THE DEATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS
Mr. Spurgeon died at Mentone in Southern France on the 31st day of January, 1892; but he had been grievously afflicted with a serious disease for several years and was especially an invalid for a number of months before his demise. He inherited the tendency to the gout which, with a complication of other diseases seemingly not clearly understood by the physicians, carried him steadily down and finally took him away from his labors. Most of the time for a year preceding his death he was absent from his pulpit. It had often been prophesied that when he died the many enterprises for which he furnished the motive power would cease to shed their blessings over mankind. Forty-five years before his death some of his congregation were troubled lest if they should enter into any of his proposed plans he might suddenly die and leave the work unfinished. "What if Mr. Spurgeon should die?" was the continual question and hidden insinuation on the part of many faithless ones who tried to discourage the church in its noble work. He himself was led by these frequent warnings to carefully arrange for the sustentation of the church charities in case of his death. A few friends combined together at one time for the purpose of relieving him of any anxiety and collected twenty-five thousand dollars, the in-come of which was to be used in supporting the College and Orphanage and Home and the principal to be paid in should Mr. Spurgeon die.
He had the good sense to recognize the fact that he was an important factor in the spread of the gospel, and endeavored as far as possible to provide against any cessation of the Christian work in case the Lord should call him hence. He believed very thoroughly in the doctrines that the Lord would care for his own, and often said that "there is none so important to the Lords work that the Lord could not replace him by another more efficient." It seems to us as though he presented a very unique character and possessed a genius which is rare to find, and while the work may still progress it must necessarily assume a different phase, unless the Lord perform another miracle by creating another man his counterpart.
At the time of his death there were in circulation thirty-seven Volumes of sermons printed in every civilized language, which he had delivered in the thirty-eight years of his ministry. His large Commentary upon the Psalms entitled "The Treasury of David" became a standard work of theology long before his death, and found its way into the homes and studies of nearly all preachers in England and America. These are published in seven volumes and contain the cream of twenty years of his work. He published a number of books upon religious subjects, three of which were entitled "The Interpreter," "Morning by Morning" and "Evening by Evening;" but a great number of smaller works and uncounted pamphlets. His Orphanage then contained five hundred boys and girls and was conducted at a cost of fifty thousand dollars a year.
The Pastors College had reached its highest degree of usefulness and was crowded with an able body of young and enterprising ministers, There were at that time connected with the church eighteen missions where the Gospel was preached and there were a great number of societies in the church organized to send the Gospel to the heathen, support teachers among the poor of London, maintain Gospel wagons for the distribution of tracts and the preaching of the Word, flower missions, and several aid societies.
His brother the Rev. James A. Spurgeon, was the associate pastor, having held the office continuously from 1868, to the great satisfaction of his brother and the great edification of the church.
His two sons, Charles and Thomas, were remarkably successful preachers of the gospel and he had the satisfaction of knowing in his last days that he would leave behind him worthy sons, capable of doing a work nearly if not quite equal to his, only in different directions.
The membership of his church at that time was 5,334, being the largest independent church in the world. The membership was composed of very active Christians each of whom had been personally trained by Mr. Spurgeon himself to engage conscientiously in some practical enterprise for the furtherance of the gospel. The world has never seen assembled under one roof such a great number of vigorous workers or a people so deeply interested in the welfare of their fellow men. Their great grief at his death, which was as sincere as it could have been had each of them lost an own father, naturally led the world to feel that they depended largely upon him for direction and inspiration. But biographers are apt to forget while they sing the praises of the subject of their sketches, that the honors which were given to him are very frequently in a strong measure due to others who assisted him. Not Mr. Spurgeon himself could have succeeded with some churches. There was a providential oversight in bringing the man and the people together. In his marvelous success and distinguished commendations there is mingled the biography of a great many humbler individuals who stood by him with a heroism that was wonderful, and with a devoutness that was touchingly sacred. His words were accepted with authority, many of his mistakes overlooked, many of the most munificent gifts presented, because of the beautiful and loving character of the congregation over which he presided. Who shall say that in that great day when the books shall be opened there will not be found in the throng many an humble, unnoticed person receiving from Christ an equal commendation with the blessing which descends upon Mr. Spurgeon. He stood forth as a representative of a noble people, and all honors done to him are directly or indirectly a tribute of praise to them.
