"How many souls may be converted by what some men are privileged to write and print! There is, for instance, Dr. Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. Though I decidedly object to some things in it, I could wish that everybody had read that book, so many have been the conversions it has produced. I think it more honour to have composed Watts's Psalms and Hymns than Milton's Paradise Lost; and more glory to have written old Thomas Wilcocks' book, A Choice Drop of Honey from the Rock Christ, or the booklet that God has used so much, The Sinner's Friend, than all the works of Homer. I value books for the good they may do to men's souls. Much as I respect the genius of Pope, or Dryden, or Burns, give me the simple lines of Cowper, that God has owned in bringing souls to Him. Oh, to think that I may write and print books which shall reach poor sinners' hearts! The other day, my soul was gladdened exceedingly by an invitation from a pious woman to go and see her. She told me she had been ten years on her bed, and had not been able to stir from it. 'Nine years,' she said, 'I was dark, and blind, and unthinking; but my husband brought me one of your sermons. I read it, and God blessed it to the opening of my eyes. He converted my soul by it; and now, all glory to Him, I love His Name! Each Sabbath morning,' she added, `I wait for your sermon. I live on it all the week, it is marrow and fatness to my spirit.' Ah! thought I, there is something to cheer the printers, and all of us who labour in that good work. A country friend wrote to me, this week, 'Brother Spurgeon, keep your courage up; you are known in multitudes of the households of England, and you are loved, too; though we cannot hear you, or see your living form, yet throughout our villages your sermons are scattered; and I know of cases of conversion from them, more than I can tell you.' Another friend mentioned to me an instance of a clergyman of the Church of England, a canon of a cathedral, who frequently preaches the sermons on the Sabbath--whether in the cathedral or not, I cannot say, but I hope he does. Oh! who can tell, when these words are printed, what hearts they may reach, or what good they may effect?"--C. H. S., in sermon preached at New Park Street Chapel, October 7, 1855.
First Printed Works
THE first product of my pen which found its way into print was No. 1 of a short series of Waterbeach Tracts, which bore upon its front page the announcement, "Published by request of numerous friends." This was issued in 1853, and in the same year I sent to The Baptist Reporter an account of the conversation I had with the clergyman at Maidstone which was the means of leading me to search the Scriptures, and to find out the teaching of the New Testament concerning believers' baptism. My letter was printed, although I only gave, for publication, initials for my name and sphere of labour. Soon after I was settled in London, the Editor of The Baptist Messenger, then recently started, asked me to write some articles for his Magazine, so I wrote a brief Exposition of Psalm lxxxiv. 6, which was published in September, 1854, under the title, "The Valley of Weeping". The following month, the next verse furnished me with a sequel, which appeared in the October number under the heading, "Onward and Heavenward". Month by month, I continued to contribute short meditations to the pages of the Messenger until my other work absorbed all my time and strength, and from then up to the present, one of my sermons has regularly occupied the first page of each issue of the little Magazine.
