Never let it be forgotten that, in the mysterious arrangements of Providence, The Sword and the Trowel led to the founding of THE STOCKWELL ORPHANAGE. This would be no mean result, if it were all that the Magazine had accomplished; for in that happy home we hope to house a portion of England's orphanhood for many a year to come, receiving the fatherless by an easier door than that which only opens to clamorous competition and laborious canvassing.--C.H.S., in Preface to 'Sword and Trowel' volume for 1867.
A Home for the Fatherless
ALTHOUGH it is generally known that the Stockwell Orphanage originated in the gift to Spurgeon of £20,000 by Mrs. Hillyard, the widow of a Church of England clergyman, the various circumstances which preceded that noble act of generosity are not so widely known. The story begins with the inclusion of an article in The Sword and the Trowel of August, 1866, entitled 'The Holy War of the Present Hour.' In that paper, after the paragraph advocating the widespread dissemination of religious literature, Spurgeon wrote: 'further, it is laid very heavily on our heart to stir up our friends to rescue some of the scholastic influence of our adversaries out of their hands. In the common schools of England, Church influence is out of all proportion to the respective numbers of the Episcopal body and the Nonconforming churches. We have too much given up our children to the enemy; and if the clergy had possessed the skill to hold them, the mischief might have been terrible; as it is, our Sabbath-schools have neutralized the evil to a large extent, but it ought not to be suffered to exist any longer. A great effort should be made to multiply our day-schools, and to render them distinctly religious, by teaching the gospel in them, and by labouring to bring the children, as children, to the Lord Jesus. The silly cry of "Nonsectarian" is duping many into the establishment of schools in which the most important part of wisdom, namely, "the fear of the Lord," is altogether ignored. We trust this folly will soon be given up, and that we shall see schools in which all that we believe and hold dear shall be taught to the children of our poorer adherents.'
When Mrs. Hillyard read these words, and the further plea for the establishment also of religious schools of a higher order, they indicated to her the method by which she might realize the fulfillment of a purpose that she had long cherished in her heart. She had felt specially drawn out in sympathy towards fatherless boys, so she wrote to Spurgeon telling him of her desire, and asking his assistance in carrying it into effect. The Pastor's own mind had been prepared by the Lord for such a proposal through a remarkable experience at the previous Monday evening prayer-meeting at the Tabernacle.
Pastor C. Welton, who was at that time a student in the College, has preserved this interesting record of what happened on that occasion: `Mr. Spurgeon said, "Dear friends, we are a huge church, and should be doing more for the Lord in this great city. I want us, tonight, to ask Him to send us some new work; and if we need money to carry it on, let us pray that the means may also be sent." Several of the students had been called to the platform to join with deacons and elders in leading the assembly to the throne of grace, and to plead with God about the matter. While that mighty man of prayer, Mr. William Olney, was wrestling with the Lord, the beloved President knew that the answer had come. Had the Holy Spirit told him? It seemed so, for, walking lightly across the platform to where I was sitting, he said to me softly, "It's all right, Welton; you pray for the conversion of sinners, will you?" A few days after this Tabernacle prayer-meeting, Mrs. Hillyard wrote to the dear Pastor offering to entrust him with £20,000 for the purpose of founding an Orphanage for fatherless children. Here was the new work and the money with which to begin it. It was my conviction thirty years ago, as it is to-day, that the Stockwell Orphanage, as well as the money to found it, came from the Lord in answer to the petitions offered that Monday night. Surely, the Orphanage was born of prayer.'
Spurgeon's name had been introduced to Mrs. Hillyard in an extraordinary way; the incident does not appear ever to have come to his knowledge, and it was not made public until some years after he was `called home.' Speaking at the Orphanage, in June, 1896, Professor Henderson, of Bristol Baptist College, said: `Mrs. Hillyard and two friends of mine--a husband and wife--were sitting together here in London; and, in the course of their conversation, Mrs. Hillyard said to my friend, "I have a considerable sum of money that I want to employ for beneficent purposes, but I am not competent to administer it myself; I wish you would take this , £20,000, and use it for the glory of God." My friend, who was a very sensible man, replied, "I am quite unfit to administer that large amount." It was pressed upon him, but he resolutely declined to accept the charge of it; whereupon Mrs. Hillyard said to him, "Well, if you are not willing to take it, will you advise me as to the disposal of it?" The recommendation he gave was that the money should be put into the hands of a public man, all of whose acts were known to people generally, one who was responsible to the public, and whose reputation depended upon the proper use of any funds entrusted to his keeping. This counsel. was approved by Mrs. Hillyard; and now comes the remarkable part of the story. You know that she did not hold quite the same views that we do, and the gentleman to whom she was speaking did not share our intense admiration for Mr. Spurgeon, though he had a kindly feeling towards him, and a high regard for his integrity and uprightness. When Mrs. Hillyard said to him, "Will you name somebody who fulfils the conditions you have mentioned?" he told me that the name of Spurgeon leaped from his lips almost to his own surprise. Mrs. Hillyard wrote to Mr. Spurgeon about the matter, and you all know what followed from their correspondence.'
In reply to the first letter from Mrs. Hillyard, Spurgeon asked for further particulars of her proposed plan, and offered to go to see her concerning it; she then wrote again, as follows:
My Dear Sir,
I beg to thank you for responding so kindly to my very anxious and humble desire to be used by the Lord of the vineyard in some small measure of service. He has said, "Occupy till I come," and He has graciously given me an unceasing longing to do His will in this particular matter. My oft-repeated enquiry has been, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all the inestimable benefits He has conferred upon me?" Truly, we can but offer to Him of His own; yet has He graciously promised to accept this at our hands. That which the Lord has laid upon my heart, at present, is the great need there is of an Orphan House, requiring neither votes nor patronage, and especially one conducted upon simple gospel principles, just such an one as might be a kind of stepping-stone to your suggested higher school, and your College; for I think education, to be effectual, should begin at a very early age.
I have now about £20,000, which I should like (God willing) to devote to the training and education of a few orphan boys. Of course, bringing the little ones to Jesus is my first and chief desire. I doubt not that many dear Christians would like to help in a work of this kind, under your direction and control; and should such an Institution grow to any large extent, I feel sure there would be no cause to fear the want of means to meet the needs of the dear orphans, for have they not a rich Father? I shall esteem it a great favour if you can call and talk the matter over with me on Thursday next, between the hours of 12 and 4, as you kindly propose; and--
P.S.--I would leave this matter entirely in the Lord's hand; not desiring to go before, but to follow His guidance.'
A stained-glass window in the Board-room of the Orphanage represents the interview between Mrs. Hillyard, Spurgeon, and William Higgs, whom the Pastor took with him for consultation with regard to the details of the suggested-scheme. As they approached the address given in the lady's letter, the very modest style of the 'villas' made them ask one another whether they were being hoaxed, for it did not seem likely that anyone living in such a humble style would have £20,000 to bestow. They discovered, afterwards, that it was only by the exercise of the most rigid economy that the good woman had been able to save that large sum. On being admitted to the plainly-furnished room where Mrs. Hillyard received them, Spurgeon said to her, 'We have called, Madam, about the £200 you mentioned in your letter.' £200! Did I write? I meant to have said £20,000.' 'Oh yes!' replied the Pastor, you did put £20,000; but I was not sure whether a nought or two had slipped in by mistake, and thought I would be on the safe side,' They then discussed the whole question from various points of view, Spurgeon being specially anxious to ascertain whether the money ought to go to any relatives, and even suggesting that it might be handed over to Mr. Miillet for his Orphan Homes. The lady, however, adhered to her determination to entrust the £20,000 to Spurgeon, and to him alone.
After this interview, the proposed scheme made rapid progress. A preliminary notice was inserted in The Sword and the Trowel for October, 1866; in the following January, the site at Stockwell was purchased; funds commenced to come in, one of the first large contributors being Mr. George Moore, of Bow Churchyard, who gave £250. The sum of £500 was given by Mrs. Tyson, of Upper Norwood a lady who long and generously aided both College and Orphanage, and who, in her will, left £25,000 to the latter Institution, and so became its greatest helper. As the £500 was a present from Mr. Tyson to his wife on the twenty-fifth anniversary of their marriage, the house built with it was called 'Silver-wedding House;' the next one, given by Mr. James Harvey, was named 'The Merchant's House;' the third, presented by Mr. W. Higgs and his workmen, was entitled 'The Workmen's House;' then came 'Unity House,' the gift of Father Olney and his sons, in memory of Mrs. Unity Olney; 'The Testimonial Houses,' erected with funds contributed by the Baptist churches of the United Kingdom as a proof of the high esteem in which they held the President; The Sunday-school House', given by the Tabernacle Sunday-school; and 'The College House,' a token of love from brethren educated in the Pastors' College. The head-master's house, dining-hall, play-hall, and infirmary, completed the boys' side of the Institution; and, at a later period, a corresponding portion was erected for girls.
Very early in the history of the Institution, Spurgeon announced the method he intended to adopt in raising the necessary funds. Preaching in the Tabernacle, in 1867, on 'Believing to See,' he said: 'I hope the day may soon come when the noble example which has been set by our esteemed brother, Mr. Müller, of Bristol, will be more constantly followed in all the Lords work; for, rest assured that, if we will but "believe to see," we shall see great things. I cannot forbear mentioning to you tonight what God has enabled us to see of late as a church. We met together one Monday night, as you will remember, for prayer concerning the Orphanage; and it was not a little remarkable that on the Saturday of that week the Lord should have moved some friend, who knew nothing of our prayers, to give five hundred pounds to that object. It astonished some of you that, on the following Monday, God should have influenced another to give six hundred pounds! When I told you of that, at the next prayer-meeting, you did not think perhaps that the Lord had something else in store, and that, the following Tuesday, another friend would come with five hundred pounds! It was just the same in the building of this Tabernacle. We were a few and poor people when we commenced, but still we moved on by faith, and never went into debt. We trusted in God, and the house was built, to the eternal honour of Him who hears and answers prayer. And, mark you, it will be so in the erection of this Orphan Home. We shall see greater things than these if only our faith will precede our sight. But if we go upon the old custom of our general Societies, and first look out for a regular income, and get our subscribers, and send round our collectors, and pay our percentages--that is, do not trust God, but trust our subscribers--if we go by that rule, we shall see very little, and have no room for believing. But if we shall just trust God, and believe that He never did leave a work that He put upon us, and never sets us to do a thing without meaning to help us through with it, we shall soon see that the God of Israel still lives, and that His arm is not shortened.'
Many notable interpositions of Providence have occurred in connection with the building and maintenance of the Institution. One of the earliest and most memorable took place on November 20, 1867, concerning which Spurgeon wrote, several years afterwards, among his other personal recollections of Dr. Brock: 'We remember when, being somewhat indisposed, as is, alas! too often our lot, we went to spend a quiet day or two at a beloved friend's mansion in Regent's Park. We were dining, and Dr. Brock was one of our little company. Mention was made that the Stockwell Orphanage was being built, and that cash for the builder would be needed in a day or two, but was not yet in hand. We declared our confidence in God that the need would be supplied, and that we should never owe any man a pound for the Lord's work. Our friend agreed that, in the review of the past, such coincidence was natural, and was due to our ever-faithful Lord. As we closed the meal, a servant entered, with a telegram from our secretary, to the effect that A. B., an unknown donor, had sent £1,000 for the Orphanage. No sooner had we read the words than the Doctor rose from the table, and poured out his utterances of gratitude in the most joyful manner, closing with the suggestion that the very least thing we could do was to fall upon our knees at once, and magnify the Lord. The prayer and praise which he then poured out, we shall never forget; he seemed a psalmist while, with full heart and grandeur both of words and sound, singularly suitable to the occasion, he addressed the ever-faithful One. He knew our feebleness at the time, and while he looked upon the gift of God as a great tenderness to us in our infirmity, he also seemed to feel such perfect oneness with us in our delight that he took the duty of expressing it quite out of our hands, and spoke in our name as well as his own. If a fortune had been left him, he could not have been more delighted than he was at the liberal supply of our needs in the Lord's work. We sat around the fire, and talked together of the goodness of God, and our heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord. Among the very latest things we spoke of, when we last met on earth, was that evening at our friend's house, and the great goodness of the Lord in response to our faith. While we write the record, our heart wells up with new gratitude for the choice benefit. Surely, if in Heaven the saints shall converse together of the things of earth, this will be one of the subjects upon which two comrades of twenty years may be expected to commune.
A few weeks later, the same anonymous donor dropped into the President's letter-box two bank-notes for £1,000 each--one for the College, and the other for the Orphanage--with a letter in which the generous giver said, 'The latter led me to contribute to the former.' This intimation was specially cheering to Spurgeon, for he had feared, perhaps naturally, that the new Institution would be likely to impoverish the older one.
In November, 1869, when the President was suddenly laid aside by an attack of small-pox, a friend, who knew nothing of his illness, called and left £500 for the Orphanage; and, a few days later, an anonymous donor, who also was unaware of Spurgeon's affliction, sent £1,000 for the same purpose. At one meeting of the Trustees, the financial report was 'all bills paid, but only £3 left in hand.' Prayer was offered, and the stream of liberality soon began to flow again. On another occasion, the funds were completely exhausted, and the Managers were driven to special supplication on behalf of the work. That very day, nearly £400 was poured into the treasury, and the hearts of the pleaders were gladdened and encouraged.
The President's usual plan, when supplies ran short, was first to give all he could, and ask his fellow-Trustees to do the same, and then to lay the case before the Lord in the full belief that He would incline His stewards to send in all that was required. As long as he was able to do so, Spurgeon presided at the meetings of the Trustees; and, afterwards, he was kept informed of their proceedings by copies of the Minutes, while the most important items of business were decided 'subject to the approval of the President.' In the earlier days, he used personally to see the applicants--an experience which often proved expensive, for he could not listen to the sad stories of the poor widows without relieving their temporal necessities, whatever might be the decision concerning the admission of their children. Sometimes, there was a humorous side to the situation, and he was quick to notice it. One day, a woman came with quite a little tribe of boys and girls; and, in reply to the enquiries put to her, said that she had been twice left a widow, and her second husband, whom she had recently lost, had been previously married; and then, separating the children into three groups, she said, 'These are his, those are mine, and these are ours.' In relating the story afterwards, Spurgeon used to say that he did not remember any other instance in which possessive pronouns had proved so useful!
In February, 1869, the President wrote in The Sword and the Trowel: 'At the Orphanage, we are still set fast for want of a master. The Lord will, we trust, guide us to the right man; but, out of many applicants, not one has seemed to us to be suitable.' Two months later, however, Spurgeon was able to report: 'Mr. Charlesworth, assistant-minister to Mr. Newman Halt of Surrey Chapel, has accepted the post of master to the Orphanage. He called in--as we are wont to say--by accident, at the very moment when a letter was handed to us from the previously-elected master declining to fulfil his engagement. Our disappointment was considerable at the loss of the man of our choice; but when we found that this dear friend had been thinking of the work, and was ready to undertake it, we were filled with gratitude to the over-ruling hand of God.'
The election of a paedo-baptist to such an important position was another instance of the catholicity of spirit that Spurgeon had manifested in appointing a Congregationalist (George Rogers) to the post of Principal of the Pastor's College, and choosing another member of the same denomination (W. R. Selway) to be the Scientific Lecturer to that Institution. The undenominational character of the Orphanage is apparent from a glance at the table showing the religious views of the parents of the children received. Up to the close of the century, out of the 527 orphans who had found a happy home at Stockwell, no less than 166 had come from Church of England families, while Baptists were only represented by 121, Congregationalists by 64, Wesleyans by 58, and other bodies by still smaller numbers.
Spurgeon never had occasion to regret the choice of Vernon J. Charlesworth as the first master of the Orphanage. He proved himself to be admirably fitted for the position. On one occasion, shortly after there had been an addition to his family, he became the subject of a humorous remark passed by Spurgeon at a meeting of the Trustees. In a tone of apparent seriousness Spurgeon told them that he had to call their attention to the fact that the head-master had introduced a child into the Orphanage without their permission, and he added that this was not the first time such a thing had happened! One of the brethren, not noticing the merry twinkle in the President's eye, proposed that Mr. Charlesworth should be called in, and questioned concerning the matter, and also that he should be very distinctly informed that such a proceeding must not be repeated! The resolution was probably not put to the meeting, and a truthful historian must record that there were several similar occurrences in after years.
Everyone at all acquainted with the inner working of the Orphanage knows with what affection, mingled with reverence, the children at Stockwell always regarded Spurgeon. He was indeed a father to the fatherless; and, while no boy ever presumed upon the tender familiarity which the President permitted, every one of them fully prized the privilege of his friendship. There was no mistaking the ringing cheer which greeted his arrival; everybody on the premises instantly knew what that shout meant, and passed round the cheering message, 'Mr. Spurgeon has come.' In the 'In Memoriam' Stockwell Orphanage Tract, issued in 1892, after Spurgeon was 'called home,' Charlesworth wrote, concerning the 'promoted' President: 'The children loved him; and his visits always called forth the most boisterous demonstrations of delight. His appearance was the signal for a general movement towards the centre of attraction, and he often said, "They compassed me about like bees!" The eagerness with which they sought to grasp his hand, often involved the younger children in the risk of being trampled upon by others; but, with ready tact and condescension, he singled out those who were at a disadvantage, and extended to them his hand. At the Memorial Service, conducted by the head-master, it was ascertained that every boy present had shaken hands with the President--a fact of no small significance! Every visit cost him as many pennies as there were children in the Orphanage. Proud as they were to possess the coin for its spending power, it was regarded as having an augmented value from the fact that it was the gift of Mr. Spurgeon.
A simple incident related in one of the earlier issues of The Sword and the Trowel showed how even the most friendless of the orphans felt that he might tell his troubles into the sympathetic ear of the great preacher: 'Sitting down upon one of the seats in the Orphanage grounds, we were talking with one of our brother Trustees, when a little fellow, we should think about eight years of age, left the other boys who were playing around us, and came deliberately up to us. He opened fire upon us thus, "Please, Mr. Spurgeon, I want to come and sit down on that seat between you two gentlemen." "Come along, Bob, and tell us what you want." "Please, Mr. Spurgeon, suppose there was a little boy who had no father, who lived in a Orphanage with a lot of other little boys who had no fathers; and suppose those little boys had mothers and aunts who comed once a month, and brought them apples and oranges, and gave them pennies; and suppose this little boy had no mother, and no aunt, and so nobody never came to bring him nice things, don't you think somebody ought to give him a penny? 'Cause, Mr. Spurgeon, that's me." "Somebody" felt something wet in his eye, and Bob got a sixpence, and went off in a great state of delight. Poor little soul, he had seized the opportunity to pour out a bitterness which had rankled in his little heart, and made him miserable when the monthly visiting day came round, and, as he said, "Nobody never came to bring him nice things."'
The narrative, of course, brought 'little Bob' a plentiful supply of pocket-money, and was the means of helping others of the orphans who, like him, were motherless and fatherless; and it also served the President many a time as an illustration of the way in which a personal appeal might be made effectual. One of the best pleas for the Institution that Spurgeon ever issued was dictated to his secretary under the olives at Mentone. It was addressed, 'To those who are happily married, or hope to be;' and after allusion to the bliss of a true marriage union, and the consequent sorrow when one of the twain is removed by death, the writer showed how, often, poverty made the bereavement even more painful, and then pointed out the blessing that a home for the fatherless became to the poor struggling widow suddenly left with a large family. The article contained special references to the Stockwell Orphanage; and it was, in due time, published in The Sword and the Trowel. As soon as it appeared, one gentleman sent £100 as a thankoffering from himself and his wife for their many years of happy married life, and other donors sent small amounts. The 'plea' commenced thus: 'We do not write for those people who are married but not mated. When a cat and a dog are tied together, they seldom sorrow much at the prospect of separation. When marriage is merry-age, it is natural to desire a long life of it; but when it is mar-age, the thought of parting is more endurable. Mr. and Mrs. Naggleton will be sure to put on mourning should one or other of them decease, but the garb of sorrow will be all the sorrow he or she will know; the black will soon turn brown, if not white, and the weeds will probably give place to flowers. We address ourselves to those who have the happiness of being joined together by wedded love as well as by wedlock.' It was a source of much amusement to Spurgeon to receive, among the other contributions for the Orphanage, as the result of his appeal, a donation 'from Mr. and Mrs. Naggleton,' who did not, however, give their real name and address!
In asking for the support of the Christian public in this enterprise, Spurgeon supplied the following information:
'We have heard it objected to Orphanages that the children are dressed uniformly, and in other ways are made to look like paupers. This is earnestly avoided at the Stockwell Orphanage, and if any friend will step in and look at the boys and girls, he will have to put on peculiar spectacles to be able to detect a shade of the pauper look in countenance, garments, speech, limb, or movement. Another fault that has been found is that the boys and girls by living in one great institution are unfitted for domestic life in small families. There is probably much truth in this allegation, but at Stockwell we have laboured to avoid it by dividing the children into different families, which are located in separate houses. The lads do the domestic work; there is a matron to each house, and no servants are kept; the lads do all, and thus become as handy as young sailors. Those who take them as apprentices shall be our witnesses.
"But", it is said by someone, "there is such a deal of trouble in getting a child into an orphanage, and the practice of canvassing for votes is so laborious to the widow, and in many other ways objectionable". We are of much the same opinion and we heartily wish that everybody else would think in like manner. There is a great deal to be said for the plan of election by votes given to subscribers, and if it is not the best possible way, it has nevertheless served a very useful turn, and many institutions have been founded and successfully carried on under that system. Still, we shall be glad to get rid of it, and supply its place in a more excellent way. We have found it possible to leave the choice of the orphans with the trustees, who are pledged to select the most destitute cases. In the Stockwell Orphanage no canvassing can be of the slightest use, for the trustees personally, or through appointed visitors, examine each application, and endeavour to allot the vacancies where the need is greatest. They do not deviate from their rules under pressure or persuasion, but as much as possible exercise impartiality.
The Orphanage receives fatherless boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 10. It is conducted on the Cottage System, each home being presided over by a godly matron. It is unsectarian, children being received, irrespective of their denominational connection, from all parts of the United Kingdom. The children receive a plain but thorough English education and training. The supreme aim of the managers is always kept in view--to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord".