"Sometimes we have seen a model marriage founded on pure love, and cemented in mutual esteem. Therein, the husband acts as a tender head; and the wife, as a true spouse, realizes the model marriage-relation and sets forth what our oneness with the Lord ought to be. She delights in her husband, in his person, his character, his affection; to her, he is not only the chief and foremost of mankind, but in her eyes he is all-in-all; her heart's love belongs to him, and to him only. She finds sweetest content and solace in his company, his fellowship, his fondness; he is her little world, her Paradise, her choice treasure At any time, she would gladly lay aside her own pleasure to find it doubled in gratifying him. She is glad to sink her individuality in his. She seeks no renown for herself; his honour is reflected upon her, and she rejoices in it. She would defend his name with her dying breath; safe enough is he where she can speak for him. The domestic circle is her kingdom; that she may there create happiness and comfort, is her life-work; and his smiling gratitude is all the reward she seeks. Even in her dress, she thinks of him; without constraint she consults his taste, and considers nothing beautiful which is distasteful to him. A tear from his eye, because of any unkindness on her part, would grievously torment her. She asks not how her behaviour may please a stranger, or how another's judgment may approve her conduct; let her beloved be content, and she is glad. He has many objects in life, some of which she does not quite understand; but she believes in them all, and anything that she can do to promote them, she delights to perform. He lavishes love on her, and, in return, she lavishes love on him. Their object in life is common. There are points where their affections so intimately unite that none could tell which is first and which is second. To watch their children growing up in health and strength, to see them holding posts of usefulness and honour, is their mutual concern; in this and other matters, they are fully one. Their wishes blend, their hearts are indivisible. By degrees, they come to think very much the same thoughts. Intimate association creates conformity; I have known this to become so complete that, at the same moment, the same utterance has leaped to both their lips.
Happy woman and happy man! If Heaven be found on earth, they have it! At last, the two are so blended, so engrafted on one stem, that their old age presents a lovely attachment, a common sympathy, by which its infirmities are greatly alleviated, and its burdens are transformed into fresh bonds of love. So happy a union of will, sentiment, thought, and heart exists between them, that the two streams of their life have washed away the dividing bank, and run on as one broad current of united existence till their common joy falls into the ocean of eternal felicity."--C. H. S.
Early Wedded Life by Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon
Again the responsible task lies before me of interweaving my own dearest personal memories with my beloved's Autobiography, that the picture of his life's history may glow with the fair colours and present some of the finishing touches which are needed to render it as complete as possible. Alas, that his dear hand is powerless to furnish them! Every line I write fills me with regret that I cannot better set forth the remembrance of his worth and goodness.
Someone wrote to me, lately, saying that it was impossible for a man's nearest friends to give a true and impartial idea of him; they lived in too close proximity to him, their vision was interrupted by their admiration, they could not see many things that others, looking on from a remoter and broader coign of vantage, could distinctly discern. This seems to me a great mistake, except indeed in cases where "distance lends enchantment to the view"; for who could so reasonably be supposed to understand and recognize the inner qualities and disposition of an individual's character as the one who lived in constant and familiar intercourse with him, and to whom his heart was as a clear, calm lake, reflecting Heaven's own light and beauty? Those who knew my husband best, can testify that intimate knowledge of his character, and close companionship with him, did but more clearly reveal how very near, by God's grace, he had "come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Not in his own estimation, be it well understood--he never spoke of himself as "having apprehended"--he was always "a poor sinner, and nothing at all". So preeminently and gloriously was "Jesus Christ his All-in-all" that his gracious, gentle, lovely life testified daily to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in his heart, and the exceeding power of God which kept him through faith, and enabled him to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith he was called". Robert Murray M'Cheyne used to pray: "O God, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be made!" and, to judge by my husband's life, a similar petition must have been constantly in his heart if not on his lips.
