstrung, or else it will lose its elasticity; but there is no need to cut the string. I am speaking at this time of the minister in times of relaxation; and I say that even then he should conduct himself as the ambassador of God, and seize opportunities of doing good: this will not mar his rest, but sanctify it. A minister should be like a certain chamber which I saw at Beaulieu, in the New Forest, in which a cobweb is never seen. It is a large lumber-room, and is never swept; yet no spider ever defiles it with the emblems of neglect. It is roofed with chestnut, and for some reason, I know not what, spiders will not come near that wood by the year together. The same thing was mentioned to me in the corridors of Winchester School: I was told, “No spiders ever come here.” Our minds should be equally clear of idle habits.
On our public rests for porters in the City of London you may read the words, “Rest, but do not loiter ;” and they contain advice worthy of our attention. I do not call the dolce far niente laziness; there is a sweet doing of nothing which is just the finest medicine in the world for a jaded mind.
When the mind gets fatigued and out, of order, to rest it is no more idleness than sleep is idleness; and no man is called lazy for sleeping the proper time. It is far better to be industriously asleep than lazily awake. Be ready to do good, then, in your resting times and in your leisure hours; and so be really a minister, and there will be no need for you to proclaim that you are so.
The Christian minister out of the pulpit should be a sociable man. He is not sent into the world to be a hermit, or a monk of La Trappe. It is not his vocation to stand on a pillar all day, above his fellow-men, like that hairbrained Simon Stylites of olden time. You are not to warble from the top of a tree, like an invisible nightingale; but to be a man among men, saying to them, “I also am as you are in all that relates to man.” Salt is of no use in the box; it must be rubbed into the meat; and our personal influence must penetrate and season society. Keep aloof from others, and how can you benefit them? Our Master went to a wedding, and ate bread with publicans and sinners, and yet was far more pure than those sanctimonious Pharisees, whose glory was that they were separate from their fellow-men.
Some ministers need to be told that they are of the same species as their hearers. It is a remarkable fact, but we may as well state it, that bishops, canons, archdeacons, prebendaries, rural deans, rectors, vicars, and even archbishops, are only men after all; and God has not. railed off a holy corner of the earth to serve as a chancel for them, to abide therein by’ themselves.
It would not be amiss if there could be a revival of holy talk in the churchyard and the meeting-yard. I like to see the big yew-trees outside our ancient churches with seats all round them. They seem to say: “Sit down here, neighbor, and talk upon the sermon; here comes the pastor; he will join us, and we shall have a pleasant, holy chat.” It is not every preacher one would care to talk with; but there are some whom one would give a fortune to converse with for an hour. I love a minister whose face invites me to make him my friend — a man upon whose doorstep you read, “Salve,” “Welcome ;” and feel that there is no need of that Pompeian warning, “Cave Canem,” “Beware of the dog.” Give me the man around whom the children come, like flies around a honey-pot: they are first-class judges of a good man. When Solomon was tried by the Queen of Sheba, as to his wisdom, the rabbis tell us that she brought some artificial flowers with her, beautifully made and delicately scented, so as to be fac-similes of real flowers. She asked Solomon to discover which were artificial and which were real. The wise man bade his servants open the window, and when the bees came in they flew at once to the natural flowers, and cared nothing for the artificial. So you will find that children have their instincts, and discover very speedily who is their friend, and depend upon it the children’s friend is one who will be worth knowing. Have a good word to say to each and every member of the family — the big boys, and the young ladies, and the little girls, and everybody. No one knows what a smile and a hearty sentence may do. A man who is to do much with men must love them, and feel at home with them. An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living. I have met somewhere with the observation that to be a popular preacher one must have bowels. I fear that the observation was meant as a mild criticism upon the bulk to which certain brethren have attained; but, there is truth in it. A man must have a great heart if he would have a great congregation. His heart should be as capacious as those noble harbors along our coast, which contain sea-room for a fleet. When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven, and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship. Such a man is hearty in private as well as in public; his blood is not cold and fishy, but he is warm as your own fireside. No pride and selfishness chill you when you approach him; he has his doors all open to receive you, and you are at home with him at once. Such men I would persuade you to be, every one of you.
