The Revelation C. H. Spurgeon’s appearance on the platform (he having just arrived from East Parade Chapel.) was the occasion of a demonstration of welcome that completely baffles description, the whole audience rising en masse, and cheering to the top of their bent; while from the organ pealed forth in tones of thunder the opening strains of a chorus by Handel. When the excitement had somewhat subsided Mr. Spurgeon spoke as follows :—
I THANK you very much for this hearty reception, but I am sure have not the slightest idea of what I have done to deserve it, and I am afraid it arises from a lively sense of something to come which will be grievously disappointed. I am one of the most unfortunate of human beings. I am expected to make a great speech, and that is a thing I never did do. I was not born to it. I am not an orator as Brutus is. I can only speak right on to tell you what I do know. We have had a good meeting at East Parade Chapel, but I have come from good to better; and may we have a blessing from God to finish up with. You all know the name of that great Welsh Baptist minister, Christmas Evans, and. how gloriously he preached. He was accustomed to spend very much of his time in making evangelistic journeys from town to town with his little pony and chaise; and so, when he came to die, they gathered round the old man to listen to his last words, and after he had said some precious things about his Master he began to dream, and the very last thing he said was, “Drive on! drive on!” And somehow I thought it was a very good word to address to you, my brethren of the Baptist Union, and to you, my brethren of all Christian denominations. Drive on! drive on!
There is such a tendency to pull up to refresh, such a tendency to get out of the gig and say,” What a wonderful horse”. Never saw a horse go over hill and down dale like this horse — the best horse that ever was, real sound Methodist or Baptist horse.” Now, brother, admire your horse as much as ever you like, but drive on! I have known some who have felt a sort of disposition to go back; they have been afraid. “Philosophers tell us the road is up; we cannot go that way;” but I say, drive on, over the philosophers and all. You will find when you get to that desperately bad piece of road that they are always telling us of, that after all it has been improved by being broken up a little and being rolled down again — at any rate, drive on! Oh, if there are any of you that have got to sitting still in your gig, admiring the scenery, and counting over all the souls that you have already brought in, do drive on, brethren, do drive on. Your Lord and Master tells you to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature “ and you feel perfectly certain that you have obeyed that command because you have opened a little room three-and-a-half miles from where you are. Now drive on, do drive on. There is more to be done, a great deal than you have attempted; and much more than if you had attempted it you would be likely to accomplish — drive on. Our only hope, as Christian churches, of healthy existence lies in progress. You cannot stand still; it will be your ruin if you do, and it is at your peril if you attempt it. When Napoleon engaged in fresh wars, some one asked him why he should wish to push his armies any further, and he said, “Conquest made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” It is so with the church of God, you must go on conquering or being conquered. The case stands just thus, as the Scotchman put it to his regiment before the battle.
Says he, “Lads, there they are. If ye dinna kill them they will kill you,” and that was quite enough. You must go on and vanquish sin, and all the powers of darkness and evil, or else you will be vanquished yourself.
I have got a fine son, as I think, but he is not contented with being tolerably tall he must ride on a pair of wheels. I shall not try it myself.
Reasons forbid; but I am told that the practical reason why a fellow keeps upright on those wheels is because he goes on and if he did not go on he would go off. It certainly is so with every Christian church. If it does not go on it will go off; if it does not advance it is impossible for it to retain what it already has; it will lose if it does not gain. Go forward, brethren!
Drive on, I pray you, because your Masters command is large and wide.
We have no idea of what the world is. There was a mouse that lived in a box that one day found the lid open, and it crept up to the side of the box, and stood in the cupboard, and looked round the cupboard, and said, “I had no idea the world was so big as this” And sometimes we come out of little Zoar and Bethel and Ebenezer, and we say, as we look at Leeds, “Dear me, what a large world this is.” And so it is. Leeds is a very wonderful place, but London is almost as wonderful, and the British Isles are larger still, but their population is as a drop in the bucket to the teeming millions of India. What a meaning there is in those words, India and China If we did but know their meaning we should scarcely need to hear the word “Drive on!” and “Rest and be thankful” would never cross our minds. We should say, “Speed on! speed on; the wings of angels are heard in the air.
God hastens on his everlasting purposes. The great commission is given to us, and we must obey it.” Go on, brethren, because the need of the world is something terrible; and I charge you, do not believe those who would make the needs of the world to be less than they are.
Nowadays it seems that men are not immortal. We have lived to grow so wise that first we were informed that we were next-of-kin to the ape; now, at last, it becomes a portion of theology that we are apes till we are converted, and then we get souls. I do not believe it, and I believe that such theology hamstrings activity, and cuts the very throat of earnestness, and is to be denounced straightway. I believe that if men do not believe in Jesus Christ they will be cast off for ever from the presence of God and the glory of his power; and it is ours constantly to carry the remedy to the utmost ends of the earth, according to our ability. Besides that, recollect that if our Master’s commission and the world’s needs do not move us, we have this reflection: if we do not drive on Satan will, and if we are not active he will be. He is not omnipresent; but though I cannot say where he is, I should not like to say where he is not, for he seems to be everywhere, either by himself personally or by his messengers, and he compasses sea and land to win souls for destruction. He is an example to us in that, and I cannot help thinking that the devils are an example to us in one other point — that you never hear of their quarreling. I never heard that there were sects among them, but they seem with an awful rarity to press forward in the cause of evil with an intense and terrible earnestness, trying to maintain the throne of darkness and death. Let us be earnest because they are; let us be united lest our kingdom fall. God help us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. “Drive on” is my motto. Union is strength; “weave truth with trust” — yon wall can finish my sentence. It is one of the best lessons, that a Christian church can ever learn. I want to say to you, brethren, that one great reason why the church of God should go on is because of the multitude of persons that remain altogether unchristianized in this land of ours.
It has been very properly said that the Church of England is divided into three denominations — the platitudinarians, the latitudinarians, and the attitudinarians. I demur to the first title, though it may be somewhat deserved, for there are a great many of us that would be obliged to wear the title just as much as the brethren to whom it is given. As for the latitudinarians, I will say little about them, for I am not in their latitude; and as for the attitudinarians, I can only say that they must be seen to be appreciated. I shalt not depreciate them, however, because my object tonight is to allude to a section of the Church not yet mentioned, neither High Church, Broad Church, nor Low Church. The people I am thinking most about are the No Church people. We can put up with a great deal of difference among those that are sincere in the Master’s service, and with many mistakes, too, when we think of the great masses around us that have no religion at all. Oh! the thousands, and the tens of thousands, who have not heard of Jesus since they were in the Sabbath-school — thank God they were ever there! — in the land of Bibles which they have never read, whose conceptions of religion are drawn from newspapers, which do not understand religion, and therefore misrepresent it. I say not that all newspapers do that; but many to which some refer as their guide and oracle do most distinctly, for want of knowing better. And here we have, side by side with a light as brilliant as the sun, a darkness deep as deathshade.
We want to send missionaries to China, India, and the like; let us send them, but let us see to the heathen, population at our doors. Oh, how many there are of them! Brethren of the Baptist Union, I hope I shall be forgiven for having grumbled, but sometimes it seems to me intolerable — you will excuse me for grumbling — when I see souls perishing for lack of knowledge, and a lot of you divines must be accurate about the cross of a “t” or the dot of an “i.” Cross them twice over, and dot the “i’s,” or do not dot the “i’s,” as you like — do let us get to work saving souls and building up churches.
A friend of mine, John Ploughman by name, a person of whom I will say but little, was one day dreadfully angry when he was requested to stop ploughing, when he had got as fine a team of horses as could be, to kill a mouse. He did not see it; he did not care whether the mouse was killed or not; he wanted to plough, and get his master’s work done. And sometimes that kind of spirit comes over us, who rather want to be at work. We get rather fidgety, we are not good committee men — horrible committee men, though I for one, believe in committees, from the crown of my head to the sole of my foot — only, mark you, I like a committee of three, two of them in bed. Nothing can be better than that; for all denominations, all Christian men of all denominations should give most prominence to the work to which our Master has called us; and while we hold our distinctive principles — as I hope we always shall, for a man without backbone is not worth anything — yet let us always hold them in subservience to the great work of saving souls. Therefore, my Methodist brethren, if you can touch that man’s heart that I cannot reach, fire away by all manner of means. If, on the other hand, I may be able to reach a certain class that you cannot, well, give me a chance, and do not find more fault with me than you are obliged. At the same time, if you do, I won’t fret; neither need you fret if I find fault with you, if you are sincerely doing your Master’s work. What we want to do is to bring these No Church people into the church, of God.
We want that promise to be fulfilled — “I will make them a people that were not a people, I will call her beloved that was not beloved; people that knew not thee shall run unto thee.” This is what we desire. Now, how are we to do it?
Whenever a man undertakes anything, if he is a wise man he says, Where is the power to come from? There is a factory, there are all the wheels and the machinery; but they are of no use unless you can get power. We are all taught; that in us lies no power for saving the souls of men. We are all anxious to serve our Lord; but, of course, we can do nothing for Him unless we have power. Where is the power, then? Certainly it is not in ourselves, the power lies in the Holy Ghost. And what a mercy this is, because he is divine, and consequently, whatever the enterprise may be, he is equal to it. Now, the conversion of the world, and the turning of the myriads to Christ, becomes no longer an idle term if the Holy Ghost himself is to help us in it. There lies our power; but how are we to get it?
I believe, in the first place, that we must, if we are to see greater things than we have done, have more real prayer. Oh, my brethren, how are your prayer-meetings? It is a stale subject, perhaps you. will say; but I do know some places where the prayer-meetings are positively shocking, and still is that the current speech, “I shall not go out this evening, it is only a prayermeeting.”
It is in the meeting of the Church for earnest, fervent, and believing prayer that the power of God is communicated to the church to make all its agencies strong, and if the prayer-meeting be neglected, depend upon it, you have shorn away the locks of your strength, and when the Philistines are upon Samson he will not know how to meet the foe. The longer I live the more sure I am of it that God must hear prayer. This is immortal in all generations, and I do not think there will be found any exceptions to this rule, that the power is in proportion to the prayer. The prayer-meetings are not always an index of our churches’ strength, for some ministers are so in God’s company that they alone bring down a great blessing. What might not we have if we would get up to the top of Carmel, with our head between our knees, and cry unto the living God, and determine that we will never leave the place of prayer until the heavens pour forth the floods of rain and the earth is deluged with divine grace? It is to be had, all power is given to the Master, and he is ready to communicate it to his church.
Then, if we are to have the divine power, we must each one of us have it in himself. A church cannot do work unless there is some vigor in the persons who are to work. Supposing I go to a consumptive hospital to find a number of working men to make a railway, I fetch them from their beds; all panting for breath, I get the poor creatures down to where there is a cutting to be done, and I present them with pickaxes and spades, and say, “This is your work.” Why, dear me, they want somebody to hold the pickaxes up for them; they can let them drop, and that is about all they can do. It is a very long while before the Great Northern Railway will ever run through that cutting. They are not the kind of men; wheel them home in their own barrows, and put them to bed. But now, if you want this cutting done, get a hundred Yorkshiremen. I say that because I have been informed, on the high authority of a Yorkshireman who ought to know, that we down in the south grow very fine trees; but they grow men up here. I am pleased to hear it, and I am delighted to see that it is true of a good many here, only the biggest men I can see around me I have seen before in London. However, be it so or not, if you put these hundred men there, and say, “Now, there is that hill to be tunneled,” why, you see daylight through it almost directly; see how easily they do it — it seems a pleasure to them. Now, get a man of spiritual stamina, let his vitality be up to the right point, let him be full of spiritual vigor, and give him work to do, and the work flies before him.
Now especially we Baptists must take care that we are strong, because if ever there was a point for which we were noted it was for strength. I do not think we were ever noted for beauty. Our forefathers were men who used to do their own thinking at home, and when they had found it out made up their minds about it. They did not particularly care whether the Government of the day thought that way, nor whether the bishops thought that way, nor whether the Synod and the creed-makers thought that way at all. They just thought — “That is what is God’s Word, and we do not care what Caesar’s word is.” Some of them, I think, made a mistake; but they meant rightly when they put on carnal weapons and buckled them down to their sides. It was awful work for the Cavaliers then! Nobody cracked a skull like an Anabaptist. They were terrible fellows; but when they entered a town there was no sacking of it; there was no woman that had to regret that Cromwell’s soldiers came there. The first thing was “Smash that painted window, down with the saints and angels, every man Jack of them.” They did do that, and that was very wrong — indeed I have no doubt those things ought to have been preserved, that the Attitudinarians might worship them — our forefathers did not go in for that line of preservation. They said, “These things have been put to bad uses, smash them up,” and they did. Very rough and ready as iconoclasts they were; but when that little work was done, and they met around the camp fire, there was the ordinary soldier admonishing the captain that he was backsliding, that he was not exhibiting the grace that he had some weeks ago; and even old Nol himself, if he met a Baptist, would get told that they did not enter into the army to make a king of him, and they did not want him to be king, and they wished he would keep his place, and they were not going to be dictated to by Oliver Cromwell any more than by a king. That was the style of our Anabaptist fathers, and there is a little of it about us still. We are the least clannish of all denominations — we do not, certainly, run into one mold, and I do not know why we should. I know we, like to go to our Bibles for ourselves. When they were telling me years ago how bad the milk was, one of my neighbors said, “I do not care how bad it is, I keep a cow of my own.” That is what I like to do. If the preaching should be adulterated, and the literature should be adulterated, we like to go to Scripture for ourselves, and keep a cow of our own. And we beg to say to all friends, that that point on which we differ — namely, believers baptism — that we shall be very glad to see altered, because it is very wrong that there should be two or three baptisms, where there ought to be only one, and we believe we are certain that if you will find us a precept for the baptism of infants, we will follow it — a plain one, mark you. And as it is very clear to us, and we think to you, that believers were baptized, that is one baptism — that is plainly in Scripture, is it not? Very well, the other one — that is the other baptism.
My black friend, Mr. Johnson, gave me the other night a very excellent reason for being immersed. Being a Negro, and very uneducated, he did not know much, but people that do not know much sometimes blunder very nicely into the truth. He said, “I know I ought to be baptized;” so I says to one, “What do you think?” and he says, “You ought to be sprinkled.” I says to another, “How do you think I ought to be baptized?” “Well,” he says, “you ought to be poured.” I says to another, “How ought 1 to be baptized?” “Oh,” he says, “you ought to be immersed.” “Well, now,” says I to myself, “well, if I am immersed I shall be sprinkled and I shall be poured. So that the others may be right, but this one must be right, there was no mistake about that.” That is the reason why we are Baptists, because we think we have the plain word of God for it. A Congregational brother said to me, “Any fool can be a Baptist, for the plain texts of Scripture run that way or seem to, but,” he says, “it wants a man of intelligence to understand our theory.” Well, enough about that.
I want all our brethren to keep their stamina up upon that point, for even though you get into a great deal of trouble, it is a part of a good cause, because when a brother has a peculiarity which he believes to be Scriptural, even if I think he is wrong, I like to see him conscientiously carry it out, because to have a conscience at all is, nowadays, not the commonest thing in the world. When my grandfather lived in this land, consciences used to work up and down like this way [working his arm out straight], but since then they put a circular motion in, and now consciences work on a swivel.
I once said that if a man said a child was born again by baptism, and he did not believe it, he was telling a lie. But it was wrong of me. It was a mistake; I ought to have recollected the swivel. There is a way of getting out of it; there is a way of saying black is white. But in my great charity, which is every day increasing, I always remember the swivel, and say no more about it. But still, brethren, do not you go in for the swivel if you can help it, because the straightforward, up and down thing will win. the day as surely as we live. Loyalty to Christ in every point young man, is the way to begin life; and, old man, it is the way to make your grey hairs to be crowns of glory if you can say at the last, “I have been under law to Christ, and as far as I knew my Master’s will I have obeyed it in all respects as he has enabled me.” Now, supposing we have the power, how would you use it? I am not going to answer. I would have every man use the divine power when he gets it as best he can. The Duke of Wellington on one occasion asked a soldier, “Now, sergeant, suppose you had to fight the battle of Waterloo over again, how would you like to be accoutered?” Said he, “I should like to do it in my shirt-sleeves.” That is the way to work if you have to fight, and I think the more Christian people can get rid of all formalities and organizations, and just get to work the best way they can as God helps them, flinging themselves on the foe, determined to fight in the strength of God for Christ and his truth, the sooner will they win the victory. Do not try and be somebody else. A carpenter carries many tools in his basket, and he wants their diversity; and our great Master, the carpenter’s Son, has many tools in his basket, and each one is wanted for his own work. Let us talk English too, while we keep up our individuality.
Let each one say, “What can I do for Jesus Christ?” One brother says, “I cannot do any more, for really I do all I possibly can — I am so busily engaged.” It is a remarkable, thing, but it is the man that is doing too much already, that is the man who is likely to do more; and it does not matter how full you are of work, you can do some more, and you are the man to do it.
There was a learned society in Persia, founded upon the principles of eloquence, not of the silvery kind, but of the golden. They were all to be silent. The first rule was that every member of the society should think much; secondly, that he should write very little; and thirdly, that he should say nothing if he could help it. I wish some of us could be led to join that society. Well, there came a learned man to the society, wishing to join.
They only had a hundred members, and they were full. He made his application, and the president gave his answer in this way (filling a glass of water to the brim). There was not a word exchanged; he saw that. there was no room for him, but, stooping down, he picked up a rose leaf, and very gently laid it on the top, and there it was. Now, if thou art full of business; if thou art a member of Parliament, and a member of the municipal council; if thou art immersed in business, it is full; but pick up one rose leaf, and just lay it there for your Master on the top of all thy present work, and, it may be, there will be more perfume in that extra work which costs thee great self-denial than in all that was there beside.
Mr. Spurgeon urged upon his audience the appeal made by the president to young men to join the ministry, and said: Let others follow the example of Mr. Lockhart, of Liverpool; while continuing in business let them become preachers and pastors without pay or reward, except the souls of men. Let the young men start new churches; for he had heard, though he had no experience of it, that entering the pastorate of an old church was like marrying a widow, who was very apt to mention number one at times. As to those who could not preach, but were persons of property, let them imitate the example of a gentleman whom he married a short time since, who after the ceremony entered the vestry and told him he would pay for the support of a minister regularly, being informed from time to time of blessings resulting from that minister’s labors, so that he might share in the joy.
Mr. Spurgeon continued: He wished he could say anything that would lead men to consecrate their substance, and young men to consecrate themselves to the work of the ministry. But they could not all do that; but they could all help in the Sunday-schools. He said he was afraid some of them were rather beginning to neglect their Sunday-schools. In London many of their wealthy people lived out of town, and consequently their sons and daughters, who were the best educated, did not come into the town to help in the Sunday-schools. Some of the schools were consequently suffering from want of teachers; but let it not; be forgotten that the influence of Sunday-schools was so great they could not overestimate it. He mentioned as an illustration that when he was a little boy he saw a vase upon his grandmother’s mantelpiece containing an apple, but could not understand how it got there until the next spring he saw in the garden another vase tied on to the tree with the small apple placed through its neck, so that the fruit grew larger inside it. Thus, while they could not get aged sinners into their churches, they must use Sundayschools to secure the rising generation. And when the children ,did come to the Sunday-school, let the teachers try and make it as pleasant as possible for them. Do not let their little girls say as one little lady was reported to have said to a minister who asked her, “And now, Mary, my dear, why did the Ethiopian eunuch go on his way rejoicing?” “Please, sir,” she replied, “because Philip was done a-teaching of him.” He was afraid that many a child had gone on her way rejoicing that; the teaching was done, but the teaching ought to be of such a character always that the children would be glad of it. Let them try and get the elite of the church to be engaged there, and not leave it entirely to the young people. He liked to see the greyheaded man as superintendent — he meant that grey-headed man who was an old boy when he was over sixty years of age, just as genial and hearty as ever he was, and with the experience which entitled him to respect, so that he was a proper leader of the young ones. And he liked to see the Christian women — as he sometimes did — a mother at home, also a mother in Israel. He knew one who gathers fifty boys round her on a Sunday — rough boys, that no man could manage; but they were never rough to her.
She was a lady, and they were gentlemen when she was there. He knew of many that were brought to Christ out of her class by her gentle teaching.
And in. the name of Jesus; let all do something. If they had not a call from heaven they had better go home and go to bed, but if the Master called them let them get to work. He never knew the people of the world love those whom Christ employed. In Luther’s day, though the church wanted reforming, they “objected to have it done by a rascally friar like Luther.”
They wanted “refinement,” a “confus’ling of the understanding,” a parsonic preaching of the gospel. It was very queer that some ministers were so dignified. He reverenced them with all his heart. He hoped they all did, though he feared it was highly probable they did not. Somehow or other if they got to work for Christ, and shook the devil’s kingdom, he would say, “You are a vulgar fellow”; and they were told they should always endeavor to be in accordance with the general current of thought. Ugh! Paul did not appear to have gone to their university, because he was crucified unto the world and the world unto him. For them to speak with bated breath until they knew what “my lord professor” had said, was to give up their true position and to be traitors to their Master. He alluded to the proposal of an American to vanquish the British army by conquering the men one or two at a time. So the thing must be done for Christ. If they had more individual seeking after souls, they would see a great blessing. He often told his friends that on the Sabbath-day they must not let anybody come in the Tabernacle and go out of it without speaking to them about their souls, and very curious things sometimes happened as the result. He was; preaching one day, and said the minister ought to be like a sportsman going out with his gun; and when he fetched the people down by the gospel, all his members should be like dogs, to go and fetch up the wounded and the dead. When he had done preaching one of the deacons said, “I believe there are many of us, sir, that would be very glad to go out as dogs after souls, but our minister is a dreadfully poor shot. There is never anything to pick up.” Well, pray for him. If they prayed for him he would take truer aim next time. And let them look after the worst people that they knew, and believe in the possibility of their conversion. They paid wonderfully well for converting. When a man who had been a ringleader in Satan’s cause was converted, he brought an amount of vigor, naturalness, originality, and earnestness into the church which they did not often get from any other quarter. Oh! seek the lost, seek the wandering, seek the stray sheep, and never cease from seeking until they were found. They knew the name of Grimshaw, a name honored in Yorkshire. He preached, as they knew, at Hawick. Though one of the holiest men that ever preached the gospel, he had one of the most wicked sons possible. He lived a life of the utmost sin; but his father’s prayers had been registered in heaven for him, and the Lord met with him, and he became a saved soul.
One of the last things he said when dying was, “How my father will look when he sees me come into heaven “ and he could imagine, if possible, the surprise and gratitude and joy of the father that saw such a wandering son come in. Fetch in the lost ones, for how their great Father would look when he saw them coming into heaven with those lost ones! And how the Savior would look! Oh, for a painter that could strike that off as with a flash — the look of Christ when he saw the “travail of his soul,” and clasped to his bosom in glory those whom he bought with his precious blood! Fetch them in! Gather them in! Drive on! Farewell!