Our brief wedding trip was spent in Paris, and, as I had made many previous visits to the fair city, beside spending some months in the Christian household of Pastor Audebez, in order to acquire the language, I felt quite at home there, and had the intense gratification of introducing my husband to all the places and sights which were worthy of arousing his interest and admiration. We had a cosy suite of rooms (by special favour) in the entresol of the Hôtel Meurice, and every day we explored some fresh musée, or church, or picture-gallery, or drove to some place of historic fame, all the charms of Paris seeming ten times more charming in my eyes than they had ever been before, because of those other loving eyes which now looked upon them with me.
The city was then in the days of her luxury and prosperity; no Communistic fires had scorched and blackened her streets, no turbulent mobs had despoiled her temples and palaces, and laid her glories in the dust; she was triumphant and radiant, and in the pride of her heart was saying, "I sit a queen, . . . and shall see no sorrow." Alas! there were days of calamity and tribulation in store for her, when war, and bloodshed, and fire, and famine ravaged her beauty, and laid waste her choice habitations. But no forecast of such terrible visitations troubled our hearts; the halo of the present illumined all the future. We went to Versailles, to Sèvres, to the Louvre, the Madeleine, the Jardin des Plantes, the Luxembourg, the Hôtel de Cluny; in fact, to every place we could find time for, where Christian people might go, and yet bring away with them a clear conscience. A peep at the Bourse interested us very much. What a scene of strife it was! What a deafening noise the men made! My husband quaintly depicted the excitement in a few words: "The pot boiled more and more furiously as the hour of three approached, and then the brokers, like the foam on the top, ran over, and all the black contents followed by degrees!" Anyone acquainted with the place and its customs will recognize the accuracy and humour of this graphic description.
Naturally, the interiors of the churches attracted much of our attention; we always found, something to admire, though, alas! There was also much to deplore. When we visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame, I was able to interest my companion by telling him that I had seen it in full gala dress on the occasion of the marriage of the Emperor Napoleon III to his charming Empress Eugenie, and how glittering and gorgeous it then looked, with its abundant draperies of imperial purple velvet, embroidered all over with golden bees! All the wealth and riches of the great sanctuary then pressed into service, and the result was magnificent. Without such adornments, the church has a simple and solemn grandeur of its own, very soothing to the mind, and, at the time of which I am writing, its sanctity was enhanced--in the opinion of its Roman Catholic worshippers--by its possession of such sacred relics as part of the true cross, and the crown of thorns! These were shown to visitors on payment of an extra fee, as was also an amazing number of splendid vestments encrusted with gold and jewels, and worth a prince's ransom. I believe that, at the time of the Commune, much of this treasure was carried away, or ruthlessly destroyed.
The beauty of the Sainte Chapelle specially delighted us, and we went there more than once. "It is a little heaven of stained glass," was my beloved's verdict; and, truly, its loveliness looked almost celestial, as we stood enwrapped in its radiance, the light of the sinking sun glorifying its matchless windows into a very dream of dazzling grace and harmony of colour.
Then there were St. Roch, St. Sulpice, Ste. Clotilde, and hosts of other churches, not forgetting St. Etienne du Mont, a grand edifice, containing the sumptuous shrine of Ste. Geneviève--in its way, a perfect gem--nor St. Germain l'Auxerrois, with its ancient rose windows, and its pathetic memories of the betrayed Huguenots.
The Panthéon, too, once a temple, now a church, received a share of our interested attention. So far as I can remember, the building itself was almost empty, except for some statues ranged around it; but we descended to the crypt, which contains the tombs of Rousseau, Voltaire, and other notable or notorious men, and we listened, with something like fear, to the thunderous echo which lurks there, and attracts visitors to these subterranean vaults. It is very loud and terrible, like a cannon fired off, and it gives one quite an uncanny feeling to hear such a deafening roar down in the bowels of the earth. After this experience, we were very glad to get into the fresh air again.
Of course, we went to St. Cloud (now, alas! in ruins). There is--or was--a lonely, lovely walk through the Park to the summit of an eminence crowned by the lantern of Diogenes. From there, the view was glorious. The Seine flowed far below, the suburbs of the city lay beyond; Mont Valérien on the right, Paris straight before one's eyes, with the gilded dome of the Invalides shining in the clear air; St. Sulpice, and the Panthéon, and countless spires and towers forming landmarks in the great sea of houses and streets, the twin heights of Montmartre and Père la Chaise in the background; all these grouped together and viewed from the hill, formed an indescribably charming picture.
