Letter from Susie Spurgeon (May 10, 1860)

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

Spurgeon’s last letter had been received and was published April 12, 1860. It had now been nearly a month and they hadn’t received another one, so Susanna wrote in his stead to explain why.

Here is the complete text of her letter:

(original pdf here) | (Letter from Susie)


We have failed to receive an expected letter from Mr. Spurgeon the present week, but another com­munication from a friend, who is intimately ac­quainted with his duties and engagements, will give our readers some idea of the kind of life he leads. He can hardly know what leisure means, and one is surprised that he ever finds time for correspon­dence. Few of our ministers would consent to ful­fil in a month his weekly duties, and we fear even his iron constitution must at length sink under such herculean toil.


GENTLEMEN,—Mr. Spurgeon is just now so overwhelmed with work, that he has been unable either to send you the desired letter, or to thank you for your last favor…..His labors are unceasing, day after day he leaves home in the early morning, travels some distance, preaches twice, and returns weary and exhausted only to renew his course of ar­duous exertion on the morrow. I have his engagement-book now lying open before me, and it may give you some idea of his zeal in his Master’s service, if I tell you what work I find in it for the next three weeks. He will (D. V.) visit Birmingham and Worcester, preaching not less than six sermons during the three days devoted to those two towns; Needingworth and Sandbeach in Cambridgeshire, four sermons; Ashdon in Essex, two sermons; one ser­mon in Surrey Chapel, London, for the Religious Tract Society; another for the London Missionary Society, and one at Wandsworth, in behalf of the cause established there by one of his own students. These, together with two public meetings, the usual week-night services in Park Street Chapel; and the preaching at Exeter Hall, constitute an amount of work, which I think would almost alarm any other man. I have not taken into account the cares of his own church, the prayer-meetings, the church-meetings, the inquirers-meetings and the baptisms, all of which are con­ducted by himself. Somtimes he is even more laborious than I have described him, for I have known him preach ten, twelve and thirteen sermons a week (including Sunday) for three or four weeks consecutively, and then the labors I have mentioned seem but ordinary work.

I may as well say that Mr. Spurgeon merely asked me gratefully to acknowledge your kind letter, but that I felt constrained to embrace the opportunity of giving you some slight notion of the extent of my dear husband’s “work of faith and labor of love,” that whenever any delay occurs in his correspondence, you may attribute it to the right source, and feel assured that only the “Master’s” business pre­vents his immediate attention to your claims. Apologizing for this trespass on your time, I remain, gentlemen,

Respectfully yours,


Clapham, April 18th, 1860.

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Spurgeon’s 7th Letter (April 12, 1860)

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

Here is the complete text of his seventh letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


Apologetic—Treaty with France, what It promises—New Reform Bill—Demagogues—Taxes—Middle Classes—Row at St. Georges —Daily Prayer-Meetings.


You have alarmed me by your information that you have had no recent letter from me. Now I have written and posted two which have not yet appeared in the Watchman. Where are these? Has a steam­er been lost, or is there a hole in the letter bags? Really, I am not to blame, for considering my great journeyings and preachings, I think I have been a very exemplary correspondent. Ten sermons a week on a minimum is not calculated to leave a vacuum in my time, and should I fail at intervals, your rea­ders must have great forbearance with me.

The treaty with France seems to be the main ar­ticle of conversation in our political world, and as far as I can judge, almost every man seems to approve of it upon principle, though nobody has much idea that it will be of any personal advantage to himself individually. We may not go to war for an idea, but the English people will spend their money, and even risk important interests in commerce, if they can see a valuable idea fully carried out. Free trade with all the world is an accepted object of our policy, and no petty interest must stand in the way of its achievement. To bind all lands together in the bonds of commercial interests, and to fuse all nationalities into one great peaceful family, is a noble object for the enlightened politicians; and although as Christians we may rely upon another and more mighty weapon for the destruction of the empire of war, yet we welcome every agency which lends its aid to the consummation for which we devoutly labor. We do not believe that any considerations of self-interest will in themselves be forcible enough to restrain the violent passions of nations, but while the grace of God shall subdue the vengeful feelings of the godly in every country, these more sordid motives may add their weight to the influences of the peacemakers, and may calm the ravings of the godless, with whom better reasons have no power. In this respect let every Christian find reason for hope in the signing of treaties of commerce among the nations of the world.

A new reform bill has been announced but no interest is felt either for or against it. No one cares whether it is carried or not. This is a very bad time for demagogues. There are no grievances to excite a burning indignation in the fiery soul of the valiant place-hunter. A chartist is an extinct animal, or at least if a single specimen may be seen in a year, it must be in some unknown beer-house, where pots and politics are mutual assistants. Plen­ty of work, good wages, brisk trade, and unrestrict­ed liberty, and who cares for politics ? When bread is dear, work scarce and trade dull, every man com­plains that the State is badly managed; but pros­perous seasons are not favorable to the agitations of the professional disturbers of the peace.

There is a laudable desire to remove the taxes from the poor, and lay them upon the rich, which is a proof that the enfranchised classes are not fond of class legislation, but are anxious to deal justly with their fellow-countrymen. We shall soon need a defender for the middle-classes, for when the shoe is made very easy to others, the pinch upon our foot becomes more and more severe. Income tax is a boon which you cannot fully appreciate; even those of us who feel its benign influence are apt to think it a blessing in disguise, and in very objectionable dis­guise, too. Apart from this last turn of the screw, there is an apathy concerning all sorts of political controversy, a stillness calm and deep, the rest of a people who can wait for the whole of their free in­heritance, since every year gives them some addi­tion to their privileges and some answer to their peaceful demands.

The great row at St. George’s in the East still continues. The Puseyite rector will not yield to the will of his Protestant parishioners, and conse­quently the riot continues every Sunday, to the disgrace of religion, and injury of morals. Last Sab­bath day the rector and curates endeavored to drag some persons out of the seats appointed for the choristers; the Protestants, on the other hand, sat firm, and when removed by force, they summoned the rector, curate and choristers for assaults made upon them, and to the delight of a crowded court the white surplices were mulcted in fines, and sent on their rueful way sorrowing exceedingly. This hub­bub will work good in the old Establishment; it may bring matters to a crisis, and compel her to avow herself as either Protestant or Romish; at any rate, it will widen the breach between the Evangel­ical and Puseyite parties, and it is always well when there is a wide distinction between truth and error. Peace with Rome can never be desired by true Protestants, and the strongest opposition is better than the slightest compromise.

Daily prayer-meetings continue to multiply all over London, and there is a manifest unction resting upon the hearts of God’s people constraining them to labor for the salvation of those who are out of the way. New fields of labor have been opened up and pursued with a vigor heretofore quite un­paralleled in these lukewarm times. Young evan­gelists are rising up, and among them some who continue to be laymen in name, although their whole souls are given to the work of the ministry. The divisions in the church of Christ are healing, we are working together as one man, and we are looking and longing for better and more glorious days.

I will write more next week, and am yours very truly,


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Spurgeon’s 6th Letter (March 29, 1860)

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

Here is the complete text of his sixth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


Curiosities—Infant Sprinkling—Special Services in London Theatres—Lord Dungannon—The Pope an the Emperor—A Commission Personal


In my last letter you received an ancient curiosity ; permit me now to hand you a modern one. A very excellent Episcopalian minister who labors in this neighborhood, has ventured to come forward in defence of infant sprinkling. Amidst an old-fashioned assortment of mouldy arguments, he has the honor of propounding a new one which has tickled my fancy amazingly. The good man believes that there were infants in the house of the jailer at Philippi. To prove this he makes an estimate of the constitution and general strength of the head of the family, and finding a good deal of jumping powder in him, he proves to his own satisfaction that the children in the house were decidedly young. Let the logic appear in its own chaste simplicity, as it stands in the sermon:

“Now what strengthens my impression that there may have been such infants in this jailer’s house is this: The writer informs us that whilst Paul was in the prison, the jailer ‘sprang in’ to him. By this expression I understand that he jumped down sev­eral steps at a time. Now this must have been the action of a young and lithesome man. But if he was a young man, it is most probable that his chil­dren, who were baptized, were young too.”

