The influence of Spurgeon was not of those that have passed or can pass away like a dream. Even yet, people will explain his popularity by his voice, his humour, by his oratory, and the like. But the continued life and power of his printed sermons show that his oratory, noble as it was, was not the first thing. Our firm belief is that these sermons will continue to be studied with growing interest and wonder; that they will ultimately be accepted as incomparably the greatest contribution to the literature of experimental Christianity that has been made in this century, and that their message will go on transforming and quickening lives after all other sermons of the period are forgotten.--W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, printed on back of Sermon 2572 (1898).
The actual number of copies of the sermons issued from the beginning is not known. So vast is it that all count has been lost, but it is estimated that about a hundred and fifty millions have been disposed of in this form. Add to these the immense number issued abroad in various languages, and those that have been printed in newspapers, and probably more than three hundred millions of Spurgeon's sermons have gone out on their evangelistic mission. The human mind quite fails to grasp what these numbers mean. Take the regular weekly sermons only. If all that have been issued were to be placed side by side they would stretch a distance of 13,889 miles, or more than half-way round the globe. If the pages were torn out and placed end to end they would reach nearly from the earth to the moon. And figures of this kind might be multiplied without limit. There has never been anything like it in the history of printing. The Scriptures have circulated enormously, but nothing to compare with Spurgeon's sermons, and it is pretty safe to say there never will be another publication that can be called a rival.--CHARLES RAY.
The Published Sermons and World-Wide Blessing
FOR twenty years Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster have issued one of my sermons weekly without cessation, indeed, they have done more, for the number published has been five for every month of the twenty years, and has now reached 1,200. In the Baptist Messenger a sermon has been inserted every month during the same time, making 240 more; 34 in addition have appeared in three volumes of the Pulpit Library, and 16 in Types and Emblems. I do not feel that I may allow the twenty years to close without a few words of thanksgiving. The fear of being thought egotistical does not so much affect me as the graver danger of being ungratefully silent. I am inexpressibly thankful to the God of infinite love, and if I did not give my thanks expression the boards of my pulpit might well cry out against me. Life has been spared, strength has been continued, and power to interest the people has been afforded, together with higher and more spiritual blessings, whose preciousness and number must of necessity move the heart of any man who is the recipient of them, if he be not utterly graceless. 'The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we are glad.'
The first seven volumes of The New Park Street Pulpit were printed in small type, and the sermons formed only eight pages, but the abolition of the paper duty enabled the publishers to give a more readable type and twelve pages of matter. This has been better in every way, and marks an epoch in the history of the sermons, for their name was at about the same period changed from The New Park Street to The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and their sale was largely increased.
Several sermons in the series have attained a remarkable circulation, but probably the principal one is that upon Baptismal Regeneration. It was delivered with the full expectation that the sale of the sermons would receive very serious injury; in fact, I mentioned to one of the publishers that I was about to destroy it at a single blow, but that the blow must be struck, cost what it might, for the burden of the Lord lay heavy upon me, and I must deliver my soul. I deliberately counted the cost, and reckoned upon the loss of many an ardent friend and helper, and I expected the assaults of clever and angry foes. I was not mistaken in other respects, but in the matter of the sermons I was altogether out of my reckoning, for they increased greatly in sale at once. That fact was not in any degree to me a test of the right or wrong of my action; I should have felt as well content in heart as I am now as to the rightness of my course had the publication ceased in consequence; but still it was satisfactory to find that though speaking out might lose a man some friends it secured him many others, and if it overturned his influence in one direction it would be compensated elsewhere. No truth is more sure than this, that the path of duty is to be followed thoroughly if peace of mind is to be enjoyed. Results are not to be looked at, we are to keep our conscience clear, come what may, and all considerations of influence and public estimation are to be light as feathers in the scale. In minor matters as well as more important concerns I have spoken my mind fearlessly, and brought down objurgations and anathemas innumerable, but I in nowise regret it, and shall not swerve from the use of outspoken speech in the future any more than in the past. I would scorn to retain a single adherent by such silence as would leave him under misapprehension. After all, men love plain speech.