On August 20, 1854, I preached at New Park Street Chapel from the words in I Samuel xii. 17: "Is it not wheat harvest today?" The sermon was published by James Paul, as No. 2,234 in his Penny Pulpit, under the title, "Harvest Time", and was, I believe, the first of my discourses to appear in print. Before I ever entered a pulpit, the thought had occurred to me that I should one day preach sermons which would be printed. While reading the penny sermons of Joseph Irons, which were great favourites with me, I conceived in my heart the idea that, some time or other, I should have a "Penny Pulpit" of my own. In due course, the dream became an accomplished fact. There was so good a demand for the discourses as they appeared in the Penny Pulpit and Baptist Messenger, that the notion of occasional publication was indulged, but with no idea of continuance week by week for a lengthened period; that came to pass as a development and a growth. With much fear and trembling, my consent was given to the proposal of my present worthy publishers to commence the regular weekly publication of a sermon. We began with the one preached at New Park Street Chapel, on Lords-day morning, January 7, 1855, upon the text, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Malachi iii. 6); and now, after all these years, it is a glad thing to be able to say "Having herefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great." How many "Penny Pulpits" have been set up and pulled down in the course of these years, it would be hard to tell; certainly, very many attempts have been made to publish weekly the sermons of most eminent men, and they have all run to their end with more or less rapidity, in some cases through the preachers ill-health or death, but in several others, to my knowledge, from an insufficient sale. Perhaps the discourses were too good: the public evidently did not think them too interesting. Those who know what dull reading sermons are usually supposed to be, will count that man happy who has for over thirty years been favoured with a circle of willing supporters, who not only purchase but actually read his discourses. I am more astonished at the fact than any other man can possibly be, and I see no other reason for it but this--the sermons contain the gospel, preached in plain language and this is precisely what multitudes need beyond anything else. The gospel, ever fresh and ever new, has held my vast congregation together these many long years, and the same power has kept around me a host of readers. A French farmer, when accused of witchcraft by his neighbours, because his crops were so large, exhibited his industrious sons, his laborious ox, his spade, and his plough, as the only witchcraft which he had used; and, under the Divine blessing, I can only ascribe the continued acceptableness of the sermons to the gospel which they contain, and the plainness of the speech in which that gospel is uttered.
When the time arrived for issuing Vol. I of The New Park Street Pulpit, I wrote in the Preface: "Little can be said in praise of these sermons, and nothing can be said against them more bitter than has been already spoken. Happily, the author has heard abuse exhaust itself; he has seen its vocabulary used up, and its utmost venom entirely spent; and yet, the printed discourses have for that very reason found a readier sale, and more have been led to peruse them with deep attention.
"One thing alone places this book above contempt--and that accomplishes the deed so triumphantly, that the preacher defies the opinion of man--it is the fact that, to his certain knowledge, there is scarcely a sermon here which has not been stamped by the hand of the Almighty, by the conversion of a soul. Some single sermons, here brought into the society of their brethren, have been, under God, the means of the salvation of not less than twenty souls; at least, that number has come under the preacher's notice from one sermon only; and, doubtless, more shall be discovered at the last day. This, together with the fact that hundreds of the children of God have been made to leap for joy by their message, makes their author invulnerable either to criticism or abuse.
"The reader will, perhaps, remark considerable progress in some of the sentiments here made public, particularly in the case of the doctrine of the Second Coming of our Lord; but he will remember that he who is learning truth will learn it by degrees, and if he teaches as he learns, it is to be expected that his lessons will become fuller every day.
"There are also many expressions which may provoke a smile; but let it be remembered that every man has his moments when his lighter feelings indulge themselves, and the preacher must be allowed to have the same passions as his fellow-men; and since he lives in the pulpit more than anywhere else, it: is but natural that his whole man should be there developed; besides, he is not quite sure about a smile being a sin, and, at any rate, he thinks it less a crime to cause a momentary laughter than a half-hour's profound slumber.
"With all faults, the purchaser has bought this book; and, as it was not warranted to be perfect, if he thinks ill of it, he must make the best of his bargain--which can be done, either by asking a blessing on its reading to himself, or entreating greater light for his friend the preacher."
The first seven volumes were printed in small type, and each discourse formed only eight pages; but the abolition of the paper duty enabled the publishers to give a more readable type and twelve pages of matter. This has been better in every way, and marks an epoch in the history of the sermons, for their name was at about the same period changed from The New Park Street Pulpit to The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and their sale was largely increased. Constant habit enables me generally to give the same amount of matter on each occasion, the very slight variation almost surprises myself; from forty to forty-five minutes' speaking exactly fills the available space, and saves the labour of additions, and the still more difficult task of cutting down. The earlier sermons, owing to my constant wanderings abroad, received scarcely any revision, and consequently they abound in colloquialisms, and other offences, very venial in extempore discourse, but scarcely tolerable in print; the later specimens are more carefully corrected, and the work of revision has been a very useful exercise to me, supplying in great measure that training in correct language which is obtained by those who write their productions before they deliver them. The labour has been far greater than some suppose; and has usually occupied the best hours of Monday, and involved the burning of no inconsiderable portion of midnight oil. Feeling that I had a constituency well deserving my best efforts, I have never grudged the hours, though often the brain has been wearied, and the pleasure has hardened into a task.
