Mr. Spurgeon proposed the following Resolution: — “That the thanks of this meeting be given to the President and Vice- Presidents, for their continued patronage; — also to Joseph Hoare, Esq., the Treasurer, who is requested to continue his services. That grateful thanks be also presented to the officers, committees, and collectors of the various auxiliaries, branches, and associations throughout this country and the colonies; to whose untiring zeal and energy the Society is again indebted for so large an amount of free contributions during the past year, and to whom they would earnestly appeal for a continuance of their efficient and valuable services; and that the following gentlemen be the committee for the ensuing year, with power to fill up vacancies.”\parMY Resolution is a capital illustration of gratitude, because it has in it a lively sense of favors to come, and speaks very prominently of those favors. I am glad to have to speak upon gratitude and a vote of thanks, because there is something so cheerful about that. I think, if I remember rightly, when I was last on this platform in connection with the Bible Society, you seemed so dreadfully dreary that day; it was not long after the famous attack of Colenso, and I did not sympathize with your dreariness at all. I believe that we have arrived at the “good old times” — the times were never so old as they are now — and I very much question whether they were ever one-half as good as they are now, and they are going on to be better, thank God, and that, I trust, by very great strides. My spirit would rather be indicated by a little story which occurred to me while Mr. Richardson was speaking, as happening to myself some three years ago.
Sitting in the Colosseum at Rome with two or three friends, I said, “Is it not glorious to look at this old ruin and see how Christ has conquered here; for all these ruins tell what desolations he hath made in the earth, how He breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear in sunder?” So I said, “Let us have a hymn of praise,” and we sang the verse — “Jesu’s tremendous name Puts all our foes to flight; Jesus, the meek, the angry lamb, A lion is in fight.”’ Up came two strangers, and said, “What is that you are singing? Let us join you.” One was an American and the other an English clergyman, and we sang together the next verse — “By all hell’s hosts withstood, We all hell’s host o’erthrow; And conquering them through Jesu’s blood, We still to conquer go.” We shall mark our track by the ruined fortresses of our adversaries; they shalt only be remembered by the crumbling walls of the high places from which they defied us, which shall be a desolation, the habitation of the bittern and of the owl for ever and ever. I want to speak practically now. I think the time has gone for defending the Bible against anybody, whoever he may be — whether he happens to be a bishop, or to come from the opposite side. Wherever he may happen to come from, let him come! The Bible has been so often defended., and the defenses are so admirable, that any more outworks would almost seem to be superfluous. I look upon the Bible now as the other day I did upon a little village church which I came. across in the middle of a wood — Oakwood Chapel, in Surrey — a church subjected to a great many slips of the soil, or inclemencies of weather., and therefore buttressed until there are about twice as many bricks in the buttresses as there are in the church. There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself. I do not know whether you see that lion — it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the grand old monarch, the British Lion, with all our strength. Many suggestions are made and much advice is offered. This weapon is recommended, and the other. Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes forth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible. Meet any man who raises objections against it, and very rarely will you find that he has candidly studied it, and sought to understand it. It does sometimes occur, but even in such a man’s case I think, if he would read it again, and especially if he would ask the Author what the meaning of it is, and the Auther is still accessible, he would soon come to a knowledge of the Truth; at any rate, I shall not be likely to convince him by argument. You have heard the story of the good clergyman who attended the Bampton Lectures — a very excellent course of lectures, no doubt — and thanked God that, after hearing them all, he still remained a Christian. After reading some of the defenses of the Bible, it really is a grand thing to find one’s self a Christian at all.
Spread the Bible, every one of you, and spread the Bible for this reason — that, first of all, it will help to keep us all right — I mean the different ministers here belonging to different Churches. It is an admirable law which forbids the adulteration of milk, and it is a capital plan to keep a lactometer. The Bible is every Christian’s lactometer, by which he may see how much of adulteration there may be in the milk of the Word. I am never afraid of the Bible myself on Baptist grounds, and when any young person comes to me and says, “Can you recommend a work which sets forth your views of baptism?” I always say, “Yes, there is a little book which you may buy for 2d — the New Testament — a wonderful Baptist book” — in fact, I never give them any other. If they cannot see it there, well, then, I must love them all the same, if they love the Lord Jesus Christ. We all of us try to spread the Gospel and to preach Jesus Christ fully and freely; but we are something like those water-carriers in Venice who cry out, “Aqua! Aqua!” — and it is a very pleasant sound on a broiling summer’s day. I thought once I would have a little water, and the water-merchant gave me a glassful for my half-penny. Alas! it tasted of the glass; I did not like it. A good deal of that which is served out as Gospel tastes of the glass; I am afraid few of us hand it out, quite pure. What a grand thing it is that the people can keep a fountain at home to which they can go and draw for themselves! When you give them the Bible there is no necessity for their drinking the Gospel with an Episcopalian twang, which is not very sweet to me — nor for their having the Dissenting twang, which is not very sweet to other people; they can just go and draw from the living fountain the pure Word of God; therefore spread it, for it will help to keep us all right. I cannot believe it of my countrymen that after all they will go sheer over to Popery. I am glad to see certain hopeful signs among those who have got to be very High Church indeed, that they love the souls of men and mean to preach the Gospel. I believe that is because the Bible is open, and. when it is open, men may go a long way in their tag-rags and ribbons and the like, but there is a spell upon them that will hold them in some measure to the Truth; there is a centripetal power which will not allow them, after all, to rush right away into the dark regions beyond, which are said to be under the dominion of “his Holiness” the Pope.
Spread the Bible, dear friends, because that will bring us together. If anything will ever knit together the visible Church of God, it must be around Holy Scripture that we shall unite — certainly never anywhere else.
I would rather say, I believe, the whole Church of Jesus Christ is and always has been one in the sense in which our Savior prayed it might be one; for I find myself incapable of believing that the petitions which He offered to his Father in that dread night in Gethsemane were unheard of God. I believe there is a deep, secret, essential, vital union between all the elect of God who have been quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit, and have been washed in the “fountain filled with blood.” Our differences of opinion upon some points are incidental to thoughtful humanity, and have their uses. I think we keep each other alive to truth, and we wake each other up — not always in the right spirit, perhaps, but our merciful God overrules it for the right. But if any man shall say of any other man beneath the stars that he sincerely loves Jesus Christ, and that I do not count him my brother, he lies in his throat. I am his brother, and there is my right hand. If I be one with Christ, it is no credit to me to say, “I will meet him on the platform of the Bible Society.” Why, I cannot help it. If my little finger, because it is more properly washed than the rest of the body — I am alluding now to the Baptists who are just that — if my little finger were to say, “I will have no communion with the rest of the body,” such a speech would be unworthy, and moreover could not be carried out. That well-washed finger can only get out of the body by death, and as long as it lives in the body it must commune with all the living members whether it will or no, because the vitality of the whole body necessarily causes a communion between all the members of the body. It must be so; we cannot help ourselves. You shall reach down from your shelves a book, and not know who wrote it, and find your heart warming and glowing towards the author, and when you look at the title-page you will say, “There, now! I believe that man spoke at the Liberation Society.” Or else, on the other hand, you will say, “That is the man that said these terrible things in favor of Church and State at the Church Defense Association.” Well, my dear friends, I think there is room enough in this great world, and plenty of room in a land of liberty for us to speak our own minds, and love each other just as well after we have done. I, for one, feel something like Robin Hood, who never received a man into his company till he had played him at quarter-staff. Honest controversy affords us healthy exercise; besides, it tries the joints of our harness, and lets us know where our weak points may be. But if ever we are to meet — and God grant we may! — if ever in the onward movement of Providence Christians shall come more closely together, it must be through our all coming nearer and nearer to the great standard of Truth, which is the Word of God.
Dear friends, I would urge very especially that we all try to distribute the Scriptures just now because a very large number of persons have been converted of late — there can be no doubt about that — and they will want instruction, and no instruction will suit them but that which comes from the Book. I feel great confidence in the present religious movement, because everyone must admit that the Bible is to the front. One of the marks of the converts, if you see them outside the Opera House or the Agricultural Hall, is, that he or she is carrying a very unwieldy Bible of Bagster’s best edition.
I am afraid it may in some cases become a mere phylactery; but I am quite satisfied that the Bible is really brought to the front. The teaching given is Biblical exposition, and very much more of Scripture is given in those addresses than will ordinarily be found in our services. The spreading of the Bible may avert a great many evils. The danger of an excited time of revivals, is of course, fanaticism. Somebody said, “The fanatics of London were having a fine field-day just now.” Now, there is a difference of opinion about that. In the services I have been at I have observed nothing like fanaticism. In fact, my lord, at one service that I attended I rather found fault that there was not enough heat in it. It happened to be a bitterly cold day and a very draughty place, and we did not seem to get into a thorough glow. Certainly we did not reach a red heat, and I prefer a white heat; I am rather a salamander. I have been at Primitive Methodist meetings, when the fire has burned indeed like coals of juniper; but on this occasion we did not come near it. I thought it was the coldness of heart of the people of London that would not let the fire burn as much as it might.
Fanaticism I saw no traces of. I long for the day to come when the less friendly part of the newspaper press will call us fanatics. I should like to hear the critics hiss between their teeth, “You are fanatics and fools.” I should think we were getting to be both warm and wise then, and getting something near the right point. It is an evil day when men speak too well of us; but when they talk of us disparagingly, it may be that we are having honor in the sight of God. There is no fear, however, of fanaticism ever doing mischief if we keep the Bible always to the front; that will be the master of the fire, and the fire will be a good servant to us.
Above all, keep your Bibles multiplying to arrest the progress of Popery.
That must be stopped! You have, perhaps, seen upon the Arch of Titus, in Rome, the seven-branched candlestick of the Temple. We are told that, after the triumph, that sacred lightbearer was lost in the Tiber. The Church of Rome has no love for the seven-branched candlestick; she has lost it. I am rather glad of the idea of purifying that muddy stream: perhaps they will find it by-and-by. I should not wonder that by God’s blessing, by the help of Garibaldi, they may find out several little things that they have lost: and now that the Bible Society has a house in the Corso, the way to find out the true seven-branched golden candlestick, which is to illuminate the world, is straight before the eyes of the Romans. We have got the lamp; let us carry it. Do not find fault with the darkness — light the candle. Do not complain about there being error in the world — proclaim the Truth. And by what means can we better proclaim it than by scattering the Word of God on all hands? Dear friends, what are you doing towards scattering the Bible? Do you give it away? Somebody may say it is of very little use to give away Bibles and Testaments. That is a very great mistake. I have very seldom found it to be a labor in vain to give a present of a Testament. I was greatly astonished about a month ago. A cabman, drove me home, and when I paid him his fare he said, “It is a long time since I drove you last, sir!” “But,” said I, “I do not recollect you!” “Well,” he said, “I think it is fourteen years ago; but,” he added, “perhaps you will know this Testament?” pulling one out of his pocket. “What!” I said, “did I give you that?” “Oh, yes!” he said, “and you spoke to me about my soul, and nobody had done that before, and I have never forgotten it.” “What,” said I, “haven’t you worn it out?” “No,” he said, “I would not wear it out; I have had it bound!” — and he had kept it very carefully indeed. It encourages one to give books when they are so valued. Sometimes people will not value a tract. I believe it is often the cheapest thing to give a better thing; that which costs you rather more will be more highly treasured, and “a Testament for twopence!” — who would not scatter such a thing broadcast? Should you be unable to give away the Book itself, quote the Scriptures often. A colporteur last Monday said there was a man in the habit of addressing him upon religious subjects when he was “half-seas over,” as they call it. Whenever he had plenty of drink in him he came to the colporteur to talk about religion. This colporteur said, “He came and knocked at my door, and I felt vexed that he should so often come to me in that condition, and I hurled four texts at his head out in the street with all my might.” He quoted the four texts. They were very appropriate to the man’s condition, and contained a full statement of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said, “I do not know whether I did that man any good or not, but there was a woman next door, who had just opened her door to put two dirty children off her doorstep. She stood still, and heard all the four texts, and the Spirit of God carried them home to her heart and conscience ;” and he added, “I have been awakened at night many times, and glad to be awakened, by hearing her sing, whilst she lies dying upstairs in the room next to mine.” I wish every person here who knows the power of the Scriptures on his own soul would incessantly be trying to spread the Word of God and to expound it.
Never associate the Bible with anything that is dull and unhappy in the minds of your children. I think one of the wickedest things in the world is to make a child learn a chapter for a punishment. Make the Bible a sweet dear book to your children; give them plenty of pictures, and try yourself to make pleasant pictures of the Bible by your conversation. A little boy once stood at his mother’s side while she was reading to him. “Mother,” he said, “would you let me go out and play for a quarter of an hour?” “What for, James?” said she. “Because then you will please read that; book to yourself, and then, when I come in a quarter of an hour’s time, I will listen so nicely if you will tell me what that book says.” That is the thing; read the book yourself, and get the meaning of it; then talk it out again to the children; they will receive it so much better. We want subscribers to the Bible Society, but we want readers of the Bible and expounders of it far more, so that even the little ones may understand the law of the Lord. I wish this to go home to everyone here. There is something for all to do.
At my Orphanage, some time ago, while I was sitting on a seat watching the children at play, a little boy came and asked to sit beside me. I lifted him up, and then he said, “Now, Mr. Spurgeon, listen to me. Suppose there was a ‘orphanage,’ and there was a lot of little boys there, and suppose those little boys had all lost their fathers, and suppose once a month their mothers came, or their aunts, and brought them pennies and apples, and oranges, and nice things, and suppose there was a little boy that had not got no mother, no aunt, nor nobody to come to see him, don’t you think somebody ought to give him sixpence? ‘Cause, Mr. Spurgeon, that’s me.”
Will you all apply descriptions in that fashion, by saying when there is something to be done for Jesus, “That’s me — there is something for me to do”? Let us determine that every house in London shall have a Bible at once. There is no harm if it had two. I believe there is a somebody in the world that God means to bless through you and nobody else. He has given to his dear Son power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as his Father gave him; and he has divided that power out among us, and given to some of us power over certain flesh, and others power over others. There are some who never will enter heaven through my preaching, but they will enter heaven perhaps from your private admonitions, or through the New Testament which you intend now to put in their way, and the gentle word which you mean to add to it. Beloved friends, look at the great city before you, which God is visiting! Assist in the visitation of this city, from house to house, all of you, and connect with it the trying to discover whether the Bible is in the house, and if it be not there, let every house in London be supplied with the Bible. I wish the Bible Society would join, if it could, with that visiting organizations, and determine that every house in London should have a Bible at once. Let us all help in doing the work of visiting the people and scattering the Word of God among them, and let this be our motive: — -if we love the Lord Jesus Christ: there is an intimate connection between us and everything that has to do with him.
Years ago, when. servants used to be servants, there was a certain lord who was greatly amused with the way in which his old body-servant always used to talk. They were down in the country, and a wagon stood at the door of the country seat, and his lordship said, “John, whose wagon is that?” “Oh,” said he, “that is our’s, my lord; it has brought some of our goods down from town.” In a minute or two his lordship inquired,” John, what coach is that coming up the drive?” “Oh, my lord,” said he, “that’s our carriage.” “But,” added the master, “I see some children in it; are they our children, John?” “Oh, yes, my lord,” he replied,” bless their hearts, they are our children, and I am going downstairs to bring them in!” and he went downstairs accordingly. Now, whenever we look upon poor lost sinners, and upon the gospel, which, alone can save them, let us say. “Oh, blessed Lord, these are ours, these are ours; we seek them because they belong to thee.” It looks rather daring to call what is Christ’s ours, but his lordship was not vexed with his servant for entering into such a unity of interests with him, and our Lord above will not; be aggrieved with us if we call the Bible our Bible, the gospel our gospel, the. church our church, the people of God our people, the brotherhood of sinners our brothers, and the Savior himself our Savior. Let us make the Bible Society our society, and labor to spread the Word of Life amongst our poor citizens all around us, in whom we have an interest, because Christ has an interest in them.