Here is something decidedly worthy of the noble cause which our author defends, at least it is almost absurd enough to become an armor-bearer to that gigantic error. Would not even an old man spring if he saw the prison doors opened by a miraculous earthquake? And what was there so remarkable about the spring that it should be a sure proof of youthful lithesomeness?

One would imagine, from such a fuss and argu­ment, that the man had actually leaped over the pri­son instead of into the dungeon. Let us just make this remark, and then turn to something better— there are no more efficient assistants to the Baptist cause than the brethren who are ambitious to uphold Pedobaptism, and who use all diligence in fighting against the immersion of believers.

The special services in the theatres of London have been attended by very numerous crowds, who, for the most part, have conducted themselves with order and propriety. The great bulk of the hear­ers are not our church-going people, but in the main the company is made up of the irreligious, dissolute and ignorant. This is satisfactory, and we hope that the results will be of the most delightful char­acter. Sometimes the preacher is accosted by a hearer in the gallery with a little smart theatrical slang, and occasionally the pit will emit its opinion of the discourse, if the speaker happens to be a rather slow coach, but these little vagaries do not disturb an earnest man, and, as for a formal, cambric-cravated gentleman, he will very likely be deterred by such inconveniences from trying his hand a second time at work for which he has no ability. I observe at the foot of some of the bills that youths under sixteen are not admitted, unless in the charge of some grown-up person. This arrangement is doubt­less intended to diminish the force of the sweet music of catcalls, whistles and shouts with which street boys are wont to favor the theatre. Last Sunday evening all the theatres now occupied for preaching were crammed to the ceiling. I select the following account as a specimen:

The Britannia Theatre, Hoxton, which is an immense building, was densely crowded. Probably three thousand persons found place within its walls, and hundreds more were excluded by the necessary closing of the doors a quarter of an hour before the time of commencing service. The vast majority of the audience were men, as an example of which we may state, that out of thirty-four persons in the front row of the pit, twenty-nine were males. Very few children were present, but there were many of the age when youth is passing into manhood. Mr. Charles Dickens and Mr. Blanchard Jerrold sat in one of the boxes, and listened attentively to the sermon. The preacher of the evening was Rev. Newman Hall, of Surrey Chapel .

Lord Dungannon, who, a little while ago, sought to prevent clergymen from preaching in Exeter Hall, on the plea that this was introducing “a sort of Spurgeonism” into the church of England, has warned the House of Lords of his intention to bring this yet more dreadful matter of theatre-preaching before Parliament. The antiquated old gentleman evi­dently prefers orthodox and canonical death to any irregular display of spiritual life. My Lord Dungannon ought to be drawn in state to the door of the house in an ancient chariot dragged by four iguanodons, and he should take his seat as the rep­resentative of the respectable corporation of extinct animals.

Talking of venerable absurdities, that head and chief of the order, the Pope, must be in a peculiar uncomfortable position at this season. His loving son, the Emperor of the French, is progressing very fast towards a consummation devoutly to be wished. The poor old priest will hardly have a resting-place for his consecrated toe, if affairs continue to run in the present channel. But who can tell? No man knows the mind of kings, and it may prove to be convenient to monarchs to maintain the Pope in his petty despotism, lest in’ removing him they should shake themselves. If, however, the present quarrel is not soon made up, it may be hoped that the toothless malice which has been swearing prayers at the Emperor, and cursing him in benedictions, will receive its own sweet reward in abridgment of ter­ritory and contraction of power. Let the whole earth say amen.

I want you to execute a little commission for me. I observe in one of your American newspapers, an advertisement of pills which have a tendency to promote morality!!! The world in general is informed that “one or two doses will cure, and the body and mind are better able thereafter to withstand temp­tation. These pills will yet be appreciated by mor­alists.’’ Please to see that the inventor himself takes a whole box of these pills, and should they make him discontinue his lying puff, be so good as to send a wagon load down South, and oblige

Yours truly,


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Spurgeon’s 5th Letter (March 8, 1860)

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

Here is the complete text of his fifth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)



DEAR BRETHREN,—Pray excuse me to my kind friends if I have been a little behindhand in my let­ters. I warned you at the first that this would be the case, and therefore you are not amazed at the irregularities which have occurred. I am a very busy man, and if I write at all, it must be by fits and starts.

I have just returned from Ireland. I have been delightfully reckoned up and fully discharged both on the voyage to the Emerald Isle and upon return­ing ; but for all this I have had the happiest jour­ney I ever made in my life. The kindness of the Irish people to me was something indescribable, and their readiness to hear the Word was pleasing in the highest degree. I am not quite proud enough to profess a large amount of modesty, but I was often made to feel my great unworthiness of the many thanks and tokens of affection which I re­ceived. All the nobility and gentry of Dublin lis­tened to the truth, and, as you will be glad to know, a large number of Roman Catholics attended the services. I did not set myself to abuse the Pope, or cry down Episcopacy, but I preached up Christ’s cross with all my might, and therefore all classes of men were drawn to hear. Love is a power which I can trust, and if the preaching of Christ will not win a Romanist, I am sure abuse never will.

A most singular review of my discourses ap­peared in the Roman Catholic paper, singular, be­cause of the kind and generous spirit which shines through it. The writer made a grand mistake by misunderstanding a remark which I made upon the ultra-Calvinists of the day, who dare not invite a sinner to come to Christ; he concluded from this that I was an enemy to Calvinism, although I was preaching true Calvinism all the while. Of course, as a Papist, he could hardly be aware of the many leagues of difference between the evangelical Puri­tan and the hyper, hard-shelled fatalist, who makes the decree of God a sort of hot iron with which to brand his fellow-men with the broad black mark of damnation.

I am led here to observe that when I see such an error committed by an attentive hearer, I am not at a loss for a reason for the many reports which go forth concerning public men. I find myself at one time a Presbyterian, then an Antinomian, and anon, a renegade Calvinist. Verily, common fame is a common liar. I always reckon myself a very trans­parent personage, but some men will make mis­takes, and other men will magnify the error till a full-blown prodigy of report stands forth before the public eye. Now this letter is all about myself, and I am therefore ashamed to send it. As a sort of recompense to you for your patience, I add a pre­cious letter which has never seen the light before. It is a thorough lesson for me, and I hope it will also be useful to my brethren who read it. The original I met with in Kent; it bears the post-mark of Biggleswade, in Bedfordshire, and as you will perceive, is quaint and pithy, bearing internal evi­dence that John Berridge wrote it, for who else could say such good things in such a queer but forcible way? One of these days I will write you a brief ac­count of grand old John, with a few anecdotes of my own preserving.

Everton, April 25, 1778

DEAR BROTHER,—I am coming once again to Plymouth, a long journey for an old man, and the carriage costly, yet come I must, to pay respect to Mr. Heath ; but to make travelling charge as light as pos­sible, I shall fold myself up in half a sheet, and come post in a letter. I love to see Christians appear in miniature, and am laboring to contract myself, an arduous task indeed!!! For no sooner is one paring taken from self, but another piece of proud flesh springs up in its stead ; and I feel as bulky,—as lofty as ever. Many living physicians have been consulted to lessen this bulk, but the buried doctors speak most to the point. John Baptist understood a Gospel pulse well, and says positively, “Jesus must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3 : 30.) From him I discern that self-will is the Pharaoh, who hardens himself against Christ, saying, who is the Lord that I should serve Him ? And the Lord’s batteries are planted of course against this great I. Once I thought that growing knowledge with good frames, must make children sprout up apace into Christ, but I learn from the Baptist, that good knowledge and good frames, however desirable, may turn a child rickety, and make his great I grow bigger still; yea, I learn also, what­ever be my knowledge or frames, Jesus gets increase in my heart no further, than great I gets decrease. As I grow out of self, I grow into Christ, and no faster. Jesus rises and gains dominion, as self sinks. If, then, I wish for more of Christ, I must have less of self; and this tiger grows lean, not by feeding but starving; grows quiet, not by wheedling, but thump­ing. Hence I see the want of some daily cross, which Jesus kindly sends, to crucify self. Hence, too, I find a need of much prayer to take my cross patient­ly, and make it work effectually. And if a cross knife seems sharp and cuts deep, it is sent to pare off some large carbuncle, which is ever sprouting up from proud self. I would, therefore, look on Lord Will-be-will as my worst foe, insolent towards God, offensive to my neighbors, and vexatious to my own heart. May I give him no quarter, but beat him like a wild beast, as he is, and embrace every cross, as an ap­pointed means for taming this tiger. So you are preaching again, my friend says, and upon a rusty subject. True: my heart needs this preaching every day, and it will not be amiss for you, if it reconciles your heart to strange treatment, and much you will meet with from the world and the church, before your warfare is finished. When you write to London, send my hearty love to Mrs. Newsom. Give my kind re­spects to your family. Grace and peace be with you all, and with your affectionate servant,


Mr. Robert Heath, Plymouth Dock, Devonshire.

