WHAT IS IT TO WIN A SOUL?
A COLLEGE LECTURE, BY C. H. SPURGEON.
IPURPOSE, if God shall enable me, to give you a short course of lectures under the general head of “THE SOUL WINNER.” Soul-winning is the chief business of the Christian minister, indeed, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer. We should each say with Simon Peter, “I go fishing,” and with Paul our aim should be, “If by any means I may save some.”
We shall commence our discourses upon this subject by considering the question — “What is it to win a soul?” This may be instructively answered by describing what it is not. We do not regard it to be soul-winning to steal members out of churches already established, and train them to utter our peculiar shibboleth: we aim rather at bringing souls to Christ than at making converts to our synagogue.
There are sheep-stealers abroad concerning whom I will say nothing except that they are not “brethren,” or, at least, do not act in a brotherly fashion.
To their own Master they must stand or fall. We count it utter meanness to build up our own house with the ruins of our neighbors’ mansions; we infinitely prefer to quarry for ourselves. I hope we all sympathize in the large-hearted spirit of Dr. Chalmers, who, when it was said that such and such an effort would not be beneficial to the special interests of the Free Church of Scotland, although it might promote the general religion of the land, said, “What is the Free Church compared with the Christian good of the people of Scotland?” What, indeed, is any church, or what are all the churches put together as mere organizations if they stand in conflict with the moral and spiritual advantage of the nation, or if they impede the kingdom of Christ? It is because God blesses men through the churches that we desire to see them prosper, and not merely for the sake of the churches themselves. There is such a thing as selfishness in our eagerness for the aggrandizement of our own party, and from this evil spirit may grace deliver us. The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan. We would do a great; deal to make a Paedobaptist brother into a Baptist, for we value our Lord’s ordinances; we would labor earnestly to raise a believer in salvation by free will into a believer in salvation by grace, for we long to see all religious teaching built upon the solid rock of truth and not upon the sand of imagination; but at the same time our grand object, is not the revision of opinions but the regeneration of natures. We would bring men to Christ, and not to our own peculiar views of Christianity. Our first care must be that the sheep should be gathered to the great Shepherd; there will be time enough afterwards to secure them for our various folds. To make proselytes is a suitable labor for Pharisees; to beget men unto God is the honorable aim of ministers of Christ.
In the next place, we do not consider soul-winning to be accomplished by hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church roll, in order to show a good increase at the end of the year. This is easily done, and there are brethren who use great pains, not to say arts, to effect it, but if it be regarded as the Alpha and Omega of a minister’s efforts the result will be deplorable. By all means let us bring true converts into the church, for it is a part of our work to teach them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded them, but still this is to be done to disciples, and not to mere professors; and if care be not used we may do more harm than good at this point. To introduce unconverted persons to the church is to weaken and degrade it, and therefore an apparent gain may be a real loss. I am not among those who decry statistics, nor do I consider that they are productive of all manner of evil; for they may do much good if they are accurate, and if a man use them lawfully. It is a good thing for men to see the nakedness of the land through statistics of decrease, that they may be driven on their knees before the Lord to seek prosperity; and, on the other hand, it is by no means an evil thing for workers to be encouraged by having some account of results set before them. I should be very sorry if the practice of adding up, and deducting, and giving in the net result were to be abandoned, for it must be right to know our numerical condition. It has been noticed that those who object to the process are often brethren whose unsatisfactory reports should somewhat humiliate them: this not always so, but it is suspiciously frequent. I heard of the report of a church the other day in which the minister, who was well known to have reduced his congregation to nothing, somewhat cleverly wrote, “Our church is looking up.” When he was questioned with regard to this statement, he replied, “Everybody knows that the church is on its back, and it cannot do anything else but look up.” When churches are looking up in that way their pastors generally say that statistics are very delusive things, and that you cannot tabulate the work of the Spirit, and calculate the prosperity of a church by figures. The fact is, you can reckon very correctly if the figures are honest, and if all circumstances are taken into consideration: if there is no increase you may calculate with considerable accuracy that there is not much being done, and if there is a clear decrease among a growing population you may reckon that the prayers of the people and the preaching of the minister are not of the most powerful kind. But, still, all hurry to get members into the church is most mischievous, both to the church and to the supposed converts. I remember very well several young men, who were of good moral character and religiously hopeful, but instead of searching their hearts, and aiming at their real conversion, the pastor never gave them any rest till he had persuaded them to make a profession. He thought that they would be under more bonds to holy things if they professed religion, and he felt quite safe in pressing them, for “they were so hopeful.” He imagined that to discourage them by vigilant examination might drive them away, and so to secure them he made them hypocrites. Those young men are at the present time much further off from the church of God than they would have been if they had been affronted by being kept in their proper places, and warned that they were not converted to God. It is a serious injury to a person to receive him into the number of the faithful unless there is good reason to believe that he is really regenerate. I am sure it is so, for I speak after careful observation. Some of the most glaring sinners known to me were once members of a church, and were, as I believe, led to make a profession by undue pressure, well meant but ill-judged. Do not, therefore, consider that soul-winning is or can be secured by the multiplication of baptisms, and the swelling of the size of your church. What mean these despatches from the battle field? “Last night fourteen souls were under conviction, fifteen were justified, and eight received full sanctification.” I am weary of this public bragging, this counting of unhatched chickens, this exhibition of doubtful spoils. Lay aside such numberings of the people, such idle pretense of certifying in half a minute that which will need the testing of a lifetime. Hope for the best, but in your highest excitements be reasonable. Enquiry-rooms are all very well, but if they lead to idle boastings they will grieve the Holy Spirit and work abounding evil.
