Spurgeon’s Civil War Letter (January 9, 1862)

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

One year later, after the U.S. Civil War had started, and in the aftermath of “The Trent Affair,” with rising hostilities between the Union and Britain, Charles Spurgeon wrote another letter to the paper.

(original pdf here) | (Civil War Letter)


Metropolitan Tabernacle, London

Dec. 14, 1861.

MY DEAR WATCHMAN AND REFLECTOR,—I ven­ture to write you, although I fear my letter will not be at all acceptable, and possibly you may see fit not to print it. You are quite welcome to put it into the waste-basket, if you think best to do so, and all I ask is that you will kindly publish every word, or leave it alone. We know not, as yet, what answer your government will return by the messen­ger dispatched from our shores, but our Christian ministers are laboring with diligence and earnest­ness to cool the war spirit, and all good men are hopeful that the peace will not be broken. May the Lord our God avert the terrible calamities which must attend a conflict between two nations so near­ly allied, so kindred in religion, in liberal institu­tions, and in blood. Be assured that all our church­es will pray for peace, and should it be broken politically, we shall feel that spiritually we must have fellowship with all our brethren, be their na­tionality what it may, for there can be no war in the one body of Christ.

Constantly reading your very excellent paper, I have looked upon it as a fair exponent of the feelings of the godly in the North, and I assume that I am not far wrong in the supposition. Well, then, I am sorry that you feel as you do towards England, and yet more troubled am I at the general feeling in this country with regard to your government. When your present conflict began, our whole na­tion, with a few worthless exceptions, felt an in­tense sympathy with the North. I met with none who did not wish you well, although there were some who feared that the struggle would be far more severe than you expected, and a few who sus­pected your soundness on the main question. We prayed for you, and hoped that the day of eman­cipation for every slave was fully come. I move among all classes, and I can hear witness that there were premonitions of a coming excitement and en­thusiasm, such as that produced by Garibaldi’s Italian campaign, so long as the idea had currency that you would contend for freedom, and our interest only flagged when that notion was negatived by the acts of your leaders. Right or wrong, we have now ceased to view the conflict from the slave­ry point of view. Whose fault is this? What have your statesmen done? Or, rather, what have they left undone? They have shown no interest in emancipating the slave. Principle has been thrust into darkness, and policy has ruled the day, and the consequence has been a long and disastrous war, instead of a dashing and brilliant victory. With “Emancipation” as your watchword, your empire would, ere this, have been safe and glorious. The Union safe, or at least, the North more than para­mount. You would not have needed any of our sympathy, but you would have had it to the utmost degree of enthusiasm. Our young men, and our old men too, talked like soldiers, and wished they were with you to fight in freedom’s hallowed strife. Your avowal of abolition would have made us deliri­ous with joy, for the freedom of the slave is a religion in England from which there are very few dissent­ers. But 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.

You say in your issue of Nov. 28th, “The higher classes in England are friends of the South, while the people stand by our government.” Neither of these sentences has any truth in it. I speak what I do know, when I say that our public sympathy with your government is clean gone, not only with the higher classes, but more thoroughly and com­pletely with our people. Our populace, to a man, have ceased to respect the truckling policy which controls you, and I believe they would speak far more harshly of you than the richer classes care to do. It is no one’s business here which of you con­quers, so long as slavery is not at issue. That was the key to the British heart, it has been discarded, and we remain unmoved, if not indignant specta­tors, of a pointless, purposeless war. My whole heart and soul wished you God speed, until, like all the rest who looked on at your awful game, with an ocean between us to cool the passions, I saw clearly that only extreme peril would compel your leaders to proclaim liberty to the captives. That trial you have had, do the right, and your trouble will be over.

We cannot love the South. They are not and cannot be our natural allies. We have few bonds of relationship there, and no commercial ties which we would not rejoice to sever. Even if a spasmodic interest should be excited by your violation of our flag, yet we never can have any hearty union between our people and the slaveholding South. Cotton, I confess, is a great bond, and the stoppage of its supply is a serious calamity, hut as far as I have seen, our people had made up their minds to bear hard times patiently, in the hope that slavery might cease. I believe that our people would sooner pay a tax for emancipation, or bear the stoppage of their trade for the sake of the slave, than for any other motive under heaven. But we are disappointed. A noble opportunity has been frittered away. Halting between two opinions has ruined the cause. The friends of Africa are sick at heart. Your government has fooled you. It dared not do the right for fear of consequences. It courted useless friendships and tried to buy them with hesitations and compromises. Had it but dashed at once into the “irrepressible conflict” all civilized nations would have honored the courage and decision which would run any risk sooner than allow the barbarous and diabolical crime of slavery to fester in your constitution. But your rulers must be driven to virtue, for even when upon the verge of it, they start back alarmed. Why was Fremont silenced? What power is that which leads your Cabinet to be so fearful to commit it­self upon the point of slaveholding? Why leave your most powerful weapon to rust upon the shelf? Have you no means of pressure by which you can compel your rulers to find their senses and give up their vacillation. To hesitate is to court disaster, to decide is to overcome.

No one can fail to admire your loyalty, but surely some of you must have had stern difficul­ty in enduring such protracted temporizing. Be loyal still, but constrain the President and his council to be loyal to your public feeling, which I hope is sound at heart. Will not the slave ques­tion soon be made the point in issue? For your own sake will you not let loose the black tempest from its chains of darkness? I earnestly pray that in all thoroughness, the cause of freedom may be taken up boldly and at once; and I am sure that with our usual unanimity we shall return to our natural position towards you, viz., that of unfeigned sympathy and hearty good-will. You may reply that this is of no value. I reply, that you are a little angry, and therefore I will plead that it may be of service to your kinsmen and brethren in Eng­land, and to the world at large, therefore win our love for our sakes if not your own. It may tend to produce a healthier feeling between the two nations, if it be fully understood that the people of England deprecate the idea of a quarrel with you, and sincerely desire unbroken and profound peace, but the blood of the Old Saxons is as fully in our veins as in yours, and no Englishman feels any sort of fear of you, your fleets, your armies, your expeditions to Canada, or any other enter­prise you may set on foot. We neither despise your weakness nor dread your strength.

But why should there be a fight at all? What good can come of it ? Could not every end be answered by arbitration better than by blood ? In the presence of heathen and popish nations wherefore should two protestant powers disagree? It will be a crime, a treason against Heaven, a despite to the cross of Christ. We are co-operators in every good work, and in some we willingly yield you the palm, but wherefore should we differ? Why, above all things, should we be made to kill each other against our wills? We have both had our sins to­wards the sons of Ham, let us bear the brunt to­gether, you the war, and we the evils of blockade. Do you hasten to proclaim “liberty,” and we on our part, if we be not permitted to interfere with effec­tual aid, will endure patiently the necessary stop­page of trade, will rejoice in your successes, and never even dream of your being repulsed.

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 is it to make that conflict moral. We have all a thousand dear friends in either hemisphere; some of us have brothers on each side, and even children in both nations. We must get out of this quarrel somehow, without a rupture, and in my heart, I believe that your proclamation of emanci­pation will do it. How can we be your enemies if you are the friends of the slave ? If our govern­ment should attempt to aid the South for the mere sake of cotton, (which they would not do, for at present ours is the most popular of all governments, and feels the most readily the motion of public sentiment,) thousands, yea millions of us, would abhor the selfish and unhallowed combat, and it could not last.

The scales are trembling in the balance. May your voices cry aloud for peace and liberty. Some few words of reconciliation, a little mutual forbear­ance, deaf ears to irritating newspapers, and a no­ble publication of freedom to the captives, and the two nations will be sworn friends. O Lord, grant it may be so. Never did prayer rise more heartily or earnestly to heaven’s throne. I pray you join in it with your fervent “Amen.”

Now, Messrs. Editors, I do not write this as though my individual opinions were of any value in America, but because I know that the truth in these matters may ultimately be for the best. My letter on slavery excited so much ill-feeling, even in the North, that I did not see the use of my further correspondence, but this is duty, therefore I do it.

With heartiest affection to believers in the North,

Yours, most peacefully and honestly,


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Spurgeon’s 15th Letter (November 22, 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 fifteenth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)



In an early letter to you, I happened to notice the singular deliverance of a servant of Christ, Mr. Vanderkiste, who was preserved from famine, and finally restored to his family, though lost for days in the wilds of Australia. That letter has been read by him, and has elicited another, which will interest and edify your readers. Here it is:

Dungay, Maitland, New South Wales, July 18, 1860.

