MRS. SPURGEON AND HER WORK
God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, and hence made a help that was meet for him. It is no easier to account for love than it is for taste. Like the dove which shines with all the reflected hues of heaven, it lights upon the most unseemly objects, and often without forethought or consideration, seeks apparently only a resting-place and a home.
With all our boasted free-will and pride of independence, how little we know of our future and how little we have to do with the molding of the circumstances of life, is well demonstrated in the strange revolutions which love makes in human life.
If one could have looked down upon these two persons in 1850, seeing Susanna, an industrious, bright school-girl, in the great city, associating with city people, with city ideas and city culture; and Charles, a rude rustic at New Market, clumsy, awkward, and expressing by thought and gesture all the uncouth side of country life, they would have said that it was impossible for them to have found in each other's disposition or tastes that unity of thought which is a necessity to the most complete domestic life. Yet five years later, these two lives were so merged into each other as to make a most beautiful scene of affection in their home life, and so as to express their affection for each other in a harmony that was positively sublime.
Home is always the word which is nearest to the word heaven. The domestic love which makes home what it is, is the only sentiment on earth which makes heaven intelligible.
Miss Susanna Thomson's father was an attendant, or a member, of the New Park Street Church at the time it extended the call to Charles to become its pastor, but it is said that he was discouraged with the condition of the church, like many other members, and his family had, in a great measure, lost their interest in its meetings. He was a merchant, in prosperous circumstances, and consequently gave his family all the comforts and many of the luxuries of some aristocratic circles.
His daughter, Susanna, was of a quiet, sweet disposition, most earnestly devoted to Christian work and to silent deeds of charity. When her father mentioned in the family circle the fact that a young man from Essex was to preach the next Sunday in the Park Street pulpit, she paid but little heed to the announcement, and it is said that she could not be persuaded to attend the first service.
Mr. Spurgeon's own description of his dress, manners and feelings at the time he entered London for the first time, will show that he was at that time in no sense a person who would be naturally attractive in the eyes of the ladies. He had none of the sweet airs, and could not afford the fashionable dress, such as the beaux of the great metropolis affected. His expressions, both of countenance and speech, partook largely of his native fields. He did not know how to hold his hands, and made vain efforts to hide his feet. He states that in the boarding-house where he stopped the night before he preached for the first time in London, the boarders entertained him with marvellous stories of the learning, culture and critical disposition of the London people, and greatly frightened him by comparing him, by inference, with the celebrated preachers and learned theologians that London delighted to honor. He was so conscious of his own awkwardness and inability to fill so important a place as that at the New Park Street chapel, that he says he lay awake the entire previous night, and entered the church in the morning feeling very weary and trembling with apprehension. But he succeeded, through earnest prayer, and through the kind encouragement of the friends who attended the service, in getting through the day so acceptably as to win considerable sincere praise and feel a sense of encouragement in his heart.
When he appeared in the pulpit on his second visit to the city, he was greeted with many kindly smiles and encouraging nods, and the state of things had greatly changed in his favor.
The few members of the church who had heard him on his first visit, had taken especial pains to canvass the entire neighborhood, and bring to the service every friend over whom they had any personal influence. In this effort Susanna was induced to join, and made it her Christian duty to secure the attendance of her own acquaintances. Their pride in their church led the people to try to fill the house, in order that the place might appear less dreary and more inviting to the stranger who was to fill the pulpit.
A friend, who remembers well that day, says that Susanna said: "It would be a shame to have a man come so far and find the church so poorly attended." How little could that girl, in the simplicity of her Christian work and life, foresee how great was to be the effect upon her own happiness and usefulness of that Christian labor.
In this century, when every girl's life is to herself an enigma, because it depends so largely upon circumstances entirely beyond her control, how obscure her future must appear! To the young man, who can entertain reasonable ambitions and make probable prophecies concerning his future in business life, there is a measure of certainty which adds much to its attractiveness and much of enjoyment to his youthful studies. But a woman's life is far more uncertain, because it depends in so great a degree upon the appearance, habits and position of some man of whom, in her girlhood, she may know nothing whatever.
Such must have been the condition of Susanna when she saw, for the first time, this young man standing in the pulpit. That he would ever be anything more to her than a mere acquaintance, or possibly pastor and teacher, could never have entered her thoughts at that time, unless they wandered into the most extravagant imaginations. Their lives were so different. They were so far apart.
Man's love is of himself a thing apart,
'Tis woman's whole existence
With Charles that day, his mind must have been entirely enveloped in the awful undertaking he had in hand, and cares which can scarcely be appreciated by any other person, must have kept his heart beating very fast and his brain crowded with conflicting anxieties. He could have cared little for the ladies that day, and could have given them but slight attention. His mind was overwhelmed with care.
What she thought has, of course, been hidden in the silent bowers of a Christian woman's modest reserve. A Providence which neither could have foreseen, but which both most reverently respected, had brought them that day into an association which was to furnish, in this life, a sweetest foretaste of Paradise, and begin an acquaintance which should not cease through all the rolling ages of a happy eternity.
While the precincts of the heart's love and the sacred realms of domestic affection are rightly regarded as holy ground, upon which the unwelcome stranger cannot tread, yet in the study of a great man's biography there is no more important event in his history than such a circumstance as this.
Many a man with a brilliant mind, with capital and social position, has been destroyed by an unfortunate marriage. Many others without capital or social position, or any especial gift of genius, have been lifted into prominence, wealth and fame, through the valuable support which they received in the potent aid of a brilliant and faithful wife. The cases are indeed very rare where a man of genius has made his mark upon his time or upon subsequent history, who was not strengthened, encouraged and supported by a persevering woman.
In some cases the husband is merely a figurehead, sensitively responsive to a power behind the throne, which dwells altogether with his wife. But view it in any light we choose, and endeavor by every possible excuse to belittle the influence of the wife, yet in every married man's history it works a very important factor in all that he accomplishes.
With a nature like that of Mr. Spurgeon's, with many defects to repair and a lack of general education to be supplied, a cultivated and persevering wife might be considered an unquestioned necessity. It seems now to have been a part of the great Divine plan to have brought these two persons into intimate association, that the wife might supply all that was lacking in Mr. Spurgeon's outfit for the great work he was to do.
To the spectator, he had sacrificed much in giving up his college education for the purpose of carrying on the Lord's work at Waterbeach. But in the attendance of Susanna upon the service in London, we find a hand in the providential events completely making up to Mr. Spurgeon there, all that he had lost in his Christian resolution.
