THE BOOK FUND
ITS ORIGIN "The 'Fund became a fact' in the most natural manner possible to all outward seeming; for, as the kind writer of the first report says, 'the casual pleasantries of a summer's day suggested the distribution of books to poor ministers;' but faith traces the true rise and spring of this 'brook by the way' to a higher source, and humbly dares to ascribe the origin of the Book-Fund to the kind hand of the loving Father Himself, who is revealed to us as the 'God of all comfort.' No loving relative, however earnestly bent on discovering a fresh source of alleviation for constant pain, or a compensating joy for a life of comparative seclusion, would for a moment have imagined that the desired solace would have been found in this most blessed work. 'God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us,' after His own peculiar manner, by putting a delightful work into our feeble charge. Tenderly, too, and gradually, as His poor weak child was able to bear it, did the Lord 'lead on softly,' until 'He brought her out into a wealthy place and established her goings.'
"An intense desire took possession of me, after reading my dear husband's 'Lectures to his Students,' to place a copy in the hands of every minister in England, and consulting with the dear author on the matter, he approved my wish, and we decided to devote a few pounds to the partial gratification of it. Before the distribution of the copies thus purchased was completed, friends heard of and appreciated the scheme, and sent gifts, some of one hundred, some of fifty volumes, some of money, to help in the work, so that very quietly and silently, but most surely, as the months rolled on, it came to be a matter of established fact that a Book-Fund existed and prospered.
"One day, in my husband's study, the four comely volumes of 'The Treasury of David' caught my eye, and the question instantly sprang to my lips, 'Why could I not send these also to poor ministers? Only think what a boon they would be!' Conjugal love feared the task would be too heavy, and the responsibility of such a work too burdensome for the often weary one; but the Lord knew better, for He fostered the desire till it became too strong to be repressed, and then He graciously gave the power and means to fulfill it. Blessed be His name, I feel that it cannot be presumption to believe that this sacred charge was given me from the Lord Himself, because the fact has been abundantly proved, both by my own weakness and the manifestation of His gracious strength.
"It is not the first time He has 'given
power to the faint,' or chosen a 'thing of nought' to do Him service, and I rejoice with
exceeding joy over my work, because it is His from beginning to end; all the good, and the
grace, and the glory are His, His wholly and only! He has reminded His stewards of a need
which they are far too apt to overlook, and He has supplied for many of His ministers a
necessity which they had scarcely the courage to mention. Preachers without books are as
the Israelites when required by Pharaoh to make bricks without straw; but hundreds of such
poor oppressed workers are toiling on from year to year, without sympathy from any one.
Some little help was needed for these servants of the Lord to give them 'a little
reviving,' and that aid has come by an unlooked-for hand. It was unlikely that one who is
neither bookworm nor theologian should be raised up to supply poor preachers with books;
and yet so it has been, and the matter is from the Lord.
"The Book-Fund aims at furnishing the bare book-shelves of poor pastors of every Christian denomination with standard works of theology by various authors; books full of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, the study of which shall enrich their minds, comfort their hearts, quicken their spiritual life, and thereby enable them to preach with greater power and earnestness 'all the words of this life.' How deeply needed this service of love has long been, what an urgent and painful necessity it has become, is fully proved by the intense eagerness shown on every hand to obtain the proffered boon. The writer could point to many a faithful servant of the Lord, who, toiling on in secret poverty for years, has not even seen a new book (except in the shop windows), till a grant from the Book-Fund filled his heart with joy and his lips with thanksgiving. 'These books have brightened my hope and quickened my faith,' writes one such pastor. 'I will not trouble you with my difficulties for want of a commentary to stimulate and guide my poor thought, they are too sad to tell, but they have helped me to appreciate your gifts.' Those whose resources enable them to enjoy, without stint, the luxury of a 'new book,' can scarcely realize the longing and craving which gnaws at the heart of a poor minister when he seesbeyond his reachthe help and refreshment he so sorely needs. His brain is weary with producing unaided thoughts; his mental powers are flagging for want of stimulus and encouragement; his spirit is burdened with the pressure of cares, which stern poverty brings upon him; and yet, though a few sterling, solid books would be a specific for much of this misery, the purchase of such blessed potions is as impossible to him as would be the acquisition of the 'Elixir of Life' itself! Many a one has told me that the books sent seemed to 'put new life, into him, and it is not difficult to read in those three words a sad and sorrowful story of mental faintness and famine.
"'Read good suggestive books,' says the President of the Pastors' College, in his 'Lectures to Students,' 'and get your minds aroused by them. If men wish to get water out of a pump which has not been lately used, they first pour water down, and then the pump works. Reach down one of the Puritans, and thoroughly study the work, and speedily you will find yourself, like a bird on the wing, mentally active and full of motion.' But what if there is no water at hand to coax the up-springing of the living stream? or, rather, what if the bookshelves are bare, and no Puritans can be reached down? This is a question which the Book-Fund seeks to answer in the only satisfactory manner, by placing as a free gift in the hands of poor pastors that nourishment for their brains which is as absolutely necessary to mental vigor as food for their bodies is essential to physical existence. 'Ten thousand thanks,' said a dear brother, writing lately, 'for sending the books when you did. Their coming brought deliverance and salvation to my mind. I was in an agony of spiritat my wits' end for a text. I opened one and found, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock." This was just what I wanted; it took hold of me, and the Lord helped me to take hold of it.' 'I have very little to spend in books,' says another. 'My salary is only ?6o per annum, so that when a new book comes it is like bread to the hungry. I do not say this to make you think I am a martyrif so, I am a very happy one, for I have chosen willingly Christ's service, and my very wants are a means of grace to me.' Again, another pastor writes: 'I cannot tell you how much the receipt of these useful and suggestive volumes cheered me. The sight of a refreshing spring never more gladdened a weary traveler.'