Nor is it, dear friends, soul-winning merely to create excitement.
Excitement will accompany every great movement. We might justly question whether the movement was earnest and powerful if it was quite as serene as a drawing-room Bible-reading. You cannot very well blast great rocks without the sound of explosions, nor fight a battle and keep everybody as quiet as a mouse. On a dry day a carriage is not moving much along the road unless there is some noise and dust; friction and stir are the natural result of force in motion. So when the Spirit of God is abroad, and men’s minds are stirred, there must and will be certain visible signs of the movement, although these must never be confounded with the movement itself. If people imagined that to make a dust is the object aimed at by the rolling of a carriage, they can take a broom and very soon raise as much dust as fifty coaches, but they will be committing a nuisance rather than conferring a benefit. Excitement is as incidental as the dust, but it is not for one moment to be aimed at. When the woman swept her house she did it to find her money and not for the sake of raising a cloud.
Do not aim at sensation and “effect.” Flowing tears and streaming eyes, sobs and outcries, and crowded after-meetings and all kinds of confusions may occur, and may be borne with as concomitants of genuine feeling, but pray do not plan their production.
It very often happens that the converts that are born in excitement die when the excitement is over. They are like certain insects which are the product of an exceedingly warm day, and die when the sun goes down.
Certain converts live like salamanders, in the fire, but they expire at a reasonable temperature. I delight not in the religion which needs or creates a hot head. Give me the godliness which flourishes upon Calvary rather than upon Vesuvius. The utmost zeal for Christ is consistent with common sense and reason; raving, ranting, and fanaticism are products of another zeal which is not according to knowledge. We would prepare men for the chamber of communion and not for the padded room at Bedlam. No one is more sorry than I that such a caution as this should be needful; but in the presence of certain wild revivalists, I cannot say less, and might say a great deal more.
What is the real winning of a soul for God? So far as this is done by instrumentality, what are the processes by which a soul is led to God and to salvation? I take it that one of its main operations consists in instructing a man that he may know the truth of God. Instruction by the gospel is the commencement of all real work upon men’s minds. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to, observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Teaching begins the work and crowns it too.
The gospel, according to Isaiah is, “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live.” It is ours, then, to give men something worth their hearing; in fact, to instruct them. We are sent to evangelize, or to preach the gospel to every creature, and that is not done unless we teach them the great truths of revelation. The gospel is good news. To listen to some preachers you would imagine that the gospel was a pinch of sacred snuff to make them wake up, or a bottle of ardent spirits to excite their brains. It is nothing of the kind; it is news, there is information in it, there is instruction in it concerning matters which men need to know, and statements in it calculated to bless those who hear it. It is not a magical incantation, or a charm, whose force consists in a collection of sounds; it is a revelation of facts and truths which require knowledge and belief. The gospel is a reasonable system, and it appeals to men’s understanding; it is a matter for thought and consideration, and it appeals to the conscience and the reflecting powers. Hence, if we do not teach men something, we may shout, “Believe! Believe! Believe!” but what are they to believe? Each exhortation requires a corresponding instruction, or it will mean nothing. “Escape!” From what? This requires for its answer the doctrine of the punishment of sin. “Fly!” But whither? Then must you preach Christ and his wounds, yea, and the clear doctrine of atonement or sacrifice. “Repent!” Of what? Here you must answer such questions as, What is sin?
What is the evil of sin? What are the consequences of sin? “Be converted!” But what is it to be converted? By what power can we be converted? What from? What to? The field of instruction is wide if men are to be made to know the truth which saves. “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good,” and it is ours as the Lord’s instruments to make men so to know the truth that they may believe it, and feel its power. We are not to try and save men in the dark, but in the power of the Holy Ghost we are to turn them from darkness to light.