Intimate friends may have overestimated the loveliness of her mental character, and the writers who have mentioned her may have highly colored their representations, yet there can remain no doubt upon the most conservative mind, but that she was as remarkable a woman as he was a man.
It will readily be seen that the responsibility which he had assumed as a boy, in connection with one of the oldest and most aristocratic Baptist churches in London, would soon have discouraged him altogether, had there not entered into his life this unutterable affection and its consequent ambition to make a great man of himself.
Man is so constituted mentally, that he never reaches his highest attainments and never gives reins to the noblest ambitions, until he is aroused to the highest motives by a true and positive affection for some sweet-minded woman. There are ambitions in connection with the desire for money, with the hope of fame, and with the inspiration of a patriotic heart, but none of them will push a man on to such greatness of thought or heights of effort as a manly love, which influences all his hopes, all his thoughts, and every attribute of his moral character.
After they had met and found in each other the companion which God had intended for them, Mr. Spurgeon would then be determined to go on with his pastoral work in London, and no discouragement whatever would be allowed to interfere with his intention there to remain.
To those biographers who have not considered how great a feature of his life his marriage must have been, the question has often been asked: "Why was not such a boy, with his attainments, a failure in such untoward surroundings?" The answer is partially found here. His love for true womanhood would lead him to sacrifice everything else but that, in order to succeed. Her eyes would inspire, and her advice confirm him under all circumstances, and lead him to the most reckless daring in anything that would be likely to please her. In a true love, such as was theirs, there could scarcely be any higher service of God than to be affectionately loyal to a God-given wife. Her home was in London. She would dislike greatly to leave it. His home must be where she was. Consequently we find a combination in this of all kinds of circumstances and motives, to determine his action in reference to the upbuilding of his new interests in London.
It is easy to see how much more carefully he would select his language, and how many more hours he would give to the study of his sermons, how much more cautious he would be in his care of the church, and how much more courteous he would be in his intercourse with the members of the church, with the feelings of a domestic love confirming his most sincere devotion to the service of God.
The man who could not be eloquent under these circumstances, would be exceedingly dull under any other. He who would not be fervent in spirit and diligent in business serving the Lord, with a providential combination, such as surrounded him then, would be a most disgraceful failure under many ordinary circumstances.
True worship, sincere patriotism and domestic love filled his heart with great ambitions and sustained him through the hours of most arduous work. "Victory or death" would be as truly his cry there, as it has been the motto of warriors in the midst of uncertain battle. He had secured a teacher who was much more than a teacher, as she supplied also motive and inspiration.
On the 8th day of January, 1856, at mid-day, Charles and Susanna were united in marriage.
That his wife must have been an unusually beloved young woman in the church, is evident from the fact that we find the marriage awakened no jealousy on the part of others, and did not stir the gossips of the neighborhood into prognostications of evil. "God bless them both," was the sincere benediction of young and old, of rich and poor, throughout their entire acquaintance.
Well might Charles then, on his knees before God, give most heartfelt thanksgiving for the blessings he had received, and pledge himself, with all his stubborn nature, to an entire lifetime devoted to the self-sacrificing service of the Saviour who had so favored him.
From their very first acquaintance, Mr. and Mrs. Spurgeon were a perpetual strength to each other. She could curb the uncouth eccentricities and correct his mistakes in language or history, and she hesitated not in the most affectionate manner to apply her criticisms where she saw they would do her husband good.
He urged her to take the place of a public critic and notice his errors that he might the more readily correct them, and as she was a lady of excellent good sense and of quite extensive reading, she was a far safer critic than any man he could have selected.
Had he married a silly woman, who would have regarded him as the perfection of sainthood, or a devotee of fashion, who would have discouraged him with her corrections, he could never have attained the eminence which he reached. Had he allied himself with a wife who was less pious and sincere, or who would not have maintained her hold upon the affections and esteem of his congregation, she would have served to injure his reputation and undermine many of the spiritual buildings he was able to construct.
But she worked with him, prayed with him, believed in him, and most affectionately loved him through those many years of his work. The thought of her, even when he was absent from home, was to him a subtle rest of spirit. He could travel many days and preach several times a day, finding a rest in the thought that at home she was hourly praying for him, and was awaiting him with a welcome he could anticipate with a sense of divine peace.
Once when absent in Yorkshire, ten years after their marriage, he wrote to her this characteristic letter in poetry:
Over the space that parts us, my wife,
I'll cast me a bridge of song,
Our hearts shall meet, O joy of my life,
On its arch unseen, but strong.
The wooer his new love's name may wear
Engraved on a precious stone;
But in my heart thine image I wear,
That heart has long been thine own.
The glowing colors on surface laid,
wash out in a shower of rain;
Thou need'st not be of rivers afraid,
For my love is dyed ingrain.
And as every drop of Garda's lake
Is tinged with sapphire's blue,
So all the powers of my mind partake
Of joy at the thought of you.
The glittering dewdrops of dawning love
Exhale as the day grows old,
And fondness, taking the wings of a dove,
Is gone like a tale of old.
But mine for thee, from the chambers of joy,
With strength came forth as the sun,
Nor life nor death shall its force destroy,
Forever its course shall run.
All earth-born love must sleep in the grave,
To its native dust return;
What God hath kindled shall death out-brave,
And in heaven itself shall burn.
Beyond and above the wedlock tie
Our union to Christ we feel;
Uniting bonds which were made on high
Shall hold us when earth shall reel.
Though He who chose us all worlds before,
Must reign in our hearts alone,
We fondly believe that we shall adore
Together before His throne:
When his assailants spoke of him with sad falsehoods, and when friends forsook or betrayed, there was always one who stood like a shield between him and the arrows of wickedness, quenching their fiery darts most easily with the shield of domestic love.
Wherever in his busy life he could not go, she was there to supply the lack. Whenever there was a book needed, she was first to diligently search for it. Economical, neat, careful, conservative and quiet in all her relations to the public, she supplied to him so much of nerve, instruction and vigor as to make him what his brother often claimed he was, "two men, instead of one."
"How do you manage to do two men's work in a single day?" was the question asked of him by the great traveler, Dr. Livingstone.
"You have forgotten that there are two of us," said Mr. Spurgeon, "and the one you see the least of, often does the most work."
Stray gleams of the glory which filled his home are sometimes caught in a study of his sermons, and especially in many of his comments upon Scripture. Heaven is ever to him a Christian's affectionate home.