"No one who knows anything of the position and means of our country pastors can doubt that the 'object' of this Fund meets, and, as far as it is able, alleviates a sadly overlooked evil. After more than two years' daily correspondence with ministers all over the land, the writer feels that she speaks with sad and serious certainty on the matter, and she is grieved to know that everywhere the want is felt, and the same cry is heard. 'Oh, for some books to help me in my pulpit preparation!' says one; 'I have to preach before the same people three, perhaps four times a week, and though the Lord has promised that my "branch shall not wither," it sometimes gets very dry.' 'I know we should depend upon the Spirit's aid,' says another, 'and so I do; but if I could read some of the burning thoughts which are recorded by God's earthly seraphs, my lips, too, might glow with holy rapture, and give forth "goodly words."' 'I never dare now to think of a new book,' writes a third, 'two or three times I have begun to save a little money towards the purchase of a long-coveted work, but every time it has gone for something else; Johnny, and little Harry, and Walter, must have boots; or mother is ill; or the girls' frocks are getting shabby; and so the precious volumes are still unattainable.' And yet a fourth most touchingly says: 'When I witness the self denial, and hard unremitting labor to which my wife so cheerfully submits herself to keep our household moving comfortably in the sphere God has given, I cannot with any pleasure add to her difficulty by purchasing the books I often covet, though this doubtless hinders the freshness and variety of my ministry.'
"Dear Christian friends, these are no
fancy pictures which I am painting, these are no silly tales of fiction, told for the
purpose of exciting emotions as worthless as they are weak; but I write of living,
suffering realities of flesh and bloodour brethren in Christ, and men, moreover, who
claim and bear the title of the 'King's ambassadors 'and I ask, 'Ought they to be
thus treated?' I want you to ponder for a moment the sad fact that throughout the length
and breadth of this dear England of ours there are hundreds of Christ's ministers so poor
that they can scarcely find proper food and clothing for themselves, their wives and their
little ones, out of. the miserable pittance which is called their 'salary!' Books, which
ought to be 'common things' with themlittering their rooms in 'most admired
disorder,' crowding each nook and corner with mute but matchless companionshipare,
through their poverty, unattainable luxuries, vainly-coveted blessings, the very thought
of which must be laid aside, lest the longing should lead to repining, and the desire
deepen into distress. Such things ought not to be, but unhappily they are, and till the
churches of Christ shall awaken to a sense of their responsibility in this matter, and
their moral obligation to provide their ministers with mental food, I will rejoice that my
Book-Fund does, at least, lighten a little of the darkness, and relieve somewhat the
pressure of the famine.
"The silver is mine, and the gold is
mine, saith the Lord of hosts."
"The Book-Fund has been nourished and fed from the King's Treasury, and must 'make my boast in the Lord' that all needful supplies for the carrying on of the work have plainly borne the stamp of heaven's own mint. I say this because I have never asked help of any one but Him, never solicited a donation from any creature, yet money has always been forthcoming, and the supplies have constantly been in due proportion to the needs. Once only during the year did the Lord try my faith by allowing the grants of books to outnumber the gifts of money, and then it was only for a 'small moment' that a fear overshadowed me. The dark cloud very speedily passed away, and fresh supplies made me more than ever satisfied with the resolution I had formed to draw only on the unlimited resources of my heavenly Treasurer. None of the friends whose hearts have 'devised liberal things' on behalf of my work will reproach me with ingratitude towards them when I lay my first loving thanks at His feet; they will rather join me in praising Him for so sweetly inclining their hearts to help His needy ones, and will joyfully say, 'O Lord, of Thine own have we given Thee!'
"I recall with very glad satisfaction the first donation which reached me, 'for sending books to ministers.' It came anonymously, and was but five shillings' worth of stamps, yet it was very precious, and proved like a revelation to me, for it opened up a vista of possible usefulness and exceeding brightness. The mustard seed of my faith grew forthwith into a 'great' tree, and sweet birds of hope and expectation sat singing in its branches. 'You'll see, I said to my boys, 'the Lord will send me hundreds of pounds for this work.' For many a day afterwards mother's 'hundreds of pounds' became a 'household word' of good-humored merriment and badinage. And now 'the Lord has made me to laugh,' for the hundreds have grown into thousands; He has done 'exceeding abundantly above what I could ask or even think'; and faith, with such a God to believe in and depend upon, ought surely to 'smile at impossibilities, and say, 'it shall be done.'
"After praising Him 'from whom all blessings flow,' my loving thanks are due to the friends who, by their generous gifts, have cooperated with me in this blessed work. Money has come to me from all quarters, and always with congratulations and good wishes. Many dear personal friends have liberally aided me; some of my dear husband's constant and devoted helpers have been pleased when sending him a cheque, to make it a little larger for the Book-Fund; while quite a number of strangers (though strangers no longer), whose names were previously unknown to me, have sent very considerable donations to my beloved work. God bless them all! And if only a tithe of the happiness their gifts have secured to me and my poor pastors be returned into their own hearts, their cups will be full to overflowing, and their joy will abound. Oh, how sweet some of these sums of money have been to me! Real 'God-sends' I may truly call them; for the gold has seemed to lose its earthly dross when consecrated to Him, and has often shed a light as from heaven's own 'golden streets' upon my pathway! Coming sometimes in seasons of great pain and suffering, these gifts have been like precious anodynes to soothe my weary spirit, and hush my restless thought; for they plainly showed the Lord had not 'forgotten to be gracious.' They have almost charmed away my sorrow by teaching me to plan for others' joy, and ofttimes they have been truly 'means of grace' to me, leading to blessed commerce with heaven, by supplying frequent occasions of prayer and praise. Surely, after so much mercy past, if I did not bless His name, 'the very stones would cry out.'
"The twelve hundred and eighty odd pounds which stand recorded for this year in the balance-sheet do not include all the moneys which I have received from the Lord through the hands of His loving people. Herein lies a secret, very precious, and hitherto very safely guarded, but now to be revealed for the honor of God and the good of His needy ministers. The thought will naturally occur to any one who has read this far, that such an intimate acquaintance as I have made with the sorrows and trials of poor pastors must have many a time caused me a sad heartache, unless means were at hand to relieve their earthly wants and woes as well as their mental necessities; and here another note of praise to the Lord must be sounded on a very tender string; for in His goodness and loving-kindness He has provided pecuniary help for exceptional cases of extreme poverty and urgent need. Without this, I think sometimes I should have felt crushed beneath the burden which my knowledge of many pressing needs has laid upon me. The tried ministers never complain; I do not remember having ever read a solitary sentence which could be construed into a murmur; but sometimes a chance word on my part leads them to confide in me, and then the sad fact is revealed, that other shelves beside the bookshelf are in pitiful need of replenishing.
"At the commencement of 1877, a generous
friend placed at my disposal a sum of money, and thus founded a private
PASTORS' AID SOCIETY,
from which I could draw such sums as occasion
required and prudence directed. This money has been further supplemented by gifts from my
dear husband and others; and though not attaining any vast proportions, it has sufficed to
solace many a suffering one, and has lifted very heavy burdens from care-laden hearts.
Full details of this little branch of my Book-Fund are withheld from motives of delicacy
and tenderness to the dear brethren whose poverty, though honorable, is as jealously
concealed as if it were a hidden treasure; but could I dare to tell of the sickness and
sorrow, the straits and the struggles which have come to my knowledge during this year,
many of my readers would think I was romancing, and that such a state of things could not
exist in this Christian land. But alas! dear friends, the evil is deep and wide-spread,
very real, and very saddening, and I would that those of God's people, to whom He has
given liberally of the 'precious things of the earth beneath,' would bestow some of their
overflowing wealth upon their poorer brethren. I could promise them that from 'golden
grains' thus sown they should reap a hundredfold harvest of blessing and sweet content.
"Judged by the benefits and blessings
the Book-Fund has conferred, its success will be best told by extracts from letters
received in acknowledgment of gifts; and as it has become entirely unsectarian in its
operation it will, perhaps, be interesting and pleasant to introduce some 'kind words'
from ministers of different denominations who have joyfully accepted this service of love.
It has been no easy matter to restrain my hand in making these selections from the many
hundreds of letters I possess ; I have felt a veritable embarras de richesses, and
most unwillingly have omitted many a passage brimful of joy and gladness, lest I should
weary my readers; but when they have perused with delight these thankful, loving words,
they may rest assured the 'half has not been told' them. Having commenced the year by
offering six volumes of Mr. Spurgeon's 'Sermons' to all ministers formerly students of the
Pastors' College, first speech is accorded to one of their number
"My dear Mrs. Spurgeon I feel
deeply grateful to you for the six volumes of sermons which reached me this morning. When
I opened the parcel, I experienced such a rush of emotion as made me kneel down instantly
and thank God for His goodness to me, as well as to pray for His blessing to descend upon
you. Many times when a few brethren have met together at my house, or I have gone to
theirs, have we mentioned your work in our prayers, and the best expression of my
gratitude, I feel, will be in the fervency and faith of my petitions. I trust you will
accept my thanks, though they were so imperfectly conveyed. My heart glows, but my pen
"The. extract next subjoined is also
from an old student, but it claims special notice because the writer is laboring in a far
distant land, and a gift of books to him is truly 'as cold water to a thirsty soul.' It is
not often that the opportunity is afforded. of ministering to the necessities of brethren
in foreign lands, on account of the heavy expense of transit; but when friends are found
to take charge of a parcel, we have the rare pleasure of receiving in due time such an
answer as this
"Dear Mrs. Spurgeon:I have to
acknowledge, with gratitude and pleasure, the receipt of six volumes of Mr. Spurgeon's
'Sermons,' which you so kindly forwarded by Mr. ----, of this village. May the Lord
reward you a thousand-fold for this great, and I might almost say, unexpected kindness to
a stranger in a strange land
When settling here, rather more than three years ago, I
often found an American volume of the 'Sermons,' well worn, and highly appreciated; and I
assure you they made me feel more at home than otherwise I should have done in this rugged
country. One old man, nearly ninety, whom I honed a few months since, had a volume of that
kind, and he had read it, perhaps, hundreds of times, until it was almost worn to pieces.
It was nearly his sole companion for several years before his death, and none can tell how
much he was cheered and comforted by reading it. You can scarcely imagine the joy I felt
in receiving the sermons fresh from England; but this you may rest assured ofboth
yourself and your dear husband were prayed for that night with more than usual fervor and
feeling, and special thanks were given to Him 'from whom all blessings flow.'
