MR.SPURGEON explained that he was not in a condition of mind in which he could produce what could fairly be called a lecture. His brain had produced no end of matter for many months past, so that he was now jaded, and unless he got rest he feared he should be giving them very poor material indeed. He did not think he could give them anything very fresh, and after some sleepless nights thinking over a subject, he had hit upon that of “Strange Scenes,” because he thought there was room then to talk: about anything. He hoped he might, however, advance what would be useful. Did not some of them (he asked in commencing) think this world a very flat piece of business? There was not much excitement, or anything fresh or new. The Roman Emperor offered a great reward to any man who could discover a new pleasure. Many tried, but few won even part of the reward. And they knew what it was which made some people’s lives so flat, dull, and on such a dead level; the secret in most cases was that they had no aim in life, and that they really were not living unto God, and seeking to serve him. If they wanted adventures they need not go to the Arctic Regions, or to the interior of Africa, amongst uncivilized tribes. If they wanted pleasures, they need not seek those which were laborious and wearisome of the world; let them get to work for God amongst the poor and needy, the depraved and fallen, and they would find plenty of adventure and freshness, and it would put spices into their lives which otherwise they would never get. He alluded to the story told by Rogers, the poet, of a certain nobleman who, having grown sick of the world’s pleasures after spending his life in them, contemplated suicide; but just as he was about to jump into the river his attention was directed by the cry of a little boy for bread. He followed the boy, and being able to alleviate the distress of his home, he determined upon finding pleasures in other than his usual spheres. In the service of God there was always adventure new and fresh. A still life is unuseful and selfish. There is many a bright and sparkling life running clear as a limpid stream hastening on its course. Thus it is.
There also comes before the worker odd things, which some people call shocking. He did not know if such people slept in kid gloves, but he should think they did when the preacher was rather long in his discourse. Some people could not do anything unless in a very dignified manner. In the case of the child’s Noah’s ark, they could put the wooden figures in a row, and make dram walk as they ought; but if they had the animals alive they would find the task more difficult. So it is very easy in idle life, and in fashionable Christianity, and profession of religion, to do everything with propriety; but when getting into real life, things are not always proper. In the congregation, for instance, when everybody was supposed to be, listening, a baby cried, which was, of course, highly improper; but they did not mind it at all on account of the parents. But in actual life there are these odd things too. He would allude to some of them. It did not matter how dignified a man was, there were times when he had it taken out of him. See the judge sitting on the bench, with his wig on. What a wonder of nature and grace was he! It was enough to suppress and repel one’s pride to be obliged to look up to one so bewigged. Conceive the judge, in the middle of an assize, suddenly jumping up on the top of the bench, and shouting, “Fetch the javelin man; here’s a dog which has bit my leg!” How it brings down the judge from those supreme heavens in which judges dwell! So sometimes a real thing will bite one in the service of Christ, and he must lay aside his dignity, or the dignity will make the scene most ludicrous.
Perhaps they might think an earnest worker for Christ looked as ridiculous as the judge, but it could not be helped; they could not keep the dogs out.
Strange scenes have been seen on the face of the earth amongst those who worked for Christ — strange through the heroism of those who were the chief actors in them. Arnold, for instance, standing in the square opposite St. Peter’s preaching the gospel, and denouncing the Pope, was a strange scene. Luther nailing his theses on the church door, setting forth the fact that the Pope had not power to grant souls’ indulgences for money; and including what he called his “forty particulars.” What a hubbub there was when Luther thus drove four nails in the Pope’s coffin, and wrote that manifesto over the door which never could be pulled down in time or eternity. He had drawn up the sluices, and let the great flood of truth in upon the world. Stranger still when the Pope issued a great parchment bull, cursing him from head to foot in the most splendid and respectable manner.
His power, by-the-by, lay in being master of a college. He fetched the Popish books and burnt them, for he (Mr. Spurgeon) was pleased to say they burnt very nicely. As a consequence of Luther’s daring, we have our liberties. Thank God for the man who won us these liberties. Equally brave and, to his (Mr. Spurgeon’s) mind, equally glorious, was the scene when the greatest man who ever lived, excepting, perhaps, the apostle Paul — he meant John Calvin — protested against the libertines partaking of the sacred elements when they live such scandalous lives. John Knox, too, was a grand man, who although poor and emaciated in form when he appeared in the pulpit, burnt and blazed in his utterances when his soul got warm. It was also a strange scene when in spite of the threatening of Cromwell’s soldiers, when holding a pistol to his head, the clergyman at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, persisted in worshipping God according to the form in which he believed.
Strange scene, too, was that when Mr. Milburn, described as “the blind man eloquent,” protested in such faithful words against the profane and blasphemous language of the members of the American Congress whom lie met on board ship, and as a result got appointed their own chaplain. Such scenes caused by the heroism of the persons in the center, were well worthy of their remembrance. Secondly, some scenes had been very strange, because of the singular places in which they occurred. What strange people had preached in the open air, and in what strange places; and how he wished open-air preaching would become far more prominent in all sorts of places which could be used for the proclamation of the truth.
Strange, scenes in the life of Wycliffe: then also were the plays when the Puritans did such grand work in London — when the plague drove the gentlemen away, the Puritans came, who were not afraid to die in their work. He (Mr. Spurgeon) had preached in strange places. He had preached at Ringwood, in a forest where the trees formed a tabernacle finer than any cathedral he had ever seen; and now the trees were cut down, £60 from their value had been sent; him for the Orphanage.
Sometimes in working for God strange scenes occurred, because of incidents connected therewith. It must have been a strange scene when Father Taylor, of San Francisco, in burying without help a gambler who had fallen dead, addressed over the actual corpse his comrades in sin. That was a strange scene when, feeling uneasy under a certain Lancashire clergyman’s sermon upon the words “Weighed in the balances and found wanting,” one farmer after another went out, and the clergyman said to them, “Well, well, go out as soon as you are weighed.” Strange scene, too, when Mr. Binney, at the Weigh House Chapel, to rebuke a gentleman who in the middle of the sermon took out his watch, said, “What is the clock, sir?” A strange scene, too, in that American place of worship, when the preacher, having preached some three hours, and a hungry sinner on retiring being told by the preacher he should soon be through, answered, “Go on, sir, I’m only going home to dinner and shall be back before you are through.” Strange scenes had also happened from the modes adopted by the speakers.
Mr. Spurgeon illustrated this part of his subject in his own way, and quoted some amusing methods used by eccentric men for advancing the evangelizing work in which they were engaged. Amongst these illustrations was one in his own experience in Wales, where having gone on (as he said) the usual promise of rest, they got him to a Welsh meeting, and as they couldn’t get rid of the congregation on account of the impression produced, he preached several sermons until midnight, amid the most stirring scenes, that evening’s services resulting in the conversion of a large number of men who afterwards lost their lives in the Risca colliery explosion.
Several lantern views, specially prepared, followed the delivery of the lecture, in illustration of the chief scenes referred to — one of a continental cathedral, in which he said he had preached for the only time in his life in a gown, “because he couldn’t have preached at all had he not worn it, and he felt like a man running in a sack.” Mr. Spurgeon having thanked those present for their interest in, and support of, the College, the proceedings came to a conclusion.