In a lecture one has the advantage of more freedom than in a sermon. One is permitted to take a wider range of subjects, and to use an easier style than a theological discourse allows. I will use this freedom, but my aim will be the same as if I were preaching. I trust my lecture may possibly impress some minds to whom a sermon would seem too dull a business . . . I claim the right to mingle the severe with the lively, the grave with the gay. In due proportions the mixture may be taken with good effect.--C.H.S. in Introduction to 'Sermons in Candles.'
I suppose a 'lecture' signifies a reading; but enough of my brethren use manuscripts, and I will not compete with them. If I cannot speak extemporaneously I will hold my tongue. To read I am ashamed.--C.H.S.
Lectures and Addresses
The first lecture given by Spurgeon, of which a full report has been preserved, was the one delivered at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall on Tuesday evening, December 29, 1857. under the title, 'A Christian's Pleasures.' It was a bright, lively talk containing much earnest warning and solid instruction. After speaking upon the so-called pleasures which are absolutely forbidden to a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and of others which, though innocent, are utterly absurd and insipid, the lecturer thus referred to certain amusements concerning which there is a great dispute whether Christians ought to indulge in them:
'Some persons ask, "What do you think about dancing?" Well, I never hear the subject mentioned without having an uncomfortable feeling in my throat, for I remember that the first Baptist minister had his head danced off! I am sure I should have to be off my head before I should indulge in that pastime. The usual associations of the ball-room and dancing parties are of such a character that it is marvellous to me how Christians can ever be found taking pleasure in them. A safe rule to apply to all occupations is--"Can I take the Lord Jesus Christ with me if I go there? If not, it is no place for me as one of His followers."
Then I may be asked, "What do you think of games of chance?" Well I always draw a distinction between games that require the exercise of skill and those that largely depend upon chance, as in the shuffling of cards and the throw of the dice. Some games are to be heartily recommended because they tend to sharpen the mental faculties; I do not think the most precise Christian ought to object to draughts or chess--if not played for money--for they help to develop and improve our powers of thought, and calculation, and judgment. Sometimes, when I am weary with my work, I take down my Euclid, and go over a few propositions; or I work out some of Bland's equations,' just by way of amusement. That kind of exercise is as much a recreation to me as running out in the fields would be to a boy at school.
In my opinion, games of skill are not objectionable, but every Christian should object to games of chance. Generally, they are played for gain, and hence they excite covetous desires, and so break the tenth commandment. 'With regard to the great proportion of games of chance, we hardly need discuss the question. The time has now arrived when all England ought to be heartily sick of every form of gaming. It used to be a comparatively harmless thing for ladies and gentlemen to spend all the evening over a pack of cards, or a box of dice, without any money being at stake, but we have had such practical proof that the worst crimes have sprung from this apparently inoffensive practice, that every Christian mind must revolt from it. Besides, I have always felt that the rattle of the dice in the box would remind me of that game which was played by the soldiers at the foot of Christ's cross, when they cast lots for His vesture, and parted His garments among them. He who sees His Saviour's blood splashed on the dice will never wish to meddle with them.
The mere fact that there is any question about a certain course ought to be sufficient to make us avoid it. Have you never noticed that, when people come to ask you whether a thing is right or not, they usually mean to do it themselves? Frequently, a person comes to me with some scruple of conscience, but the questioner has generally made up his mind what he is going to do before he receives my answer. More than one young person has said to me, "Mr. Spurgeon, I want to ask your advice about a very important matter. You are my minister, and I want you to tell me whether you think I ought to marry So-and-so," but, whatever counsel I may give in such cases, I am quite certain they have usually determined what they are going to do, so often I give no advice at all. Possibly you remember the case of the minister who, on one occasion, was asked by a woman whether she should marry a certain man. "Well," said he, "the best thing you can do is to go out, and listen to the bells as you walk home." As she listened to their tuneful melody, they seemed to say to her--
so she did, and her husband horsewhipped her three weeks afterwards! Then she went again to her minister, and told him that he had given her very bad advice. "Why!" said he, "I never told you to get married; I told you to listen to the bells!" "So I did," replied the woman. "But," said the minister, "perhaps you did not hear their message aright; go and listen again." So she went out, and hearkened once more to the bells--remember, this was after the horsewhipping--and this is what they seemed to say then--
It is just the same with people who come to ask you about debatable amusements. Whatever you tell them, you may be sure that they have made up their minds beforehand. I would leave all such questions to a Christian's own judgment, but let him always remember that, although a thing may be right to other people, it may be wrong to him; and it is wrong to him if he has any doubts about it. The apostle Paul said, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin;" that is, whatever a man cannot do, believing it to be right, is sin to him. If I have any doubt about anything, it is sin to me; though it may not be sinful in itself. Conscience must be the great judge on those points that do not involve morality or immorality; and we thank our God that He has given to each of us who know His Name that inward Monitor, the Holy Spirit, who is infinitely superior to our own conscience, and if we go on our knees, and ask Him for direction, we shall not be misled as to our amusements or anything else. Our Puritanical forefathers may have been a little too strict, but many, nowadays, have become a great deal too loose. If we became more holy by being more Puritanical and precise, both the Church of Christ and the world at large would have good reason to rejoice.'
