The river of our peace at certain seasons overflows its banks; and, at times, the believer's joy is exceeding great. Even princes, who fare sumptuously every day, have their special banquets; and this jubilee of my life is a true jubilee of joy, not only to myself, but to every member of my family.--C.H.S., in sermon preached at the Tabernacle in celebration of the completion of his fiftieth year.
'The most surprising thing to most people will be the discovery that Mr. Spurgeon is only fifty years old. He has been so constantly before the public for so many years that the first impression on most minds on hearing of his jubilee is that it is the celebration of the fiftieth year of his ministry, not the fiftieth year of his life. But Mr. Spurgeon is in reality only fifty years old, although for thirty years he has been one of the best-known men of the time. At first he was a curiosity, then a notoriety; but he has long since been recognized as one of the first celebrities of his day. His position is absolutely unique.' -The Pall Mall Gazette, June 18th, 1884
The Jubilee of 1884
JUNE 19, 1884, was one of the red-letter days in Spurgeon's history for he then completed the fiftieth year of his life. The year which was to witness this joyful celebration, however, opened for him under trying circumstances. Having gone to Mentone for rest the previous November, January, 1884, found him very ill despite the advantages of his winter retreat. With the pre-arranged duration of his 'holiday' almost completed he had reluctantly to accept a delay in his return as the following letter to the Tabernacle explains:
I am altogether stranded. I am not able to leave my bed, or to find much rest upon it. The pains of rheumatism, lumbago, and sciatica, mingled together, are exceedingly sharp. If I happen to turn a little to the right hand or to the left, I am soon aware that I am dwelling in a body capable of the most acute suffering.
However, I am as happy and cheerful as a man can be. I feel it such a great relief that I am not yet robbing the Lord of my work, for my holiday has not quite run out. A man has a right to have the rheumatism if he likes when his time is his own. The worst of it is, that I am afraid I shall have to intrude into my Master's domains, and draw again upon your patience. Unless I get better very soon, I cannot get home in due time; and I am very much afraid that, if I did return at the date arranged, I should be of no use to you, for I should be sure to be laid aside.
The deacons have written me a letter, in which they unanimously recommend me to take two more Sundays, so that I may get well, and not return to you an invalid. I wrote to them saying that I thought I must take a week; but as I do not get a bit better, but am rather worse, I am afraid I shall have to make it a fortnight, as they proposed.'
He was able to recommence preaching at the Tabernacle in February but was too unwell to take the services on Sunday, the 24th of the month. Being still disabled a week later, he wrote again to the people:
It is to my intense sorrow that I find myself "shut up" for another week. I hoped that I had escaped my enemy among the olives, but he threw me down at my own door. The Lord's will must be done, and we are bound to bear it without a repining thought ... I shall not fall lower, but the difficulty is to rise up again. Literally my trouble is to get on my feet again. I am a poor creature. Evidently I am in the extreme of physical weakness. Nevertheless the Lord can cause His spiritual power to be shown in me, and I believe He will. Your great love will bear with me, and I shall be in the front again, bearing witness to the faithfulness of the Lord.
During the enforced rest Spurgeon prepared a leading article for the March issue of The Sword and the Trowel, entitled 'In my Fiftieth Year, and getting Old.' Its reflections are well worthy of inclusion in this Autobiography:
This fiftieth year of mine has not been without its peculiar heart searchings. When feeling weary with an unbroken stretch of work, I began to fear that it was the age of the man, as well as the work of the office, which was causing sluggishness of mind. We all remember how Bunyan says of his 'Pilgrim's Progress,' 'as I pulled, it came.' So did my sermons; but they wanted more pulling, and yet more. This is not a good sign for the quality of the discourses. If I judge rightly, the best juice of the mind's vintage is that which leaps from the cluster at the first gentle pressure of the feet; that which is squeezed out by heavy machinery is poor stuff; and therefore I have feared that, with increasing labour, I might only manage to force forth a viscid liquid acceptable to none. I hope it has not been so; I cannot judge my own productions, but I think, if I had greatly flagged, some of those delicious people, called "candid friends," would have been so kind as to drop the acid information into my wounds at a time when they perceived that the vinegar would cause the most smart. Still, the critics may have formed very humiliating judgments on the subject, and may have been so fearful of the consequences to my feeble mind that they have in great tenderness repressed their verdict. An American brother says that 'People's tastes are such that preachers on the wrong side of fifty may consider that they are about done with the gospel trumpet.' Judicious friends may have reached that stage of feeling with regard to me, but may not care to express it.
