EARLY RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES
We must tread again the border-land of the known and the unknown, as we try to present a truthful narration of Mr. Spurgeon's earliest religious life. It was as remarkable and startling as many of the other things in his strange career. Yet it may be that we ought not to regard his religious experiences as beginning at the time when he thought he was converted; for he was a child of religious parents and was ever under the influence of Biblical teachings, from the day he began to learn anything.
The Church and Sabbath-school were as familiar to him as was his grandfather's sitting-room. The Bible was a book which was kept in mind by continual quotation and by daily reading, both morning and evening. Thus he lived through all his early years in the atmosphere of a religious and holy home-life. A hatred of evil and a love for the good were inculcated by teachers and friends, both in precept and example, until it must have been a kind of second nature to him to be religious in an external sense.
He has told us how the Pilgrim's Progress and the Lives of the Martyrs were among the first books that he ever read, and the impression they made upon his thoughts and feelings never disappeared.
He lived in the Church as some boys do on the streets, he was as much at home with the Sunday-school classes and books as some boys are with the billiard-rooms and dram-shops. If careful and conscientious training could ever be of advantage to a child, he could not fail to have been a good boy.
While he does not appear to have been precociously intellectual, he does appear to have been precociously religious.
His grandfather never wearied of telling the incidents connected with Charles' evangelistic tendencies, and with great delight used to relate how the boy once went into an ale-house on an errand, and having found there, drinking and carousing, a member of the church, indignantly rebuked him by exclaiming, "What doest thou here, Elijah!" Then, too, he inherited that deep emotional nature, that large philanthropic spirit, which would lead him to most tenderly sympathize with sorrow and pain, and would arouse him to lion ferocity to witness cruelty or injustice. He was an upright youth and no hint of anything immoral, no suggestion of vice comes to us concerning him, in all the traditions connected with his early years.
His forceful utterances from the pulpit were never afterward weakened by the remembrance of wrongs committed in his youth. He was never compelled to meet in his pastoral duties or works of mercy the bitter insinuations which surround the preacher whose previous life is a matter of sorrow or shame.
Men often proclaim, and with an appearance of pride, that they have descended to the lowest experiences of vice and debauchery, and that they have been lifted from the horrible pit and the miry clay by the especial and miraculous interference of God in their behalf. Many such testimonies seem to state the truth; but it would appear as though the man who had never tasted evil nor committed an act of which he had reason to. be ashamed, should praise God with the loudest voice or with the most sincere emotion. For the stain and scars of a life once evil are never erased beyond recognition.
A wasted life or wasted half a life! How sad it must be to reflect upon it continually, and to think how much more good might have been done, had religious life began in childhood, instead of opening in volcanic eruptions or in purifying thunder-storms.
The startling conversions and thrilling experiences of which we hear, perhaps none too much, are after all not so much the subject of praise or congratulation as to have led an entire life under the influence and in the service of the Saviour. Yet Mr. Spurgeon, notwithstanding his moral uprightness of character, had the same struggle with Satan, and the same turmoil of spirit which has characterized a large portion of the religious conversions recorded in the books. He has told us about it himself and in language so plain and interesting that we will give his statement here in his own words, and for convenience, combine two different accounts. He was converted at New Market, near Cambridge, England, when he was between fifteen and sixteen years of age, and while he was attending school.