DEAR BROTHER IN THE LORD,—A newspaper was recently handed to me by a friend, in which I observe a notice by you of the marvellous deliverance experienced by me, from imminently impending starvation. The notice altogether I value much, and especially the prayer for my welfare, with which you so kindly conclude it.

I will, if you please, furnish you with a notice for one of your discourses, and as I am not very likely to have the opportunity of addressing London audiences with your prestige, if at all, I should much like to convey through you, to some of those immense and precious auditories which you are privileged from time to time to address, the glorification of God, my Saviour, which His grace enabled me to render, even amid the desolation of starvation.

Then tell the dear people, from me—may Christ bless them—that starvation itself, the sinking in of the human eye by want, the howling of tempestuous winds, and the pattering of incessant rains in the great wilderness of the far South, the death-dirges of wild birds, and the prospect of bones picked by wild dogs, that the whole of these form but a scene amid which, when the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, shineth, the soul can raise a song of triumph, and cheerfully echo back the soundings of Jehovah’s word, “Let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.”

Tell the dear people, for their instruction, that if I die in my nest, it will be well indeed, if I die comforted with the comforts which Jesus gave me when death came steal­ing along the lone mountains, robed with the chill cere­cloths, and featured with the grim visage of gaunt starvation.

Tell them, and let them glory in it. that it is just as easy to Immanuel to make a man’s soul rejoice amid the paraphernalia of starvation, as amid the paraphernalia of patrician wealth, or palatial or princely glory.

What an all sufficient Saviour then have we, who can assuredly do both.

Believe me, yours in our one Redeemer,


It is worth while to have written the course of letters which with great difficulty and much irregularity I have sent to you, if my only reward had been this brotherly voice from afar. How sweet is it to feel that you have true brethren, the chords of whose heart can be touched, although we have nev­er grasped their hand.

You know how proud many men are of their pedigree, and you will smile when I confess to the same weakness. I can claim no descent from the aristocracy of earth, but I have a direct, undeviating lineage from the aristocracy of heaven. I was not, however, aware that I could run back quite so far as the records now enable me to do. In the list of those persons who in Essex suffered in year 1677, for holding an unlawful conventicle and attending a meeting held at Dedham, stands the name of Job Spurgeon, who with two others was fined £2 11s. This parish of Dedham I believe to be the original seat of our family, which has never removed far from the spot, nearly all its members residing to this day within a few miles of the village.

On the 22nd July, 1683, John Matthews, of Harwich, Job Spurgeon, of Dedham, Stephen Moore and Stephen Arnold, of Lawford, taken at a meeting, were committed to Chelmsford gaol, by warrant from Justice Smith. They were, after a few weeks, bailed out till Sessions, but on their appearance there, on the 3rd of October, they were required to give sureties for their good behavior, which refusing to do, they were re-committed to prison, where three of them lay upon straw about fifteen weeks, in the midst of a winter remarkable for extremity of cold; but the fourth, Job Spurgeon,  being so weak that he was unable to lie down, sat up in a chair the most part of the time. The curious in such matters may see this record in “Besse’s Sufferings,” Vol. I., 205, 207. This good man was a Quaker, and is none the less worthy of honor for his sufferings for conscience sake.

We must not deny the early Quakers the title of confessors, because their representatives may have degenerated or outlived their vocation, or because they would run their heads against a great many unnecessary stone-walls, or because the share of vital truth which they possessed was sometimes incoherently set forth. Their baptism of blood still cries for a just vindicator, and if any should ques­tion their value as confessors for truth, they must on all hands be honored as confessors against error.

I imagine that I am frequently affected by this old Quaker blood, for I believe in the Holy Spirit’s monitions to a larger extent than it were wise to speak of to a mingled audience. I know that I have had repeated warnings and suggestions, and often when I have essayed to preach in a certain town the Spirit has not suffered me to do so, while on the other hand I have done many things for no other reason, and with no other apparent justification than the inward moving of the Holy Ghost. This may be strange to others, to me It is a habit of life, and if once I feel the motion which I account to be Divine, no human argument can prevent my attempting to obey the message. Nevertheless, although I have the other Quaker peculiar­ity of abhorring an oath even before the magistrate, I am a Baptist to the core, and your humble servant,


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Spurgeon’s 14th Letter (November 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 fourteenth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)



God save Garibaldi! A thousand benedictions upon his noble head! One such man redeems the age from the shame of littleness! There is greatness enough in that one man to ennoble the century which begat him. We do not live, after all, in the age of diluted virtue and departing manhood. Never Roman toga hung about a hero more glorious than he who wears the red frock. In him the poverty of Cincinnatus is combined with the integrity of Fabricius, the truthfulness of Regulus with the self-forgetfulness of Curtius, the valor of Scipio with the pain-defy­ing heroism of Scœvola. If all the marvels of pa­triotism were forgotten, they might be re-written from the life of this one Italian. His portrait dif­fers from that of any other living mortal, and seems to be the exact ideal of a patriot warrior’s face, yet is there a gentleness gleaming from it which must mean more than swords and guns can ever help him to reveal. O that the God who raised up Cy­rus and surnamed him, though he knew it not, may also give the enemies of freedom as driven stubble to the sword of Garibaldi, and give to the warrior himself a name and a place among the soldiers of the cross.

News of a great victory has just arrived. The battle was well fought, that is to say, the troops of Francis II. did more than Neapolitans were ever expected to perform, and Garibaldi, with half their number of men, beat them most thoroughly. It is hoped that this will well-nigh end the contest with the Bomb-loving Bourbon, and bring the patriot chief face to face with the remaining despot. Many grave questions now await their answer, and no politician can guess what will come to pass, al­though every man has his own pet scheme of what should be done. What will Garibaldi do with Cavour, Victor Emmanuel and Napoleon? How will he conduct himself in the midst of their diplomatic stratagems? I believe that if he be, what I think he is, he will go right on, careless of all cautious, and prudent cowardice, and cut the knot with his sword which crafty politicians cannot untie with their dexterous fingers. There is an old English picture of Turpin’s ride to York. The toll-gate keeper has shut his spiked gate across the road, and an old man has turned his donkey cart right into the way, but the highwayman is not to be stopped in his career, and at a flyings leap clears every impediment, and leaves his enemies to won­der at his daring. The Pope may supply the asinine part of the picture, and the constituted author­ities of France and Sardinia may keep the gate between them, but they may yet find the glorious fury of Garibaldi too high and strong a thing to be checked by their policy and state craft.

I see that Gavazzi is preaching constantly in Na­ples, and I should imagine that there is power in his ministry, for some of our newspapers call him a mad, unfrocked priest. Greater commendation, than the condemnation of some of our newspapers, no man need desire. With Roman Catholic re­porters, and infidel editors, the statements of sev­eral of our daily papers upon any matter which has to do with religion, need always to he reversed be­fore you arrive at the real truth. The Times, with all its political twistings with the times, has nevertheless of late years usually dealt with fairness with religious questions, and if not always right, it is not intentionally or spitefully wrong. While upon this subject, I must beg that neither you nor your readers will regard any newspaper as the organ of the English Baptists. We have no organ, we have no paper which represents the Calvinistic Baptist churches of England. The Free­man, with its perverse tendency towards the mod­ern negative theology, has deceived the hopes of very many of us, and we look upon it rather with loathing than with love. Truly Baptists are not and cannot be negative theologians; the men who sway our literature may be never so unsafe, but they are exceptions to the rule. We are not a lit­erary denomination in England, and it seems to be our fate that what little literature is attached to us should be a mere appendix, and not an index of our sentiments.

There is an evil leaven in the literature of both the Baptist and Independent denominations which if not purged out will speedily leaven the whole lump. The Socinian notion of the Universal Fatherhood of God as opposed to his rectoral and ju­dicial character is upheld and maintained in several of the Independent pulpits, and the Freeman dares to quote extracts of a sermon as proof of the or­thodoxy of its favored preacher,—extracts brimful of heresy, and averring the heterodox dogma in the clearest terms. A controversy commenced two or three years ago, and caused much noise; it has been for a while suspended in the hope of better things, but must be renewed with greater vigor, for other­ wise the stagnant air may nurture this doctrinal pestilence, and we may see Universalism becoming by slow degrees rampant among us. Let the ranks of battle close, and let victory be with the right, be it where it may. Abuse, misrepresentation, slander await any man who shall thrust his arm into this hornet’s nest, but it must be done, and happy shall he be who shall be called to do it. Brethren, abide in the faith, and pray that we may do the same.

Yours truly,


Oct. 12, 1860

Spurgeon’s 13th Letter (September 27, 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 thirteenth letter:

The letter also provoked a response (October 10, 1960)

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


The Season—Military Review in Scotland—Napoleon Suspected by Englishmen—Tri Centenary of the Reformation—Revival of Protestant Feeling—Good Work in London—How shall the Work be carried forward?


We have had no summer at all this year, and probably shall not see that halcyon period until after Christmas. Last August it rained every day in the week, and the clouds were still as full as ever. The sun had gone upon the continent, and we had not seen his face in England for a long time. Much of the hay harvest which ought to have been housed six weeks ago is still uncut, or lying like rotten manure in the fields. The potatoes, in many quarters, are destroyed by the disease, and the wheat is suffering daily injury. I have been travelling through Yorkshire, during this week, and I found that mildew was commencing, although it had not, as yet, gone so far as to ruin the crops. We are all in fear and trembling, and I wished I could add, that fervent prayers were rising to heaven. Should we have fine weather, things will get round, but a few days more of this soaking rain will produce the very worst results. Your rich harvests are providentially sent, and the sons of the Puritans will this year be a means of sustenance to the mother country, should the heavens continue their weeping. [It will be seen that later intelli­gence states that the weather in England is brighter, and the harvest prospects much improved.—EDS.]

In Scotland there have been two great occasions. The Review of 20,000 volunteer riflemen, by our well beloved Queen, passed off in noble style, and is another warning to certain persons on the other side of the straits of Dover, to mind what they are about. This rifle movement has some connection with a very pacific letter lately received from our old friend, Napoleon. There are some people in England who believe in the thorough sincerity of that epistle, but there are far more who wish to see some little disarmament, before they entirely apply the flattering unction to their souls. I am a thorough peace-man, but I cannot help rejoicing at the pub­lic spirit which on the mere rumor of invasion has roused the best of our youth, and fired them with an earnest zeal in defence of their country. May our volunteers never stain their swords with blood, and may their enthusiastic enlistment prove a scab­bard to the weapon of our near neighbor.

The second great celebration is the Tricentenary of the Reformation, which, like the Review, was held in Edinburgh. Although earnestly invited, it was quite out of my power to be present; the meetings seem to have been instructive and exciting, calcu­lated to preserve in good ardent condition the Protestant feeling of the North. Several good es­says were read, and telling speeches delivered. After all, a personal inspection of Popery, in its own dominions, is the surest way to make a man speak and act as John Knox did, and I can freely confess that all I ever dreamed of the ills of Romanism is not the drop of a bucket to what I have seen and heard in its own headquarters. I can defend with abundant evidence the saying of the old preacher who said, “The whole body of Popery is nought else but a very amassed lump of Pagan Rites, and old Heretical dregs. It is a dunghill of shameless un­truths, and a mere heap of trash and trumpery.” The marvel is, that distinguishing grace should re­serve its twos and threes unto eternal life even in this hold of delusions and idolatries.

There is a good work going on in London, and the activity of the Christian church is everywhere increasing. Just now the Primitive Methodists seem to be the most alive, and a brother of the name of Richard Weaver, a converted prize-fighter, who wears the alias of Undaunted Dick, is drawing large congregations every evening at St. Martin’s Hall. The service is exciting, the preaching far from Calvinistic, the congregation of the poorest class, and the proceedings altogether of a singular character, but good is done, the lowest of the population are reached, and real earnestness is very evident in all that is undertaken. Christ is preached, and I therein rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

It is my firm belief that the salvation of London will not come from our colleges and seats of learning, but from her dens and haunts of poverty. I look for an army of converted sinners from St. Giles and Whitechapel, men whose fury in sin will be ex­changed for energy in righteousness, whose grati­tude for pardon will endow them with hearts of fire, and whose acquaintance with the language of the masses will give them tongues of fire. Books may educate ministers for the polite; only experience and study of men can prepare a man to touch the heart of the masses. We need preachers who will study not their shelves but the streets and lanes, not paper and printing alone, but human nature in all its varied developments. The division between the ministry and the people is far too wide, they will never be moved by professional skill; the orator of the mass must be bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. My own success under God is due to a sympathy with humanity and an observant eye which delights rather to view man than man’s works. This is not attainable by any amount of research among our learned tomes. We must walk the hospitals, if we would be surgeons, and we must mingle with the people if we would reach their hearts. The language of the classroom is not the speech of the people, and if we would be understood, we must leave our high stilts behind us, and walk on their level, think­ing and speaking as one of themselves. We need converted prize-fighters, and regenerated burglars, to reach their fellow-criminals; and sweeps, cobblers, street-sweepers and such like, will be the right raw material for mighty preachers of the truth. Only Thou, O Lord, put to Thine hand. Do not imagine that I depreciate a regular education, on the other hand I own its utility, but for the vast mass, some­ thing else is needed, and I have tried to indicate it.

I am, Dear Sirs,

Yours, &c.,


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Spurgeon’s 12th Letter (September 13, 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 twelfth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)




It is a remarkable fact that great crimes usually occur in clusters. Like misfortunes, the gravest offences seldom come alone. Cunning forgeries, fraudulent bankruptcies and enormous embezzlements were at one time so incessant as almost to give a title to their period. The age of villainies, is a marked era in the history of many a young tradesman. Not only crimes, but the same sort of crimes appear to be more rife at one season than at another. This fact has been frequently remarked with regard to murder and suicide, which during certain years have spread with all the energy of an epidemic, and have often manifested in each new in­stance a singularly striking likeness to the first. In England we have had a succession of tragedies, the mention of which will suffice, since to give particu­lars would violate a rule I am anxious in this letter to inculcate. The word MURDER has stared us in the face from every boarding, and detailed accounts of the solemn crime have proved as lucrative to our newsmen as an alarming accident, or a decisive bat­tle. How are we to account for this succession of homicides? How was it that at the time of Palm­er’s murder of Cook, the propensity to destroy life by poison led others to imitate his example? The fact is universally noticed, but how shall we account for it ?

We are not prepared to ascribe the prevalence of any one crime to atmospheric, electric or mesmeric agencies, and indeed if we did so, the mystery would be no nearer its solution; it would be dignified with a hard Latin name, but it would remain as much a riddle as before. Perhaps some learned reader may already feel the pains of an incipient lockjaw as he labors to pronounce a word which will precisely and accurately conceal the idea which he entertains up­on this subject. Let him not proceed to extremi­ties, for if hard words break no bones they may possibly dislocate them. My own notion upon the matter is as commonplace as it can be, but there is not always the greatest wisdom in the most ab­struse theories, and occasionally the opinion of an ordinary thinker may be more practical than the speculation of the profound student. It seems to me that the prevalence of a crime must be account­ed for not by a reason from the world of matter but from the realm of spirit, and great crimes may not unfitly be traced to some great devil spirit whose special activity may be their secret origin. We know, upon authority which is infallible, that Satan goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He labors with perseverance and cunning to tempt men into deeds of iniquity, and we may readily imagine that he uses his most ardu­ous efforts to produce the most abominable sins. Understanding right well that man is an imitative creature, he is conscious that the lighting of one fire whose glare may be cast over a whole kingdom will be the signal for the kindling of the firebrands of iniquity in many hearts. Working upon an un­ usually developed depravity, or an excessive weak­ness of mental faculty, he induces some desperate wretch to imbrue his hands in the blood of his fel­low-man. The story of the dreadful deed is circu­lated through a thousand mediums, a morbid curi­osity constrains most men to read the recital, and upon some minds the effect is most disastrous. Tales of horror engrave themselves in deep lines upon the memory, and have a tendency to return again and again to the recollection. The red colors are sufficiently vivid of themselves, and he who is a murderer from the beginning takes care to add a dash of awful brilliance to the dreadful picture. Diseased and depraved minds become fascinated, and their meditations imbibe a darker line and re­ceive a fiercer tint from the narrative which pos­sesses such terrible attractions. They turn over and over again the ghastly morsel until the thought of imitation flits across the mind; that thought the evil one is careful to renew, until in dreams and musings the man’s fancy commits the deed. Now is the hour of the fiend’s triumph, for man by nature will ever persevere in the evil path, at every step outleaping himself. To the insane, the step from familiarity with tales of blood to the actual commis­sion of a dreadful deed must be easy in the ex­treme. Poor creatures, they are so subject to every passing influence, and so much the children of wild fantastic imaginations, that the conspicuous position of a notorious criminal must have fearful charms to them. It is no wonder that they plunge into the fiery cloud, dazzled with its blood-red horrors, but it is reason for devout gratitude that so few of them are able to become the destroyers of their kind. With the abandoned and reprobate the passage from murderous contemplations to overt acts will be more or less lengthened according to the ferocity of their passions, and the circumstances with which they are surrounded. In the mass of cases there are a thousand selfish considerations which would restrain the hand of the most vicious, but even here the hearing of the dark story will in­evitably harden the heart and render cruelty less revolting. If, however, the vitiated mind indulges the accursed meditation, it seems to me that it will come to load the pistol and sharpen the dagger in imagination, as a mental recreation; it will, in thought, enjoy the excitement of waiting for the victim; and as a perfect luxury of conception, it will imagine the triumph of revenge over the enemy slaughtered in its musings. To act a tragedy so well rehearsed, will be no difficult task. An old enmity, a lurking jealousy, an imaginary slight, or a sudden ebullition of anger, will draw the curtain, and an enlightened public will crowd to the attrac­tive spectacle of a real murder, committed by a per­former who is quite at home in his part. The world will wonder at his coolness, and shudder at his self-possession, but they little know that the man before them is no amateur, but one who has killed his brother in heart so many times that he hardly sees the guilt of actually killing him with his hand; still less will they believe that he was educated by them­selves, and is in his turn training some of their staring mass to follow in his footsteps. He learned to laugh at human life because he saw how soon it could be spilt upon the ground; he learned to despise the shame of crime because he marked the interest which it excited, and he did not fear to share the gallows, if he might be a partaker in the notori­ety of the demoniac who but a little before him, had dyed his villainous hand in the sacred blood of man.