Is not this the experience of a true Christian ? May we all decrease in self each day. Thus prays

Your servant for Christ’s sake,


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Spurgeon’s 4th Letter (March 1, 1860)

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

Here is the complete text of his fourth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here) | (also reprinted in the The Evangelical Repository in April 1860)


The Crisis now in Europe and America viewed Religiously—Demand upon Earnest Christians.

DEAR BRETHREN,—Upon the minds of many in this land who have the spirit of discernment in an eminent degree, there is just now a gloomy fore­boding of some catastrophe at hand. I must con­fess that I share in their conviction, if not in their fear. In the order of nature the harvest is followed by the vintage, and hitherto there has been an al­most uniform analogy between nature and grace. The harvest we have had, and you have enjoyed it even to a greater degree than ourselves. And what if these days of revivals are to be succeeded by great tribulation and sore distress? Does not the ingathering of the elect always precede the visitation of sinful nations with woe and wrath? If the ap­prehension be unfounded, it is certainly not absurd, and is worthy of some little regard. Every man in England must have perceived the universal expectation of some great war which is stirring up many to the preparation of carnal weapons, and others to the use of nobler arms. It were useless to indicate the various forms which our apprehensions assume, but I write what can be right well proven, when I assure you that in many of our hearts there is the silence of suspense until some fresh vial be poured out, or the glorious kingdom be hastened. We wait in anxious prayer, crying with David, “O Lord, how long.”

Let not our hearts be troubled even should the worst of our fears he realized, for the falling of nations is but the establishment of the church. These things are shaken, that the things which can­ not be shaken may remain. The crash of empires and the devastation of nations have been the whirl­wind in which “the Lord hath his way,” and the fearful desolations of cities have been the thick clouds which are the dust of His feet. We are anxious concerning the events of the future, for we are human ; we are not in doubt with regard to the final result, for our faith is Divine. Perhaps the worst in the judgment of reason, will prove in the end to be the best. “Things are not what they seem.” Should our glorious nations, of whose lib­erty and civilization we are mutually proud, should these be subjugated by tyrannic power, would not the principles which they embody be scattered all the more widely by the banishment of our citizens throughout the world ? Might not the wind which rent up the old plant, bear on its wings the seeds of a thousand others which should fall where never that good grain had grown before ? If it should ever come to pass in some black day that our happy Christian fellowships in England and America should feel the fire of persecution, or know the ter­rors of invasion, in what respect would our Redeem­er’s kingdom suffer? Might not this be the sharp physic for our ecclesiastical diseases? A purge for our heresies? A stimulant for our sloth? If we will not go into all the world and preach the Gos­pel to every creature of our own voluntary will, we need not marvel if one day we are scourged into it. If we will not ride forth among the nations in the chariot of peace to carry the glad tidings, it may be that the King of kings will sling us forth with the sling of war or persecution, that we may be as a bur­densome stone among all nations.

You will probably imagine that I am in a very nervous condition, and you will remind me that such fears are idle in your new world. Now against this kind suggestion I beg to enter my protest, for my temperament is rather sanguine than desponding; indeed, the inward peace which I enjoy at this mo­ments is a fully sufficient contradiction to your sup­position of any trembling in my nerves. Moreover, I am not sure that you have any cause for boasting that your mountain stands firm and can never be moved, for if you may not dread calamity from with­out, you have a certain black and abominable cancer within, which may well cause you serious alarm. The dangers of nations lie in their sins, and both the old country and the new have a full measure of in­iquity to answer for. Other nations may go unpun­ished because they have not our light and knowl­edge, and therefore God winketh at their sins of ig­norance, but of us the Lord may well say, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; there­fore I will punish you for your iniquities.” Surely you are not so blind a lover of your republic as to hold her guiltless, while before the entire world she scourges her helpless captives, and makes merchan­dize of the flesh of men. No, my friends, we may alike expect the chastening of the Lord upon our fellow-citizens; for the lands are defiled by our in­iquity against God and the oppression of men. May WE have the seal in our foreheads, and thus escape the trial which shall come upon all the earth.

If there be no solid ground for the previous re­marks, you will at least agree with the practical conclusion towards which I am hastening. Let the reapers arise and thrust in the sickle with renewed vigor, for the sky is lowering, and a storm may soon compel them to cease from their joyous labors. Good husbandmen are anxious to house their corn before the rain comes on ; let us be instant in sea­son and out of season for the ingathering of the Lord’s precious wheat. Here I call to remembrance the earnest “words to the winners of souls,” which have lately been printed for private circulation among our ministers, and which deserve to be pub­lished over the wide world. I quote a passage meriting your solemn attention:

“The infusion of new life into the ministry ought to be the object of more direct and special effort, as well as of more united and fervent prayer. To the students, the preachers, the ministers of our churches, the prayers of Christians ought to be more large­ly directed. It is a LIVING ministry that we need, and without such a ministry we cannot long escape the judgments of God. We need men that will eom SPEND AND BE SPENT—THAT WILL LABOR AND PRAY—THAT WILL WATCH AND WEEP FOR SOULS.”

Melchior Adam tells a notable story of Myconius, the friend of Zwingle and Luther. On the night of his entrance into the monastery, in order to assume the condition of a monk, he had a dream which changed his whole history, and led him to devote his energies to the cause of Christ. He was led in his dream to the fountain of living water which flows from the wounds of the crucified Saviour, and being washed and refreshed, a guide conducted him to a boundless plain covered with waving corn. Here he was bidden to reap. “I cannot,” he cried, “for I am unskilled in the use of the sickle.” “What thou knowest not thou shalt learn,” was the swift reply. The guide conducted him nearer to the scene of labor, and there he saw a solitary reaper tolling with such prodigious effort, that he seemed determined to reap the whole field himself. He is commanded to join this laborer and share his toils. Anon, he is led to a hill from which he sees the vast extent of the field, and wondering, asks how long it will take to reap such a field with so few laborers. His guide answered, “Before winter the last sickle must be thrust in. Proceed with all your might, the Lord of the harvest will send forth more labor­ers soon.” Myconius toiled until, weary and faint, he attempted to rest a little, but the Crucified One, all wan, weary and wasted, appeared to him, and spake in his ear, saying, “As I am you must be.” Then he awoke, but the dream remained with him, he took his place by Luther’s side, and worked until reapers arose on every hand, and the harvest was all reaped before the winter. Such dreams may we all have, for verily this is but a picture of our own day. There are a few men laboring like giants, perform­ing feats of ministry, but why should they stand alone. Let us join them, let us be diligent in this all-important business. The fields are vast, the harvest waves, the end approaches, and through grace let us go forth with our sickles, never to rest till God himself shall bid us lie down and die. O, to die preaching! To leap into heaven from our pulpits! To fall with our shield upon our arm! If this be an object of desire, let us live in daily exer­cise of our calling, and we shall never die out of it. Our age should be a time of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering effort. We must not walk but run, nay, we must press forward towards the mark. Let us crowd all our canvas on, stretch every nerve, strain every muscle, and haste to do our Master’s will. Time is always short, but revival times are the shortest of all. After every flood-tide there comes an ebb; the tide will soon turn; O let us be active, and above measure laborious, while the flood of grace is flowing in. Now OR NEVER, is the cry of these times to the earnest sons of the church. ’Tis ours to bring upon the churches a long and fearful drought by provoking God with our apathy and in­difference, or rather it is ours to bring down a glo­rious blessing which shall make the desert rejoice and the wilderness blossom as the rose. Looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,