Mr. and Mrs. Spurgeon had but two homes in
London after their marriage. The first was in Nightingale Lane in the city, where they
occupied a small house, to which was attached a small but fruitful garden. There they
lived for nearly twenty-five years. The very thought of it fills the reader with a
reverent sensation. It was there that their twin sons, Charles and Thomas, were born; it
was there that pain and sickness often came; it was there that the trials and cares of
life were often discussed; it was there that sermons were thought out and frequently
rehearsed before their delivery ; but it was also there that was always found a cheerful
trust in God, unshaken love for each other, and a domestic peace, such as only the most
perfect of English homes enjoy.
Mrs. Spurgeon, herself, in speaking of their "moving-day" from that first home in London, afterwards wrote :
"What a stirring up of one's quiet nest this removal is! and how tenderly one yearns to look on familiar objects from which we are to be parted forever! The heart yearns over a place endeared by an intimate acquaintance of twenty-three years, and full of happy or solemn associations. Each nook and corner, both of house and garden, abounds with sweet or sorrowful memories, and the remembrance of manifold mercies clings like a rich tapestry to the walls of the desolate rooms. On this spot nearly a quarter of a century of blissful wedded life has been passed, and though both husband and wife have been called to suffer severe physical pain and months of weakness within its boundary, our house has been far oftener 'a Bethel' to us than a 'bochin.' The very walls might cry out against us as ungrateful did we not silence them by our ceaseless thanksgiving; for the Lord has here loaded us with benefits and consecrated every inch of space with tokens of His great loving kindness. The sun of His goodness has photographed every portion of our dear homes upon our hearts, and though other lights and shadows must be reflected there in coming days, they can never obliterate the sweet images which grateful memory will jealously preserve. Tender remembrances will render indelible the pictures of the sick-chamber, which so many times has almost been 'the gate of heaven' to our spirit; the little room, tenderly fitted up by a husband's careful love, and so often the scene of a scarcely-hoped-for convalescence; the study, sacred to the pastor's earnest work, and silent witness of wrestlings and communings known only to God and his own soul ; the library, where the shelves gladly suffered a constant spoliation and renewal for the blessed work of the Book-Fund.
It's hard to leave all these sympathetic surroundings and dwell in the house of a stranger; but we believe we have seen the cloudy pillar move, and heard our Leader's voice bidding us 'go forward,' so, in trustful obedience, we strike our tent, and prepare to depart to the place of which he has told us. And our new home may be to us a 'Tabor' if our Lord will but dwell with us there! On our first view of it we were strongly reminded of Bunyan's description of the 'delectable mountains,' and every subsequent visit deepens that impression. 'A pleasant prospect on every side,' said he, 'these mountains are Immanuel's land; they are within sight of His city,. the sheep also are His, and He laid down His life for them.'
The shepherds show the pilgrims the gates of the Celestial City 'if they had the skill to look through their prospective glass.' It may be that the Lord, our Shepherd, has called us to the top of this hill to show us 'something like the gate, and some of the glory of the place, beforehand, that our hearts may be set a-longing for the bliss of our eternal home. 'O Lord, if thy spirit go not with us, carry us not up hence!'
The following inscription, written by Mr. Spurgeon, was justify in the house:
"Farewell, fair room, I leave thee to
Peace dwell with him and all his kin.
May angels evermore the house defend,
Their Lord hath often been within."
With such a home no external conflict could be too severe and no persecutions be unendurable. As the hearthstone of home gleams with a brighter and more cheerful ray when storms sweep without and rattle on the pane, so the presence of such a wife as Mrs. Spurgeon proved to be, makes the dwelling a paradise amid the weeds and briery deserts of a wicked world.
He could take home the basest calumnies and the most spiteful caricatures and there courageously laugh at their weakness most heartily.
"Man may trouble and distress me,
'Twill but drive me to thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me,
Home will bring me sweeter rest."
As the afflictions of life and the persecutions of our fellow-men make heaven dearer and fit us for its supreme enjoyment, so in this life, although it may be upon a smaller scale, the hard work and the cares of a man are at his home transmuted into the most precious joys, by the wife's sweet welcome which he receives at his door.
When through his wife's management and the liberality of kind friends and the unexpected rise in the value of his house, he was able to move from the smaller home into the large and beautiful villa at Westwood, with its lawn, shade trees, flower gardens and fountains, there was a strong feeling of regret and sadness on the part of them both as they stepped forth for the last time from their early home.
Mr. Spurgeon always regarded the old house as a dear friend, and often expressed his thankfulness that he was able to leave it in the hands of a dear acquaintance.
Although Mr. Spurgeon ever appeared to be a hearty, robust man, of unusual health, yet he was frequently compelled to take to his bed through illness, and there received the kind ministrations of his patient, affectionate wife. But a far greater trial to him than his own frequent sickness, was the gradually increasing infirmities which afflicted his wife through the latter half of their married life. For a few years she was wholly an invalid, and became the subject of his most earnest prayers and most affectionate care. Her pitiful imprisonment by disease made her much dearer to him, as such an experience always affects the heart of any noble man. He could find no words to express his admiration for her benevolent Christian character, and was continually dissatisfied with himself that he was not able in some form or another to do more for the relief of her distress.
Day after day, and week after week, she sat in that easy chair, hoping against hope that she might be able to go forth once more to the active duties of the church, or at least to care for the domestic duties of the home. But years came and went, and she was still there. Her spirit yearned to be of more use to mankind, and she prayed the Lord to permit her to share in some direction in her husband's labors for the salvation of the souls of men. In answer to that prayer, she was directed to the establishment of that important enterprise, called the Book-Fund.
By that undertaking, she secured gifts of money and books from Christian donors, which she used in supplying the scant libraries of poor preachers in the country places.
Her own record of that undertaking furnishes a somewhat comprehensive idea of the work, and at the same time gives a more excellent estimate of her own character than anything any stranger could write. Hence we turn to what she has herself written, and present here such portions of it as will give the reader a full insight into her life as an invalid, and also into the marvelous results of the work she undertook.
Mr. Spurgeon, in 1886, in an introduction to
a book containing a record of Mrs. Spurgeon's Book-Fund, very tenderly said:
I gratefully adore the goodness of our Heavenly Father, in directing my beloved wife to a work which has been to her fruitful in unutterable happiness. That it has cost her more pain than it would be fitting to reveal, is most true; but that it has brought her boundless joy, is equally certain. Our gracious Lord ministered to His suffering child, in the most effectual manner, when He graciously led her to minister to the necessities of His service. By this means, He called her away from her personal grief, gave tone and concentration to her life, led her to continual dealings with Himself, and raised her nearer the center of that region where other than earthly joys and sorrows reigned supreme. Let every believer accept this as the inference of experience, that for most human maladies the best relief and antidote will be found in self-sacrificing work for the Lord Jesus.
If I said a word in praise of the worker herself, my preface would not be acceptable to the author of these reports, and therefore I must content myself with expressing my conviction that the work is sadly needed, has been exceedingly useful, and is still urgently called for. How can many of our ministers buy books? How can those in the villages get them at all? What must their ministries become if their minds are starved? Is it not a duty to relieve the famine which is raging in many a manse? Is it not a prudential measure, worthy of the attention of all who wish to see the masses influenced by religion, that the preachers who occupy our pulpits should be kept well furnished with material for thought?
By the Book-Fund, not less than twelve thousand ministers of all denominations have been supplied with at least a few fresh books. Sometimes men have been aided in somewhat unusual studies for which they had special predilection. Not long ago I had to become an adviser to the Fund, as to a grammar, etc., for the study of Syriac, for the use of one who had a call in that direction. The Fund does not profess to grant works other than those needed for the special work of the ministry, but even this gives a wide range, especially in the case of missionaries. I think great discretion has been used in the distribution of the bounty. I am sure it has been blended with the utmost sympathy and Christian love.
From that record we will try to collect those
interesting facts which are german to this history, and quote, as far as possible, from
her own words. When asked how the Book-Fund began, she said:
It was in the summer of 1875 that my dear husband completed and published the first volume of his 'Lectures to my Students.' Reading one of the proof copies, I became so enamored with the book, that when the dear author asked, 'Well, how do you like it?' I answered with a full heart, 'I wish I could place it in the hands of every minister in England.' 'Then why not do so? How much will you give?' said my very practical spouse. I must confess I was unprepared for such a challenge. I was ready enough to desire the distribution of the precious book, but to assist in it, or help to pay for it, had not occurred to me; but 'John Ploughman' drives a straight furrow to one's heart, and knows how to turn over the thick clods of selfishness which lie there choking up the useful growths; and very soon his words set me thinking how much I could spare from housekeeping, or personal matters, to start this new scheme. I knew it would necessitate a pressure somewhere, for money was not plentiful just then; but to see dear John's face beam so radiantly at the idea of my scattering his books far and wide, was worth any effort ; and love, even more than obedience, constrained me to carry out the suddenly formed plan. Then came the wonderful part; I found the money ready and waiting! Upstairs, in a little drawer, were some carefully hoarded crown-pieces, which, owing to some foolish fancy, I had been gathering for years, whenever chance threw one in my way; these I now counted out, and found they made a sum exactly sufficient to pay for one hundred copies of the work! If a twinge of regret at parting from my cherished, but unwieldy, favorites passed over me, it was gone in an instant, and then they were given freely and thankfully to the Lord, and in that moment, though I knew it not, 'The Book-Fund' was inaugurated.
All last winter, in the sunniest corner of the south window of our especial sanctum, there stood a common garden flower-pot containing a little plant which we deemed a marvel of grace and beauty. We had sown some lemon pips the preceding autumn with a lively hope that one or more of them might possess the wonderful life-germ, and we were well rewarded for our confidence. In due time a frail little stem and two of the tiniest leaves that ever coaxed their way through the dark mold made their appearance, and from that moment it was watched, and watered, and tended with assiduous care. So frail at first, and delicate, that a drop of dew would have overwhelmed it, it nevertheless soon gained courage, the tender stem strengthened, one by one other and larger leaves unfolded themselves, and the little plant stood perfect and complete. It was a very little thing; but it gave great pleasure; and though some of the younger members of the house-hold would occasionally ask, with just a suspicion of sarcasm in their tone, 'If there were any lemons yet?' we cherished our little plant even more lovingly, and thanked God who, with infinite tenderness towards His suffering children, often deepens and intensifies their enjoyment of daily mercies, throwing a special charm around their common comforts, and causing a leaf, a flower, or the song of a bird, to whisper sweet 'comfortable thoughts' in their hearts.
But this winter our Heavenly Father has given us a better plant to care for. The little tree of the 'Book-Fund' sprang from as small a beginning as the lemon plant itself, and we fondly hope it is as surely a creation of the Lord's hand. Great was the loving kindness which brought this plant into our sick-chamber, and gave us the loving commission to 'dress and keep it.' With what joy we received the charge, and how happy the work made us, words fail to tell; but since the little tree has grown rapidly under the sunshine of the Lord's blessing, we thought our friends would be interested to know how much and what manner of fruit it bears.
At first we intended only to distribute one hundred copies of Mr. Spurgeon's 'Lectures to my Students,' but we received so many kind donations from friends who sympathized with our wishes, that we soon became ambitious, and, without discontinuing the distribution of Lectures, we longed to supply needy ministers with the precious volumes of 'The Treasury of David,' 'Sermons,' etc. This we have been enabled to do, and the work goes on daily. Without any solicitation, friends have sent in ?182, and though our dear Mr. Editor thinks they might not like their names to be published, yet if he should one day change his mind, they are all ready for him, faithfully registered, and would look very nice in his Sword and Trowel. We keep also a strict debtor and creditor account, in which said dear Mr. Editor takes great interest, being quite as delighted as ourselves when any increase to the fund is announced. Better still, the Lord's 'book of remembrance' is open, and therein assuredly the names of all those who aid his toiling servants will be recorded. We are still prepared to give the 'Lectures' to all ministers who apply direct to us. Up to this date we have sent out five hundred and fifty 'Lectures,' each one with an earnest prayer for God's blessing, and we have had many delightful proofs that this has been bestowed.
Perhaps, in closing this short statement, my dear Mr. Editor would graciously accord me the privilege of laying aside for a moment that formal and perplexing 'we,' and allow me to say how deeply I am personally indebted to the dear friends who have furnished me with the means of making others happy. For me there has been a double blessing. I have been both recipient and donor, and in such a case as this it is hard to say which is the 'more blessed.' My days have been made indescribably bright and happy by the delightful duties connected with the work and its little arrangements, and so many loving messages have come to me in letters, such kind words, such hearty good wishes, such earnest, fervent prayers have surrounded me, that I seem to be living in an atmosphere of blessing and love, and can truly say with the Psalmist, 'My cup runneth over.' So, with a heart full of gratitude to God, and deep thankfulness to my dear friends, I bid them for the present a loving farewell.
My 'Few Words' in the February number of The Sword and Trowel were received with so much tender sympathy and consideration, that I feel encouraged to present you with another slight sketch of the work which the Lord's love and your kindness have made so prosperous. I then told you from how small a matter the fund rose, how pitifully and graciously the Lord dealt with me in giving me so blessed a work to do for Him when all other service was impossible. Now I have the same song to sing, but the notes are higher and more assured, and the accompanying chords deeper and fuller for the 'little one has become a thousand,' and the mercy which was so great before has grown exceedingly, until my heart echoes the poet's words:
For if thy work on earth be sweet,
what must thy glory be?'