He said: "I can remember the time when my sins first stared me in the face. I thought myself to be most accursed of all men. I had not committed any very great open transgressions against God; but I recollected that I had been well trained and tutored, and I thought my sins were thus greater than other people's. I cried to God to have mercy, but I feared that He would not pardon me. Month after month I cried to God, but He did not hear me, and I knew not what it was to be saved. Sometimes I was so weary of the world that I desired to die; but then I recollected that there was a worse world after this, and that it would be an ill matter to rush before my Maker unprepared. At times I wickedly thought God a most heartless tyrant, because He did not answer my prayer; and then at others I thought, 'I deserve His displeasure; if He sends me to hell, He will be just.' But I remember the hour when I stepped into a place of worship, and saw a tall thin man in the pulpit; I have never seen him from that day, and probably never shall until we meet in heaven. He opened the Bible and read in a feeble voice, 'Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and beside me there is none else.' Ah! thought I, I am one of the ends of the earth; and then turning around, and fixing his gaze on me, as if he knew me, the minister said: 'Look, look, look!' Why, I thought I had a great deal to do, but I found it was only to look. I thought I had a garment to spin out for myself; but I found that if I looked, Christ would give me a garment. Look, sinner; that is the way to be saved. Look unto Him, all ye ends of the earth, and be saved."
"I will tell you how I, myself, was brought to the knowledge of this truth. It may happen the telling of that will bring some one else to Christ. It pleased God in my childhood to convince me of sin. I lived a miserable creature, finding no hope, no comfort, thinking that surely God would never save me. At last the worst came to worst-I was miserable; I could scarcely do anything. My heart was broken in pieces. Six months did I pray, prayed agonizingly with all my heart, and never had an answer. I resolved that in the town where I lived I would visit every place of worship in order to find out the way of salvation. I felt I was willing to do anything and be anything, if God would only forgive me. I set off determined to visit the chapels, and I went to all the places of worship; and though I dearly venerate the men who occupy those pulpits now, and did so then, I am bound to say that I never heard them once fully preach the gospel. I mean by that, they preached truth, great truths, many good truths that were fitting to many of their congregation who were spiritually-minded people; but what I wanted to know was, how can I get my sins forgiven. And they never once told me that. I wanted to know how a poor sinner, under the sense of sin, might find peace with God; and when I went I heard a sermon on, 'Be not deceived. God is not mocked,' which cut me up worse, but did not say how I might escape. I went again another day, and the text was something about the glories of the righteous; nothing for poor me. I was something like a dog under the table, not allowed to eat of the children's food. I went time after time, and I can honestly say, I don't know that I ever went without prayer to God, and I am sure there was not a more attentive listener in all the place than myself, for I panted and longed to understand how I might be saved.
"At last one day-it snowed so much that I could not go to the place to which I had determined to go, and I was obliged to stop on the road, and it was a blessed stop for me-I found rather an obscure street, and turned down a court, and there was a little chapel. I wanted to go somewhere, but I did not know this place. It was the primitive Methodists' chapel. I had heard of these people from many, and how they sang so loudly that they made people's heads ache; but that did not matter. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they made my headache ever so hard I did not care. So sitting down, the service went on, but no preacher came. At last a very thin looking man, Rev. Robert Eaglen, came into the pulpit and opened his Bible and read these words: 'Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.' Just setting his eyes upon me, as if he knew me all by heart, he said: 'Young man you are in trouble.' Well, I was, sure enough. Said he, 'you will never get out of it unless you look to Christ.' And then lifting up his hands he cried out, as I think only a Primitive Methodist could do, 'Look, look, look.' 'It is only look,' said he. I saw at once the way of salvation. Oh! how I did leap for joy on that moment. I know not what else he said. I did not take much notice of that-I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, they only looked and were healed. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard this word, 'look,' what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away, and in heaven I will look on still in my joy unutterable.
"I now think I am bound never to preach a sermon without preaching to sinners. I do think that a minister who can preach a sermon without addressing sinners does not know how to preach."
The change of heart and faith which this incident marks was so great, notwithstanding his previous unimpeachable character, that all his friends and acquaintances who had not heard of his conversion, recognized the great transformation. Life took upon itself a new robe. His entire ambition concentrated in the thought of doing good. He had decided to be a Christian teacher, and felt that he could not possibly keep back the message, even should he bring all his naturally stubborn disposition to bear upon the repression. An irresistible desire to proclaim the new gospel he had found impelled him on with such speed that he had no opportunity to even look back. The very next day found him visiting the poor and talking to his classmates concerning their religious life, and heard him declare to his teacher, "it is all settled, I must preach the. gospel of Christ." Yet he was by disposition very timid, had always trembled at the sound. of his own voice in public declamation, and up to that period had shown a discouraging disposition to stutter and choke when suddenly called upon to answer a question or make a remark in a public assembly. But nearly all that timidity disappeared before his very first experience as a preacher.