I am, my dear friends,

Yours in Jesus,


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Spurgeon’s 3rd Letter (February 9, 1860)

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

The editors introduced the third letter with a reference to his letter on slavery (published the previous week) as well as a clarification of the terms of Spurgeon’s correspondence:

The Christian Chronicle mistakes in regarding the letter form Mr. Spurgeon, which it kindly quotes in full, as pertaining to the regular series of letters which he is engaged to write for the Watchman and Reflector. It was rather a volunteer utterance intended to vindicate—which all will agree it fully did—the strong anti-slavery position of the writer. The Chronicle is in error, too, in the impression that Mr. Spurgeon was to write every week In announcing him as our regular correspondent, we quoted his exact words, wherein he said, “I will endeavor to write once a fortnight.” This he has done, and doubtless will continue to do.

Here is the complete text of his third letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


[Owing to unavoidable circumstances there has been some little delay in placing the following letter from Mr. Spurgeon, our London correspondent, before our readers. It was written, as will be seen, on the day observed as Christmas, (the last being Dec. 26th.) This explains certain references in the letter, the interest of which, with this recognition, will not be diminished.]

Christmas in England—Extraordinary Religions Crusade by Episcopalians and Nonconformists—Change of Worship from Surrey Gardens to Exeter Hall—Work of the Adversary—The Writer’s Alleged denial of Calvinism


MY DEAR FRIENDS:—All England and his wife are feasting to-day, and are trying to make themselves believe that this is Christmas. This last is hard work, seeing that the frost is all gone, the snow melted, and the streets ankle-deep in mud. However, the plum pudding is as richly orthodox as usual, and the roast beef not less glorious. As for me, I have too much on hand to have a whole day’s holiday at once, but am reckoning upon a warm-hearted prayer-meeting with the poor of my flock this evening. The rich will meet their families, and God bless them in their mirth; but there are very many who have no happy household, nor even a fire around which to gather; to these the chapel is a kind of home, and I delight to see them gathering within its wall, like sparrows under the eaves of a house when torrents of rain are falling.

The Christians of London are just commencing a crusade of a somewhat extraordinary kind. They have taken unusual places for worship, and are hoping to attract to them a class of persons who will not enter our regular sanctuaries. There are three bodies in the field. The church of England, using Exeter Hall in the evening, are about to open another campaign in St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. Then there are the Nonconformists, who fix their headquarters at St. James Hall; these, with my dear brother, Rev. W. Brock, at their head, have lately commenced special services in the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton, a place notable for the lowest school of dramatical performances. Judging from the placards which I have often seen on our wall, the “raw head and bloody bones” are very popular at the Britannia on week nights, and it is a noble sight, to see the minister of the Gospel lifting up his voice in such a place on Sabbath evenings. Besides these two associations there is a third just coming to the light of day, consisting of Christians of all denominations, Episcopal and Noncomforming. I must confess a great liking to this last, and am only fearful that some element of discord may arrive to break the league of union. I have just received the following circular from this last body, and I have sent it to you, as it contains interesting matter that may be found useful to your churches in America.

65 Lombard Street, City, Dec., 1859

REV. AND DEAR SIR,,—The united Committee for providing Special Religious Services for the Working Classes especially in the eastern and southern parts of the metropolis finding the following buildings availa­ble for their use on the Sunday afternoons and evening, viz.:

The Garrick Theatre, Leman Street, Whitechapel,
Effingham Theatre, Whitechapel Road,
New Concert Hall Limehouse,
Winchester Hall, Minor Theatre, attached to a tavern, South­wark Bridge Road.
Astley’s Horsemanship Circus and Theatre, Westminster Road,

Royal Albion Theatre (late Rotunda) Blackfriars Road,

Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Clerkenwell,

will have great pleasure in placing one or more of them at your disposal for the simple preaching of the Word to a portion of that vast multitude in this great city who are daily perishing for lack of knowledge. The date of the engagement, with such exceptions as may he necessary, to be left to the appointment of the committee.

The committee themselves are quite indifferent as to the particular section of the church of Christ with which any clergyman or minister they may invite to assist in these services may be connected ; their only solicitude being to have Christ faithfully and earnest­ly preached unto the people. Still, to avoid the ap­pearance of any bias on their part, it is the purpose of the committee to arrange a course of services for the ensuing three months, and to assign an equal number of such services to the clergy of the Established Church, and of the evangelical nonconforming bodies.

The mode of conducting the services it is proposed to leave open to the judgment of the officiating cler­gyman or minister.

The committee on their part promise to use their utmost endeavors to fill the various buildings with the class of persons sought to be benefited ; and believing themselves, that nothing is so likely to strike the sens­es of the unthinking multitude as a combined movement of this character, they sincerely trust that all denominational distinctions will be held as subordi­nate to the paramount duty of saving the souls of the perishing.

The committee think it only due to themselves and to the public to state the principal considerations which have influenced them to engage, in some instances, the use of theatres for the carrying out of the objects of the conference on Special Religious Services held Novem­ber 22d.

1. The deplorable spiritual condition of the work­ ing classes in London, as shown by the estimate that about 2 in every 100 of the working men are found to attend any place of public worship.

2. The impossibility of obtaining neutral secular buildings in the localities.

3. The unfortunate prejudice existing, as a rule, among the working classes against churches and chap­els as such.

4. The smallness of the sum generally required by the lessees for the use of their theatres.

5. The circumstance that the Music Halls in the East End are invariably connected with taverns.

Waiting the favor of as early a reply as possible, believe us. Rev. and Dear Sir,

Your faithful servants,

A. KINNAIRD    )  Treasurers
R C. L. BEVAN,  )

SAMUEL GURNEY, ) Hon. Secretaries

R N. FOLWER,         )


May God speed this good work, and may the the­atres be empty six days in the week, and crowded on the seventh, or “first day of the week,” sacred as the memorial day of our Saviour’s resurrection from the dead.

I am now preaching on Sabbath mornings in Ex­eter Hall, and not at the Surrey Gardens. The proprietors of the last named place had twice at­tempted to open it on Sunday evenings for music and amusements. I was, however, able to prevent this by threatening to cease my occupation, and as we paid a rent of more than £700 a year, ($3500,) they were not willing to lose so large a sum, and therefore gave up their unhallowed design. Now, however, they have conceived the idea that my preaching injures them; for the people will not come to dance and drink on week days in a place where the Word is thundered out on Sunday morn­ings. This, I think, is very likely to be a near guess at the truth; for two companies have been broken up since I have preached there, and a blind man can see the end of the present one. I left the place on the very day upon which it was opened for Sunday desecration. This has been a very painful trial to me. For not one-half of my people can get into Exeter Hall, if they were all able to go so far, and alas, not a third of them can make it convenient to walk that distance. However, all things work to­gether for good. Exeter Hall is full; a fresh, com­pany of sinners are brought under the word, and by God’s grace we hope to see a new host of con­verts.

The devil is doing his best to injure me, and my foes are many. I have just seen a paragraph in which it is stated that I have recanted my Calvinistic sentiments, and am very penitent on account of the mischief I have formerly done by my doctrines. This is but a specimen of the villainous lying to which I am daily subject. I am now quite used to these things, and do not think that those who know me believe any such infamous libels. I fear I have hardly grace enough to have recanted if I had been an Arminian, for I find in me a very strong tendency to conservatism, which nothing but an earthquake can shake. As it is, I shall renounce my Calvinism when I lose my reason, or forsake my God; but not till then. I had rather die than deny the truth. By the grace of God the precious doctrines of grace shall always be my delightful theme.