I believe that evil imitation and vicious contem­plation are the two main propagators of crime, and I conceive that the publicity which is almost una­voidably given to an extraordinary outrage provokes these depraved powers to a fearful degree of energy. The food given to these wild propensities nurtures them until they must have space for com­plete development.

What then! Can we suggest any practical course to be pursued. I think we can clearly see our duty, and if we are careful to perform it, if no ad­vantage should accrue, there certainly can be no mischief. In all cases where we have to do with minds partially unhinged and decayed, let us be careful to forbear all allusion to such topics. There is a degree of cunning in the mentally imbecile which will often suggest to them a vacant share of unintelligence, by which they will hope to beguile you onward to give your friend a fuller recital of the story, on the supposition that you are not un­derstood by the afflicted imbecile. Be not deceived, you will be perfectly comprehended on this subject, even where no other can excite attention. Talk of happier themes, and leave these matters until it will be edifying to speak of them.

Will it not be well, in all companies, to abstain from any long or exciting conversation upon such enormities? “The thought of evil is sin,” and in words concerning such a monster evil there must be danger. If the public will hear these tales, let us not be the bearers of them. Let us restrain our own curiosity rather than ask information which might injure the giver; let us purge our news­ papers of all highly colored details, and let us dis­courage the literature which panders to the wolfish part of our nature. Let our conversation be sea­soned with salt, full of purity, and ministering grace unto the hearers. Crime will still have its parox­ysm of power, but it will not be a newspaper lent from our house which suggested it, nor will it be our conversation which annealed the, heart of the ruffian. If the bowie-knife or the revolver find out their prey, it will not be our tale of skilful attack which fired the emulation of the assassin, and if some fearful outrage shall be perpetrated in our streets, we shall be free from all question as to the share which our conversation might have had in suggesting the deed. We urge no attempt at mys­tery, but we only suggest that our civilization should be pushed a little further, and that human life should be so sacred, that its violation should never be spoken of except with becoming awe and deserved reprobation. Feed not your children’s minds with tales of blood. When the newspaper is read at the fireside, let it be one which is purged of all foul matter, and if it must be the ordinary secu­lar intelligencer, select those events for reading to the family which may awaken happier and better thoughts than those of human destruction. Do not subscribe to journals which fatten upon public crime, and as far as your influence extends, silence the evil tongue which only gladdens the corrupt ear. So shall we be clear from the great transgres­sion.

Yours truly,


(Photo by David von Diemar on Unsplash)

Spurgeon’s 11th Letter (August 30, 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 eleventh letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


Apologetic—Visit to Venice—Her Past and Present—Hotel de la Ville—The Gondola or the Omnibus Vehicle—Traversing the Streets—The Austrians and Venetians—Fete of Redemption—Church of St. Mark—The Future of Venice—May her deliverance Come—The Lord an Avenger of Wrong.


DEAR SIRS,—Permit me to get out of a scrape. My Baden letter has been printed in almost every journal in the English and American language. This is my fault. Let me confess and then vindicate. I am to blame for letting any one else copy my letter to you, and yet the censure must not be too severe. It seemed to me that the interview at Baden was of such political importance that a fair account of it ought to he given. My spirit was raised when I read the infamous inventions of some of the journals about cordial receptions, enthusias­tic cheering, general illuminations, &c., &c. Well, thought I, I will just shed a little light upon this matter, and let my truthful story float abroad a little before its time. I sent a copy to the British Stand­ard, and away it went into the Times, Advertiser, and everywhere else. I borrowed your lantern for a moment, and it was at once snatched at by very many fellows, who passed it from hand to hand until no man knew that it was the Watchman’s lan­tern, which, with its bright Reflector, had pierced the darkness. Hereby I restore you the much damaged article, and henceforth you shall not find me taking it out of your hand either to enlighten a friend or detect a foe.

I have dreamed in Venice. My visit to that city in the sea has appeared more like a vision than a reality. Nothing has ever caused me such emo­tion. Venice is peerless, she sits as a queen upon the waters, and her many streams adorn her as with chains of silver. What must she have been in her glory, when her palaces of marble were crowned with beauty and overflowing with riches, when ar­gosies, loaded with gems and spices, and all man­ner of precious things, floated along her canals, and her flag waved over three of the fairest provinces under heaven. She is so lovely in the weeds of her widowhood that we can scarce imagine her surpass­ing beauty when she sat in her glory, and her chil­dren were round about her. Crumbling to decay so fast, that the Venice of twenty years to come will be but the shadow of the Venice of to-day, she is, notwithstanding, so full of a bewitching beauty that the sea may still rejoice in its bride. Bound with fetters of iron, and heavily oppressed by the hand of the tyrant, her captivity cannot rend from her fair countenance her veil of deepest blue, the mar­riage gift of her ocean spouse, nor can the despot rob her of that illustrious history which has elevated her to the rank of an imperial city.

To lay aside all romantic writing, and speak plain­ly, I feel that next to the cities of the Holy Land, Venice has the greatest charm for me. We stayed in the Hotel de la Ville, which was anciently a no­ble palace, and retains the-impress of the olden time. It was very strange to walk down the steps and enter the black gondola, to be rowed so gen­tly along the watery streets. One needs no legs here. Walking is intolerable, because of the nar­row passages, or rather arches, through which you must wend your way, in the midst of dirt and noi­some smells. None but mad people would dream of perambulating a series of filthy tunnels when the open channel is available at every turn. A gondola for the whole day, with one rower, costs a mere trifle, and for the poorer traveller there is the omnibus, which will carry him a very long distance for a few pence. Let him not, however, look for a box-seat with the driver, or hope to take his turn at the reins, for the omnibus is a large, covered boat, and is, in fact, only a prize-fed gondola. I think I have been rowed along almost every stream in Venice, broad and narrow, and in every one there is something of interest. True, the floating rotten­ness, the frequent odors, the numerous sewers, the loathsome insects on the walls, and above all, the Austrian soldiery, all assist in destroying every-finespun sentiment, but if all the nuisances were increased ten-fold, until every stream became an Acheron, I think I could brave the horror for the sake of the real interest and beauty which reward you at every pull of the oar. I mentioned the Austrian soldiers in conjunction with other disgusting ob­jects, and I feel I ought to apologize for having flattered them loo highly, for they are the real blight and curse of this lovely city. Never did I see more intense hatred between two races of men than between the Venetians and these German-intruders. A deep silence must be maintained, for words are treason, and a conversation of five persons in the street may be construed into conspiracy, but the inhabitants have other means of showing forth their feelings. I never saw an officer of the Austrian army in company with a civilian of Venice; how­ever high their position, they are shut out from all society, and are made to feel that their presence is detestable. For months, the square of St. Mark, where the gentry have been in the habit of spending the evening under their clear Italian sky, has been deserted of all the upper classes, who would sooner be solitary prisoners than live in splendor in the company of the myrmidons of tyrants. I was present at the fete of Redemption, which last year was celebrated by the illumination of 3000 gondolas, and the presence of the great mass of the pop­ulation, but on this occasion there were scarcely a hundred boats, and the people present were the scum of the populace. Ask any man in Venice the reason for the falling off, and if he is far enough from a brick wall to be away from spies and eavesdropper, he will mutter something ugly about Austrians, and smile at the name of Victor Emmanuel and Garabaldi.