Such were my lucubrations: they were humbling, and so far healthy; but one can drink so much of the waters of self-depreciation as to grow faint of heart; and this is not healthy, but the reverse.
Over all this, in the worn-out hours, came the dark suspicion that the morning time was over, and the dew was gone, and that the beams of the sun were falling more aslant, and had less light and warmth in them; and the dread that the gloom of eventide would soon darken thought and expression, and show that the prime of the work-day was past. Faith saw the God-ward side of the matter, and sang, 'At evening time it shall be light'; but prudence also whispered that the human side must be considered too, and that dullness would injure force, and weaken interest, and diminish usefulness.
In my rest-time I have been able to survey the situation with some fair measure of deliberate impartiality, and also to call in the aid of a considerable observation of the result of years upon other men. No one can deny that there is such a thing as 'the tameness at forty, and the going-to-seed at fifty.' The lively evangelist of former years has sobered down into the prosy sermon-reader, a man much respected by all who know him, but rather endured than enjoyed by his regular congregation. The brother who flashed and flamed has, by reason of age, become a strangely quiet fire: a live coal, no doubt, but by no means dangerous to the driest fuel. A brother of our own profession, by no means censorious, has said, 'A very little examination will convince the most sceptical that an appalling percentage of preachers are dull dry, and tiresome.' Surely these men did not begin at this pitch, or why were they allowed to begin at all? They must have grown into a routine of sermonizing, and have settled down into a flat, unprofitable style through the lapse of time. They were green and juicy once, but they have dried in the suns of many years, till the vulgar speak of them as 'sticks'. Shall we all go that way? Must my next volumes of sermons, if the sermons ever see the light in that form, become mere faggots, which none but the old man in the moon would care to be burdened with? A heart-rending question to me. I fear my personal observation of the bulk of preachers does not help me to a consolatory answer. Perhaps the remark may offend my brethren. Courage, my heart, it will not offend those of whom it is not true; and those of whom it is true will be sure not to take it to themselves, and so I may escape.
But this writer whom I have quoted, whose somewhat lengthy and Latinized words persist in ringing in my ears, has done much to cheer me. He says,'`The dismal decadence of a multitude of well-intentioned men is quite preventable.' Brave news! I will bestir myself to prevent it in my own case, if it be preventable. He adds, 'No doubt any of us can number a score of men, in the range of our personal knowledge, who at sixty are fresher in thought, more attractive in manner, and in higher demand in the churches, than they were twenty years ago.' I am not sure about 'a score' whom I know at this present; but I certainly know, or have known, more than that number who answer to the description. There rises before me now a brother, whose age I will not even guess at, but he is certainly over sixty, who is as vigorous as he was twenty years ago, and more prominently useful than ever before throughout a singularly useful life. I knew another who, towards his later days, largely increased the number of his always numerous hard words, and did not therefore increase the pleasure of his auditors; but with this exception he hardly showed a sign of flagging, and went off the field because his wisdom urged him to make room for a younger man, and not because he could not still have held his post with honour. A third conspicuous instance is before me of a preacher, who, however he may have declined in faith, and erred in doctrine, to the inexpressible grief of thousands, is still mentally as vigorous and fresh as aforetime. Our statesmen are many of them ancients; our greatest political leader is 'the Grand Old Man.' Observation therefore gives a second deliverance, which, if it does not reverse, at least qualifies the former verdict.