This letter is quite long enough for a man to write on a holiday, so farewell.

Yours, &c.,


Clapham, Dec. 26.

(Photo by Alessio Fiorentino on Unsplash)

“Not excepting Garrison himself”: Charles Spurgeon’s Abolitionism

I found out about Charles Spurgeon’s outspoken and anti-slavery stance in recent years, due particularly the work of Dr. Christian George:

George does a great job describing Spurgeon’s overall anti-slavery stance, in particular, the violent reaction (including threats and book-burning) that ensued throughout the South. I wanted to find the context for the original quote, so I went digging.

In one article, George cites “Pike, The Life and Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 331,” and Pike devotes a whole chapter to “Mr. Spurgeon and the Americans,” including the saga over slavery. Pike was the one who pointed me to the original source in the Christian Watchman and Reflector:

The “thunderbolt,” or, as the author himself regarded it, the “red-hot letter,” duly appeared in The Watchman and Reflector, and had the slave-holders been actually attacked with heated shots the excitement could hardly have been greater (331).

I highly recommend reading George’s articles for a broad exploration of this incident, including articles and sources from several newspapers at the time. This article explores a more focused view: Spurgeon and slavery as reported in the Christian Watchman and Reflector.

1859 – “plainness and pungency”

On March 10, 1859, the Watchman and Reflector published a short article, “The Courier and Mr. Spurgeon” (original pdf here). A paper in London had hinted at “Mr. Spurgeon’s probable treatment of slavery in his visit to this country [America]” and an American paper called the Courier threatened potential violence: “We do not pretend to say what might occur to brother Spurgeon, if he should count too much upon the liberties of fraternal relations in his efforts to stir us up on slavery. But we doubt very much whether our people would hear him as indifferently as they do the railings of our own anti-slavery volunteer orators.” The editors of the Watchman and Reflector condemned the Courier for “inviting mob-law against the preacher,” and replied: “we presume the London preacher will speak with plainness and pungency of any sin the Bible condemns, even if, like Paul at Ephesus, it may excite commotion among the silversmiths or cotton-merchants.”

On June 23, 1859, the Watchman and Reflector published some “Familiar Letters from Europe” (original pdf here). A correspondent from Europe, one “W.C.C.,” visited London and heard Spurgeon preach. Afterward, they “sat awhile with him in his vestry, and enjoyed a very pleasant conversation with him. Socially, he is exceedingly agreeable. He told us how negotiations failed, which contemplated his visiting America, and uttered the strongest expression of abhorrence to slavery that we ever heard from human lips, not excepting Garrison himself.

1860 – “I do from my inmost soul detest slavery anywhere and everywhere”

As news of Spurgeon’s views on slavery began to leak, the reaction and speculation grew steadily stronger, until Spurgeon finally penned his “red-hot letter” to be published in the Watchman and Reflector. This letter is the source of one of his most well-known quotes on slavery:

I do from my inmost soul detest slavery anywhere and everywhere, and although I commune at the Lord’s table with men of all creeds, yet with a slaveholder I have no fellowship of any sort or kind. Whenever one has called upon me, I have considered it my duty to express my detestation of his wickedness, and would as soon think of receiving a murderer into my church, or into any sort of friendship, as a manstealer.

The full text of the letter can be found here: Spurgeon’s “Red-Hot Letter” on American Slavery.

The letter was subsequently reprinted in full in a number of other newspapers, including The Liberator (see pdf here).

Spurgeon’s 4th Letter: “The dangers of nations lie in their sins”

Spurgeon followed up on this in his fourth official letter to the Christian Watchman and Reflector, on “The Crisis now in Europe and America”: 

“The dangers of nations lie in their sins, and both the old country and the new have a full measure of in­iquity to answer for. Other nations may go unpun­ished because they have not our light and knowl­edge, and therefore God winketh at their sins of ig­norance, but of us the Lord may well say, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; there­fore I will punish you for your iniquities.” Surely you are not so blind a lover of your republic as to hold her guiltless, while before the entire world she scourges her helpless captives, and makes merchan­dize of the flesh of men. No, my friends, we may alike expect the chastening of the Lord upon our fellow-citizens; for the lands are defiled by our in­iquity against God and the oppression of men.”

“Mr. Spurgeon will do no good by the agitation of this question”

Predictably, Spurgeon’s “red-hot letter” set off a flurry of reactions, including in the Watchman and Reflector itself. The first came on March 22, from a reader in Alabama (original pdf here). “I had fondly hoped for much enjoyment from the perusal of Mr. Spurgeon’s letters, which are to be contributed to your columns; but judging from the sentiments and feelings of his second letter, which reached me last week, I fear I shall be doomed to disappointment.” “We are on the verge of a revolution” the writer goes on, “Volunteer companies are being organized and armed throughout the entire South.” Further, he had heard that there were some in England planning to fan the flames “in the hope thereby of producing a dissolution in the Union.” He hopes “Mr. S will have the good sense and Christian modesty to let alone the agitation of a subject upon which too much has already been said… With all due respect for Mr. Spurgeon as a theologian and successful preacher, I am free to say, he will do no good, but much evil by the agitation of the slavery question.”

Scotch Ministers

Apparently two Scottish ministers, “Drs. Candish and Guthrie” expressed similar sentiments as Spurgeon (original pdf here). It was reported that they made the toast: “The next negro insurrection, may it be successful.” The Watchman and Reflector reprinted an article from the Christian Intelligencer complaining that “the effects of immediate emancipation would be worse to the slave even than to the master.” The editors of the Watchman and Reflector find it a sorry situation that one can be more condemned for speaking out against slavery than for it.

“A Vindictiveness Approaching to Malignity”

On June 7, the editors published a letter from James B. Taylor in Richmond Virginia on “The Irrepressible Conflict: A Southern View” (original pdf here). They introduce his letter by saying, “His views diverge from ours almost as widely as the Poles, but it is only by temperate discussion in a Christian spirit that differences of opinion can be reconciled.” The letter is filled with positive portrayals of Southern slavery. Taylor portrays slaves in the south as better treated than freedmen in the north: “I am greatly mistaken, if the black man in the South is not, physically, intellectually, socially and religiously, elevated many degrees above his brother at the North.” He goes on: “the truest friends of the blacks are found in the southern countries, and a more fearful evil could not befall them, than the immediate abolition of slavery, scattering the emancipated ones among the whites of the North.” He laments the split between Northern and Southern Baptists over slavery, then turns to Spurgeon. “This leads me to refer to the position taken by Mr. Spurgeon on this subject, induced manifestly by some appeal from this side of the water. There is, it seems to me, a vindictiveness approaching to malignity in his allusion to slaveholders, so little in keeping with the genius of the Gospel.” He laments that Spurgeon would praise John Brown, “an infidel!” Taylor hopes that God will “still the tumult of the people, and preserve this American people, one and indivisible.”

Given that many in the south burned Spurgeon’s sermons after his letter was published, it is not surprising to read such vehement rejection from a Southern reader.

“It Has Not Convinced Us”

In an article published on June 21, 1860 (original pdf here), the editors of the Watchman and Reflector call James Taylor on his false representation of southern slavery. They indicate that they have read James Taylor’s letter two or three times, “but it has not convinced us. What seems to our brother too clear to be called in question, seems to us accordant neither with reason, nor scripture, nor fact. He may reasonably doubt our ability to discuss matters with which we have little practical acquaintance. We must doubt, in turn, the clearsighted impartiality of a southern mind in discerning moral issues which involve so many pecuniary and social interests. If the northern conscience tends to fanaticism, from want of a through knowledge of slavery as it is, the southern conscience must tend to blindness and insensibility, from the bias of personal interests. The vender of opium, or of intoxicating drinks, who is accumulating a fortune, does not readily discern the unlawful nature of the traffic.” The editors then dismantle his letter point by point with reasoned arguments. They particularly address the issue of John Brown: “Our brother, too, ought to know that we at the North, and Mr. Spurgeon and the Englishmen in general, look on the character of John Brown in quite another light from his. If we accepted Romish testimony against Luther, we must regard him as a lying, profane, and licentious reprobate… And, if we accepted the testimony of one or two southern men (who reported conversations in his cell,) against John Brown, we should be compelled to believe him an infidel. But we have learned to distrust the testimony of inimical parties, and have no more faith in the assertions of these men than in the assertions of the Romish traducers of Luther… If Mr. Spurgeon believed that John Brown ever used such language as our brother quotes, (taken, we believe from the report of a Methodist clergyman,) he would have no kind words to say of his Christian character. But he believes them as little as he credits Mary’s account of her interviews with John Knox.”

