committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

CHAPTER 16

POWERFUL REINFORCEMENTS

Mr. Spurgeon was wise enough to set a high value upon printed matter. In the very earliest days of his ministry some of his sermons were placed in print with his consent and encouragement, and he often wrote small articles for periodicals during the first five years of his pastorate in London

The assistance which he has received from periodicals of his own and those published by other people will account in an a great measure for the success of his many undertakings. Some excellent judges regard the printing press as Mr. Spurgeon’ s stronghold in the evangelization of the multitudes he has reached. Certainly through his printed sermons he has reached a larger audience by a hundred fold than those who sat under the sound of his voice. It appears reasonable to state that Mr. Spurgeon’s influence would have been very little compared to that which it did reach if he had not availed himself of this very powerful reinforcement in the establishment of public opinion.

He issued a sufficient number of printed sermons before his death to fill forty volumes. Certainly Blucher’s reinforcements at Waterloo were not more necessary to Wellington than has been the Sword and Trowel to Mr. Spurgeon’s religious campaign.

Colonel Grant, United States Consul at Manchester, England wrote in 1890 concerning Mr. Spurgeon as follows:–

He has fought his way to a commander’s place in the religious world, and holds it with no abatement of faithfulness, although the work of years is leaving weak spots in his body. There’s life in the old guard yet, however and he stands squarely to his work on the outpost, no matter how the storms may gather about him. His energy, his heroism under bodily pain, his sweet toil, all combine to make him stand out in the clear light as an evangel of the Lord worthy of the cross and crown. What a great loving heart he has: How his sympathies encircle the whole world: As one of God’s workers, he has no superior among men.

As the qualifications of a great General require that he shall be a diplomatist and a tactician, as well as a brave leader, so Mr. Spurgeon exhibited his great generalship as much in his power to mass the different religious forces under his control and oversee the entire campaign as in those personal charges upon the forces of evil, as the leader of his own great church.

Too much will not be stated when we say that in all probability every one of the great enterprises which the church has undertaken and every charity which Mr. Spurgeon has espoused, either had its origin in some article in the Sword and Trowel or was chiefly indebted to that publication for a continued support.

That magazine was begun on the first of January 1865 and up to the time of Mr. Spurgeon’s death was edited by him, not only with the contribution of articles, but by a personal oversight of everything printed therein. There were periods during the publication when as Mr. Spurgeon was laid aside by sickness, when others were called in to do his work. But that magazine was the last to be laid aside when pain afflicted him. He seemed to understand that upon its regular appearance depended the success of all the Christian work over which Providence had made him the superintendent.

The circulation of the magazine reached in 1892, fifteen thousand subscribers at the high price of about 6 cents per copy. It began of course in a modest and small way and appealed directly to the local spirit of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. It put forth no flaring advertisements and found its readers among personal friends of the editor or among the personal acquaintances of his hearers.

But, when Mrs. Spurgeon began to use the income of her Book Fund to supply the sermons to missionaries for free distribution in the homes and for the supply of all the light house keepers of England, Australia and India, of course, the circulation leaped at once into most respectable proportions. Within ten years of the time when the first number was issued it had found its way into nearly all the religious reading rooms of the English speaking world, was purchased for the large libraries, and found a ready sale on all the prominent news-stands of the railroad companies.

The circumstances gave it a position of honor among the other magazines of the world, which added great force to Mr. Spurgeon’s evangelistic powers. We have already seen that the Orphanage was due to an article which Mrs. Hillyard read in that Magazine. It is also stated that the first gift for the building of the Pastors’ College and the first donation towards the Girls’ Orphanage came directly in response to an editorial article in the Sword and Trowel.

It advertised itself in most legitimate ways and also presented in the most effective manner all the needs of the church and its various mission stations. It was each month a personal letter from Mr. Spurgeon; he had not been educated by Universities out of that peculiar personality which made nearly all his communications seem like familiar conversations with a personal friend. He was not afraid to speak directly of himself and hesitated not to give his own opinion upon any matter which came under his attention. He seemed to be so artlessly unconscious of egotism and so regardless of criticism that he freely spoke of himself, his circumstances, his wishes and his experiences without a trace of embarrassment.

The publication of that magazine would in itself have been a great achievement for the cause of Christ had it stood entirely alone with no connection with the Metropolitan Tabernacle. But each of these great institutions were a necessity to the other.