'Soon ripe, soon rotten,' is a proverb which warns the precocious of what they may expect. He who is a shepherd at sixteen may be a mere sheep at sixty. One can hardly eat his cake and have it too. When a third of a century of work has already been done, the labourer may hardly expect the day to last much longer. In my own case, the early strain has been followed by a continuous draft upon the strength through the perpetual printing of all that I have spoken. Twenty-nine years of sermons on those shelves; yet one must go plodding on, issuing more, and yet more, which must all be in some measure bright and fresh, or the public will speedily intimate their weariness. The outlook to those eyes which are only in the head is not cheering. Happily there are other optics, and they shall be used.
It is the Rev. Martyn L. Williston that I have quoted, and I will borrow from him again. 'It is not the first instrusion of gray hairs in the pulpit which is a signal of alarm to the pews. No man, in average health, should be less of a man at fifty, or seem so, than at twenty-five; but many are so in appearance and in fact; and to them, not to the people, is chargeable the slackening demand for their services. The most of our professional feebleness is traceable to our own want of mental virility. If we will, we can remove a great deal of uneasiness from our congregations. Preachers who grow duller as they count their years, this side of sixty at least, do so from simple mental shiftlessness, very much as the Virginian planters have let their lands run waste from mere depletion. We must perpetually replenish heart and brain, or the fields of thought will turn meagre and barren.'
This is sound sense, and stirs the aging man to an increase of diligence in reading and study. But it should also be clear to him that he must have more time than ever for these purposes. He must conscientiously use his hours, and his people must as conscientiously yield them to him. The Israelites made bricks without straw, but they could not have made them without time. Increased space will be needed for collecting useful materials, and preparing them for the upbuilding of the church.
The peculiar danger of advancing years is length of discourse. Two honoured brethren have lately fallen asleep, whose later years were an infliction upon their friends. To describe one is to depict the other. He is so good and great, and has done such service that you must ask him to speak. He expects you to do so. You make bold to propose that he will occupy only a few minutes. He will occupy those few minutes, and a great many more minutes, and your meeting will die out under his protracted periods. Your audience moves, all interest is gone, your meeting is a failure, and all through a dear old man whose very name is an inspiration. The difficulty is not to start these grand old men, but to stop them when started: they appear to be wound up like clocks, and they must run down. This is a seductive habit to be guarded against when years increase: it may be wise to resolve upon being shorter as age inclines us to be longer. It would be a pity to shorten our congregation by lengthening our discourse.
It is also frequently true that elderly speakers become somewhat negligent in their oratory. It has been said that a young man is mainly taken up with the question--'How shall I say it?' and hence he attains a good and pleasing style; while the older man thinks only of--'What shall I say?' and thus, while he improves as to the matter of his discourse, his manner is all too apt to become slovenly and drowsy. If it be so it ought not to be so. We ought to improve in all respects, so far as our powers have not declined. We cannot be blamed if memory does not serve us quite so nimbly as aforetime, or if imagination is not quite so luxuriant; but we deserve to be censured if in any point within our power we decline even a hair's breadth. We must not make a mistake as to what really is improvement. It is possible to preach better according to the canons of taste, and to preach worse as to real usefulness: God grant that we may not improve in this fatal way! It is easy to become more weighty, and at the same time more dull, so that though more is taught less is learned; may we have grace to avoid this form of unenviable progress! The art of growing old wisely will need to be taught us from above. May we be willing scholars of the Great Teacher!
When all is said and done, the jubilation of our Jubilee does not call for any great blowing of trumpets, but rather for uplifting of hand and heart in prayer to God for further help. It may be that we are only in mid-voyage. May that voyage end in landing our freight in port, and not as some life-passages have terminated, namely, in an utter wreck of every hope! Our friends and fellow-helpers will, we trust, supplicate on our behalf that we may receive a fresh anointing from on high, and we will begin life again without fear. The Scripture remains as our inexhaustible textbook, the Lord Jesus as-our boundless subject, and the Holy Ghost as our infinite Helper--what therefore have we to fear? What is lost in sparkle may be gained in value; the departure of vivacity may be made up by the incoming of experience; and thus the old man may be as useful as the young. 'Such an one as Paul the aged' is an honour to the church: we are not such as yet, but grace can cause the middle-aged to mellow into fathers of that order.
