TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO A FRAGMENT BY C. H.SPURGEON. TWENTY-FIVE years ago we walked on a Sabbath morning, according to our wont, from Cambridge to the village of Waterbeach, in order to occupy the pulpit of the little Baptist Chapel. It was a country road, and there were four or five honest, miles of it, which we usually measured each Sunday foot by foot, unless we happened to be met by a certain little pony and cart which came half way, but could not by any possibility venture further because of the enormous expense which would have been incurred by driving through the toll-gate at Milton. That winter’s morning we were all aglow with our walk, and ready for our pulpit exercises. Sitting down in the table-pew, a letter was passed to us bearing the postmark of London. It was an unusual missive, and was opened with curiosity. It contained an invitation to preach at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, the pulpit of which had formerly been occupied by Dr. Rippon, — the very Dr. Rippon whose hymn-book was then before us upon the table, the great Dr. Rippon, out of whose Selection we were about to choose hymns for our worship.
The late Dr. Rippon seemed to hover over us as an immeasurably great man, the glory of whose name covered New Park Street Chapel and its pulpit with awe unspeakable. We quietly passed the letter across the table to the deacon who gave out the hymns, observing that there was some mistake, and that the letter must have been intended for a Mr. Spurgeon who preached somewhere down in Norfolk. He shook his head, and observed that he was afraid there was no mistake, as he always knew that his minister would be run away with by some large church or other, but that he was a little surprisal that the Londoners should have heard of him quite so soon. “Had it been Cottenham, or St. Ives, or Huntingdon,” said he, “I should not have wondered at all; but going to London is rather a great step from this little place.” He shook his head very gravely; but the time was come for us to look out the hymns, and therefore the letter was put away, and, as far as we can remember, was for the day quite forgotten, even as a dead man out of mind.
On the following Monday an answer was sent to London, informing the deacon of the church at Park Street, that he had fallen into an error in directing his letter to Waterbeach, for the Baptist minister of that village was very little more than nineteen years of age, and quite unqualified to occupy a London pulpit. In due time came another epistle, setting forth that the former letter had been written in perfect knowledge of the young preacher’s age, and had been intended for him, and him alone. The request of the former letter was repeated and pressed, a date mentioned for the journey to London, and the place appointed at which the preacher would find lodging. That invitation was accepted, and as the result thereof the boy preacher of the Fens took his post in London. Twenty-five years ago — and yet it seems but yesterday — we lodged for the night at a boarding-house in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, to which the worthy deacon directed us. As we wore a huge black satin stock, and used a blue handkerchief with white spots, the young gentlemen of that boarding-house marveled greatly at the youth from the country who had come up to preach in London, but who was evidently in the condition known as verdant green. They were mainly of the evangelical church, persuasion, and seemed greatly tickled that the country lad should be a preacher. They did not propose to go and hear the youth, but they seemed to tacitly agree to encourage him after their own fashion, and we were encouraged accordingly. What tales were narrated of the great divines of the metropolis, and their congregations! One we remember had a thousand city men to hear him, another had his church filled with thoughtful people, such as could hardly be matched all over England, while a third had an immense audience, almost entirely composed of the young men of London, who were spell-bound by his eloquence. The study which these men underwent in composing their sermons, their herculean toils in keeping up their congregations, and the matchless oratory which they exhibited on all occasions, were duly rehearsed in our hearing, and when we were shown to bed in a cupboard over the front door, we were not in an advantageous condition for pleasant dreams. Park Street hospitality never sent the young minister to that far-away hired room again, but assuredly the Saturday evening in a London boarding-house was about the most depressing agency which could have been brought to bear upon our spirit. On the narrow bed we tossed in solitary misery, and found no pity. Pitiless was the grind of the cabs in the street, pitiless the recollection of the young city clerks whose grim propriety had gazed upon our rusticity with such amusement, pitiless the spare room which scarce afforded space to kneel, pitiless even the gas-lamps which seemed to wink at us as they flickered amid the December darkness. We had no friend in all that city fall of human beings, but we felt among strangers and foreigners, hoped to be helped through the scrape into which we had been brought, and to escape safely to the serene abodes of Cambridge and Waterbeach, which then seemed to be Eden itself. Twenty-five years ago it was a clear, cold