If space permitted, I could give extracts of
letters from France, Sweden, Nova Scotia, Nebraska, Cape of Good Hope, Spain, Sydney,
Adelaide, Bengal, Jamaica, Barbadoes, and many other "strange lands," which
would delight and interest my readers; but I must content myself and them with the
following much-prized communications from Church of England missionaries. one on leave of
absence for a while from India, the other just starting to his work at Palamcotta (S.
India). The first-mentioned writes thus:
"Many, many thanks for the four
volumes of' The Treasury of David'; I prize them much. I doubt not that, if not already,
these volumes will soon become standard works on the Psalms. Every one knew and felt that
there must be 'a feast of fat things' for mind and soul in the Psalms; but Mr. Spurgeon
has dished them up in a way so superior to what anybody else has ever done, that both mind
and soul receive much more from his 'Treasury' than from any other work. I am thankful to
find the books in the libraries of Church of England clergymen at D----- and K-----, with
less dust on them than Browne 'On the Articles,' or theological works akin to Den's
'Theology,' etc. The day of Christ will reveal the great good the Lord has been doing
through Mr. Spurgeon's instrumentality. when a student at College, I used to
visit some of the Irish courts around the neighborhood. In one of these dens of villainy
and iniquity there lived a man who was my terror, and who more than once sent me flying
out of the court, pushing me by laying his hand to the back of my neck. My heart sank
every time I entered the place if I met this man. He was all that is wicked and
iniquitous. One day, to my surprise, instead of cursing me, he asked me to his filthy,
dark room. I entered it with fear, not knowing what was in store for me; but, thank God,
it was to tell me that he had found Jesus, and had resolved in His strength to follow Him.
The message of love, and mercy, and peace, had been conveyed to this man's heart by the
lips of your good husband. He heard Mr. Spurgeon preach in some public place or other, and
there Jesus met him and called him. From that day till his death he lived the life of a
Christian, and died glorifying the depths of Jesus' love. I do not think you can have ever
heard of this case; and there must be many unknown to you who on the great day will
welcome your dear husband as the one who was the means of leading them to the feet of
"Dear Madam :The books arrived safely on Saturday night. May God bless you for your kindness and liberality to a perfect stranger. I have long been under deep obligation to your honored husband, since it was through reading a passage in one of his books in South India, that I was first awakened out of a sinner's natural self-complacency to cry, ' What must I do to be saved?' And twice during the last two years have I been greatly cheered and strengthened by two sermons that I had the pleasure of hearing him deliver in Islington. Though we may never meet on earth, though we may differ on minor points, ever shall my prayers ascend to God for you both, and we shall assuredly meet where partings are unknown.
"I may just say, here that many missionaries of different denominations have, on leaving England, applied to me for 'The Treasury' to carry with them to their distant stations (Damascus, Madrid, China, the Punjaub, Ceylon, Delhi, Lagos, and Timbuctoo recur to my mind at this moment, but there are many more), and it has given peculiar satisfaction to grant the requests of these dear brethren, and to receive from them assurances of the great comfort and refreshment they have derived from the perusal of the precious volumes when toiling far from home, friends and country.
"About the middle of the. year an unexpected and most delightful impetus was given to the Book-Fund by a very kind and generous friend, who desired that all the ministers in Argyleshire should possess 'The Treasury of David,' and entrusted the writer with funds to carry out his wishes. How heartily the good divines of Scotland welcomed and appreciated this gift, it would take too long to tell.
"Returning to home-work, I give a letter
from a Congregational pastor, which could be supplemented by hundreds, for my Book-Fund
has had the privilege of ministering to very many in the Independent denomination.
Dear Madam:The four volumes of 'The
Treasury of David' arrived safely. This thoughtful and most generous gift has filled my
heart with real delight. Perhaps the infrequency of such a windfall will account for a
little of the pleasure, but I cannot help tracing much of it to the kind manner in which
you have presented the gift, and to the intrinsic value of the books themselves. I am a
prey to the hunger usual among my brethren for the only kind of communion open to many of
us with the richest and noblest minds that have served the Saviour. The possession of your
honored husband's beautiful and valuable volumes makes me feel sensibly richer, and I am
sure I shall frequently turn to them, both for private profit, and the enrichment of my
"Being fearful of over-taxing the
patience of my readers, I must pass without notice the epistles received from Evangelists
and Home Missionaries, some of which would certainly vie in interest and pathos with any
that have been already given. I, therefore, introduce but one other letter, making it do
duty as the representative of kind and appreciative words from the many divisions of
MethodismWesleyan, Primitive, and so forth. It is from the pen of a Bible Christian
minister, and it tells the same 'old story' of deep need of books, and utter inability to
"Dear Madam:Your very valuable
and welcome present came duly to hand, and positively made my heart leap for joy, and
outflow with a thousand blessings upon the kind donors. I can never express in words the
deep feelings of gratitude I am the subject of, for your great kindness in thus shedding
sunshine upon the difficult pathway of one who is trying, amid all his unworthiness, to
serve his generation faithfully, and to do the work assigned him by the Master; but what I
cannot put into language, I can breathe in heart at the heavenly throne that Jehovah's
benedictions in ever-increasing richness may fall upon you and your honored husband, until
taken to the eternal home. The 'Psalms' have always been my favorite resort for meditation
and exposition, and I should long ago have purchased 'The Treasury of David' had I been
able; but a salary of 8o a year allows only a very small margin for books, and though my
mind often craved for them, the luxury was not enjoyed.
"As no record of my work could be considered quite complete without some reference to the beautiful plant which has always been associated with it, I am happy to say that the lemon tree is in a most prosperous condition. Meeting the gardener the other day, he observed, 'Your lemon tree is brought up to the house, ma'am, it is making a great deal of new wood,' and the Book-Fund seems to follow suit with its old friend; for buds and blossoms of unexpected promise are asserting their existence and vitality. This Christmastide has brought me a number of letters from Christian ladies, who are anxious to aid the families of poor pastors, by suitable gifts of clothing; and I have had the intense satisfaction of submitting to their loving care and consideration the names of twenty-five ministers, all of whom, I believe, have been made happier, and undeniably warmer, by the reception of seasonable garments for themselves and their little ones. And yet another new branch of my work bears promise of much good fruit to poor pastors; for through the kindness of two thoughtful hearts, The Sword and the Trowel is to be sent regularly during the present year to sixty ministers who could not afford to purchase it for themselves. The prospect of this indulgence has greatly cheered many hearts. 'I have not been able to take in a religious periodical for five years,' said one to whom I made the offer, 'the monthly visit of the magazine will indeed be a great boon.'
"What other work the Lord may have in store for me, or how far He intends graciously to extend that which at present fills my hands, or whether perchance He may think fit to call me away from it altogether, I know not; but this one thing is certain: 'There hath not failed one word of all His good promise' from the beginning until now; and for the future I am persuaded that the 'Book-Fund and its Work' will live and thrive vigorously in its own 'little corner' of God's vineyard, where the sunshine of His blessing shall ever rest lovingly upon it, causing it to bring forth much fruit to His glory.
"And now, the 'report' is a 'tale that
is told'; but I pray that its record of God's infinite tenderness and love may not leave a
merely transient impression on any heart. Poor as my words are, and destitute of all
literary ability, their very poverty and deficiency should be as foils to the bright deeds
of mercy and grace which they endeavor to set forth. Dear friends who have helped me, the
work is yours as much as it is mine, and I hope my little report will tell you that I am
deeply grateful to you for trusting me with some of your substance, and that it may also
make you partakers in my joythe joy of helping the ministers of our Lord Jesus
Christ. For the present I bid you a loving and grateful farewell.
"'Another yearor partto serve
To sleep, to rise, and always leave to Thee
The precious seed my feeble hands have own.
To make it spring and grow is Thine alone;
This takes all anxious care away from me.
I trust Thee, Lord, to cause Thy seed to yield
Full golden sheaves to deck Thy harvest field.'"
Again, in 1879, Mrs. Spurgeon wrote concerning her annual report, saying:
"With much diffidence this little book is laid before you. It has cost me considerable effort and thought, yet it but feebly represents the progress and prosperity of my work, and very unworthily records the faithfulness and love of our gracious God. I have earnestly tried to do my best; but the preparation of an annual report is the only duty connected with the Book-Fund which I find burdensome; and were it not that I hope the work will bear the precious fruit of 'glory to God,' I could not have attempted it. Last year there was no question about the matter, for extreme ill-health and weakness had brought me very low; but during the last few months the Lord has dealt so gently with me, and given me such happy cessation of suffering, that I want to devote the first efforts of partially renewed strength to the humble and grateful fulfillment of this duty. The report for 1878 was written by a kind friend who willingly and ably supplied my lack of service, and my hearty thanks are now rendered to him for assistance given in a time of much sorrow and need. Very soon after this good friend had accomplished his task, I began to wonder how the present year would be provided for: the months roll by so quickly, that no sooner is one record given than it seems time to think about another. Musing one day on this matter, a 'happy thought' suggested itselfthat, as often as opportunity presented; I should gather material for future use by jotting down, somewhat in diary-form, any subject of interest or thanksgiving pertaining to my work, and so present to my friends a report, perhaps novel in character, but less difficult for me thus to produce, and, I hope, not more unpleasant to them to peruse.
"In the following pages, therefore, I have endeavored to give frequent details of the special service which the Lord has entrusted to my care, noting down any particularly interesting incident, recording some memorable mercies, and preserving much pleasant correspondence.
"Here and there the reader will find, intermingled with bona fide book-work, a few domestic and more private experiences, which would insinuate themselves into the little history, and which, seeing that the dear home-life and the Book-Fund are so tenderly 'joined together' by the Lord's good pleasure, I had not the heart or the wish to 'put asunder.'
"Imperfectly as I have worked out the idea which in the first instance possessed me, I yet hope the perusal of this little book will interest my friends still further in the work they, by their kindly gifts, are sharing with me. If in any degree it helps them more clearly to perceive that in this sweet ministry I am acting for them, being truly and gladly their 'servant for Christ's sake'; that the joy, and delight, and reward are not all for me only, but are shared by them most fully, while all the glory is given to our faithful God: then my difficult task will not have been undertaken in vain, nor shall I regret that I tried to put on record some of the 'goodness and mercy which followed me' during the year eighteen hundred and seventy-nine.
