Beloved, when you and I have seen or heard anything which God has revealed to us, let us go and write it, or make it known by some other means. God has not put the treasure into the earthen vessel merely for the vessel's own sake, but that the treasure may afterwards be poured out from it, that others may thereby be enriched. You have not been privileged to see, merely to make glad your eyes, and to charm your soul; you have been permitted to see in order that you may make others see, that you may go forth and report what the Lord has allowed you to perceive. John no sooner became the seer of Patmos than he heard a voice that said to him, 'Write'. He could not speak to others, for he was on an island where he was exiled from his fellows, but he could write, and he did; and, often, he who writes addresses a larger audience than the man who merely uses his tongue. It is a happy thing when the tongue is aided by the pen of a ready writer, and so gets a wider sphere, and a more permanent influence than if it merely uttered certain sounds, and the words died away when the ear had heard them.--C.H.S., in a sermon at the Tabernacle on the words, 'Write the Vision'.
CONTINUING the record of Spurgeon's publications, we mention to begin with, Spurgeon's Illustrated Almanack. This little book was first issued in 1857 under the title of The New Park Street Almanack, and the Editor thus explained his object and hope in preparing it: 'It may appear, to some persons, degrading and unseemly for a minister to edit a penny Almanack; but I am not burdened with any notions of false dignity, and I think nothing degrading which may be useful. It is quite certain that, by this little Annual, I shall reach many readers who might not have purchased a larger volume; and I hope, by God's grace, some of them will be impressed with thoughts which may result in conversion, or in other cases afford consolation and edification.'
In his Prefactory Note, 'To the Reader,' in the following issue, Spurgeon wrote: 'Last year, this little Almanack gave me an opportunity of speaking to many thousands; and as I believe it to be my duty to avail myself of every means of proclaiming the gospel, I again address myself to you through this humble medium. If one sinner shall be led to Jesus by this little book, or one saint be assisted in his spiritual warfare, my object will be abundantly answered, and unto God shall be the glory. The thousands of this Almanack, which will be scattered over our land, may be compared to a discharge of grapeshot, which is often far more effective than the larger cannon-ball.'
In 1860, the Editor had the joy of being able to report that his desire had been at least in part realized: 'From one of the remote corners of the earth, I have received the good news of a sinner saved through the Almanack of last year. This has been a most sweet and precious reward for the past, and is a most stimulating encouragement for the future. This little David will yet smite another Goliath, and to God shall be the glory. Happily, this was by no means a solitary instance of blessing; and, year by year, as the booklet became still more widely known, the Lord signified His approval of it by using its printed messages to the salvation of sinners and the strengthening of saints. Everything that Spurgeon originated had some practical purpose in view; and, therefore, this small book was employed as the advocate of the College, and the other Institutions as they were founded, and became the means of materially increasing the funds needed for their support and development.
The publication of the Book Almanack was continued without intermission from the year of its inception, the texts for daily meditation being chosen for the most part by Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, who also, during the 'nineties, wrote many of the articles, most of which were illustrated parables from the garden at Westwood. After 1894, quite a new interest was imparted to the passages of Scripture selected for reading and thought from day to day, for the 'Text Union' was then formed, and all who joined it agreed to learn the Almanack motto, so as to be ready to repeat it when challenged by a fellow-member asking for 'the text for today, please.' Many thousands of Christians, in our own and other lands, have thus been banded together in a holy fellowship, which great numbers of them have found to be exceedingly helpful; and some very remarkable instances of the appropriateness of the Scriptural quotations to the cases of different individuals have been reported to Mrs. Spurgeon, or her son Charles, who undertook the onerous task of superintending this department of service for the Saviour.
