BY THOMAS SPURGEON.
ONE of the “best gifts,” to be earnestly coveted by all teachers and preachers, is that of being able to find “Books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, And good in everything. ” Happy he whose eyes and ears can catch sight and sound of truth divine in things that others reckon common and unclean. And happy are the people who not only hear the joyful sound of the gospel, but who have its truths forced home to their hearts and fastened in their memories by emblems and parables from things with which they meet each day. The power thus to use ordinary circumstances and common things was possessed in a remarkable degree by my late beloved father. He culled the great majority of his illustrations from the field rather than from the hot-house. There are more buttercups and daisies in his sermons than there are rare orchids and choice exotics. Being a master of metaphor, he gathered from every source. Land and sea, art and science, peace and war, history and biography, stars and stones, were all laid under contribution; but, as a rule, his emblems were of the simplest sort. The “windows” of his discourses were not of deepstained glass for the cultured to admire, but of the clearest crystal, that darkened minds might thereby be illuminated. Farmers have told me that they have often marveled at his insight into agricultural affairs, and that this was in part the secret of his hold on the country folk; and sailors have expressed their surprise that one who never took a long voyage knew so much of nautical matters, and was so well versed in the somewhat remarkable vocabulary of” those who go down to the sea in ships.” He had an overflowing store of information, and as he knew nothing of “saving up” this or that for another occasion, each discourse was bright with freshcut flowers of speech, and new-found gems of thought.
He was ever anxious, too, to aid others in their search for similes. He had “feathers” enough for his own “arrows,” and to spare. Although he constantly insisted that ready-made types and emblems were not the best, he recognized that some have neither the faculty nor the opportunity for manufacturing them on their own premises; he therefore issued several volumes of illustrations, and his published “Sermon Notes” are enriched with types and tropes, and brightened with “windows of agates,” in marvelous variety. In his preface to “Illustrations and Meditations,” he expressed his intention to produce a set of books to help preachers by supplying them with parables and comparisons. Although this volume cannot be reckoned in that series, there is no doubt that it will serve the same good end. Smooth stones from the brook are here in goodly number for the Lord’s Davids. May they be used to the bringing down of many a giant Philistine. A simple illustration will sometimes do grand execution where an elaborate argument miscarries. Here are stones ready quarried for the builders; may many a wall be strengthened and many a gap be stopped by their timely and efficient aid.
It is not for me to criticize my father’s lecture. I could not find fault, and I must not praise. Approval of his words from such as I seems little more appropriate than censure. Nor is an introduction really required. I will content myself with recording the fact, that the delight with which I heard it delivered long years; ago is fresh and fragrant still. Even the dissolving views were not more welcome than the cheery, chatty lecture. It seemed to us, his hearers, that there was upon the platform a skilled musician, whose instrument was composed of “musical stones,” which, rough and ungainly though they appeared, emitted as he struck them sweetest melody. We were sorry enough when the concert was over. To read the discourse, it must be admitted, is not to hear it. We see now how much of the music depended upon “the touch.” And oh, for a thousand reasons, that he could have revised it himself!
Alas! that “the last use to which a stone can be put” has been exemplified in his case. What pathos there., is now in these his closing remarks: — “If any one puts a gravestone over us, the less said about us the better: our name, our birth, our death, and a godly text; but no fulsome flattery.” It is satisfactory to know that, if this wish has not been carried out in strict accord with its letter, its spirit has certainly been respected.
At Norwood stands a substantial sepulcher, with appropriate Scripture passages and emblems. But there is no fulsome flattery, and, thanks be to God, there is no possibility of tomb, or “Life, ” or memory of him to be marred with any such “Biographical Buts” as he referred to at the end of the lecture. We glorify God in him.
Mr. J. L. Keys, who may well be proud that he was for a quarter of a century associated with C. H. Spurgeon in his literary labors, and that the author wrote so appreciatively in several of his works concerning the services of his amanuensis, has added valuable appendices to this lecture. If I may so say, he has hewn from many quarries, and has then built up the blocks into a goodly arch. Is he not himself the Keystone of it?
By this time the reader is more than ready to hear “WHAT THE STONES SAY.” God grant that they may not cry out against any of us because we cease to bless the name of the Lord! “No; I must my praises bring, Though they worthless are and weak; For should I refuse to sing, Sure the very stones would speak. ”