I have very much to tell you, and I shall do it in the best way I can; but as all my friends know that my pen is 'unaccustomed to public speaking,' I think I may crave special indulgence for all failures and shortcomings.
We will discuss money matters first, because I want you to sing 'Laus Deo' with me. John Ploughman says that 'Spend, and God will send, is the motto of a spendthrift.' Now, I must not dispute this, for dear John is always right, and, moreover, knows all about everything, but I may say I consider it singularly inappropriate to the spendthrift, and should like it handed over to me at once and forever for my Book-Fund; for again and again has it been proved most blessedly true in my experience. I have 'spent' ungrudgingly, feeling sure that the Lord would send after the same fashion, and indeed he has done so, even 'exceeding abundantly above what I could ask or even think.' I have received now upwards of ?500, and the glory of this is that it is all spent, and more keeps coming! I never tell you, dear friends, when my store is slender, but I am sure the Lord does, and opens your hearts to give just when it is most needed; for never since I first began the work have I had to refuse an application for want of funds. I must tell you, too, that this ?500 represents quite ?700 or ?8oo in books; for Mr. Spurgeon's good publishers let me purchase on such liberal terms that by their delightful magic my sovereigns turn into thirty and sometimes forty shillings each! This, also, is of the Lord, and I bless Him for it. I often look with intense pleasure on the long list of subscribers' names spread out before the Lord, and before him only; for your kind deeds, my dear friends, are unpublished to the world, but are, perhaps, for this reason all the more precious in His sight, who 'seeth not as man seeth.' It is, indeed, pleasant to look down the long columns and note how many strangers have, become dear friends, and former friends have grown dearer through this loving link of sympathy for Christ's servants between us.
But it is time I gave you some details of the work accomplished. The number of books given up. to this moment is 3,058, and the persons receiving them have been pastors of all denominations. But ah! dear friends, when I look at the list of names, I see the only shadow of sadness that ever rests upon my Book-Fund. It is the grief of knowing that there exists a terrible necessity for this service of love; that without this help (little enough, indeed, compared with their wants) the poor pastors to whom it has been sent must have gone on famishing for lack of mental food, their incomes being so wretchedly small that they scarcely know how to provide things honest for themselves and their families, while money for the purchase of books is absolutely unattainable.
It is most touching to hear some tell with eloquence the effect the gift produced upon them. One Is 'not ashamed to say' he received his parcel with 'tears of joy,' wife and children standing around and rejoicing with him. Another, as soon as the wrappings fall from the precious volumes, praises God aloud and sings the Doxology with all his might; while a third, when his eyes light on the long-coveted 'Treasury of David,' 'rushes from the room' that he may go alone and 'pour out his full heart before his God.'
Now this is very beautiful and admirable, but is there not also something most sorrowfully suggestive to the church of God? Surely these 'servants of Christ,' these 'ambassadors for God,' ought to have received better treatment at our hands than to have been justify pining so long without the aids which are vitally necessary to them in their sacred calling. Books are as truly a minister's needful tools as the plane, and the hammer, and the saw, are the necessary adjuncts of a carpenter's bench. We pity a poor mechanic whom accident has deprived of his working gear, we straightway get up a subscription to restore it, and certainly never expect a stroke of work from him while it is lacking; why, I wonder, do we not bring the same common-sense help to our poor ministers, and furnish them liberally with the means of procuring the essentially important books? Is it not pitiful to think of their struggling on from year to year on ?100, ?8o, ?6o, and some (I am ashamed to write it) on less than ?50 per annum? Many have large families, many more sick wives, some, alas! have both; they have heavy doctors' bills to pay, their children's education to provide for, are obliged to keep up a respectable appearance, or their hearers would be scandalized; and how they manage to do all this and yet keep out of debt (as, to their honor and credit be it said, the majority of them do) only they and their ever-faithful God can know! I never hear a word of complaint from them, only sometimes a pathetic line or two, like this: 'After upwards of sixteen years service in the Master's vineyard, I am sorry to say that, with a small salary, and a wife and five daughters to provide for, my library is exceedingly small, and I am not in a position to increase its size by purchasing books.' Or again, like this: 'My salary is small (?60), and if I did not get some little help from some benevolent societies, I should have very great difficulty in keeping the wolf from the door.' Are these men to be kept in poverty so deep that they positively cannot afford the price of a new book without letting their little ones go barefoot? 'The laborer is worthy of his hire;' but these poor laborers in the gospel field get a pittance which is unworthy both of the workmen and the work, and if their people (who ought to help them more) either cannot or will not do so, we at least, dear friends, will do all in our power to encourage their weary hearts and refresh their drooping spirits. This is a digression, I dare say, from my authorized subject; but I was obliged to say what I have said, because my heart was hot within me, and I so earnestly want to do these poor brethren good service. Now I return to the details of my work.
I have been doing a brave business in Wales through the magnificent generosity of a stranger, whom now we count a friend. This gentleman first introduced himself to us by sending ?100 to Mr. Spurgeon, ?50 of which was for my Book-Fund. I was greatly gratified at receiving so large a sum all at one time, and set about 'spending' it as quickly as possible, and here you will see how grandly true my 'motto' proved; for about six months after the first gift, the same kind friend called at our house one evening, and to our sincere admiration and astonishment, announced his intention of giving a copy of 'Lectures. to my Students' to every Calvinistic Methodist minister, preacher, and student in North Wales (of whom there are five hundred) if I would undertake the 'trouble' of sending them. Trouble!! The word was inadmissible! With intense joy and deep gratitude to God I received the charge, and another ?50 to meet expenses! This was on the 18th of March, 1876. Since then, to this day, the work there has flourished; for as soon as four hundred copies had been given in the northern part, I received authority from the same noble donor to continue, at his expense, the distribution throughout South Wales also. The books are very eagerly accepted by our Welsh brethren, and on May 16th, the Quarterly Association sent copies in Welsh and English of a resolution passed at their meeting at Ruthin, of 'Cordial thanks to the kind brother, whoever he may be, to whose liberality we are indebted, etc., etc., and grateful acknowledgments to Mrs. Spurgeon, for her kindness in forwarding the books.' Nor does the matter rest here; other ministers besides Calvinistic Methodists coveted the precious volume, and wrote to me asking why they should be justify out? I have supplied all who have written, and at this present moment I have promised copies to all the Wesleyan ministers of South Wales, and when they are satisfied, I doubt not their northern brethren will request the same favor. These copies, of course, are provided by my Book-Fund, our friend's gift being confined to his own denomination; but you see, dear friends, I never can be the least troubled at a large expenditure, because I have the firmest possible faith in my motto, 'Spend, and God will send.'
Some weeks since, a gentleman sent me a splendid lot of second-hand books, so well selected and suitable, that they have proved most valuable in making up parcels; but usually I would prefer that help did not come to me in that shape; for I find, as a rule, that Mr. Spurgeon's works are more eagerly sought after, and more joyfully welcomed than any others. 'His words are like the dew-drops of heaven to my soul,' writes one pastor; and to most 'The Treasury of David' seems to have been a possession long coveted and ardently desired.
Am I not happy to have been able to send forth seven hundred volumes of this veritable 'Treasure'? I have given also a goodly number of Mr. Spurgeon's lesser works. This arises from the fact that many evangelists, colporteurs, and lay preachers apply to me for books; and, although my fund is chiefly for the aid and comfort of poor pastors, I find this other class so sorely needing encouragement and help, that I cannot pass them by. Denied the blessing of a solid education in their youthful days, they find it difficult to pick up knowledge in middle life, and when called upon to conduct cottage-meetings or open-air services, they painfully feel the strain on. their mental powers. To such the 'Morning and Evening Readings' are an inestimable boon; for, open the book where they will, they may find sermons In embryo in every page and nuggets of thought only waiting to be picked up and appropriated.
"Next to 'The Treasury of David,' the 'Sermons' of our very dear Editor (Mr. Spurgeon) are the objects of desire on the part of those who know their worth, and happy is he who has the set complete! I have helped very many to attain their wishes in this matter when they have already possessed many volumes; others have to be content for the present with three, four, six, or eight volumes, as the case may be. I cannot speak of the blessing these Sermons carry with them wherever they go; God owns and blesses them so mightily that eternity alone will reveal their power and value.
And now, dear friends, though I have by no means exhausted my information, I think I have told you all I can remember of special interest. What do you think of your work? It is yours as much as mine; for without your kind and loving aid I could not carry it on to so large an extent. Does it satisfy and please you? To me, as you know, it brings unalloyed joy and comfort, and to the Lord's poor servants it carries new life, and light, and vigor; but I want most of all that it should promote God's glory, and have for its chief aim and object the uplifting of His holy name. Do, dear fellow-workers, pray very earnestly that a rich blessing may rest upon every book sent out, so that first the minister, then his church, and next of all the unsaved in the congregation, may be the better, and the Lord may receive 'the thanksgiving of many.'
I cannot close my letter without reference to my little lemon plant; for its history interested many, and it will ever be tenderly associated in my mind with my God-given work. It has thriven in its way as gracefully and grandly as the Book-Fund, and is now an ambitious, healthy young tree, preparing itself, I hope, for future fruit-bearing. I have always cherished the fanciful idea that each leaf must represent ?100; so now you can count them, and smile at the magnificent future I anticipate for my Book-Fund. Twenty-one, are there not? That must mean ?2,100, and plenty of strength to grow more! Well, it seems a great deal of money, certainly; but what a trifle it must be to the God who made all the silver and the gold! Ah! I believe that some day,
" when grace has made me meet
His lovely face to See,"
the subscription list of the Book-Fund will record its thousands of pounds; the once tiny plant will be a tree bearing fruit to perfection, and the dear old motto, "Spend, and God will send," will be found true and unfailing to the end."
Again in January, 1877, she wrote as follows:
'A record of combat with sin, and labor for the Lord.' These words on the cover of our magazine startled me the other day as I sat thinking over my work, and what I should say about it. I felt almost ashamed of my audacity in presuming to ask a place again amidst its pages, seeing that I am not strong enough to bear a 'sword,' and my 'trowel' is such a very little one that it can only hope to gather enough mortar to supply some few of the laborers who build up the living stones. But I remembered with exceeding comfort that, when the wall of Jerusalem was repaired, in Nehemiah's time, the work of the daughters of Shallum was as faithfully recorded as the labor of the princes and the priests.
So I take courage to tell again of the Lord's great goodness to me, and how marvelously He has continued to help and bless the Book-Fund. As certainly as if He had stretched forth His hand from the heavens and given me a written commission for the service, so surely do I know that this work came to me through His indulgent love, and from the first moment of its existence to the present, He has guided, and supported, and blessed it, and every atom of the glory shall be His. He sent me the needful funds to carry it on, by moving the hearts of His people to help me; for not one penny of the ?926 received from August 11th of last year till now was solicited except from Him. And He has heard and answered the prayer that a great blessing might follow the books into the homes of His dear servants, comforting their hearts and refreshing their spirits, as well as aiding them in their preparation for the pulpit. I have two great heaps of letters from them, so heavy that I lift them with difficulty; and if all the joy and gratitude to God therein expressed could be written out, it would fill some volumes. Knowing how deeply interested in these letters the readers of The Sword and The Trowel have hitherto been, I propose in this paper to give a series of extracts from them, a set of word-pictures as it were, which I shall call a glimpse at some English interiors.
Years ago, when I had the felicity of sharing my dear husband's annual holiday, one of our chief pleasures consisted in visiting the picture gallery of every continental town we entered. There 'walking circumspectly' over the shining, treacherous floors, we spent many happy hours, and enjoyed to the full the works of the grand old masters; but I am not ashamed to confess that I at least used to linger longer and more lovingly over a 'Dutch Interior,' by Teniers or Ostade, than I cared to do over any 'Madonna and Child' that Raphael or Rubens ever painted. These latter never stirred any devotional feelings within my soul, and failing this, they ceased to interest, and even grew tiresome by constant repetition. But it was charming to be absorbed in the 'little beautiful works,' as an authority on painting calls them, which the Dutch masters loved to draw with such wonderful and tender minuteness of detail. The interior of a fisherman's hut, with its quaint wooden cradle, and its basket of freshly-caught fish, would, on close inspection, reveal unsuspected objects of interest, and the picturesque farm kitchens, with their glittering array of bright pans, their wealth of delf ware, their chubby children, and their comely Vrows, were so homelike, and so natural, that the more one gazed at them the more vividly real they became, and it was an easy task to weave a tale of family joy or sorrow around each glowing canvas.
