THE HISTORY OF HIS CHURCH
The planting of a church is like the planting of a seed which is almost certain to grow into a tree, spreading its branches in beauty and beneficence at home and sending the fruit into every portion of the earth.
How incredulous the forefathers would have been had any prophet informed them that the New Park Street Baptist Church would become so influential for good and so widely known.
It had its origin far back in the days of persecution, when men paid for their opinions with property, pain, shame, and often death.
The founders of that Church over which Mr. Spurgeon eventually became the pastor were brave men who feared not the stake and who had often seen fires burning their co-religionists. It will be interesting and highly helpful in the study of Mr. Spurgeon's life to trace the history of this organization, in order that we may better understand the circumstances into which he was drawn when he went to London.
Mr. Spurgeon has himself furnished a complete and accurate history of the Tabernacle and the Church, but he wrote at the time when many of the individuals were still living who welcomed him to London, and wrote when also conscious that the sons and grandsons of those who had acted a part in the history of that Church would read his book. No one writes without great restraint, under such circumstances, and while he need never state an untruth, yet all the truth is not to be spoken at all times. One could heartily wish in the preparation of a story like this that some accurate records of the thoughts of Mr. Spurgeon himself might somewhere be found. But no such private diary seems to exist. The unwritten history of the Church, especially in the early days of Mr. Spurgeon's ministry, would furnish most interesting reading. The best, however, that can be done now is to gather up all the material he has justify behind him into a connected and useful history.
Friends often forsook him, to which he indirectly refers. Enterprises promising well were often destroyed by some unkind act or by the foolishness of the managers. Expected gifts of money did not come at the time appointed, and some revivals did not furnish the harvest which was expected of them. But, on the other side, he often received more than he expected in money, or friendship, and in every kind of success. Such seems also to have been very largely the history of the pastorate which preceded his time,
It was ever the unexpected which was happening, and we may go further and say that such is the usual history of every Church, and human oversight is not able to arrange for the events which are almost certain to surprise both pastor and people, and yet without which there is no possible success in the work.
The successful church organization is the one which works on endeavoring to be guided by the Divine hand, and which regards nothing either encouraging or discouraging as at variance with the general Divine plan they may not then understand. The power which brought light out of the darkness brings harmony out of discord, and beauty out of wretchedness, also exhibits its characteristics in the conduct of the spiritual Church. That same power can often reverse the processes and send night or discord, and often does so in the spiritual history of mankind for reasons of good, unaccountable to us. Hence a glance at. the condensed history of that Church as given by Mr. Spurgeon shows us a continued, but irregular series of advances and retreats. It will be well for the student of his life to read a portion of Mr. Spurgeon's statement concerning the history of the Church, before studying further his personal connection with it.
In his history of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Mr. Spurgeon said:
"When modest ministers submit their sermons to the press they usually place upon the title-page the words, 'Printed by request.' We might with emphatic truthfulness have pleaded this apology for the present narrative, for, times without number, friends from all parts of the world have said: 'Have you no book which will tell us all about your work? Could you not give us some printed summary of the Tabernacle history?' Here it is, dear friends, and we hope it will satisfy your curiosity and deepen your kindly interest."
"Dr. Stoughton tells us: 'By the Parliamentary ordinance of April, 1645, forbidding any person to preach who was not an ordained minister in the Presbyterian or some other reformed Church, all Baptist ministers became exposed to molestation, they being accounted a sect, and not a Church. A few months after the date of this law, the Baptists being pledged to a public controversy in London with Edmund Calamy, the Lord Mayor interfered to prevent the disputationa circumstance which seems to show that, on the one hand, the Baptists were becoming a formidable body in London, and, on the other hand, that their fellow-citizens were highly exasperated against them.' Or, say rather, that the Lord Mayor's views not being those of the Baptists, he feared the sturdy arguments which would be brought to bear upon his friends, and concluded that the wisest course he could take was to prevent the truth being heard. No Lord Mayor, or even King, has any right to forbid free public speech, and when in past ages an official has done so, it is no evidence that his fellow-citizens were of the same mind: Jack-in office is often peculiarly anxious that the consciences of others should not be injured by hearing views different from his own."
"From some one of the many Baptist assemblies which met in the borough of Southwark, the Tabernacle Church took its rise. Crosby says: 'This people had formerly belonged to one of the most ancient congregations of the Baptists in London, but separated from them, in the year 1652, for some practices which they judged disorderly, and kept together from that time as a distinct body.' They appeared to have met in private houses, or in such other buildings as were opened to them. Their first pastor was William Rider, whom Crosby mentions as a sufferer for conscience' sake, but he is altogether unable to give any further particulars of his life, except that he published a small tract in vindication of the practice of laying on of hands on the baptized believers. The people were few in number, but had the reputation of being men of solid judgment, deep knowledge, and religious stability, and many of them were also in easy circumstances as to worldly goods. Oliver Cromwell was just at that time in the ascendant, and Blake's cannon were sweeping the Dutch from the seas; but the Presbyterian establishment ruled with a heavy hand, and Baptists were under a cloud. In the following year Cromwell was made Protector, the old Parliament was sent about its business, and England enjoyed a measure of liberty of conscience."
"How long William Rider exercised the ministerial office we are unable to tell, but our next record bears date 1688, when we are informed that, 'the pastor having been dead for some time, they unanimously chose Mr. Benjamin Keach to be their elder or pastor.' Accordingly he was solemnly ordained with prayer and the laying on of hands in the year 1668, being in the twenty-eighth year of his age. Keach was one of the most notable of the pastors of our Church. He was continually engaged in preaching in the towns of Buckinghamshire, making Winslow his headquarters; and so well did the good cause flourish under his zealous labors, and those of others that the Government quartered dragoons in the district in order to put down unlawful meetings and stamp out dissent. The amount of suffering which this involved, the readers of the story of the Covenanting times in Scotland can readily imagine. A rough soldiery handle with little tenderness those whom they consider to be miserable fanatics. When the favorite court poet was lampooning these poor people and ridiculing their claims to be guided by the Spirit of God, common soldiers of the Cavalier order were not likely to be much under restraint in their behavior to them."
"Having written a book called The Child's Instructor, in which he avowed that children are born in sin, and in need of redemption by Jesus Christ, he was publicly tried and convicted. The merciful (?) judge pronounced upon the culprit the following sentence
"'Benjamin Keach, you are here convicted for writing, printing, and publishing a seditious and schismatical book, for which the court's judgment is this, and the court doth award: That you shall go to jail for a fortnight without bail or mainprize; and the next Saturday to stand trial upon the pillory at Aylesbury in the open market, from eleven o'clock till one, with a paper upon your head with the inscription: For writing, printing, and publishing a schismatical book, entitled The Child's Instructor; or, a New and Easy Primer. And the next Thursday to stand, in the same manner and for the same time, in the market at Winslow; and then your book shall be openly burnt before your face by the common hangman, in disgrace of you and your doctrine. And you shall forfeit to the King's majesty the sum of twenty pounds, and shall remain in jail until you find sureties for your good behavior, and for your appearance at the next assizes; then to renounce your doctrines, and make such public submission as shall be enjoined you. Take him away, keeper!'
"Keach simply replied, 'I hope I shall never renounce the truths which I have written in that book.'
"The attempts made to obtain a pardon or a relaxation of this severe sentence were ineffectual; and the sheriff took care that everything should be punctually performed.
"When he was brought to the pillory at Aylesbury, several of his religious friends and acquaintances accompanied him; and when they bemoaned his hard case and the injustice of his sufferings, he said, with a cheerful countenance, 'The cross is the way to the crown.' His head and hands were no sooner placed in the pillory, but he began to address himself to the spectators, to this effect: 'Good people, I am not ashamed to stand here this day with this paper on my head! My Lord Jesus was not ashamed to suffer on the cross for me; and it is for His cause that I am made a gazing-stock. Take notice, it is not for any wickedness than I stand here; but for writing and publishing those truths which the Spirit of the Lord hath revealed in the Holy Scriptures.'