1861 – “the most beautiful and eloquent prayer”

The American Civil War officially began in April 1861. On June 27, an account appeared in the Watchman and Reflector from a correspondent who visited a prayer meeting and heard Spurgeon pray regarding the war: “A gentleman informs me… that he heard a prayer by Rev. Mr. Spurgeon… in favor of President Lincoln and the cause of the North, which he characterizes as the most beautiful and powerful prayer he ever heard in his life. The whole audience was moved to tears, and even sobbed aloud at the eloquent preacher’s appeals to God and to civilized mankind in aid of so holy and so righteous a cause as that in which the North is engaged.” Spurgeon’s anti-slavery stance was not limited to his letters or private conversations–it infused even the public life and corporate prayer time of at the London tabernacle.

1862 – When principled non-violence meets abolition

After the Civil war had progressed for several months, but the slaves had not been emancipated, Spurgeon undertook to write again to the Watchman and Reflector. This letter was perhaps an even bigger bombshell than his “red-hot” letter, in that it enflamed the north as much as the south.

Many in Britain thought that the war would result in emancipation, but the North had not done so. Spurgeon: “The universal conviction in England is, that the leaders of your government care nothing about slavery, and that they make you fight for empire and not for freedom… It is no one’s business here which of you conquers, as long as slavery is not at issue.”  This came at a time when there were growing tensions between the north and England. The “Trent Affair” had occurred in November 1861, and many in England had begun to view the North as adversaries, and not allies. Spurgeon’s is a fascinating window into how a preacher and the people he represented viewed the American Civil War from across the pond. “Halting between two opinions has ruined the cause. The friends of Africa are sick at heart. Your government has fooled you.” “We both seem to be drifting most ridiculously, but most lamentably from our proper positions. Our place is at your side in a great moral conflict, yours it is to make that conflict moral.” Spurgeon’s purpose in the whole letter is twofold: to encourage the North toward emancipation, and to assuage the growing hostilities between the North and England. The whole letter is incredible, and is available to read in full here.

The reaction to this letter was enormous, with no less than thirteen letters received and printed, including an immediate response from the editors of the Watchman and Reflector themselves. This whole saga is worthy of its own focused treatment, as a study in the motivations and strategies of the North and the relationship between the war and slavery.


It is fascinating to read the reactions provoked by Spurgeon’s letter. It is amazing to read in real time the debates between Northern anti-slavery Southern pro-slavery Baptists. It is encouraging to know that there were Christians in that time who stood firmly against slavery, and expressed their opposition clearly and courageously. Spurgeon is hero of mine for that reason, and even though the editors of the Watchman and Reflector sometimes seem to try to toe a moderate line, they should also be commended for giving voice to sentiments like Spurgeon’s.

(Photo by Shaojie on Unsplash)

Spurgeon’s “Red-Hot Letter” on American Slavery

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being made available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

In the midst of this series of letters, Spurgeon paused to write out his thoughts on American Slavery. He had been accused of altering his sermons for publication in America to remove any reference to slavery. In response to one inquiry, he said “I have written a letter to an influential paper in America, and will see to it that my sentiments are really  known. I believe slavery to be a crime of crimes, a soul-destroying sin, and an iniquity which cries aloud for vengeance. The charge against my publishers of altering my sermons I believe to be utterly untrue, and they are ready, as their best contradiction, to print a work on the subject if I can find time to write it, which  I fear I cannot, but must be content with some red-hot letters.” Here is the text of that original “red-hot letter,” sent to the Christian Watchman and Reflector:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)

SPURGEON ON SLAVERY (January 26, 1860)

Mr. Spurgeon, as will appear from the following letter, cannot be silent under the imputation of suppressing his views on slavery to gain favor with Southern readers. No one, who knew him, could suspect him of such moral cowardice. He does not believe the policy of the Tract Society to be either manly or Christian, and gives utterance to his opinions in language not to be mistaken. Like Englishmen, in general, he loathes the system of slavery, and seems to make no allowance even for those masters who would emancipate their slaves, if Providence opened the way for such  movement. Dr. Guthrie has recently expressed similar opinions in a speech at Edinburgh. American Christians, with a broader comprehension of the subject, have more charity, and while loathing the system, regard differently from Mr. Spurgeon some of the masters who are its born victims. Mr. Spurgeon will probably receive from his publishers a volume of sermons from an eminent southern divine, and as he reads its pages, he will confess instinctively that the preacher has felt the power of the cross. We may abhor the sin, and yet exercise due charity for those who are involved in it—especially when the circumstances of the relation are not of their own creating, nor subject to their control. It is well known that such cases are numerous.


I have always considered it to be my duty to deal with those sins which I perceived to be most rampant among my hearers. We miss the mark when we preach of absent individuals. It is very easy to talk about the brutality fo the uneducated when addressing my lord and my lady, but I prefer to tell these gentry their own sins, and not to flatter them by comparing them with others. This rule has brought me at divers times into no little trouble, which I have very cheerfully endured, and have rejoiced therein. But now a new outcry is raised in your land, and I am charged, not with being too severe with Brother Jonathan, but with letting him off too easily. Having no slaveholders in England, I should have been beating the air if I had preached against slavery to my people, for this is the very last crime they are likely to commit. It is far more probable that any slaveholder who should show himself in our neighborhood would get a mark which he would carry to his grave, if it did not carry him there.

I do from my inmost soul detest slavery anywhere and everywhere, and although I commune at the Lord’s table with men of all creeds, yet with a slaveholder I have no fellowship of any sort or kind. Whenever one has called upon me, I have considered it my duty to express my detestation of his wickedness, and would as soon think of receiving a murderer into my church, or into any sort of friendship, as a manstealer. Nevertheless, as I have preached in London and not in New York, I have very seldom made any allusion to American slavery in my sermons. This accounts for the rumor that I have left out the anti-slavery from my American edition of sermons.This is not true in any measure, for, as far as my memory serves me, I cannot remember that the subject was handled at all in any of my printed sermons beyond a passing allusion, and I have never altered a single sentence in a sermon which has been sent out to my American publishers beyond the mere correction which involved words and not sense. However, if any think me capable of such double dealing, I doubt not that they judge of me by themselves, and from such persons esteem is not desirable. I do not therefore regret the loss of it. I have this much to say to all who respect me in America: I did not want to be blaming you constantly, while there are sins enough in my own country, but I shall not spare your nation in future. I shall remember that my voice echoes beyond the Atlantic, and the crying sin of man stealing people shall not go unrebuked. I did not know that I had been so fully adopted a citizen of your republic, but finding that you allow me to be one of yourselves, I will speak out quite severely enough, and perhaps more sharply than will meet with approbation.

I have not been altogether silent upon the subject, for I have spoken with burning words when the matter has been on hand, but as this has usually been upon the platform, and not from the pulpit, those utterances have not reached the press. I must see that there are some such things in the sermons, if not in England at least in America. Messrs. Sheldon & Co. are ready to publish anything I may have to say on the matter, and I shall also avail myself of the Watchman and Reflector.

Finally, let me add, John Brown is immortal in the memories of the good in England, and in my heart he lives.

I am yours most truly,

C.H. Spurgeon

Clapham, London, Jan., 1860

(Photo by Katherine Chase on Unsplash)

Two Letters by Spurgeon on “Piratical Editions”

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

However, the previous year (1859), the Watchman and Reflector had published two letters from Spurgeon addressing a controversy over the unauthorized printing of his sermons in America. The drama played out over the course of several months. Spurgeon had secured the services of Messrs. Sheldon, Blakeman & Co. to publish his sermons as early as 1856.

1856 8 7.jpg

The sermons sold really well, and S, B & Co. issued a fresh set each year, as well as additional books by and about Spurgeon. The funds from these sermons were being used to help build the new Tabernacle back in London.

In 1860, however, a new publisher, the New York Waverley advertised that they would be printing Spurgeon’s sermons.


Here’s how it played out:

September 8, 1859

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


Our readers have seen advertisements in the pa­pers of a new magazine, which professes to republish the sermons of Spurgeon as they are delivered in London, and to do this not only with his consent and approbation, but with his active co-operation, he revising them especially for publication in its pages. But it appears by a letter from Mr. Spurgeon, which we publish in another part of the paper, that he repudiates all knowledge of the transaction, and that it is entirely disapproved by him. This concurs with what we should have inferred from his previous declarations. The Evangelist says: “We happen to know from Mr. Spurgeon’s own lips that he regards Messrs. Sheldon & Co. as his only recognised publishers in this country, and that he feels that they have acted toward him in the most liberal and honorable manner. We cannot, therefore, too strongly condemn this abuse of an author’s name.”


The New York Waverly, published only in Boston, a weekly paper, advertised that it contains Spurgeon’s Sermons, (the new series) “phonographically reported exclusively for this paper.” In another place it states that “they are revised by himself”—thus plainly intimating or conveying the idea that such publication is authorized and promoted by Mr. Spurgeon himself, and that he revises the sermons for the New York Waverly. As a commentary on this announcement we need only quote the following portion of a letter from Mr. Spurgeon himself, dated

“London, June 13th, 1859.


Dear brethren,

…I am greatly troubled to find that a piratical edition is coming out. I have not authorized any one but you, nor have I ever heard of any intention on the part of any one else to print them. You shall have the sermons every week before they are printed… If the Waverly is respectable, it will surely refrain from robbing me.

I am yours respectfully,


This disposes of the author’s alleged sanction of the reprint referred to. In regard to the assertion that the sermons thus printed in the Waverly are revised by Mr. Spurgeon, we have equal authority for stating that they are not so revised, but on the contrary, they are very annoying to Mr. Spurgeon, as being often materially incorrect and spurious. We are reluctant to intrude such a matter on you or the public, but in mere justice to the author of these sermons, it is but right that the facts should be un­derstood rightly by all who are interested in him or his works. It is our intention to issue an edi­tion of this new series so cheap, and so desirable, that no one need resort to an incorrect, ephemeral and unauthorised edition.

Respectfully yours,


November 3, 1859

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


We have received from Rev. C. H. Spurgeon under the following recent date, the letter given below, in which, as will be seen, he vindicates himself in no doubtful language, against an unworthy endeavor to make use of his sermons. It is but simple justice that the preacher should be permit­ted to have control of his pulpit utterances as they pass into printed form. This, so far as Messrs. Sheldon & Co. are concerned, Mr. Spurgeon has had, and of those gentlemen’s dealings with him be has before spoken in high terms. He feels deeply the wrong done him in another quarter as is shown in the following letter, which is a reply to one received from the publishers of the New York Waverly

Clapham, Sept. 26, 1859

GENTLEMEN,—Your courteous note might well demand an earlier answer, were it not that the subject of it is one which even when couched in your very kind language, is unacceptable to me. You must have been fully aware that my honor as a Christian, and even as an honest man, would have been seriously compromised, if by any word or act, I should seem to sanction the pilfering of what I had already sold to another. I therefore thought it far the best to let Mr. Sheldon further inform you of our relationship, and from the open and frank manner of your letter, I had hoped that you would not openly oppose my only legitimate publisher. I was surprised to see that Mr. Sheldon had endeav­ored to make some terms with you. This, I see for the first time, in a Waverly received this morning (which, by-the-bye, is the third I have received.) I wish you could have agreed, for believe me, I have I no wish to do either of you any injury, and would not have regretted some measure of personal sacri­fice, if harmony could have been established. I am sorry to add that I have to complain that you have gone beyond all the rules of honesty in the deliber­ate falsehood which heads several of your advertise­ments, vis., that these sermons are reported “exclusively” for the Waverly, whereas they were never reported for you at all. This glaring falsehood has compelled me to speak out, and I am now about to take some more decisive action. It is no longer a matter between you and Mr. Sheldon; this foolhardy statement compromises me, and I must therefore say something in the matter. I had rather suspend the printing of my sermons altogether, than injure my name by alliance or dealing with men to whom truth is no object. The larger circulation of the Gospel might reconcile me, personally, to any piracy on your part, but when this is coupled with most deliberate and groundless falsehood, the injury I sustain is no longer one of cents and dollars, but of fame and honor. Apart from this crying evil,

I am, gentlemen,

Yours very truly,



(Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash)

Spurgeon’s 2nd Letter (January 19, 1860)

In 1860, the Christian Watchman and Reflector, a Boston Baptist newspaper,  secured Charles Spurgeon as an exclusive correspondent. Over that year, Spurgeon wrote 15 letters to the paper. They are being available now for the first time in 150  years. An index of the letters and several background articles can be found here: Charles Spurgeon in the Christian Watchman & Reflector | Index

Here is the complete text of his second letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


Revival in Ireland—Witnesses to its Genuineness—Work of Grace in Mr. Spurgeon’s congregation—Danger of Neglecting our own souls in our care for others—The Present as compared with the Past—The Fathers of our Religious Literature and the Men of our Day—Calamity and its Lessons—Perseverance of the Saints—Old Fashioned Theology—Spurious Progress—Dangers which beset Americans—Our need of Caution.


You desire to hear something from me touching the revivals in Ireland. I am not able to bear any witness with regard to them, except at second-hand, and, therefore, must refer you to the innumerable letters which have been written upon the subject by correspondents who have travelled through the country. Such letters have doubtless appeared in the Watchman. As to the genuine character of-the work, there is but one opinion, for even Mr. Gilfillan has retracted his evil sentence. I only wish that his repentance may extend to many other naughty words which he has written and spoken. The Presbyterian church is certainly no hot-bed of excitement, and the fact of, the great prevalence of revivals in that worthy body in the north of Ireland is an irresistible argument against the charge that they are the flashes of fanatic fury. I must confess my intense affection for very much in the Presbyterian body; were its members but able to understand the very simple precept of baptism, they might, I think, challenge the most severe Biblical scrutiny. There is one fault, at least, from which they are quite clear, namely the evil of wild, disorderly zeal, and hence when they feel the kindling of an extraordinary flame, I am quite satisfied that it is no strange fire which burns upon the altar. Their doctrine is solidly Calvinistic, and their ministers are, for the most part, mature and well taught men. They are not a people whose passions outrun their understanding, and they are too well accustomed to try the spirits, to be easily deceived. Three good brethren were at first taken by surprise, and were somewhat afraid of the new Pentecost, but to a man, they now rejoice in the work as bring gracious and Divine. From a very extensive acquaintance with the children of God who have witnessed this memorable work, I gather the unanimous opinion that while there is much scum and froth upon the surface, which all must deplore, there is, nevertheless, a potent, deep, irresistible cur­rent of good, which none but a determined unbeliev­er will dare to deny. The fruits are too manifest and too numerous to be a matter of question and dispute. I would here quote a portion of a letter by Rev. W. Arthur, who has been an attentive eye-witness of the whole matter, and who is too sensible a man to be easily duped, although I do not doubt that his great earnestness for the conversion of men makes him exceedingly quicksighted with regard to every favorable sign of a gracious work. I select this extract because it gives tangible facts, and manifests moral effects which I cannot be gainsayed:

As to all other things connected with the revival I found much difference of opinion ; but as to the moral results none, except that some would ask—Will this reformation last? Many Roman Catholics spoke of it with dread and aversion, but all took it as a settled point, that the love of whisky, and the habit of cursing the Pope and “Papishes” had got such a check as never was known in Ireland. In the electoral district of Kells, where it first began, I was told on the spot by Mr. Robert Brown, of Greenfield, that last year they had twenty-six paupers in the union, and this year only four. He also said that he had, a few days before, asked a policeman if he was “of any use at all now?” and the reply was that they had sometimes to “march on” a prisoner. In Ballymena a carman told me that whereas before the revival “A decent man couldn’t walk the streets of a Saturday (the market) night, for fellows drunk and cursing ;” now, on the last Saturday, he could count only four men, and on the Saturday before, five, the worse for whisky. The very day before he spoke to me he had pointed out to a gentleman whom he was driving, and who, he said, “knew them as well as he did,” two of the worst women of the streets, “going to the fields to earn their bread honestly by work.” In Belfast, a friend of mine, who had sent his servant for change, received this answer: “I can’t get it, sir; at the public-house where I always used to get it, they say since the revival came they don’t get any.” No topic of conversation seemed more common, in the second and third lass carriages, than the wonderful change in the country. “Do you really believe,” I asked a woman from Ahoghill, “that the revival has made any change for the better?” She replied, “I’ve lived there ten years, and it is no more like the place it was than this is like Africa.” A policeman in Sandyrow, Belfast, , the hot-bed of mischief, told me that now there is not a quieter place in the world. The way the 12th of July passed over astonished the most sanguine; and to any one who knows the people, it must appear, beyond comparison, the moat striking effect produced upon national manners, in our day, in these islands, by the sudden influence of religion. I saw people coming away in streams from a fair (at Craigbilly,) where before they would have been reeling by dozens, and I could only discover one man who walked unsteadily. I attended a prayer-meeting in a public house. I heard masters tell of the changes in their men, boys of that in their comrades, women of that in their brothers; heard gentleman, doctors, merchants, shopkeepers, tailors, butchers, weavers, stone-breakers, dwell with great wonder on the improvement going on amongst their neighbors. I knew the pejople, and believed my own eyes, but I came to London to learn that it was all a conspiracy of friends, strangers, and appearances to deceive one.

Thus far, then, we have reason to rejoice that the Lord’s arm is not shortened, and that poor, benighted Ireland is at least in one of her provinces, illuminated by the Holy Spirit’s light.

In my own church, for more than five years, we have had all the fruits of a revival without its excessive excitement. The number of converts seems to be as constant as if some Divine law regulated and controlled their influx. Each week brings its quota, until we have no room to accommodate the church at the communion table, and are obliged to meet in two bodies that all may find a place. The daily prayer-meeting, at seven in the morning, has been maintained without cessation for two years. All through the winter mornings of fog, with which this city of Gog and Magog abounds, the brethren have never failed to be present, although to do so they have had long distances to walk. Our Monday evening meetings for prayer are as well attended as the evening lectures, and the people plead with prevailing earnestness, and expect the blessing with joyous hope. We know what it is to walk in the full light of love and joy; never were a people more happy than we are. At some future time, when there are no other out-door facts to write upon, I mean to tell you of our eldership, of our catechumen classes, our theological seminary for young ministers, and other institutions, which I know will interest you, because of your love to our common Lord and Master.

There is a great danger lest in looking abroad at the work of God, we should neglect our own souls. When we are gazing with curiosity at the phenomena of revivals, and the machinery of progress, we may very easily forget to cultivate the growth of grace within. The want of the times is neither length of profession, nor breadth of effort, but depth of real vital godliness. The religion of the Puritanic age was certainly more contracted than that of the present day, but did it not far excel ours in depth and force? We have broken down the banks which confined the stream, we have flooded large tracts of country with nominal Christianity, but is not the excessive shallowness of our grace a proof that while there is more surface, there is not more substance? How few are the men who, by earnest prayer, continual meditation, and close fellowship, have attained to eminence as fathers of the church in these latter days! Once the valiant men of Israel could scarcely be numbered, but where are now the eighties of the Lord of Hosts? The stars were once crowded together in glittering constellations, but now we may search the entire heavens to find a star of the first magnitude. I look upon my shelves, and run my eye along the works of Owen, Howe, Bunyan, Baxter, Ambrose, Burgess, Brooks, Preston. Gurnall, Sibbs, Ness, Mayer, Jenkyn, Manton, Charnock, Durham, and scores of others; and I only wish that I knew of one living man whose name is worthy to be mentioned with theirs. Does not this arise from the hurry of our engagements, and our desire to be achieving a name among men? We point, and grain, and varnish, and thus hope to make the world believe that we are real. O, that we looked more prayerfully to the essence and substance of the matter. We might then flash and glitter less, but our true light would be far more bright and clear. I would have you, my dear friends, ever panting to know the vitality and mystery of true religion. Take care to be much alone with yourself, and still more alone with God. Then may you go forth and labor with both your hands and all your heart, nor shall your soul lose its rest amidst all your engagements, if the grace of God shall thus dwell in you richly.

During the terrific gales of this week a ship return­ing from Australia with much gold and many passengers has been driven upon our coast, and nearly every soul on board has been lost. Here were weary la­borers returning from a foreign shore to their old fa­therland, rich with treasure, and they are wrecked in sight of shore. According to the Arminian theory this will probably be our portion In spiritual things, but we have a happier prospect when we turn to that glorious article of our faith, the final perseverance of the saints. Well may we tremble, for if left to ourselves we shall soon make shipwreck of faith, but equally well may we rejoice, for Jesus is with us, and will surely land us in safety. So long as He is secure, we are in no hopeless danger, for thus the record runs: “Because I live, ye shall live also.” The Arminian teaches that he may fall away and perish. It is possibly true of the man who can believe such an error, but our faith lays hold upon the promise, and is not afraid of any failure in its fulfillment; “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands.”

My closing remarks are suggested by the tendency to novel doctrine, latitudinarian sentiment, which is visible in the sermons and speeches of some of your notable divines. I pray you be upon your watchtower, lest the good word of life be, by slow degrees, worn down to the taste of the depraved nature of man, under the extraordinary pretense of advancing it up to the standing of the times; as if the truth of Jesus was not the same yesterday, to-day and forever, and fitted for every age and every clime.

I am persuaded that the longer we live, the more thoroughly shall we see the futility of any scheme of doctrine claiming for itself an adaptation to the times, which old-fashioned theology does not pretend to pos­sess. A glittering exterior of liberality is a poor ex­change for sterling truth and Divine approbation. In our days of childhood we were often enough dazzled by appearances, but in our manhood let us put away this childish infirmity. To advance in theology be­yond the written Word is to go back. To laugh at ancient orthodoxy as narrow and antiquated, and to offer in its place fine phrases about the march of intel­lect, is to pull down a fortress of granite, and erect in its stead a bastion of ice, which the first day of sum­mer shall dissolve.

You have in your midst men of unrivalled genius, who are applauded by uncircumcised lips, as men of large minds and liberal hearts, but the saints of God ran only speak of them with trembling, as ministers of whom they stand in doubt, fearing that they are rather betrayers of the gospel than champions for Christ. May you be kept from receiving error even when endorsed by the names of philanthropists and men of brilliant parts. Remember that nothing is really good which is contrary to the Word, and al­though there may be a show of progress in a church which is cursed by an unsound ministry, that progress is delusive and worthless. Every time the church is in a hurry to reach her end by shortcuts and by­roads, she has always wasted her energies, and has had more trouble to retrace her steps than all her ad­vances in the rough but right road have ever cost her. Better to lie becalmed, than sail with full speed towards a quicksand. Better to bear the charge of bigotry, than open our doors to the soul-destroying errors which court our hospitality. Let us be upon our watchtower, and may the churches of America see to it that they be not deceived by the devil in the garb of an angel of light.

Yours most truly,

C.H. Spurgeon

Clapham, London, Jan. 1859

(Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash)