That is a very precious Name which Christ puts into our mouths when He bids us say to God, 'Our Father, which art in Heaven;' and there is a wonderful sweetness when we come to know that we may call Him our Husband. I do not like to compare the two, and say which title is to be preferred--whether Husband or Father--they are both unutterably sweet when they are enjoyed to the full.--C.H.S., in sermon preached at the Tabernacle, March 1, 1883.
A Son's Memories CHARLES SPURGEON JR
THE earliest recollections of my father which I have retained are naturally those associated with my childhood and my heart is filled anew with joyful pleasures as I think again and again of the doings of the days gone by. I must have been a very small boy when I capered about, with great delight, because my father had provided, for the entertainment of the natives of Walton-on-the-Naze, a firework display on the sands; and, among the visitors at the then slightly-known and out of the-way watering-place, little Charlie was made glad by looking at sky-rockets, and listening to the bang of squibs. This may seem a small matter to report, but it is indicative of a prominent feature in my father's character, inasmuch as he constantly rejoiced in giving pleasant surprises wherever he could; nor was this the only time when, to give his children some fun, he made the fifth of November an excuse for indulging in works of fire.
I well remember, too, how an improvised swing had been hung between two trees for the amusement of the boys; but an untimely fall of one of the twins precluded all further use of this out-door gymnasium. Father felt, however, that athletic exercises were conducive to the health of growing lads, so he arranged for the erection of a substantial horizontal bar and swing for their use, thus giving evidence of his thoughtful love and sympathetic consideration for their well-being.
I seem to see, as if it were but yesterday, his bright face beaming with smiles, as he gave his would-be carpenter sons a present, in the form of a basket of tools and a box of nails. All the implements needed for the full equipment of a master in the trade were to be found within that workman's basket; and I shall never forget how father watched and waited for us to discover, among the tools, a neat roll of rag! While we were puzzling our brains to find out why this was included, he laughingly explained that, in all probability, when we had cut our fingers, we should find out the use of it. The providing of the bandage for wounded amateurs, exemplified his power of forethought, and also his profound common sense.
I prize immensely the first letter I ever received from my father. It was written while he was staying in Heligoland and at the head of his note-paper was a coloured view of the populated end of the island, with some houses on the cliffs and others on the sands far below. It runs thus:
'My Dear Charlie,
I am very glad that you wrote a nice little note to your dear mother, and I hope it is a sign that you are always going to be diligent and thoughtful, and this will be a glad thing indeed... I am delighted to hear that you are doing so well at College. Give my love to all the students, and tell Mr. Rogers that it always cheers me to know that the brethren bear me up in their prayers.
On this little island, there is a lighthouse. It is much needed, for many vessels are wrecked here. We live down below, on the beach, near the square tower with a flag on it; that is a bathhouse. Steamers come every two days, and then we can send letters; at other times, we are far off from everybody, alone in the wide, wide sea. We have sheep's milk, for there is no room for cows. Fish is very plentiful, and very good.
My dear boy, I trust that you will prove, by the whole of your future life, that you are truly converted to God. Your actions must be the chief proof. Remember, trees are known by their fruit, and Christians by their deeds. God bless you for ever and ever! Mother sends her kindest love, and so does--
The reference to 'doing so well at College,' needs an explanation for I was at that time only a little boy. One of the students was then our tutor and, naturally, father took a deep interest in our educational progress. Pastor Harry Rylands Brown, now of Darjeeling, was the good brother who had us in training, and, from that day to this, teacher and pupil have been close friends.