"Very sweetly did Mr. Keach preach the great fundamental truths of the Gospel, and glorify the name and work of Jesus. His Gospel's Mine opened', and other works rich in savor, show that he was no mere stickler for a point of ceremony, but one who loved the whole truth as it is in Jesus, and felt its power. The doctrine of the Second Advent evidently had great charms for him, but not so as to crowd out Christ crucified. He was very solid in his preaching, and his whole conduct and behavior betokened a man deeply in earnest for the cause of God. In addressing the ungodly he was intensely direct, solemn, and impressive, not flinching to declare the terrors of the Lord, nor veiling the freeness of Divine grace. He was a voluminous writer, having written in all forty-three workseighteen practical, sixteen polemical, and nine poetical. Some of them were very popular, having reached the twenty-second edition."
"Mr. Keach was of a very weak constitution, being often afflicted with illness, and once to such a degree that he was given over by the physicians; and several of the ministers and his relations had taken their leave of him as a dying man and past all hope of recovery; but the Rev. Mr. Hanserd Knollys, seeing his friend and brother in the gospel so near expiring, betook himself to prayer, and in a very extraordinary manner begged that God would spare him, and add unto his days the time He granted to His servant Hezekiah. As soon as he had ended his prayer, he said, 'Brother Keach, I shall be in heaven before you,' and quickly after justify him. So remarkable was the answer of God to this good man's prayer that we cannot omit it; though it may be discredited by some, there were some who could bear incontestable testimony to the fact. Mr. Keach recovered from that illness, and lived just fifteen years afterward; and then it pleased God to visit him with that short sickness which put an end to his days. 'He fell on sleep' July 16th, 1704, in the sixty-fourth year of his age, and was buried at the Baptists' burying-ground, in the Park, Southwark. It was not a little singular that in after years the church over which he so ably presided should pitch its tent so near the place where his bones were laid, and New Park Street should appear in her annals as a well-beloved. name."
"When Mr. Keach was upon his death-bed he sent for his son-in-law, Benjamin Stinton, and solemnly charged him to care for the Church which he was about to leave, and especially urged him to accept the pastoral office, should it be offered him by the brethren. Mr. Stinton had already for some years helped his father-in-law in many ways, and therefore he was no new and untried man. It is no small blessing when a church can find her pastors in her own midst; the rule is to look abroad, but perhaps if our home gifts were more encouraged the Holy Spirit would cause our teachers to come forth more frequently from among our own brethren. Still, we cannot forget the proverb about a prophet in his own country. When the Church gave Mr. Stinton a pressing invitation, he delayed awhile, and gave himself space for serious consideration; but at length, remembering the dying words of his father-in-law, and feeling himself directed by the Spirit of God, he gave himself up to the ministry, which he faithfully discharged for fourteen yearsnamely, from 1704 to 1718."
"Spending himself in various works of usefulness, Mr. Stinton worked on till the 11th of February, 1718, when a sudden close was put to his labors and his life. He was taken suddenly ill, and saying to his wife, 'I am going,' he laid himself down upon the bed, and expired in the forty-third year of his life. He smiled on death, for the Lord smiled on him. He was buried near his predecessor, in the Park, Southwark."
"In the beginning of the year 1719, the Church at Horsleydown invited John Gill to preach, with a view to the pastorate; but there was a determined opposition to him in about one-half of the church. The matter was referred to the club of ministers meeting at the Hanover Coffee. house, and they gave the absurd advice that the two parties should each hear their own man turn about till they could agree. Common sense came to the rescue, and this sort of religious duel never came off. The friends with far greater wisdom, divided. John Gill's friends secured the old meeting-house for the term of forty years, and he was ordained March 22d, 1720."