The remainder·of the lecture was devoted to a consideration of the pleasures which true godliness gives, to make up for those it takes away, and an earnest exhortation to all Christians to endeavour to be happy, and so to attract others to the religion which had brought to them so much gladness and joy.
Spurgeon appears to have regarded the address upon 'A Christian's Pleasures' as an informal talk among his own friends rather than a lecture, for when, on January 4, 1859, he took his place at Exeter Hall as one of the lecturers to the Young Men's Christian Association, to speak upon the subject announced--De Propaganda Fide--he began by saying:
'I do not feel in my place here to-night. This is the very first occasion in my life upon which I have ever presented myself before the public as a lecturer-at least, before any audience worthy of being called a multitude. I have long been in the habit of preaching, and one cannot break through a habit that has been acquired by years of constant practice; and I feel positively certain that, do whatever I may, I shall have to preach a sermon to-night. I cannot lecture, I told your secretary so; and I tell you also the same, so that, when you retire from the hall, you may say, "Well, I am disappointed, but it is just as he said it would be."
With regard to the title of my lecture, it is a very strange one, and some people have said, "How could Mr. Spurgeon have selected a Latin title for his lecture? What does he know about Latin? He knows a little about Saxon, but he certainly does not understand Latin." I will just tell you the secret of it: I think there is wisdom in that title. Mr. Shipton asked me, a long time ago, what my subject would be. I said, "I am sure I cannot tell you." I very seldom know twenty-four hours beforehand the subject of any sermon I am going to preach. I have never been able to acquire the habit of elaborate preparation. I usually begin my sermonizing for the Sabbath-day on Saturday evening. I cannot think long upon any one subject; and I always feel that if I do not see through it quickly I shall not be likely to see through it at all, so I give it up, and try another. What my theme for this evening was to be, I did not know, so I thought I would have a Latin title; and then, supposing I did not keep to the subject, people would say I did not understand the Latin, and had made a mistake. I felt sure that, with the title I have chosen, I should have a wide field, because I could either translate it literally, and keep close to the exact words, or else I might use a very free translation, and select almost any topic I pleased.'
Dealing with the subject first negatively, Spurgeon showed that, by the propagation of the faith, he did not mean the nominal Christianization of nations, nor the bringing of large numbers to make a profession of love to Christ, nor the conversion of persons from one sect to another. Then, turning to the positive side of the subject, the lecturer continued:
'What, then, is the propagation of the faith? I suggest another question. What is the faith? Here a hundred isms rise up, and I put them all aside; they may be phases of the faith, but they are not the faith. What, then, is the faith? Strange to say, the faith of Christians is a Person. You may ask all other religions wherein their faith lieth, and they cannot answer on this wise. Our faith is a Person; the gospel that we have to preach is a Person, and go wherever we may, we have something solid and tangible to preach. If you had asked the twelve apostles, in their day, "What do you believe in?" they would not have needed to go round about with a long reply, but they would have pointed to their Master, and they would have said, "We believe Him." "But what are your doctrines?" "There they stand incarnate." "But what is your practice?" "There stands our practice. He is our example." "What, then, do you believe," Hear ye the glorious answer of the apostle Paul, "We preach Christ crucified." Our creed, our body of divinity, our whole theology is summed up in the person of Christ Jesus. The apostle preached doctrine, but the doctrine was Christ. He preached practice, but the practice was all in Christ. There is no summary of the faith of a Christian that can compass all he believes, except that word Christ; and that is the Alpha and the Omega of our creed, that is the first and the last rule of our practice--Christ, and Him crucified. To spread the faith, then, is to spread the knowledge of Christ crucified. It is, in fact, to bring men, through the agency of God's Spirit, to feel their need of Christ, to seek Christ, to believe in Christ, to love Christ, and then to live for Christ.'
After mentioning some of the encouraging signs of the times, and certain dangers against which he felt it needful to warn his hearers, Spurgeon continued:
'We must confess that, just now, we have not the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we could wish. Many are being converted; I hope that few of us are labouring unsuccessfully, but we are none of us labouring as our hearts could desire. Oh, that I could have the Spirit of God in me, till I was filled to the brim, that I might always feel as Baxter did when he said--
I pant for that inward agony of spirit which has made men preach the gospel as though they knew they would be wrapped in their winding-sheets when they descended from the pulpit, and that they should stand at the bar of God as soon as they had finished their sermons. And I feel that, as we want an agonizing spirit in the pulpit, our hearers need it, too. Oh, if the Spirit of God should come upon those assembled to-night, and upon all the assemblies of the saints, what an effect would be produced! We seek not for extraordinary excitements, those spurious attendants of genuine revivals, but we do seek for the pouring out of the Spirit of God. There is a secret operation which we do not understand; it is like the wind, we know not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; yet, though we understand it not, we can and do perceive its Divine effect. It is this breath of Heaven which we want. The Spirit is blowing upon our churches now with His genial breath, but it is as a soft evening gale. Oh, that there would come a rushing mighty wind, that should carry everything before it, so that even the dry bones of the Valley of Vision might be filled with life, and be made to stand up before the Lord, an exceeding great army! This is the lack of the times, the great want of our country. May this come as a blessing from the Most High!'