morning, and we wended our way along Holborn Hill towards Blackfriars and certain tortuous lanes and alleys at the foot of Southwark Bridge. Wondering, praying, fearing, hoping, believing, — we felt all alone and yet not alone. Expectant of divine help, and inwardly borne down by our sense of the need of it, we traversed a dreary wilderness of brick to find the spot where our message must needs be delivered. One word rose to our lip many times, we, scarce know why — “He must needs go through Samaria.” The necessity of our Lord’s journeying in a certain direction is no doubt repeated in his servants, and as our present journey was not of our seeking, and had been by no means pleasing so far as it had gone — the one thought, of a “needs be” for it seemed to overtop every other. At sight of Park Street Chapel we felt for a moment amazed at our own temerity, for it seemed to our eyes to be a large, ornate, and imposing structure, suggesting an audience wealthy and critical, and far removed from the humble folk to whom our ministry had been sweetness and light. It was early, so there were no persons entering, and when the set time was fully come there were no signs to support the suggestion raised by the exterior of the building, and we felt that by God’s help we were not yet out of our depth, and were not likely to be with so small an audience. The Lord helped us very graciously, we had a happy Sabbath in the pulpit and spent the intervals with warm-hearted friends; and when at night we trudged back to the Queen Square narrow lodging we were not alone, and we no longer looked on Londoners as flinty-hearted barbarians. Our tone was altered, we wanted no pity of anyone, we did not care a penny for the young gentlemen lodgers and their miraculous ministers, nor for the grind of the cabs, nor for anything else under the sun. The lion had been looked at all round, and his majesty did not appear to be a tenth as majestic as when we had only heard his roar miles away.
These are small matters, but they rise before us as we look over the twenty-five years’ space which has intervened: they are the haze of that other shore between which rolls a quarter of a century of mercy. At the review we are lost in a rush of mingled feelings. “With my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now . ” Our ill health at this moment scarcely permits us either to hold a pen or to dictate words to another, we must therefore leave till another season such utterances of gratitude as the fullness of our heart may permit us., Common blessings may find a tongue at any moment, but favors such as we have received of the Lord throughout this semi-jubilee are not to be acknowledged fitly with the tongues of men or of angels, unless a happy inspiration should bear the thankful one beyond himself.
The following items must, however, be recorded: they are but as a handful gleaned among the sheaves. To omit mention of them would be ingratitude against which stones might justly cry out.
A church, has been maintained in order, vigor, and loving unity during all this period. Organized upon the freest basis, even to democracy, yet has there been seen among us a discipline and a compact oneness never excelled. Men and women associated by thousands, and each one imperfect, are not kept in perfect peace by human means; there is a mystic spirit moving among them which alone could have held them as the heart of one man. No schism, or heresy, has sprung up among as; division has been far from us; co-pastorship has engendered no rivalry, and the illness of the senior officer has led to no disorder. Hypocrites and temporary professors have gone out from us because they were not of us, but we are still one even as at the first; perhaps more truly one than ever at any former instant of our history. One in hearty love to our redeeming Lord, to his glorious gospel, to the ordinances of his house, and to one another as brethren in Christ. Shall not the God of peace receive our humble praises for this unspeakable boon?
That church has continued steadily to increase year by year. There have not been leaps of progress and then painful pauses of decline. On and on the host has marched, gathering recruits each month, filling up the gaps created by death or by removal, and steadily proceeding towards and beyond its maximum, which lies over the border of five thousand souls. One year may have been better than another, but not to any marked extent; there has been a level richness in the harvest field, a joyful average in the crop. Unity of heart has been accompanied by uniformity of prosperity. Work has not been done in spurts, enterprises have not been commenced and abandoned; every advance has been maintained and has become the vantage ground for yet another aggression upon the enemy’s territory. Faults there have been in abundance, but the good Lord has not suffered them to hinder progress or to prevent success. The Bridegroom has remained with us, and as yet the days of fasting have not been proclaimed, rather has the joy of the Lord been from day to day our strength.
The gospel of the grace of God has been continually preached from the first day until now — the same gospel, we trust accompanied with growing expertness and appreciation and knowledge, but not another gospel, nor even another form of the same gospel. From week to week the sermons have been issued from the press, till the printed sermons now number 1450.