It is a matter of no little surprise to many early friends of Mr. Spurgeon that he should have departed from the faith of his fathers and instead of uniting with the Congregational body, should enter into the fellowship of a Baptist Church. It is said that his decision to enter the Baptist Church was caused entirely by his own independent conscientious convictions concerning the principles of the Church and the form of baptism. He read his Bible with great care, and insisted with great enthusiasm on literally complying, as far as possible, with the actual example of the Saviour. He had been drawn into association with some students connected with the Baptist Church at Isleham and so had occasionally attended worship in that church. When he decided that it was his duty to unite with that denomination he pleaded most strenuously with his father and mother and grandfather for their consent. They were, in no sense, bigoted sectarians, and when they found his heart so strongly fixed upon that Church, they withdrew their first objections and bid him heartily "God speed."
He was baptized by the Rev. Mr. Cantlow, of Isleham Baptist Church, May 3d, 1851, celebrating at the same time as he often afterward claimed, the birthday of his mother. The Isleham pastor was one of the old vigorously Protestant Baptist teachers who insisted most persistently in declaring the principle that "every person shall have the right and ought to exercise it, to worship God according to the dictates of his own enlightened conscience."
The remark of his mother concerning his baptism and his reply has been running through the newspapers for a great many years, wherein she said, "I have often prayed the Lord that you might be converted, but never asked Him that you might be a Baptist." To which Charles replied that God had answered her prayer with His usual bounty, and had "given her more than she had asked."
Connected with the church at Isleham was a young schoolmate who was also closely connected with the "lay preachers' association" of the Baptist Church in Cambridge. Through him Charles was introduced to the pastor and some of the deacons of the Cambridge Church. He joined that church soon after his baptism, either by letter from the Jsleham Church or upon a letter of commendation from the Rev. Mr. Cantlow. His purpose in uniting with the church at Cambridge seems to have been specially to identify himself with the "lay preachers association," which was an organization of young men who devoted their Sabbaths largely to missionary and personal Christian work. There he found most congenial companionship and very agreeable religious employment, entering into it with all his heart and soul and winning the hearts of many of the poor and the sinful. It was in connection with this association that he preached his first sermon. It was entirely an impromptu address, about which he had but a few minutes to think in advance. He entered the pulpit a boy, dressed in a round jacket and a broad turned-down collar. Perhaps it will add to the interest if we would give in his own language the manner in which the address was thrust upon him.
"I had been asked to walk out to the village of Taversham, about four miles from Cambridge, where I then lived, to accompany a young man whom I supposed to be the preacher for the evening, and on the way I said to him that I trusted God would bless him in his labors. 'Oh! dear,' said he, 'I never preached in my life; I never thought of doing such a thing. I was asked to walk with you and I sincerely hope God will bless you in your preaching.' 'Nay,' said I, 'but I never preached, and I don't know that I could do anything of the sort.' We walked together until we came almost to the place, my inmost soul being all in a tremble as to what would happen. When we found the congregation assembled, and no one else there to speak of Jesus, although I was only sixteen years of age, I found that was I expected to preach, so I did preach." The sermon is said by some of those who heard it, to have been most truly amusing, because it was so serious, practical, and earnest, and given by a mere boy, amid such dignified surroundings. He was in earnest to the verge of fanaticism, and soon lost all consciousness of self, and all embarrassment on account of his age, and threw himself into the delivery of the message with an abandon which to the preacher is the keenest, richest joy. Some of his hearers afterward compared his youthful appearance and his unaccountable wisdom to the scene of Christ among the doctors, while skeptical or envious ones, said "the boy is wildly bold." He was wholly, unreservedly in earnest, and that covered a multitude of faults, and forced to defeat all of his theological and literary critics.