I have commenced revising the small-type sermons in preparation for their re-issue in type similar to that used for the rest of the series. There were mistakes in orthography and typography, which needed to be corrected, but I was happy to find that I had no occasion to alter any of the doctrines which I preached in those early days of my ministry. I might, here and there, slightly modify the expressions used thirty or five-and-thirty years ago, but, as to the truths themselves, I stand just where I did when the Lord first revealed them to me by His unerring Spirit.
Before the first volume of my sermons was completed, W. H. Collingridge had published for me, under the title of Smooth Stones taken from Ancient Brooks, a small volume containing "a collection of sentences, illustrations, and quaint sayings, from the works of that renowned Puritan, Thomas Brooks." In the same year (1855), James Paul issued Vol. I of The Pulpit Library, which contained ten of my sermons. Being printed in clear, leaded type, and bound in cloth, the volume was much appreciated, and had a large sale, although half-a-crown was charged for it.
It contained, amongst other discourses, the one preached the night before I came of age, "Pictures of Life, and Birthday Reflections"; another delivered on the Sabbath following the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Olney, and in the midst of the terrible visitation of cholera, "The House of Mourning and the House of Feasting"; and a third, preached from Isaiah liv. 17, on November 5, 1854 (at the very moment when the battle of Inkermann was being fought), in which I urged the importance of Christians and Protestants remembering the day which had been made memorable in English history by the discovery of the Guy Fawkes' plot on November 5, 1605, and by the landing at Torbay of William III, on November 5, 1688. The title of the discourse was, "The Saints' Heritage and Watchword". The volume also included my first printed sermon--"Harvest Time" and another entitled, "A Promise for the Blind", preached at the Baptist Chapel, Church Street, Blackfriars Road, on behalf of the Christian Blind Relief Society, in the course of which I referred to three institutions in the neighbourhood which represented the three classes of blind people: "The physically blind, the mentally blind, and the spiritually blind. . . . In the London Road, you will find the School for the blind--the physically blind. Just before you is the Roman Catholic Cathedral--there you have the spiritually blind. And further on is the Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam), where you have the mentally blind."
In 1855--partly as an answer to the slanders and calumnies by which I was assailed, and partly that my own people might be furnished with a plain statement of "the faith once for all delivered to the saints"--Messrs. Alabaster and Passmore brought out, under my direction, a new edition of "The Baptist Confession of Faith with Scripture proofs, adopted by the ministers and messengers of the General Assembly which met in London in July, 1689"; amongst whom were such notable men as Hanserd Knollys, William Kiffin; Andrew Gifford, and my own illustrious predecessor, Benjamin Keach.
In two Prefatory Notes, one to Christians in general, and the other to my own people, I wrote as follows:
I have thought it meet to reprint in a cheap form this most excellent list of doctrines, which was subscribed unto by the Baptist ministers in the year 1689.
We need a banner, because of the truth; it may be that this small volume may aid the cause of the glorious gospel, by testifying plainly what are its leading doctrines. Known unto many of you by face in the flesh, I trust we are also kindred in spirit, and are striving together for the glory of our Three-one God. May the Lord soon restore unto His Zion a pure language, and may the watchmen see eye to eye!
He who has preserved this faith among us, will doubtless bless our gospel evermore.
This ancient document is a most excellent epitome of the things most surely believed among us. By the preserving hand of the Triune Jehovah, we have been kept faithful to the great points of our glorious gospel, and we feel more resolved perpetually to abide by them.