It would not be seemly for me to tell of the scores of persons who have informed me of their being led to faith in Jesus by single sermons which appear in the twenty volumes, but there are discourses among them of which I may say, without exaggeration, that the Holy Spirit blessed them to the conversion of hundreds; and long after their delivery fresh instances of their usefulness come to light, and are still being brought under our notice. Seldom does a day pass, and certainly never a week, for some years past, without letters from all sorts of places, even at the utmost ends of the earth, declaring the salvation of souls by the means of one or other of the sermons. The price is so small that the sermons are readily procured, and in wonderful condescension the Lord sends the Holy Spirit to work through them. To God be all the glory.
Many singular things have happened in connection with their publication, but the most of them have escaped my memory; the following, however, I may mention. One brother, whose name I must not mention, purchased and gave away no less than 250,000 copies. He had volumes bound in the best style, and presented to every crowned head in Europe. He gave copies containing twelve sermons to all the students of the universities, and to all the members of the two houses of parliament, and he even commenced the work of distributing volumes to the principal householders in the towns of Ireland. May the good results of his laborious seed-sowing be seen many days hence; the self-denial with which this brother saved the expense from a very limited income, and worked personally in the distribution, was beyond all praise; but praise was evaded and observation dreaded by him; the work was done without his left hand knowing what his right hand did.
In the first days of our publishing a city merchant advertised them in all sorts of papers, offering to supply them from his own office. He thus sold large quantities to persons who might otherwise never have heard of them. He was not a Baptist, but held the views of the Society of Friends. It was very long before I knew who he was, and I trust he will pardon me for here mentioning a deed for which I shall ever feel grateful to him.
By my permission, the sermons were printed as advertisements in several of the Australian papers: one gentleman spending week by week a sum which we scarcely dare to mention, lest it should not be believed. By this means they were read far away in the bush, and never were results more manifest, for numbers of letters were received in answer to the enquiry as to whether the advertisements should be continued, all bearing testimony to the good accomplished by their being inserted in the newspapers. A selection of these letters was sent to me, and made my heart leap for joy, for they detailed conversions marvellous indeed. Besides these, many epistles come to us of like character, showing that the rough dwellers in the wilds were glad to find in their secular paper the best of all news, the story of pardon bought with blood.
In America, the sale of the edition published there was extremely large, and I believe that it still continues, but dozens of religious papers appropriate the sermons bodily, and therefore it is quite impossible to tell where they go, or rather where they do not go. Of translations the Dutch have been most plentiful, making large volumes. An edition of two volumes of selected sermons has been circulated in the colony of the Cape of Good Hope among the Dutch settlers of that region. In German there are three noble volumes, besides many smaller ones. German publishers, with the exception of Mr. Oncken, of Hamburg, seldom have the courtesy to send the author a copy, and I have picked up in divers places sermons bearing date from Baden, Basel, Carlsruhe, Ludwigsburg, and so on. How many, therefore, may have been sold in Germany I am unable to compute. In French several neat volumes have appeared. In Welsh and Italian one volume each. In Sweden a handsome edition in four volumes has been largely circulated, and the translator informed me of the conversion of some of noble and even royal birth through their perusal. Besides these there are single sermons in Spanish, Gaelic, Danish, Russ, Maori, Telugu, and some other tongues, and permission has been sought and gladly given for the production of a volume in the language of Hungary. For all these opportunities of speaking to the different races of mankind, I cannot but be thankful to God, neither can I refrain from asking the prayers of God's people that the gospel thus widely scattered may not be in vain.
Brethren in the ministry will best be able to judge the mental wear and tear involved in printing one sermon a week, and they will best sympathise in the overflowing gratitude which reviews twenty years of sermons, and magnifies the God of grace for help so long continued. The quarry of Holy Scripture is inexhaustible, I seem hardly to have begun to work in it; but the selection of the next block, and the consideration as to how to work it into form, are matters not so easy as some think. Those who count preaching and its needful preparations to be slight matters have never occupied a pulpit continuously month after month, or they would know better. Chief of all is the responsibility which the preaching of the Word involves; I do not wish to feel this less heavily, rather would I fain feel it more, but it enters largely into the account of a minister's life-work, and tells upon him more than any other part of his mission. Let those preach lightly who dare do so, to me it is the burden of the Lord--joyfully carried as grace is given, but still a burden which at times crushes my whole manhood into the dust of humiliation, and occasionally, when ill-health unites with the mental strain, into depression and anguish of heart.