Towards the close of the lecture, there was the following striking passage concerning war and its influence upon heathen nations:
'There is one thing I must say--I often hear Christian men blessing God for that which I cannot but reckon as a curse. They will say, if there is war with China, "The bars of iron will be cut in sunder, and the gates of brass shall be opened to the gospel." Whenever England goes to war, many shout, "It will open a way for the gospel." I cannot understand how the devil is to make a way for Christ; and what is war but an incarnate fiend, the impersonation of all that is hellish in fallen humanity' How, then, shall we rouse the devilry of man's nature--
Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war--
and then declare it is to make straight in the desert a highway for our God--a highway knee-deep in gore? Do you believe it? You cannot. God does overrule evil for good, but I have never seen yet--though I look with the cautious eye of one who has no party to serve-I have never seen the rare fruit which is said to grow upon this vine of Gomorrah. Let any other nation go to war, and it is all well and good for the English to send missionaries to the poor inhabitants of the ravaged countries. In such a case, our people did not make the war, they did not create the devastation, so they may go there to preach, but for English cannon to make a way in Canton for an English missionary, is a lie too glaring for me to believe for a moment. I cannot comprehend the Christianity which talks thus of murder and robbery. If other nations thus choose to fight, and if God lets them open the door for the gospel, I will bless Him, but I must still weep for the slain, and exclaim against the murderers. I blush for my country when I see it committing such terrible crimes in China, for what is the opium traffic but an enormous crime? War arises out of it, and then men say that the gospel is furthered by it: can you see how that result is produced? Then your eye must be singularly fashioned. For my part, I am in the habit of looking straight at a thing--I endeavour to judge it by the Word of God-and in this case it requires but little deliberation in order to arrive at a verdict. It seems to me that, if I were a Chinaman, and I saw an Englishman preaching in the street in China, I should say to him, "What have you got there?" "I am sent to preach the gospel to you." "The gospel! What is that? Is it anything like opium? Does it intoxicate, and blast, and curse, and kill?" "Oh, no!" he would say--but I do not know how he would continue his discourse; he would be staggered and confounded, he could say nothing. There is a very good story told of the Chinese that is quite to the point. A missionary lately went to them with some tracts containing the ten commandments; a Mandarin read them, and then sent back a very polite message to the effect that those tracts were very good indeed, he had never read any laws so good as those, but there was not so much need of them in China as among the English and the French; would the missionary have the goodness to distribute them where they were most wanted?'
Spurgeon concluded by earnestly appealing to the unconverted at once to believe in Jesus, and by exhorting Christians to put into practice what they had heard about propagating the faith. His closing words were: 'I wanted to make this lecture practical. If there is but a little practical result from it, I shall rejoice far more in that than in all this great assembly and in your many plaudits. If you will remember the world's dire necessities-if you will ponder the tremendous value of a soul--if you will think about the dread, immeasurable eternity, to which men are hastening--if you will recollect that the Name of Christ is every day blasphemed--if you will bethink you that false gods usurp the place of the God of the whole earth-and if, with these thoughts in your mind, you will go forth into daily life to propagate the faith as it is in Jesus Christ--if, with prayer, with holy living, with a godly example, and with earnest walking, you shall all of you be missionaries for Christ, then I will be well content, and unto God shall be the honour and glory for ever. Amen.'
One of the most notable of Spurgeon's early lectures was delivered at the Camberwell Institute upon 'Seraphic Zeal, as exhibited in the life of George Whitefield.' Numbers 25:13, He was zealous for his God,' was the lecturer's motto; and he spoke, first, upon the nature of Whitefield's zeal; secondly, upon the effects of his zeal; and then gave anecdotes and general particulars of the great evangelist's life. The manuscript notes of the lecture include the following:
'Years on years, Whitefield continued his arduous labours, never resting. In the intervals of preaching, he was riding, or walking, and composing sermons. He wrote letters, conversed with enquirers, visited gaols and sick-beds--attended to the Orphan House, published various works, preached during his voyages-and at all times, even till the hour of death, was earnest and fervent. He was, as he said, tired in the work, but not tired of it; and he desired to preach once more, and then to die. He had his wish, for he preached from "Examine yourselves, &c.," and then died at six the next morning, of asthma, at fifty-six years of age. It is wrong to say, "Preaching killed him," for fifty-six is as good an age as the average of men may expect to live to;' and if he had never preached, he might have died quite as soon.'
On December 26, 1860--three months before the Metropolitan Tabernacle was completed--Spurgeon delivered in the lecture-hall a lecture upon 'Southwark.' The following extracts appear worthy of a place in this volume:
'In 1163, a certain excellent man named Peter of Colechurch erected a bridge of elm across the River Thames, and he, in 1176, commenced that edifice which stood for six-and-a-quarter centuries, and was considered to be the wonder of its time-Old London Bridge--a bridge which some of you have seen, though I did not; the houses were taken away long before our time. Old Peter of Colechurch seems to have dedicated his life to building that bridge; and then, with a sort of poetic inspiration on his mind, he desired that he might be buried in the church or chapel in the middle arch of the bridge--the right place for a good man to be buried, in the very centre of his work. I have often said--Let me die while I am labouring for Christ; and I should not desire a better place for my burial than hard by the spot where I have worked for my God, and been the means of doing good to the souls of men.
The tower on the Southwark side of the bridge had most singular garnishings upon the roof. The regular school-book historians will tell you that, on the tower, the heads of traitors were exposed. Now it so happens that men who are traitors one day become heroes by-and-by; and some men, who were execrated, and put to death for attempts which were only blamed because they were not successful, need yet to have their true histories written. Let none of us be desirous of fame while we live. If fame be worth having at all, it is the fame of an Oliver Cromwell, who comes out glorious a hundred years after his death. That thing which is called fame gets all the better for keeping; and, in due time, people respect a man all the more for the calumny through which he has passed.
Southwark is the borough of Baptists. In Walter Wilson's History of Dissenting Churches, I find mention of eighteen distinct communities of Baptists, and there is scarcely one of the other churches which was not "infested" by these troublesome persons, as some people considered them. In 1642, there was a famous disputation in Southwark between Dr. Featley and four Baptists. The Doctor published his own version of the case, with the title of "The Dippers Dipt; or, the Anabaptists ducked and plunged over head and ears at a disputation at Southwark." There was a lane called Dipping Alley, Fair Street, Horsleydown, because there was erected there a baptistery, which was used by several congregations.... John Bunyan preached in the old chapel in Zoar Street; with a day's notice, he could get 1,200 people early in the morning, or 3,000 with proper intimation to the public. John Wesley preached in a chapel in Snow's Fields, which had been built for a Unitarian Baptist; but there was a great secession, and the cause does not seem to have ever prospered. The members of the church in Snow's Fields excluded Wesley from their Society, and became perfectionists; he was succeeded by Thomas Charlton, who became a Baptist.... Near here, tolled the curfew-bell. Here martyrs for baptism were burned. This is the stronghold of religious liberty, and the very centre of our denomination. There are ten Baptist churches within the liberties of our borough, while we now stand upon its margin.'
The week before the Tabernacle was opened, Spurgeon paid a visit to Aberdeen, in connection with the Young Men's Christian Association. On Tuesday afternoon and evening, March 12, 1861, he preached twice in the Music Hall to crowded congregations, and the following morning he met between 150 and 160 gentlemen at a breakfast, at which the Earl of Kintore presided.
The subject of Spurgeon's address was, 'Success in Life;' and he spoke upon it first as it concerned secular matters, and then as it related to religious affairs. There were several autobiographical passages such as the following:
'We must be careful as to the line of life we select; our pursuit must be in keeping with our constitutional tendencies. A man born to be a mechanic would never succeed as a poet, and the man with the poetical afflatus would not be successful as a financier. Each man has powers that adapt him to certain work, and he ought to look out for that occupation which will be most congenial with his own disposition. I know that, if I had been bred a collier or a ploughman, I would still have been a preacher, for I must speak. I feel something like Elihu, when he said, "I will speak, that I may be refreshed." I do not regard preaching or speaking as a task or a labour; it is more like a cure for dullness. I feel that there is something I want to get rid of, so I unburden myself by telling it to others.
When you have chosen your pursuit in life, stick to it. Having had a great many young men under training, I have met with some who are--
Everything by turns, and nothing long.
Some men in business are just the same, but I would rather be a cobbler, and stick to my last, than change my calling often, and so be noted for nothing in particular. If a tree is transplanted seven times, it will be a miraculous tree if it brings forth fruit. The man who is first this thing and then that is like a dog hunting six hares at one time, he is certain to catch none. David was a man of great influence, and we must trace all his spiritual power to the Spirit of God, but, with respect to what he accomplished, we may learn a lesson from his own words, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after." That concentration was the source of much of his power. Now, if your energies are allowed to run out in many channels, they will be dissipated, and we shall see no result in the stream of your life; but if you have only one channel for all your powers, it will be deep if not broad, and there may go the galley with many oars, and from it shall proudly float the banner of success.
We have in England some cart-rut ministers. They have got into grooves, and there they remain; they think the ruts should never be filled up, and that the wheels of the waggon should always keep in them. I do believe, if the management of our roads had been left to some of these good men, in place of railways, we should not even have got the length of the four-horse coach yet. These brethren are exceedingly wise; and when they see one take an independent course, they say, "This is a very rash and very hazardous thing." Well, I have been very rash in my time, and I mean to be so again. I find that the best method, in such cases, is to act as David did when his brother said to him, "I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle." David went forth to meet Goliath, taking his sling and his five smooth stones from the brook, and when the youthful shepherd came back bearing in his hand the giant's head dripping with gore, that was the best answer to his brother's accusation. If you have work to do, do not stay to vindicate yourself; the work itself will be your vindication. Remember how it was with Peter and John; when they were brought before the high priest and the rulers, and their accusers saw the man who was healed standing with them, "they could say nothing against it;" and I find that our brethren, when they see that God's blessing is resting upon us, and that God is with us, are usually willing to be with us, too.
