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)

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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)

LETTER FROM REV. C.H. SPURGEON

CONFERENCE OF KINGS AT BADEN

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,

C. H. SPURGEON

(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)

LETTER FROM REV. C.H. SPURGEON

REASON FOR DELAY IN WRITING—CHRONICLE OF LABORS.

[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,

C. H. SPURGEON

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Letter from Susie Spurgeon (May 10, 1860)

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

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

Here is the complete text of her letter:

(original pdf here) | (Letter from Susie)

A BUSY MAN

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

TO MESSRS. FORD, OLMSTEAD & CO.

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

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

Respectfully yours,

SUSIE SPURGEON.

Clapham, April 18th, 1860.

(Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)

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

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

Here is the complete text of his seventh letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)

LETTER FROM REV. C.H. SPURGEON

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

TO THE EDITORS OF THE CHRISTIAN WATCHMAN AND REFLECTOR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. H. SPURGEON

(Photo by MJ S on Unsplash)

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

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

Here is the complete text of his sixth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)

LETTER FROM REV. C.H. SPURGEON

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

TO THE EDITORS OF CHRISTIAN WATCHMAN AND REFLECTOR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours truly,

C. H. SPURGEON

(Photo by sue hughes on Unsplash)

Spurgeon’s 5th Letter (March 8, 1860)

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

Here is the complete text of his fifth letter:

(original pdf here) | (formatted pdf here)

LETTER FROM REV. C.H. SPURGEON

TO THE EDITORS OF THE WATCHMAN AND REFLECTOR

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

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

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

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

Everton, April 25, 1778

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

JOHN BERRIDGE.

Mr. Robert Heath, Plymouth Dock, Devonshire.

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

Your servant for Christ’s sake,

C. H. SPURGEON

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