In 1872, the large penny broadsheet entitled, John Ploughmans Almanack, was first issued. Instead of a verse from the Bible, the motto for each day was a proverb, or proverbial saying, either composed or selected by 'John Ploughman.' The task of arranging 365 suitable maxims, with the other contents of the Almanack, was by no means a light one; and Spurgeon evidently had, at first, no intention of repeating the process, and so making a permanent addition to his ever-increasing literary labours; but when 1873 arrived without the sheet to correspond with the one for the previous year, so many friends expressed their disappointment at its non-appearance, that the publication of its homely messages was resumed; and, from 1874, John Ploughman's Almanack was a welcome visitor in tens of thousands of homes, and exerted a very considerable influence on behalf of religion, temperance, thrift, and charity. The one for the year 1893 was pathetically interesting from the fact that Spurgeon had been preparing the proverbs for it until within a few days of receiving the home-call.
In January, 1865, a notable 'new departure' was inaugurated by the publication of the first number of the monthly magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, which was destined to play such an important part in the after-history of its Editor. Its title derives from the memorable and perilous period when Nehemiah was the Tirshatha, or Governor, of God's ancient people. The motto-text, which appeared on all the volumes, was: 'They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.' (Neh. 4:17-18.) Although Spurgeon was such a lover of peace, it is significant that he put the battling before the building, not only in the title, but also in the sub-title of the magazine--'A Record of Combat with Sin and Labour for the Lord.' His purpose in issuing it was dearly set forth in his opening article, which was headed, 'Our Aims and Intentions':
'Our magazine is intended to report the efforts of those churches and Associations which are more or less intimately connected with the Lord's work at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and to advocate those views of doctrine and church-order which are most certainly received among us. It will address itself to those faithful friends, scattered everywhere, who are our well-wishers and supporters in our work of faith and labour of love. We feel the want of some organ of communication, in which our many plans for God's glory may be brought before believers, and commended to their aid. Our friends are so numerous as to be able to maintain a magazine, and so earnest as to require one. Our monthly message will be a supplement to our weekly sermon, and will enable us to say many things which would be out of place in a discourse. It will inform the general Christian public of our movements, and show our sympathy with all that is good throughout the entire Church of God. It will give us an opportunity of urging the claims of Christ's cause, of advocating the revival of godliness, of denouncing error, of bearing witness for truth, and of encouraging the labourers in the Lord's vineyard.
We do not pretend to be unsectarian,--if by this term be meant the absence of all distinctive principles, and a desire to please parties of all shades of opinion. We believe, and therefore speak. We speak in love; but not in soft words and trimming sentences. We shall not court controversy, but we shall not shun it when the cause of God demands it.
The many ministers who were students in our College will be our helpers in maintaining a variety and freshness of matter; and their flocks, we trust, will receive a blessing through their stirring words. It is our first and last object to do practical service, and to excite others to active exertion.
We shall supply interesting reading upon general topics; but our chief aim will be to arouse believers to action, and to suggest to them plans by which the Kingdom of Jesus may be extended. To widen the bounds of Zion, and gather together the outcasts of Israel, is our heart's desire. We would sound the trumpet, and lead our comrades to the fight. We would ply the trowel with untiring hand for the building up of Jerusalem's dilapidated walls, and wield the sword with vigour and valour against the enemies of the truth.'
The Sword and The Trowel had, from the beginning, a unique constituency, for which Spurgeon always endeavoured to provide suitable literary and spiritual fate. The annual volumes are a storehouse of interesting information on all manner of subjects. Questions concerning Scripture doctrine, church-government, education, the Ritualistic controversy, Dis-establishment, and other matters both of temporary and permanent importance, are discussed in able fashion; and much of the material remains as valuable as when first published. For instance, an early series of illustrated tracts on Ritualism set forth the Protestant position in such a popular style that they have never been excelled, or even equalled, by anything that has since appeared.
Spurgeon had a number of assistants, some paid and others who delighted to aid him voluntarily, from the commencement of the magazine; but, with the exception of very occasional articles, he made himself personally responsible for all that appeared in its pages, and he often declared that most of the manuscripts and all the proofs passed directly under his own hand and eye, so that it was, in a very special sense, 'his own magazine.' It was also, by the generally-expressed desire of its readers, largely autobiographical.