It was my lot to go through two or three years of the most virulent abuse, and I thank God for it. I felt it very hard to bear, but I fell upon my knees before God, and told Him that, when I gave Him everything else, I gave Him my character, too. If I had known that by faithfully serving Christ I must ruin my reputation, I think I should not have paused for a single moment. I felt quite sure that if my reputation should be lost here among men it would be safe with my Lord; for at the day of judgment there will be a resurrection of reputations as well as of bodies. Yet it is very hard to bear up under constant slanders; only one good thing comes of it, you can find out your weak points, for your enemies will discover your faults if your friends do not. But if I have God with me, I do not care who may be against me. I remember that once, in London, a man took off his hat, bowed to me, and said, "The Rev. Mr. Spurgeon--a great humbug!" I took off my hat, too, and said, "I am much obliged to you, sir, for the compliment; I am glad to hear that I am a great anything." We parted very amicably, and I have not had the pleasure of meeting him since....
Do not think of waiting until you can do some great thing for God; do little things, and then the Master will bid you go higher. Eleven years ago, I was a addressing Sunday-school children, and these alone. Ten,-nine years ago, I was preaching in little insignificant rooms here and there, generally going out and coming back on foot, and occasionally getting a lift in a cart. It has often happened that, when I have been going out to certain villages, the brooks would be so swollen that they could not be crossed in the usual way, so I would pull off my shoes and stockings, wade through up to my knees, then try to make myself tidy again as I best could, and go on to the little chapel to preach, and return home in the same way. Now, I am perfectly sure that, if I had not been willing to preach to those small gatherings of people in obscure country places, I should never have had the privilege of preaching to thousands of men and women in large buildings all over the land. If one wishes to be a steward in God's house, he must first be prepared to serve as a scullion in the kitchen, and be content to wash out the pots and clean the boots. Remember our Lord's rule, "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."'
An interesting reminiscence of this visit to Aberdeen is preserved in Dr. W. G. Blaikie's Memoir of Dr. David Brown. Dr. Brown found Spurgeon in an anteroom, surrounded by a number of people who were full of high expectation of the treat they were about to enjoy. One of the Pastor's London friends, who had accompanied him, told Dr. Brown that if he could not have a few minutes' quiet meditation his address would be a failure. Accordingly, the room was cleared, but the great preacher seemed in sore distress of mind, as though he could not get along with his subject. Even in the hall he was manifestly out of sorts and groaning in spirit. Dr. Brown told him that he would hold up his hands in prayer. `Thank you for that,' was the prompt and cordial answer; and twice he repeated the words, `Thank you for that; thank you for that.' The address proved to be a brilliant one, and when, at the close, friends came to express their admiration and gratitude, Spurgeon, turning to Dr. Brown, remarked, `You owe it all to him.'
On October 1, 1861, Spurgeon gave, in the Tabernacle, a lecture which was destined to attract more public attention than any which he had previously delivered. It was entitled, 'The Gorilla and the Land he Inhabits,' and was largely concerned with the volume, then recently published, and severely criticised--Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa, by Paul B. Du Chaillu. A. H. Layard, M.P., presided, and by his side sat M. Du Chaillu. In introducing his subject, Spurgeon said:
'Mr. Chairman, and my very good friends, I am very glad to see you here, though you have taken me very much by surprise. I was reckoning upon a quiet evening with a moderate audience, but you have crowded this vast house, and I regret to say there have been great multitudes turned away from the doors. We are doomed to disappointments, but such as these one can afford to endure with equanimity. Perhaps the question will be asked, Why do you deliver a secular lecture? I answer that the question itself is rather late, since it is a time-honoured custom for our ministers occasionally to offer instruction to their congregations in this pleasant and friendly form, and the present is very far from my first attempt in this direction. Casting aside all priestly pretences as mere superstition, I meet you as my friends and fellow-labourers every Sabbath-day, and I then endeavour to stir you up to holy labour; and now to-night, on a common week-evening, we meet by way of recreation to talk cheerfully upon an entertaining subject. We want common things treated religiously, and there may be almost as much good achieved by books and lectures on ordinary topics, thoroughly imbued with a religious spirit, as by sermons or theological treatises. All my Heavenly Father's works are my text-books, and, as a preacher, I have a right to select my subject from either of the great books of Creation or Revelation.
But more; it is the growing conviction of my mind that the human animal will have some sort of amusement or other; and that, if we do not give him the right sort, he will certainly seek the wrong God has made nature not only for our necessities, but for our pleasures. He has not only made fields of corn, but He has created the violet and the cowslip. Air alone would be sufficient for us to breathe, but see how He has loaded it with perfumes; bread alone might sustain life, but mark the sweet fruits with which nature's lap is brimming. The colours of flowers, the beauties of scenery, the music of birds, the sparkling of gems, and the glories of the rainbow and aurora, all show how the great Creator has cared for the lawful gratification of every sense of man. Nor is it a sin to enjoy these gifts of Heaven; but it would be folly to close one's soul to their charms. Now, in matters of truth, there is an analogy with nature. Those glorious doctrines which we daily preach are as the bread of Heaven, the needful and delicious food of our souls; but other truths, great facts of nature, are as the flowers and the birds, they may not feed the spirit, but they are not therefore to be neglected, since they gratify and gladden the mind. Certain is it that the masses will have amusement of some sort; everyone can see that. It is of no use for me to stand up in the pulpit constantly, and say to men who have no fear of God before their eyes, "You must not frequent the public-house and the theatre," for their reply will be, "We want something to excite us, some recreation after our hard day's work" a speech not quite so unreasonable as the censorious may imagine.
For my own pan, I have a good conscience towards God in this matter, for my only object in life is to benefit my fellow-men. I feel that the best way to lift up the lost and degraded from the horrible pit and the miry day, in a spiritual sense, is to preach to them Jesus Christ and Him crucified, but this need not prevent me from using all measures possible to promote social reform; and I firmly believe that lectures upon useful and scientific subjects, in which a lecturer is able to throw out hints about dress, cookery, children, cleanliness, economy, temperance, and the duties of the household, or to exclaim against the tally system, the pot-house begging, and puffery, may be very useful.'
After carefully examining the volume written by the traveller, and considering the evidence pro and con, Spurgeon thus announced his decision concerning it: I do verily believe, in spite of all that has been said, that M. Du Chaillu's book is matter of fact. It is not written so carefully as a scientific man might write it, nor so orderly and regularly as the author might re-write it, if he had another seven years to do it in; yet I believe that it is true, and that he himself is worthy of our praise as one of the greatest modem discoverers -a man who has done and dared more for science, and, I think I may add, more for the future spread of religion, than most men of his time.'
Coming to the gorilla--a stuffed specimen of which was on the platform--the lecturer said:
'He is an enormous ape, which claims to approach the nearest to man of any other creature. How nearly he approaches, I leave you to judge. True, his claim to be our first cousin is disputed, on behalf of the koolo-kamba, by several very learned men. If we should, therefore, admit you (addressing the gorilla) to be man's first cousin, we fear that the koolo-kamba might institute a suit at law to claim equal rights, and so many cousins would be far from convenient. Besides, I have heard that if we should admit this gentleman to be our cousin, there is Mr. Darwin, who at once is prepared to prove that our great-grandfather's grandfather's father--keep on for about a millennium or two--was a guinea-pig, and that we were ourselves originally descended from oysters, or seaweeds, or starfishes. Now, I demur to that on my own account. Any bearded gentleman here, who chooses to do so, may claim relationship with the oyster; and others may imagine that they are only developed gorillas, but I, for my own part, believe there is a great gulf fixed between us, so that they who would pass from us to you (again turning to the gorilla) cannot; neither can they come to us who would pass from thence. At the same time, I do not wish to hold an argument with the philosopher who thinks himself related to a gorilla; I do not care to claim the honour for myself, but anyone else is perfectly welcome to it.
Seriously, let us see to what depths men will descend in order to cast a slur upon the Book of God. It is too hard a thing to believe that God made man in His own image, but, forsooth, it is philosophical to hold that man is made in the image of a brute, and is the offspring of "laws of development." O infidelity! thou art a hard master, and thy taxes on our faith are far more burdensome than those which Revelation has ever made. When we have more incredulity than superstition can employ, we may leap into infidel speculation, and find a fitting sphere for the largest powers of belief. But who can deny that there is a likeness between this animal and our own race?...There is, we must confess, a wonderful resemblance-so near that it is humiliating to us, and therefore, I hope, beneficial. But while there is such a humiliating likeness, what a difference there is! If there should ever be discovered an animal even more like man than this gorilla is; in fact, if there should be found the exact facsimile of man, but destitute of the living soul, the immortal spirit, we must still say that the distance between them is immeasurable.'
After giving an account of the country which the gorilla inhabits, and of the manners and customs of the natives of that region, Spurgeon concluded:
'As for sending missionaries among them, they are ripe and ready for them. They received M. Du Chaillu with the greatest kindness and courtesy, and they even prayed the traveller to tell the white men to send missionaries to them; and where they have teachers, they gladly receive them. If missionaries can be sent to Africa in sufficient numbers, there are happy days in store for that land. What will be the effect upon the world when Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands to Christ? ...
At the time of the delivery of the 'gorilla' lecture, M. Blondin was performing at the Crystal Palace, and some wag wrote to him a letter purporting to come from Spurgeon. He sent it on to the Pastor, who endorsed it thus--'This was received by M. Blondin, and is a specimen of the genus "hoax" 'and then put it away for future reference. The envelope contained the following epistle:
In consequence of the overflowing attendance at my Tabernacle, on Tuesday evening last, when I gave a lecture on the gorilla, it has occurred to myself, and to my brethren the Managers of the Tabernacle, that to engage your services for an evening (say, next Wednesday) for the following programme, would result in mutual benefit. You must meet me at the Tabernacle, on Tuesday next, at 12 o'clock, to confirm or to alter the proposed order of entertainment, which I flatter myself will be highly gratifying to all concerned.
At 6 o'clock on Wednesday evening, Oct. 9th, M. Blondin to ascend from the platform in the Tabernacle, by an easy spiral ascent, five times round the interior, to one of the upper windows, opposite to "The Elephant and Castle," thence by an easy incline in at the first-floor window of that inn, and return the same way to the platform. The admission to be, as at the "gorilla" lecture, 6d., 1s., and 2s. 6d.
The lecturer could well afford to laugh at this clumsy attempt to hoax M. Blondin; but some of the newspaper attacks upon him, with reference to the 'gorilla' and other lectures, were of such a character that they could not be reproduced here. One friend was sufficiently influenced by them to write an expostulatory letter to Spurgeon, and this evoked the following reply:
My Dear Sir,
I have been dumb under the cruel rebukes of my enemies, and the ungenerous reproofs of pretended friends. I have proved hitherto the power of silence, and although most bitterly tempted, I shall not change my custom, or venture a syllable in order to stay these mad ravings. But your brotherly note deserves one or two words of answer.
1 Have I well weighed what I have done in the matter of these lectures? Aye,-and so weighed it that neither earth nor hell can now move me from my course. I have a life-work to perform, and towards its completion, through evil report and good report, I speed my way.
2 You imagine that my aim is merely to amuse, and you then speak very properly of "stooping." Indeed, if it were so, if I had no higher or nobler aim in view, it would be stooping with sorrowful emphasis; but, then, think you that the devil would care to roar at me? Why, surely, it would be his best policy to encourage me in forsaking my calling, and degrading my ministry!
3 "Is the Master's eye regarding His servant with pleasure?" Yes, I solemnly feel that it is; nor am I conscious of any act, or motive,--the common infirmity of man excepted,--which could muse me to incur Divine displeasure in connection with that which is, to me, the work of my life.
4 With regard to laughter--you and I may differ upon this matter, and neither of us be quite infallible in our judgment. To me, a smile is no sin, and a laugh no crime. The Saviour, the Man of sorrows, is our example of morality, but not of misery, for He bore our griefs that we might not bear them; and I am not John the Baptist, nor a monk, nor hermit, nor an ascetic, either in theory or practice. Unhallowed mirth I hate, but I can and do enjoy my Father's works, and the wonders of Creation, none the less, but all the more, because I am a Christian. At any rate, I hold my own views upon this point; and, during eleven years of ministry, I have seen no ill effect, but very much good from my preaching, although the charge has always been laid at my door that I sometimes provoke the risible faculties.
5 Concerning "sowing to the flesh," I have not done so in these lectures, but have rendered honest and hearty service to my Lord, and believe that spiritual fruit has already been reaped.
6 As to the grief of friends, let them, as well as myself, be ready to bear the cross; and let them not attempt to evade reproach by weeping where no tears are needed. I have given no cause to the enemy to blaspheme, or only such blessed cause as shall be renewed with greater vigour than ever.
And now for my explanation; I have, in connection with my Church, a College for young ministers, which is a work of faith as to temporals, and a labour of love on my part in the highest sense of the term. There are about 150 young men, who are getting an education with a view, in most cases, to preaching the Word in the streets, villages, and towns of this land. Their studies are such as their capacities can receive, and the ministering brethren are mainly given to the searching of the Word; while reading it in the original is the ambition of each. In the course of instruction there are lectures, delivered by myself, a regular lecturer, and other gentlemen. We have had about twenty lectures on English History. I have given lectures on Sabbath-school teaching, Preaching, Church Discipline, Ethnology, &c., &c. The Rev. George Rogers has lectured on Books and Reading, Habit and Instinct, on Ministerial Prerequisites, and on other matters. Various brethren have taken up other topics; and, having attended all the lectures, I can testify that the best spirit has pervaded all, and each lecturer has laboured, not merely to instruct, but to do spiritual good.
My present course is upon Natural History. For the lectures already delivered, especially the abused ones, I have had the thanks of the members passed spontaneously and unanimously; and I believe the lectures have been as acceptable to the audience as any which were ever delivered. We who have seen the wonders of wisdom in anatomy, providential adaptation, and creating perfection, have gone home praising and blessing God. We have laughed, doubtless; and we have wept, too; but, with an audience of 150 young men, and a considerable company of men and women of the working-class, what would be the use of dull, drowsy formality? Last Friday week, the "shrews" lecture came in due course, and I thought it might be useful to give a few words as to the value of love and kindness in Christian families, for which words I have had grateful acknowledgment. We went home, and I have not heard of one of the audience who did not feel that it was an evening well and profitably spent. Many Christian people gave me a hearty shake of the hand and glowing thanks.
But, lo! to our utter amazement, one morning we discovered that the lecture was considered vulgar, coarse, and I know not what. The gentlemen of the press had nothing else just then to do, so they said, "Let us abuse Spurgeon, no matter whether he deserves it or not." Since this abuse, I have asked scores who were there if anything had been said for which one might be sorry, and all have answered, "No, nothing was said at all deserving censure, or anything but approval." Think you that my hearers are all so degraded as to tolerate conduct such as a lying press imputes to me? O my brother, you do ill to judge a servant of the Lord from the lips of his foes, and one, too, who has had abuse enough on former occasions without having given cause of offence, which renders it inexcusable that brethren should readily believe reports concerning him!
This work of my Institution is of God; lectures are a part of the necessary plan, they do good, I have a call to this work, so all this opposition is a spur to increased zeal. I would the Lord's people cared more than they do for these young preachers, for I feel sure that God the Holy Spirit will raise up from our midst many who shall do exploits in His Name. To this work am I called, and the Lord is with me in it. Void of offence towards God and man, trusting for acceptance to Him who has washed away my sin, shall I flee because my conduct is misunderstood and my words are misconstrued? Nay, verily, Jehovah-nissi! And now let hell roar, and saints themselves forsake. Time and eternity will clear the character of one who has given up even his good name to his Master, without reserve.
P.S.--Get the "gorilla" lecture; read it, and see if there be any evil in it; yet it is the least religious of them all.--C. H. S.
Those who have read Spurgeon's Sermons in Candles will appreciate the delight which hearers in various parts of the country experienced in listening to his lecture upon that subject. It was repeated many times for a quarter of a century and finally published in 1890. The origin of the lecture is thus explained by Spurgeon:
'In addressing my students in the College, long ago, I was urging upon them the duty and necessity of using plenty of illustrations in their preaching that they might be both interesting and instructive. I reminded them that the Saviour had many likes in His discourses. He said, over and over again, "The kingdom of heaven is like;" "The kingdom of heaven is like." "Without a parable spake He not unto them." The common people heard Him gladly, because He was full of emblem and simile. A sermon without illustrations is like a room without windows. One student remarked that the difficulty was to get illustrations in any great abundance. "Yes," I said, "if you do not wake up, but go through the world asleep, you cannot see illustrations; but if your minds were thoroughly aroused, and yet you could see nothing else in the world but a single tallow candle, you might find enough illustrations in that luminary to last you for six months." Now, the young brethren in the College are too well behaved to say "Oh!" or give a groan of unbelief, should I perchance say a strong thing, but they look, and they draw their breath, and they wait for an explanation. I understand what they mean, and do not make too heavy a draft upon their faith by long delays in explaining myself. The men who were around me at that particular moment thought that I had made rather a sweeping assertion, and their countenances showed it. "Well," I said, "I will prove my words;" and my attempt to prove them produced the rudiments of this lecture.'
If all Spurgeon's notable addresses could be collected they would fill several substantial volumes and would supply a mass of interesting reading on a great variety of subjects. Those unpublished include three very memorable utterances--one delivered in 1862 in connection with the celebration of the Bi-centenary of the ejection of the two thousand ministers in 1662; another, on 'Bells and Bell-ringing,' given at the Tabernacle in 1869, with musical illustrations; and a third, on 'Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits'.
Many of his individual lectures were published after their delivery: Illustrious Lord Mayors' November, 1861); 'The Two Wesleys' (December, 1861); 'Counterfeits'; 'Miracles of Modern Times'; 'Poland'; and 'George Fox'. The last named was given by request of the Society of Friends, in November, 1866, at the Friends' Meeting House, Bishopsgate Street. Among his hearers on that occasion was Matthew Arnold who afterwards wrote to his mother: 'Last night, Lord Houghton went with me and William Forster to Spurgeon's lecture.... It was well worth hearing, though from William's getting us places of honour on the bench close behind Spurgeon we did not see or hear him to such advantage as the less forward public in the body of the hall. It was a study in the way of speaking and management of the voice; though his voice is not beautiful as some people call it, nor is his pronunciation quite pure. Still, it was a most striking performance, and reminded me very much of Bright's. Occasionally, there were bits in which he showed unction and real feeling; sometimes, he was the mere Dissenting Philistine; but he kept up one's interest and attention for more than an hour and a half, and that is the great thing. I am very glad I have heard him.'
In 1878 Spurgeon's Speeches at Home and Abroad were published by Passmore and Alabaster, and, although they had not the benefit of the speaker's revision, they afford a fairly accurate idea of his utterances at various public gatherings between the years 1861 and 1878. He had begun revising his own copy of the book, and the accompanying facsimile [489k] will show the extent of his alterations, and also his loyalty to Baptist principles. One lecture which Spurgeon did revise and expand into a book was his Eccentric Preachers, being compelled to do so, as he explains in the Preface, by mutilated versions of the original lecture which had appeared without his leave. The lecture 'Sermons in Stones', given at the Tabernacle in 1870, was published in 1894 by J. L. Keys, under the title, 'What the Stones Say'. The four volumes of Lectures to my Students are so well known and so highly appreciated that no details as to their contents need be inserted here. Few works in the whole range of theological literature have been so helpful to aspirants for the ministry or to those who have already begun evangelistic, pastoral, or missionary work.
Doubtless Spurgeon's Lectures were much akin to sermons, a fact for which he humorously apologized on several occasions by means of the illustration with which we close this chapter:
I am not an adept at lecturing, and when I take to it under constraint, I either signally fail in it, or else the successful production is a sermon in disguise. You cannot drive out nature by command: the old pulpit hand must preach, even though you bid him do something else. It would be no good sign if it were otherwise; for a man must keep to one thing, and be absorbed in it, or he will not do it well I have preached now for so many years that use is second nature and a lecture, a speech, an address, and I fear even a conversation, all have a tendency to mould themselves sermon-fashion.
It is just the old story over again of the artist who had been painting red lions all his life. The landlord of a public-house in a certain street desired to have his establishment known as "The Angel and he commissioned a clever gentleman of the brush to produced one of those flaming spirits. The budding Academidan replied "You had better have a red lion. I can paint red lions against any man, and they seem the right sign for publicans who do a roaring trade". "But", said Boniface, "there are three of your red lions quite handy already and we want a little variety. I have made up my mind to have an angel. Cannot you arrange it?". "Well", said the artist, "I will see what I can do. You shall have your angel, but it will be awfully like a red lion". So, when I am requested to lecture", I reply, "I cannot manage it; my business is to preach". But if they press their suit, and I am weak enough to yield, I warn them that my lecture will be wonderfully like a sermon.'