This little volume is not issued as an authoritative rule, or code of faith, whereby you are to be fettered, but as an assistance to you in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness. Here, the younger members of our church will have a Body of Divinity in small compass, and by means of the Scriptural proofs, will be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them.
Be not ashamed of your faith; remember it is the ancient gospel of martyrs, confessors, Reformers, and saints. Above all, it is the truth of God, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.
Let your lives adorn your faith, let your example recommend your creed. Above all, live in Christ Jesus, and walk in Him, giving credence to no teaching but that which is manifestly approved of Him, and owned by the Holy Spirit. Cleave fast to the Word of God, which is here mapped out to you. May our Father, who is in Heaven, smile on us as ever! Brethren, pray for--
I have never seen any reason to alter what I then wrote, and I would, at the present time, just as earnestly commend to my fellow-Christians the prayerful study of The Baptist Confession of Faith as I did in the early years of my ministry in London, for I believe it would greatly tend to the strengthening of their faith.
I have already stated that, as soon as the publication of the sermons was commenced, the Lord set His seal upon them in the conversion of sinners, the restoration of backsliders, and the edification of believers, and, to His praise, I rejoice to write that, ever since, it has been the same. For many years, seldom has a day passed, and certainly never a week, without letters reaching me from all sorts of places, even at the utmost ends of the earth, telling me of the salvation of souls by means of one or other of the sermons. There are, in the long series, discourses of which I may say, without exaggeration, that the Holy Spirit has blessed them to hundreds of precious souls; and long after their delivery, fresh instances of their usefulness have come to light. For this, to God be all the glory!
There were certain remarkable cases of blessing through the reading of some of the very earliest of the sermons; I mention these, not merely because of the interest naturally attaching to them, but because they are representative of many similar miracles of mercy that have been wrought by the Holy Ghost all through the years which have followed. On June 8, 1856, I preached in Exeter Hall from Hebrews vii. 25: "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." The sermon was published under the title, "Salvation to the Uttermost"; and, more than thirty years afterwards, I received the joyful tidings that a murderer in South America had been brought to the Saviour through reading it. A friend, living not far from the Tabernacle, had been in the city of Pará, in Brazil. There he heard of an Englishman in prison, who had, in a state of drunkenness, committed a murder, for which he was confined for life. Our friend went to see him, and found him deeply penitent, but quietly restful, and happy in the Lord. He had felt the terrible wound of blood-guiltiness in his soul, but it had been healed, and he was enjoying the bliss of pardon.
Here is the story of the poor fellow's conversion as told in his own words: "A young man, who had just completed his contract at the gas-works, was returning to England; but, before doing so, he called to see me, and brought with him a parcel of books. When I opened it, I found that they were novels; but, being able to read, I was thankful for anything. After I had read several of the books, I found one of Mr. Spurgeon's sermons (No. 84), in which he referred to Palmer, who was then lying under sentence of death in Stafford Gaol, and in order to bring home the truth of his text to his hearers, he said that, if Palmer had committed many other murders, if he repented, and sought Gods pardoning love in Christ, even he would be forgiven! I then felt that, if Palmer could be forgiven, so might I. I sought the Saviour, and, blessed be God, I found Him, and now I am pardoned, I am free; I am a sinner saved by grace. Though a murderer, I have not yet sinned beyond 'the uttermost', blessed be His holy Name!"
It made me very happy when I heard the glad news that a poor condemned murderer had thus been converted, and I am thankful to know that he is not the only one who, although he had committed the awful crime of murder, had, through the Spirit's blessing upon the printed sermons, been brought to repentance, and to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. There was another man, who had lived a life of drunkenness and unchastity, and who had even shed human blood with his bowie knife and his revolver, yet he, too, found the Saviour, and became a new man; and when he was dying, he charged someone who was with him to tell me that one of my discourses had brought him to Christ. "I shall never see Mr. Spurgeon on earth," he said, "but I shall tell the Lord Jesus Christ about him when I get to Heaven." It was a sermon, read far away in the backwoods, that, through sovereign grace, was the means of the salvation of this great sinner.
One Saturday morning in November, 1856, when my mind and heart were occupied with preparation for the great congregation I expected to address the next day at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, I received a long letter from Norwich, from a man who had been one of the leaders of an infidel society in that city. It was most cheering to me, amid the opposition, and slander I was then enduring, to read what he wrote:
"I purchased one of the pamphlets entitled, Who is this Spurgeon? and also your portrait (or a portrait sold as yours) for 3d. I brought these home, and exhibited them in my shop-window. I was induced to do so from a feeling of derisive pleasure. The title of the pamphlet is, naturally, suggestive of caricature, and it was especially to convey that impression that I attached it to your portrait, and placed it in my window. But I also had another object in view, I thought by its attraction to improve my trade. I am not at all in the book or paper business, which rendered its exposure and my motive the more conspicuous. I have taken it down now: I am taken down, too. . . . I had bought one of your sermons of an infidel a day or two previously. In that sermon I read these words, 'They go on; that step is safe--they take it; the next is apparently safe--they take that; their foot hangs over a gulf of darkness.' I read on, but the word darkness staggered me; it was all dark with me. I said to myself, 'True, the way has been safe so far, but I am lost in bewilderment; I cannot go on as I have been going. No, no, no; I will not risk it.' I left the apartment in which I had been musing, and as I did so, the three words, 'Who can tell?' seemed to be whispered to my heart. I determined not to let another Sunday pass without visiting a place of worship. How soon my soul might be required of me, I knew not, but I felt that it would be mean, base, cowardly, not to give it a chance of salvation. 'Ay!' I thought, 'my associates may laugh, scoff, deride, and call me coward and turncoat, I will do an act of justice to my soul.' I went to chapel; I was just stupefied with awe. What could I want there? The doorkeeper opened his eyes wide, and involuntarily asked, 'It's Mr. ----, isn't it?' 'Yes,' I said, 'it is.' He conducted me to a seat, and afterwards brought me a hymn-book. I was fit to burst with anguish. 'Now,' I thought, 'I am here, if it be the house of God, Heaven grant me an audience, and I will make a full surrender. O God, show me some token by which I may know that Thou art, and that Thou wilt in no wise cast out the vile deserter who has ventured to seek Thy face and Thy pardoning mercy!' I opened the hymn-book to divert my mind from the feelings that were rending me, and the first words that caught my eyes were--
After mentioning some things which he looked upon as evidences that he was a true convert, the man closed up by saying, "O sir, tell this to the poor wretch whose pride, like mine, has made him league himself with hell; tell it to the hesitating and the timid; tell it to the desponding Christian, that God is a very present help to all that are in need! . . . Think of the poor sinner who may never look upon you in this world, but who will live to bless and pray for you here, and long to meet you in the world exempt from sinful doubts, from human pride, and backsliding hearts."
After that letter, I heard again and again from the good brother, and I rejoiced to learn that, the following Christmas-day, he went into the market-place at Norwich, and there made a public recantation of his errors, and a profession of his faith in Christ. Then, taking up all the infidel books he had written, or that he had in his possession, he burned them in the sight of all the people. I blessed God with my whole heart for such a wonder of grace as that man was, and I afterwards had the joy of learning from his own lips what the Lord had done for his soul, and together we praised and magnified Him for His marvellous mercy.
Many singular things have happened in connection with the publication of the sermons. One brother, whose name I must not mention, purchased and gave away no less than 250,000 copies. He had volumes bound in the best style, and presented to every crowned head in Europe. He gave copies, each containing twelve or more sermons, to all the students of the Universities, and to all the members of the two Houses of Parliament, and he even commenced the work of distributing volumes to the principal householders in the towns of Ireland. May the good results of his laborious seed-sowing be seen many days hence! The self-denial with which this brother saved the expense from a very limited income, and worked personally in the distribution, was beyond all commendation, but praise was evaded and observation dreaded by him; the work was done without his left hand knowing what his right hand did.
In the first days of our publishing, a city merchant advertised the sermons in all sorts of papers, offering to supply them from his own office. He thus sold large quantities to persons who might otherwise never have heard of them. He was not a Baptist, but held the views of the Society of Friends. It was very long before I knew who he was, and I trust he will pardon me for thus calling attention to a deed for which I shall ever feel grateful to him. By my permission, the sermons were printed as advertisements in several of the Australian papers, one gentleman spending week by week a sum which I scarcely dare to mention, lest it should not be believed. By this means, they were read far away in the Bush, and never were results more manifest, for numbers of letters were received--in answer to the enquiry as to whether the advertisements should be continued--all bearing testimony to the good accomplished by their being inserted in the newspapers. A selection of these letters was sent to me, and made my heart leap for joy, for they detailed conversions marvellous indeed. Beside these, many epistles of like character came direct to me, showing that the rough dwellers in the wilds were glad to find in their secular paper the best of all news, the story of pardon bought with blood.
In America, the sale of the first volume reached 20,000 in a very short time; and, many years ago, it was calculated that half a million volumes had been sold there. Beside this, dozens of religious papers in the United States, and Canada, and elsewhere, appropriate the sermons bodily, and therefore it is quite impossible to tell where they go, or, rather, where they do not go. For all these opportunities of speaking to so large a portion of the human race, I cannot but be thankful to God, neither can I refrain from asking the prayers of God's people that the gospel thus widely scattered may not be in vain.
Brethren in the ministry will be best able to judge the mental wear and tear involved in printing one sermon a week, and they will most sympathize in the overflowing gratitude which reviews between thirty and forty years of sermons, and magnifies the God of grace for help so long continued. The quarry of Holy Scripture is inexhaustible, I seem hardly to have begun to labour in it, but the selection of the next block, and the consideration as to how to work it into form, are matters not so easy as some think. Those who count preaching and its needful preparations to be slight matters, have never occupied a pulpit continuously month after month, or they would know better. Chief of all is the responsibility which the preaching of the Word involves: I do not wish to feel this less heavily, rather would I feel it more, but it enters largely into the account of a minister's life-work, and tells upon him more than any other part of his mission. Let those preach lightly who dare do so; to me, it is "the burden of the Lord"-- joyfully carried as grace is given; but, still, a burden which at times crushes my whole manhood into the dust of humiliation, and occasionally, when ill-health unites with the mental strain, into depression and anguish of heart.
However, let no man mistake me. I would sooner have my work to do than any other under the sun. Preaching Jesus Christ is sweet work, joyful work; Heavenly work. Whitefield used to call his pulpit his throne, and those who know the bliss of forgetting everything beside the glorious, all-absorbing topic of Christ crucified, will bear witness that the term was aptly used. It is a bath in the waters of Paradise to preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven. Scarcely is it possible for a man, this side the grave, to be nearer Heaven than is a preacher when his Master's presence bears him right away from every care and thought, save the one business in hand, and that the greatest that ever occupied a creature's mind and heart. No tongue can tell the amount of happiness which I have enjoyed in delivering these sermons, and so, gentle reader, forgive me if I have wearied you with this grateful record, for I could not refrain from inviting others to aid me in praising my gracious Master. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy Name."
In my early experience as an author; I made one mistake which I have never repeated. For my volume, The Saint and his Saviour, which contained 480 small octave pages, I accepted from James S. Virtue the sum of £50. At the time I entered into the agreement--within about a year of my coming to London--the amount seemed to me large; but in comparison with what the book must have brought to the publisher, it was ridiculously small, and as he never deemed it wise to add anything to it, I took good care not to put any other of my works into his hands, but entrusted them to publishers who knew how to treat me more generously. After the volume had been on sale for more than thirty years, the copyright was offered to me for considerably more than I had originally received for it! Neither my publishers nor I myself thought it was worth while to buy it back under the circumstances, so it passed into the possession of my good friends, Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton.