However, let no man mistake me. I would sooner have my work to do than any other under the sun. Preaching Jesus Christ is sweet work, joyful work, heavenly work. Whitefield used to call his pulpit his throne, and those who know the bliss of forgetting everything besides the glorious, all-absorbing topic of Christ crucified, will bear witness that the term was aptly used. It is a bath in the waters of Paradise to preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Scarcely is it possible for a man, this side the grave, to be nearer heaven than is a preacher when his master's presence bears him right away from every care and thought, save the one business in hand, and that the greatest that ever occupied a creature's mind and heart. No tongue can tell the amount of happiness which I have enjoyed in delivering these twenty years of sermons, and so, gentle reader, forgive me if I have wearied you with this grateful record, for I could not refrain from inviting others to aid me in praising my gracious Master. 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.'
Five and a half years after the preceding words were written Spurgeon made the following interesting comment on the extent of the circulation of the sermons. The occasion of this address was the laying of the memorial-stones of four houses for an Orphanage for girls in June, 1880. The day was also his forty-sixth birthday and from gifts received, Spurgeon, with the aid of his publishers, met the building cost of one house which was named after the Sermons: 'It is Sermon House, and is intended specially to commemorate the goodness of God in connection with the sermons; and right it is that there should be a house for that, because the College, the Orphanage, and all our works owe a great deal to the sermons. I have a little church of some 5,500 members over at Newington Butts; but I have a larger church of, I dare say, 56,000 members all over England, Scotland and Ireland, who are always up to the mark if any good work has to be done. . . . Among my birthday gifts of this land there are some coming from distant lands. The people who send them say I am their pastor. They are far away from sermon-makers, and so they read one of mine every Sunday, and think of me as their minister, though I hope that those who read them will never think them to be half so good as listening to those from the lips of a living preacher. . . . This house is to be a record to all time of our thankfulness to God that the sermons have continued to be printed week by week for twenty-five and a half years, and we have now reached the number in regular order of 1,542, That is a considerable number of sermons to be printed week by week, and there seems to be as much good in them for the souls of God's servants now as twenty-five years ago, for which I devoutly bless God. For many a time, when I go forth to look for food for the souls of my people, it is with an earnest cry to heaven, and a consciousness that if I am not helped I have nothing laid up in store, I use up the manna every day, and have none to breed worms. I keep on emptying the barrel, but it fills again.'
A great deal could be written on the results arising from the circulation of Spurgeon's Sermons; in the remainder of this chapter an account of the world-wide good that was done will be confined to some representative instances. Occasionally Spurgeon himself related from the pulpit examples of God's blessing coming to men through this means. Referring to one such case, which illustrated the power of faithful prayer, he said:
'At the close of one of our services, a poor woman, accompanied by two of her neighbours, came to my vestry in deep distress. Her husband had fled the country; and, in her sorrow, she had gone to the house of God and something I said in the sermon made her think that I was personally familiar with her case. Of course, I had really known nothing about her; I had made use of a general illustration which just fitted her particular case. She told me her story, and a very sad one it was. I said, "There is nothing that we can do but kneel down, and cry to the Lord for the immediate conversion of your husband." We knelt down, and I prayed that the Lord would touch the heart of the deserter, convert his soul, and bring him back to his home, When we rose from our knees, I said to the poor woman, "Do not fret about the matter. I feel sure your husband will come home; and that he will yet become connected with our church."
She went away, and I forgot all about her. Some months afterwards, she re-appeared, with her neighbours, and a man, whom she introduced to me as her husband. He had indeed come back, and he had returned a converted man. On making enquiry, and comparing notes, we found that, the very day on which we had prayed for his conversion, he, being at that time on board a ship far away on the sea, stumbled most unexpectedly upon a stray copy of one of my sermons. He read it; the truth went to his heart; he repented, and sought the Lord; and, as soon as possible, he came back to his wife and to his daily calling, He was admitted as a member at the Tabernacle, and his wife, who up to that time had not joined the church, was also received into fellowship with us.
That woman does not doubt the power of prayer. All the infidels in the world could not shake her conviction that there is a God that hears and answers the supplications of His people. I should be the most irrational creature in the world if, with a life every day of which is full of experiences so remarkable, I entertained the slightest doubt on the subject. I do not regard it as miraculous; it is part and parcel of the established order of the universe that the shadow of a coming event should fall in advance upon some believing soul in the shape of prayer for its realization. The prayer of faith is a Divine decree commencing its operation.'
Among the many clergy and ministers of religion whose lives were changed by the Sermons was one ritualistic 'priest' whose story Spurgeon thus narrates:
'He told me that he owed everything to me, because I had been the means of leading him to Jesus. He said he was "only a humble vicar of the Church of England," so I asked what his line of teaching had formerly been. "Very high," he replied. "But," I asked, "did you pretend to forgive people's sins?" "Yes," he answered. "Then," I enquired, "how did you get rid of the idea that you were a priest?" "Well," he said, "I sincerely believed myself to be a priest until I read one of your sermons. That convinced me of my own state as a sinner, and the priesthood oozed out of me directly. Now I am trusting the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, and I point my congregation to Him alone."'
More often news of good done by the Sermons came through letters. The gentleman in Australia referred to earlier who at one period had the sermons printed as advertisements in papers received no less than some four hundred letters from people to whom they had been an immense benefit. One man, from an outlying district in Victoria, wrote:
Having seen an advertisement lately, at the head of one of the sermons published weekly in The Australasian, asking for an expression of opinion as to their usefulness, I venture respectfully to offer the following plain and brief statement in reply.
I have been, for some five years or more, one of those unfortunates who are commonly called "swagmen." Travelling about, a few months since, looking for employment, I came to a public-house, by the roadside, into which I went for a drink, and an hour's rest, as I was very tired. A newspaper was lying on the counter, containing Mr Spurgeon's sermon on the text, "Turn O back-sliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you." I read it through, with increasing interest as I went along; and it exactly met my case. It aroused me to a sense of my utterly lost condition as a sinner of the deepest dye, and, at the same time, so encouraged me to seek for mercy and peace at the foot of the cross that I could not resist doing so; and I humbly hope and believe that I did not seek in vain.
I left that public-house resolved never to enter one again unless absolutely compelled by circumstances to do so. Since then, I have enjoyed a peace to which I had been long a stranger. I now make God's Word my daily study, and attend Divine service whenever I can. Although nominally a Church of England man, previous to reading the sermon alluded to, I had only been once to church since my arrival in the Colony, now nearly seven years ago.
To my personal knowledge, these sermons are extensively read in the country districts; and, for my own part, I look to the arrival of the weekly paper--which my employer always lends me, as the messenger of joy and comfort to myself; and I pray that it may prove to be the same to hundreds of others also. I would just, in conclusion, ask you to offer the expression of my humble and heartfelt thanks to the friend who pays for the advertisements of Mr. Spurgeon's sermons.
I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
An Australian minister relates another striking case of conversion through the Sermons:
'I was preaching in the Baptist Chapel, Aberdeen Street, Geelong, a few years ago, when, at the close of an evening service, an elderly man came to the platform to bid me "good-night." As he was a stranger, I asked him where he came from, and how long he had known the Lord; he then told me the story of his conversion, and the strange way by which he was led to the Saviour. About five years before, while keeping sheep some miles beyond Ballarat, he picked up a sheet of a weekly newspaper, which the wind had blown over the plains. He glanced at a few sentences, and these drew him on to read more, and then he found he was eagerly perusing a sermon by Mr. C. H. Spurgeon. "If I had known it was a sermon," he said, "before I had begun to read it, I should have tossed it away;" but having commenced the discourse, he wanted to see how it finished. It set him thinking; he carefully preserved it, reading it over and over again in deep concern, until finally it became the means of leading him to the cross. For many years he had not entered a place of worship, and he was utterly careless about his soul till this paper was blown to his feet. Now, when he has the opportunity, he always attends some Baptist service; but this is a rare pleasure, owing to his lonely life and employment in the bush. He does, however, get the weekly sermons, which cheer and comfort him with spiritual nourishment.'
A no less remarkable instance of blessing upon one of the sermons published in the papers was once reported to Spurgeon. A parcel, sent from Australia, to the wife of a publican in England, was wrapped up in a newspaper containing one of the discourses delivered in the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The woman read it, and so was led to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as her Saviour. Surely, that was another proof of the truth of Cowper's lines:
Greatly as the Sermons were thus used in leading sinners to the Saviour it appears they were almost equally blessed in reclaiming backsliders, and in comforting and cheering those who have been in mental or spiritual distress. From Victoria, a lady wrote to Spurgeon the following grateful letter:
'My Dear Sir,
I have often felt inclined to write to you. Twelve years ago, I lost a darling boy; everything seemed dark, and nothing brought me any comfort. The Word of God, which had been my stay through many previous trials, was all darkness to me. A friend brought me one of your sermons, and asked me to allow her to read it. At first, I refused; but, at last, I consented. I forget the title, but it was to the effect that everything is ordered by God, and that there is no such thing as chance. I felt, all the time my friend was reading, almost afraid even to breathe; I could only say, "Go on, go on." When she had finished it, I leapt from my couch, and said, "All is right; thank God, my dark mind is all light again!" I have had similar sorrows since, and many other trials; but I could, from my heart, say to the Lord, "Thy will be done; it is all right." At that time, my husband ordered your sermons monthly, and we still continue to have them. Every Sunday evening, we read one of them aloud, for all to hear, and afterwards I send them into the bush.
'My dear sir, go on and preach what you feel; it has often been a great comfort to us that you seemed to feel just as we felt.'
Spurgeon's sermons were also read in New Zealand at an early date. In November, 1861, the church-book of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, recorded that the Sermons were being read regularly by a small group in Auckland, New Zealand, and that God had been pleased to own this instrumentality in the conversion of eleven persons--four natives and seven Europeans. Five thousand copies of one sermon, 'None but Jesus', had been distributed amongst the natives in their own language and an effort was being made to build a. Baptist Chapel in the town. The effort succeeded and twenty years later, in 1881, Spurgeon's twin son, Thomas, became the pastor of this growing congregation!
Outside the British Isles the largest circulation of Spurgeon's Sermons was undoubtedly in North America. This was underlined in an article by Dr. Stanford Holme in the American edition of The Christian Herald, in January, 1879, along with some comment on the sources of the preacher's literary and spiritual power. Dr. Holme wrote:
'It is a fact worthy of especial notice that the sermons of Mr. Spurgeon have had a circulation in this country entirely without precedent. Of the American edition of his sermons, there have been sold not less than 500,000 volumes. And when, to this vast number, we add the almost innumerable republications of single sermons in the transient periodicals of the day, it is safe to say that no other preacher has had so extensive a hearing in America as Charles H. Spurgeon.
Many of the causes of the wonderful popularity of this distinguished preacher are not difficult to discover. In freshness and vigour of thought, in simplicity and purity of language, in grasp of gospel truth, and in tact and force in its presentation, he is perhaps without a peer in the pulpit.
When, in early life, Mr. Spurgeon commenced his ministrations in the New Park Street Chapel, in London, he quickly filled the old house to overflowing. Soon, he attracted the attention of all England. But he was regarded by many as a brilliant meteor that would soon fade away. Yet Mr. Spurgeon is, to-day, a vastly more efficient and even a more brilliant preacher than he was twenty years ago. He continues to grow in brilliancy as well as in efficiency year by year. No one can yet point to the slightest indication of exhaustion in either his faculties or his resources.
This, doubtless, is attributable, in a measure, to his industry and well-directed application, as well as to natural ability and great personal piety. But Mr. Spurgeon's peculiar views of the Word of God, and his manner of preparation for the pulpit, also tend in no small degree to secure the inexhaustible variety which so strikingly characterizes his sermons. It is not his manner to spin his web out of himself. The resources from which he draws are not measured by the strength and the store of his own faculties, but rather by the infinite fullness of the Divine Word. He never preaches from a topic. He always has a text. His text is not a mere motto, but in it he finds his sermon. He uses his text with as much apparent reverence and appreciation as if those few words were the only words that God had ever spoken. The text is the germ which furnishes the life, the spirit, and the substance of the discourse. Every sermon has the peculiar flavour, and fragrance, and colour of the Divine seed-truth of which it is the growth. Thus, as the Bible is a store-house of seed-truths, inexhaustible and of infinite variety, so Mr. Spurgeon's sermons are never alike. Every seed yields its fruit after its kind. If he brings you up again and again to the same old truths, it is always on a different side, or in a new light, or with new surroundings.