Spurgeon was able to resume his ministry on Sunday, March 16, 1884, and preparations were in hand for the celebration of his jubilee. This had been decided at a church meeting in February when the following resolution was unanimously and enthusiastically passed:
'That the church gratefully recognizes the goodness of Almighty God in sparing to it, and to the Christian Church at large, the invaluable life of our beloved Pastor, C. H. Spurgeon; and that, in order worthily to celebrate his jubilee, a suitable memorial be raised, and presented to him; and that it be an instruction to the deacons to take this matter vigorously in hand, and to carry it forward as they may deem best.'
The deacons were faced with a difficulty in knowing how to make any presentation of money to Spurgeon which he would not employ entirely for the Lord's work. They remembered how the testimonial of £6,500 presented to him in 1879 had all gone to the various Institutions under his charge and they were also aware that the people wanted to raise a gift which would go to the Pastor himself. A decision was made to use part of the money to pay for the jubilee House which was then being erected at the back of the Tabernacle as a permanent memorial of the Pastor's fiftieth birthday; yet this did not answer the main intention of the congregation. In the outcome the problem was only solved when Spurgeon was persuaded to promise he would use at least some part of the money people donated for himself.
As the date of the celebration of the jubilee approached, many references to it appeared in the religious and secular newspapers, the most noteworthy being the articles in the Pall Mall Gazette of June 18 and 19, 1884. They were the result of Mr. Spurgeon's compliance with the request contained in the following letter from W. T. Stead, the Editor:
You are, I am aware, one of the busiest men in London. But I venture to ask you to spare me a morsel of your leisure to have a talk over things in view of your approaching jubilee--your long and successful labours in London, and the general result at which you have arrived after going through it all. That, of course, for the paper and the public. Besides this, I should be very glad to have an opportunity personally of placing myself in immediate communication with one who has been such a power for good in London and throughout the world. I also am very busy, but any day after 12 I am at your service if you can spare me time for an interview. I have the honour to be,
Stead's report of the interview contained allusions to many subjects either of passing or permanent interest:
'Mr. Spurgeon is one of the most genial of hosts, and in the course of a couple of hours spent in strolling about his well-wooded grounds, or in gossiping in his library, his visitor was able to gather his views concerning a great number of the questions of the day. He found Mr. Spurgeon, as is not to be wondered at, a strong believer in the one-man power. "Wherever anything is to be done," said he, "either in the Church or the world, you may depend upon it, it is done by one man. The whole history of the Church, from the earliest ages, teaches the same lesson. A Moses, a Gideon, an Isaiah, and a Paul are from time to time raised up to do an appointed work; and when they pass away, their work appears to cease. Nor is it given to everyone, as it was to Moses, to see the Joshua who is destined to carry on his work to completion. God can raise up a successor to each man, but the man himself is not to worry about that matter, or he may do harm. Hence I am against all endowments for religion; it is better to spend the money for immediate needs. I am not even in favour of endowing my own College. Someone made me an offer, the other day, to found a scholarship in connection with it, but I declined it. Why should I gather money, which would remain after I am done, to uphold teaching of which I might entirely disapprove? No! let each generation provide for its own wants. Let my successor, if I have one in the College, do as I have done, and secure the funds which he needs for his own teaching. I wish there were no religious endowments of any shape or kind among Dissenters or Churchmen, for I never yet knew a chapel, possessing an endowment, which did not find that, instead of its being a blessing; it was a curse. One great object of every religious teacher should be to prevent the creation of external appliances to make his teaching appear to live when it is dead. If there were no endowments, an error would soon burst up, whereas an artificial vitality is imparted to it by bolstering it up with endowments."
"Then you have faith for yourself, Mr. Spurgeon, but none for your successor?" queried the visitor.
"A man does very well," was the reply, "who has faith for himself; but how can he undertake to have faith for another? I am no believer in sponsorship. Who knows where my successor may be? He may be in America, or in Australia, or I know not where. As for the Tabernacle, the man who occupies my place, when I pass away, will have to depend upon his own resources, upon the support of his people, and the grace of God, as I have done; and if he cannot do that, let him come to the ground, for he will not be the fitting man for the post."
One other paragraph may be quoted, partly because of the reference made to it by Dr. Peter Bayne:
'"In theology," said Spurgeon, "I stand where I did when I began preaching, and I stand almost alone. If I ever did such a thing, I could preach my earliest sermons now without change so far as the essential doctrines are concerned. I stand almost exactly where Calvin stood in his maturer years; not where he stood in his institutes, which he wrote when quite a young man, but in his later works; that position is taken by few. Even those who occupy Baptist pulpits do not preach exactly the same truths that I preach. They see things differently; and, of course, they preach in their own way. Although few will deny the wonderful power of the truth as it has been preached at the Tabernacle, it is not according to their method; yet it is the Calvinistic way of looking at things which causes my sermons to have such acceptance in Scotland, in Holland, and even in the Transvaal, where a recent traveller expressed his astonishment at finding translations of them lying beside the family Bible in a great many of the farmsteads of the country. I am aware that my preaching repels many; that I cannot help. If, for instance, a man does not believe in the inspiration of the Bible, he may come, and hear me once; and if he comes no more, that is his responsibility, and not mine. My doctrine has no attraction for that man; but I cannot change my doctrine to suit him."'
The actual celebration of the Jubilee commenced on Wednesday, June 18, 1884. when the Pastor sat in his vestry, from twelve to five o'clock, to receive the congratulations of friends, and contributions to be passed on to the treasurers of the testimonial fund. Then several hundreds of the church-members were entertained at tea in the rooms under the Tabernacle, and afterwards the great sanctuary was crowded with an enthusiastic audience. Such vast numbers of people were anxious to be present that two evenings had to be set apart for the meetings; and, even then, hundreds of applicants for tickets had to be refused, for so many applied that, if the building had been twice as large, there would have been no difficulty in filling it on both nights.
Little did the cheering thousands know of the intense anxiety that was felt by a few of the Tabernacle officials, and other friends who shared with them a terrible secret. Just at that time, in various quarters of London, there had been threats of desperate deeds by Fenians, or those in sympathy with them; and an intimation, which the police authorities dared not disregard, had been given that the Tabernacle was to be blown up on the night of Spurgeon's jubilee. It seemed scarcely possible that such a diabolical scheme of wholesale destruction of human life could have been devised; but every precaution was taken to prevent it becoming an awful reality. There probably had never been so many detectives and policemen in the building before; and when the proceedings on the second night were over, and the delighted audience had dispersed, there were private but grateful thanksgivings that all had gone off without even a note of alarm; yet, for a considerable period afterwards, it was deemed advisable to have a special watch kept in case any attempt of the kind indicated might be made. With thoughtful and tender solicitude, all knowledge of the threatened explosion was kept from the Pastor; and it was only when he was in the carriage, on his way home, that Mrs. Spurgeon told him the alarming news which had occupied her thoughts during the evening, and together they gave thanks that the evil had been averted.
The Wednesday evening meeting was specially intended for the members of the church and congregation, and representatives of the many missions, schools, and agencies connected with the Tabernacle. The number of these various forms of work for the Lord may be judged from the fact that the list of them occupied more than half a page in The Sword and the Trowel, while nearly as large a space was required for the names of the various religious societies, at home and abroad, from which addresses of congratulation had been received.
The Pastor presided, and it was to him a source of intense thankfulness that Mrs. Spurgeon was able to be present on both the evenings, to share with him the joys of the jubilee, after so many years' enforced absence from the Tabernacle through severe illness. The keynote of the whole of the gatherings was struck, at the commencement of the meeting, by the Pastor's opening sentences:
'I do not think anybody imagines that I ought to speak at any great length tonight, but I should like to say very much in very little. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude to you, dear friends, and because of you, to God. After the kind words which many of you have spoken to me, I have much to do not to cry; indeed, I have had a little distillation of the eyes quietly, and I feel very much like weeping now, at the remembrance of all the good and gracious things that have been said to me this day. But let me say this for my speech: the blessing which I have had here, for many years, must be entirely attributed to the grace of God, and to the working of God's Holy Spirit among us. Let that stand as a matter, not only taken for granted, but as a fact distinctly recognized among us. I hope, brethren, that none of you will say that I have kept back the glorious work of the Holy Spirit. I have tried to remind you of it, whenever I have read a chapter, by praying that God the Holy Spirit would open that chapter to our minds. I hope I have never preached without an entire dependence on the Holy Ghost. Our reliance upon prayer has been very conspicuous; at least, I think so. We have not begun, we have not continued, we have not ended anything without prayer. We have been plunged into it up to the hilt. We have not prayed as we should; but, still, we have so prayed as to prevail; and we wish it to be on record that we owe our success, as a church, to the work of the Holy Spirit, principally through its leading us to pray. Neither, as a church, have we been without a full conviction that, if we are honest in our asking, we must be earnest in acting. It is no use asking God to give us a blessing if we do not mean it; and if we mean it, we shall use all the means appointed for the gaining of that boon; and that we have done.
'Next it behoves me to say that I owe the prosperity I have had in preaching the gospel to the gospel which I have preached. I wish everybody thought as much, but there are some who will have it that there is something very particular and special about the preacher. Well, I believe that there may be something peculiar about the man, something odd, perhaps. He cannot help that, but he begs to say there is nothing about him that can possibly account for the great and long-continued success attending his labours. Our American friends are generally very 'cute judges, and I have a good many times read their opinion of me, and they say over and over again, "Well, he is no orator. We have scores of better preachers in America than Mr. Spurgeon, but it is evident that he preaches the gospel as certain of our celebrated men do not preach it." I so preach the gospel that people coming to hear it are impressed by it, and rejoice to rally to the standard. I have tried, and I think successfully, to saturate our dear friends with the doctrines of grace. I defy the devil himself ever to get that truth out of you if God the Holy Spirit once puts it into you. That grand doctrine of substitution, which is at the root of every other--you have heard it over and over and over and over again, and you have taken a sure grip of it. Never let it go. And I say to all preachers who fail in this matter, that I wish they would preach more of Christ, and try to preach more plainly. Death to fine preaching! There is no good in it. All the glory of words and the wisdom of men will certainly come to nought; but the simple testimony of the goodwill of God to men, and of His sovereign choice of His own people, will stand the test, not only of the few years during which I have preached it, but of all the ages of this world till Christ shall come. I thank you, dear friends, for all your love and your kindness to me, but I do attribute even that, in great measure, to the fact that you have been fed with the pure gospel of the grace of God. I do not believe that the dry, dead doctrine of some men could ever have evoked such sympathy in people's hearts as my gospel has aroused in yours. I cannot see any reason in myself why you should love me. I confess that I would not go across the street to hear myself preach; but I dare not say more upon that matter, because my wife is here. It is the only point upon which we decidedly differ; I differ in toto from her estimate of me, and from your estimate of me, too; but yet I do not wish you to alter it.'
B. W. Carr read the congratulatory address which was published at the time in The Sword and the Trowel; the Pastor's father, brother, and son Charles briefly spoke; Archibald G. Brown and H.H. Driver represented the past and present students of the College; S.R. Pearce was the speaker on behalf of the Sunday-school; W.J. Orsman and W. Olney were the representatives of the missions which had grown out of the church's work; and Pastor W. L. Lang presented an address from the Baptist ministers of France; but, remembering the world-wide influence of the American evangelist, D.L. Moody probably the most important utterance that night was the testimony he gave to the blessing he had derived from the Pastor's printed and spoken messages:
'Mr. Spurgeon has said, to-night, that he has felt like weeping. I have tried to keep back the tears, but I have not succeeded very well. I remember, seventeen years ago, coming into this building a perfect stranger. Twenty-five years ago, after I was converted, I began to read of a young man preaching in London with great power, and a desire seized me to hear him, never expecting that, some day, I should myself be a preacher. Everything I could get hold of in print that he ever said, I read. I knew very little about religious things when I was converted. I did not have what he has had--a praying father. My father died before I was four years old. I was thinking of that, tonight, as I saw Mr. Spurgeon's venerable father here by his side. He has the advantage of me in that respect, and he perhaps got an earlier start than he would have got if he had not had that praying father. His mother I have not met; but most good men have praying mothers--God bless them!
In 1867, I made my way across the sea; and if ever there was a sea-sick man for fourteen days, I was that one. The first place to which I came was this building. I was told that I could not get in without a ticket, but I made up my mind to get in somehow, and I succeeded.. I well remember seating myself in this gallery. I recollect the very seat, and I should like to take it back to America with me. As your dear Pastor walked down to the platform, my eyes just feasted upon him, and my heart's desire for years was at last accomplished. It happened to be the year he preached in the Agricultural Hall. I followed him up there, and he sent me back to America a better man. Then I began to try and preach myself, though at the time I little thought I should ever be able to do so. While I was here, I followed Mr. Spurgeon everywhere; and when, at home, people asked if I had gone to this and that cathedral, I had to say "No," and confess I was ignorant of them; but I could tell them something about the meetings addressed by Mr. Spurgeon. In 1872, I thought I would come over again to learn a little more, and I found my way back to this gallery. I have been here a great many times since, and I never come into the building without getting a blessing to my soul. I think I have had as great a one here tonight as at any other time I have been in this Tabernacle. When I look down on these orphan boys, when I think of the 600 servants of God who have gone out from the College to preach the gospel, of the 1,500 or 2,000 sermons from this pulpit that are in print, and of the multitude of books that have come from the Pastor's pen, (Scripture says, "Of making many books there is no end," and in his case it is indeed true,) I would fain enlarge upon all these good works, but the clock shows me that, if I do, I shall not get to my other meeting in time.
But let me just say this, if God can use Mr. Spurgeon, why should He not use the rest of us, and why should we not all just lay ourselves at the Master's feet, and say to Him, "Send me, use me"? It is not Mr. Spurgeon who does the work, after all; it is God. He is as weak as any other man apart from his Lord. Moses was nothing, but Moses' God was almighty. Samson was nothing when he lost his strength; but when it came back to him, then he was a mighty man; and so, dear friends, bear in mind that, if we can just link our weakness to God's strength, we can go forth, and be a blessing in the world. Now, there are others to speak, and I have also to hasten away to another meeting, but I want to say to you, Mr. Spurgeon, "God bless you! I know that you love me, but I assure you that I love you a thousand times more than you can ever love me, because you have been such a blessing to me, while I have been a very little blessing to you. I have read your sermons for twenty-five years. You are never going to die. John Wesley lives more to-day than when he was in the flesh; Whitefield lives more to-day than when he was on this earth; John Knox lives more to-day than at any other period of his life; and Martin Luther, who has been gone over three hundred years, still lives." Bear in mind, friends, that our dear brother is to live for ever. We may never meet together again in the flesh; but, by the blessing of God, I will meet you up yonder.'
It was a fitting accompaniment to Moody's address that among the many resolutions of congratulation received at the jubilee celebration was one from the Philadelphia Conference of Baptist ministers. To this Spurgeon subsequently sent the following reply:
I beg you to thank all the brethren on my behalf. I am deeply affected by your brotherly love. One touch of grace has, in a truer sense than a touch of nature, made us all akin. I rejoice every day in the prosperity of the Church of God in the United States. Your nation is but in its youth, and you are educating it for a high career; ours is old, and slow to learn, and we are with much difficulty lighting its candle, lending it spectacles, and opening the Bible before it. We cannot expect to teach Mr. Bull quite so readily as you teach Master Jonathan. We will, however, do our best; and you will pray for us, and God will bless us.
I feel as if I was even now squeezing the hand of each minister, and receiving a return grip. Take it as done. Thank you! God bless you! Yours heartily,
C. H. SPURGEON.'
On Thursday evening, June 19, the Tabernacle was packed to its utmost capacity, while crowds in vain sought admission. The Earl of Shaftesbury presided and delivered a notable testimony to the pastor's faithfulness from the first days of his ministry until that hour; addresses were also given by the Revs. Canon Wilberforce, J.P. Chown, O.P. Gifford (Boston, U.S.A.), Newman Hall, W. Williams (Upton Chapel), Dr. Joseph Parker, and Sir William McArthur, M.P.; the jubilee address was again read by Mr. Carr, and the treasurers of the testimonial fund presented to Spurgeon a cheque for £4,500, 'free from any condition, and to remain absolutely at his disposal.' In reply, the Pastor said:
'The affectionate words to which I have listened have sunk into my heart. I can take a very great deal of encouragement without being lifted up even to the ordinary level, and all I have received will operate upon me more afterwards than just now. But I am sure that the kindly pressure of the hand, and the way in which friends, one after another have told me that I led them to the Saviour, or that I comforted them in the time of trouble, have been a very great joy to me. To God be all the praise; to me it is an overwhelming honour to be His servant. Had there been no money whatever accompanying this celebration, I should have been as well pleased as I am now; for I never proposed a gift, and I never thought of it. I have coveted no man's silver or gold. I have desired nothing at your hands, but that you love the Lord Jesus Christ, and serve Him with all your might. But I have coveted, and I do still covet to have a generous people about me, because I am sure that it is to God's glory and to your own advantage to be liberal to His cause. Poor men should give that they may not be always poor. Rich men should give that they may not become poor. These are selfish motives; but, still, they are worthy to be mentioned. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." As a general rule, he that keeps his substance will not find it multiply under his hands; but he that gives shall find that it is given back to him, "good measure pressed down, and shaken together, and running over." Besides, I do not think much of giving when I have plenty to give with; I like it better when I can pinch myself. If you pinch yourself, there is a sweetness about giving to the Lord. What you do not want, you can dispense with, and exhibit small love; but when you come to what you do want, and give that to the Lord then there comes to your own heart the comfortable assurance that you are really doing it unto the Lord, the needs of His cause.
Now I thank everybody who has given a hundred pounds, and everybody who has given a penny. God bless you, and return it to you in every way! One of our brethren told you, the other night, what once happened to me. I had been preaching in a country place, and a good woman gave me five shillings. I said to her, "Well, my dear friend, I do not want your money." She said, "But you must take it; I give it to you because I got good from you." I said, "Shall I give it to the College?" She answered, "I don't care about the College; I care about you." "Then I will give it to the Orphanage." "No," she said, "you take it yourself." I said, "You need it more than I do." She replied, "Now, do you think that your Lord and Master would have talked like that to the woman who came and broke the alabaster box over Him? I do not think He would." She added, "I know you do not mean to be unkind; I worked extra to earn it, and I give it to you." I told her that she owed me nothing, and that woman owed the Lord everything, and asked, "What am I to do with it?" She said, "Buy anything you like with it; I do not care what. Only, mind, you must have it for yourself." I mention the incident because it is much in that spirit that the friends have given this noble testimonial.
The Lord bless you! The Lord bless you! The Lord bless you, yet more and more, you and your children!'
Two days later the series of celebrations was concluded with a meeting at the Orphanage when the greetings of children and staff were conveyed to Spurgeon by Mr. Charlesworth and 'the little ones seemed overjoyed to give their President a rug for his carriage.'