I tried to be a good cicerone, and I think I fairly succeeded, for my companion was greatly delighted, and in after years, in his frequent visits to the French capital with friends and fellow-voyagers, he took upon himself the rôle of conductor, with the happiest and most satisfactory results. He was never at a loss where to go, or how to spend the time in the most pleasant and profitable manner. A little note, written from Paris, twenty years after our wedding trip, contains the following sentences: "My heart flies to you, as I remember my first visit to this city under your dear guidance. I love you now as then, only multiplied many times."
Ah! "tender grace of a day that is dead", thy joy is not lessened by distance, nor lost by separation; rather is it stored both in Heaven and in my heart's deepest chambers, and some day, when that casket is broken, it will "come back to me", not here, but in that happy land where the days die not, where "the touch of a vanished hand" shall be felt again, and "the sound of a voice that is still" shall again make music in my ravished ears!
'Twas a brief, bright season, this wedding trip of ours, lasting about ten days, for my husband could not leave his sacred work for a longer time, and we were both eager to return that we might discover the delights of having a home of our own, and enjoy the new sensation of feeling ourselves master and mistress of all we surveyed! What a pure unsullied joy was that home-coming! How we thanked and praised the Lord for His exceeding goodness to us in bringing us there, and how earnestly and tenderly my husband prayed that God's blessing might rest upon us then and evermore! How, we admired everything in the house, and thought there never was quite such a delightful home before, will be best understood by those who have lived in Love-land, and are well acquainted with the felicity of setting up house-keeping there. On the table, in the little sitting-room, lay a small parcel, which, when opened, proved to be a wedding present from Mr. W. Poole Balfern.
I think the circumstances under which my beloved and Mr. Balfern met, are worthy of a passing notice. One Saturday, the time for sermon-preparation had arrived, and the dear preacher had shut himself up in his study, when a ministerial visitor was announced. He would not give his name, but said, "Tell Mr. Spurgeon that a servant of the Lord wishes to see him." To this my husband replied, "Tell the gentleman that I am so busy with his Master, that I cannot attend to the servant." Then word was sent that W. Poole Balfern was the visitor, and no sooner did Mr. Spurgeon hear the name, than he ran out to him, clasped his hand in both his own, and exclaimed, W. Poole Balfern! The man who wrote Glimpses of Jesus! Come in, thou blessed of the Lord!" Describing that interview long afterwards, Mr. Balfern said, "I learned then that the secret of Mr. Spurgeon's success was, that he was cradled in the Holy Ghost." It was a very remarkable expression, which I do not remember to have met with anywhere else; but it was as true as it was striking.
So many memories cling about our first home, and so many notable events of early married life transpired within its walls, that I must ask my readers kindly to refer to the view given on Plate 17,
(click on image for larger version)
that they may the more readily understand the description which follows. On the ground door, the single window--now almost hidden by a tree, planted since the days of which I write--marks the little front parlour or "living-room", in old-fashioned parlance, where the greater part of the home-life was spent; above this, and boasting two windows, was a very fair-sized room, the best in the house, and, therefore, devoted to the best of uses--the master's study; and the two windows immediately over this belonged to a bed-chamber of the same size, where afterwards our twin-boys first saw the light of day. It may not be out of place to say here that in all the houses we have lived in--four in all--we never encumbered ourselves with what a modern writer calls, "the drawback of a drawing-room"; perhaps for the good reason that we were such homely, busy people that we had no need of so useless a place--but more especially, I think, because the "best room" was always felt to belong by right to the one who "laboured much in the Lord".
We began housekeeping on a very modest scale, and even then had to practise rigid economy in all things, for my dear husband earnestly longed to help young men to preach the gospel, and from our slender resources we had to contribute somewhat largely to the support and education of T. W. Medhurst, who was the first to receive training for the work. From so small a beginning sprang the present Pastors' College, with its splendid record of service both done and doing. I rejoice to remember how I shared my beloved's joy when he founded the Institution, and that, together we planned and pinched in order to carry out the purpose of his loving heart; it gave me quite a motherly interest in the College, and "our own men". The chief difficulty, with regard to money matters in those days, was to "make both ends meet"; we never had enough left over to "tie a bow and ends", but I can see now that this was God's way of preparing us to sympathize with and help poor pastors in the years which were to come.