"It is the joy of my life thus to serve the servants of my Master, and the daily blessings and tender providences which surround my work are more precious to me than words can express. 'Some of the subjects of my thankfulness may seem small and inconsiderable to others, but to me they are of constant interest and importance; my retired life shuts out the usual pleasures of social intercourse, but opens wide a world of glad delight in thus 'ministering to the necessities of the saints.' I have scores of friends with whose circumstances I am intimately acquainted, yet whose faces I have never looked upon. I hope to know and greet them on the 'other shore'; and, meanwhile, their love and prayers are a sweet reward for such pleasant service as the Lord enables me to render to them. In these pages will be found some of the expressive outpourings of grateful hearts, and though the letters here given form but a small portion of the great mass of affectionate correspondence connected with the Fund, they will serve to reveal some of the daily comfort and encouragement I receive through this channel. Ah! if by his grace we can but win from our Master the approving words, 'Ye did it unto me,' the joy of service is only a little lower than the supreme felicity of heaven.
"A curious little incident happened
lately during a time of prolonged sickness. At the close of a very dark and gloomy day I
lay resting on my couch as the deeper night drew on, and though all was bright within my
cosy little room, some of the external darkness seemed to have entered into my soul, and
obscured its spiritual vision. Vainly I tried to see the hand which I knew held mine, and
guided my fog-enveloped feet along a steep and slippery path of suffering. In sorrow of
heart I asked, 'Why does my Lord thus deal with His child? Why does He so often send sharp
and bitter pain to visit me? Why does He permit lingering weakness to hinder the sweet
service I long to render to his poor servants?' These fretful questions were quickly
answered, and though in a strange language, no interpreter was needed, save the conscious
whisper of my own heart. For a while silence reigned in the little room, broken only by
the crackling of the oak log burning on the hearth. Suddenly I heard a sweet soft sound, a
little, clear, musical note, like the tender trill of a robin, beneath my window. 'What
can that be?' I said to my companion, who was dozing in the firelight; 'surely no bird can
be singing out there at this time of the year and night !' We listened, and again heard
the faint plaintive notes, so sweet, so melodious, yet mysterious enough to provoke for a
moment our undisguised wonder. Presently my friend exclaimed, 'It comes from the log on
the fire !' and we soon ascertained that her surprised assertion was correct. The fire was
letting loose the imprisoned music from the old oak's inmost heart! Perchance he had
garnered up this song in the days when all went well with him, when birds twittered
merrily on his branches, and the soft sunlight flecked his tender leaves with gold; but he
had grown old since then, and hardened; ring after ring of knotty growth had sealed up the
long-forgotten melody, until the fierce tongues of the flames came to consume his
callousness, and the vehement heat of the fire wrung from him at once a song and a
sacrifice. Ah, thought I, when the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then,
indeed, are we purified, and our God is glorified! Perhaps some of us are like this old
oak log-cold, hard, and insensible; we should give forth no melodious sounds were it not
for the fire, which kindles round us, and releases tender notes of trust in Him, and
cheerful compliance with His will! 'As I mused, the fire burned,' and my soul found sweet
comfort in the parable so strangely set forth before me. Singing in the fire. Yes! God
helping us, if that is the only way to get harmony out of these hard, apathetic hearts,
let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than before."
This incident Mr. Spurgeon, in 1881, made
musical in a song, using as a foundation some verses sent Mrs. Spurgeon by a friend. Here
At the close of a dark and cloudy day,
As the deeper night grew on,
On my languishing couch I wearily lay,
My joy for the moment gone.
Within my room all was cosy and bright,
Yet a shadow of night had crept
Over my soul, and had hid from my sight
The hand in which mine was kept.
Depressed and saddened, I labored in vain
To gaze on my loving Lord.
Oh, when will his presence return again,
And light on my spirit be poured ?
Whence comes it my Lord so bitterly chides,
And sends me such grievous aio?
The sun, and the moon, and the stars He hides,
And clouds return after the rain.
HE HEARD:and an answer was strangely given,
A still small voice from the throne;
No seraphim brought the message from heaven,
Yet it came from the Lord alone.
A while in my room reigns a silence deep;
The only sounds in mine ear
Arise from the flames which crackle and leap,
And flash forth a flickering cheer.
When we suddenly heard a strange, sweet song,
Like the robin's tender trill,
A whisper, a sonnet, the flames among;
It caused our hearts to thrill.
"Can a bird be singing this gloomy
In startled surprise, we say.
"Whence comes such an anthem of calm delight
As from harps that are far away?"
In silent wonder we listen again,
Till my friend in a whisper said,
"'Tis yon old oak log sings that soft, weird strain
From amidst its fiery bed."
'Twas so; and, as once the Lord spoke out
From the bush which burned with flame,
so now to our spirits, beyond a doubt,
his voice from the oak log came.
From the heart of the oak fire had loosed the
Of music imprisoned of yore,
when the trees of the field had clapp'd their hands
And cried Out the Lord before.
When its branches waved 'neath the heaven's
Through the livelong summer day,
Full many a bird to their shadow flew
with its carol glad and gay.
The song of the thrush and the hum of the bee,
And the music of evening bells,
All sank in the soul of the old oak-tree;
And now the sweet tale it tells.
The hardened growth of full many a ring
Fettered fast the imprisoned lays,
Tilt these flames of fire their freedom bring, ]
And they dance in the joyous blaze.
The fire which consumes has lent it a tongue,
And the oak log sings as it dies;
It yieldeth its all while its heart is wrung
'Tis a song and a sacrifice.
And thus was a message most sweetly brought
By the old oak log to me;
It raised me aloft from each gloomy thought,
And from sorrow it set me free.
If trial and pain be as flames to my heart,
To fetch forth its latent praise,
With joy I accept the sufferer's part,
And would choose it all my days.
"When our two colored brethren, Messrs.