[The book was issued in the United States soon after it was published in England, and it had a large sale there. In a letter to Spurgeon, dated "New York, Sept. 17, 1857", Messrs. Sheldon, Blakeman, & Co., who for many years republished his works on mutually advantageous terms, wrote: "Messrs. Virtue and Son sold to D. Appleton & Co. the advance sheets of The Saint and his Saviour; and they have sold them to us. We have the book stereotyped as far as we have received the sheets; we expect the rest from London by next steamer, and shall then immediately issue the book. We are delighted with it, and think it will take well with our people."]
My own experiences in the production of the work are faithfully described in the Preface:
"Never was a book written amid more incessant toil. Only the fragments of time could be allotted to it, and intense mental and bodily exertions have often rendered me incapable of turning even those fragments to advantage. Writing is, to me, the work of a slave. It is a delight, a joy, a rapture, to talk out my thoughts in words that flash upon the mind, at the instant when they are required, but it is poor drudgery to sit still, and groan for thoughts and words without succeeding in obtaining them. Well may a man's books be called his 'works', for, if every mind were constituted as mine is, it would be work indeed to produce a quarto volume. Nothing but a sense of duty has impelled me to finish this little book, which has been more than two years on hand. Yet have I, at times, so enjoyed the meditation which my writing has induced, that I would not discontinue the labour were it ten times more irksome; and, moreover, I have some hopes that it may yet be a pleasure to me to serve God with the pen as well as the lip."
Those who are familiar with my literary career know how abundantly those "hopes" have been realized; yet, at the time, my faithful friend, Dr. John Campbell, doubtless expressed what many beside himself felt when he wrote: "Such hopes are innocent, and, should they never be realized, the disappointment will not be viewed as a calamity. We think it will be wise in Mr. Spurgeon, however, to moderate his expectations in this quarter. The number of those who, either in past or present times, have attained to eminence both with tongue and pen, is small. The Greeks produced none, and the Romans only one; and Great Britain has hardly been more successful. Charles Fox, not satisfied with peerless eminence in the House of Commons, aspired to honour in the field of history. Thomas Erskine, without an equal at the Bar, also thirsted for literary renown. Each made the attempt, and gave to the world a fragment, presenting not the slightest impress of their towering genius as orators, and otherwise adding nothing to their fame. These illustrious men, however, were perfectly capable, had they foresworn eloquence, and given themselves to letters, in early life, to have taken a foremost place in the ranks of literature, and so is Mr. Spurgeon; but they were early ensnared by their rhetorical successes, and so is he. By incessant speaking, they developed to the full, and cultivated to the highest extent, oral eloquence, and so has he. After this, they could not endure the drudgery necessary to cultivate the habit of composition till it became a pleasure and a luxury, and neither can he. Their indisposition to use the pen increased with time, and so will his; and to such a length did their self-created incapacity grow on them, that they became almost incapable of correspondence; and so will he. We believe he is well-nigh so now!
If we might use the liberty, we would say, it is Mr. Spurgeon's wisdom to know his place, and be satisfied to occupy it. Let him rejoice in his glorious mission, and continue to fulfil, as he now does, its exalted obligations. It is surely enough to satisfy all the ambition for which there is room in the bosom of a Christian man, to remain supreme in the realm of sacred eloquence--an instrument, beyond all others, intended to promote the salvation of sinners. . . . The volume throughout bears the stamp of a rhetorical genius, and indicates a practised speaker rather than writer, and breathes a most intense concern for the souls of men. This is everywhere the prominent idea, to the utter exclusion of everything that savours of display. We dismiss the work with the most cordial wish for its success in furtherance of the great object with which it was prepared, and doubt not that, however tame and gentle as compared with the powerful stream of life and fire which pervades the sermons, it will, in its own way, amply contribute to the same grand result--the turning of men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God."
In the long interval which necessarily elapsed between my undertaking to write The Saint and his Saviour and the date of the publication of the volume, I had become so attached to my friends, Joseph Passmore and James Alabaster, that I had no wish to have any other publishers as long as I lived. Our relationship has been one of the closest intimacy, and I think they would join with me in saying that it has been of mutual benefit; and our business arrangements have been such as Christian men would desire to make so that in all things God might be glorified. The young partners began in a very humble fashion in Wilson Street, Finsbury, and they were afterwards able to tell a wonderful story of how the Lord prospered and blessed them there. The very speedy and unprecedented success of the publications made it difficult at times to cope with the extraordinary rush of orders; but, by setting themselves manfully to the task, and using all the help available, they were able to lay a solid foundation for the future well-being of the firm, which afterwards migrated to Little Britain, and then to Fann Street, Aldersgate Street. I have often asked Mr. Passmore the question whether I wrote for him, or he prints for me--whether he is my employer, or I am his. He says that I am "the Governor", so perhaps that settles the point.
[The following selection from the hundreds of letters written by Spurgeon to Mr. or Mrs. Passmore, during their long and intimate association, will afford just a glimpse of the happy friendship which existed between them, and also of the business relationship which remained throughout one of unbroken harmony. This communication was so characteristic that it was deemed worthy of reproduction in facsimile:
(click on image for larger version)
This letter was written by Spurgeon at the close of one of the many Continental tours on which Mr. Passmore had been his companion:
Your noble husband is sitting before the fire on one chair, with his legs up on another, and as it seemed to be a pity to disturb His Royal Highness, I offered to write to you for him, and he accepted the offer. I am happy to say that our mutually respected and beloved Joseph is much better, and will, I hope, arrive at Park Lodge in first-rate condition about 7 or 8 o'clock on Friday. The sea is in an excited condition, and I fear none of us will need an emetic when crossing to-morrow: but it will be better arranged than if we had the management of it, no doubt.
I am very much obliged to you for lending me your worser half so kindly. He is a dear, kind, generous soul, and worth his weight in angels any day. I hope all the young folk are quite well. My dear wife says you are bonnie, which is vastly better than being bony.
My kindest regards are always with you and yours. Pray accept my love, and I dare say His Royal Highness, the King of Little Britain, would send his also; but he is so much engrossed in reading The Standard, that I have not asked about it.
The next letter needs scarcely any explanation; yet it would be interesting to know whether all authors write in as genial a spirit when promised "proofs" do not arrive at the appointed time.
"Dear Mr. Passmore,
Have you retired from business? For, if not, I should be glad of proofs for the month of November of a book entitled Morning by Morning which, unless my memory fails me, you began to print. I was to have had some matter on Monday; and it is now Wednesday. Please jog the friend who has taken your business, and tell him that you always were the very soul of punctuality, and that he must imitate you.
I send a piece for October 31, for I can't find any proof for that date. Please let the gentleman who has taken your business have it soon.
P.S.--Has Mr. Alabaster retired, too? I congratulate you both, and hope the new firm will do as well. What is the name? Il1 make a guess--Messrs. Quick and Speedy."
Although the following letter is of much later date than the preceding ones, it is inserted here to show that Spurgeon had as much consideration for the welfare of a little messenger-boy as he had for the principals of the firm--
When that good little lad came here on Monday with the sermon, late at night, it was needful. But please blow somebody up for sending the poor little creature here, late to-night, in all this snow, with a parcel much heavier than he ought to carry. He could not get home till eleven, I fear; and I feel like a cruel brute in being the innocent cause of having a poor lad out at such an hour on such a night. There was no need at all for it. Do kick somebody for me, so that it may not happen again.