When I was about twelve years of age I was riding home with my father in the brougham after an evening service at the Tabernacle. It was 'blowing great guns,' there was a heavy downpour of rain, and a keen East wind, with a cutting edge, was driving it upon the pavement. It was a dark, dreary night; and, as we came to a point where cross-roads met, father's quick eye discerned a person, whom he judged to be a poor woman, hurriedly rushing across the stones through the storm. With her skirt gathered over her head, she looked a weird spectacle; and in a moment, his heart was moved with compassion toward her. He cried out, 'Charlie, stop the coachman; jump out, and see if there is anything wrong with that poor creature, and find out whether you can help her.' Of course, I sprang out of the carriage at once; but I wondered what I was going to say to the woman. I overtook her, and said, 'Excuse me, but is there anything the matter! Are you in trouble?" She replied, 'Oh, dear, no! I have been to see a friend, and have been caught in the storm. I came out without an umbrella, so I am running home as fast as I can.' As I repeated to father what she had said, he exclaimed, 'That is a relief to me!' But what would he have done if she had been in distress? He was glad that she was all right; but I remember thinking, as I sat there by his side, 'Dear me! That woman is nothing to him, yet his heart went out towards her in pity and sympathy.' It went but after everyone who was in need and distress; and if his hand could help, its bounty speedily followed the leadings of his great heart of love.
While my brother and I were at Mr. Olding's school at Brighten, I wrote to tell my father that we had started a little prayer-meeting in the master's drawing-room, among our school-fellows. In reply, he wrote: 'Dear boy,--One of my sweetest joys is to hear that a spirit of prayer is in your school, and that you participate in it. To know that you love the Lord, and are mighty in prayer, would be my crowning joy; the hope that you do so already is a happy one to me. I should like you to preach, but it is best that you pray; many a preacher has proved a castaway, but never one who has truly learned to pray.'
I remember the great enjoyment father gave his two sons, in August, 1871, when he took us to Antwerp. As we went through the different churches there, he seemed to know all about every picture, each pulpit, and even the tombs; and he could tell us about the famous artists, sculptors, and carvers, upon whose works we were gazing in boyish wonderment.
I well remember, too, how father's righteous indignation was kindled as we stood in the famous cathedral, and witnessed the absurdities connected with the funeral obsequies of some great personage. No sooner had the gloomy cortège quitted the building, to a slow and solemn dirge rendered by the chorister monks, than a gorgeous wedding procession, with all the joyous accompaniments of marriage festivities took its place; and thus the whole scene was quickly changed, and the mournful 'miserere' was succeeded by the nuptial 'jubilate.' The experienced preacher extemparized a brief discourse upon the ever-varying vicissitudes of human life, as set forth by the two events; and the truths he thus inculcated still abide, as we remember that our joys and sorrows are not so far apart as we are apt to think, for sunbeams and shadows are closely allied, after all. Sic est vita.
At another time, I was staying with my father in a much-loved, and oft-frequented spot in Surrey, where his presence was always looked upon as a high honour. The villagers had been successful in securing a fine large carp from the pond which skirted the green, and they thought that such a good catch should at once be sent to their notable visitor; so, with great ceremony, a deputation of rustics was appointed to wait upon him. The best that they could give to him was not reckoned too good for the man they loved; and though the gift was small, it was sufficient to prove the affectionate regard in which he was held by these simple rustics.
One of the most notable events of which I still have vivid recollections was the occasion of my baptism. An entry in the Tabernacle church-book, dated September 14, 1824, reads as follows: 'Charles and Thomas Spurgeon, of Nightingale Lane, Clapham, were proposed for church-membership, and Brother Payne was appointed messenger.
Charles and Thomas Spurgeon came before the church and gave a satisfactory statement of the work of grace in their souls, and the messenger reporting favourably, it was agreed that, after baptism, they should be received into communion with the church.'
On the following Lord's-day morning, father preached at the Tabernacle, from Isaiah 8.18, a sermon to which he gave the title, 'I and the Children.' The next evening, September 21, he baptized his twin sons, who had, on the previous day, celebrated their eighteenth birthday. As the beloved Pastor had not, for a long time, been able to baptize, and also, perhaps, because the candidates were his own sons, the great edifice was crowded with an interested concourse of people who had come to witness the solemn ceremony. Dr. Brock, of Bloomsbury Chapel, was present, according to promise, and delivered a forcible address, which was emphasized by some of father's telling utterances.