Johnson and Richardson, were on the eve of departure for missionary work in Africa, they
came with their wives to our dear home to bid us farewell. A very pleasant and memorable
time we spent together, their pastor encouraging them in the work to which they had
devoted their lives, and their love and sympathy overflowing to him and to me (then very
sick), in return. At the request of my dear husband they sang to me some of the strange,
sweet songs of their captivity, for they had once been slaves; and all who heard these
plaintive melodies sung in the Tabernacle at their farewell meetings will agree with me
that sweeter, yet sadder melodies could scarcely be imagined. My heart was especially
attracted by a peculiar air, to which they sang as a refrain these most curious words:
'Keep inching along, keep inching along
Like a poor inch worm
Jesus Christ 'll come bye-and-bye.'
"It is impossible to describe the weird pathos with which they invested these few sentences, and my interest was so aroused that I asked if some special history attached to this strange song. Then they told me how in the sorrowful days of their bondage they would stealthily gather together, night after night, in one of the low miserable huts they called their home, and sitting crouched on the floor, hand clasped in hand, in darkness and terror, they would pray with one another, and in muffled tones would whisper this very song. Sing it aloud they dared not, for fear of their master, who would have exacted full payment by stripes for such an assertion of nature's rights; but rocking to and fro in time to the wailing melody, they found a 'fearful pleasure' in the disobedience which brought spiritual comfort to their oppressed souls.
"The glorious hope of future deliverance excited and enraptured their hearts. 'Sometimes,' they said, 'one of our number would forget the caution and silence so essential to our safety; and a voice would ring out in the darkness, jubilant and clear, "Jesus Christ 'll come bye-and-bye."' Then all would sit trembling after such an outburst, lest they should be discovered by the shout of anticipated triumph, and angels might have wept for the poor, down-trodden souls, and have longed to bring the sweet chariot, 'coming for to carry them home.
'''Will you sing to me in whispers as you sang then?' I asked, and they very sweetly complied with my wish, though, blessed be God, their surroundings were now so happy that they could give but a faint copy of the terrible reality. I shall never forget that pitiful hushing of their voices. There was not a dry eye in the little company when the song was ended; but we wiped our tears away, soon remembering that the cause for sorrow no longer existed. The 'poor inch worms' are now free, noble, educated men and women; they can sing, and pray, and preach as loudly and as long as they please, and are bound for the land of their fathers, with the intention of exercising these privileges to the full, and making known the gospel of the grace of God to their kindred according to the flesh. The Lord go forth with them and prosper them.
"The echoes of that singular song have lingered with me ever since, and many a time have they comforted my heart. Day by day the work of the Book-Fund has 'kept inching along,' and though prevented by my weakness from taking giant strides, how gracious is the Lord to allow His unworthy child to creep even inch by inch along the pleasant road of service for Him! I should like to send forth fifty parcels weeklyI should like each parcel to be a complete library of theological lore, so that very soon not a true minister in the land should faint and fail for lack of knowledge; but as my highest aims cannot be fulfilled, I will thankfully and joyfully do what I can, and with the Lord's blessing resting on the books sent out in His name, my ten to twenty packages a week will not fail to accomplish his good purpose. Thus cheerfully, gladly, I 'keep inching along,' and for me as surely as for the greatest saint on earth 'Jesus Christ'll come bye-and-bye.'
April, 1879At the time of the Annual Conference of the Pastors' College the Book-Fund usually prepares a little present for the three hundred pastors who then assemble. This is meant to be both a memorial of a happy gathering, and a pledge of continued interest in their welfare. This year, after due consideration, I have decided to give Miss Havergal's 'Royal' books (two to each pastor) as a choice and dainty morsel for their spiritual refreshment and quickening. No commendation is needed to insure a hearty welcome to a work by this devoted lady. Miss Havergal's pen is guided by a hand fast clasped in that of her Master, and therefore her simple words thrill to the inmost depths of the soul, and touch many a hidden spring of tender, deep, religious feeling. I anticipate not only the pleasure with which our 'old students' will receive these delightful little books at my hands, but the abundant blessing they may bring to their hearts and homes. Through the kindness of Messrs. Nisbet, the publishers, I have been able to purchase a thousand copies, and having made it a matter of special prayer that not one of these precious seeds should be unfruitful, I shall hopefully and patiently await the result.
"To ministers who are not quite so necessitous as those for whom the Book-Fund was specially founded, yet who can ill spare the published price of 'The Treasury of David,' or the 'Sermons,' I offer these books at a somewhat reduced rate, and I have much satisfaction in knowing that the privilege is warmly appreciated. Some letters which I have are fair samples of the spirit in which the favor is sought and the warm gratitude evoked by its accordance.
October, 1879.Committed to the faithful keeping of his father's God, our precious son sails today for his second visit to Australia. The cold and damp of our English winter made us fear for his somewhat delicate constitution, and if it be the Lord's will, the more genial climate of the colonies may. develop strength and power to prosecute that which, we trust, will be his life-workto preach to poor sinners the 'unsearchable riches of Christ.' Give the winds and the waves charge concerning him, O Lord! Let them waft him safely to his desired haven, and then do Thou guide him all his journey through, till both he and all who hold him dear shall meet to part no more!
"I am glad to say that the Book-Fund is not altogether unrepresented in the cargo which the good ship carries, though if I had possessed the means it should have been much heavier; for in Australia, as in other distant lands, books are vastly more expensive than in England, and more difficult to procure. The book-hunger of our most needy ministers at home may be as keen and absorbing as the appetite of a colonial pastor; but the former has many more chances of ultimately appeasing it, while hope gives him strength to endure and to wait. In the bush, or in outlying districts, where there may be little intellectual life, a man must depend very largely on his bookshelves for friendship and communion, and when these fail him, or prove uncongenial, he is very sincerely to be pitied, and ought to be helped. I should often send books to the colonies if the Fund could bear the heavy expense of freightage; but awaiting the kind services of friends to take charge of the parcels is so slow a method of transit, that practically my grants are few and far between. To the abundant affection which the generous people on the other side of the world showed our dear son on his first visit they added this kindness, that they have once and again helped, not only his father's many 'works of faith and labors of love,' but his mother's Book-Fund; and now that he goes to seek once more health in their beautiful country, she would like him to carry a great blessing back to them. Father and mother both fervently pray that his life there may be a devoted and consecrated one, and that 'power from on high' may be given him to win many jewels for the Master's crown."
In October, 1879, she wrote: "As part of the proceeds of his last lecture in London, I have the pleasure of receiving today ?25 as the generous and graceful gift of Mr. John B. Gough to the Book-Fund. Such a gift from such a man is precious and noteworthy, but not unusual, as I believe it is the constant habit of Mr. Gough to bestow blessings as well as to recommend them. Long as his name has been honored in our household, and his special work admired and appreciated, it was not till his recent visit to England that we had the happiness of his personal acquaintance. Now he has been twice to see us, and a friendship has been contracted between us which, though interrupted by absence from each other on earth, will find its true fruition and best enjoyment in heaven. The hours we spent in his company have justify frequent memories not only of pleasant mirth at the droll tales so inimitably told, but also of sacred joy in sweet and goodly words which 'ministered grace unto the hearers.' Cannot my friends imagine that it was a rare treat to listen to the converse of John Ploughman and John Gough?
"No 'pen of a ready writer' was there to record the good things they said, or to immortalize the brilliant 'table talk' which graced each repast; but the sweet communion which knit our hearts together will never be forgotten by us, and so deep a flood of enjoyment came in upon my usually quiet life that day, that it will forever ripple pleasantly upon the shores of memory. To our very dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Gough in their far-away home in the West, I send loving greeting; and for this ?25, which means so much joy and comfort for the Lord's poor servants, I give the warmest thanks of a grateful heart."
In March, 1883, she gives this touching statement:
"Out of the terrible tempest of sorrow which lately swept over the homes of some of our friends, and brought death and desolation to their households, there came drifting to our shores a little storm-tossed barque, driven by the contrary winds of this great adversity, to seek shelter in our 'haven under the hill.' Such a charming little child! A fair pearl of humanity washed from its bed by the troubled tides of life's oceana tender white dovelet tossed from its nest by a rude blast of affliction,a 'little soul that stands expectant, listening at the gate of life, 'a sweet wee motherless bairn, whose needs claim the shelter of warm hearts and the loving service of womanly hands. We give a fond welcome to the sweet stranger, taking him to our hearts to love, and to be loved, and have found a singular joy in renewing in some measure the experience of days long past, but not forgotten.
"It is twenty-seven years since 'our own' babies' dimpled hands stroked our cheek, or their pretty voices made unaccustomed music in the house; but the cry of this little one awakens the long-sleeping echoes, and his tiny fingers stray among our heartstrings, touching again and again one of the old chords of purest and deepest melody. Watching his winsome ways, and noting the daily unfoldings of his exceedingly sweet and gentle disposition, I ask myself, 'What shall this darling teach us, now that the Lord Christ hath set him in our midst?' I do not think we have been disputing who amongst us should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, but the Master's words imply that humility is not the only grace illustrated in the daily example of His little ones. 'Verily, I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein.' So I set myself to know what special message to my soul lay hidden in that sunshiny face, or perchance, what well-merited rebuke to my unchildlike spirit might lurk amid the charms of his lovely and confiding nature. And I find that baby has been a 'living epistle' of faith before my eyes, an unconscious exponent of the blessedness of simple dependence upon God, so that I think I understand more of its sweetness and power than I ever did before. For there is perfect faith and trust in baby's heart; absolute reliance upon those who love him; unquestioning confidence in their ability and tenderness. The tottering steps grow steady, and are ventured without fear, when his small hand is closely clasped in mine ; he leans all his weight of babyhood on my arms, without the shadow of a suspicion that they could fail him : every promise that I give is echoed in sweet babblings from 'lips that know no word of doubting'; and, oh, with what glee and rapture does he throw aside his toys and stretch out his pretty hands when I call him to my side! Thus am I taught not to fear or falter while my hand is held by a 'stronger than I'; thus do I see the happiness of leaning hard on love which is omnipotent, and the wisdom of unhesitating faith in gracious words of peace and pardon; thus too, I think I can perceive, faintly shadowed forth, the joy with which I hope to obey the loving call to be 'forever with the Lord.' The very caresses I give to baby are often strangely mingled with spiritual longings, and many a loving play with him ends in a prayer that I may 'become like this little child.' Is it any marvel. that with this sweet unwitting teacher on my knee, I see earthly things still made after heavenly patterns, and rejoice that 'out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God hath perfected praise'?
"Dear, bright-eyed, glad and trustful baby! Your little mission here has been a sacred one; your presence has brought a blessing with it! Your confidence in us has quickened our faith in God, and our love to you has given us fresh glimpses of our Father's infinite tenderness!
"Ever through your future life, dear
child, may these precious graces of faith and love adorn your soul; ever may it be true of
you, as it is at this moment, that
"'Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.' "
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