The Christian minister should also be very cheerful. I don’t believe in going about like certain monks whom I saw in Rome, who salute each other in sepulchral tones, and convey the pleasant information, “Brother, we must die ;” to which lively salutation each lively brother of the order replies, “Yes, brother, we must die.” I was glad to be assured upon such good authority that all these lazy fellows are going to die; upon the whole, it is about the best thing they can do; but, till that event occurs, they might use some more comfortable form of salutation.
No doubt there are some people who will be impressed by the very solemn appearance of ministers. I have heard of one who felt convinced that there must be something in the Roman Catholic religion, from the extremely starved and pinched appearance of a certain ecclesiastic. “Look,” said he, “how the man is worn to a skeleton by his daily fastings and nightly vigils!
How he must mortify his flesh!” Now, the probabilities are that the emaciated priest was laboring under some internal disease, which he would have been heartily glad to be rid of, and it was not conquest of appetite, but failure in digestion, which had so reduced him; or, possibly, a troubled conscience, which made him fret himself down to the light weights.
Certainly, I have never met with a text which gives prominence of bone as an evidence of grace. If so, “The Living Skeleton” should have been exhibited, not merely as a natural curiosity, but as the standard of virtue. Some of the biggest rogues in the world have been as mortified in appearance as if they had lived on locusts and wild honey. It is a very vulgar error to suppose that a melancholy countenance is the index of a gracious heart. I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls; not levity and frothiness, but a genial, happy spirit. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a man who wears heaven in his face, than by one who bears Tartarus in his looks.
Young ministers, and, indeed, all others, when they are in company, should take care not to engross all the conversation. They are quite qualified to do so, no doubt; I mean from their capacity to instruct, and readiness of utterance; but they must remember that people do not care to be perpetually instructed; they like to take a turn in the conversation themselves. Nothing pleases some people so much as to let them talk, and it may be for their good to let them be pleased. I spent an hour one evening with a person who did me the honor to say that he found me a very charming companion, and most instructive in conversation, yet I do not hesitate to confess that I said scarcely anything at all, but allowed him to have the talk to himself. By exercising patience I gained his good opinion, and an opportunity to address him on other occasions. A man has no more right at table to talk all than to eat all. We are not to think ourselves Sir Oracle, before whom no dog must open his mouth. No; let all the company contribute of their stores, and they will think all the better of the godly words with which you try to season the discourse.
There are some companies into which you will go, especially when you are first settled, where everybody will be awed by the majesty of your presence, and people will be invited because the new minister is to be there. Such a position reminds me of the choicest statuary in the Vatican. A little room is screened off, a curtain is drawn, and lo! before you stands the great Apollo I If it be your trying lot to be the Apollo of the little party, put an end to the nonsense. If I were the Apollo, I should like to step right off the pedestal and shake hands all round, and you had better do the same; for sooner or later the fuss they make about you will come to an end, and the wisest course is to end it yourself.
Hero-worship is a kind of idolatry, and must not be encouraged. Heroes do well when they, like the apostles at Lystra, are horrified at the honors done to them, and run in among the people crying, “Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you.” Ministers will not have to do it long; for their foolish admirers are very apt to turn round upon them, and if they do not stone them nearly to death, they will go as far as they dare in unkindness and contempt.
While I say, “Do not talk all, and assume an importance which is mere imposture;” still, do not be a dummy. People will form their estimate of you and your ministry by what they see of you in private as well as by your public deliverances. Many young men have ruined themselves in the pulpit by being indiscreet in the parlor, and have lost all hope of doing good by their stupidity or frivolity in company. Don’t be an inanimate log. At Antwerp Fair, among many curiosities advertised by huge paintings and big drums, I observed a booth containing “a great wonder,” to be seen for a penny a head; it was a petrified man. I did not expend the amount required for admission, for I had seen so many petrified men for nothing, both in and out of the pulpit — lifeless, careless, destitute of common sense, and altogether inert, though occupied with the weightiest business which man could undertake.
Try to turn the conversation to profitable use. Be sociable and cheerful and all that, but labor to accomplish something. Why should you sow the wind, or plough a rock? Consider yourself, after all, as being very much responsible for the conversation which goes on where you are; for such is the esteem in which you will usually be held, that you will be the helmsman of the conversation. Therefore, steer it into a good channel. Do this without roughness or force. Keep the points of the line in good order, and the train will run on to your rails without a jerk. Be ready to seize opportunities adroitly, and lead on imperceptibly in the desired track. If your heart is in it and your wits are awake, this will be easy enough, especially if you breathe a prayer for guidance.
I shall never forget the manner in which a thirsty individual once begged of me upon Clapham Common. I saw him with a very large truck, in which he was carrying an extremely small parcel, and I wondered why he had not put the parcel into his pocket, and left the machine at home. I said, “It looks odd to see so large a truck for such a small load.” He stopped, and looking me seriously in the face, he said, “Yes, sir, it is a very odd thing; but, do you know, I have met with an odder thing than that this very day.
I’ve been about, working and sweating all this ‘ere blessed day, and till now I haven’t met a single gentleman that looked as if he’d give me a pint of beer, till I saw you.” I considered that turn of the conversation very neatly managed, and we, with a far better subject upon our minds, ought to be equally able to introduce the topic upon which our heart is set. There was an ease in the man’s manner which I envied, for I did not find it quite so simple a matter to introduce my own topic to his notice; yet if I had been thinking as much about how I could do him good as he had upon how to obtain a drink, I feel sure I should have succeeded in reaching my point.
If by any means we may save some, we must, like ore’ Lord, talk at table to good purpose — yes, and on the margin of the well, and by the road, and on the sea-shore, and in the house, and in the field. To be a holy talker for Jesus might be almost as fruitful an office as to be a faithful preacher.
Aim at excellence in both exercises, and if the Holy Spirit’s aid be called in, you will attain your desire.
Here, perhaps, I may insert a canon, which nevertheless I believe to be quite needless, in reference to each one of the honorable brethren whom I am now addressing. Do not frequent rich men’s tables to gain their countenance, and never make yourself a sort of general hanger-on at teaparties and entertainment’s. Who are you, that you should be dancing attendance upon this wealthy man and the other, when the Lord’s poor, his sick people, ,red his wandering sheep require you? To sacrifice the study to the parlor is criminal. To be a tout for your church, and waylay people at their homes to draw them to fill your pews, is a degradation to which no man should submit. To see ministers of different sects fluttering round a wealthy man, like vultures round a dead camel, is sickening. Deliciously sarcastic was that famous letter “from an old and beloved minister to his dear son” upon his entrance into the ministry, the following extract from which hits our present point. It is said to have been copied from the Smellfungus Gazelle, but I suspect our friend Paxton Hood knows all about its authorship : — “ Keep also a watchful eve on all likely persons, especially wealthy or influential, who may come to your town; call upon them, and attempt to win them over by the devotions of the drawing-room to your cause. Thus you may most efficiently serve the Master’s interests.
People need looking after, and the result of a long experience goes to confirm my conviction, long cherished, that the power of the pulpit is trifling compared with the power of the parlor. We must imitate and sanctify, by the word of God and of prayer, the exercises of the Jesuits.
They succeeded not by the pulpit so much as by the parlor. In the parlor you can whisper — you can meet people on all the little personal private ideas. The pulpit is a very unpleasant place; of course it is the great power of God, and so on, but it is the parlor that tells, and a minister has not the same chance of success if he be a good preacher as if he is a perfect gentleman; nor in cultivated society has any man a legitimate prospect of success if he is not, whatever he may be, a gentleman. I have always admired Lord Shaftesbury’s character of St. Paul in his ‘ Characteristics ‘ — that he was a fine gentleman. And I would say to you, be a gentleman.
Not that I need to say so, but am persuaded that only in this way can we hope for the conversion of our growing, wealthy middle classes. We must show that our religion is the religion of good sense and good taste; that we disapprove of strong excitements and strong stimulants; and oh, my dear boy, if you would be useful, often in your closet make it a matter of earnest prayer that you may be proper. If I were asked what is your first duty, be proper; and your second, be proper; and your third, be proper.” In all probability, sensible conversation will sometimes drift; into controversy, and here many a good man runs upon a snag. The sensible minister will be particularly gentle in argument. He, above all men, should not make the mistake of fancying that there is force in temper, and power in speaking angrily. A heathen who stood in a crowd in Calcutta, listening to a missionary disputing with a Brahmin, said he knew which was right though he did not understand the language — he knew that he was in the wrong who lost his temper first. For the most part, that is a very accurate way of judging. Try to avoid debating with people. State your opinion and let them state theirs. If you see that a stick is crooked, and you want people to see how crooked it is, lay a straight rod down beside it; that will be quite enough. But if you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words. Frequently you cannot convince a man by tugging at his reason, but you can persuade him by winning his affections.
The other day I had the misery to need a pair of new boots, and though I bade the fellow make them as large as canoes, I had to labor fearfully to get them on. With a pair of boot-hooks I toiled like the men on board the vessel with Jonah, but all in vain. Just then my friend put in my way a little French chalk, and the work was done in a moment. Wonderfully coaxing was that French chalk. Gentlemen, always carry a little French chalk with you into society, a neat packet of Christian persuasiveness, and you will soon discover the virtues of it.
And lastly, with all his amiability, the minister should be firm for his principles, and bold to avow and defend them in all companies. When a fair opportunity occurs, or he has managed to create one, let him not be slow to make use of it. Strong in his principles, earnest in his tone, and affectionate in heart, let him speak out like a man and thank God for the privilege. There need be no reticence — there should be none. The maddest romances of Spiritualists, the wildest dreams of Utopian reformers, the silliest chit-chat of the town, and the vainest nonsense of the frivolous world, demand a hearing and get it. And shall not Christ be heard? Shall his message of love remain untold, for fear we should be charged with intrusion on account of cant? Is religion to be tabooed — the best and noblest of all themes forbidden? If this be the rule of any society, we will not comply with it. If we cannot break it down, we will leave the society to itself, as men desert a house smitten with leprosy. We cannot consent to be gagged. There is no reason why we should be. We will go to no place where we cannot take our Master with us. While others take liberty to sin, we shall not renounce our liberty to rebuke and warn them.
Wisely used, our common conversation may be a potent means for good.
Trains of thought may be started by a single sentence which may lead to the conversion of persons whom our sermons have never reached. The method of button-holing people, or bringing the truth before them faithfully, has been greatly successful: but this is another subject, and can hardly come under the head of Common Conversation, but we will close by saying that it is to be hoped that we shall never, in our ordinary talk, any more than in the pulpit, be looked upon as nice sort of persons, whose business it is to make things agreeable all round, and who never by any possibility cause uneasiness to any one, however ungodly their lives may be. Such persons go in and out among the families of their hearers, and make merry with them, when they ought to be mourning over them. They sit down at their table, and feast at their ease, when they ought to be warning them to flee from the wrath to come. They are like that American alarm I have heard of, which was warranted not to wake you if you did not wish it to do so.
Be it ours to sow beside all waters, and at the last great day to hear of glad results from the bread which we cast upon the waters in odd times and occasions, as well as of that good seed which we cast into the furrows of our public ministry. Instead of a number of short paragraphs, we will give a little of our experience during the last three weeks at the Tabernacle. Our life is as full of toils, troubles, joys, and difficulties as ever it can hold, and is crowded with incidents.
MONDAY,DEC. 1. — At five o’clock there was tea in one of the larger vestries, and nearly all the elders were present, with the two pastors. The occasion was a very happy one, for we were met to pray for two beloved young brethren who had given themselves up to the Lord for service among the heathen. One of these is Mr. Brown, the son of our late wellbeloved elder, Mr. Charles Brown, who fell asleep in Jesus a few months ago, the other was a student from the College, our distant kinsman, Mr. Robert Spurgeon. Both of these brethren are choice men in spirit and character, and have the love and respect of all who know them. It was very delightful to hear the fervent prayers of our three oldest brethren for these young soldiers of the cross, and the earnest “amens” of all the assembled officers. Our two friends told us, in plain unaffected terms, how they had been led to think of mission work. The pastors and elders gave them each one of Bagster’s best Bibles, to be carried in their pockets as a love-token, and then we all adjourned into the Tabernacle to the public prayer-meeting.
Dr. Underhill had come from the Missionary Society, and he gave us a most interesting address in reference to India; but the interest of the meeting centered in a speech by Mr. Brown, the young missionary. It was beautiful for simple faith and unassuming confidence in God; the tone was manly and determined, yet humble and devout. Mr. Robert Spurgeon did not speak, for he is to take his turn at Stepney Tabernacle, seeing our beloved brother Archibald Brown is his pastor. Our heart was very glad.
Long have we prayed for missionaries to spring from the church and college, and now the beginning of the answer is come. We have two brethren in Spain; Mr. Groombridge is in China, and another is studying at the Medical Mission in Edinburgh for foreign service. Blessed be God for this. Oh that we could see hundreds going forth, and had ways and means of helping them!
THURSDAY,DEC. 4. — Mrs. Brown, the excellent mother of the young missionary, came to tell us that her son had sailed. It increased our joy in God to see how willing she was to part with one who since her husband’s death has seemed so necessary to her and the whole of the family. We congratulated her upon having such a son. We saw that the spirit had battled with nature and had won the victory. We shall have more sons offering themselves as living sacrifices when we have more such mothers.
FRIDAY,DEC. 5. — Meeting of the Trustees at the Orphanage. We were not well enough to be there, but quite able to understand the result of the monthly settlement of accounts. During the week a friend gave us £50. Mr. Chown, of Bradford, kindly sent £125, the result of a collection generously voted to us, and with other sums we had more than £700 in hand. The time had, however, come for new suits for the orphans, and other matters incident to the season, and to our dismay the report of the secretary was, “All bills paid, but only £3 left.” This was a very sweeping business, but we saw that it was even so. Prayer went to work at once, and not without results. Will the reader, however, picture himself with more than 220 boys to feed and £3 in hand! He may say, “The Lord will provide,” but would he feel that truth if he were in our straits? From the date above mentioned we have lived on, but it has been very much in the style known as from hand to mouth. Day by day has the manna fallen, not much more than a day’s supply at a time, but still enough to carry us on. It is very sweet to see how the Lord provides. A friend in Sweden sent us help, and another from Belgium; both unknown to us. A young man sends 6s. 6d., being threepence per week of his first wages, adding, “May it please the Lord to put it into the hearts of many to support you in your great undertaking.” A brother with a large family offers some potatoes and turnips, and remarks that since he has given to the Orphanage he has been much the gainer by improved crops. A donor, who is accustomed to store weekly for the Lord, speaks of the plan as greatly beneficial. One who sends a considerable donation says, “I never write a cheque for you without feeling very sorry that I cannot make it ten times as much.” As it is now pretty generally known that our expenses, exclusive of our income from property, amount to £10 a day: two or three gentlemen have sent us each a day’s supply; and while the ink is yet in our pen we are pleasantly interrupted by the postman with two cheques of £10 each from Cardiff. Having soon to start for the south of France, we should be grateful to our heavenly Father if he would enable us to go away with some little store left on hand for the trustees to pay their way with in our absence; the more especially because the College and other objects are in almost as much need as the Orphanage.
Nevertheless, the Lord will provide in his own way: we are quite sure of that. To our many helpers our gratitude abounds. Among them are many from Scotland, who speak of reading our sermons to their own comfort and edification. We thank all, both rich and poor, in the name of the orphan’s God. At this moment our income and outgoings are about equally balanced, and we still have little or no reserve. So let it be if so the Lord wills. Never have we before been so long a time with the meal so near the bottom of the barrel; but there is, no doubt, wisdom in it, and when the design is answered our exchequer will be replenished.
This day two other students expressed their desire to become missionaries to the heathen. When they are more advanced in their studies, I hope they will prove to be suitable men; I think they are of the right spirit.
MONDAY,DEC. 8. — To-day two students took leave of us; they are crossing over to America to preach the word as the Lord may open doors for them. They are right worthy brethren, and our prayers attend them. On the same day we had an interesting episode. A certain brother in Christ, Francisco Tudury de la Torre, from Minorca, called at the Tabernacle last Wednesday. He could only speak Spanish and some little French, and no one upon the spot could comprehend him. The gentleman, however, managed to make it understood that he wished to see Mr. Spurgeon, and in writing was told to come at 6 p.m. At six in the morning a very tall Spanish gentleman might be dimly seen, amid a dense fog, walking up and down in front of the Tabernacle, which he found to be as fast closed as a fortress.
Alas, the good brother had mistaken six to mean early morning instead of six in the evening. At nine the College opened, and the Spanish brother made his appeal for some one to speak to him. Now it so happened that there is in the College a Portuguese or Brazilian student named Senior Santos, who at once saluted the Don, and correspondence was opened.
This led to my seeing Don Francisco in the afternoon of December 8, in company with Senior Santos, Mr. Bull, the grandson of the Bull of Newport Pagnall, and Mr. Daniels, a member of the Tabernacle, who has learned Spanish solely with the view of preaching to Spanish sailors. A very delightful conversation we had, and the upshot was that we arranged that our brother Don Francisco should be baptized on Thursday, for that purpose had he journeyed from Minorca, and that we would give him some help towards? reefing a chapel in the island of Minorca, where he has for some years been laboring as an evangelist. His letters of recommendation were ample, his personal consecration is indisputable, and his views of truth are clear. He deserves the help of all believers in his earnest endeavors to bless his countrymen.
The prayer-meeting was very interesting, for this interview led us to ask Mr. Daniels to give some account of his work among the Spanish sailors in the docks, which he did in a most interesting manner, and at one time sang a verse or two of a Spanish hymn. This called up the Don and the Senior, and all three together sang the praises of Jesus in the language of the Peninsula. Our Spanish brother gave an address, and Mr. Daniels interpreted. Mr. Daniels has been working in concert with Mr. George Lawrence, who is now at Barcelona, and Sir. Heffell, a city missionary, of whom we hope to know more ere long. The plan of our brethren is to hold up Testaments, handsomely bound, and ask in Spanish if they may come on board the vessel to give them away. Permission is generally granted, and so the brethren gain access to the mariners. After Mr. Daniels had finished his address we begged him to give us some notes of the Spanish work, and here is the paper which he gave us. We are delighted to insert it as sent to us :-SPANISH MISSIONS. — “ While for years past efforts have been put forth for the spiritual enlightenment of many nations, Spain had well nigh been forgotten. Igor was this without reason, for until the recent revolution the report of the benighted land was always summed up in significant words: ‘Closely shut up.’ Yet were there some whose hearts the Lord had touched, and some useful work was done by the Spanish Evangelization Society of Edinburgh, as also by other means. Tourists were supplied with Testaments, portions, and tracts, to distribute quietly whenever opportunity offered. Many thousand copies of God’s Word were sent into Spain in boxes hidden under the coals of the railway locomotives going through from :France. Many were the willing hands put out to help this work, and one Catholic Irish engine driver, pitying the state of the priests and people, rendered very signal service. Another plan resorted to while the cloud of persecution hung over the land, was to convey a large number of tracts folded up and stamped as Spanish book-post parcels; thereby passing the frontiers without challenge, and scattering far and wide the precious seed. Only the great day will unfold all the results, but such results were then actually seen as to make the holy fathers of Mother Church remarkably uneasy, and the Matamaros Alhama persecution, with other gentle reminders of Catholic infallibility, followed; but the end came. Isabel ceased to reign, and the gospel was free. Space will not allow us to speak of all the measures taken by earnest laborers in this portion of the vineyard, but the fruit of one undertaking has especially commended itself to our notice. The mission of Mr. George Lawrence, of Gracia, Barcelona, took its rise from a Bible stall, and has in the space of a few years established seven schools in which religious and secular instruction is given, four services, and one Sunday-school. In the latter gathering some 300 children are found, while the total number of adults and little ones amount to 1,500.
A purely gospel magazine, ‘El Evangelista,’ is published monthly. The whole of this work has grown without the aid of any society or paid collectors, but in answer to earnest prayers and simple faith. The writer’s attention was drawn by providence to this valuable agency of the Lord, and, through the means of some addresses given at chapel and schools, funds have been sent out, and picture cards, electrotypes, a printing press, etc., forwarded to Mr. Lawrence. We are now about to publish in Spanish a few of Pastor Spurgeon’s gems, Mr. Bishop’s Tracts for Children, etc., as the nucleus of a child’s library. The necessity of this will be seen when the fact is made known, that for the teeming hundreds who attend our services, etc., only one specimen of soul-saving literature for the young is in print. We leave this portion of our labor to the prayerful consideration of our fellow disciples, and turn to the subject of “The mission work amongst Spanish seamen in London. Throughout the London, St. Catherine’s, West India, and Victoria Docks, vessels from Spain, various parts of the Mediterranean, South America, etc., are found largely manned by Spaniards, who in early life had not the slightest religious training, and whose faith was limited to images, pictures, and the most darkened form of prayer. The Master, not unmindful of these debased and neglected souls, anointed brethren to visit, read to, and pray with the sailors. Through the means of these labors the clouds of ignorance and superstition have, we trust, often yielded to the rays of the Holy Spirit. It is often invidious to mention names, but justice compels us to speak of the indefatigable efforts of Mr. Heffell, through whose unremitting labors hundreds of these foreign seamen have become interested in divine things.
It should be mentioned that a Protestant service in Spanish is held in the rooms called ‘ La Iglesia de San Paublo,’ in Wellclose Square. Senior Santos, a young Brazilian (at present a student in Mr. Spurgeon’s College), and another member of the Tabernacle Church, have been moved to take part in this branch of Christian service: the harvest is very great and the laborers always few. In visiting the vessels, opposition is now very rarely encountered, officers and crews very generally being anxious to receive the Bibles, Testaments, and other books sent by the Lord. Reading and expositions of the Scriptures to willing listeners follow, and sometimes, to our great joy, earnest prayer is offered in the cabins amid reverent silence.
How richly are we then repaid for any exposure to inclement weather, or risk of limb and life while passing from ship to ship. A feeling of unutterable happiness often fills our heart, which we feel sure is not in our soul alone. The great High Priest has lighted fire in the living censers, which shall send up eternal incense in praise and glory to the Father of all.
Asking an English officer on board the ‘ Caspio ‘ as to whether any effects of our teaching were evident, he replied, ‘ Your books are always read whenever the poor fellows can get time; several have much taken to religion, and there is one who is no sooner ashore in Seville than he is off to Don Juan Cabrera’s chapel, and takes as many of his companions as possible with him.’ Reference has been made to the distribution of Holy Writ. Through the munificence of the Trinitarian Bible Society every facility for supplying all Spanish and Portuguese vessels is offered; nor should the importance of this privilege be forgotten, as the Scriptures are carefully preserved, being taken into Spain and the Colonies. Some idea may be formed of the influence of the Word from incidents which came under our notice. A mariner asked us for a Bible; having seen the blessed effect of its study upon a relative years before, he desired to be likewise benefited. While the Peninsula is distracted with intestine strife, it is consoling to reflect that we are applying the only balm for troubled nations, and therefore we will continue to wear this gentle yoke, praying the Lord to come quickly and end all ignorance, sin, and sorrow, with an eternal ‘Peace, be still.’ Any contribution in aid of the seamen’s work will be welcome, but help in the publication of the children’s books is urgently needed, and will be received by Mr. Blackshaw, Secretary, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, S.E.”
DEC. 11. — Don Francisco was baptized, and our brother Mr. Daniels interpreted his confession of faith. We hope to send him home rejoicing, if friends will help. This same evening a gentleman from Montreal came into the vestry to tell us of the happy death of a sister who had been a member of our church. He told us that a train ran off the line while he was traveling upon the Grand Trunk, and that two of the carriages telescoped into one another, smashing scores of persons and leaving others badly injured.
Among those who were nearly killed was the sister in membership with us, She was taken out from the debris, and, with her two dead children, laid down in a fallow field by the roadside, upon such odds and ends of cushions and coats as could be got together. Our informant said, “I noticed how calm and quiet the poor soul was, and I said to her, ‘Aren’t you a Christian?’ ‘Yes,’ said she, ‘I belonged to Mr. Spurgeon’s church, but I have been some time out here, and have not lived as near to Jesus as I ought to have done. Still, the Lord Jesus is my rock, and all is well.’” She remained quite quiet, while another woman, a Catholic, who was laid by her side, continued to shriek, call upon God, and in general make the night hideous. She spoke of Jesus and of his love, and just as the day was breaking she begged to be lifted up, and there, in the open field, she “fell asleep in Jesus.” Our informant told his tale with many tears. He was a Wesleyan, but loved to see the grace of God wherever he met with it. We were encouraged beyond measure, for dying testimonies are telling things.
These are but a part of what the Lord is doing around us and by us and our beloved people. Now and then we shall write a few odds and ends of this sort.
Our critics will, no doubt, call us very egotistical, but if they did not say this they would say something else, and therefore we shall not regard them.
Baptisms at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, by Mr. J. A. Spurgeon : — December 4, nineteen; December 11, two.