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.,


(Photo by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash)

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