But now I want to show my friends, by pen in lieu of pencil, some scenes in English home-life where the tale of gladness or of suffering is even more plainly pictured, and needs no effort of the imagination to unfold it. A hasty glance into a parlor, at the moment when a gift from the Book-Fund has arrived; a peep into the study where the four portly volumes of 'The Treasury of David' have just enriched the scanty store of books; a glimpse of a figure with bowed head and clasped hands, pouring out a heart full of gratitude before his God-these, and such as these, tell their own story, and as we pass from one picture to another, will only need a word or two from me to introduce them. I could show some where tearful faces gather, and a little coffin occupies the foreground; but these are veiled and my hand dares not withdraw the covering.
The first 'Interior' which I point out to you is shining with the brightness of domestic love. The little room may be poorly furnished, and the bookshelves, I know, are sadly bare (how can they be otherwise, when the minister's income has the very uncomfortable habit of oscillating between ?40 and ?6o a year?) ; but you can see with what intense delight that kind and happy wife is assisting to unpack the treasure of new books which will cheer her husband's heart, and make him feel a richer man for some time to come.
Now we come to a small but choice picture. The minister sits in his study (a cosy one), and we rejoice to see his shelves moderately stocked with books; he has just had the pleasure of adding "The Treasury of David," and Watson's "Body of Divinity" to his store; he is writing rapidly, and this is what he says:
'This evening I have received the four much-desired volumes. Heartily I thank you, and unfeignedly bless the Lord, joining in the prayer so kindly recorded in vol. I. that the precious Contents may avail me. Here is a mine of gold-I hope to dig up nuggets for my people. How the cream of the gospel stands thickly on this unadulterated milk! Prayer and meditation shall churn it into butter; nay, shall I not give them butter and honey till they all know how to refuse the evil flesh-pots of Egypt, and choose the good things of the land where David dwelt, where milk and honey flow? Your noble efforts for ministers will he a blessing to both mind and body. It is rather trying to the nerves to be clearing the ground with a borrowed axe, carving wood with one's fingers, and working at the pump when the sucker is dry. But now, through Mrs. Spurgeon's loving work, poor men whose thoughts stand still for want of gear-oil will have heart and mind set spinning like the 'chariots of Amminadib!'
There is one difficulty I experience in arranging this little gallery of home scenes, which arises from tile loving gratitude of the sketchers themselves. Some of the most interesting and touching letters I receive contain so many gentle and gracious personalities, that I am obliged to conceal them from public view, and for this reason many a bright picture enshrined in the privacy of my 'sanctum' can never' leave it to touch other hearts as it has touched mine. I hope, however, that those I am able to present to my friends will interest them greatly, and next in order I place one which has two aspects-winter and summer for, thanks to the kindness of dear friends, I was able, for a time at least, to make the sun shine on the hitherto cheerless prospect. Would to God I could do more, not only for this 'good wife,' but for the many others who I know have terrible reason to be 'afraid of the snow for their households.' Just think of the dear little children patiently lying in bed while their scanty clothing was being washed!
Although I have scores more of such letters, I am afraid I must close my collection here, lest I tire my reader's patience, and trespass too far on my Editor's precious pages. It has been a joy inexpressible to minister, even in the least degree, to the crying needs of the pastors who have sought the aid of the Book-Fund; but I cannot forget that there are hundreds still unsupplied, and if the Lord permit and spare me, I hope to do more this year than was accomplished in the past. I depend wholly on the Lord to move the hearts of His people to help me, and I know 'He will not fail me,' nor 'forsake the work of His own hands.' 4,967 volumes have been distributed, 701 ministers have received grants of books, and as I am corresponding secretary, as well as treasurer, manager, etc., my friends can imagine I have had full employment. The only part of the work delegated to another is the packing of the parcels, and this service is always performed as a 'labor of love' by the willing hands of the dear friend to whose devoted affection I already owe so much. Who should be my director in chief' and my 'referee' in all perplexities but my dear Editor? To him I run in search of counsel, comfort, or wise advice, and need I say I always find it?
For many weeks past I have had a great desire in my heart to write out the gracious details of the Lord's dealings with the Book-Fund during the present year; but almost constant pain has fettered both head and hand, and rendered the fulfillment of the heart's wish well nigh impossible. But even the 'school of affliction' has its 'holidays,' true holy-days these, and as the 'good Master' has granted me one such to-day, I will consecrate it to His honor and glory by telling what great things He hath done for me and my work since I wrote last. The commencement of the new year was marked by an offer of six volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit to every minister who had formerly been a student of the Pastors' College; and so enthusiastically was it responded to, that in three months' time 164 of our own old students had received 980 volumes! I had intended this effort to be an extra one, and to extend over the entire year; but the Lord had more work for me to do than I knew of; so He would allow of no lingering, but graciously gave me strength to accomplish easily what at first sight seemed a formidable task. During this time the usual work of the Book-Fund was not neglected, but applications were cheerfully responded to.
For a short time during the months just flown by, it seemed as if the Lord were trying my faith by sending me more 'needs' than 'supplies,' but I am almost ashamed to speak of fears which then possessed me. Now I see that the Lord only brought a cloud over the sun to veil its brightness, lest the heat of labor should overpower His weak child, and cause her to faint under the burden of the day. So, blessed be His name, He 'leads on softly' as 'we are able to bear it.' Turning over the pages of my 'day-book,' I cannot but rejoice to know that already nearly 3,000 volumes have been distributed since the beginning of this year; and though this number falls wofully short of supplying the need which exists, yet I thank God and take courage.
The Book-Fund is the joy of my life, and ever since the Lord gave the sweet service into my weak and unworthy hands He has led me by green pastures and beside still waters, and crowned me with loving kindness and tender mercies
The Book-Fund has received this year some splendid additions, as gifts, to its stores of works by other authors, and I have rejoiced greatly to have at my disposal such standard volumes of divinity as the works of Haldane, Dr. Hodge, and others. But the fact becomes more and more evident to me every day, that unless already possessed of 'The Treasury of David,' our pastors look upon no other volumes as my gift with complete satisfaction, and that in applying to me for books, they fix their heart's desire upon 'The Treasury,' or the 'Sermons,' as the summum bonum of their happiness. And I think this is very natural and very proper, so long as the management of the Book-Fund rests entirely in these feeble hands; but I trust that some day, when all the churches awaken to a sense of the urgent need there is that 'the poor minister's bookshelf' should have plenty of books upon it, many a noble volume, both ancient and modern, will take its place beside 'The Treasury of David.'
As to old books, which sometimes come to me troublously fast, I am obliged to smuggle them in with the coveted works of my dear husband, and but a very faint echo of any welcome they receive ever reaches my ear. I really fear that some people think that anything in the shape of a book will do for a minister, or they would scarcely send such things as 'Advice to Wives and Mothers,' 'Essays on Marriage,' or 'Letters to a Son,' as aids to pulpit preparation!
