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CHAPTER 15

THE OLD LADIES’ HOME

The institution of that excellent charity in connection with the new Park street church and the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which provides for the care of the Christian women of the church, when they were too old to care for themselves, may be placed almost wholly to the credit of Dr. Rippon, a previous pastor of the church. It is of that sort of charity which would naturally appeal to the tenderest side of human nature, and is one which many large churches would do well to copy. It provides all the comforts of a Christian home without expense to the inmates, and at present has a very commodious house constructed near to the Tabernacle and within sight of the London Railroad Station of the "Elephant and the Castle."

Mr. Spurgeon gives a very interesting account of the beginning of this enterprise in his history of the Metropolitan Tabernacle and as he appealed for assistance, to which there was a liberal response, Mr. Spurgeon said:

"Dr. Rippon once said he had some of the best people in His Majesty’s dominion in his church, and he used to add with a nod, ‘and some of the worst.’ Some of the latter class seem to have got into office at one time, for they were evidently a hindrance rather than a help to the good man, though from his independent way of doing things the hindrance did not much affect him.

"As well as we can remember, the story of his founding the almshouses and schools in 1803, it runs as follows: The doctor urged upon the deacons the necessity of such institutions; they do not see the urgency thereof; he pleads again, but like the deaf adder, they are not to be charmed, charm he ever so wisely. ‘The expense will be enormous, and the money cannot be raised, , this was the unnecessary croak of the prudent officers. At length the pastor says, ‘The money can be raised, and shall be. Why, if I don’t go out next Monday, and collect ?500 ($2,500) before the evening meeting, I’ll drop the proposal; but while I am sure the people will take up the matter heartily, I will not be held back by you.’ Disputes in this case were urged in very plain language, but with no degree of bitterness, for the parties knew each other, and had too much mutual respect to make their relationship in the church depend upon a point of difference. All were agreed to put the Doctor to a test, and challenged him to produce the ?500 ($2,500) next Monday, or cease to importune about almshouses. The worthy slow-coaches were up to time on the appointed evening, and the Doctor soon arrived. ‘Well, brethren, said he, ‘I have succeeded in collecting ?300 ($1,500,) that is most encouraging, is it not?’ ‘ But,’ said two or three of them at once, in a hurry, ‘You said you would get ?500 {$2,500) or drop the matter, and we mean for you to keep your word.’ ‘By all means, said he, ‘and I mean to keep my word, too, there is ?8oo ($4,000) which the friends gave me almost without asking, and the rest is nearly all promised.’ The prudent officials were taken aback, but recovering themselves, they expressed their great pleasure, and would be ready to meet the pastor at any time and arrange for the expending of funds. ‘No, no, my brethren,’ said the Doctor, ‘I shall not need your services. You have opposed me all along, and now I have done the work without you, you want to have your say in it to hinder me still, but neither you nor any other deacons shall plague a minister about this business. So, brethren, you can attend to something else.’ Accordingly, the old trust deed of the almshouses had a clause to the effect that the pastor shall elect the pensioners, ‘no deacon interfering,’ The present pastor had great pleasure in inducing the Charity Commissioners to expunge this clause, and give the pastor and deacons, unitedly, the power to select the objects of charity.

"The original endowments, after payment of repairs, do not suffice wholly to provide for six inmates, and there are now seventeen ; the support of the remaining eleven involves a heavy draught upon the communion fund of our church, which is already fully weighed down with poor members. We greatly need at least ?5000 ($25,000) to endow the alms-houses, and place the institution upon a proper footing. Already C. H. Spurgeon, Thomas Olney and Thomas Greenwood have contributed ?200 ($1,000) each towards the fund, and we earnestly trust that either by donations or legacies, the rest of the ?5,000 ($25,000) will be forthcoming. This would only provide five shillings($1.25) per week for each poor woman, which is little enough. If more could be raised it would be so much the better for the pensioners. The pastors are anxious to see this matter put into proper order; they confess that the responsibility of having increased the number of rooms and alms-women rests mainly on them, and therefore they feel that their work is not done till at least five shillings per week shall have been provided for their poor sisters; if it could be double that amount they would be glad. We wish to leave the Tabernacle in good working order when our work is done; but the present burden might prove far too heavy for our successors; indeed, they ought not to be saddled with it. In future years the church may find itself barely able to support its own expenses, and we do not think that we are justified in leaving it the legacy of so heavy a charge. Our present anxiety is to get the ship tight and trim, and this is one of the matters which is not in a satisfactory condition. Brethren, let us set it straight. Our aged sisters are worthy of all that we can do for them, and their grateful faces often make our hearts glad. We should like to see more alms-rooms, and we hope some one will build and endow a row for aged men. We have had a hint that this project is taking shape in the mind of a generous friend; we hope he will carry it out in his own lifetime, rather than wait and have it done by a legacy."

Mr. Spurgeon took a personal interest in the affairs of the Home and frequently contributed largely for its support. He was the power behind the throne in the management and supplies, as he was in almost every other enterprise taken by the church. No one ever knew how many bills Mr. Spurgeon paid in connection with the Home for he was continually settling small accounts for gas, heating, groceries, clothing, errands, and small comforts. Although he has enjoyed the inestimable privilege of giving at times quite large sums such as that at his silver wedding when, being presented with $25,000, he gave the whole of it over as an endowment to the Home, yet what he gave in large sums did not approach the aggregate of what he contributed in a continuous stream of small gifts which he was ever granting to a great variety of charities.

There was a wisdom in this matter of expenditure which accomplished a double purpose; it not only provided for the sustenance of the noble charities but it also prevented any quarrels arising among the officials concerning the payment of disputed bills and relieved the object of charity from the unpleasantness of any public discussion.

Some newspapers accused him of hoarding large sums of money and he frequently was compelled to deny the assertion which was made that he was a very rich man. There was some reason behind the surmises in reference to his wealth, from the fact that it was well known that he had a very large income, and it was not equally well known to what purpose he applied his funds.

Yet, he conscientiously regarded his salary and the gifts which he personally received as a sacred trust given him of the Lord, all of which was to be devoted to Christ’s cause and only a reasonable portion of it used economically in the support of his family and the payment for his home. Hence if the occupants of the Old Ladies’ Home were seen to be in need of anything he did not wait for any vote of the board or action of the church, but simply went himself and purchased what he saw in his frequent visits was really needed. He paid almost innumerable bills in various directions which no one knew he had settled, unless perchance his wife should find the bundle of receipted bills in his pocket or lying upon his desk. It thus sometimes happened that the same bill was paid twice, where the officers of the church did not know that Mr. Spurgeon had settled the account; and the fact of his generosity thus becoming unexpectedly known led in several important cases to quite large donations toward his work from friends, who otherwise would not have understood the necessities.

The Home includes two school rooms and a class room, which are occupied every week-day by about four hundred children under the tutelage of a head master. There are seventeen rooms occupied by the old ladies, but only those who are over sixty years of age and destitute, are received.

 
 
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