His first practical Christian work, was, as a matter of course, very largely among the humble people, and his first experience was connected with the leadership of small prayer-meetings. Some of these meetings did not number more than, as he said, "he could count on his hands," and were often held in the kitchen or sitting-room of some humble dwelling. But he was young, vigorous, and enthusiastic and often walked ten miles to attend a short evening service. He removed his school relations from New Market to Cambridge, where his father had employed a tutor, and, with his comrades of the Lay Preachers Association, took up the most systematic course of house visiting, ascertaining who were Christians, and exhorting most earnestly those who were not. The boys connected with that society became very well known in the course of a very few months, and Charles was recognized by them all as a leader. He was often compared with Peter by his companions because of his impulsiveness and his strong inclination to chastise himself for any neglect or seeming sin.
He arose early with the sun, studied his lessons hard until the hour for school, he then remained in school until four o'clock in the afternoon, and for one year attended some kind of religious service almost every evening in the week, and preached the gospel on Sunday. His pulpit in the week was sometimes a chair, at other times a barrel, while frequently he stood in the open road and occasionally he found his way into the pulpits of the smaller churches. He taught a Sunday-school class, which soon grew out of all proportion with the rest of the school, but he reduced it by urging the scholars to go out and become evangelists, in the distribution of tracts, caring for the poor, and praying for the sick.
There were two young men connected with the Lay Preachers Association who were far more eloquent than he, but there was a conspicuous lack in their character of that impulsive power, that influence over the action of others, that ability to organize them into effective work which was then and has been his chief characteristic ever since that day.
He often volunteered to assist the children of the village in their studies at home, frequently making their acquaintance on the street or at school, and thus found his way into the families as a Christian evangelist, to the great delight of the parents and to the profit of the children.
Religious work became with him a positive passion, inspiring all his thought and the object of his entire ambition. He was bright, active, and at times very witty. His fun was exuberant, natural, and contagious. He was often seen running races with the children, rolling the hoop for their amusement, and performing feats in youthful athletics to the surprise and admiration of the boys whose souls he desired to win to the Lord Jesus Christ.
He studied his Bible constantly, and was often overheard repeating chapters of it by heart, that he might so fasten them upon his memory as to make them indelible there.
It appears that from the very first he was so positively in earnest in the work himself that he took little time to listen to the preaching of others. This may in a measure account for his singular originality, and may have aided him greatly in reaching the eminence on which he stood at the. time of his death. If he had been less anxious to engage at once in some practical work, and had spent more time listening to the preachers of that day, he would have been inclined to copy their forms of expressions, their gestures, intonations, or dress.
But all his life he was so perpetually busy about something in which his own personality was needed that he rarely ever had time to listen to a sermon or address by any other person.
He read sermons, lectures, and books by the hundred, and thus secured the best ideas of his time on theological matters. But he copied no one, and carved for himself such an independent place as an orator and teacher that even his blunders and extravagances added greatly to his attractiveness and power. He had no Oxford airs, no aristocratic affectations, and was often mentioned by those who spoke of him as one who was "different from every other man on earth."
In this way he adjusted himself to all the circumstances in which he was placed and went directly toward the object he had in view. His language and his entire appearance were the products of his own age and time, and were adjustable to the variety of his present needs. He lived in his own time and for his own generation, and consequently was especially fitted for the personal and public Christian work which he was so anxious to perform.
There are practical machinists, there are theoretical machinists, there are theoretical farmers, and there are practical farmers, even so there are theoretical ministers and practical ministers. As the practical farmer and mechanic make all the money, while the theorists spend it all, just so the practical preacher wins all the souls, while the theorist drives them away.