On looking over the list of contributors for the last year, I find a falling-away of some old friends which somewhat grieves me, for the work is more deeply needed than ever.
Tell the dear friends who read The Sword and The Trowel that 'my mouth is filled with laughter, and my tongue with singing' at the remembrance of the gracious love which continues to give support, and sustenance, and success to me in my beloved work. I am impatient to speak of His mercy, and feel constrained now to call on all who love the Lord to rejoice in my joy, and to aid me in magnifying His dear name. It is only two years since this sweet service was gently and graciously laid on my heart and hands, and yet during that time the Lord has enabled me, though compassed with infirmity, to send forth, like seed corn, many thousands of volumes to aid the toiling laborers in the gospel field. More than ?2,000 have been received and expended; the money coming 'fresh from the mint of heaven,' for God has sent it all; as the dear friend's through whom it reaches me must very well know, seeing that I never ask them for their loving gifts. Just as the olive trees in Zechariah's vision constantly and silently yielded their rich streams to feed the lights of the golden candlestick, even so, as divinely and mysteriously, does the Lord send me the means to provide 'oil, beaten oil, for the lamps of the sanctuary.'
Ah! dear Mr. Editor, sound the notes of praise for me! I want God's people to know how very good He is to unworthy me, that they may take comfort and courage from my experience of His tenderness and love. I would I had Miriam's timbrel in my hand to-day to 'sing unto the Lord' withal, and lead out others to sing also; but as that cannot be, I pray you, lift up your voice for me, and 'praise the Lord before all the people.'
"The famine is sore in the land-not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but a deeply-felt and widespread need of mental food, by those under-shepherds who have to 'feed the flock of God'; and I had hoped that all the friends who had so generously aided me at the commencement of my work would have 'continued with me.' To the many who have done so, I tender mymost heartfelt thanks. 'God bless you,' dear friends, and return into your own bosoms some of the joy, and gladness, and gratitude with which you have filled mine. New friends, too, are cordially welcomed to cooperation in the blessed work, and every gift that comes for the Book-fund is offered to the Lord as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. I am just now rejoicing over the fact that the Lord has inclined the heart of a dear friend, to whom I am already greatly indebted, to give me a large donation for the purpose of supplying all the Presbyterian ministers in Argyleshire with 'The Treasury of David,' and I have another sum of money given by one who is a great sufferer, set apart for the distribution of the same precious volumes in Ireland. For the next few months, dear friends, you may know that the 'Work of the Book-Fund' will be in the full swing of business; and I pray you to remember that you can truly and tenderly help me by asking the Lord to set the seal of His blessing on every book sent out.
Does any one care to know that my lovely lemon tree is in vigorous health and perfect beauty? I have not dared to count its leaves lately, because I feel it has far outstripped the proportions with which my fancy fettered it; yet I never look upon it or think about it without blessing God for making it grow so wonderfully in my sick-room that winter, where it heralded and illustrated, helped forward, and finally became the emblem of the Book-Fund.
In 1877, Mrs. Spurgeon again
In giving an 'account of her stewardship' during the past twelve months, the writer is actuated by an intense desire that every word she writes may reveal the infinite tenderness and love which the Lord has displayed towards her. She wishes above all things to call attention, not to her own doings, but to God's dealings with her; and she earnestly prays that no word of hers may in the least obscure the lovely radiance of that mercy and grace of which the following pages are a record. If any heart shall be filled with holy admiration and praise, at the wonderful condescension of the Lord to one of the least of His children, in giving her this work to do, and strengthening her to perform it; if any feeble faith shall find fresh life and power in the consideration of His unfailing faithfulness to one of the poor dependents on His bounty; if any honor and glory shall be gotten to the Lord through this little report, her 'labor will not have been in vain in the Lord.'
The Great Master could not have chosen a 'weaker vessel' by which to convey the treasure of knowledge to His servants; nor could he have selected to minister to the wants of His toiling messengers one more needing the ministry of love on her own account; but it is sometimes His good pleasure by His choice of servants to manifest His strength and wisdom, making the very feebleness and foolishness of His chosen instruments to redound to the greater glory of His sacred name. 'Make known His deeds among the people, talk ye all of His wondrous works,' sings David; and truly, if David's God will help His child to tell in fitting words the story of His great mercy and love to her, the lips of some of His saints shall be set singing fresh psalms of praise.
Into this dear home of mine, as any one may easily imagine, the tide of periodical literature flows pretty freely. Dailies, weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies-papers and pamphlets of all sorts and descriptions, pour in like a flood, and for a season overwhelm the pastor's study table. From thence, at ebb-tide, they drift lazily into my sanctum, and, cast up upon my coast, they yield me pleasant spoils of amusement and information. From their pages I have lately gathered, with some surprise and much pleasure, the knowledge that a very large number of God's people are seeking to accomplish, by individual effort, those works of benevolence and Christian love which in days gone by were attempted only by fully constituted agencies, and societies with vast resources. A special form of need seems to strike some particular heart with pity, and forthwith the hand is stretched forth to relieve it, not with fitful or capricious charity, but with a wise tenderness and determined constancy which lead at last to an entire consecration to the chosen service. Some of the religious periodicals above alluded to contain long lists of such 'works of faith and labors of love,' and in many I note that, while they confide in a human head for management, they lean wholly on the hand of the Lord for maintenance. A fellow-feeling for these workers prompts me to watch their course with loving interest, and often leads me to breathe a prayer for their prosperity and success. I know that the world's great need necessitates the church's organized efforts on the largest scale, and therefore I bid 'God speed' with all my heart to the grand societies which are the glory of our land; but yet I turn to the solitary sower of the seed, or to the lonely gatherer-out of stones, with the most vivid and loving sense of kinship and communion, because our experiences so well agree.
My own work, so feeble and insignificant in comparison with that of others, can claim but the most modest mention among the numberless schemes for the glory of God and the good of man to which reference has been made, and yet I may assert that its origin is as divine, its object as beneficent, its support as certain, and its success as assured as the most glorious of them all. Though but a rill among the rivers, it sprang from the same heavenly source as the greatest of them; though as yet only a sapling among the trees of wood, it giveth goodly boughs' and grateful shade in its measure; and though it be but one note in the never-ceasing song of 'Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good-will to man,' it will one day help to swell the shout of rapture which shall rise when the 'glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.'
Hoping that this little book may fall into the hands of some who have hitherto been strangers to my work, I propose to give full information concerning it, and, yielding to that habit which I suppose is inherent in us all, of trying to imitate those we love most, I shall 'divide my discourse into four heads,' beginning with the origin.
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