They gave in their poverty freely. They economized valuable time to visit the sick; they were regular attendants upon the church services, they continuously prayed for the welfare of their pastor. One of the deacons expressed the sentiment of the church most clearly when he said to a visitor, "We would any of us die for Mr.Spurgeon" Children vied with each other in earnest competition to help him; and aged women worked far into the night for the good of some poor souls, thinking all the while it would please Christ and Mr. Spurgeon.
His College was composed in a large measure of young men who at great sacrifice of earthly ambitions and hopes had laid themselves on the altar, and who endured privation Mr. Spurgeon never saw. There were missionary ladies connected with the church who worked among the ignorant poor and the vicious with a self abnegation and painful persistency which he often felt he could not have endured.
The meetings of the church were characterized by that depth of feeling and holy consecration which threw a powerful influence upon the heart of every person who visited them whether Mr. Spurgeon was present or not. Certainly great changes must be expected to follow the death of such a giant; and for a time after his departure from this world many felt paralyzed and a few became hopeless; but the great cause of Christianity moved rapidly on. It will not stay. The converted Sunday-school children grow up into active Christian men and women scattering over the world and sowing the seeds of a true faith, while the ministers and orphans disperse into various countries preaching the same gospel and leading thousands to love the same Christ.
When his dear old mother died in 1883, he startled a number of his friends shortly after the funeral by saying "I feel that I will follow her soon, I will set my house in order." From that time on the disease crept closer and closer to the springs of life and pressed upon him more and more convincingly the thought that soon "he should go hence." When he went to Mentone for the last time he dictated two letters and one of them directed to a friend in America says, "I am laid aside, perhaps forever, this world may have no more use for me."
It was a sad but a sweet privilege to Mrs. Spurgeon that she was sufficiently strong to be at his bedside during his last sickness, and to lean over him at the time when he breathed his last. One of the last messages which he sent out from his "home in the sun-shine" at Mentone was a tender greeting to his much loved church. The funeral services at Mentone were held in the Scotch church, being simple and informal, Yet made historical by the receipt of so many messages from the noted men of many countries. The Prince of Wales and Mr. Gladstone being among their number.
But his death was one of the saddest events in this century. It was felt to the furthermost ends of the earth. Rulers, statesmen and those whose names are great in literature, expressed their feelings most decidedly in prompt and sincere communications sent to the church and to Mrs. Spurgeon. The news was telegraphed all over the world that "Spurgeon is dead." It sent a shadow into ten thousand homes; it caused many hard working ministers to pause and wonder at the providence of God that he should not have lived beyond fifty seven years. It furnished themes for great preachers, and subjects for noble poets. It was used as an illustration in various ways of Christian heroism in thousands of Sunday-schools. Many men and women wrote books and pamphlets concerning his life, while all over the earth wherever the English and American flag were recognized, tears fell and impassioned prayers were offered up for the comfort of his noble wife the encouragement of his sons, and the consolation of his deeply afflicted church.
The funeral services at the Tabernacle in London were attended by an assembly of the most afflicted people probably ever gathered under a single roof; the services were plain as would become the friends and the wishes of Mr. Spurgeon, but there was a spirit of prayer and a degree of solemn hope which made the occasion startlingly impressive. They carried him to the grave while whole communities and even nations mourned the loss of a friend.
This humble country boy taken up by the providence of God and carried on by strange providences, without title, money or political position, reached the very pinnacle of earthly fame. He ascended to that Position by means of good deeds and grand thoughts. It is not necessary for a poor boy even in a land of aristocratic titles to resort to dishonesty to become great even the eyes of men. Surely the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
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