He loved greatly to attend Sabbath-School conventions and anniversaries, and while making no pretensions to oratory was always called upon to speak whenever he was present. He was simple as a child, consequently the children delighted to hear him. His fund of anecdotes, traditions, stories, and illustrations were positively inexhaustible. Every anecdote or description which he read in a periodical or a book seems to have remained with him subject to instant call.
But he was colloquial and often awkward. He did not hesitate to use expressive local phrases which would be regarded by the polished scholars as partaking altogether too largely of slang. But he scrupled not to use any sort of effective weapon in his contest with evil, and hastened to throw to the sinking sinner a window-frame or a cabin table in the absence of handy life preservers. The effect of his teaching was immediately felt in the entire vicinity, to such an extent that he was called for on every side to pray with the sick and counsel the dying, although he was but a mere boy in years or experience.
In the year 1851, which was the first year of his preaching experience, he was invited to deliver an address in the church at Waterbeach, not far from Cambridge, and is said to have had less than a dozen at his initial service. But the Waterbeach Baptist Church was composed of very poor people and paid a salary of but $100 per year to the really distinguished men who had presided over its religious services. The church was small, built of composite, plastered outside and in, with rude benches and a very high pulpit. The best description we have been able to obtain of the old church, which has since been destroyed by fire, reports it to have been a barren and sterile place except when filled with the devoted Christians, to many of whom it was a veritable Mecca. The old ladies who heard him preach his first sermon regarded him as a "dear good boy," but would not have dreamed of accepting him as their pastor until he began to make his influence felt in their homes and among their children. He was always diligently at work, They often asked him if he ever slept.
He had no thought, however, of beginning a pastorate at Waterbeach during the first two or three months of his active work in that neighborhood as an evangelist, but the thought at first absurd soon became possible, then arose to the probable, and finally was a certainty. The church unanimously called him to be their pastor, when he was about nineteen years of age, and probably the youngest ordained preacher of any denomination in England. He accepted the position after a great deal of hesitation and many hours spent by himself in prayer.
It was then that he was compelled to come to the important decision to which we have referred in a previous chapter, concerning the pursuit of his education through a college course. He felt that he belonged to the Lord. His body, his soul, his talents, and his time. He believed that the Lord could use him without an education, if his Heavenly Father was so inclined; and he cut himself off from educational opportunities and entered directly into the work of saving souls, assured that in some way the Lord would make up for the deficiency.
Many persons regarded him as a fanatic, and tried their best to discourage him by calling his attention to the fact that he was so young. Some even wrote to his father, saying that it was a shame to allow a bright boy like that to throw himself away in such a foolish manner. But he was ready to go through fire and water, and had determined to sacrifice everything and anything in the cause he had espoused.
Yet he entered upon it with the most deliberate thought, with most broad common sense, and combined with these such skill and tact in the management of others, and in the declaration of truth, as to establish himself quickly with the oldest and most conservative of his hearers. The fire in his soul which many feared would become a hard master he ever kept within proper bounds and compelled it to be a good servant.
Unstinted praise was heard on every side and the extremest flattery was spoken unblushingly to his face. It is a marvel that the boy was not completely destroyed by egotism. But he had the natural tact to consult with old men, and to follow their advice rather than to give heed to flatterers, who would have led him so sadly to overestimate his forces.
Many say that during his youth he did at times exhibit considerable self-importance, and there are those who seem to recognize that trait, though largely in abeyance, in the entire history of the man.
Mr. Spurgeon has also justify an account of his first pastorate, in which he said: "Well I remember beginning to preach in a little thatched chapel, and my first concern was, would God save any souls through me? They called me a ragged headed boy; I think I was-I know I wore a jacket. I preached and I was troubled in my heart because I thought, 'This gospel has saved me, but then somebody else preached it; will it save anybody if I preach it?,' Some Sundays went over, and I used to say to one of the deacons, 'Have you heard of anybody finding the Lord?' My good old friend said, 'I am sure there has been, I am quite sure about it.' 'Oh!' I said, 'I want to know it, I want to see it.' And one Sunday afternoon he said, 'There is a woman who lives over at so-and-so who found the Lord three or four Sundays ago through your preaching.' I said, 'Drive me over there, I must go directly,' and the first thing on Monday morning I was driving down to see my first convert. Many fathers recollect their first child; mothers recollect their first baby-no child like it, you never had another like it since. I have had a great many spiritual children born of the preaching of the word, but I do think that woman was the best of the lot. At least, she did not live long enough for me to find many faults in her. After a year or two of faithful witness-bearing she went home to lead the way for a goodly number since. I have had nothing else to preach but Christ crucified. How many souls there are in heaven who have found their way there through that preaching; how many there are still on the earth, serving the Master, it is not for me to tell; but whatever there has been of success has been through the preaching of Christ in the sinners' stead."
A glimpse of the domestic side of his life is afforded us in a humorous off-hand line he sent about this time to his sister, which Mr, Bliss has given to the public:-
"To Miss Carolina Louisa Spurgeon:-
"Your name is so long that it will almost reach across the paper. We have one young gentleman in our school, whose name is Edward Ralph William Baxter T----- . The boys tease him about his long name, but he is a very good boy, and that makes his name a good one.
"Everybody's name is pretty if they are good people.
"The Duke of Tuscany has had a little son. The little fellow was taken to the Catholic cathedral, and had some water put on his face, and then they named him-you must get Eliza to read it- 'Giovanni Nepomuceno Maria Annunziata Giuseppe Giovanbattista Ferdinando Baldassere Luigi Gonzaga Pietro Allesandro Zanobi Antonio.'
"A pretty long name to go to bed and get up with. It will be a long while before he will be able to say it all the way through.
"If any one is called by the name of Christian, that is better than all these great words. It is the best name in the world, except the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"My best love to you. I hope you will enjoy yourself and try to make others happy too, for then you are sure to be happy yourself. Whereas, if you only look out to please yourself, you will make others uncomfortable, and will not make yourself happy. However, you know that, and I need not tell you of it. A happy Christmas to you.
"Your loving brother,
Mr. Spurgeon's personal letters have always been distinguished for their simplicity and originality of style. He had no time, even if he had the inclination, to study the copy-books for fashionable letter-writing. He lost no time, but wrote concisely and directly what he meant, omitting generally the ornamental and the flourish. In this was the great gain to him found in the omission of a classical education in the schools. No one would ever accuse him of plagiarism who understood his style or knew his habits.
Imitators never succeed, Even painters who endeavor to copy Raphael or Rubens fail as copyists, and bring shame to themselves as artists, and the literary man or public speaker who endeavors to copy any minister is doing a most conspicuously foolish thing.
When Beecher died, a host of little Beechers arose, claiming to be a second Beecher. They were all very little Beechers. Successors to John B. Gough, to John Wesley, to Martin Luther, have often been foolishly advertised, but their lack of genius and learning was in every case as notorious as was the success of the persons they attempted to imitate.
Probably no profession in the world contains as many imitators as that of the ministry. One man's success immediately brings about him a school of prophets, who regard him as a superior model, and follow him in the closest details; but every such follower is a dismal failure. The curse of the pulpit, if there be any one curse more deleterious than another, is this weak tendency to imitate some successful man. The fear of being original and the timidity with which they meet criticism after having stated something different from the declarations of other people, keep men and women from doing their duty, and suppresses the sublime natural power found in all our pulpits, Let every man remain himself. If in being individual, he blunders and flounders like a porpoise, or brays like a donkey, he will attract more respectful attention in that manner which is natural than with all the most refined sentences stolen from classical models.
If God had intended or desired that men should be all alike, He would have so constructed them, and would have surrounded each with the same influences. But He made no two men alike, and they best answer the ends of their being by keeping to the individuality and originality which God impresses upon their natures.
Mr. Spurgeon was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. No other person. His expressions were so original that his declarations are recognized anywhere. There was no danger of his being confounded with Cardinal Manning, Joseph Parker, or Henry Ward Beecher. These excellent preachers excelled him in some things, but he was their peer in originality. He was nature's nobleman, and nature had her perfect work.
When our schools and colleges can so adjust themselves to the needs of the age as to give to each student an open field for his individual genius, then shall we have a perfect system of education. Until then, many of our schools and theological institutions will serve in a measure to destroy much of the effectiveness of many persons who by nature are brilliant or gigantic.
We see, too, that his theological training in actual personal Christian work among all classes of people in all the different grades of religious teaching was a far better discipline for the real battle of his life than could have been the same number of months given him even in the halls of Cambridge or the University of Leipsic. Not that these great institutions are to be despised, but that if one must choose between the practical experience and impractical theory, reason always dictates that a person should take the practice.
Mr. Spurgeon's pastorate at Waterbeach lasted only a few months. But it was a most valuable school, without which he could not have hoped to succeed in London. His youth and impetuosity made him a remarkable curiosity, and drew to the old church an immense audience, requiring on his part, great variety of illustrations and appeal in order to win the souls of the different classes represented. His sincerity won for him the positive love of the church membership, and no matter what he might state or do, they were as blind to his faults as any lover can be.
He had been a pastor but a few months when there was held a Sunday-school convention at Cambridge, where he was especially invited to give a short address. But he was so busy in his own pastorate, and so anxious concerning some of the local enterprises connected with the church that he gave the address but little thought.
When his turn came to speak he felt that he had but little to say, and was wise enough to say that little in a few words and sit down. Here again we see, that, if he had taken more time and had more carefully prepared a cultured address, he would have failed to accomplish the great good which followed these few remarks. Not that any person can ever be excused from doing his best. Should a minister of the Gospel spend his time in amusement or laziness, then his impromptu remarks would be stale and disgraceful. But if his time is fully occupied with earnest practical Christian work, then in every case he can depend safely upon the promise of the Saviour, that it shall be given him what he shall say.
The best speeches, like the most noted specimens of oratory, are always inspired by the circumstances present, and are panoplied Minervas leaping forth from sudden and inspiring emotions awakened by a desire to do good. The hard worker, whose life is crowded with varied experiences in the severe conflicts with sin, is always a full man and usually ready to speak effectively on the shortest notice. His daily experience supplies him with themes and his actual practice makes him an authority on the subject.
What Mr. Spurgeon said to the Sunday-school scholars who were present at the assembly, or what advice he gave to the teachers he did not himself remember in after years, and every other person seems to have forgotten. But one listener was present who did not forget the boy, and who remembered especially his originality and independent way. That listener was the instrumentality which Providence used to take Charles to London, for a few weeks later he met one of the deacons of the church in London, of which Charles afterward became the pastor, and in conversation with the deacon, mentioned this precocious young man, stating that he was greatly impressed with his spiritual power and his excellent common sense. That conversation, though for a time forgotten by both of them, was afterward recalled by the deacon and led to the invitation of which we will speak further, in the next chapter.
It was during his first pastorate, at
Waterbeach, when his name had been spread abroad far and wide as the "boy
preacher," and while the aged shook their heads and the ungodly made sport, that he
wrote a long and affectionate letter to his mother, the character of which may well be
judged from the following extract:
"I am more and more glad that I never went to college. God sends such sunshine on my path, such smiles of grace, that I cannot regret if have forfeited all my prospects for it. I am conscious I held back from love and His cause, and I had rather be poor in His service than rich in my own.
I have all that heart can wish for; yea, God giveth more than my desires. My congregation is as great and loving as ever. During all the time that I have been at Waterbeach I have had a different house for my home every day. Fifty-two families have thus taken me in; and I have still six other invitations not yet accepted. Talk about the people not caring for me because they give me so little! I dare tell anybody under heaven "tis false! They do all they can!"
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