And, do not believe, dear friends, that when you go into revival meetings, or special evangelistic services, you are to leave out the doctrines of the gospel; for then you ought to proclaim the doctrines of grace rather more than less. Teach gospel doctrines clearly, affectionately, simply, and plainly, and especially those truths which have a present and practical bearing upon man’s condition and God’s grace. Some enthusiasts would seem to have imbibed the notion that as soon as a minister addresses the unconverted he should deliberately contradict his usual doctrinal discourses, because it is supposed that there will be no conversions if he preaches the whole counsel of God. It just comes to this, brethren, — it is supposed that we are to conceal truth, and utter a half falsehood in order to save souls. We are to speak the truth to God’s people because they will not hear anything else, but we are to wheedle sinners into faith by exaggerating one part of truth and hiding the rest until a more convenient season. This is a strange theory, and yet many endorse it. According to them, we may preach the redemption of a chosen number to God’s people, but universal redemption must be our doctrine when we speak with the outside world: we are to tell believers that salvation is all of grace, but sinners are to be spoken with as if they were to save themselves: we are to inform Christians that God the Holy Spirit alone can convert, but when we talk with the unsaved the Holy Ghost is scarcely to be named. We have not so learned Christ. Thus others have done; let them be our beacons and not our examples. He who sent us to win souls neither permits us to invent falsehoods, nor to suppress truth.
His work can be done without such suspicious methods.
Perhaps some of you will reply, “But, still, God has blessed half statements and wild assertions.” Be not quite so sure. I venture to assert that God does not bless falsehood; he may bless the truth which is mixed up with error; but much more of blessing would have come if the preaching had been more in accordance with his own word. I cannot admit that the Lord blesses evangelistic Jesuitism, and the suppression of truth is not too harshly named when I so describe it. The withholding of the doctrine of the total depravity of man has wrought serious mischief to many who have listened to a certain kind of preaching. These people do not get a true healing because they do not know the disease under which they are suffering; they are never truly clothed because nothing is done towards stripping them. In many ministries there is not enough of probing the heart and arousing the conscience by the revelation of man’s alienation from God, and by the declaration of the selfishness and the wickedness of such a state. Men need to be told that except divine grace shall bring them out of their enmity to God they must eternally perish; and they must be reminded of the sovereignty of God, that he is not obliged to bring them out of this state that he would be right and just if he left them in such a condition, that they have no merit to plead before him, and no claims upon him, but that if they are to be saved it must be by grace, and by grace alone. The preacher’s work is to throw sinners down in helplessness that they may be compelled to look up to him who alone can help them.
To try to win a soul for Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth is contrary to the mind of the Spirit, and to endeavor to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with bird-lime, or lure a star with music. The best attraction is the gospel in its purity. The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus. The gospel will be found equal to every emergency: an arrow which can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which will heal the deadliest wound. Preach it, and preach nothing else.
Rely implicitly upon the old, old gospel. You need no other nets when you fish for men; those your Master has given you are strong enough for the great fishes, and have meshes fine enough to hold the little ones. Spread these nets and no others, and you need not fear the fulfillment of his word, “I will make you fishers of men.”
Secondly, to win a soul it is necessary, not only to instruct our hearer and make him know the truth, but to impress him so that he may feel it. A purely didactic ministry, which should always appeal to the understanding and should leave the emotions untouched, would certainly be a limping ministry. “The legs of the lame are not equal,” says Solomon, and the unequal legs of some ministries cripple them. We have seen such an one limping about with a long doctrinal leg, but a very short emotional leg. It is a horrible thing for a man to be so doctrinal that he can speak coolly of the doom of the wicked, so that if he does not actually praise God for it, it costs him no anguish of heart to think of the ruin of millions of our race.
This is horrible! I hate to hear the terrors of the Lord proclaimed by men whose hard visages, harsh tones, and unfeeling spirit betray a sort of doctrinal desiccation: all the milk of human kindness is dried out of them.
Having no feeling himself, such a preacher creates none, and the people sit and listen while he keeps to dry, lifeless statements, until they come to value him for being “sound,” and they themselves come to be sound too, and I need not add sound asleep also, or what life they have is spent in sniffing out heresy, and making earnest men offenders for a word. Into this spirit may we never be baptized. Whatever 1 believe, or do not believe, the command to love my neighbor as myself still retains its claim upon me, and God forbid that any views or opinions should so contract my soul and harden my heart as to make me forget this law of love. The love of God is first, but this by no means lessens the obligation of love to man; in fact, the first command includes the second. We are to seek our neighbor’s conversion because we love him, and we are to speak to him in loving terms God’s loving gospel, because our heart desires his eternal good.
A sinner has a heart as well as a head; a sinner has emotions as well as thoughts; and we must appeal to both. A sinner will never be converted until his emotions are stirred. Unless he feels sorrow for sin, and unless he has some measure of joy in the reception of the word, you cannot have much hope of him. The truth must soak into the soul, and dye it with its own color. The word must be like a strong wind sweeping through the whole heart, and swaying the whole man, even as a field of ripening corn waves in the summer breeze. Religion without emotion is religion without life. But, still, we must mind how these emotions are caused. Do not play upon the mind by exciting feelings which are not spiritual. Some preachers are very fond of introducing funerals and dying children into their discourses, and they make the people weep through sheer natural affection.
This may lead up to something better, but in itself what is its value? What is the good of opening up a mother’s griefs or a widow’s sorrows? I do not believe that our merciful Lord has sent us to make men weep over their departed relatives by digging anew their graves and rehearsing past scenes of bereavement and woe. Why should he? It is granted that you may profitably employ the death-bed of a departing Christian or of a dying sinner for proof of the rest of faith in the one case and the terror of conscience in the other, but it is out of the fact proved and not out of the illustration itself that the good must arise. Natural grief is of no service in itself; indeed, we look upon it as a distraction from higher thoughts, and as a price too great to exact from tender hearts, unless we can repay them by engrafting lasting spiritual impressions upon the stock of natural affection. “It was a very splendid oration, full of pathos,” says one who heard it. Yes, but what is the practical outcome of this pathos? A young preacher once remarked, “Were you not greatly struck to see so large a congregation weeping?” “Yes,” said his judicious friend, “but I was more struck with the reflection that they would probably have wept more at a play.” Exactly so: and the weeping in both cases may be equally valueless. I saw a girl on board a steamboat reading a book and crying as if her heart would break, but when I glanced at the volume I saw that it was only one of those silly yellow-covered novels which load our railway bookstalls. Her tears were a sheer waste of moisture, and so are those which are produced by mere pulpit tale-telling and death-bed painting.
If our hearers will weep over their sins, and after Jesus, let their sorrows flow in rivers, but if the object of their tears is merely natural and not at all spiritual, what good is done by setting them weeping? There might be some virtue in making people joyful, for there is sorrow enough in the world, and the more we can promote cheerfulness the better, but what is the use of creating needless misery? What right have you to go through the world pricking everybody with your lancet just to show your skill in surgery? A true physician only makes incisions in order to effect cures, and a wise minister only excites painful emotions in men’s minds with the distinct object of blessing their souls. You and I must continue to drive at men’s hearts till they are broken; and then we must keep on preaching Christ crucified till their hearts are bound up, and when this is accomplished we must continue to proclaim the gospel till their whole nature is brought into subjection to the gospel of Christ. Even in these preliminaries you will be made to feel the need of the Holy Ghost to work with you and by you; but this need will be still more evident when we advance a step further and speak of the new birth itself in which the Holy Spirit works in a style and manner most divine. (TO BE CONTINUED.)
NOTES WE have had so many meetings at the Tabernacle during the past month that we can only write a few lines concerning each of the gatherings of our various tribes, blessing the Lord concerning each one of them that his hand is with it for good. In our brother’s absence we have had to work double tides, and we feel glad that he will be home before this magazine is published, and we shall be soon able to take our needed rest. He has had a grand tune in Canada and the States, but we hope he will tell his own tale in another number of the magazine.
On Friday evening, September 26, the annual meeting of the
METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE VOLUNTEER EVANGELISTS was held. Here is the report of one year’s work: — 1,767 week-night services, and 1,008 Sunday services have been held by the 94 members in chapels and mission halls in London belonging to almost all denominations. The total cost of the work has been £191 11s. 61/2d., most of which is for rent, gas, printing, postage, and traveling expenses. Donations, collections, etc., have realized £70, and we have had to find the remaining £121. Thanks to the kindness of friends who have left sums at our disposal, this has not been a burden. This is a fine investment of money for downright gospel preaching at less than eighteen-pence a sermon. Great praise is due to Mr. Elvin, who so admirably manages this self-denying band of unpaid evangelists.
On Monday Evening, September 29, the Tabernacle was grandly filled for the fare-well meeting for our beloved son Thomas and his companions, Messrs. McCullough and Harrison. Their many friends could not accompany them to the ship, but they very heartily commended them to God, and to the word of his grace. For our own part we are now able, together with his dear mother, to look upon our son’s departure to Australia with joy, because we feel that it is for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom that he should go. Endowed as he is with such a wealth of affectionate prayers he must prosper. The following Thursday the three young men joined the good ship SobraGu at Plymouth, and by this time we trust they are a long way on toward their desired haven. We cannot expect to have news of the party till next February; but since our son’s leaving we have had several candidates for church-fellowship who ascribe their conversion to his ministry, and this yields better cheer than letters could afford.
On Friday Evening, October 3, our beloved friend John B. Gough, gave his lecture on “Eloquence and Orators” at the Tabernacle, in aid of the College. It was a noble lecture, splendidly delivered, and given in so generous a manner to our work that we thank God at every remembrance of so brotherly an act. Dr. Parker and Mr. Varley admirably moved and seconded the vote of thanks, and assuredly it was no mere form. Wherever John B. Gough goes may the blessing of the Lord attend him! October 8. —SERMON IN GLASGOW. We believe that the meetings of the Baptist Union in Glasgow were a very happy gatherings, and that the result must be gracious. No hospitality could excel that of the North. It was by the wish of Glasgow friends that the collection at our sermon at St.
Andrew’s Hall was for the Girls’ Orphanage. This was a kindly, generous deed, and it fills us with deep gratitude. We have not heard what net amount will come to the institution after paying for the hall, advertising, tickets, and so forth, but the gross sum of £273 was reported as the collection. This is princely.
On Monday evening, October 13, the annual meeting of the
METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE LOAN TRACT SOCIETY was held in connection with the prayer-meeting. Mr. F. Wood, the secretary, presented the report, which stated that the object of the society was to make known the way of salvation by lending from week to week the Pastor’s sermons.
During the past year 20,000 of these have been lent, and 4,300 families have been visited every week; and, best of all, twenty persons profess to have been converted through the agency of the eighty-six distributors. The total cost of the work has been a little over £50 for the year, almost all of which is for the purchase of the sermons. The society is doing a most valuable work in a quiet manner. We trust it will speedily enlarge its bounds.
On Tuesday evening, October 14, the ANNUAL BUTCHERS’FESTIVAL was held at the Tabernacle. About 300 of the master butchers and their wives partook of tea in the College, and then went down to the rooms under the Tabernacle to assist in feeding the multitude of journeymen butchers, 2,200 of whom were provided with a substantial evening meal. Mr. Murrell’s arrangements for the feast were as perfect as anything could be, and everything passed off most satisfactorily, though the affair is nothing less than gigantic. The quantity of provision consumed on these occasions seems almost incredible, but, large as it is, Mr. Varley and the Butchers’ Committee are only too pleased to bear the cost, in the hope that some, at least, of the men may be permanently blessed by what they hear after their temporal wants are supplied. We believe that this great gathering cannot be held in vain. The men listen with great attention, and surely it cannot be that kindly reasoning with them upon temperance, kindness, and the fear of the Lord will all be lost. It was a thought from above which led our friend Mr. Varley to commence this festival.
On Friday evening, October 17, all the Teachers of the Sunday Schools connected with the Tabernacle were invited by Mr. Andrew Dunn to take tea together in the schoolroom. About four hundred were present, and a happy social hour was spent. After tea, others arrived for the meeting in the Lecture Hall, at which the pastor presided, and delivered an address on Sunday School work. He was followed by the host of the evening, Mr. Dunn, and several of the superintendents, who related their experience, and gave useful suggestions for the guidance of their fellow-helpers. We must confess that we were agreeably surprised to find that we have nineteen Sunday Schools connected with the Tabernacle, with a total of teachers and 5,853 scholars. These figures do not include a numerous band of teachers who are engaged in schools connected with other churches.
There are several such schools in which nearly every teacher is a member with us, but the credit of them goes to other churches, and we are glad that it should be so. O for a blessing on this regiment of children! Why should it not be increased to ten thousand?
On Sunday morning, October 19, we preached from Numbers 21:9. The sermon is entitled “Number 1,500, or Lifting up the Brazen Serpent”: but our special reason for mentioning it is that it is No. 1,500 of our published sermons. Thanks be to God that for so long a time we have been able to print a discourse week by week! Many other “pulpits” have had their rising and setting within that period, but hitherto the “Tabernacle Pulpit” has shone on. We know where the oil has come from, and we bless the unseen hand which has trimmed the lamp. The sermon will be issued separately in a book form at a penny, and we hope that thousands of it may be distributed, for it is an exceedingly plain declaration of the gospel.
On Monday evening, Oct. 20, the annual meeting of the LADIES’
MATERNAL SOCIETY was held in the Lecture-hall previous to the prayermeeting in the Tabernacle. About two hundred poor women have been helped by this society in their hour of need: we wish that this work of mercy could be carried on more largely, for there is great distress around us. Works of charity must keep pace with the preaching of faith, or the church will not be perfect in its development. The same evening the prayer-meeting in the Tabernacle was specially on behalf of Sunday-schools. Mr. Fullerton told us of the Lord’s presence in the services at Stafford, Mr. J. M. Smith made us weep over touching stories of child-conversion, the pastor delivered an address specially to professors who are not working for Christ, and after this many prayers were offered for a blessing on the work amongst the young. The pastor said, “If you are a member of a church you can, and you must do something for the Lord. You are certainly good for something, or — “That sentence was never finished.
— We shall have so few men leaving at Christmas that all expected vacancies are already filled by accepted candidates. The number of applicants is still very large, and it may save some of them from disappointment if we tell them that we have already selected as many as we expect to be able to receive next August. There is no lack of the right sort of men, and the Lord’s stewards will see that there is no lack of means.
Mr. R. E. Gammon has returned to mission work at San Domingo; Mr.A. E. Johnson has removed from Sutton, Nottinghamshire, to Hanley, Staffordshire; Mr. J. W. Thomason, from New Town, Mont., to Manchester; and Mr. J. J. Dalton, from Bradford, to Lock’s-lane, Frome.
Oct. 22. Mr. John Olney laid the memorial stone of the new chapel at Catford Bridge for our friend, Mr. Greenwood, jun. We go to press too soon to give particulars, but we commend the undertaking to the liberal help of our friends.
Another member of our Conference has been called to his reward. Mr.H. A. James, of Stratford-on-Avon, has fallen asleep at the comparatively early age of thirty-six. He was a reliable, solid, gracious minister, respected by all who knew him. May the Lord comfort the widow and bless the fatherless! Over our departed brother we may well sorrow, but at the same time we are bound to rejoice that he fell in the battle with his shield upon his arm, “faithful unto death.”
Mr. Cuff asks us to mention that the Shoreditch Tabernacle will be opened on Nov. 11. We hope to be away from this land of fogs before that date, but we heartily congratulate our brother on the completion of his great building, and wish him much success in it for many years to come. He is one of a thousand, a man in his right place. He ought to be helped through with his work till not a farthing of debt shall remain upon his great meeting-house The Lord anoint him with fresh oil.
Two or three college men have written about building a college house in the Girls’ Orphanage, and the present students are eager for it, but we do not wish to ask such a thing while many of our brethren are so oppressed by the hardness of the times. If however the proposal should be taken up and done spontaneously, it will be another instance of the overflowing love of the brotherhood.
Writing from Tai-yuen-Fu, Shansi, China, our former student, Mr. J.J. Turner, asks our prayers, and says of the province in which he is stationed, “It; is a glorious field for labor. It is a new field: only within the last two years have any Protestant missionaries attempted to live here. As yet we can tell of no souls saved, but I need not tell you that we long to see some tokens of the Lord’s presence. It has been our privilege to rescue many from starvation .... We engaged in the relief work because we believed that God would bless our efforts not only to the salvation of many thousands of lives, as he has done, but because we believed that he would make the relief a blessing to the souls of the people whom we could hardly hope to reach at all in the ordinary way. He has helped us so far.” Just as we go to press a friend sends us the news of the arrival of the ship in which Mr. Clarke and Mr. Garrett sailed for Melbourne.
— The visit of Messrs. Smith and Fullerton to Burnley marks the commencement of a new era in our evangelistic efforts. Hitherto our great anxiety has been how we were to find support for these brethren and others who are preparing for similar work. Burnley has, we trust, solved the difficulty for us. It was resolved that boxes should be placed at the doors for thankofferings at every service, the result being that after paying all local expenses there remained £100 for our funds. We can hardly hope that all other places will thus pay their own expenses, but if some of them do so our burden will be greatly lightened. Moreover, we are persuaded that the bait of “No collections” is needless and demoralizing.
To teach men to give of their substance for the spread of the gospel is a part of the gospel, and tends greatly for their own benefit. That the spiritual re-suits did not suffer is quite certain; the facts all look the other way. The following extracts from letters received recently prove that great good was done: — “Many of the churches in the town are reaping the results of our recent special services .... Our friends at Angle-street have baptized twenty, I have baptized seven, and have others to propose. At A Enon they have fourteen to eighteen inquirers, at Sion eight or nine.” “We added two more last Sabbath, making twenty-seven; another at Haggate for next Sabbath, making a grand total of twenty-eight.” “Two to three hundred applications for membership have been made to the churches in the town through your visit.” Another note refers to the fact that the Methodist and Congregational churches, as well as those of our own denomination, are being increased through the evangelists’ labors.
Our brethren were at Stafford from October 5 to 19, and there also the Lord was with them. The Wesleyan minister has kindly sent us the following testimony:- “My Dear Sir, — It will encourage you to hear from an independent source that your evangelists, Messrs. Fullerton and Smith, are visibly owned by God in Stafford. Everything here is comparatively small, and consequently our friends cannot report the crowds they have had in larger towns. But on Sunday night 1500 listened to them, and I have just come from a house where both husband and wife were then led to decide for Christ, and are seeking admission to our church. I might name other similar instances. “We are supporting our brethren by earnest prayer, and I doubt not that the remainder of the week will witness very much greater visible results. “You will excuse the intrusion of this letter. It seemed to me right that you should hear of the usefulness of men sent out under your direction. “May God long spare our dear brethren to labor successfully in the path they have chosen. Wishing you every good, and praying that your past works for Christ may be surpassed by greater usefulness in the future, “I am, my dear sir, yours sincerely, Jos.AGAR BEET.”
The later services were even more successful, and many professed themselves to be won for Jesus. We can only record what men and women declare: the Lord alone can read the heart. The list of engagements of Messrs. Smith and Fullerton for the ensuing twelve months is as follows:- November 2 to November 16, Scarborough; November 23 to December 31, Metropolitan Tabernacle; January 4 to January 18, Shoreditch Tabernacle; February 1 to February 15, Cambridge; February 29 to March 14, Bradford; March 15 and March 16, Farsley; March 21 to April 4, Northampton; May 9 to May 16, Smethwick; May 23 to May 29, Smallheath; May 30 to June 5, Leamington; June 13 to June 27, Paisley; July 11 to July 25, Greenock; August 1 to August 15, Dumfries; August 22 to August 29, Annan; September 5 to September 12, Galashiels., September 19 to September 26, Wick; October and November, North-East Lancashire; December 5 to December 19, Leeds.
Mr. Burnham has again been working with Mr. Kendon, of Goudhurst, among the hop-pickers. Since his return from Kent he has visited Chepstow, Leamington, Markyate Street, and Bedford. Pastor W. L. Mayo sends us a long and cheering report of the services at Chepstow. The church in that town had prepared the way for the evangelist by special prayer, and as the natural consequence many were awakened. Several most pleasing cases of conversion are mentioned. Prayer was offered for the husband of a woman who had found the Savior at one of the meetings, and on his return from Bristol, where he had been at work, it was discovered that he also had believed and been saved through the preaching of Mr. Gange.
Mr. Burnham’s engagements for the present month are — November 10 to 16, Thetford; 17 to 30, Burton-on-Trent and neighborhood.
— The quarterly meeting of the Collectors and friends was held on Wednesday, October 1, and was a great success. In the afternoon the new Girls’ Orphanage was publicly inaugurated by a devotional service in the boys’ play-hall, and afterwards by the holding of prayer-meetings, conducted by our evangelists, Messrs. Smith and Fullerton, in the grounds of the “Hawthorns” and in every room of the house. We had prepared a lecture on “Hymns and Hymn Writers” for the evening; but the crowd was so great that both our hails were filled, and we had to go from one meeting to the other, push our way to the platform, and give each of the audiences a taste of what we would have said if they had come in smaller numbers.
Our good friends, Mr. Duncan S. Miller and the Royal Poland Street Hand-bell Ringers, are entitled to our warmest thanks for their kindness in giving us their valuable services without fee or reward; and still more for their generous offer to come again on February 4, 1880, when we hope to deliver the lecture in the Tabernacle.
Some collectors did not send us their cards or boxes on October 1. Will they kindly do so at once that they may be exchanged for new ones? The next quarterly collectors’ meeting is fixed for Friday, January 9, 1880.
Boxes and cards can be obtained of the Secretary, Stock-well Orphanage, Clapham Road. Now that we are commencing with girls this help will be doubly valuable.
Mr. Charlesworth asks us to say that he and the Orphanage Choir have promised to visit Southend, Luton, Dunstable, Woburn, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone, and Portsmouth; and that they will be glad of other engagements. Applications should be made to Mr. Charlesworth at the Orphanage.
In a special supplement we have described the present position and plans of the Girls’ Orphanage.
— Concerning Colportage we must still write with a measure of discouragement. It is a good agency, all agree to that, but it has never had enough support. It will be remembered that we asked for a second £1,000 to furnish stock for more men. According to our reckoning we had received £600, and, finding that the trade management could keep on, we felt content; but, on consulting the secretary, we are aroused from our happy dream. He says that the money given for stock was to a large extent so much taken out of subscriptions. These subscriptions are needed to pay working expenses, and it is no gain to the society, and no real increase to stock, if monies are merely transferred from one to the other.
The friends in a district give £40 towards the colporteur, and our society finds stock, and also makes up the man’s salary, and does the working of the business. The profits help in some degree, and would help more if sales were larger, but in these bad times sales decrease, and there is more needed to make up deficiencies. We ask our friends to consider the following report from the secretary which was prepared for our private information, but we judge it best to give it entire. We also add two letters, and our friends have the case before them. We say no more. “Dear Mr. Spurgeon, — Since seeing you I have compared receipts of subscriptions to the General Fund for this year to present date with the same period last year, 1878, and find that, including amounts for capital in both cases, the total increase for 1879 is £251 16s. 6d. Leaving capital account out of the question each year, the total increase in the subscriptions to the General Fund to October 20, 1879, over the same period, 1878, is £368 6s. 6d. This latter sum, of course, indicates the exact increase to the good for the working of the society, and, in response to the appeal made for capital. I have given these details that you may judge what to say in relation to funds. October general subscriptions only amount to £44 9s. 4d., compared with £111 19s. 3d. for September. Appointments have been made for new districts at Kettering, Andover, and Hereford. In the former two cases a trial of the agency in other districts appears to have recommended its extension. I wish our friends could read all the cases of good which are continually reported by our colporteurs, and I am sure that you would not have to appeal for funds with such a limited response. Here a tract has been left with a prayer, and on the return of the colporteur it is handed back soiled and worn by use, the agent remarking, ‘thus, through reading that tract, the woman found peace with God, and has joined the church.’ Yonder, a youth reads a book purchased by his mother, which not only leads to his conversion, but that of his grandfather, eighty-five years of age. Another colporteur calls upon a poor blind woman and talks to her at the washing tub, and is the means of restoring a poor backslider from the fold of Christ; while many speak of conversions through the simple gospel truths which they have plainly, but earnestly, uttered from the village pulpit. In addition to this, when the daily news. papers are prominently pointing out the widespread evils of an insidious and impure literature, who can estimate the quiet, unseen, but powerful influence for good resulting from the sale of £600 or £700 worth of bibles and good books every month? The need for the work was never greater, its results were never more encouraging, and while ‘the harvest truly is plenteous, the laborers are few.’ I trust that, now trade appears to be reviving, friends who in some districts suspended operations because of commercial depression will soon be able to recommence the work with new vigor. Will friends remember the work afresh in prayer? One colporteur, in a very trying district, writes: — ‘One thing always cheers me, and that is, I know you do not forget us in your prayers at the Tabernacle.’“ O.B. writes: “Very dear Sir — I am sure that your memorandum note in The Sword and the Trowel, p. 495, in reference to your Colportage agency must have pained many who look at it as one of your prime and most important organizations. In fact, your ‘personal notes’ on p. 496, carry the most conclusive evidence of the value and need of such an agency. I would fain hope under God that ‘slackening’ sail may be out of question, and that spreading ‘more canvas’ will be rather the case.”
H. M. writes: “Dear Sir — I have read with much concern your remarks in The Sword and the Trowel in reference to the Colportage Association.
Should the following proposal meet with your approval, and it be possible for you to give it a little publicity, I trust, with God’s blessing, the retrograde steps may be reversed ere you leave for your well-earned and much-needed holiday. “My offer is as follows: — In order that the stations given up may be all again supplied, or new ones started where a change is desirable, I will find one-fifth of the needed amount, if it does not exceed £500, or if more than £500, I will subscribe £100, the sine qua non being that the remainder shall be raised by the 1st December. “Few of us but have felt the effects of the depression in trade, but it behoves us the more to do our best to offer the ‘bread of life’ to those who probably are more open to its blessed influence now than when God again grants temporal prosperity to the land.”
MRS.SPURGEON’ S BOOK FUND.
— The needful work of supplying ministers with books proceeds with great regularity, and considerable numbers of curates and poor ministers in the Church of England, together with pastors of all denominations, apply for “The Treasury of David,” and other works. Could our readers see the letters of thanks they would know how sharp is the book-hunger which gnaws the soul of many a preacher of the Word. We have said very little of late about this work which is carried on by our beloved. Only a few friends have thought of the Fund of late, and yet hitherto there has been no lack: the Fund personified might almost say, “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me.” Note the following fact, and let the Lord be glorified by the rehearsal of it. A friend of ours, who is always a princely giver, told us on the night of Mr. Gough’s lecture that he should call at Nightingale Lane next day. Knowing his great business and our own, we half declined the offer, though we are always glad to see him: but he said he should come, and come he did. His errand was to give £100 to the Book Fund. Now, reader, mark this. Mrs. Spurgeon’s quarter’s bill for books came in on that very Saturday evening, and had not that friend insisted on coming down and bringing his £100, our dear one would have been £60 in debt. She would have been almost heartbroken had this been the case, for she had prayed for help and expected it.
The Lord would not let her have the trial, but sent his steward at the very hour, though he knew nothing of the need. We were both filled with adoring thankfulness for this memorable interposition. It was not the first time in which we have together adored the Lord in an amazement of gratitude, nor will it be the last. Thus by one and another the Lord has filled up the reservoir which supplies so many of his poor ministers with refreshment: and he will fill it yet again.
— Mr. F. H. Newt, in, of the German Baptist Mission, writes: — “I have just returned from a visit to several of our German churches, and especially of those in Russia. I feel sure you will be interested to learn that your printed words (in German) have always free admission into Russia, which is saying a great deal, the only exception being in the case of your sermon on “Baptismal Regeneration” (No. 573), which one of our brethren translated into Russian and submitted to the censor of the press, who, however, refused to sanction it, as he considered it an attack upon the Greek church. The brother still hopes to be permitted to print it.”
From the State of Virginia comes the following pleasing testimony: — “Some years ago, when in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity, without God and without hope in the world, I was persuaded by a friend to read a volume of your sermons, and now, my dear sir, let me tell you that if ever I felt the love of God shed abroad in my heart, or knew the truth as it is in Jesus, I owe it to the perusal of your sermons, and I am sure you were the means and instrument in the hands of God of my conversion.”
Should the reader think these notes too long, he may well excuse them, for he is not likely to be wearied by their length in the two following months.
We have, however, kept back numbers of personal notes, that this department may not be quite bare. It is at the urgent desire of our best helpers that they are written, and when they cease to interest they shall be dropped, for we have no personal desire to publish anything, except so far as others may be encouraged and the good work may be helped thereby.
Baptisms at Metropolitan Tabernacle: — October 2nd, twenty-seven.