On one occasion, at least, the magazine was mentioned in the House of Lords, and the phrase used concerning it, in that august assembly, furnished its ever-ready Editor with the title of a short article in its next number: 'A Lively Newspaper, called, The Sword and the Trowel.' The opening paragraph was as follows: 'The good Bishop of Rochester has described The Sword and the Trowel to the House of Lords as "a lively newspaper." We are afraid our friend is not so well acquainted with his Sword and Trowel as we could wish him to be, for it can hardly be called a newspaper; its shape, form, and monthly period of issue most distinctly place it among magazines. Still, that is near enough for recognition; and the adjective appended is so complimentary that we accept it with pleasure, and consider it rather a feather in our cap. What good can a magazine or any other publication effect, if it is not lively! Our trying state of health often makes us fear that we shall grow dull, and we accept the Bishop's kindly criticism as a doctor's certificate that the magazine is up to the mark, and is, in fact, "a lively paper." It is all that we can hope if our readers will add, "and so say all of us".
The early volumes of The Sword and the Trowel soon became specially valuable to ministers and students, because in them the Editor gave his expositions of the Psalms, which were afterwards incorporated in his greatest literary work, The Treasury of David. Those seven substantial volumes contain, in addition to Spurgeon's own Commentary, the choicest extracts which he and his helpers could find in ancient and modern literature upon the whole Psalter; and, together, they constitute an indispensable portion of the library of any servant of the Lord who would be furnished for his Saviour's service. The Prefaces to the various volumes give just a glimpse of the delight with which this real labour of love proceeded during the twenty years of the busy author's life in which it was in course of preparation; and his final words, written when the great task was accomplished, indicate how deeply the commentator and compiler had been himself profited by his study of this part of the Sacred Scriptures, and how real was his regret when the last Psalm was reached, and he had to turn to other and less congenial forms of toil for his Master:
'At the end of all these years, the last page of this Commentary is printed, and the seventh Preface is requested. The demand sounds strangely in my ears. A Preface when the work is done? It can be only nominally a Preface, for it is really a farewell. I beg to introduce my closing volume, and then to retire with many apologies for having trespassed so much upon my reader's patience.
A tinge of sadness is on my spirit as I quit The Treasury of David, never to find on this earth a richer storehouse, though the whole palace of Revelation is open to me. Blessed have been the days spent in meditating, mourning, hoping, believing, and exulting with David! Can I hope to spend hours more joyous on this side of the golden gate? Perhaps not; for the seasons have been very choice in which the harp of the great poet of the sanctuary has charmed my ears. Yet the training which has come of these heavenly contemplations may, haply, go far to create and sustain a peaceful spirit which will never be without its own happy psalmody, and never without aspirations after something higher than it has yet known. The Book of Psalms instructs us in the use of wings as well as words: it sets us both mounting and singing. Often have I ceased my commenting upon the text, that I might rise with the Psalm, and gaze upon visions of God. If I may only hope that these volumes will be as useful to other hearts in the reading as to mine in the writing, I shall be well rewarded by the prospect.
The former volumes have enjoyed a singular popularity. It may be questioned if, in any age, a Commentary so large, upon a single Book of the Bible, has enjoyed a circulation within measurable distance of that which has been obtained by this work.'
Shortly after Volume I of The Treasury was issued, Spurgeon met one of the most eminent of the London publishers; and, in the course of their conversation, his new book was mentioned. As the gentleman had such a wide experience of the success or failure of the works of various authors, the Pastor asked him what he would consider a satisfactory sale of The Treasury. He replied, 'Well, Mr. Spurgeon, in the first place, you have fixed the price very much lower than I should have done if I had brought out a valuable theological work of that kind. Fifteen or sixteen shillings would not, in my judgment, have been at all too much to charge for it; but, as you have issued it at eight shillings, and, with the prestige of your name, I should say that you have done very well if you have sold as many as two thousand copies by this time.' 'Oh!' said Spurgeon, that number was far exceeded directly it was published, and we have already run into several thousands more. I purposely put the price as low as possible, because I wanted to place the volumes within the reach of as large a number of students of the Word as I could.' The publisher was surprised, yet gratified, to hear of the successful commencement of the series, and the author felt that he had great cause for gratitude to God for giving such a gracious token of approval to this important part of his literary labours.
Before Spurgeon was 'called home,' no less than a hundred and twenty thousand volumes of The Treasury had been sold, and it is still in constant demand. The complete work was republished in the United States; Spurgeon's own comments have been translated into German with a view to publication; and his exposition of Psalm 119 has been issued separately in a handy volume, entitled, The Golden Alphabet of the Praises of Holy Scripture. It is impossible to estimate the blessing that has been conferred upon the whole Christian Church by The Treasury of David. If its author had never written anything else, it would have been a permanent literary memorial of no small value; and among the hundred and fifty volumes (or thereabouts), which bear his name on their title-pages, this series is unquestionably his magnum opus.
The most popular of all Spurgeon's publications--John Ploughman's Talk--first saw the light in the pages of his magazine, and probably helped largely to increase the circle of his readers. Even some of the Editor's most intimate friends did not recognize their Pastor's voice when he addressed them in the language of such godly ploughmen as his old Stambourne friend, Will Richardson; and he has himself left on record this interesting reminiscence of what one of the Tabernacle deacons thought of the writings of the (supposed) man in the smock-frock:
'Many years ago, it came into the head of the Editor of The Sword and the Trowel to write a set of plain papers for the people, in pure Saxon, and in the style of homely proverbs. He produced, one after another, the chapters which now make up John Ploughman's Talk. As no one knew who wrote them, amusing things occurred. An attached friend said to their author, "Why do you put those papers of that ploughman into the magazine!" The answer was, "Well, they are lively, and they have a good moral; what is the matter with them'" "Yes," replied the unsuspecting critic, "they are rather good for a poor uneducated person like the writer, but they are too coarse for your magazine." "You think so?" said the Editor, and with a smile on his face, he went his way. When that good brother found out who the actual writer was, he felt all sorts of ways; but never a word was said about his criticism.
One of the ministers trained in the College, Pastor W. D. McKinney, in writing to Mrs. Spurgeon concerning her husband after he was 'called home,' proved that a student penetrated the disguise through which the deacon could not see. Referring to the President, he wrote: 'The first gift of books I ever received was two volumes of his sermons, which were presented to me at the close of my first public discourse. Afterwards, I entered the College, and was one of those upon whom he tried the effect of John Ploughman's Talk; and I think I was the first who found "John" out. Being one of the senior students, who were dubbed "the twelve apostles," I sat on his right hand on Fridays when he read the "Papers from a Ploughman." He evidently wanted to know what we thought of them, yet decided that our verdict should be unbiassed. "Well," said he, with that merry twinkle of his eye which we knew so well, "McKinney, who do you think this ploughman is?" "I think he is not very far away," I replied, "and that he has enjoyed his own talk!" "Aha!" said he, "you know too much!"'
As soon as the volume was published, it attained an immense circulation. At first, the book was issued without illustrations; but, after the publication of John Ploughman's Pictures; or, More of his Plain Talk for Plain People, the former work was also illustrated. Nearly six hundred thousand copies of the two volumes were sold in the author's lifetime. Several translations into other languages have been made, but the one that specially pleased 'John Poughman' was the Dutch version, published at Amsterdam under the title, Praatjes van Jan Ploeger. Spurgeon wrote, in The Sword and the Trowel, a very amusing article upon 'John Ploughman as a Dutchman,' in which he used and applied proverbs specially suitable to Holland and the Hollanders.
While Spurgeon was travelling, either at home or abroad, he always had his note-book close at hand, and jotted down everything that was likely to be of service afterwards, incidents that could be used as illustrations being specially preserved. Many of these were first published in The Sword and the Trowel, and then gathered, with other material of a similar kind, into a small volume, entitled, Feathers for Arrows or Illustrations for Preachers and Teachers, which had a very large sale. In one of the Lectures to my Students, Spurgeon related the following incident concerning the book: 'I once met with a High Churchman, who told me that he had purchased Feathers for Arrows; "and," said he, "some of the illustrations are very telling; but they have to be used with great discretion." His words seemed to imply that my expressions were possibly a little too strong, and perhaps somewhat rough and unpolished here and there. "Well," I replied, "that is how I wrote them." He looked at me, but he said nothing; probably it had never occurred to him that the same kind of discretion was necessary in making the illustrations as in using them.'
At the close of the year in which the magazine was commenced, another valuable literary work was completed. This was Spurgeon's first volume of daily readings, published under the title of Morning by Morning, and concerning which he wrote in the Preface:
'In penning these short reflections upon certain passages of Holy Writ, the author has had in view the assistance of the private meditations of believers. A child may sometimes suggest a consolation which might not otherwise have cheered a desolate heart; and even a flower, smiling upward from the sod, may turn the thoughts heavenward: may we not hope that, by the Holy Spirit's grace, as the reader turns "morning by morning" to our simple page, he will hear in it "a still small voice" whose speech shall be the message of God to his soul? The mind wearies of one thing, and we have therefore studied variety, changing our method constantly; sometimes exhorting, then soliloquizing, then conversing; using the first, second, and third persons, and speaking both in the singular and plural, and all with the desire of avoiding sameness and dullness. Our matter also, we venture to hope, is wide in its range, and not altogether without a dash of freshness; readers of our sermons will recognize many thoughts and expressions which they may have met with in our discourses; but much is, to the author at least, new; and, as far as anything can be which treats of the common salvation, it is original. We have written out of our own heart, and most of the portions are remembrances of words which were refreshing in our own experience; and, therefore, we trust the daily meditations will not be without savour to our brethren; in fact, we know they will not, if the Spirit of God shall rest upon them.
Our ambition has led us to hope that our little volume may also aid the worship of families where God's altar is honoured in the morning. We know that it has been the custom in some households to read Mason, Hawker, Bogatsky, Smith, or Jay; and without wishing to usurp the place of any of these, our Morning by Morning aspires to a position among them. Our happiness will overflow should we be made a blessing to Christian households. Family worship is beyond measure important, both for the present and succeeding generations; and to be in part a chaplain in the houses of our friends, we shall esteem to be a very great honour.'
The work so admirably answered all the ends designed by Spurgeon that, in a little over two years, he issued the sequel, Evening by Evening, and wrote in the Preface:
'Having had the seal of our Master's approval set upon our former volume, entitled, Morning by Morning, we have felt encouraged to give our best attention to the present series of brief meditations, and we send them forth with importunate prayer for a blessing to rest upon every reader. Already, more than twenty thousand readers are among our morning fellow-worshippers. Oh, that all may receive grace from the Lord by means of the portion read; and when a similar number shall be gathered to read the evening selection, may the Father's smile be their benison!
We have striven to keep out of the common track; and, hence, we have selected unusual texts, and have brought forward neglected subjects. The vice of many religious works is their dullness. From this fault we have striven to be free; our friends must judge how far we have succeeded. If we may lead upward one heart which otherwise would have drooped, or sow in a single mind a holy purpose which else had never been conceived, we shall be grateful. The Lord send us such results in thousands of instances, and His shall be all the praise! The longer we live, the more deeply are we conscious that the Holy Spirit alone can make truth profitable to the heart; and, therefore, in earnest prayer, we commit this volume and its companion to His care.'
Both the books had a remarkable circulation and their ministry continues. After the author's home-going, the publishers carried out an idea that he had long cherished, and issued the two sets of meditations, printed on India paper, in a dainty little volume that can be carried in the pocket, and used for private meditation, or for the visitation of the sick.
A singular instance of the appropriateness of one of the readings in Evening by Evening was often narrated by Spurgeon. Lady Burgoyne (wife of Sir John F. Burgoyne, Constable of the Tower, and mother of the first Mrs. J. A. Spurgeon) was a member of the church at the Tabernacle. The Pastor gave, in his sermon' entitled, 'Speak for yourself: A Challenge!' the following testimony concerning her Christian character and witness-bearing for her Lord:
'We had one among us, whose rank entitled her to move in an upper sphere of "society"; but her choice enabled her to prefer the humble companionship of the church to which she belonged. Some of you well remember her silvery locks. She has left us now, and gone home to glory. Her lot was cast amongst the aristocracy; yet, with gentle, quiet, bland simplicity, she introduced the gospel wherever she went. Many and many have come to these pews, to listen to your minister, who would never have been here but for her calm, beautiful, unobtrusive, holy life, and the nerve with which, anywhere, and at any time, she could say, "Yes, I am a Christian; what is more, I am a Nonconformist; and what you will consider worse, I am a Baptist; and what you will think worst of all, I am a member of the church at the Tabernacle." She never blushed to own our dear Redeemer's Name, nor yet to acknowledge and befriend the lowliest of His disciples, and you will do well to imitate her faith, and follow her example.
On September 7, 1870, Lady Burgoyne took up her copy of Evening by Evening, and began to read the text and exposition for that date: 'There is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet. Jeremiah 49:23. Little know we what sorrow may be upon the sea at this moment. We are safe in our quiet chamber; but, far away on the salt sea, the hurricane may be cruelly seeking for the lives of men. Hear how the death-fiends howl among the cordage; how every timber starts as the waves beat like battering-rams upon the vessel! God help you, poor drenched and wearied ones!'--when she exclaimed, 'Something dreadful has happened to poor Hugh'; and so it proved, for her son, Captain Hugh Burgoyne, commander of H.M.S. Captain, an ironclad turret-ship, had, that very morning, been lost off Cape Finisterre with his vessel and over five hundred of his officers and crew, as well as Captain Cowper Goles, the designer of the ship, who was on board as a visitor. The providential arrangement of the message in Evening by Evening somewhat prepared the bereaved family for the terrible tidings that soon after reached them.
Another book, prepared by Spurgeon as an aid to family devotion, was duly published under the title of The Interpreter, and consisted of selected passages of the Word of God for reading every morning and evening throughout the year, together with brief comments and suitable hymns. It was issued first in monthly parts, and afterwards as a very substantial volume, in various styles of binding. It proved a great help in the private worship of thousands of households; such men of mark as Earl Cairns and Earl Shaftesbury were among the many who have borne testimony to its value. Spurgeon always felt that he might have added largely to its circulation if he had in one respect changed the character of the work; but he explained, in the Preface, the reason for his decision upon that matter: 'I have been earnestly urged to add prayers, but my conscience will not allow me to do so, although it would greatly increase the sale of the work. Let every Christian parent try to pray from his heart; and, though at first it may be difficult, it will soon become a delight, by the aid of the Holy Ghost, to pour out the desires of his soul in the midst of his family. To some persons, the use of forms of prayer appears to be lawful; but, as I cannot coincide with that opinion, it would be the height of hypocrisy for me to compose prayers for the use of others.'
In 1866, another formidable yet happy task was accomplished in the compilation of Our Own Hymn-Book. The worshippers at the Tabernacle might have continued longer to employ in their service of praise the selections of Dr. Watts and Dr. Rippon, if it had not been for the complicated arrangement of the various books and parts, which proved so puzzling to strangers. So, taking pity upon them, Spurgeon commenced this new undertaking; and when he had completed it, he wrote this explanation of the motive which had actuated him, and the methods he had followed to make the new book as perfect as possible:
'None of the collections already published are exactly what our congregation needs, or we would have cheerfully adopted one of them. They are good in their way, but we need something more. Our congregation has distinctive features which are not suited by every compilation--not, indeed, by any known to us. We thought it best to issue a selection which would contain the cream of the books already in use among us, together with the best of all others extant up to the hour of going to press; and having sought a blessing upon the project, we set about it with all our might, and at last have brought it to a conclusion. Our best diligence has been given to the work, and we have spared no expense. May God's richest benediction rest upon the result of our arduous labours! Unto His glory we dedicate Our Own Hymn-Book.
The area of our researches has been as wide as the bounds of existing religious literature--American and British, Protestant and Romish, ancient and modem. Whatever may be thought of our taste, we have exercised it without prejudice; and a good hymn has not been rejected because of the character of its author, or the heresies of the church in whose hymnal it first appeared; so long as the language and the spirit of it commended the hymn to our heart, we included it, and we believe that we have thereby enriched our collection. The range of subjects is very extensive, comprising not only direct praise, but doctrine, experience, and exhortation, thus enabling the saints, according to apostolical command, to edify one another in their spiritual songs.
If any object that some of the hymns are penitential or doctrinal and therefore unfit to be sung, we reply that we find examples of such in the Book of Psalms, which we have made our model in compiling our work; there we have Maschils as well as Hosannahs, and penitential odes as well as Hallelujahs. We have not been able to fall in with modem scruples, but have rested content with ancient precedents.
We hope that, in some few churches of the land, we may be helpful to their service of sacred song, and aid them in praising the Lord. The Editor has inserted, with great diffidence, a very few of his own compositions--chiefly among the Psalms--and his only apology for so doing is the fact that, of certain difficult Psalms, he could find no version at all fitted for singing, and was therefore driven to turn them into verse himself. As these original hymns are but few, it is hoped that they will not prejudice the ordinary reader against the rest of the collection; and, possibly, one or two of them may gratify the generous judgment of our friends.'
The hope that Our Own Hymn-Book might be adopted by other congregations beside that at the Tabernacle, was fully realized; and the Editor's own compositions have been prized as much as any in the whole work. Three of them especially--the one written for an early morning prayer-meeting:
another, intended for singing at the communion:
and a third, commencing:
have been incorporated into many modem hymnals.
Spurgeon often spoke of the compilation of Our Own Hymn-Book as having been a great means of grace to his own soul, especially when he was selecting the hymns in praise of the Lord Jesus; and, once, when preaching at Surrey Chapel, he thus explained why he had omitted one hymn that he found in other collections: 'It really is lamentable to see how common, in certain quarters, misery is among the people of God. In many places they are a feeble folk. Mr. Ready-to-Halt, of whom John Bunyan writes, must have been the father of a very large family. I am afraid that the manufacture of crutches will never die out altogether; and really, in some parts, it must be a most lucrative business, for many of the Lord's people never get beyond, "I hope so," or, "I trust so," and no hymn in the hymn-book is so sweet to them as--
'Tis a point I long to know.
I did not put that hymn in Our Own Hymn-Book. I had a debate in my own mind about it. I said to myself, "Ah, well! they will know all about that hymn without my putting it into the book;" and I thought that, if you wanted to sing it, you could sing it alone at home; but it did not seem to me to be a hymn that a whole congregation should use. I have to sing it myself sometimes, I am sorry to say. It is an excellent hymn, as expressing the feelings of some of God's people, but it will not do for all of you to get into that state. It is very well for the good wife to have a little black draught at hand when the child needs it sometimes; but to give the whole family the same medicine might be a great deal more injurious than beneficial. And so it is with regard to that class of hymns; it is suitable to a certain case of diseased spiritual condition, but it would be wrong to suppose or to insinuate that all the people of God, at any one time in a congregation, could be found in exactly the same condition of sad decrepitude of faith.'
After being in use for a third of a century, it was felt that there was need to add to Spurgeon's own compilation; so, in the year 1898, a Supplement was issued, containing 300 additional hymns; and, providentially, it was ready for use just when the Tabernacle congregation had need of new hymn-books to replace the many that had been burned in the fire which wrought such terrible destruction in their great house of prayer. The new selection closely follows the lines laid down for the former one, and includes many of the best 'psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs' that have been composed during the last thirty years.
Perhaps, among all Spurgeon's published works, the one that gives the best idea of his familiarity with the whole range of expository literature, is his unpretentious half-crown volume, issued under the unattractive title, Commenting and Commentaries. The book has long since been accepted as a most reliable standard of appeal, and its commendations and valuations are frequently quoted in catalogues of theological works. The purpose of the volume, and the labour necessary for its completion, are thus described by its author:
'Divines who have studied the Scriptures have left us great stores of holy thought which we do well to use. Their expositions can never be a substitute for our own meditations; but, as water poured down a dry pump often starts it working to bring up water of its own, so suggestive reading sets the mind in motion on its own account. Here, however, is the difficulty. Students do not find it easy to choose which works to buy, and their slender stores are often wasted on books of a comparatively worthless kind. If I can save a poor man from spending his money for that which is not bread, or, by directing a brother to a good book, may enable him to dig deeper into the mines of truth, I shall be well repaid. For this purpose I have toiled, and read much, and passed under review some three or four thousand volumes. From these I have compiled my catalogue, rejecting many, yet making a very varied selection. Though I have carefully used such judgment as I possess, I have doubtless made many errors; I shall certainly find very few who will agree with all my criticisms, and some persons may be angry at my remarks. I have, however, done my best, and, with as much impartiality as I can command, I have nothing extenuated nor set down aught in malice. He who finds fault will do well to execute the work in better style; only let him remember that he will have my heifer to plough with, and therefore ought in all reason to excel me. I have used a degree of pleasantry in my remarks on the Commentaries, for a catalogue is a dry affair, and, as much for my own sake as for that of my readers, I have indulged the mirthful vein here and there. For this, I hope I shall escape censure, even if I do not win commendation. Few can conceive the amount of toil which this compilation has involved, both to myself and my industrious amanuensis, Mr. J. L. Keys. In almost every case, the books have been actually examined by myself, and my opinion, whatever it may be worth, is an original one. A complete list of all comments has not been attempted. Numbers of volumes have been left out because they were not easily obtainable, or were judged to be worthless, although some of both these classes have been admitted as specimens, or as warnings. Latin authors are not inserted, because few can procure them, and fewer still can read them with ease. We are not, however, ignorant of their value. The writers on the Prophetical Books have completely mastered us; and, after almost completing a full list, we could not in our conscience believe that a tithe of them would yield to the student anything but bewilderment, and therefore we reduced the number to small dimensions. We reverence the teaching of the prophets, and the Apocalypse; but for many of the professed expounders of those inspired Books, we entertain another feeling.
Anyone who had the opportunity, for the first time, of examining a complete set of Spurgeon's publications might imagine that he had never done anything but write all the days of his life; yet the present volume shows that his literary labours employed only a part of his ministry. Their aim harmonized completely with his one great object, to serve the Lord he loved, and his writing, as his preaching, drew its fulness from one source. What he said on one occasion of John Bunyan was equally applicable to his own words and writings:
'Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord;--not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into out inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavoured with the words of the Lord. I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had studied our Authorized Version, which will never be bettered, as I judge, till Christ shall come; he had read it till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim's Progress that sweetest of all prose poems--without continually making us feel and say, "Why, this man is a living Bible!" Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.'