The Sunday before I visited this place, the church of St. Mark was the scene of an ebulition of public opinion which is not to be mistaken. A foolish priest in his sermon went out of his way to abuse Garibaldi and the Sardinians he was at once assailed with notes of disapprobation; and upon his persisting, a riot ensued. One individual addressed the crowd, who were full of rage, and ripe for any deed of violence. Soon the police arrived, and I think my memory does not fail me when I say that there were more than sixty in prison as the result of that day’s uproar. Wherever there was any spe­cial service in the churches, or a fete or a musical celebration, the most prominent persons were the military police with fixed bayonets. Never was foreign occupation more distinctly visible and more thoroughly abhorred. Disappointed of her fondest hopes by the unhallowed policy of Villafranca, Venice finds her chain more uneasy, and her fetters more heavy, because she fondly expected to be rid of them forever. I tremble at the inevitable bloodshed, should the smouldering enmity burst forth into rebellion. Exasperated by the chilling con­tempt of their victims, the Austrians would have no disposition to leniency, while on the other side no quarter would be rendered or accepted. The lion of St. Mark will look down upon a terrible struggle, unless the battle shall be fought in another place, and the despotism of Austria should tremble at another Solferino; then may the banner of the free rejoice over the peaceful departure of the oppressor. May Garabaldi live and conquer, and may poor enslaved Venetia hear his glorious voice in her streets. Many are the hearts that cherish his name, and there are not a few who bear upon their persons the colors of liberty, which will see the sunlight the moment that his foot is planted on their soils.

You will think I am growing very political, but; indeed, it is enough to make any man speak out, when he sees before his eyes a great people groan­ing under a foreign bondage. I believe that what is wrong in politics is wrong in morals, and what is sinful in morals deserves the protest of religion. I believe that it is a mischievous spirit which would prevent the minister of Christ from uttering a re­buke against imperial iniquity. Our commission extends to princes as well as to peasants, and as we would not spare the sins of the poor, we cer­tainly must not overlook the crying iniquity and oppression of the great. The Lord will avenge the wrongs of the poor, and his ministers must make known their condemnation of all oppression. Man­hood and ministry would both fail us if we were silent. My daily prayer is for the freedom of slaves of all colors and of all lands.

More of Venice in a future letter. I have one already commenced, and hope to improve as a correspondent.

I am, yours very truly,


Clapham, 1860.

(Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash)

Spurgeon’s 10th Letter (August 2, 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 tenth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)


Geneva—Its Religion; its Claims; its Men—Evangelical Alliance


The church of Geneva earnestly beseeches the Lord’s people in every land to remember her in their prayers. In the olden times she has been a star in the hand of Jesus, flashing forth her light in the very midst of the thick darkness, and dif­fusing her brightness afar. She is a mother in Is­rael, and her children praise her in the gate. The sojourn of Calvin in her midst may well suffice to make her one of the royal cities of our divine com­monwealth. He, the clearest and purest of all the reformers, was a man of such a mould that all the intervening centuries have not been able to produce his equal. His friends and pupils carried with them into other lands the precious truths which they first learned from his lips, and thus sowed seed which came forth from his granary. Geneva was like a fountain in the desert, as a field which the Lord God had blessed. At this time, however, her hour of peril is come, and she fears that sore travail awaits her. Shall she be forgotton and for­saken? Will not all her sisters take up her lam­entation, and cry aloud in her behalf ? God has blessed other churches by her means; will they not remember their obligations, and repay her with fer­vent love and tender sympathy?

It is at the request of several brethren in Geneva that I attempt to state her case and plead her cause. This ancient city is now situated in the very corner of Switzerland, and is almost entirely shut in, on every side, with French territory. She is, now by her position, rather French than Swiss. The im­perial policy of the last few months has led most men to fear that annexation may not cease with Sa­voy and Nice, that the “natural boundary” may re­quire yet further rectification, and that thus Geneva may be absorbed into the domains of the ambitious Bonaparte. This political catastrophe would most surely bring with it sad calamities to the church of Christ. It might even rob her of her houses of prayer, and restore Anti-Christ to its ancient seats. But this is not the great fear of the spiritually-minded in Geneva; they dread far more the man­ners, vices and infidelity of France than all her ar­mies or her tyranny. There is a large stream of French continually flowing across the border, and this brings with it new tastes, habits and opinions. Force might be repelled, or oppression might be patiently endured, but this is an evil for which no remedy remains but that which God Himself can apply. A Popish population increasing at an unu­sual rate, and infidelity and vice undermining both morality and religion, what can the people of God hope to accomplish alone ? Here is need for Di­vine interposition and deliverance. It were a fear­ful thing if within a few years, rationalism should debase the theology of the ministers, and licentious­ness corrupt the morals of the church-members, and yet the elements which are supplied by the border empire have that tendency in a high degree. It were equally terrible if the Popish-party should by continual immigration outnumber the Protestants, and thus restore this gem of the reformation to the tiara of the Pope. There is something so se­ductive in the manners of the French that it will he no marvel if the Genevese learn first to admire, and then to imitate. How can a little State resist the influence of an Empire? Do not her daugh­ters borrow the fashions of Paris? Do not her chil­dren speak the same language? What wonder then if the unthinking among her sons should thirst for a share of imperial glory, and long to be identified with so great a dominion? I do not believe that the Swiss Genevese have the remotest wish for an annexation; on the contrary, they abhor the thought, and love to be men too much to have a wish to be slaves. The result of universal suffrage on that question in Geneva would be an undivided nega­tive; at any rate, the true brethren of William Tell would require no consideration as to their choice. Many of the Genevese would leave their homes sooner than own a stranger’s sway. It is, I say, not the political but the moral power of France which awakens the jealousy of the godly at Geneva.

A natural love of liberty may keep the city free, nothing but the power of the Holy Ghost can make and keep her pure and gracious. Let us unite in constant prayer that the light may shine in the dark­ness, and that Geneva may endure as seeing Him who is invisible.

It gives me great joy to believe that the cause of God is, at present, progressing favorably in Geneva. I believe there is more union among Christians than heretofore. It was a happy sign when the Consistoire of the National Church opened its Cathedral to me, a Baptist, unrecognized by State, unconse­crated, even by Presbyterian ordination. All the brethren appeared to hail my presence in the pulpit of Calvin as a most extraordinary token of good will, and evidence of progress in the established church. Readily did I accept the generous offer of the pulpit, and the bondage of a gown and bands to which I have never before submitted, was a very trivial concession to a principle once so rare, but now, happily, more fully recognized, viz: The es­sential union of all the church of Jesus Christ. I met with the pastors of both the national and free churches, who all appeared to entertain the most fraternal relations towards each other.

I observed, also, a great desire for the salvation of men, a growing alarm at their spiritual danger, and an anxious inquiry concerning the means by which, in other lands, revivals had been obtained. It was my delightful privilege to address a large as­sembly of the believers of Geneva, on Monday even­ing, at the house of that eminent servant of Christ, M. Merle D’Aubigne. At his particular request I gave an outline of the religious movement in Eng­land, and endeavored to stir up the minds of the brethren to seek, more earnestly, the evangelization of their city and neighborhood. There were present among many others, whose names I cannot just now recall, those revered and faithful brethren, D’Aubigne, Gaussen, Caesar, Malan, Frederick Monod, and Pasteur Bard. It was good to be there, for all was love, fervency and prayerfulness.

The Evangelical Alliance is to meet in Geneva next year, and the event is expected with great joy. A very large congregation greeted me in the Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon, and a full house at the Oratoire in the evening. I shall never forget Geneva, and as I earnestly pray for her, I entreat my brethren in America to join with me. O Lord, bless Geneva.

So prays


(Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash)

Did Spurgeon Really Say That?!

“Better every white man, woman and child be murdered in the South and a thousand Unions be dissolved, than human slavery be allowed to exist in peace and quietness in the Southern States of the American Union.”

On July 6, 1860, the Richmond Enquirer, of Virginia, cited a lecture by Charles Spurgeon which allegedly included the above quote. Did Spurgeon really say that?! To try to answer that question, we need to understand Spurgeon’s history of misrepresentation in various newspapers, specifically the contested second-hand accounts of his views of slavery, as well as the South’s intense bias against him.

“False Rumors”

Over the years, Spurgeon was constantly subjected to public speculation and outright falsehood about his life, beliefs, and even quotes that he had supposedly made.

On December 9, 1858, the Watchman and Reflector included this report: “It has been stated, we hear, that this gentleman lives in extravagant style, in a magnificent mansion, with troops of servants, and a coach and I do not know how many richly caparisoned steeds, and is driven about London, and to church, by a liveried coachman whose hat is ornamented with a cockade. This story bears on its face the very marks of untruth, but I am happy to be able to state that it is altogether false…Mr. S was in no way given to extravagance in his household arrangements… he has no coach, generally going afoot or in public conveyances.”

In 1859, the New York Waverly claimed that Spurgeon was readying his sermons “Corrected and Revised by himself expressly and exclusively for the New York Waverley.”

Spurgeon wrote several letters, to the Waverly, and to his legitimate publishers at Sheldon and Co., correcting this false claim: “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.” 

On January 14, 1860, the Penny Press claimed that “It is stated on good authority that Mr. C.H. Spurgeon made, about three weeks ago, a formal recantation of the extreme Calvinist tenets which he had been hitherto preaching. He said that he and others who had taught as he had done, and had been doubtless grievous stumbling blocks in the way of many pious an earnest persons, and that the only amends which lay in his power was to state publicly that he had been in error, and to guarantee that he would never propagate similar false doctrines again.”

Spurgeon responded on February 9, in the Christian Watchman and Reflector: “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.”

In his last letter to the Christian Watchman and Reflector (April 2, 1863) Spurgeon lamented: “Certainly the false rumors which are raised about all public men are enough to put one out of heart with mankind, and make us think them like the Cretians, ‘al­ways liars.'” He himself had been the target of countless public falsehoods: “Con­tinually am I assailed with accusations from every quarter, bringing to my charge words I never uttered and deeds I have never dreamed of. From the first day until now I have never answered a slander. I have seen my best mo­tives impugned, my holiest aspirations ridi­culed, and my most disinterested actions calum­niated, and hitherto I have held my peace.”

A “Queer Anecdote”

In 1857, an English paper, the Gateshead Observer, published a story about Spurgeon and an American from the South. In reprinting it, the National Era in Washington D.C. called it “a queer anecdote.” The Christian Era in their introduction said this: “It may be true; it seems something like the man. And then again like many other stories narrated about noted persons, it may be entirely false.” Of course, they reprinted the article anyway:

An American minister called upon Mr. Spurgeon, and said, in the conversation, that he had a congregation in the States of 3,000 people. Spurgeon. And have you blacks in your congregation? Jonathan. O, yes. “And do you all worship together, or have you partitions and curtains?” “ O , the blacks are behind a curtain?” “And do you take the Lord’s Supper with the blacks behind a cur­tain?” “ O, yes.” “ Now, sir, do you know what a monomaniac is?’’ “O, yes.” “ Well, sir, I’m a monomaniac—a mono­maniac on the subject of slavery. (And Spurgeon dashed his hand into his pocket, and, bringing out his penknife, opened it.) Yes, sir, I’m a perfect monomaniac. I’ve no control over myself, sir; and if you stay here ten minutes longer, I may put this knife into your hypocritical bo­som. So I warn you. Be off, sir! be off! I feel it rising in me. Be off, I say! (And he hustled Jonathan to the door, nervously handling his knife all the while.) “And did you really mean to stick the fellow?” said the friend to whom he re­lated the story. “Why no,” said he, “perhaps not quite that; but I’m going to America before long, and I wanted them to know, before I go, that they won’t humbug me about slavery.”

Of course, other papers took this as a true account. The Daily Globe of San Francisco republished the story in their paper with some commentary: “Mr. Spurgeon, if this story is correct, lied grossly and outrageously, and showed himself to be a paltry, mendacious boor.” This kind of insulting treatment of Spurgeon was commonplace among Southern newspapers, especially once Spurgeon’s anti-slavery positions were verified and became more well known. Did Spurgeon actually pull his penknife on Jonathan? I’m not sure. The story sure is “queer,” and demonstrates the blurry line between fact and anecdotal fiction that was growing up around Spurgeon’s views of slavery. Apart from first-hand evidence, I suppose we’ll never know whether the story is genuine or not. We should acknowledge the difference between words expressly from the mouth and pen of Spurgeon, and the unreliability of “reported” words and stories, even when printed in public newspapers.

The edited sermons

But even the expressly reported words of Spurgeon were subject to editing and revision, unknown to him. Godfrey Pike carefully relates several instances of this in his biographyThe Life & Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1892):

American slavery had now become one of the burning questions of the day; and from the fact that Spurgeon’s Sermons were being issued in the United States with certain passages omitted which the publishers knew would be distasteful to their constituency, many inferred that the English preacher had changed his views on that question, or at least had greatly modified them. Mr. Henry Ward Beecher called attention to this fact; and it appeared like a challenge for the real truth to be known… Later on this work of suppression was shown to be the work of the publishers alone (330).

When Spurgeon was made aware of this, he immediately made plans to address it:

I do not see how the Americans can have expurgated the anti-slavery sentiments, for I do not think it was a subject which thrust itself in my way in the ordinary duties of my ministry. I have written a letter to an influential paper in America [the Christian Watchman and Reflector], 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.

He then sent his red-hot letter, addressing the charge of selective editing, and making his anti-slavery views clearly known:

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.

If there was any question about it before, there was none anymore.

Besides the issue of slavery, Pike notes that “passages relating to open communion were also taken out of the American edition of the Sermons” (330–31). Spurgeon was such a popular and influential figure, that his views on certain matters had to be carefully handled and manipulated so as to produce the intended affect on the broader reading public.

“Better every white man, woman and child be murdered in the South”

This brings us back to our original question. Did Spurgeon really say the words attributed to him in that Richmond Enquirer article? Let me start by quoting more context from the original article:

A certain Captain Kuber, “is a very wealthy gentleman, resident on Gwin’s Island, and is the only local preacher belonging to the regular Baptist denomination in Mathews county. Having been an ardent admirer of the Rev. Mr. Spurgeon, and preaching from him on Calvinism at Mathews Church, some one sent, enclosed in an envelope, Mr. Spurgeon’s Lecture at Exeter Hall, England, on Slavery, shortly after the John Brown raid, at Harper’s Ferry, where old Brown was martyrized as a saint, and in which Mr. Spurgeon said, ‘better every white man, woman, and child be murdered in the South and a thousand Unions be dissolved, than human slavery be allowed to exist in peace and quietness in the Southern States of the American Union.”

The original article was published in the Richmond Enquirer on July 6, 1860. After Spurgeon’s “red hot letter” on slavery had been published in January of that year, many in the South had reacted violently, threatening his life and burning his books and sermons. This particular article was published in Richmond, in the South, and the whole article was written to justify these Southern slaveholders burning his books. Given the intense bias against Spurgeon in the South, I’m already skeptical. Add to this the third (or fourth) hand nature of the quote (a newspaper article about a man who received a letter containing a lecture all the way from England) and there are just too many links in this game of “telephone.” I would love to know if there exists anywhere the original lecture notes of this lecture.

To be clear, though, Spurgeon was an ardent abolitionist. In 1859, one visitor heard him utter “the strongest expression of abhorrence to slavery that we ever heard from human lips, not excepting Garrison himself.” After Harper’s Ferry, Spurgeon expressed admiration for John Brown, and this fact alone would be enough to unhinge slaveholders in the South. He closed his letter about slavery with this: “Finally, let me add, John Brown is immortal in the memories of the good in England, and in my heart he lives.” For some, including paleo-confederates today, any positive mention of John Brown is considered outrageous. But we must remember that in Spurgeon’s own day, Brown’s legacy was contested. In June 1860, a letter was published in the Watchman and Reflector defending Spurgeon:

“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.”

What did Spurgeon say?

Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey record a version of this incident in their excellent book, Steal Away Home. However, in relating the scene, they include part of this quote, but not another:

“Precisely,” replied Kuber. “I read the sermon in its entirety and I was appalled by its utter audacity. Spurgeon claimed that it would be better for a thousand unions to be dissolved than for us to own a few slaves in the peace and quiet of the southern states of the American Union” (137).

It is entirely plausible to me that after John Brown’s death, Spurgeon gave a memorial lecture celebrating Brown’s anti-slavery activism. But because John Brown was equated in the minds of Southerners with “the murder of white men, women, and children,” it is also plausible to me that this inference of theirs was made explicit and turned into a quote. To the Southern mind, after all, to say the one is all the same as if you had said the other. By the time these “anonymous lecture notes” found their way to Captain Kuber, and then into the pages of the Richmond Enquirer, it had become a quote on the lips of Spurgeon.

Frankly, I have a hard time believing that Spurgeon actually said these words. Perhaps part of the quote is genuine (“better a thousand unions be dissolved…”) and part of it was embellished (“better every white man, woman, and child be murdered in the South…”). Honestly, even the use of a the descriptor “white” in “white men, women and children” sounds more like a phrase used in America than something Spurgeon would say. In reading his comments about slavery and the United States, I just haven’t heard him talk that way elsewhere.

Further, as others have noted, Spurgeon was opposed to war, and lamented its horrors. Even given his ardent abolitionism, it’s hard for me to imagine a statement like this coming from his mouth.

So, did Spurgeon really say this? Ultimately, I really don’t know, and I could be proven wrong, were the original lecture notes ever to come to light and we could see for ourselves. Until that happens, this quote will always have a big asterisk hanging over it for me. The work of careful historical investigation is fraught with difficulty and complexity. Ours is not the first “sound bite” age. Whenever you see a snappy quote or story, it would be good to pause and ask yourself:

Where are the receipts?

(Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash)

Spurgeon’s 9th Letter (July 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 ninth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)



I am now in Baden-Baden, refreshed by my rambles, and renewed by my rest. There were no less than nine crowned heads in this little town during Saturday and the Sabbath which has just passed. One could hardly walk in any direction without stumbling over a grand duke or being run over by the horses of an emperor. Some of the largest ho­tels being favored with regal tenancy, were so crowded with the attendants and households of the kings that they could not receive ordinary travellers, whose patronage they had aforetime courted and enjoyed. The Emperor of the French passed through Strasbourg on Friday, at about five in the afternoon. There were great crowds in the streets, a liberal display of flags and streamers, and great multitudes of soldiery. The Emperor seemed to be enthusiastically received in this border city of  France, although I cannot speak with authority as to the cheers which he received, for our conveyance was ordered into back streets, quite out of the line of route, and we were at too great a distance to have heard the shouts of the populace. Every one appeared to be happy and full of excitement, and when we rode along the streets after the Emperor had departed, we were struck with the number of country people, who had evidently come from their rural homes to see the great sight. The whole city was like a great fair, and the tri-colored flags and garlands of oak leaves presented a most attractive appearance, as they decorated the quaint old-fash­ioned houses of the older streets, and the elegant mansions of the new. The very guards at the fron­tier relaxed their severity, and the most polite of bows was an admirable substitute for the rigid ex­amination of which many travellers complain. On the German side of the river, the town of Kehl was resplendent with the orange and red colors of the grand duke of Baden. I suppose the inhabi­tants have a sufficiently large admixture of the French element to account for their being seized with the imperial fever, as well as their opposite neighbors of Strasbourg. If the people of Kehl re­ceived the emperor heartily, they were the only Germans who would have done so, for everywhere throughout Belgium, Prussia and the small German kingdoms, he is either dreaded or execrated. It is the universal belief that he will never be content until he has completed the “natural boundary” scheme. by subduing all the Territory on the west of the Rhine to his imperial sway. If the English are no friends to Napoleon, the Germans go even further, and are more anti-imperial than ourselves.

On Saturday, the Emperor might be seen early in the morning walking in the garden, leaning upon his walking-stick, and looking more decrepit than his age might justify. It is a theme for great grat­itude that he is not a young man, and that be his ambition what it may, he has no great time before him in which to work out his political adventures. On horseback or in the carriage, all men confess his noble bearing, and no signs of decay are manifest, but when he is walking, the spectators foresee that the greatest of men are mortal. During the great­er part of the day the Emperor returned the visits of the prince, who had waited upon him in the morn­ing. Possibly the laws of etiquette may in this case have been very agreeable to the great one, for it enabled him first to see all the princes together, and then to give them a lesson privately and in­dividually. Who can tell what devices were in the heart of the mighty, who shall fathom the depth of the thoughts of kings? May the Lord rule and overrule, and out of every evil may his glory spring. The princes and dukes may have rejoiced at the coming of the lord of France, but the people won­dered what all could mean, and forebodings of evil were neither rare nor frivolous. As for the little kings, they came to this place like moths to a can­dle. Uninvited and unexpected, they must needs come forth to the presence of the potentate, if not to be lacqueys to his pride, at least to sun themselves in his superior glory. It is to be hoped that while the dexterous player has not succeeded in throwing the apple of discord among these minor monarchs; divided, they would soon be overcome, but united, they might oppose a serious barrier to any aggrandizement he may anticipate. I like not to see either thieves in company, or kings in conclave. Eagles come not together unless they scent the prey. All may be well, and the meeting may merely a friendly visit, and an exchange of courtesies, but uneasy thoughts will suggest themselves, for when the wolf inspects the sheepfolds and dines with the shepherds, the silliest of the sheep are troubled at nightfall.

When the emperor came forth from the hotel to his carriage, the populace of Baden gave him unmistakable evidence of their feelings towards him. Several gentlemen have assured me that the hissing was very far in excess of the few notes of acclamation. Even in the Conversation House, where the elite of the visitors were assembled, the hisses were very distinct, and must have been an unpleasant sound to one who breathes the air of flattery and eats the bread of adulation. When the grand-duke afterwards appeared the people cheered him very heartily, as if to show for whom the sounds of dis­approval had been intended. After all, as far as I can judge, it is not what he has done, but what he may do, which causes this ill-feeling towards him. Some men would have done less and have had more credit for it, but this man contrives to mar all his good deeds by a crooked policy which leads most men to suspect his best actions, and to impute to him designs which may be very far from his thoughts. Worse men than he have been better liked, and yet there is no injustice in this treatment of him, for his conduct courts suspicion, and his dark reserve creates distrust.

Sunday was the great day of discussion, deliberation, arrangement, or whatever else may have been the end and aim of the interview. How little is God in the thoughts of the great when his own day is the chosen season for their councils, and that, too, when no crisis is impending, and no immediate disaster compels them to hasty deliberations. Here were all the days in the week, all equally available no haste compelling, no wars alarming, and yet none of their own six days will suit them, they must usurp God’s peculiar day, as if they were lords of the Sabbath, or irresponsible to the laws of heaven. What, but confusion, can be the result of such councils ? Will not the Lord be avenged on such a people as this?

The companies of country people who filled the roads were very interesting to observe, and as I looked from the windows of my quiet chamber upon the gaiety which the advent of these princes had caused upon a day consecrated to rest and worship, I could not fail to remember that men in high pla­ces have vast responsibilities, and God alone knows how much of the sins of the nations will be visited upon the heads of their governors. They are not only partakers of other men’s sins, but creators of evil; surely there are chains of darkness, of unusu­al weight, reserved for these ringleaders in rebel­lion.

The Emperor left for Strasbourg at ten o’clock, and his train started in the midst of a silence more profound than I have ever remarked before. Stand­ing on the edge of the crowd, I was astonished to the utmost, at a stillness like that of death, a quiet which was not broken until the cause of it had de­parted; then every man breathed freely, and as the Duke of Baden rode back to his castle, the people gave him loyal cheers, which contrasted with the gloomy silence with which the Gallic despot had been greeted. To my mind there was something truly dignified in this noiseless censure. To hiss might be but a display of weak, impertinence, but to be sternly silent was the noble rebuke of resolute minds.

I ought to have said that on Saturday there was a fine illumination at the Conversation House, which is the grand resort of the company who are staying in the neighborhood, and the building in which is concentrated the gambling for which the town is famous. Beyond this one display I did not perceive a flag or a light upon any louse or hotel. This was very strange to me, for, if in any English town there bad been but one king, much less nine, there would have been some sort of display, unless, indeed the unpopularity of one of the number had been great enough to compel the people to ignore the existence of the other eight.

What wonderful times we live in, for I have no doubt that the people of London know more about what was done in Baden yesterday than I do to-day, and merchants upon change are talking of the very matters, which I upon the very spot can only sur­mise and guess. May the end be such that the na­tions may have rest, and the kingdom of Christ may fully come.