When it was put into my heart to serve the Lord; and to begin to speak for Him, I of course sought my father's counsel. He was then laid aside with a painful illness at Brighten, but he wrote to me thus:
'My own dear son,
I think it very kind and thoughtful of you to write to your father, and the more so because the time you have to yourself is not very long. I am glad you desire to do something for the Lord, and shall be still more pleased when you actually set about it. Time flies; and the opportunity for doing good flies with it. However diligent you may be in the future, you can only do the work of 1875 in 1875; and if you leave it undone now, it will be undone to all eternity. The diligent attention which you give to business, the careful purity of your daily life, and your concern to do common things in a right spirit, are all real service for the Lord. The hours in which your earthly calling is industriously followed for Christ's sake, are really hours of work for Jesus; but, still, this cannot satisfy you, or, at least, I hope it cannot. As redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, you feel that you belong to Him, and you long to show your love to Him by actions directly meant to extend His Kingdom, and gather in sinners whom He loves to bless. When once such efforts are commenced, they become easier, and a kind of hunger to do more seizes upon the heart. It is not toil, but pleasure; and if God blesses what we do, it rises from being a common pleasure to become a sacred delight. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." It is not for me to suggest what form your service shall take, that must be left to yourself; and half the pleasure of it will lie in the exercise of a sacred ingenuity in discovering the work for which you are best adapted.
I was very thankful to read that you rejoiced in prayer; may it always be so, and yet more and more; for nothing gives us such strength, or affords us such guidance. The Lord bless you there, and all must be well. I have always hoped to see you a leader in the host of God. How it will be, I know not; but that so it may be, is one of my increasing prayers. Dear son, may all blessings abound towards you; you know I love you very dearly. It is a very dull Sabbath here, as to weather; I hope you are having a bright and happy day at home.
During the period I spent as a student in the Pastors' College, my father was always interested, not only in my own welfare, but in that of all the brethren. Perhaps at no time in the history of the Institution was he better acquainted than he was then with the whole of the men, and the internal work and hidden life of our 'Alma Mater.' It was not looked upon as 'telling tales out of school' when the son answered the enquiries of the sire. On two occasions, I was privileged to receive from him letters containing notes which he desired me to read to all the brethren. No less than eleven outlines of discourses were given in the following letter, and from them I have chosen one specimen:
Always make hay while the sun shines, and store up notes of sermons when your mind is fertile, for there are seasons of famine as well as of plenty, and every Joseph should lay up a store against the time of need. I fear I am not just now in the right order for sermonizing; but, if "silver and gold have I none," "such as I have give I you." By the way, that would not be a bad subject--What we would give if we could, not half so valuable as what we can bestow if we will. Or, (1) Talents we do not possess are not to be the source of repining, of sloth, or of indifference to men's wants; (2) Talents we do possess are to be used for the good of men, in faith, in the Name of Jesus, to the glory of God.
Turn to Acts 19, which is rich in texts. Verse 8. (1) The characteristic of a useful ministry: "he spake boldly." (2) The subject of such a ministry: "persuading the things concerning the Kingdom of God."
At the end of the eleven skeletons of sermons, father wrote:
'This is all I can do to-day. I am much better, and send my love to you all, and thanks for capital letters, all of which are beyond criticism.
Those ever-memorable Friday afternoons produced many rich seasons for storing up homiletic hints and outlines. This exercise seemed to be a recreation to the President, for if ever there was a brief interval that needed filling in between a bracing talk and a brilliant exposition, he would quietly make some such remark as this: 'Here's a good text: "He restoreth my soul"--
As my College course was drawing to a close, my father wrote to me: 'Your time will soon be up, and I should like you to begin in some sphere, not too large, nor too small, from which you may step into a life-long position. I think you will maintain a good congregation; and, by God's blessing, will be useful. We must not push or strive to get you a position, but wait on the Lord, and He will do better for you than I can. When Bishops look out for livings for their sons or nephews, we condemn their nepotism, so we must not fall into the same evil ourselves. You will be patient and believing, and the right door will open,'
When the time came for me to settle in the ministry, my father's counsel was a great factor in helping me to decide to accept the 'call' from the members of South Street Baptist Church, Greenwich, and it afforded me no little joy to have him as the preacher on the occasion of my recognition as Pastor. A striking injunction, from the discourse he then delivered, stands out vividly in my memory, and has been a constant inspiration to me. Leaning over the pulpit rail, and looking down upon me, as I sat on the lower platform, he said, in tender, yet thrilling tones, 'Preach up Christ, my boy! Preach Him up!!'
Among my father's letters that I treasure beyond the price of gold, are those which relate to the help rendered to him in times of sickness. Some of them look almost like hieroglyphics, because they were hurriedly scribbled, when his poor hands were swollen with gout, on a Sunday morning, and sent to Greenwich by a special messenger, asking me to take his service. Here is one: 'I am too full of pain to preach this morning; will you go to Tabernacle? I telegraphed Dunn to go to you, but if you have anyone else available, let him be ready. Your poor father--C. H. S.'
The first time that ever it was my honour to stand in his place, and thus occupy the pulpit in the Metropolitan Tabernacle on the Lord's day, called forth from him the following letter:
My Dear Son,
I pray earnestly for you under the solemn responsibility of tomorrow. May your father's God lift you out of yourself, giving you lowly dependence on His Spirit, and pleading earnestness that men may come to Christ! I am very ill, or I would be in my pulpit. I am ready to weep on being still away; but, dear son, the Lord is so good in giving me you, that I dare not think of repining. Only lean thou wholly on Him, and be nothing before Him. He has been my stay these many years.
Tell the people that, night and day, I am full of pain; and as these three times I have promised to be with them; and have failed, I fear to hope any more. Only they will be all sure that it will be my highest joy to be back among them, to see their loving faces, and to speak to them the good Word of God. I am an exiled prisoner, and the iron enters into my soul; but the Lord is good, and in His Name do I hope.
With best love from your dear mother, and--
The deep interest he ever took in my work at Greenwich, and his ardent affection for my beloved mother, are set forth in many of his letters, as the following extract from a letter written at Mentone shows :
'May you, some quarter of a century hence, enjoy the pleasure of having your son Charles to preach for you! It is a great delight to me to receive such loving letters from the "Bishop" of Greenwich, who is also my son and heir; and it is even more joy to see that God is prospering you, and making your work successful. I think you have made specially good progress in the time. Stick to your studies. Read Matthew Henry right through, if you can, before you are married; for, after that event, I fear that Jacob may supplant him. Remember me to Mr. Huntley, and all the good people.'
At my marriage, on April 11, 1881, both my parents were present; the happy ceremony was performed by my father, and I can even now recall some of his words after the legal portion of the service had been completed: 'As this ring is round, so may your love be endless! As it is made of pure gold, so may your affection be pure.' Continuing to say all manner of nice, kind things, he added: 'It is exceedingly necessary that a minister, especially a young minister, should have a wife. The duties a minister's wife has to fulfil are very important, for she is expected to be a combination of all impossible virtues; in fact, altogether a wonder.' Glancing lovingly at dear mother, he said: 'I know one minister's wife who has greatly strengthened her husband in the Lord.' Never shall I forget the beautiful prayer in which he commended 'the happy couple' to God; the answers to those petitions we continue to receive even to this day.
I must relate an incident which, at the time, afforded my father a large amount of pleasure; and which is, I should think, unique in ministerial life. He had been announced to preach on behalf of a small Baptist church in the East End of London, and the Congregationalists had kindly lent their large place of worship for the occasion. Long before the appointed hour of service, a great crowd had gathered both within and around the building, so that, when the preacher entered the pulpit, many hundreds were still seeking admission. Turning to me, as I sat just behind him, he asked me whether I would take an overflow meeting in the sanctuary opposite. I readily assented; whereupon he rose, and told the people to pass word on to those outside, 'that his son Charles would preach just over the way, in the Baptist Chapel.' He continued his own service, and I retired to fulfil my promise, and had a crowded audience in the smaller building. It had been arranged that I should preach, in the evening, in the Baptist Chapel; and it turned out that the experience of the father was to be repeated with the son, for the place was filled in every part, and a large number in vain sought admission, so I despatched a pencilled note to the great preacher of the afternoon, asking him if he would kindly come and take my overflow in the schoolroom opposite! As we journeyed home together, he said, 'Well, Charlie, I do not suppose it has ever happened before, that father and son should be preaching opposite to one another at the same time; but, thank God, dear boy, not in opposition.'
I remember, too, in connection with this visit, that, as we passed through the great meat-market at Smithfield, he called my attention to the immense quantities of provisions, remarking, as he did so, 'Whatever will become of it all?' But we had not gone far down the Mile End Road, before the ever-moving mass of humanity caused another enquiry to rise to mind and lip, which was expressed in the Scriptural question, 'From whence can a man satisfy these?' The conversation, which might very naturally have taken the form of a discussion upon the law of supply and demand, and such kindred themes as social and political economy, was, however, diverted into the higher channel of talk about the gospel amply meeting the spiritual needs of the masses--a truth which was shortly after to receive its exemplification through the ministry of father and son.
On another occasion, it was my high privilege to preach to some three or four thousand people, who were the residue of a congregation numbering one thousand, gathered to hear my father in a church at Pollockshaws, Scotland. The intense joy, which seemed to ripple over his face and sparkle in his eyes, when he learned that his son had the larger audience, increased the already large measure of happiness which delighted my heart. The crowds surged round him, blocking the thoroughfare, and rendering it impassable, until 'the gude man' had shaken hands with his Scotch friends; and joyous cheers rang out again and again as the carriage conveyed the two preachers away from the place of their joint ministry.
A large book could be written concerning the experiences of persons who had the honour and delight of meeting with my father during his visits to different parts of the country. I often wish that I had had it in my power to preserve, more securely than in mere mental jottings, many of the wise sayings reported to me by those who remember their interviews with him.
To a friend, who had called upon him, he said, 'I was looking at myself in the glass, this morning, when the words of the psalmist came to my mind: "Who is the health of my countenance, and my God." I saw no signs of health upon my countenance, and thought that they were far away; but my heart was comforted by the latter portion of the text, for none can rob me of "my God."'
To the same friend, he said, 'I am going to preach, one day, upon "bad lodgers." You get them here, for they come into your house to eat the food that you provide, and spoil the furniture in your home, and then leave without paying. I am not going to talk about this class of lodgers; but shall try to answer the question, "How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" ' He was as good as his word, for he preached in the Tabernacle from Jeremiah 4.14, and the sermon is published under the title, 'Bad Lodgers, and How to Treat them.'
On one occasion, it was my lot to have to go some distance from a countryside station to the village where I was to conduct some special services. A horse and cart were in waiting to convey me to my destination, the driver being a local farmer. We had not gone very far upon the road before his rustic voice broke the silence. 'So you be Mr. Spurgeon, be you, the son of the great man in Lunnon? I bin once in Lunnon, and 'eard him. I was up at the cattle show, and went over to his big chapel, and he preached about sheep. Bless you, he knew more about sheep than I do; and yet I've bin a farmer all my life!' The conversation did not lack in vivacity for the rest of the journey, as my newly-found acquaintance gave his town friend some agricultural education, second-hand, his tutor having been the worthy Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle! My father was a living 'Enquire Within upon Everything.' All who ever heard him can well understand how his almost universal knowledge furnished him with striking simile, matchless metaphor, forceful figure, and instructive illustration.
Entering, only the other day, an establishment which, in years long gone by, was frequented by both father and son--as the former sought after some old Puritan, to add to his library, and the latter interested himself in conning picture-books, which were lying all around--I fancied I could see the form of my father, sitting, as was his wont, in a particular corner of the shop, (and he would sit in no other place) and I could hear him say, 'Well, friend Smith, have you any new old books--something rich and rare?' And the proprietor of the store would speedily bring forth from his treasures 'things new and old.'
Following in my father's footsteps, I had betaken myself to this market of material for the mind; and, naturally, memories of former visits made me desirous to have a little talk with the worthy proprietor, who is now well on in years. With thoughtful mien, and moist eye, he recounted to an attentive listener several personal reminiscences of his friend. He told me that he once journeyed to London, to see the great preacher, and upon entering the precincts of the Tabernacle, my father turned to the caretaker of what is now the Jubilee House, and gave the following instructions, 'Please get dinner for two at one.' In due course, the bookseller and the book-reader returned to partake of the ordered meal, when, to their dismay, they found the table bare. Summoning the good woman into his presence, the following explanation was forthcoming, 'Why, sir!' said she, 'you ordered dinner for one at two.' The mistake caused great merriment to the would-be host and his guest; and, while waiting for the repast to be prepared, the dear Pastor discovered others whose expectations had not been realized, A number of old women had gathered in one of the rooms at the Tabernacle, in the hope of receiving gifts from the Benevolent Society; but the ladies in charge of that agency were not present, as some mistake had been made in the day and hour. The 'fellow-feeling' that always made him 'wondrous kind,' moved him to thrust his hand into his pocket, to bring forth a number of shillings, and to bestow one upon each of the erstwhile disappointed applicants, saying as he did so, 'There's a trifle for you, so you haven't had quite a lost journey.' His benevolence was one of the best and brightest traits in his character. There are secrets concerning his generous gifts, and the self-sacrifice they often entailed, which will never be revealed on earth; I do not know whether they will be unveiled even in Heaven.
If ever a man was sent of God, my father was--a true apostle and a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ. Although my judgment may be deemed very partial, I venture to express the opinion that, since the days of Paul, there has not lived a greater or more powerful exponent of the doctrines of grace, or a more able and successful preacher of the 'saying' which is 'worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' There was no one who could preach like my father. In inexhaustible variety, witty wisdom, vigorous proclamation, loving entreaty, and lucid teaching, with a multitude of other qualities, he must, at least in my opinion, ever be regarded as the prince of preachers. From the days when, as a little boy, I sat behind the platform, in the high-backed and well-cushioned seat in the dear old Tabernacle, with silver pencil-case and neat pocket-book, to take notes of my beloved father's sermons, until this present time, I have looked upon him as 'the prime minister of England.'
There was one trait in his noble and godly character, which, among many others, always shone with a lustre peculiarly its own. His humility was of a Christlike character. Words of eulogy concerning himself were ever painful to him, his motto in this, as in all other matters, being, 'not I, but Christ;' yet, from his own child some meed of praise may surely come, and the son would fain render all due honour to the best of fathers. His blameless example, his holy consistency, his genial love, his generous liberality, his wise counsel, and his fearless fidelity to God and His truth, are all on a par with his fatherliness; and in my heart, as in all those with whom he came into contact, these qualities have been enshrined. The matchless grace and goodness, manifested in the home, found their counterpart in his public career, and proved how completely the spirit of the Master permeated the whole life of His servant. What my father was to me, to the Church of Christ, and to the world at large, none can ever fully estimate, but those who knew him best understood the secret of his magic power, for they felt that he 'had been with Jesus,' and that Jesus lived in him.