OVER THE MOUNTAINS A COMMUNION ADDRESS BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Until the clay break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” — Solomon’s Song 2:16, 17. IT may be that there are saints who are always at their best, and are happy enough never to lose the light of their Father’s countenance. I am not sure that there are such persons, for those believers with whom I have been most intimate have had a varied experience; and those whom I have known, who have boasted of their constant perfectness, have not been the most reliable of individuals. I hope there is a spiritual region attainable where there are no clouds to hide the Sun of our soul; but I cannot speak with positiveness, for I have not traversed that happy land. Every year of my life has had a winter as well as a summer, and every day its night. I have hitherto seen clear shinings and heavy rains, and felt warm breezes and fierce winds. Speaking for the many of my brethren, I confess that though the substance be in us, as in the teil-tree and the oak, yet we do lose our leaves, and the sap within us does not flow with equal vigor at all seasons. We have our downs as well as our ups, our valleys as well as our hills. We are not always rejoicing; we are sometimes in heaviness through manifold trials. Alas! we are grieved to confess that our fellowship with the Well-beloved is not always that of rapturous delight; but we have at times to seek him, and cry, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him.” This appears to me to have been in a measure the condition of the spouse when she cried, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved.”
I. These words teach us, first, that COMMUNION MAY BE BROKEN.
The spouse had lost the company of her bridegroom: conscious communion with him was gone, though she loved her Lord and sighed for him. In her loneliness she was sorrowful; but she had by no means ceased to love him, for she calls him her beloved, and speaks as one who felt no doubt upon that point. Love to the Lord Jesus may be quite as true, and perhaps quite as strong, when we sit in darkness as when we walk in the light. Nay, she had not lost her assurance of his love to her, and of their mutual interest in one another; for she says, “My beloved is mine, and I am his”: and yet she adds, “Turn, my beloved.” The condition of our graces does not always coincide with the state of our joys. We may be rich in faith and love, and yet have so low an esteem of ourselves as to be much depressed. It is plain from this sacred Canticle that the spouse may love and be loved, may be confident in her Lord, and be fully assured of her possession of him, and yet there may for the present be mountains between her and him. Yes, we may even be far advanced in the divine life, and yet be exiled for a while from conscious fellowship. There are nights for men as well as babes, and the strong know that the sun is hidden quite as well as do the sick and the feeble. Do not, therefore, condemn yourself, my brother, because a cloud is over you; cast not away your confidence; but the rather let faith burn up in the gloom, and let your love resolve to come at your Lord again whatever be the barriers which divide you from him.
When Jesus is absent from a true heir of heaven sorrow will ensue. The healthier our condition the sooner will that absence be perceived, and the more deeply will it be lamented. This sorrow is described in the text as darkness; this is implied in the expression, “Until the day · break. ” Till Christ appears no day has dawned for us. We dwell in midnight darkness; the stars of the promises and the moon of experience yield no light of comfort till our Lord, like the sun, arises and ends the night. We must have Christ with us, or we are benighted: w e grope like blind men for the wall, and wander in dismay.
The spouse also speaks of shadows. “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away. ” Shadows are multiplied by the departure of the sun, and these are apt to distress the timid. We are not afraid of real enemies when Jesus is with us; but when we miss him we tremble at a shade. How sweet is that song, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me!”
But we change our note when midnight is now come, and Jesus is not with us: then we people the night with terrors: specters, demons, hobgoblins, and things that never existed save in fancy, are apt to swarm about us; and we are in fear where no fear is.
The spouse’s worst trouble was that the back of her beloved was turned to her, and so she cried, “Turn, my beloved.” When his face is towards her she suns herself in his love; but if the light of his countenance is withdrawn she is sore troubled. Our Lord turns his face from his people though he never turns his heart from his people. He may even close his eyes in sleep when the vessel is tossed by the tempest, but his heart is awake all the while. Still, it is pain enough to have grieved him in any degree: it cuts us to the quick to think that we have wounded his tender heart. He is jealous, but never without cause. If he turns his back upon us for a while there is doubtless a more than sufficient reason. He would not walk contrary to us if we had not walked contrary to him. Ah, it is sad work this! The presence of the Lord makes this life the preface to the life celestial; but his absence leaves us pining and fainting, neither doth any comfort remain in the land of our banishment. The Scriptures and the ordinances, private devotion and public worship are all as sun-dials — most excellent when the sun shines, but of small avail in the dark. Oh, Lord Jesus, nothing can compensate us for thy loss! Draw near to thy beloved yet again, for without thee our night will never end. “See! I repent, and vex my soul, That I should leave thee so!
Where will those vile affections roll That let my Savior go? ” When communion with Christ is broken, in all true hearts there is a strong desire to win it back again. The man who has known the joy of communion with Christ, if he loses it, will never be content until it is restored. Hast thou ever entertained the Prince Emmanuel? Is he gone elsewhere? Thy chamber will be dreary till he comes back again. “Give me Christ, or else I die,” is the cry of every spirit that has lost the dear companionship of Jesus. We do not part with such heavenly delights without many a pang. It is not with us a matter of “maybe he will return, and we hope he will”; but it must be, or we faint and die. We cannot live without him; and this is a cheering sign; for the soul that cannot live without him shall not live without him: he comes speedily where life and death hang on his coming. If you must have Christ you shall have him. This is just how the matter stands: we must drink of this well or die of thirst; we must feed upon Jesus or our spirit will famish.
II. We will now advance a step, and say that when communion with Christ is broken,THERE ARE GREAT DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF ITSRENEWAL. It is much easier to go down hill than to climb to the same height again. It is far easier to lose joy in God than to find the lost jewel. The spouse speaks of “mountains” dividing her from her beloved: she means that the difficulties were great. They were not little hills, but mountains, that closed up her way. Mountains of remembered sin, alps of backsliding, dread ranges of forgetfulness, ingratitude, worldliness, coldness in prayer, frivolity, pride, unbelief. Ah me, I cannot teach you all the dark geography of this sad experience! Giant walls rose before her like the towering steeps of Lebanon. How could she come at her Beloved? The dividing difficulties were many as well as great. She does not speak of “a mountain,” but of “mountains: ” alps rose on alps, wall after wall. She was distressed to think that in so short a time so much could come between her and him of whom she sang just now, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” Alas, we multiply these mountains of Bether with a sad rapidity! Our Lord is jealous, and we give him far too much reason for hiding his face. A fault, which seemed so small at the time we committed it, is seen in the light of its own consequences, and then it grows and swells till it towers aloft, and hides the face of the Beloved. Then has our sun gone down, and fear whispers, “Will his light ever return? Will it ever be day-break? Will the shadows ever flee away?” It is easy to grieve away the heavenly sunlight, but ah, how hard to clear the skies, and regain the unclouded brightness!
Perhaps the worst thought of all to the spouse was the dread that the dividing barrier ’ might be permanent. It was high, but it might dissolve; the walls were many, but they might fall; but, alas, they were mountains, and these stand fast for ages! She felt like the Psalmist, when he cried, “My sin is ever before me.” The pain of our Lord’s absence becomes intolerable when we fear that we are hopelessly shut out from him. A night one can bear, hoping for the morning; but what if the day should never break? And you and I, if we have wandered away from Christ, and feel that there are ranges of immovable mountains between him and us, will feel sick at heart.
We try to pray, but devotion dies on our lips. We attempt to approach the Lord at the communion-table, but we feel more like Judas than John. At such times we have felt that we would give our eyes once more to behold the Bridegroom’s face, and to know that he delights in us as in happier days. Still there stand the awful mountains, black, threatening, impassable; and in the far-off land the Life of our life is away, and grieved.
So the spouse seems to have come to the conclusion that the difficulties in her way were insurmountable by her own power. She does not even think of herself going over the mountains to her beloved, but she cries, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” She will not try to climb the mountains, she knows she cannot: if they had been less high, she might have attempted it; but their summits reach to heaven. If they had been less craggy or difficult, she might have tried to scale them; but these mountains are terrible, and no foot may stand upon their lone crags. Oh, the mercy of utter self-despair! I love to see a soul driven into that close corner, and forced therefore to look to God alone. The end of the creature is the beginning of the Creator. Where the sinner ends the Savior begins. If the mountains can be climbed, we shall have to climb them; but if they are quite impassable, then the soul cries out with the prophet, “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence. As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence. When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence!” Our souls are lame, they cannot move to Christ, and lo! we turn our strong desires to him, and fix our hopes alone upon him; will he not remember us in love, and fly to us as he did to his servant of old when he rode upon a cherub, and did fly, yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind?
III. Here arises THAT PRAYER OF THE TEXT WHICH FULLY MEETS THE CASE.
“Turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of division.” Jesus can come to us when we cannot go to him.
The roe and the young hart, or, as you may read it, the gazelle and the ibex, live among the crags of the mountains, and leap across the abyss with amazing agility. For swiftness and sure-footedness they are unrivaled. The sacred poet said, “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places,” alluding to the feet of those creatures which are so fitted to stand securely on the mountain’s side. Our blessed Lord is called in the title of the twenty-second psalm, “the hind of the morning”; and the spouse in this golden Canticle sings, “My beloved is like a roe or a young hart; behold he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping, upon the hills.”
Here I would remind you that this prayer is one that we may. fairly offer, because it is the way of Christ to come to us when our coming to him is out of the question. “How?” say you. I answer that of old he did this; for we remember “his great love wherewith he loved us even when we were dead in trespasses and in sins.” His first coming into the world in human form, was it not because man could never come to God until God had come to him? I hear of no tears, or prayers, or entreaties after God on the part of our first parents; but the offended Lord spontaneously gave the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. Our Lord’s coming into the world was unbought, unsought, unthought of; he came altogether of his own free will, delighting to redeem — “With pitying eyes the Prince of grace Beheld our helpless grief; He saw, and oh, amazing love!
He ran to our relief. ” His incarnation was a type of the way in which he comes to us by his Spirit.
He saw us cast out, polluted, shameful, perishing; and as he passed by his tender lips said, “Live!” In us is fulfilled that word, “I am found of them that sought me not.” We were too averse to holiness, too much in bondage to sin ever to have returned to him if he had not turned to us. What think you? Did he come to us when we were enemies, and will he not visit us now that we are friends? Did he, come to us when we were dead sinners, and will he not hear us now that we are weeping saints? If Christ’s coming to the earth was after this manner, and if his coming to each one of us was after this style, we may well hope that now he will come to us in like fashion, like the dew which refreshes the grass, and waiteth not for man, neither tarrieth for the sons of men. Besides, he is coming again in person, in the latter-day, and mountains of sin, and error, and idolatry, and superstition, and oppression stand in the way of his kingdom; but he will surely come and overturn, and overturn, till he shall reign over all. He will come in the latter-days, I say, though he shall leap the hills to do it, and because of that I am sure we may comfortably conclude that he will draw near to us who mourn his absence so bitterly. Then let us bow our heads a moment and silently present to his most excellent Majesty the petition of our text: “Tarn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains ,of division.”
Our text gives us sweet assurance that our Lord is at home with those difficulties which are quite insurmountable by us. Just as the roe or the young hart knows the passes of the mountains, and the stepping-places among the rugged rocks, and is void of all fear among the ravines and the precipices, so does our Lord know the heights and depths, the torrents and the caverns of our sin and sorrow. He carried the whole of our transgression, and so became aware of the tremendous load of our guilt.
He is quite at home with the infirmities of our nature; he knew temptation in the wilderness, heart-break in the garden, desertion on the cross. He is quite at-home with pain and weakness, for “himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” He is at home with despondency, “for he was a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He is at home even with death, for he gave up the ghost, and passed through the sepulcher to resurrection. Oh yawning gulfs and frowning steeps of woe, our Beloved, like hind or hart, has traversed your glooms! Oh, my Lord, thou knowest all that divides me from thee; and thou knowest also that I am far too feeble to climb these dividing mountains, so that I may come at thee; therefore, I pray thee, come thou over the mountains to meet my longing spirit! Thou knowest each yawning gulf and slippery steep, but none ¢.f these can stay thee; haste thou to me, thy servant, thy beloved, and let me again live by thy presence. It is easy, too, for Christ to come over the mountains for our relief It is easy for the gazelle to cross the mountains; it is made for that end; so is it easy for Jesus, for to this purpose was he ordained from of old that he might come to man in his worst estate, and bring with him the Father’s love. What is it that separates us from Christ? Is it a sense of sin? You have been pardoned once, and Jesus can renew most vividly a sense of full forgiveness. But you say, “Alas! I have sinned again: fresh guilt alarms me.” He can remove it in an instant, for the fountain appointed for that purpose is opened, and is still full. It is easy for the dear lips of redeeming love to put away the child’s offenses, since he has already obtained pardon for the criminal’s iniquities. If with his heart’s blood he won our pardon from our Judge, he can easily enough bring us the forgiveness of our Father. Oh, yes, it is easy enough for Christ to say again, “Thy sins be forgiven!” “But I feel so unfit, so unable to enjoy communion.” He that healed all manner of bodily diseases can heal with a word your spiritual infirmities. Remember the man whose ankle-bones received strength so that he ran and leaped; and her who was sick of a fever, and was healed at once, and arose, and ministered unto her Lord. “My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness,” “But I have such afflictions, such troubles, such sorrows, that I am weighted down, and cannot rise into joyful fellowship.” Yes, but Jesus can make every burden light, and cause each yoke to be easy. Your trials can be made to aid your heavenward course instead of hindering it. I know all about those heavy weights, and I perceive that you cannot lift them; but skillful engineers can adapt ropes and pulleys in such a way that heavy weights lift other weights.
The Lord Jesus is great at gracious machinery, and he has the art of causing a weight of tribulation to lift from us a load of spiritual deadness, so that we ascend by that which, like a millstone, threatened to sink us down. What else doth hinder? I am sure that if it were a sheer impossibility the Lord Jesus could remove it, for things impossible with men are possible with God. But someone objects,” I am so unworthy of Christ. I can understand eminent saints and beloved disciples being greatly indulged, but I am a worm, and no man; utterly below such condescension.” Say you so?
Know you not that the worthiness of Christ covers your unworthiness, and he is made of God unto you wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? In Christ the Father thinks not so meanly of you as you think of yourself; you are not worthy to be called his child, but he does call you so, and reckons you to be among his jewels. Listen, and you shall hear him say, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee. I gave Egypt for thy ransom; Ethiopia and Seba for thee.”
Thus, then, there remains nothing which Jesus cannot overleap if he resolves to come to you and re-establish your broken fellowship.
To conclude, our Lord can do all this directly. As in the twinkling of an eye the dead shall be raised incorruptible, so in a moment can our dead affections rise to fullness of delight. He can say to this mountain, “Be thou removed hence, and be thou cast into the midst of the sea,” and it shall be done. In the sacred emblems now upon this supper table Jesus is already among us. Faith cries,” He has come!” Like John the Baptist she gazes intently on him, and cries, “Behold the Lamb of God!” At this table Jesus feeds us with his body and blood. His corporeal presence we have not, but his real spiritual presence we perceive. We are like the disciples when none of them durst ask him, “Who art thou?” knowing that it was the Lord. He is come. He looketh forth at these windows — I mean this bread and wine; showing himself through the lattices of this instructive and endearing, ordinance. He speaks. He saith, “The winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” And so it is; we feel it to be so: a heavenly springtide warms our frozen hearts. Like the spouse, we wonderingly cry, “Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Ammi-nadib.” Now in happy fellowship we see the Beloved, and hear his voice; our heart burns; our affections glow; we are happy, restful, brimming over with delight. The King has brought us into his banqueting-house, and his banner over us is love. It is good to be here!
Friends, we must now go our ways. A voice saith, “Arise, let us go hence.”
O thou Lord of our hearts, go with us. Home will not be home without thee. Life will not be life without thee. Heaven itself would not be heaven if thou wert absent. Abide with us. The world grows dark, the gloaming of time draws on. Abide with us, for it is toward evening. Our years increase, and we near the night when dews fall cold and chill. A great future is all about us, the splendors of the last age are coming down; and while we wait in solemn, awe-struck expectation, our heart continually cries within herself, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved!
KEEPING A COW BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“OUR little boys and girls who live in the City will all see the wit of this.
Little six-year-old Dan went into the country visiting, and for his supper he was given a big bowl of bread and milk. He tasted it, and then stopped as if thinking. ‘ Don’t you like it?’ asked mamma. Smacking his lips as only a small boy can, he said, ‘Yes, mamma. I do like it very much. I was only wishing our milkman in the City would keep a cow.’” This little slip, from a newspaper, has its moral. After hearing a sermon full of precious doctrine, and rich with the truth of Christ Jesus, the hearer is apt to wish that all discourses were of like quality. If this is the unadulterated milk of the word, oh, that all preachers kept a cow; or rather, in plain English, that they went to the one great source of supply!
To us it is a growing marvel that so many must needs labor, and tug, and toil, to produce poor marrowless essays, when the rich, plain, soul-filling gospel lies so near at hand. They cannot stay at the true house of bread, but must needs go farther and fare worse. “Milk-and-water” is far too abundant in the world. We might not think so badly of it, if it were not so often palmed off for pure milk. Quimby perceived one morning that the milk that he was pouring into his coffeecup was none of the richest. On this he said to his hostess, “Haven’t you any milk that is more cheerful than this?” “What do you mean by that?” asked she. “Why, this milk seems to have the blues,” was the ready retort.
We think we know a good deal of San-day teaching which has the blues too, and we would gladly see it wear’ a more creamy appearance. A person once asked his friend why the preacher cried so much when for the life of him he could see nothing to call for tears. “You would cry, too,” was the reply, “if you had to talk for near an hour, and had so little to say.”
Preachers might afford to be happier if their sermons were fuller of the gospel: the blues would vanish if the cream were visible.
Some preachers seem to be afraid lest their sermons should be too rich in doctrine, and so injure the spiritual digestions of their hearers. The fear is superfluous. They fancy that if they put too much divinity into their discourses people might hanker after more. What if they did? Is there not more to be had? Perhaps the sermonizer has no very large supply, and is not himself very familiar with the fount of truth; then let him go to the great Teacher above, and learn of him. Possibly the preacher himself has no great love for the undiluted gospel. The more’s the pity! We shall never evangelize the masses till the preachers are more evangelical. May the Lord restore to us old-fashioned divines like Boston and the Erskines, and they will never lack for hearers. If Puritanic preaching filled the pulpits, it would soon fill the pews. The people are losing all desire to attend our services because the one grand attraction has been too often thrown into the shade.
Oh, that all preachers and teachers would, for one twelvemonth, try what the gospel by itself would do I Even if they doomed us to partake of nothing but the diluting element for the next six months afterwards, we would like the experiment to be tried, for we could stop away when the diluting tap was turned on. We remember once in our lives hearing a complaint that the milk, which came from a certain dairy, was ‘too rich.
We heard that complaint once, and only once. It was not difficult to suggest that the purchaser could water the milk himself till it fell to his own standard. If men heard the gospel in its essence they could dilute it at home if they wished to do so. We should like to get the article in such a pure condition that we could exercise our own discrimination as to how much we should mingle with it; but we do not care to have our adulteration done for us without our assent and consent. In our present state of mind we should prefer to receive the gospel in all its richness, as we find it in the word. Do not our readers sympathize with our preference? This is not a theological age, and therefore it rails at sound doctrinal teaching, on the principle that ignorance despises wisdom. The glorious giants of the Puritan age fed on something better than the whipped creams and pastries which are now so much in vogue. They did not need flashy metaphors, rounded periods, and philosophical theories: they wanted the doctrines of grace, and they took care to have them. Hence their force of character, their unbending integrity, their awe-struck fear of God, and fearlessness of man. What food they fed upon was seen in their countenances. Alas, what food many professors feed on is seen in their worldliness, pulpiness, and general debility! ‘We sigh for preachers who will give us the unadulterated milk of the word, even as the child longed that the City milkman would keep a cow.
When the churches will have nothing but the truth it will be forthcoming: the demand will find its supply. If, in choosing ministers, more regard were had to solidity than to cleverness, if grace were preferred to gift, and orthodoxy to intellect, we should soon see a change pass over the spirit of the scene. So may the Lord make it to be.
CHANCES FOR YOUNG MEN CROAKERS say that the time for young men to compete for the ‘ prize has passed — that the coveted places of thrift and honor are overcrowded, and that now young men must content themselves with a back seat and small acquisitions. But the plea is false. There never was so much room for the best as there is to-day. Though it may be more difficult to succeed in certain pursuits than it was formerly, young men possess greater facilities now than ever. The wisdom, example, inventions, discoveries, thoughts, labors, and progress of the preceding ages are theirs in an important sense.
These furnish helps to which former generations were strangers. With these aids, the resolution that triumphed half a century ago may overcome the greater difficulties of to-day. When Napoleon was told that the Alps, were in the way of his army, he replied, “Then there shall be no Alps; ‘ and he built the road across the Simplon. nothing is impossible to such resolution. — From “Tact, Push, and Principle. ” By William M. Thayer
A WORK TO SOUL-WINNERS SPOKEN ON A LATE MONDAY EVENING, BY C. H.SPURGEON.
IWANT tosay a word to you who are trying to bring souls to Jesus. You long and pray to be useful: do you know what this involves? Are you sure you do? Prepare yourselves, then, to see and suffer many things which you would rather be unacquainted with. Experiences which would be unnecessary to you personally will become your portion if the Lord uses you for the salvation of others. An ordinary person may rest in his bed all night, but a surgeon will be called up at all hours; a farming-man may take his ease at his fireside, but if he becomes a shepherd he must be out among the lambs, and bear all weathers for them; even so doth Paul say “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” For this cause we shall be made to undergo experiences which will surprise us.
Some five years ago I was the subject of fearful depression of spirit.
Certain troublous events had happened to me; I was also unwell, and my heart sank within me. Out of the depths I was forced to cry unto the Lord.
Just before I went away to Mentone for rest I suffered greatly in body, but far more in soul, for my spirit was overwhelmed. Under this pressure I preached a sermon from the words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” I was as much qualified to preach from that text as I ever expect to be; indeed, I hope that few of my brethren could have entered so deeply into those heart-breaking words. I felt to the full of my measure the horror of a soul forsaken of God. Now, that was not a desirable experience. I tremble at the bare idea of passing again through that eclipse of soul: I pray that I may never suffer in that fashion again unless the same result should hang upon it. That night, after sermon, there came into the vestry a man who was as nearly insane as he could be to be out of an asylum. His eyes seemed ready to start from his head, and he said that he should utterly have despaired if he had not heard that discourse, which had made him feel that there was one man alive who understood his feelings, and could describe his experience. I talked with him, and tried to encourage him, and asked him to come again on the Monday night, when I should have a little more time to talk with him. I saw the brother again, and I told him that I thought he was a hopeful patient, and I was glad that the word had been so suited to his case. Apparently he put aside the comfort which I presented for his acceptance, and yet I had the consciousness upon me that the precious truth which he had heard was at work upon his mind, and that the storm of his soul would soon subside into a deep calm. Now hear the sequel. Last night, of all the times in the year, when, strange to say, I was preaching from the words, “The Almighty hath vexed my soul,” after the service in walked this self-same brother who had called on me five years before. This time he looked as different as noonday from midnight, or as life from death. I said to him, I am glad to see you, for I have often thought about you, and wondered whether you were brought into perfect peace. I told you that I went to Mentone, and my patient also went into the country, so that we had not met for five years. To my inquiries this brother replied, “Yes, you said I was a hopeful patient, and I am sure you will be glad to know that I have walked in the sunlight from that day till now.
Everything is changed and altered with me.” Dear friends, as soon as I saw my poor despairing patient the first time, I blessed God that my fearful experience had prepared me to sympathize with him and guide him, but last night when I saw him perfectly restored, my heart over-flowed with gratitude to God for my former sorrowful feelings. I would go into the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit: it is good for me to have been afflicted that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.
Suppose that by some painful operation you could have your right arm made a little longer, I do not suppose you would care to undergo the operation; but if you foresaw that by undergoing the pain you would be enabled to reach and save drowning men who else would sink before your eyes, I think you would willingly bear the agony, and pay a heavy fee to the surgeon to be thus qualified for the rescue of your fellows. Reckon, then, that to acquire soul-winning power you will have to go through fire and water, through doubt and despair, through mental torment and soul distress. It will not, of course, be the same with you all., nor perhaps with any two of you, but according to the work allotted you will be your preparation. You must go into the fire if you are to pull others out of it, and you will have to dive into the floods if you are to draw others out of the water. You cannot work a fire-escape without feeling the scorch of the conflagration, nor man a life-boat without being covered with the waves. If Joseph is to preserve his brethren alive, he must himself go down into Egypt; if Moses is to lead the people through the wilderness, he must first himself spend forty years there with his flock. Payson truly said, “If any one asks to be made a successful minister he knows not what he asks; and it becomes him to consider whether he can drink deeply of Christ’s bitter cup and be baptized in his baptism.”
I was led to think of this by the prayer which has just been offered by our esteemed brother, Mr. Levinsohn. He is, as you perceive, of the seed of Abraham, and he owed his conversion to a City missionary of his own nation. If that City missionary had not himself been a Jew, he would not have known the heart of the young stranger, nor have won his ear for the gospel message. Men are usually won to Christ by suitable instruments, and this suitability often lies in the power to sympathize. A key opens a door because it fits the wards of the lock; an earnest address touches the heart because it meets the state of that heart. You and I have to be made into all sorts of shapes to suit all forms of mind and heart; just as Paul says, “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” These processes must be wrought out upon us also. Let us cheerfully bear whatever the Holy Spirit shall work within our spirits that we may thus be the more largely blest to our fellow men. Come, brethren, and lay your all on the altar! Give yourselves up, you workers, into the Lord’s hand. You who have delicacy and refinement may have to be shocked into the power to benefit the coarse and ignorant. You who are wise and educated, may have to be made fools of, that you may win fools to Jesus; for fools need saving, and many of them will not be saved except by means which men of culture cannot admire.
How finely some people go to work when the thing needed may not be daintiness, but energy! On the other hand, how violent some are when the desired thing is tact and gentleness, and not force. This has to be learned; we must be trained to it as dogs to follow game. Here is one form of experience: — The brother is elegant; he wishes to speak earnestly, but he must be elaborate too. He has written out a nicely prepared address, his notes are carefully arranged. Alas! he has left the priceless document at home! What will he do? He is too gracious to give up: he will try to speak.
He begins nicely and gets through firstly. “Fair and softly,” good sir. What comes next? See, he is gazing aloft for secondly. What should be said?
What can be said? The good man flounders about, but he cannot swim; he struggles to land, and as he rises from the flood you can hear him mentally saying, “That’s my last attempt.” Yet it is not so. He speaks again. He gathers confidence: he grows into an impressive speaker. By such humiliations as these the Lord prepares him to do his work efficiently. In our beginnings we are too fine to be fit, or too great to be good. We must serve an apprenticeship, and thus learn our trade. A blacklead pencil is of no use at all till it is cut; the fine cedar wood must be cut away; and then the inward metal which marks and writes will have fair lay. Brethren, the knife of affliction is sharp, but salutary; you cannot delight in it, but faith may teach you to value it. Are you not willing to pass through every ordeal if by any means you may save some? If this be not your spirit, you had better keep to your farm and to your merchandise, for no man will ever win a soul who is not prepared to suffer everything within the compass of possibility for that soul’s sake.
A good deal may have to be suffered through fear, and yet that fear may assist in stirring the soul and putting it into a fit posture for work; at least, it may drive the heart to prayer, and that alone is a great part of the necessary preparation. A good man thus describes one of his early attempts at visiting, with the view of speaking with individuals upon their spiritual condition: — “I was thinking, on the way to the residence of the party how I would introduce the subject, all what I would say. All the while I was trembling and agitated. Reaching the door, it seemed as if I should sink through the stones; my courage was gone, and, lifting my hand to the knocker, it dropped at my side without touching it. I went partly down the steps from sheer fear; a moment’s reflection sent me again to the knocker, and I entered the house. The sentences I uttered and the prayer offered were very broken; but thankful, yet thankful I am that my fears and cowardice did not prevail. They’ was ice broken.’” That process of icebreaking must be gone through, and its result is highly beneficial.
Oh, poor souls, you that wish to find the Savior, Jesus has died for you; and now his people live for you! We cannot offer any stoning sacrifice for you; there is no need that we should; but still we would gladly make sacrifices for your soul’s sake. Did you not hear what our brother said just now in his prayer — We would do anything, be anything, give anything, and suffer anything if we might but bring you to Christ? I assure you that many of us feel even so. Will you not care for yourselves? Shall we be earnest about your souls, and will you trifle them away? Be wiser, I beseech you, and may infinite wisdom at once lead you to our dear Savior’s feet.
IT is probably a waste of effort to ask again that we may be spared the pain of refusing applications for sermons, addresses, lectures, etc., which it is quite out of our power to grant; but we will repeat the substance of what we said in the magazine not many months ago. Our own legitimate work has grown so enormously that it is as much as we can possibly accomplish without being laid aside, and we have lately proved once more that it is the extra, outside services that bring about such sad breakdowns as the ,one we have recently experienced. If, therefore, there are chapels or bazaars to be opened, anniversaries to be celebrated, debts to be removed, teameetings to be held, schools to be built, or blue ribbon missions to be inaugurated; and the question is put, “Shall we ask Mr. Spurgeon to come?” we beg beforehand to furnish the answer — “DON’T” Most gladly would we serve all our brethren to the utmost if health permitted, but repeated warnings convince us that the wisest course for us is to use the strength given to us for the work which rightly claims our first attention, and leave :41 other efforts to those who have been entrusted by God with greater physical force. It is a great sorrow to be shut up to this, lint what else can we do? The cleaning of the Tabernacle. — It will be a great kindness if friends will oblige us by waiting for an official announcement concerning the closing of the Tabernacle for the renovation that must be done as soon as we can find a suitable temporary meeting-place for our large congregation. This is no easy matter; but it will be attended to with all possible dispatch; and meanwhile, the unauthorized and incorrect notices that have appeared in various papers have done us serious injury in many ways. Our friends and the general public will have due notice when the arrangements are completed, and till then it may be taken for granted that the , services will be held as usual at the Tabernacle, and that, health permitting, the Pastor will be at his post on Sundays and week-nights.
By the way, our Thursday-night assemblies are notable gatherings of friends from all parts; but there is still room for more, and those who are afraid of not getting seats on the Sabbath would find easy access at this week-evening lecture, which · commences at seven.
During the past few weeks there have been more “May meetings” than usual at the Tabernacle, all of which appear to have been well attended and enthusiastic, while some have exerted an influence which will be felt for many a month and year to come. It has not been our privilege to be at the gatherings of the tribes; for while they have been holding their festive assemblies, we have been obliged to tarry at home, suffering pain of body and depression of spirit. While debarred from meeting with our brethren, it has been a joy to us to hear of the progress of the Master’s cause, and to observe the tokens of his presence in the midst of his people.
We can do little more than make a list of the various meetings, and probably that is all that is required, as the denominational and other papers have so fully reported the proceedings. On Tuesday, April 24, the annual meetings of the BAPTIST TOTAL ABSTINENCE ASSOCIATION were closed by a large public meeting in the Tabernacle, presided over by W. S. Caine, Esq., M.P., and addressed by several able speakers. Temperance principles are evidently making progress among our churches, but there is yet much land to be possessed. We would call special attention to the advertisement, on another page, of the Bazaar which is to be held in the Cannon-street Hotel, on June 4, 5, and 6, for the purpose of raising funds for the extension of Band of Hope and Temperance work in connection with the Baptist Total Abstinence Association.
On Thursday, April 26, the London Baptist Association once more entertained the members of the BAPTIST UNION at dinner in the Tabernacle Lecture-hall, the arrangements being satisfactorily carried out by Mr. Murrell and his helpers.
On Sunday afternoon, April 29, the annual sermon in the Tabernacle, in connection with the NATIONAL TEMPERANCE LEAGUE, was preached by the Rev. R. H. Lovell, who placed the argument for total abstinence powerfully before the great congregation as he pleaded with them for Christ ’s sake to take the right side in this great struggle.
At the prayer-meeting on Monday, April 30, the Rev. E. W. Matthews, and several of the missionaries of the British And Foreign SAILORS’SOCIETY, were present. Special petitions were presented for those that go down to the sea in ships, and interesting incidents of the work: of the Society were reported. This is a noble Society, and deserves liberal support.
The following evening, May 1, our PRIMITIVE METHODIST friends held their annual MISSIONARY MEETING in the Tabernacle. They appear to have spent a very profitable evening. May these useful workers enjoy abundant prosperity.
The most notable gathering of the month was undoubtedly the public meeting which concluded the thirteenth Triennial Conference of the
SOCIETY FOR THE LIBERATION OF RELIGION FROM STATE PATRONAGE AND CONTROL.
The Tabernacle was densely crowded, and had the building been three times as large there would probably have been no space to spare. The tone of the meeting was all that could be desired, and the speeches were worthy of the occasion. The Right Hon. John Bright, M.P., was never more at home than when he was addressing the vast throng of sturdy, resolute, determined, intelligent, representative Liberationists, who listened with intense delight to “the old man eloquent,” as he showed the lack of benefit derived from the union of the Church with the State, in clear and convincing language, which was all the more powerful because free from the least tinge of unkindness or unfairness. The daily papers, almost without exception, spoke of this as Mr. Bright’s first appearance at the Liberation Society’s meetings. They seem to have forgotten that many years ago he occupied a similar position on the Tabernacle platform when the disestablishment of the Irish Church was the question of the hour.
On Sunday afternoon, May 6, a Gospel Temperance address was delivered in the Tabernacle by Mr. R. T. Booth, who has been obliged, on account of ill-health, to spend the winter in the South of France, where he has derived much benefit. The building was crowded, and at the close of the service between three hundred and four hundred persons signed the pledge. In the course of the afternoon Mr. Booth asked all the abstainers present to hold up their hands, when at least three-fourths of the audience did so.
It may not be thought unworthy of mention here that on Monday, May 14, our honored father and mother were spared to celebrate their GOLDEN WEDDING-DAY with us at “Westwood.” All their children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were present, with the exception of our beloved son Thomas, and the company consisted of thirty-two persons in all Of this household seven are preachers of the gospel. Very gracious has the Lord been to us as a family, for from a remote ancestry the fear of God has ruled the house, and a blessing has rested upon it because of the ark of the Lord. The past was reviewed with praise, the present enjoyed in happy unity of love, and the future expected with hope. Our own dear departed grandfather, so long an honored winner of souls, used to rejoice in five of us as ministers of Christ, but now “we are seven,” and there are others among us who occasionally bear witness for the truth in public. May all our friends have a like blessing, and may young people commencing life be wise enough to perceive that family piety and domestic happiness must go together: let them not expect the first without the second.
On Monday afternoon, May 21, the memorial stone of the BERMONDSEY MISSION HALL was laid by Samuel Barrow, Esq. The weather was most favorable for the ceremony, and there was a large gathering of friends from the Tabernacle and the district in which the hall will be situated, and the numbers were increased by generous helpers who had come from a distance to show their sympathy with the work. Prayer was offered by the Rev. J.P. Chown and Mr. William Olney, Jun., the conductor of the Mission. Mr. William Olney made a statement as to the history and progress of the Mission, and read a long list of contributions from Bermondsey and other friends, and addresses were delivered by Mr.E. Crisp, a churchman, who has a Mission-hall close to the new premises; the Rev. B. Senior, of Surrey Chapel; and Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, who concluded his speech by presenting to Mr. Barrow a very beautifully chased silver-gilt trowel. It was explained that this had not been purchased out of the funds collected, but was the gift of Messrs. William and T.H. Olney, as a mark of their respect for Mr. Barrow, and their appreciation of his services in the erection, at his own cost, of five Baptist chapels. Messrs.
Barrow Brothers had promised £250 for the new hall, and in handing that amount to the treasurer Mr. Barrow added a further contribution of £125 from himself and his wife. The stone having been duly laid, prayer was offered by Pastor C. Spurgeon, and the company adjourned to the Tabernacle for tea. Afterwards a meeting was held in the Lecture-hall, under the presidency of Mr. J. T. Olney, when further speeches were given. by the Rev. W. Penfold Cope, of Maze Pond Chapel; Mr. Jeffery, of Melior-street Mission; and Mr. Win. Olney, who reported that, as the result of the afternoon’s proceedings, the total received and promised. had been brought up to £5,155, that is as nearly as possible the amount that will be needed to pay for the building and furnishing, leaving still about £1000 to be raised in order to set the ground free. How we wish we could see this £1000 speedily presented to the Lord. At the prayer-meeting at the Tabernacle, Bermondsey was still the burden of the prayers of the brethren, and addresses of sympathy and encouragement were delivered by the Rev. A. Strawbridge, of St. Stephen’s Church, Dover-road; the Rev. F. Crozier, of Long Lane Wesleyan Chapel, Southwark; Mr. Win. Olney, Jun.; and Pastor C. H. Spurgeon.
METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE SUNDAY SCHOOL.
— On Sunday afternoon April 29, the teachers met for /heir quarterly tea-meeting, which was followed by a lecture by Mr. T. Irving Smith, entitled, “The best modes of securing the spiritual results of Sunday-school instruction.” The subject was ably treated, and important truths, with numerous pithy illustrations, were conveyed to the minds of the teachers.
— Mr. J. McAuslane has accepted an invitation from the friends meeting in the Temperance Hall, Crawley, Sussex, where we trust he will be able to raise a self-supporting church.
Mr. B. W. Clinch, whose health will not permit him to remain in England, has sailed for Australia, where he hopes soon to find a suitable sphere. He is thoroughly worthy of the esteem and help of our brethren at the Antipodes. Mr. D. Menzies, who came to us from Canada, has returned to the Dominion. He has been invited to the pastorate of the church at Papineauville, on the Ottawa River. He is a good and able preacher, and may be received with all confidence by our Canadian friends. Mr. G.T. Bailey has removed from Smethwick to Bury Road, Haslingden; Mr.F. Harvey, from Neatishead to Great Ellingham, Norfolk; and Mr. J.J. Dalton, from Frome to Dorchester. Mr. J. Barton, of Havdock, has taken charge of the Belle Isle Mission, Camden Town, which our good friend, Mr. Joseph Benson, has been obliged to give up — at least, for a time — on account of ill-health. Pastor A. Bird, of Sundown, Isle of Wight, asks us to mention that his friends are arranging for a Bazaar in August in aid of the Chapel Debt Liquidation Fund; and that Mrs. J. A. Spurgeon, Campbeltown House, Croydon; Mr. E. H. Bartlett, 56, New-street, Kennington-park-road, S.E.; and Mrs. Bird, Sandown, will be glad to receive articles for sale. This effort deserves aid from all who would help a struggling interest in a favorite health-resort. Annual day of United Prayer. — Will all ,our brethren bear in mind that it was agreed at the Conference that Monday, June 18, ,should be set apart as the DAY OF UNITED PRAYER by all the churches in the Pastors’ · College Association? Oh, for a great ;blessing! Make it, dear brethren, a time of mighty pleading. So prays your friend, C. H. Spurgeon. We do not feel that we dare withhold the ,enclosed, but we are sorry from our inmost soul that it should be so sadly needful: — “To the Editor of The Sword and the Trowel “Dear Brother, — A friend having put into my hands the May number of your excellent magazine, the ‘Remarks by the Rev. George Rogers,’ on your College, caught my eye, and read the page with intense interest. It somewhat lifted off a burden which had been. weighing heavily on any heart and conscience for some little time, as it testified that one College in London, at least, intended to teach faithfully the foundation truths of the gospel of God; and ‘ not to introduce any modification of its course of studies, to suit what are called the demands of the age. ’ “A fortnight or three weeks ago one of our foremost religious journals sounded a flourish of trumpets because there had been afforded ‘ a happy indication that the days of bigotry were drawing to an end.’ This referred to a meeting for discussion, held in one of our metropolitan denominational Colleges, and presided over by the leading and most prominent minister of the Unitarian body in London — a man of splendid talents, most fascinating eloquence, great learning, and the highest social character. His writings are considered, from an intellectual and literary standpoint, as of the greatest excellence. Had he been an obscure, ignorant, uninfluential person, the danger would not be so imminent. Mr. Rogers says of your College ‘ that it adheres to the Puritanic in distinction from Germanic theology; ‘ this is, in the estimation of many, its honor and glory; but the students in the College referred to are led to fraternize with the most influential teacher of Unitarianism! and recommended to read his books!! What is this but leading our future ministers into temptation? It is teaching them to break down the barriers which now separate the believers in Christ’s Godhead from those who esteem him as only a man — true, the ideal man, the holiest, ‘wisest, highest man among men, but still ‘A Mawr,’ thereby making us who worship him as ‘ God over all ‘ idolaters. “The Unitarian also denies that fundamental doctrine of the cross, ‘He was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification ‘ — the atonement offered for our sins by the God-man. Are our students for the ministry to be taught that these two foundation truths of God’s word are of so little importance that those who persistently oppose them may be bidden God speed? Through evil report and through good report I would a thousand times say ‘No!’ “Had I a thousand pounds at my command, I would cheerfully, notwithstanding my different view from yours of baptism, hand it over to the treasurer of your College, for in the words of patriarch Rogers, ‘Its work is not done, but rather only begun.’ “Yours in gospel bonds, “ACONGREGATIONAL Minister.” “May 12th, 1883.”
Smith and Fullerton’s three weeks’ mission in Hull was so richly blessed in the conversion of sinners and the restoration of backsliders, that they were constrained to continue their labors for another week. The sacrifice of this period of rest, to which they were fully entitled, was amply rewarded by the crowds that came every night to hear their message, and the large number of those who professed to find the Savior. Just before closing our contribution-lists we received a thank offering of £50, which Mr. Willis and Capt. Vickerman assure us would have been much larger if the expenses for the hire of the public-rooms and circus had not been so great. Our brethren have several times expressed their gratitude to the gentlemen just mentioned for all the help they have rendered at the services, and they also speak in the highest terms of Pastor W. Sumner, who has felt himself compelled to leave Hull, and they cordially commend him to any church that may be seeking a good, genial, spiritually-minded pastor.
During the first fortnight of the past month the Evangelists have been at C hesterfield, where their services appear to have ‘been productive of great good. A similar remark may be made concerning Mr. Burnham’s visit to Poole, and we trust we shall be able next month to report a like blessing from the tent-services he is just commencing at Worthing. For the carrying on of this evangelistic work we need just now a measure of aid from the Lord’s stewards.
Ministers who desire to arrange for evangelistic services ought not to experience any difficulty in securing suitable preachers, for Mr. Frank Russell is available wherever the Lord may open the way, and Mr. E.J. Parker and Mr. J. Mateer have also felt called to offer themselves for united work in visiting the churches of the denomination. These last two brethren, though not supported by our Evangelists’ Fund, have both honorably passed through the College, and proved in many places their fitness for this form of Christian labor. Letters will reach them if directed to the care of Pastor T. Perry, Lordship-lane, S.E. Mr. Russell’s address is 33, Wyndham-street, Bryanston-square, W. These brethren will also need and deserve help through us. ORPHANAGE.
— All who are interested in our large fatherless family will remember that the annual festival will be held on Tuesday, June 19th, the anniversary of the President’s forty-ninth birthday. Samuel Morley, Esq., M.P., has kindly promised to lay the memorial stone of the new house for the head-master, and the additional premises for the staff. With such a leader we maybe sure that the proceedings will be both interesting and profitable, and we shall endeavor to secure a goodly array of speakers for the open-air meeting in the evening. Dr. Parker has promised to be one of them.
We hope every visitor at the fete will carefully inspect our collection of engravings of Reformation scenes, which will be on view in one of the buildings. There is a danger of our forgetting how dearly our forefathers purchased the civil and religious liberties that we enjoy, and it will be some reward for the time and money we have expended in gathering together these memorials of men and women, “of whom the world was not worthy,” if we can, in at least some hearts, arouse enthusiasm for the truths for which our ancestors died, and which many of their descendants now deride.
All our collectors are earnestly requested to bring or send their boxes and books, with the amounts received, on or before June 19th, and the President and trustees will be glad if many fresh friends will volunteer to solicit subscriptions and donations in aid of the funds of the institution. Our regular expenditure has been largely increased by the addition of the girls’ department, and for a time, owing to the tender age at which the little ones are admitted, and the extra care needed by them, the cost per head will, probably, be in excess of that on the boys’ side; while up to the present there has not been a proportionate addition to our general income.
Through the goodness of God there has been no lack of means, either for the new buildings for girls or the maintenance and general expenses’ fund; but this result is to be attributed to the fact that during the year several large legacies have become available. We cannot be too grateful to our liberal friends who remember the Orphanage and our other works for the Lord in the distribution of their property; but we cannot reasonably expect every year to produce a fixed amount from this source, trod therefore it will be a great relief to our mind if those who desire to aid us in caring for the widow and the fatherless will, by personal gifts, or by collecting from others, try to make our regular receipts grow in the same ratio as our daily expenditure. Are there not thousands of our brethren who hardly give this work a thought? Perhaps they imagine that money is sure to come to Mr. Spurgeon, and so they excuse themselves. Brethren, it will come, but how would you like to be in the position of seeing doubled outgoings and little or no increase of help from the living? Sick men had need have few cares; we could soon sink under ours if we did not look to the hills whence cometh our help. Our orphans have as much claim on our readers as upon us: will they not remember their needs?
— During the past month between twenty and thirty of the colporteurs have met the committee for their annual season of conference and prayer. The President was very sorry that he was not: well enough to address this earnest band of Christian workers, and they were equally disappointed that they could not see him. At the annual public meeting the Vice-President, Pastor J. A. Spurgeon, occupied the chair; the Secretary, Mr. W. Corden Jones, presented an abstract of the Report, which is printed in full at the end of the present magazine; and addresses were delivered by the Rev. J. Reid Howatt, of Camberwell Presbyterian Church, Mr. R. Cory, of Cardiff, and several of the colporteurs. We hope our readers will carefully examine the report of the past year’s work, and if they think it is satisfactory, that they will imitate “two friends” who have just sent us £40 as a token of their appreciation of the Society’s usefulness.
Baptisms at Metropolitan Tabernacle ‘-April 26, eighteen; May 3, twentysix.