The Tabernacle could not have been what it became had it not been for the "Sword and Trowel" and the Magazine could not have reached the dignified position it held had it not been for the large congregations in the Tabernacle. His audience of fifty-five hundred in the Tabernacle was only one tenth the size of the audience he reached through the Magazine, for the best estimates which have been given concerning its circulation show that it is largely taken in families where a single copy furnished a whole household with reading matter.

Like the volumes of his sermons it went into the humblest homes and the finest palaces; into the office and the workshop, into the hospital and the sick room; into the poor-house and the great libraries; into the hands of the school children and the aged professors; under the eye of vigorous manhood, and before the spectacles of ripe old age.

The Magazine had an immense advantage over his spoken words in preserving in a permanent form the exhortations and advice which Mr. Spurgeon so freely gave. If a person was touched by any article they could take up the Magazine again and re-read it scrutinizingly or prayerfully, as often as they chose. That many of his articles were frequently re-read most effectively is shown by the continued testimony coming incessantly through all the years from generous givers toward his work, and from persons testifying concerning their conversion of their renewed power in Christian undertakings.

The Magazine made the Metropolitan Tabernacle known all over the English speaking countries and answered a better purpose in making each reader feel personally acquainted with Mr. Spurgeon himself. It had a marvelous reflex influence upon the attendance at the Tabernacle in London and upon every department of its local work. Persons in America would read some interesting item in the Sword and Trowel connected with the missionary work of the church service of the Tabernacle and would, under the inspiration of the article, write to their acquaintances in London and urge them to attend Mr. Spurgeon’s preaching services. In the great metropolis there were thousands of people who for years had lived near the Tabernacle and had not heard mention made of its preacher or its work until some friend in America, Australia or India wrote them concerning it. "A prophet is not without honor save in his own country and among his own kin."

It is safe to state that one-third of the present membership of the Tabernacle consists of persons who were advised to attend Mr. Spurgeon’s service by their acquaintances living outside of London. The potent influence which the Magazine exerted upon all the local interests of his church could be partially measured by the continual statement of visitors at the Tabernacle, saying, "I have come today to bring friends from out of the city, who desired very much to hear Mr. Spurgeon." The deacons and ushers in the church were constantly appealed to by persons crowding the doors who reiterated the same request as though thousands had learned it together by heart. "I do not care so much for a seat for myself as I do for friends who are here from a great distance."

The exalted opinion which strangers entertained of Mr. Spurgeon who had made his acquaintance through his Magazine and sermons, increased the respect for him among his neighbors. He exhibited a striking instance of the necessity that a Bishop should be in good report "among those that are without."

The amount of gifts received in small offerings by mail from distant places presented to Mr. Spurgeon for his Christian work has been estimated by a personal friend of the writer, who was also an honored acquaintance of Mr. Spurgeon, at the annual average of sixteen thousand dollars.

The hold which Mr. Spurgeon secured upon his hearers could scarcely have been so permanent and so effective had it not been reinforced and persistently sustained by the publication of this periodical. There are lessons to be learned from this in the conduct of church work and in arousing spiritual life which are not fully appreciated yet by the churches of England or those of other lands.

The difficulty in applying the excellent teachings of Mr. Spurgeon’s useful example will be found in the natural tendency of persons and churches to imitate him under widely different circumstances from those which surrounded his life. Hence they must fail. No imitator of Mr. Spurgeon can ever reasonably hope to succeed. His circumstances, his physique, his education, his training, will never be repeated in the entire history of the rolling years; yet a general application can be made of the lessons which his example furnishes which must be very useful to the individual churches and very inspiring to the cause of Christianity. It is not enough to preach the gospel by word of mouth. Christ indeed wrote nothing which remains for our instruction, but the Apostles trained in his own school and following out implicitly his divine direction, not only disputed in the schools and officiated in the Synagogues, but wrote down in order that we might have the books of the New Testament without which our preaching would be vain. The Gospel may be preached to the eye as fully as to the ear and he who uses but one method is like he who sculls in competition with a fully accoutered oarsman. True orators and great editors are brothers, giants both, together they can save the world. in fratricidal combat they can ruin it.

Mr. Spurgeon brought both forces into a most compatible alliance. In one of Mr. Spurgeon’s notices appearing in the Sword and Trowel as an introduction to another volume for a new year he gives a most excellent insight into the purpose and management of the Magazine.

KIND READERS.–Throughout another year you have sustained the magazine; and as very many of you have expressed your satisfaction, and few, if any, have favored me with a complaint, I feel encouraged to believe that you have been pleased with my monthly numbers. It was once observed in my hearing by a friend who wished to account for my fulfillment of numerous duties, that as for the magazine, it was a merely nominal thing to be the editor, for few editors ever saw their magazines till they were in print. However this may be as a rule, it does not contain a spark of truth in my case, for I have personally superintended every page, and I do not think a single line of the magazine has passed through the press without having been read by me Whether I succeed or not, I certainly do not delegate my task to others. If I had more leisure I am sure I could do better, and it is with unfeigned satisfaction that I find my subscribers contented with what I can procure for them.

"The Sword and Trowel has been the happy means of uniting in gracious service a band of gracious givers and workers, who now for these seventeen years have joined to aid the institutions which, though they locally surround the Tabernacle, are really the off-spring of a congregation which is found scattered throughout all lands. By means of this warm-hearted brotherhood the Pastors’ College has been sustained from year to year, until some six hundred ministers have been educated in it, the most of whom are still faithfully preaching the old-fashioned gospel in which they have been trained. In connection with this enterprise three brethren have been supported as evangelists and their itinerant labors have been signally successful. Testimonies that churches have been aroused and sinners converted by their means, have been plentifully sent in, and these pages have been increased in interest thereby. Hundreds of thousands have heard the gospel through this instrumentality.

"The Stockwell Orphanage originated through an article in this magazine; and from time to time its support has been mainly supplied by its readers. During the past year the houses for the girl’s side have been completed and partly furnished; and at the present time the first detachment of little ones has entered into occupation. More remains to be done by way of furniture for other houses, and the further contracts for the infirmary, baths, and outbuildings have to be met; but it is a great comfort to have seen the project so far in progress, and to feel assured that all that is yet required will be forthcoming in its season. The bazaar which is so soon to be held will, we hope, secure the amount needed to bring the enterprise up to the next stage, and then we may lay our plan for the final outlay on the chapel of the Orphanage, and a few other necessaries. All that has been done has been accomplished without personal solicitation, or the allotment of votes, or the dissemination of heart-rending appeals: it has sufficed to lay the case before the Lord in prayer, and then to mention it to His people in plain and earnest terms, and the funds have come in with marvelous regularity, the larger amounts having been timed to meet the hour of need as exactly as if the whole went by clock work. The hand of the Lord is in this thing, and to Him be glory. That this institution has brought honor to God is plain enough, for many a time those who would have abused our ministry have admitted that a good work has been wrought, and have had no heart to revile. There is something about orphan work which wins the sympathy of the most careless, and none can tell till the last great day how many have been by this means led to think well of the gospel, and next to hear it and experience its power.

The Colportage Association has held on its most useful course. It has been sustained with difficulty, for somehow it does not chime in with the tastes and views of large donors, but its influence for good is second to no existing agency. Where there are not enough dissenters to support a minister, or where ministers are unable to cover large and scattered districts, the colporteur makes his way with his pack, and speaks a word for Jesus at every door, either by personal conversation or by leaving a tract. Besides this, he preaches by the roadside or in village chapels, gets up temperance meetings, visits the sick, and above all sells good books. This society, and several other useful works, report themselves in these pages, and enlist good friends thereby."

Mrs. Spurgeon’s Book Fund quietly pursues its beneficent course. It is putting sound theology just now upon the shelves of many a poor curate and ill-paid minister, and this it does so largely that it would be a miracle of a strange sort if it did not greatly affect the ministry of the day. That the sermons distributed and the "Treasury of David" furnish material for preachers is saying very little: that they have evangelized the tone of many has been confessed in numerous instances, and is true of far more.

Brethren and sisters, you have aided me so far in a benevolent enterprise of no small dimensions, and I hope I have in no degree lost your loving confidence. Continue, then, to bear me up in your prayers, and to sustain me by your contributions. More can be done, and more should be done. Every living work is capable of growth; every work which has God’s blessing upon it is under necessity to advance. Our watchword still is forward. Possibly we cry forward more often than pleases those who lag behind. Some time ago I asked for men and means to send evangelists to India; one man only offered, and that one man was sent. Up till now I have had sufficient money, and I believe that when more men offer I shall have larger funds; but here is room for prayerful up looking to the Lord. Brethren, pray for us. I would fain live to the utmost of my own life, and I would draw out from all my brethren more and more for God’s glory by the propagation of the gospel, the alleviation of suffering, and the arousing of the Church. Thanks to all helpers, and a thousand blessings.

 
 
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