I am yours, most truly,


(Photo by William Krause on Unsplash)

Spurgeon’s 8th Letter (June 7, 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 eighth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)



[In the annexed interesting letter received the present week, Mr. Spurgeon, in responding to the request of a ven­erable friend that he would furnish a fuller account of his own labors, gives, at the same time, the cause of the tempo­rary suspension of his correspondence to the Watchman and Reflector. It is not wonderful that one so overbur­dened with toil in the service of his Master, should find it difficult to write statedly. Our readers will welcome the renewal of his letters, and especially the promise given be­low, of a series from the continent.]

MY DEAR MR. EDITOR:—Your patient subscrib­ers have had to bear long with my silence, but I can honestly declare that it has been a clear impos­sibility for me to write until to-day. The fact is that I am fagged and weary; so weary that sleep does not refresh me, and nothing but a long repose will reinvigorate me. For nearly seven years I have rushed onward, preaching from ten to twelve sermons every week, presiding over an immense church, writing for the press, instructing young men, giving advice to quarreling churches and unsettled ministers, and doing a thousand and one things, all pleasant enough when enjoyed in moderation, but unitedly so heavy as to crush a man to the very earth. I have been thoroughly unwell, and quite unable to write you. I purpose taking a long tour on the continent, and shall then be able to give you a more constant supply of letters, not upon the Rhine, which as your countrymen say is “tarnally chawed up,” but upon any topic which may suggest itself to my mind while it is out at grass, and delivered from the collar.

Your venerable friend has asked me to give some account of my doings. Well, we will take the fort­night beginning with Sunday, March 18th, and give a hasty diary of engagements.

Sunday.—Preached in Exeter Hall to the usual packed and crowded house, upon the subject of death. The sermon is entitled, Memento Mori, and has had a very large circulation. While preaching I spent all my strength, and seemed at the end to be thoroughly used up. The Holy Spirit had wrought in me such an agony for the souls of dying men, that I was borne beyond myself, and at the conclu­sion was as much spent and worn as if I had been laboring in the sun for a whole day. Nevertheless in the evening my strength was restored, and again I endeavored to unfurl the banner, and wield the sword. The Sabbath was peculiarly a high day, and we look for very many fruits to the honor and glory of God. O, how delightful to sail with the wind; how different from toiling against the stream. Let but the heavenly gale arise, and it is a supassing joy to be carried onward by its breath.

Monday, 19.—Had three hours’ reading with the most advanced of my students, and then repaired to the chapel to meet deputations, preside at com­mittees, and conduct the prayer-meeting. Our meet­ings for prayer are daily in the morning at seven; and on Monday evening at seven, the main body of the people come up to supplicate the Lord. The spirit of prayer in our midst has been maintained in a very eminent degree of fervency for the last seven years, and our success has been as clearly traceable to it as any effect could ever be traced to its cause. The daily prayer-meeting is nearly three years old, and has been sustained without pressure or pushing, by the spontaneous zeal of the people of God. I think continual prayer is much more really the work of the Spirit than those spasmodic flashes of excitement which startle for a time, and then die away in lethargy and forgetfulness. We have district meetings for prayer, presided over by the elders of the church in their own locality, the number of which would continually average twelve per week, and that every week in the year. Church­es should never go back, but every institution should be permanent, and thus every advance would be a real, and not apparent gain. As far as I can gather there are about twenty-five prayer-meetings weekly, officially recognized in connection with the church over which I preside, besides a very consid­erable number of meetings in private houses among the members. After prayer-meeting, saw several members and inquirers, and reached home soon af­ter 11, P. M.

Tuesday, 20.—Left home at 7:30 in the morning, and was on my way to Diss, in Norfolk, a little journey of about 100 miles. Arrived at my desti­nation at a few minutes after one, and found that rural town all alive with people from every neigh­boring village. No chapel could hold half the crowd who had gathered together, and the tent which had been erected had been dismantled by a high wind. The aforesaid wind was very riotous, blustering, and noisy, and seemed to have received a special commission to molest us on that day. After some debate I determined to try the open air in the frame­ work of the dilapidated tent, and the following are the remarks which I sent home. “We had a won­derful day at Diss yesterday. The two largest chap­els could not have held the people, even had they been crammed to the doors; I therefore preached out of doors. In a high wind, with your hair over your face, or tossing wildly up to heaven, one does not feel very much at ease, especially when perched on the tip end of a form, with a huge tent pole op­posite one’s eyes. ‘Waft, waft, ye winds, his story.’ Indeed, the prayer was liberally and literally an­swered, yet the people were as attentive and devout as upon the most hallowed and orderly occasions. During this windy service I was much troubled to know what to do with the people in the dark, in the evening. I hoped that many of the country people would go, and only the townsmen remain; but yet no place would hold them, and a service in the cold, night air, rough wind and darkness would have been impossible. At last I hit upon the fol­lowing expedient, which answered admirably. I gave out that I should preach in both the chapels of the town, but did not tell a soul in which pulpit I should first appear. Both places were full to the skylights. I went to one, and preached at once, and then requested a brother minister to read, pray, and sing, and so conduct the services which ought to hare been preliminary, at the end instead of the beginning. This was changing the order, but it prevented disorder. Rushing away to the second house, where they had been proceeding with the usual service, I arrived at the last verse of the second hymn, and took up the sermon at once. Thus two congregations heard the Word, and let us hope double seed was sown. O, that the Lord may crown the day with success, and give a threefold increase to the three discourses. After service rode a few miles, so as to lessen the length of the next day’s journey, and retired to rest in a quiet farm-house just as midnight had arrived.

Wednesday, 21.—Up at six, and rode across a cold, bleak country several miles to a railroad station, and then on to the town of Swaffham. When I saw the size of the chapel, and remembered the scene of the day before, I prayed very earnestly for rain in order that people might not be able to leave their homes. Rain it did in the most pouring style, and hail-storms came at intervals to odd to the ef­fect. Thus we were able to get into the chapel; for although fearfully packed within, the rain pre­vented the accumulation of a crowd at the doors, who would infallibly have rendered all worship an impossibility, by their furious rushes to get into a place gorged already beyond imagination. It is a happy thing to see the people longing to hear the word, but when men’s legs are broken, and women injured, the joy is turned into mourning. This fear continually haunts me in these desperate rushes, when the officers are unused to masses, and look idly on, as if paralyzed, instead of acting with dou­ble vigor. On this occasion all went on well, and the good hand of the Lord was very manifestly with us. The storm was a great blessing, and we shall never know how many accidents it prevented.

Thursday, 22.—Left Swaffham at five in the morning, and had a splendid, though cold ride, over a wild country, full of game of all sorts. How refreshing to the tired and exhausted mind to mark the liberty and enjoyment which still remains as the portion of God’s creatures, to see the joyous play­fulness which survives the curse, and the singular beauty which even the fall could not utterly efface. These quiet rides are a healthy medicine to the soul, and when the heart is in fellowship with God, they are a means of grace of no mean order. I reached London after a ride by railway of about four hours, at eleven o’clock, and at once proceeded to the ves­try of my chapel, where I spent the afternoon in seeing, separately and individually, a large number of inquirers who were seeking church-fellowship. God has been very gracious by continuing to us an increase almost invariable in its number, and constant in its periods. No spasms of excitements or fits of enthusiasm have seized upon the people; the course of the church has been like the rolling of your majestic rivers; a daily and hourly flood, ever gathering force, not from the fickle fountains of heated animal fervor, but from the ceaseless out­ flowing of the still waters of the Holy Spirit. It is not one remarkable sermon which is blessed, but the Word as a whole is ever useful. It is not at one prayer-meeting, or during a series of special efforts, that we have enjoyed the Divine presence; but year after year the gracious dew descends. True revivals may be sudden in their arrival, but I can­not bring my mind to believe that they are hasty in their departure. When a country or district is he­aved aloft into the air of apparent zeal for godli­ness, and in a few years subsides again into its ancient lethargy, it is time to question the vitality of such a transient work. Personal piety, when genuine, is abiding, and why the like rule should not hold good with regard to the entire church, I am at a loss to tell. At seven I preached the word to our usually full house at home, and enjoyed the delivery of the message in my own soul.

Friday, 23.—My young students came at 9:30 to their usual weekly examination, which occupied us until nearly two o’clock. During this time we run over a variety of subjects, comprising theology, el­ocution, etymology, the physical sciences, and hom­iletics. Some fifteen or sixteen are thus aided in studies preparatory to the ministry, which are pur­sued during the week, and then surveyed and re­capitulated at its close.

I find myself at the end of my paper, and there­fore my intention of giving the whole fortnight must be fulfilled in brief. During the rest of this week, and the next, and so on to this day, I have preached almost every day twice, and am sighing for a holiday.

Yours truly,


(Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash)