It must not be supposed that the writer of the foregoing sketch had forgotten or overlooked the rich vein of humor which flowed through many of the sayings of the great preacher, as from an inexhaustible mine.
Assuredly such is not the case. We were anxious in the limited space at our disposal to confine ourselves to the more serious aspects of his life and work, thinking perhaps that a small appendix, recounting one or two instances of the humorous side of Spurgeon’s life, would be more acceptable to the reader, and more congenial to our own feelings. We were extremely wistful that the incidents which we have recorded in this brief memoir should be of such a character that they might lead the reader to glorify the Christ whom he so much adored. Hence our reason for appending this addition.
One has only to glance at that marvelous production, “John Ploughman’s Talk,” to see what a fund of humor Mr. Spurgeon possessed. In all respects he was a wonderful man. In head, heart, energy, and spirit he presented a most wonderful and striking combination. His intellectual qualities, for instance, were of the highest order and supremest kind. He seemed to live many lives. To listen to his talk on books, one would think that he had done nothing but read in the library all his life; to mark his publications, one would fancy he could have done naught but write; to look at the works he administered, it would seem as an administrator he had enough to occupy all his life; while to preach the sermons that never grew stale, and were always fresh, what a demand that must have made upon him! There were few men who were such men of business. Truly, in the combination of manifold gifts of intellect and heart, of manhood and saintliness, in the passion of practical aims, in the utter absence of cant and insincerity, and in the nobleness of his character, his life, and his consecration, he was unique. He hated cant as though he were a disciple of Carlyle, and he battled for sincerity as though he had been trained by Wordsworth.
An occasional hearer and great admirer of Spurgeon, who had made his fortune by being mixed up in some very shady business transactions, was extremely anxious that Mr. Spurgeon should name a villa that he had erected wherein to spend the remainder of his days. For some time Mr. S. warded off the continual appeals made to him by his wealthy hearer. But the man was not to be repulsed. At last, being wearied by his importunity, Mr. Spurgeon said, “What shall you name your villa? Why, if I was you, I should name it “Dun Robbin” (“Done Robbing”). Needless to add, Mr. S. was not troubled with another visit from this importunate gentleman.
Mr. Spurgeon was an adept at reading character at first interviews. A young man of the masher type applied for admission as student to the Pastor’s College. After a long conversation, the great preacher brought the interview to a close by quaintly remarking, “My advice to you, my friend, is that you had better tarry at Jericho till your beard grows.”
In giving these few extracts showing the humorous side of the great preacher’s character, we may say that we have some sympathy with the old clergyman, who at one time took it upon him to rebuke Mr. Spurgeon for his habit of occasionally using jocular remarks while preaching. He replied by saying, “You may be right, dear brother, but you would perhaps have more sympathy for me if you knew how many I keep back.”
It has been maintained by many that Mr. Spurgeon’s scholarship was neither scanty nor limited, in proof of which, Mr. Williams, a friend of the late preacher, gives us the following interesting reminiscence. “‘Give me a text, Williams, and I will preach you a sermon,’ said Spurgeon on one occasion when we were sitting alone in a lovely glen in Scotland. ‘One star differeth from another star in glory,’ said I. At once he began by describing the glory of certain special stars of separate constellations, giving in each case the name and their position in the heavens, until I listened and wondered, and wished I could only write it down. But the finish up! Never have I heard him do anything more sublime, even when preaching to gathered thousands.”
One instance of his large heartedness and intense sympathy: — Last year, when staying at Mentone, a poor organ-grinder played in front of the hotel where he was staying. After playing several tunes, the owner of the organ took round his hat for contributions, but met with very scanty support.
Spurgeon noticing this went down at once, and began to turn the handle of the organ most vigorously. Of course the company flocked to the windows to witness such a novel sight. Spurgeon continued playing, and the man made the collection, with a most beneficial result.
This was the outcome of a great large heart on fire with the love of God and with love to his fellowmen. Mr. Manton Smith graphically describes his first meeting with the great preachers and with this we must close our appendix. Mr. Smith says: — “The first time I opened my lips for God before him (Spurgeon) was in the Tabernacle, some twenty years ago. I was invited by Mrs. Bartlett to be one of the speakers at the annual tea meeting of her young women’s class.
I never dreamt that Spurgeon was coming to the meeting, as chairman, at which I was to speak, but so it was. When I saw him enter the room my courage failed me, my address left me, and I felt completely undone... In a friendly, brotherly way he tried to cheer me for the task that lay before me.
He said, ‘You are one of Mrs. Bartlett’s curates, so I am informed. We won’t trouble you to put on the surplice, but you must speak after me.’.....
How I stood I cannot tell, for the trembling of my legs under that ordeal I shall never forget. I commenced by saying, ‘Dear sir, I am a bad speaker and a worse writer, and all I know is, like the Primitive Methodist preacher, the ABC gospel.’ To my surprise Spurgeon rapped his stick on the floor, knocked his soft hat on the table, and laughed with such a hearty ring, it became quite contagious, and then said, ‘Bravo, go on, brother; that’s just the sort of gospel I like; tell us about it.’ I did my best, and told them I thought A stood for a text that we should all learn first, for it was the very beginning of the gospel for every sinner — ‘All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ My second head was B, which stood for “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ My lastly was C, which stood to represent the words, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ I quite expected at the close of my speech he would be disgusted and ashamed of me, but to my utter astonishment, when I turned round, I saw the big tears rolling down Mr. Spurgeon’s cheeks, and he shook my hand so warmly, and said, ‘God bless you, my young brother; you have got your degree already. Stick to that kind of talk, and you will be a real A. B. C., which I consider stands for ABLE-BODIED CHRISTIAN.’”