mrs. c.h. spurgeon
A biography of Susannah Spurgeon
by Charles Ray, 1905
Mrs. Spurgeon’s widowhood lasted close upon a dozen years, and in a sense, her life, since 1892, must have been a singularly lonely one, although she had her two sons always near to comfort and cheer her, and the many friends of her late husband were ever ready to meet any wish she might express. Grief, however, did not occupy her to the exclusion of useful and thoughtful work. In fact, her last years were, taking into consideration her growing age and infirmity, her busiest. The Book Fund was never allowed to flag; the Pastors’ Aid Fund was ever ready to help deserving ministers in sore financial straits, and all the other branches of the original organization were kept in a flourishing condition. Then Mrs. Spurgeon gave a good deal of time to literary work, her magnum opus of course being “C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, compiled from his Diary, Letters and Records,” in which she had the assistance of Mr. Harrald. This, as is generally known, is a monumental work in four large volumes, and it occupied Mrs. Spurgeon several years in the preparation, all her husband’s correspondence, sermons and books being carefully sifted, in order to provide the material for the autobiography.
Mrs. Spurgeon herself wrote the chapters dealing with the home and conjugal life of her husband, and these in many places show the pathetic longing she always had to join him. “Ah! my husband,” she says in one passage, “the blessed earthly ties which we welcomed so rapturously are dissolved now, and death has hidden thee from my mortal eyes; but not even death can divide thee from me or sever the love which united our hearts so closely. I feel it living and growing still, and I believe it will find its full and spiritual development only when we shall meet in the glory-land and worship together before the throne!” This was written in 1898, and a comparison with a passage from her Book Fund report for 1891 will show how time and work had helped her to a holy resignation in waiting for the longed for reunion. “Oh! my husband, my husband,” she wrote in the earlier year, “every moment of my now desolate life I wonder how I can live without thee! The heart that for so many years has been filled and satisfied with thy love must needs be very empty and stricken now that thou art gone!”
As a writer, Mrs. Spurgeon had a rare literary gift, and her style was not unlike that of her husband. It was at C. H. Spurgeon’s suggestion that she undertook, while yet Miss Susannah Thompson, to assist him in compiling a little book of extracts from the writings of the Puritan divine, Thomas Brooks. Her lover had asked her to go through “an ancient, rusty-looking book,” marking all the paragraphs and sentences that seemed particularly sweet, quaint or instructive, and with much fear and trembling the young girl complied. The result was a small volume entitled “Smooth Stones Taken from Ancient Brooks,” and this book, Mrs. Spurgeon’s first literary effort, has just been reprinted by Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster. “Ten Years of My Life in the Service of the Book Fund,” and “Ten Years After,” have already been referred to, but perhaps the best of Mrs. Spurgeon’s literary work will be found in three dainty little devotional volumes entitled respectively, “A Carillon of Bells to Ring out the Old Truths of Free Grace and Dying Love’”; “A Cluster of Camphire; or, Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls”; and. “A Basket of Summer Fruit.” Each volume is perfect in its way. In a “Carillon of Bells,” for instance, one can hear the very bells ringing on every page, and in the whole range of devotional literature it would be difficult to find anything sweeter or having a truer ring than the opening words “He that spared not His own Son . . . how shall He not with Him also, freely give us all things.’ Dear Lord, faith’s fingers are joyfully touching the keys of this carillon of sweet bells this morning, and making them ring jubilantly to the praise of Thy gracious name! ‘How shall He not!’ ‘How shall He not!’ ‘He that spared not!’ ‘How shall He not!’ “What a peal of absolute triumph it is! Not a note of doubt or uncertainty mars the Heavenly music. Awake, my heart, and realize that it is thy faith which is making such glorious melody! Thou canst scarcely believe it for gladness? Yet it is blessedly true, for the Lord Himself hath given the grace, and then accepts the tribute of gratitude and praise which that grace brings. Press the tuneful keys again and again, for faith holds festival to-day and the joy’ of assurance is working wonders. ‘He that spared not!’ ‘How shall He not!’
“Hear how the repeated negatives gloriously affirm the fact of His readiness to bless! These silver bells have truly the power to scare away all evil things.” In addition to these volumes, Mrs. Spurgeon is the author of a number of “West-wood Leaflets” on devotional and other topics, and she has been for years past a very frequent contributor to The Sword and the Trowel, for the conduct of which until recently she was responsible. Another work in which she took a great and prayerful interest was the selection of the daily texts for “Spurgeon’s Illustrated Almanac,” and the preparation of that little booklet for publication. For about thirty years she chose the passages of Scripture, and this was no light work, when year after year fresh texts had to be found, which would fulfill the two necessary conditions of being short and also helpful when taken apart from their contexts.
Other kinds of work, too, Mrs. Spurgeon did, and did with all her accustomed zeal. In 1895, for instance, when “Westwood” was being redecorated, she went to Bexhill to, stay for a time, and learning that the town possessed no Baptist Chapel, she began to pray and work for the establishment of one. As the result of her efforts a school-chapel was first opened, and in 1897 Mrs. Spurgeon herself laid the foundation-stone of a fine sanctuary, “To the glory of God, and in perpetual remembrance of her beloved husband’s blameless life, forty years public ministry and still continued proclamation of the Gospel by his printed sermons.” This chapel was opened free of debt in the following year.
In 1899, again, during the collecting of subscriptions for the erection of the present Metropolitan Tabernacle, which was to take the place of the first building, Mrs. Spurgeon not only generously contributed to the Rebuilding Fund, but on a certain day – February 8th – she held a reception in the basement of the Tabernacle, and at one sitting received from those who attended about £6,367 towards the Fund.
In the summer of 1903 Mrs. Spurgeon had a severe attack of pneumonia which prostrated her, and from this she never recovered, being confined to her bed. One or other of her sons visited their mother almost daily to comfort and cheer her in the closing days of her life. Gradually she sank, and in the first week of September the flame of life seemed so feeble that it was expected to flicker out. Even then Mrs. Spurgeon manifested her strong faith in the God whom she had trusted for so long. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” she said feebly, and quoted the lines “His love in times past forbids me to think He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink.” asking those in the room to complete the verse. But there was a tenacity of life about this weak woman which was little expected. Week after week she lingered, though getting weaker as each day passed. On October 7th she gave her parting blessing to her son Thomas. “The blessing, the double blessing of your father’s God be upon you and upon your brother,” she said, and then a few moments later, “Good-bye, Tom; the Lord bless you for ever and ever! Amen.” When very near the end she clasped her’ feeble hands together, and, her face aglow with a heavenly radiance, exclaimed: “Blessed Jesus! Blessed Jesus! I can see the King in His Glory!”
Mrs. Spurgeon passed away peacefully at half-past eight on the morning of Thursday, October 22nd, 1903. She was buried at Norwood Cemetery in the grave where her husband’s remains lay, and Pastor Archibald Brown, who spoke such beautiful words at the interment of C. H. Spurgeon, joined with Pastor Sawday in conducting the funeral service over the remains of the great preacher’s wife.
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