One of these good men, when recounting to me the griefs of his poverty, once said, "You can scarcely understand, for you have never been in the same position;" but my thoughts flew back to this early time, and I could truly say, "I may not have been in such depths of need as seem now likely to swallow you up, but I well remember when we lived on the 'do without' system, and only 'God's providence was our inheritance', and when He often stretched forth His hand, and wrought signal deliverances for us, when our means were sorely straitened, and the coffers of both College and household were well-nigh empty." I recall a special time of need, supplied by great and unexpected mercy. Some demand came in for payment--I think it must have been a tax or rate, for I never had bills owing to tradesmen--and we had nothing where with to meet it. What a distressing condition of excitement seized us! "Wifey," said my beloved, "what can we do? I must give up hiring the horse, and walk to New Park Street every time I preach!" "Impossible," I replied, "with so many services, you simply could not do it." Long and anxiously we pondered over ways and means, and laid our burden before the Lord, entreating Him to come to our aid. And, of course, He heard and answered, for He is a faithful God. That night, or the next day, I am not sure which, a letter was received, containing £20 for our own use, and we never knew who sent it, save that it came in answer to prayer! This was our first united and personal home experience of special necessity provided for by our Heavenly Father, and our hearts felt a very solemn awe and gladness as we realized that He knew what things we had need of before we asked Him. As the years rolled by, such eventful passages in our history were graciously multiplied, and even excelled, but perhaps this first blessed deliverance was the foundation stone of my husband's strong and mighty faith, for I do not remember ever afterwards seeing him painfully anxious concerning supplies for any of his great works; he depended wholly on the Lord, his trust was perfect, and he lacked nothing.
There are one or two little pictures which memory has retained of events in that little front parlour whose window looks into the road. I will try to reproduce them, though the colours are somewhat faded, and the backgrounds blurred with age.
It is the Sabbath, and the day's work is done. The dear preacher has had a light repast, and now rests in his easy chair by a bright fire, while, on a low cushion at his feet, sits his wife, eager to minister in some way to her beloved's comfort. "Shall I read to you to-night, dear?" she says; for the excitement and labour of the Sabbath services sorely try him, and his mind needs some calm and soothing influence to set it at rest. "Will you have a page or two of good George Herbert?" "Yes, that will be very refreshing, wifey; I shall like that." So the book is procured, and he chooses a portion which I read slowly and with many pauses, that he may interpret to me the sweet mysteries hidden within the gracious words. Perhaps his enjoyment of the book is all the greater that he has thus to explain and open out to me the precious truths enwrapped in Herbert's quaint verse--anyhow, the time is delightfully spent. I read on and on for an hour or more, till the peace of Heaven flows into our souls, and the tired servant of the King of kings loses his sense of fatigue, and rejoices after his toil.
Another Sabbath night, and the scene is somewhat changed in character. The dear Pastor is not only weary, but sorely depressed in spirit. "Oh, darling!" he says, "I fear I have not been as faithful in my preaching to-day as I should have been; I have not been as much in earnest after poor souls as God would have me be. O Lord, pardon Thy servant!" "Go, dear," he continues, "to the study, and fetch down Baxter's Reformed Pastor, and read some of it to me; perhaps that will quicken my sluggish heart." So I bring the book, and with deep sighs he turns the pages till he finds some such passage as the following: "Oh, what a charge have we undertaken! And shall we be unfaithful? Have we the stewardship of God's own family, and shall we neglect it! Have we the conduct of those saints who must live for ever with God in glory, and shall we be unconcerned for them! God forbid! I beseech you, brethren, let this thought awaken the negligent! You that draw back from painful, displeasing, suffering duties, and will put off men's souls with ineffectual formalities; do you think this is an honourable usage of Christ's Spouse? Are the souls of men thought meet by God to see His face, and live for ever in His glory, and are they not worthy of your utmost cost and labour? Do you think so basely of the Church of God, as if it deserved not the best of your care and help? Were you the keepers of sheep or swine, you might better let them go, and say, 'They be not worth the looking after;' and yet you would scarcely do so, if they were your own. But dare you say so by the souls of men!"
I read page after page of such solemn pleadings, interrupted now and again by his stifled heart-sobs, till my voice fails from emotion and sympathy, my eyes grow dim, and my tears mingle with his as we weep together--he, from the smitings of a very tender conscience towards God, and I, simply and only because I love him, and want to share his grief. Not for a moment do I believe there is any real cause for his self-upbraidings, but as that is a matter between himself and his God, I can only comfort him by my quiet sympathy. "The burden of the Lord" is upon his heart, and He lets him feel the awful weight of it for a time, that "the excellency of the power may be of God," and not of man. "Who teacheth like Him?"
In the same small room occurred also a touching little scene which I have described in Ten Years After! but which cannot be left out of this history, for it has a right to a place here, revealing, as it does, the tenderness of my beloved's heart, while he still consistently put "first things first". He was constantly away from home fulfilling preaching engagements of long or short duration, and these frequent absences were a trial to me, though I kept faithfully to my purpose of never hindering him in his work. But I remember how, while waiting for his return, late at night, from some distant place, I would tire of the cramped space of the tiny parlour, and pace up and down the narrow passage--dignified by the name of a "hall"--watching and listening for the dear footstep I knew so well, and praying--oh, how fervently!--that the Lord would care for his precious life, and avert all danger from him as he travelled back by road or rail. I can even now recall the thrill of joy and thankfulness with which I opened the door, and welcomed him home.
One morning, after breakfast, when he was preparing to go out on one of his long journeys, the room looked so bright and cosy that a sudden depression seized me at the thought of its emptiness when he was gone, and the many anxious hours that must pass before I should see him again. Some tears would trickle down my cheeks, in spite of my efforts to restrain them. Seeing me look so sad, he said, very gently, "Wifey, do you think that, when any of the children of Israel brought a lamb to the Lord's altar as an offering to Him, they stood and wept over it when they had seen it laid there?" "Why, no!" I replied, startled by his strange question, "certainly not; the Lord would not have been pleased with an offering reluctantly given." "Well" said he, tenderly, "don't you see, you are giving me to God, in letting me go to preach the gospel to poor sinners, and do you think He likes to see you cry over your sacrifice?" Could ever a rebuke have been more sweetly and graciously given! It sank deep into my heart, carrying comfort with it, and, thenceforward, when I parted with him, the tears were scarcely ever allowed to show themselves, or if a stray one or two dared to run over the boundaries, he would say, "What! crying over your lamb, wifey!" and this reminder would quickly dry them up, and bring a smile in their place.
Ah, sweetheart! was there ever one like thee? These were the days of early married life, it is true, when love was young, and temper tranquil, and forbearance an easy task, but "the wife of thy youth" can testify that, with thee, these lovely things of good report strengthened rather than diminished as time went on, and that, during all the forty years she knew and loved thee, thou wert the most tender, gracious, and indulgent of husbands, ruling with perfect love and gentleness, maintaining the Divinely-ordained position of "the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church", yet permitting her heart and hand to influence and share in every good word and work.
And now that I am parted from thee, not for a few days only, as in that long-ago time, but "until the day break, and the shadows flee away", I think I hear again thy loving voice saying, "Don't cry over your lamb, wifey," as I try to give thee up ungrudgingly to God--not without tears--ah, no! that is not possible, but with that full surrender of the heart which makes the sacrifice acceptable in His sight.
An extraordinary incident occurred in this early period of our history. One Saturday evening, my dear husband was deeply perplexed by the difficulties presented by a text on which he desired to preach the next morning. It was in Psalm cx. 3: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: Thou hast the dew of Thy youth;" and, with his usual painstaking preparation, he consulted all the Commentaries he then possessed, seeking light from the Holy Spirit upon their words and his own thoughts, but, as it seemed, in vain. I was as much distressed as he was, but I could not help him in such an emergency. At least, I thought I could not; but the Lord had a great favour in store for me, and used me to deliver His servant out of his serious embarrassment. He sat up very late, and was utterly worn out and dispirited, for all his efforts to get at the heart of the text were unavailing. I advised him to retire to rest, and soothed him by suggesting that, if he would try to sleep then, he would probably in the morning feel quite refreshed, and able to study to better purpose. "If I go to sleep now, wifey, will you wake me very early, so that I may have plenty of time to prepare?" With my loving assurance that I would watch the time for him, and call him soon enough, he was satisfied, and, like a trusting, tired child, he laid his head upon the pillow, and slept soundly and sweetly at once.
By-and-by, a wonderful thing happened. During the first dawning hours of the Sabbath, I heard him talking in his sleep, and roused myself to listen attentively. Soon, I realized that he was going over the subject of the verse which had been so obscure to him, and was giving a clear and distinct exposition of its meaning, with much force and freshness. I set myself, with almost trembling joy, to understand and follow all that he was saying, for I knew that, if I could but seize and remember the salient points of the discourse, he would have no difficulty in developing and enlarging upon them. Never preacher had a more eager and anxious hearer! What if I should let the precious words slip? I had no means at hand of "taking notes", so, like Nehemiah, I prayed to the God of Heaven," and asked that I might receive and retain the thoughts which He had given to His servant in his sleep, and which were so singularly entrusted to my keeping. As I lay, repeating over and over again the chief points I wished to remember, my happiness was very great in anticipation of his surprise and delight on awaking, but I had kept vigil so long, cherishing my joy, that I must have been overcome with slumber just when the usual time for rising came, for he awoke with a frightened start, and seeing the tell-tale clock, said, "Oh, wifey, you said you would wake me very early, and now see the time! Oh, why did you let me sleep? What shall I do? What shall I do?" "Listen, beloved," I answered; and I told him all I had heard. "Why! that's just what I wanted," he exclaimed; "that is the true explanation of the whole verse! And you say I preached it in my sleep?" "It is wonderful," he repeated again and again, and we both praised the Lord for so remarkable a manifestation of His power and love. Joyfully my dear one went down to his study, and prepared this God-given sermon, and it was delivered that same morning, April 13, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel. It can be found and read in Vol. II of the sermons (No. 74), and its opening paragraph gives the dear preacher's own account of the difficulty he experienced in dealing with the text. Naturally, he refrained from telling the congregation the special details which I have here recorded, but, many years after, he told the tale to his students at one of their ever-to-be-remembered Friday afternoon gatherings, and some of them still keep it fresh in their memories.
About this time, I recall a visit to Stambourne which I paid with my dear husband. I saw, and loved at first sight, the dear old grandfather, so proud of "the child" who had grown into a great and gracious preacher. How kindly he received his grandson's wife! With what tender, old-fashioned courtesy he cared for her! Everything about the place was then exactly as my beloved has described it earlier in this work; nothing had been altered. The old Manse was still standing, though not as upright as in its youth; the ivy grew inside the parlour, the old flowered chintz curtains still hung in their places, and the floor of the best bed-chamber where we slept was as "anxious to go out of the window" as ever; indeed, a watchful balancing of one's self was required to avoid a stumble or a fall. It was all very quaint, but very delightful, because of so many precious memories to him who had lived there. The occasion of our visit was the anniversary, either of the meeting-house, or the revered Pastor's ministry, and the house was crowded with visitors, and unremitting hospitality seemed the order of the day. How delighted and interested the home folks and neighbours all were, and how much loving fuss was made over the young Pastor and his wife! It was charming to see him in the midst of his own people. He was just "the child" again, the joy of the old man's heart; but when he preached, and the power of God's Spirit burned in his words, and he fed the people to the full, the grandfather's bliss must have been a foretaste of the joys of Heaven.
For my part, I had a considerable share of petting and kind attention, and but one black drop in my cup of pleasure. This I mean literally; I was enjoying a large cup of tea, and thinking how good and refreshing it was on a hot day, when, as the bottom of the cup was becoming visible, I saw, to my horror, a great spider--my special detestation--dead, of course, his black body swollen to a huge size, and his long legs describing a wheel-like circle in the remaining fluid. And I had been drinking the boiled juice of this monster! Oh, the disgust of it! Alas! that we can remember the evil, and let go the good! My beloved's sermon is forgotten; but the spider has the power to make me feel "creepy" even at this moment!
I make a passing reference to the birth of our twin-boys, in order to contradict emphatically a story, supposed to be very witty, which was circulated extensively, and believed in universally, not only at the time it was told, but through all the following years. It was said that my dear husband received the news of the addition to his household while he was preaching, and that he immediately communicated the fact to his congregation, adding in a serio-comic way--
I am sorry to say there are persons, still living, who declare that they were present at the service, and heard him say it!
Now the truth is, that the boys were born on Saturday morning, September 20, 1856, and my dear husband never left the house that day; nor, so far as I know, did he ever preach on the seventh day at any time, so the statement at once falls to the ground disproved. But I think I have discovered how the legend was manufactured. Looking through the sermons preached near to this date, I find that, on Thursday evening, September 25--five days after the event referred to Mr. Spurgeon delivered a discourse on behalf of the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society, and in the course of it made the following remarks: "When we take our walks abroad, and see the poor, he must be a very thankless Christian who does not lift up his eyes to Heaven, and praise his God thus--
If we were all made rich alike, if God had given us all abundance, we should never know the value of His mercies; but He puts the poor side by side with us, to make their trials, like a dark shadow, set forth the brightness which He is pleased to give to others in temporal matters."
I have no doubt that some facetious individual, present at this Thursday evening service, and being aware of the babies' advent, on hearing these lines repeated, pounced upon them as the nucleus of an attractive story, linked the two facts in his own mind, and then proclaimed them to the world as an undivided verity! Most of the stories told of my dear husband's jocoseness in the pulpit were "stories" in the severe sense of the word; or possessed just so small a modicum of truth internally that the narrators were able, by weaving a network of exaggeration and romance around them, to make a very presentable and alluring fiction. It was one of the penalties of his unique position and gifts that, all through his life, he had to bear the cross of cruel misrepresentation and injustice. Thank God, that is all left behind for ever!
Though I am quite certain that the lines in question were not quoted by my beloved in public in reference to the double blessing God gave to us, I should scarcely be surprised if he made use of them when speaking to friends in private. If his heart were full of joy and gratitude, it would be sure to bubble over in some child-like and natural fashion. I have quite recently received a letter from a lady in the country, telling me of her visit to an old man--an ex-policeman, named Coleman--who, though bedridden, never tires of relating his memories of Mr. Spurgeon in those early days. He was stationed at New Park Street Chapel, on special duty, when the crowds came to hear "the boy-preacher", and he delights to tell how, after a short while, the street became so blocked that the chapel-gates had to be closed, and the people admitted a hundred at a time. "Ah!" said he, "he was a dear, good young man, he did not make himself anything; he would shake hands with anyone, he would give me such a grip, and leave; half-a-crown in my hand; he knew that we policemen had a rub to get along on our pay. I know there were many he helped with their rent. He did look pleased that Sunday morning, when he said, 'Coleman, what do you think? God has blessed me with two sons!' I used to go in and sit just inside the door, and get a feast for my soul from his discourses. I shall see him again soon, I hope."
Of course, this little story lacks the piquancy and sparkle of the former one; but it has the advantage of being true. There was one other notable time in the front parlour. It recurs to me, at this moment, as the first falling of that black shadow of sorrow which the Lord saw fit to cast over our young and happy lives. It was again a Sabbath evening. I lay on a couch under the window, thinking of my dear one who had gone to preach his first sermon at the Surrey Music Hall, and praying that the Lord would bless his message to the assembled thousands. It was just a month since our children were born, and I was dreaming of all sorts of lovely possibilities and pleasures, when I heard a carriage stop at the gate. It was far too early for my husband to come home, and I wondered who my unexpected visitor could be. Presently, one of the deacons was ushered into the room, and I saw at once, from his manner, that something unusual had happened. I besought him to tell me all quickly, and he did so, kindly, and with much sympathy; and he kneeled by the couch, and prayed that we might have grace and strength to bear the terrible trial which had so suddenly come upon us. But how thankful I was when he went away! I wanted to be alone, that I might cry to God in this hour of darkness and death! When my beloved was brought home, he looked a wreck of his former self--an hour's agony of mind had changed his whole appearance and bearing. The night that ensued was one of weeping, and wailing, and indescribable sorrow. He refused to be comforted. I thought the morning would never break; and when it did come, it brought no relief.
The Lord has mercifully blotted out from my mind most of the details of the time of grief which followed, when my beloved's anguish was so deep and violent that reason seemed to totter on her throne, and we sometimes feared he would never preach again. It was truly "the valley of the shadow of death" through which we then walked, and, like poor Christian, we here "sighed bitterly", for the pathway was so dark "that, ofttimes, when we lifted up our foot to set forward, we knew not where or upon what should set it next!"
It was in the garden of a house belonging to one of the deacons, in the suburbs of Croydon, whither my beloved had been taken in hope that the change and quiet would be beneficial, that the Lord was pleased to restore his mental equilibrium, and unloose the bars which had kept his Spirit in darkness. We had been walking together, as usual--he, restless and anguished; I, sorrowful and amazed, wondering what the end of these things would be--when, at the foot of the steps which gave access to the house, he stopped suddenly, and turned to me, and with the old sweet light in his eyes (ah! how grievous had been its absence!), he said, "Dearest, how foolish I have been! Why! what does it matter what becomes of me, if the Lord shall but be glorified?"--and he repeated, with eagerness and intense emphasis, Philippians ii. 9-11: "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." "If Christ be exalted," he said--and his face glowed with holy fervour "let Him do as He pleases with me; my one prayer shall be, that I may die to self, and live wholly for Him and for His honour. Oh, wifey, I see it all now! Praise the Lord with me!"
In that moment his fetters were broken, the captive came forth from his dungeon, and rejoiced in the light of the Lord. The Sun of righteousness arose once more upon him, with healing in His wings. But he earned the scars of that conflict to his dying day, and never afterwards had he the physical vigour and strength which he possessed before passing through that fierce trial. Verily, it was a thorny path by which the Lord led him. Human love would have protected him at any cost from an ordeal so terrible, and suffering so acute, but God's love saw the end from the beginning, and "He never makes a mistake." Though we may not, at the time, see His purpose in the afflictions which He sends us, it will be plainly revealed when the light of eternity falls upon the road along which we have journeyed.
While staying at Mr.Winsor's hospitable home, where he so kindly received and sheltered us in the time of our trouble, it was decided that the babies should be there dedicated to the Lord, and His service. So, when our dear patient seemed sufficiently recovered to take part in the observance, a goodly number of friends gathered together, and we had a happy meeting for prayer and praise. Full details I am unable to give; the only photograph which my memory retains is that of the two little creatures being carried round the large room--after the dedicatory prayers were offered--to be admired, and kissed, and blessed. What choice mercies, what special favours, their dear father asked for them then, I do not remember; but the Lord has never forgotten that prayer, and the many petitions which followed it. He not only heard, but has been answering all through the years of their lives, and with the most abounding blessing since He saw fit to make them fatherless! No ceremonial was observed, no drops of "holy water'' fell on the children's brows; but in that room, that evening, as truly as in the house, "by the farther side of Jordan", in the days gone by, our infants were brought to Christ the Lord "that He would touch them"; and it is not now a matter of faith, so much as of sight, that "He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them".
Ah, me! it is not so many years ago since the elder of those twin boys brought his firstborn son to "Westwood", and my beloved, in one of those tender outpourings of the heart which were so natural to him, gave the child to God; and, not many months afterwards--God answered the prayer, and took him to Himself! One of the brightest, bonniest babies ever seen, he was the delight and expectation of our hearts; but the gift was claimed suddenly, and the child, who was to have done, according to our ideas, so much service on earth, went to sing God's praises with the angels! I wonder, sometimes, whether the little ransomed spirit met and welcomed his warrior grandfather on the shores of the Glory-land!