These have enjoyed a very remarkable circulation in our own country, and in the Colonies and America; and, besides being scattered to the ends of the earth wherever the English tongue is spoken, they have been translated into almost every language spoken by Christian people, and into some of the tongues of the heathen besides. What multitudes of conversions have come of these messengers of mercy eternity alone will disclose: we have heard enough to make our cup ran over with unutterable delight. Shall not the God of boundless goodness be extolled and adored for this? The reader cannot know so well as the preacher what this printing of sermons involves. This is a tax upon the brain of a most serious kind, and yet it has been endured, add still the public read the sermons, — best proof that all their freshness has not departed. Oh Lord, all our fresh springs are in thee, else had our ministry long since, been dried up at the fountain, the unction would have departed, and the power would have fled. Unto the Eternal Spirit be infinite glory for his long forbearance and perpetual aid.
Nursed up at the sides of the church, supported by her liberality fostered by her care, and watched over by her love, hundreds of young men have been, trained for the ministry, and have gone forth everywhere preaching the word. Of these some few have fallen asleep, but the great majority still remain in the ministry at home and in the mission field, faithful to tile things which they learned in their youth, and persevering in the proclamation of the same gospel which is dear to the mother church. When we think of the four hundred brethren preaching the gospel at this moment, of the many churches which they have formed, and of the meeting-houses they have built, we must magnify the name of the Lord who has wrought by so feeble an instrumentality. Evangelists are now supported by the agency at the Tabernacle, and sent forth hither and thither to arouse the churches. Upon this effort. a special blessing has rested, enough to fill all hearts with delighted thankfulness.
During a considerable period hundreds of orphans have been fed, and clothed, and trained for time and eternity beneath the wings of the church of God, and many scores of these are now engaged in honorable business, prospering in life, in membership with Christian churches, and delighting to own themselves in a special manner children of the Tabernacle, sons of the Stockwell Orphanage. This is a well-spring of joy sufficient for a life.
Those who have labored with us in this holy work have a wealth of satisfaction in looking back upon the way wherein the Lord hath led us in this benevolent enterprise. Both the providence and the grace of God have been abundantly illustrated in this delightful service. If the story could ever be fully written — as it never can be — it would redound to the praise of the faithful, promise-keeping Savior, who said to as at the first, My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Nor is this all, nor can all be told. An army of colporteurs at this present, moment covers our country; ninety or more men are going from house to house with the word of God and pure literature, endeavoring to enlighten the dark hamlets, and to reach the neglected individuals who pine alone upon their sick beds. Priestcraft is thus assailed by an agency which it little expected to encounter. Where a Nonconformist ministry could not be sustained for want of means, a testimony has been kept alive which has sufficed to fetch out the chosen of the Lord from amid the gloom of superstition, and lead the Lord’s elect away from priests and sacraments to Christ and the one great sacrifice for sin. This work grows and must grew from year to year.
The poor but faithful ministers of our Lord have had some little comfort rendered to them by a quiet, unobtrusive work, which has supplied them with parcels of useful books: a work which is only ours, and yet most truly ours, because it is performed in constant pain and frequent anguish by her who is our best of earthly blessings. The Book Fund has a note all its own, but we could not refrain from hearing it as it swells the blessed harmony of service done during the twenty-five years. “She that tarried at home divided the spoil.”
Time would fail us to rehearse the whole of the other enterprises which have sprung up around us, and were we inclined to do so and to become a fool in glorying we should not be able, for bodily weakness plucks us by the sleeve and cries “Forbear.” We will forbear, but not till we. have exclaimed, “What hath God wrought?” Nor till we have noted with peculiar gratitude that to us is doubly fulfilled the promise, “Instead of the fathers shall be the children.” Our sons have already began to fulfill our lack of service, and will do so more and more if our infirmities increase.
It was right and seemly that at the close of this period of twenty-five years some testimonial should be offered to the pastor. The like has been worthily done in other cases, and brethren have accepted a sum of money which they well deserved, and which they have very properly laid aside as a provision for their families. In our case it did not seem to us at all fitting that the offering should come into our own purse; our conscience and heart revolted from the idea. We could without sin have accepted the gift for our own need, but it seemed not to be right. We have been so much more in the hands of God than most, so much less an agent and so much more an instrument, that we could not claim a grain of credit. Moreover, the dear and honored brethren and sisters in Christ who have surrounded us these many years have really themselves done the bulk of the work, and God forbid that we should monopolize honor which belongs to all the saints!
Let the offering come by all means, but let it return to the source from whence it came. There are many poor in the church, far more than friends at a distance would imagine — many of the most godly poor, “widows indeed,” and partakers of the poverty of Christ. To aid the Church in its holy duty of remembering the poor, which is the nearest approach to remembering Christ himself, seemed to us to be the highest use of money; the testimonial will, therefore, go to support the aged sisters in the Almshouses, and thus it will actually relieve the funds of the church which are appropriated to the weekly relief of the necessitous. May the Lord Jesus accept this cup of cold water which is offered in his name! We see the Lord’s servants fetching for us water from the well of Bethlehem which is within the gate, and as we see them cheerfully and generously setting it at our feet we thank them, thank them with tears in our eyes, but we feel that we must not drink thereof; it must be poured out before the Lord. So let it be. O Lord accept it!
WHAT’S YOUR PERSUASION?
SOME years ago a visitor said to a poor wounded soldier, who lay dying in the hospital, “What church are you of?” “Of the church of Christ,” he replied. “I mean, what persuasion are you of?” “Persuasion,” said the dying man, as he looked heavenward, beaming with love to the Savior, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.” None should rest contented with any hope less sure or bright. — From Day to Day. By ROBERT MACDONALD, D.D.
PASTORLESS FLOCKS OUR excellent contemporary The Watchman, of Boston, United States, has an article upon American churches and their difficulties in finding pastors which is singularly applicable to the condition of things in England. We quote the whole paragraph — “It is sad to see sheep without a shepherd, and as sad to see a church without a pastor. At the present time a number of our most able churches are in a pastorless condition. The First Church in Cleveland has no successor to Dr. Gardner. Emanuel Church, in Albany, has not filled the place of Dr. Bridgman. The First Church in Chicago comes into the number of the pastorless. The old First Church in New York, for the first time in many years, has a vacant pulpit. Warren Avenue Church, in Boston, still waits. The Tabernacle Church, Albany, parts with Rev. Frank: Morse, and puts up the sign, ‘Pulpit to let.’ The Fourth Church in Philadelphia mourns the withdrawal of its favorite. Other great churches are without pastors. The question arises, ‘What is the matter?’ We ask not why the pastors left, for in most cases the reason is obvious.
But why is not the pulpit filled? Why should Emanuel Church and the Cleveland Church be so many months in securing a new minister? There seems to be a false taste prevailing in our churches which prevents any speedy settlement of a pastor when a vacancy occurs. The habit is to send all about the country to find some wonderful man to do some wonderful work. When a ‘ supply committee’ is chosen, they look over the field, and get their eyes upon some brilliant man who is supposed to stand at the head of the list. They have the most important field in the country, and feel sure the genius will come. They call, and the call is declined. Then the committee strike a notch lower. Now they are sure, but the elect says, ‘No.’ Then they try again — a notch lower, with the same result. By this time the committee has learned something. The church is taught humility, and a call is given to some fair man, who accepts, and the machinery gets in motion again. What is to become of these great pastorless churches? They are too big for our theological institutions to fill. They are too important for an ordinary race of ministers. They find nobody in the country equal to their necessities. What is to be done? We might import Spurgeon, but he refuses to be imported. We might call Hugh Stowel Brown, but he will not come. Certain it is that churches must be more moderate in their wants, or we must have a new race of ministers raised, up by some special providence. As it is, we have too many big churches, or too many little men. The churches are often made big by fictitious means. They become swollen by self-laudation. Is there no way to swell the ministers? We know of a lot of men good enough for the best of the vacant, churches if they could only be swollen a little. An institution to inflate ministers so that they would fill vacant pulpits is a desideratum in our times, when so many churches find it so hard to obtain the men they want.”
Mr. Watchman is wickedly poking fun when he talks about inflating ministers. No preacher would be improved by being “swollen,” and we are quite sure that The Watchman would be the very first to object to the process. The remedy lies in the opposite direction. Churches need to be brought down from their exalted notions of themselves, and their selflaudation must come to an end; or else the old proverb will find illustration in unexpected quarters — “Pride goeth before destruction.” When Christian men grow dainty and quarrel with the bread of life because it is not baked in silver tins they are evidently in a sickly condition, and are in need of something else besides an able preacher. When they are strong and vigorous they can feed on good, wholesome spiritual meat, served up without the condiments of genius and sensationalism: let them judge themselves, and see whether this strength does not still abide with them, and if so, let them shake off their whimsies, and sit down to homely fare, like their brethren.
We know at the present moment churches which are worthy of all honor from their past history, their position, and their liberality to the cause of God — churches which it would be an honor to any man to preside over, for they are composed of intelligent, thoughtful, Christian men; and these churches cannot find a minister in all her Majesty’s three kingdoms. It would be an injustice to charge any one of the: members of those churches with self-conceit, for personally and privately they are each one soberminded and lowly; but there is a certain something called “the church and its status,” of which they are very proud, and when they meet together in their corporate capacity this “church and status” is paramount in their thoughts, and they are as puffed up about it as they well can be. “We must have a man of the first order. It matters not how long we wait, nor where we look, nor what we give; our church is of such a character and occupies such a position that only a first-class preacher can be thought of.” Filled with this idea, these brethren have heard some of the excellent of the earth, and have enjoyed their ministry; but they have conscientiously denied themselves the privilege of inviting them to the pastorate, because they have felt that these admirable brethren were lacking in classical attainments, or in brilliant oratory. For themselves, and for their children, the esteemed ministers whom they have heard were all they could desire; but there were learned men outside, or men supposed to be learned, persons of influence, or persons thought to be influential, hovering round the church doors, and for the sake of these the sound, edifying divine must be put on one side while they looked for a brother who would be abreast of the times, and would meet the philosophical turn of thought so current, among “our more thoughtful young men.” We confess to a smile as we write the last five words; for we have heard of these gentlemen so often than we have the same awe of them as of “the Conservative working-man” These churches have several times hit upon the right men as they thought, and have endeavored to entice them away from the congregations over which they were settled, but their invitations have been respectfully declined. They are still looking out, and probably will he looking out for anything under the next quarter of a century, unless their can modify and moderate their notions of what they ought to find in a minister.
Besides the risks which they run by remaining so long pastorless, risks by no means to be under-rated, there is one which they forget, namely, that when they do make their choice they will probably select a man far less worthy of their election than several whom they have passed over. The old story of the boy in the wood who needed a stick, but felt that with so many around him he should be sure to meet with a better one by-and-by, has been repeated hundreds of times. That worthy, as we all know, came at last to the end of the copse, and was obliged to cut any one he could find, having passed by scores of better ones earlier in the day.
One of the best things that a church can do is to catch a minister young, and train him for themselves. Some of the happiest and longest pastorates in our denomination commenced with the invitation of a young man from the country to a post; for which he was barely qualified. His mistakes were borne with, his efforts were encouraged, and he grew, and the church grew with him. His pastorate continued for many a year, since he was under no temptation to leave for another position, because he felt at home, and could say, like one of old, “I dwell among mine own people.” If our large churches will not try young men, but must all be provided with tried, experienced, eminent pastors, there will probably be many vacant pulpits, and a great many reasons for their being vacant will be stated by letterwriters in the religious newspapers — reasons all more or less amusing because they show how men can spin theories, as spiders spin webs, out of their own interiors, making a little substance go a very long way. God has promised to send the churches pastors according to his own heart, but not according to the hearts of those who say “Our pulpit is one of the most important in the denomination, and therefore we want something more than sound gospel preaching.” Our Lord will never suffer the churches to be destitute of soul-winning and edifying ministers, but he has never promised to give them orators, poets, philosophers, and deep thinkers. The gifts of the Spirit he will not withhold, but there are gifts of mind which are rare, and always will be rare so long as the earth remaineth, and these he may not see fit to give to a larger average of men in a this age than in former periods. If the churches direct their choice by these rare mental attainments, the selection of a pastor will be difficult in all cases, and growingly difficult as the number of our churches shall be multiplied.
We by no means suggest that pastors should be chosen in a hurry, or that intelligent churches should select ignorant ministers, or that zeal and spirituality should alone be considered in the election; on the contrary, we heartily recognize the need of care, and we sympathize with the difficulties felt by our larger churches in finding suitable preachers. It is far better to wait for years than to be carried away by a few starring sermons, and choose a man who will cling to the church like a limpet, and suck out its very life like a fungus. Better no man than the wrong man. Our larger and more educated churches might with advantage have refined and learned men as their leaders. We believe that the more a man knows the better, and the more culture he has the better; but at the same time education, refinement, talent, and culture are not everything, and the admiration of them may be carried a great deal too far. Gifts may be exalted above graces, and the flowers of natural made to rival the fruits of the Spirit; and this will be a grievous error. We also believe that large and influential churches should, as a rule, look out men of considerable experience and proved ability to be their spiritual overseers, but even this may be overdone, and so much overdone that, when the Lord sends the right man for the place, he may be rejected, because of his youth, to the church’s serious loss. Let the highest and holiest ends of the gospel ministry be well considered, and let a pastor be sought for mainly with the view of edifying the church and glorifying God and we are persuaded that a pastor will be found ere long. Let the brethren meet in prayer continually, and lay their case before the great Head of the church, and we feel persuaded that he who holds the seven stars in his right hand will find a star for each pleading church. We are far from wishing to insinuate that the pastorless churches have not prayed already, but we would urge them to greater importunity in supplication, and beg them to couple with their earnest request a full resolve to have a man not so much of their own choice as of the Lord’s own choosing. We may not succeed when we pray for a pastor after our own ideal, but we cannot fail when we lay all our wishes and desires at the Master’s feet, and cry, “Send by whomsoever thou wilt send.” This business must become more divine and less human; we must look up as well as look around, and we shall find the upward glance to be the more successful.
C. H. S.
AVENERABLE minister, with compassionate earnestness, once preached a sermon upon eternal punishment. On the next day some thoughtless men agreed that one of their number should go to him, and, if possible, draw him into a discussion. He went accordingly, and began the conversation, saying, “I believe there is a small dispute between you and me, and I thought that I would call this morning and try to settle it.” “Ah!” said the good man, “what is it?” “Why,” he replied, “you say that the woe of the finally impenitent will be eternal, and I do not think it will.” “Oh, if that is all,” he answered, “there” is no dispute between you and me. If you turn to Matthew 25: 26, you will find that the dispute is between you and the Lord Jesus Christ, and I advise you to go immediately and settle it with him.”
WHY NEGROES ARE BAPTISTS AT the American and Foreign Bible Society’s annual meeting last year one of the speakers, the Rev. Mr. Lodge, said, “In answer to the question, why so many of the colored Christians are Baptists, he said he was of the opinion of an old Negro Baptist, who, when asked why this was so, replied, ‘We culled folks hab no book larnen, so we’re foced and druve to take de Bible straight as it read, and we could come to no other conclusion.’” — Baptist Almanack.
TEMPTED OF THE DEVIL AN ADDRESS BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE PRAYER MEETING AT THE TABERNACLE, ON A MONDAY EVENING.
The letter which I am about to read comes from a certain county in Scotland. Each line begins in the original with a capital letter, so that it wears the appearance of poetry. I believe the idea is current in remote country places that this is the correct way of writing, and the writer is too earnest to do anything carelessly or contrary to rule. Here is the letter : — “To the Very Rev. C. H. Spurgeon — Believing that you are one of the faithful servants of God, and also that you have a large congregation, and that there is many a true believer among them; therefore I proposed to write to you in the hope that you and your congregation will remember me in your daily prayers, and also that it will be made public that I am requesting the prayers of the Lord’s people for my soul and everlasting salvation, knowing that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Dear sir, I may tell you that I am suffering much from the adversary. It is true that I cannot compare myself to that holy man, John Bunyan, but in the book that he wrote under this title, ‘Grace Abounding,’ he tells us how he was tempted; and I feel that the old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, who deceived Eve in the Garden, and who was tempting that saint John Bunyan, with many of the same temptations, tempteth me on this day, and if you would know all that I am suffering from his fiery darts, you would have commiseration with me. I believe it will be twenty-five years now, if not more, since I began to pray to God, and yet my temptations are terrible. Yet I cannot say that I am in despair, for I know that my Redeemer liveth, and I will see him. My trials from the adversary are awful. It may be when I am on my knees praying to God that he will come to me as sudden as a gunshot, and I believe doing all he can to steal my heart and affections away from God and heaven, and trying to make me say some wrong word; and many a time he will make my heart and flesh tremble while I am at my meat or talking, or in the house of worship, or traveling. In whatever condition I am, I feel that he is doing all he can to ruin my poor soul; therefore, I request the earnest prayer of all Christians for my poor soul, and I know for one, and for the first one, that you will not refuse this supplication to me. I believe that we never saw one another in the flesh, and God only knows if we will see each other on the face of the earth; but I hope we will see one another in heaven where the adversaries can never come near us. I hope this will be told before your congregation on Sabbath first, — I am, dear sir, your obedient servant, who resides in the county of — . ‘The Lord knoweth all them that are his.’
P.S. — I will be happy to see your kind advice either in a tract or in a newspaper. I am a reader of the Herald.” I very much demur to the commencement, “To the Very Reverend C.H. Spurgeon,” for no reverence is due to me. Romaine used to say that it was very astonishing to observe how many reverend, right reverend, and very reverend sinners there were upon the face of the earth. Assuredly reverend and sinner make a curious combination, and as I know that I am the second, I repudiate the first. To me it is surprising that such a flattering title should have been invented, and more amazing still that good men should be found who are angry if this title be not duly given to them.
However, the superscription is a small matter. I would make a few remarks upon the letter itself in order that we may the more intelligently and fervently present our supplications on the writer’s behalf.
And first we notice with pleasure that the writer is not altogether in despair, for he expressly says, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” If he would dwell more on his living Redeemer, and look less at the changeful current of his own thoughts, the snare would be broken, and he would escape. It is very charming to see how poor souls when tossed to and fro by the devil will yet hold on to their hope: half afraid to think that Jesus is theirs, they nevertheless feel that they could not give up what little hope they have. By a blessed inconsistency they doubt and yet cling, dread and yet trust, condemn themselves and yet hope. Such souls are a riddle, puzzling their friends, and most of all confusing themselves. Could we but persuade them to give their thoughts to that blessed “I know,” they would soon chase away the enemy, for Satan abhors a believing “I know.” He is more content with “I hope,” and best pleased with “I am afraid”; but “I know” stings him dreadfully, and if he who can truly say it will arm himself with that mind he will ere long overcome the enemy. Satan dreads the Redeemer’s name, and he falls like lightning from heaven before those who know how to plead it with confidence.
Having noticed the pleasing point in the letter, we are now forced to remark that it is a very dreadful thing to be tempted twenty-five years in this way, and yet this is not the only case we have heard of in which temptation has been both long and strong. I have in my library a book by Timothy Rogers upon “Trouble of Mind,” in which he tells us of Mr. Rosewell and Mr. Porter, both ministers, the latter of whom was six years oppressed by Satan, and yet afterwards rejoiced in the light of God’s countenance. Mr. Robert Bruce, many years ago minister in Edinburgh, was twenty years under terrors of conscience, and yet found deliverance.
Rogers says — “You have in the ‘Book of Martyrs,’ written by Mr. Fox, an instance of Mr. Glover, who was so worn and consumed with inward trouble for the space of five years, that he neither had any comfort in his meat nor any quietness of sleep, nor any pleasure of life; he was as perplexed as if he had been in the deepest pit of hell, yet at last this good servant of God, after such sharp temptations, and strong buffetings of Satan, was freed from all his trouble, and was thereby led to great mortification, and was like one already placed in heaven, leading a life altogether celestial, abhorring in his mind all profane things.” None of these cases extend to quite the length of time mentioned in the letter, but I remember to have heard of one who lay in the prison-house some twentyseven years, and yet came forth to perfect liberty: but even this is less remarkable than the case mentioned by Turner in his “Remarkable Providences,” of Mr. Charles Langford, the author of a book called “God’s Wonderful Mercy in the Mount of Woeful Extremity.” He therein says that for near forty years he had been severely buffeted by Satan, who left no stone unturned to do him all the mischief he could. For forty years was he led through the uncomfortable wilderness of temptation, and his clearest day all that time was but dark, Satan filling his soul with cursed injections, blasphemous thoughts, and dreadful temptations. The Lord was pleased to make use of his godly wife for his deliverance. He overheard her pleading at the throne of grace, as washer wont, after this fashion — “My Father !
My Father ! What wilt thou do with my husband? He hath been speaking and acting still in thy cause. Oh, destroy him not, for thine own glory.
What dishonor will come to thy great name if thou do it ! Oh, rather do with me as thou wilt. But spare my husband,” etc. “God, who delights to advance his own power by using small and unlikely means, came,” said he, “and owned his own ordinance, and crowned the cries, and faith, and patience of a poor woman with such success that my praise shall be continually of him. Mine adversary, the devil, was sent to his own place by my dear Lord Christ, who brake the door of brass and rescued me from his fury.” So you see that long temptation by Satan is not so rare a trial as some would suppose.
But these temptations of the devil, do they come to really gracious men?
Certainly. The instances I have given prove it, and besides, our reason would lead us to expect it. If a foot-pad were on the road, and knew something about the travelers, he would not stop beggars, for he would know that they have nothing to lose. Would he try to rob the rich or the poor? Those that have money, of course, would be his game, and just so Satan assaults those who have grace, and leaves those who have none.
When a sportsman is engaged in duck-shooting, he does not hurry himself to pick up the dead ducks that fall around him, he pays all his attention to those which are full of life and are only wounded, and may perhaps get away. He can pick up the dead ones at any time. Even so, when Satan sees that a man’s soul is wounded, and yet that it has a measure of spiritual life, he bends his strength in that direction in the hope of securing that poor bleeding spirit. It is grace that attracts his malicious eye and his diabolical arrows. He would not sift if there were no wheat, nor break into the house if there were no treasure within. It is no ill proof, therefore, when you find yourself tempted of Satan, his assaults are no sign of a want of grace, but rather a token of the presence of it.
But can a good man be tempted to use bad language? Ah, that he can The purest mind is sometimes most of all assaulted by insinuations of the filthiest thoughts and most horrible words. I was brought up as a child with such care that I knew but very little of foul or profane language, having scarcely ever heard a man swear. Yet do I remember times in my earliest Christian days when there came into my mind thoughts so evil that I clapped my hand to my mouth for fear I should be led to give utterance to them. This is one way in which Satan tortures those whom God has delivered out of his hand. Many of the choicest saints have been thus molested. Beloved, think it not strange concerning this fiery trial when it comes upon you, for no new thing is happening unto you but such as is common to men. What is to be done, then, in the case of one who is beaten down and harassed by fierce temptation? If I were the writer of this letter, I suppose I should do as he does, but if I acted rightly I would go and tell the Lord Jesus Christ all about the devil’s suggestions, and beg him to interfere and restrain the evil one. It is his office to bruise the serpent’s head, and he can and will do it. We need not fear that our poor cries and tears will be in vain: Jesus is very faithful, and will come to our rescue. “That great Shepherd of the sheep” will not allow the wolf to worry his lambs to death.
In addition to spreading his case before the Lord, it may be helpful to the tempted one to write down his trouble. Very much of perturbation of mind arises out of absolute confusion of thought, and a written statement may help to clear away the cobwebs. Luther threw an inkstand at the devil’s head at the Wartburg, and the example may be wisely followed, for often when you see your misty thought condensed in black and white before your own eyes it will not exercise over you one half the power which it possessed before, and often there will be an end of it altogether. I have told you before of the poor woman who complained to her minister that she did not love the Savior. So the pastor went to the window, and with his pencil wrote on a piece of paper, “I do not love the Lord Jesus Christ.” Taking it to the good woman he said, “Now, Sarah, will you put your name to the bottom of that ?” Her horror was most manifest, and she cried, “Oh, no sir, I could not do it; I would die first.” “But you said so.” “Yes, I did, but I will not write it. I love the Lord Jesus too much to sign any such a document.” Is there not wisdom in my advice to write down your temptation ?
Still the main remedy is to keep on going to the Savior as each new blasphemy is injected, and as each fresh sin is suggested, for he will send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to deliver you. If Satan sees a soul constantly driven to Christ by his temptations, he is too crafty to continue them. He will say to himself, “These attacks of mine accomplish nothing, for every time that I tempt him he runs to his Savior, and so becomes stronger and holier. I will let him alone, and perhaps he will then go to sleep, and so I shall do him greater mischief by my quietness than by roaring at him.” The devil is a cowardly spirit, and fears to meet the courageous in heart. Stretch out your hand and lay bold upon the sword of the Spirit, and give him a believing thrust, and he will read his dragon wings in dastard flight. A man had better go a hundred miles roundabout, over hedge and ditch, rather than meet the arch enemy, yet if any of you must meet him, be not dismayed, but face it out with him. Resist, and he will flee. May we in all our conflicts with him fight the good fight so bravely that when a memorial is set up to record the conflict it may bear those lines of honest John Bunyan : — “The man so bravely played the man, He made the fiend to fly; Whereof a monument I stand, The same to testify.” May the brother whose letter I have read find the Lord to be his strong helper, and speedily come forth out of darkness into marvelous light!