"Little did the friends dream what sort of a man they had thus chosen to be their teacher; but had they known it they would have rejoiced that a man of such vast erudition, such indefatigable industry, such sound judgment, and such sterling honesty had come among them. He was to be more mighty with his pen than Keach, and to make a deeper impression upon his age, though perhaps with the tongue he was less powerful than his eminent predecessor. Early in his ministry he had to take up the cudgels for Baptist views against a Paedobaptist preacher of Rowel, near Kettering, and he did so in a manner worthy of that eulogium which Top-lady passed upon him in reference to other controversies, when he compared him to Marlborough, and declared that he never fought a battle without winning it."
"Mr. Gill, being settled in London, became more intimately acquainted with that worthy minister of the gospel, Mr. John Skepp, pastor of the Baptist Church at Cripplegate. This gentleman, though he had not a liberal education, yet, after he came into the ministry, through great diligence acquired a larger acquaintance with the Hebrew tongue. As Mr. Gill had previously taken great delight in the Hebrew, his conversation with this worthy minister rekindled a flame of fervent desire to obtain a more extensive knowledge of it, and especially of Rabbinical learning. Mr. Skepp dying a year or two after, Mr. Gill purchased most of his Hebrew works, the Baptist Fund making him a grant of eighty-seven dollars for this purpose. Having obtained the books, he went to work with great eagerness, reading the Targums and ancient commentaries, and in a course of between twenty and thirty years acquaintance with these writings he collected a large number of learned observations. Having also, in this time, gone through certain books of the Old Testament, and almost the whole of the New Testament, by way of exposition, in the course of his ministry, he put all the expository, critical, and illustrative parts together and in the year 1745 issued proposals for publishing his Exposition of The whole New Testament in three volumes folio. The work meeting due encouragement, it was put to press the same year, and was finished, the first volume in 1746, the second in 1747, and the third in 1748. Toward the close of the publication of this work, in 1748, Mr. Gill received a diploma from Marischal College, Aberdeen, creating him Doctor in Divinity on account of his knowledge of the Scriptures, of the oriental language, and of Jewish antiquities. When his deacons in London congratulated him on the respect which had been shown him he thanked them, pleasantly adding, 'I neither thought it, nor bought it, nor sought it.'
"The ministry of Mr. Gill being acceptable not only to his own people but to many persons of different denominations, several gentlemen proposed among themselves to set up a week-day lecture, that they might have an opportunity of hearing him. Accordingly they formed themselves into a society, and agreed to have a lecture on Wednesday evenings, in Great Eastcheap, and set on foot a subscription to support it. Upon their invitation Mr. Gill undertook the lectureship. He opened it the year 1729 with a discourse or two on Psalm lxxi, 16: 'I will go in the strength of the Lord God :I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only.' Through divine grace he was enabled to abide by this resolution to the edification of many, preaching in Great Eastcheap for more than twenty six years, and only relinquished the lectures when the infirmities of years were telling upon him, and he felt a great desire to give all his time to the completion of his great expository works."
"As a pastor he presided over the flock with dignity and affection. In the course of his ministry he had some weak, some unworthy, and some very wicked persons to deal with. To the feeble of the flock he was an affectionate friend and father. He readily bore with their weaknesses, failings, and infirmities, and particularly when he saw they were sincerely on the Lord's side. A godly woman visited him one day, in great trouble, about the singing; for the clerk, in about three years, had introduced two new tunes. Not that he was a famous singer, or able to conduct a great variety of song, but he did his best. The young people were pleased with the new tunes ; but the good woman could not bear the innovation. The Doctor, after patiently listening, asked her whether she understood singing? 'No,' she said. 'What! can't you sing?' No, she was no singer, nor her aged father before her. And though they had had about a hundred years between them to learn the Old Hundredth tune, they could not sing it, nor any other tune. The Doctor did not hurt her feelings by telling her that people who did not understand singing were the last who should complain; but he meekly said: 'Sister, what tunes should you like us to sing?' 'Why, sir,' she replied, 'I would very much like David's tunes.'