A very strong confirmation of this view has been afforded to the author in the preparation of an edition of Mr. Spurgeon's works. In making up the index of subjects, it was necessary to go carefully through the entire fourteen volumes, page by page, and to note the different topics discussed, and then to arrange them in alphabetical order. When this work was finished, such was the wonderful variety of subject, of thought, and of illustration, that, in many thousands of references, no two subjects, or thoughts, or illustrations, were found exactly to correspond. The preacher is discussing essentially the same familiar truths over and over again. And yet his setting forth of truth, his shades of thought, and his modes of illustration, always arrange themselves in new forms and colours with well-nigh the endless variety of the combinations and tints of the clouds at the setting of the sun. It is not surprising, therefore, that sermons so varied, fresh, and Evangelical, should have so large a circulation in this country.'
So great, indeed was the American interest in Spurgeon's ministry that, in 1883, a syndicate in the United States, without asking his opinion or consent, arranged for the transmission by telegraph of his Lord's-day morning sermons, and their publication on the following day, in a number of papers in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, having an aggregate circulation of a million copies. The experiment was doomed to be a failure, for the instructions to the English agents were: 'Cable Spurgeon's Sunday morning sermons, omitting the little words.' The attempt to insert those words in the report received on the other side of the Atlantic produced such a strange result that Spurgeon wrote on the first copy he received: 'Sermon a hash, but pretty well, considering the hurry and double transmission to New York, and then to Cincinnati.' Not long after, when the experiment ceased, the preacher noted: 'We much prefer to revise and publish for ourselves; and as these forms of publication are permanent, their usefulness becomes in the long run greater than would come of a wide scattering of faulty reports'.
As in the case of Australia considerable information exists on the good done by the sermons in America. The following interesting case was given in a report appearing in a Baptist paper, published in the United States:
'At our prayer-meeting, the other Sunday evening, a brother, to show the different ways there are of doing good, mentioned an incident that occurred on board a steamer in which, some time before, he was a passenger up the Pacific Coast to Oregon. It was Sunday; and a passenger, who had with him a volume of Spurgeon's sermons, went round asking one and another to read one of them aloud. The passengers declined, till he came to our brother, who consented to act as reader. Quite a company gathered round him, which gradually increased, as he went on with the discourse, until, looking up, after a little time, he saw that, not only the passengers, but all the crew who could possibly be at liberty, were among his audience, and that all were very attentive.
The informal service was soon over. But not so the effect of the sermon; for, some months after, being in San Francisco, he was abruptly saluted in the street, one day, by a stranger--a sailor--who seemed overjoyed at meeting him. "How do you do?" said he. "Don't you know me? Why, I heard you preach!" "I am not a preacher, my friend; so you must have made a mistake." "Oh, no! I have not; I heard you preach. Don't you remember the steamer that was going to Oregon?" "Oh, yes!" replied the gentleman; "I recollect, and I read one of Mr. Spurgeon's sermons." "Well," said the sailor, "I never forgot that sermon; it made me feel that I was a sinner, and I have found Christ, and I am so glad to see you again."'
A Christian, writing to Spurgeon from Florida, spoke for many in this letter:
'My Dear Brother in Christ,
Once upon a time, a wealthy man, who owned many gardens, sent one of his gardeners to water the plants. The gardener went and adjusted the hose, turned the tap, and watered them far and near. Many of them were near him; but, away in a corner of the garden farthest from the gardener, was a frail flower that had long been pining for the refreshing showers. The gardener, not knowing its need, nevertheless turned the hose in that direction, and the drooping plant revived, and bloomed afresh, to delight all who happened to come near it; and it loved the master, and the instrument, though the latter was unknown.
Several weeks ago, I lay ill, far away from England, in the wilds of Florida. Weak and faint-hearted, I lay pondering on the strange providence of the Master, when one of your sermons was placed in my hands. The refreshing shower revived me, and gave me fresh hope and courage; and I rose from my sick couch to strive still more earnestly to gain access to the hearts of those by whom I am surrounded; and, to-day, in a small class that I have formed out here in the wilderness, the Lord made His presence felt, and blessed us with an awakening that I have never seen here before, and tears of repentance were shed by many. I was so full of joy and gratitude to God that I longed to let you know that your influence, as an instrument, had reached even this far-away spot.'
Two specimens of the usefulness of the Sermons in foreign languages must also be included. India felt their impact. Robert Spurgeon, a cousin of C. H. Spurgeon, as a missionary in India superintended the translation of certain of the Sermons into Bengali and circulated them by post among principal men.
One of the recipients, a Zemindar (landlord), an old man, had a son at school who read the sermons to his father and afterwards wrote the following letter to Robert Spurgeon:
I am coming to you as an unknown youth. I hope that your kind heart will not fail to recognize me as a dear friend. The three pamphlets--The Faithful Saying, Jesus--Name all blessing, and Jesus the Judge--which you have sent to my father, was given to me to read it to him because he is now an old man of 70 years and his eyesight is not better.
First, I read your Faithful Saying only to perform my father's word. But when I met the sentence, "When a sinner comes to Jesus, he need not look back again, he receives salvation as a gift", my mind and heart gathering themselves gave me a fresh mind, and I heartily met with the sentence, "Jesus longs to save the sinner and penitent". "There is life for a look at the Crucified One".
Nearly all the sentences I met with my heart; and so I read all your pamphlets. The word "salvation" which I read in The Faithful Saying often strikes my soul.
Sir, I often wish to read some religious book, but unfortunately I have no religious treatise. Even I have no Bible. I hope that your kind heart will not fail to send me some religious book.
Robert Spurgeon, who translated this letter from Bengali, adds: 'This will give an indication of how the Sermons are working upon the hearts of intelligent Bengalis. Probably hundreds have thus been already awakened. Evangelists especially are helped in presenting the truth by reading them'.
The following record of the Sermons' usefulness came from Syria:
'Many of the Sermons were translated into Arabic and published in Beirut (Syria). A missionary labouring at Zahleh in that country, reported to Mrs. Spurgeon who had donated £5 from her Sermon Fund for the Arabic work, that about 1,500 copies of Sermons had been distributed by school children in the homes of the town, after they had been exhorted by their teachers to read them to their parents. The result was scarcely what had been expected. The missionary wrote to Mrs. Spurgeon in the following words: The bishop and priests have pronounced a great curse upon all who received and read the sermons. The town is in a furore. After pronouncing the curse and reading it in all the eight Catholic churches, the priests had a public burning of the sermons in their possession. They then visited the Greek priests and persuaded one of them, formerly a Catholic priest, to pronounce against the sermons in the Greek Church, which he did, though he did not pronounce any curse.
Now the matter turned out the very opposite of what the enraged priests planned for and expected; instead of listening to them the people laughed at them and our schools lost only a very few boys. Of the people, those who could read and had not received the sermons came running to secure copies and so the curse made many more people anxious to study them. Then the priests received rebukes in public and in private from the principal men of the town.
"Holy work for Christmas" and "The sages, the star and the Saviour" (are the sermons) to which they (chiefly) objected. Next time we distribute I think it will be, "Salvation by Works a Criminal Doctrine" (No. 1534) followed by "Faith--What is it? How can it be obtained?" (No.1609). This experience has taught us all the need of a little more of this active tearing down of old systems of error'.
It was but fitting that, as Spurgeon's sermons had been the means of blessing to so many readers, he should, himself, receive a special message through one of his own discourses. He thus describes how the 'waiter' became, on at least one occasion, 'a guest at the gospel feast':
'I once learnt something in a way one does not often get a lesson. I felt at that time very weary, and very sad, and very heavy at heart; and I began to doubt in my own mind whether I really enjoyed the things which I preached to others. It seemed to be a dreadful thing for me to be only a waiter, and not a guest, at the gospel feast. I went to a certain country town, and on the Sabbath day entered a Methodist Chapel. The man who conducted the service was an engineer; he read the Scriptures, and prayed, and preached. The tears flowed freely from my eyes; I was moved to the deepest emotion by every sentence of the sermon, and I felt all my difficulty removed, for the gospel, I saw, was very dear to me, and had wonderful effect upon my own heart. I went to the preacher, and said, "I thank you very much for that sermon." He asked me who I was, and when I told him, he looked as red as possible, and he said, "Why, it was one of your sermons that I preached this morning!" "Yes," I said, "I know it was; but that was the very message that I wanted to hear, because I then saw that I did enjoy the very Word I myself preached." It was happily so arranged in the good providence of God. Had it been his own sermon, it would not have answered the purpose nearly so well as when it turned out to be one of mine.'