'Well,' said he, 'if you will get David's tunes for us, we can then try to sing them.' Such weak good people may be found among all denominations of Christians."
"All the stories told of Dr. Gill are somewhat grim. He could not come down to the level of men and women of the common order so far as to be jocose; and when he attempted to do so he looked like Hercules with the distaff, or Goliath threading a needle. When he verged upon the humorous the jokes were ponderous and overwhelming, burying his adversary as well as crushing him. It is said that a garrulous dame once called upon him to find fault with the excessive length of his white bands. 'Well, well,' said the Doctor, 'what do you think is the right length? Take them and make them as long or as short as you like.' The lady expressed her delight; she was sure that her dear pastor would grant her request, and therefore she had brought her scissors with her, and would do the trimming at once. Accordingly, snip, snip, and the thing was done, and the bibs returned. 'Now,' said the Doctor, 'my good sister, you must do me a good turn also.' 'Yes, that I will, Doctor. What can it be?' 'Well, you have something about you which is a deal too long, and causes me no end of trouble, and I should like to see it shorter.' 'Indeed, dear sir, I will not hesitate,' said the dame; 'what is it? Here are the scissors, use them as you please.' 'Come then,' said the pastor, 'good sister, put out your tongue!' We have often pictured him sitting in the old chair, which is preserved in our vestry, and thus quietly rebuking the gossip."
"The comparative asperity of his manner was probably the result of his secluded habits, and also of that sturdy firmness of mind, which in other directions revealed itself so admirably. When he was once warned that the publication of a certain book would lose him many supporters and reduce his income, he did not hesitate for a moment, but replied: 'Do not tell me of losing. I value nothing in comparison with gospel truth. I am not afraid to be poor!'"
"The mighty commentator having been followed to his grave by his attached Church and a great company of ministers and Christian people, among whom he had been regarded as a great man and a prince in Israel, his Church began to look around for a successor. This time, as in the case of Dr. Gill, there was trouble in store, for there was division of opinion. Some no doubt, as true Gillites looked only for a solid divine, sound in doctrine, who would supply the older saints with spiritual food; while another party had an eye to the growth of the Church and to the securing to the flock the younger members of their families. They were agreed that they would write to Bristol for a probationer, and Mr. John Rippon was sent to them. He was a youth of some twenty summers, of a vivacious temperment, quick and bold. The older members judged him to be too young and too flighty they even accused him of having gone up the pulpit stairs two steps at a time on some occasions when he was hurrieda grave offense for which the condemnation could hardly be too severe. He was only a young man and came from an academy, and this alone was enough to make the sounder and older members afraid of him. He preached for a lengthened time on probation, and finally some forty persons withdrew because they could not agree with the enthusiastic vote by which the majority of the people elected him."
"John Rippon modestly expressed his wonder that even more had not been dissatisfied, and his surprise that so large a number were agreed to call him to the pastorate. In the spirit of forbearance and brotherly love he proposed that, as these friends were seceding for conscience' sake, and intended to form themselves into another Church, they should be lovingly dismissed with prayer and God-speed, and that as a token of fraternal love they should be assisted to build a meeting-house for their own conscience, and the sum of fifteen hundred dollars should be voted to them when their Church was formed and their meeting-house erected. The promise was redeemed, and Mr. Rippon took part in the ordination services of the first minister. This was well done. Such a course was sure to secure the blessing of God. The church in Dean Street thus became another offshoot from the parent stem, and with varying conditions it remains to this day as the church in Trinity Street, Borough.
"He will be best known as having prepared the first really good selection of hymns for dissenting congregations. Although a Baptist collection, it was extensively used with Dr. Watts's among both classes of Congregationalists. This work was an estate to its author, and he is said to have been more than sufficiently eager to push its sale. One thing we know, his presents of nicely bound copies must have been pretty frequent, for we have seen several greatly prized by their aged owners, who have shown them to us, with the remark, 'The dear old Doctor gave me that himself.'"
"The happy eccentncity of the Doctor's character may be illustrated by a little incident in connection with royalty. He was deputed to read an address from the Dissenters to George III, congratulating him upon recovery from sickness. The Doctor read on with his usual clear utterance till, coming to a passage in which there was special reference to the goodness of God, he paused and said: 'Please your Majesty, we will read that again,' and then proceeded with his usual cool dignity to repeat the sentence with emphasis. No other man in the deputation would have thought of doing such a thing, but from Rippon it came so naturally that no one censured him, or if they did it would have had no effect upon him."
"There are still some in the Church who cherish his memory with affectionate and well-deserved reverence; and there are thousands in Heaven who were led first to love the Saviour by his earnest exhortations. He quarried fresh stones, and built up the Church. He molded its thoughts and directed its energies. Without being great he was exceedingly useful, and the period in which he was one of the judges of our Israel was one of great prosperity in spiritual things. It was a good sixty-three years, and with the previous pastorate of Dr. Gill, enabled the Church to say that during one hundred and seventeen years they had been presided over by two ministers only. Those who are given to change were not numerous in the community. Short pastorates are good when ministers are feeble, but it is a great blessing when the saints are so edified that all are content, and the ministry is so owned of God that vacancies are filled up even before they are felt: in such a case change would wantonly imperil the hope of continued prosperity, and would therefore be criminal."
"The next pastor of our Church was Mr.now DoctorJoseph Angus, a gentleman whose career since he justify us to become secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society, and afterward the tutor of Stepney Academy, now Regent's Park College, has rendered his name most honorable among living Baptists. He is one of the foremost classical scholars, and is a member of the committee for producing a revised version of the Holy Scriptures. He is the author of those standard books, The Bible Handbook, The Handbook of the English Tongue, and Handbook of English Literature."
"Mr. James Smith succeeded Dr. Angus, and after a useful pastorate of eight years resigned on account of ill health. In October, 1849, he wrote: 'For a considerable time I have felt an oppression on my chest, and great difficulty in breathing. Last week I consulted a doctor upon it, and he advised me to leave London as soon as I could, and get into the country, as my lungs required a purer air. I am seeking wisdom from God: I cannot doubt but He will guide me."
"In February, 1850, he said: 'I have written my resignation of office, and laid it before the deacons. It is a serious and important step which I have taken. I trust I have taken it in a proper spirit, and from a right motive. My mind is now calm and peaceful, the agitation from which I have long been suffering is at an end, and I feel as if I could now leave the matter with the Lord."
"'When my resignation was accepted, the Church passed a very kind and affectionate resolution regretting that I felt it necessary to take such a step but as I had rested it pretty much on the state of my health, they did not feel that they could refuse to accede to my wishes. I cannot say that I have labored in vain here, for many souls have been converted, some backsliders have been restored, and between four hundred and five hundred members have been added to the Church during my pastorate of eight years. Many of my poor people deeply feel the step which I have felt it my duty to take, and I have received very affectionate letters from several of them. May they soon be favored with a pastor more suitable and efficient than I have been.'"
"Mr. Smith built up in Cheltenham the strong working Church now meeting in Cambray Chapel, which was erected by his exertions. When he was lying upon his dying bed the Church at the Tabernacle sent him a heartily affectionate letter, and gratefully reminded him of all the blessings which the Lord had bestowed upon many souls by his means. To this we received a delightful answer, assuring us that our words had greatly cheered him. He died in 1861, and an account of an interview with him may interest the reader if we include it in our pages. 'I saw this week the former pastor of this Church, Mr. James Smith, of Cheltenham. About a year ago he was struck with paralysis, and one-half of his body is dead. But yet I have seldom seen a more cheerful man in the full hey-day of strength. I had been told that he was the subject of very fearful conflicts at times; so after I had shaken hands with him, I said: 'Friend Smith, I hear you have many doubts and fears!' 'Who told you that?' he said, 'for I have none.' 'Never have any? Why I understood you had many conflicts.' 'Yes,' he said, 'I have many conflicts, but I have no doubts; I have many wars within, but I have no fears. Who could have told you that? I hope I have not led any one to think that. It is a hard battle, but the victory is sure.' Then he said in his own way, 'I am just like a packet that is all ready to go by train, packed, corded, labeled, paid for, and on the platform, waiting for the express to come by and take me to glory. I wish I could hear the whistle now.'"
"In July, 1851, the Church invited the Rev. William Walters, of Preston, to become the pastor, but as he understood the deacons to intimate to him that his ministry was not acceptable, he tendered his resignation, and although requested to remain, he judged it more advisable to remove to Halifax in June, 1853, thus closing a ministry of two years. These changes sadly diminished the Church and marred its union. The clouds gathered heavily, and no sunlight appeared."
Mr. Spurgeon's record is necessarily very much condensed, and very wisely omits the most interesting incidents concerning the history of individuals connected with the Church and showing their self-sacrifices. Some of these incidents which occurred during Mr. Spurgeon's early years in the pastorate of the Tabernacle have been recorded by others and frequently related in public by persons acquainted with the circumstances.
One of the most helpful workers in the building of the Tabernacle and who secured very large subscriptions from his friends to pay the debt when the building was dedicated, was found by Mr. Spurgeon, years before, on a wretched bed in poverty, afflicted with what was considered to be a fatal disease. Mr. Spurgeon received an anonymous letter calling his attention to this sad case, and while, as a rule, he did not read such letters, or follow their advice, in that case he made the suggested visit upon the poor and afflicted young man. The young man recovered his health soon after and was secured employment by the influence of Mr. Spurgeon, and he proved to be one of the best business men in that part of London.
At another time he received a large accession to the membership from another denomination owing to a bitter quarrel which raged in the Church to which they had belonged. Mr. Spurgeon kept them waiting for some weeks, making them frequently a subject for prayer, before he would consent that they should be received by the Church; he having had a very strong suspicion that they were joining his Church more out of spite than because they loved the Lord; yet it proved to be one of the greatest blessings that ever came to the enterprise. For among the number were some of the sincerest, noblest Christian characters and some of the most generous givers in the latter years of his life.
An old fish woman frequently visited his home, after his marriage, with whom Mr. Spurgeon conversed upon the matter of her soul's salvation. She answered him abruptly, and with great rudeness dedared that she had no interest in any of those things, as religion "was made for fine people, or for those who had no money to lose." That same fish woman before her death, insisted on sending her daughter to Mr. Spurgeon's Sabbath-school, where she was converted and where she joined the Church. That fish woman's son-in-law was a very influential member of this Church, a strong supporter of the college, and is often referred to by the students who leave the college as one of their dearest friends and one in whom they put the most implicit confidence whenever his advice is given.
A boatman on the Thames, whose boat sprung a leak through some accident, received a suggestion from Mr. Spurgeon for caulking it without great expense. One friend says that Mr. Spurgeon not only paid for the material but went to the boat with a caulking knife and showed the boatman how to do the work. That boatman's brother was afterward a member of the House of Commons and for months regularly worshipped at the Tabernacle.
One woman with a little child in her arms wandered into the meeting in 1856 and the baby cried so as to disturb the people, and she was kindly invited into one of the vestry-rooms by the officer of the Church. Mrs. Spurgeon and a committee of ladies were at the time in the vestry, attending to some Church matters. They entered into conversation with the woman and especially noticing the baby and assisted in quieting its cries.
The woman's report to her uncle of Mrs. Spurgeon's kindness brought him to the Church as a curious visitor, which resulted in his uniting with the Church and becoming one of the most efficient missionaries sent out for the local missions.
One woman made Mrs. Spurgeon a present of some fancy cooking; and a letter which she wrote in acknowledgment of the kindness was received by the family after the hand which had made the cookies was cold in death. The family at once sent for Mr. Spurgeon to attend the funeral, and there he had conversation with the husband, who became a member of his Church and was afterward a very effective minister in Germany, where he preached the gospel for ten years.
When the Tabernacle was being constructed, Mr. Spurgeon and some of the officers of the Church held prayer-meetings as they knelt in the midst of the accumulating material which was not yet in place. A young man standing by altogether unnoticed by them, made inquiries of a police officer concerning what was being done, and afterward related the incident to friends in New York. It was directly or indirectly from these New York friends that Mr. Spurgeon received quite a large gift in connection with the establishment of the Orphanage. We have never been able to trace the history of the young man who witnessed their prayer, but have often heard the fact referred to in England.
Mr. Spurgeon, one day in 1858, sent an old Bible to be rebound. It was either a keepsake in the family or else it. was a volume made valuable because it was antique. The binding was delayed for several weeks because the binder had broken his arm. Mr. Spurgeon called at last for the book, and, finding it not finished at the second visit, asked that he might take it away to some other place. It was then for the first time that he ascertained the real reason why the book had not been bound before, and when he returned to his study he wrote a letter of condolence to the binder, and told him to keep the book until he was able to bind it. That book-binder's son is one of the most eloquent graduates of Spurgeon 's college, now having a Church in the United States.
One man who had been addicted largely to drink, who had reformed under Mr. Spurgeon's personal solicitation, afterward became quite wealthy and insisted on presenting Mr. Spurgeon with a horse and carriage When the gift was declined, he turned the money into the treasury of the Orphanage.
An insane man entered one of their social meetings at the Church and created a great disturbance, one evening in 1857. Public officers were called in, and he was removed and continued calling out that the Lord had impressed upon him the necessity of killing all the people in the Church. A little later an advertisement appeared in a newspaper asking for information concerning an insane person whose description seemed to show him to be the same man who had so greatly disturbed the religious meetings, and who had been declared to be insane by the authorities. A young man in Mr. Spurgeon's Sunday-school called his attention to the advertisement, and he answered it, telling the friend who advertised where to procure the information from the public authorities. The man afterward entirely recovered, went to Australia, where he prospered in business, and where his sister died, leaving in her trunk the letter from Mr. Spurgeon. When the gentleman found that letter among the effects of his much-beloved sister, he was greatly moved by it, and especially, as he had frequently heard of Mr. Spurgeon and but a few days before had listened to a sermon by one of the students from the College. He wrote to Mr. Spurgeon, expressing his great gratitude for the kindness he had done him by showing his friends where he could be found, and enclosed a check for $1OO to be used by Mr. Spurgeon himself or devoted to any beneficence he might think best. His name appears twice afterward in the list of donors toward the work of the Tabernacle, but how much he contributed cannot be now well ascertained.
But his experience was not all of this fruitful character, for, like all other public men, he attracted to him a great many swindlers and beggars, who were only anxious to get from his large heartedness and open-handedness all they could and then to leave him to reflect in sadness upon the depraved character of human nature.
One man in 1861 visited him, who claimed to be from America, whose tongue was so smooth, and whose manners were so gentlemanly that he entirely deceived Mr. Spurgeon. The villain prayed most touchingly, exhorted with success, and was frequently sent out by Mr. Spurgeon to mission stations, there to assist in public and personal Christian work among the lower classes. Mr. Spurgeon recommended him without fear to the business men connected with his congregation, and by means of these recommendations he secured quite large sums in subscriptions toward the Church work, which he used entirely for his own benefit. He forged Mr. Spurgeon's signature, and even passed counterfeit money. He justify Mr. Spurgeon much wiser, but very much poorer.
Thus, like a pendulum, swinging to and fro, Mr. Spurgeon's experience swept from the sad to the gay, from the sorrowful to the joyful; or from loss to gain, in such unexpected and unforeseen ways.
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