- Married Life
THE wedding of Susannah Thompson and Charles Haddon Spurgeon took place at New Park Street Chapel, on January 8th, 1856, Dr. Alexander Fletcher, of Finsbury Chapel, officiating. As may be imagined in the case of a man whose name was in everybody’s mouth, and whose remarkable work was the topic of discussion up and down the country, it was quite impossible for the wedding to be a quiet one. At a very early hour in the morning people began to gather outside the Chapel, ladies being among the first arrivals, and soon after eight o’clock the crowd had swelled to such proportions, that New Park Street and some adjoining thoroughfares were blocked with people, and traffic was practically at a standstill. A special body of police had to be summoned to prevent accidents. When the chapel doors were at last opened, there was a rush for seats, and in less than half-an-hour the building was filled to its utmost extent. Large numbers who had tickets of admission but arrived late were unable to gain entrance. Many went home when they found that there was no chance of their being able to get inside the chapel, but some thousands still remained in the streets to see the bridle and bridegroom enter and leave. It must have been a trying ordeal for the modest and retiring girl. She had risen early and spent much time in her bedroom in private prayer.
Although awed with a sense of the responsibilities which she was about to assume, she was “happy beyond expression” that the Lord had so favored her, and on her knees, with no one else near, she earnestly sought strength and blessing and guidance in the new life opening before her. The dressing for the ceremony did not take an unconscionable time as it does with some maidens, for Susannah Thompson was very simply attired, and as she drove through the city to the chapel with her father the young girl’s chief thought was, “as the passers-by cast astonished glances at the wedding equipage whether they all knew what a wonderful bridegroom she was going to meet.” The crowds standing in the streets adjoining New Park Street, bewildered the bride, and she remembered little more until she was inside the building, “a large wedding partly in the table-pew, dear old Dr. Alexander Fletcher beaming benignly on the bride and bridegroom before him, and the deacons endeavoring to calm and satisfy the excited and eager onlookers.” The service was commenced by the congregation singing the hymn, “Salvation, O, the joyful sound!” after which Dr. Fletcher read the hundredth Psalm and prayed for the Divine blessing upon the young couple The venerable minister then grave a short address and the wedding ceremony was performed in the usual manner. The reading of another lesson, a hymn sung by the congregation and a closing prayer, completed the proceedings, and Mr. and Mrs. Spurgeon, after receiving the congratulations of their friends in the chapel, drove away amid the loud and continued cheering of the crowds gathered outside the building.
A brief honeymoon of ten days was spent in Paris, and as Mrs. Spurgeon had often been to that city before and was a good French scholar, she acted as cicerone to her husband. Together they visited the various churches and palaces and museums, the lady finding a new interest in all these familiar places on account of “those loving eyes that now looked upon them” with her. Years afterwards during one of C. H. Spurgeon’s frequent visits to the French capital he wrote to his wife, “My heart flies to you as I remember my first visit to this city under your guidance. I love you now as then, only multiplied many times.”
The happy couple would have liked to prolong the holiday, but the preacher was unable to leave his work, and so they returned to their first united home …… a modest house in New Kent Road, London, where as in all their future homes, the best room became the library. “We never encumbered ourselves,” says Mrs. Spurgeon, “with what a modern writer calls ‘the draw-back of a drawing-room’; perhaps for the good reason that we were such homely, busy people that we had no need of so useless a place, — but more especially, I think, because the best room was always felt to belong by right to the one who ‘labored much in the Lord.’ Never have I regretted this early decision; it is a wise arrangement for a minister’s house, if not for any other.” Housekeeping was commenced on a very modest scale, for C. H. Spurgeon was keenly anxious to provide a training for young preachers who needed a course of education to fit them for the ministry, and his wife threw herself into the work with a zeal not less than his own. She was a splendid manageress, and by means of rigid economies quite a substantial amount was saved towards the support and education of the first student, the success of this effort leading to the foundation of the Pastors’ College. “I rejoice,” says Mrs. Spurgeon, ‘“to remember how I shared my beloved’s joy when he founded the Institution, and that together we planned and pinched in order to carry out the purpose of his loving heart; it gave me quite a motherly interest in the College, and ‘our own men.’ The chief difficulty with regard to money matters in those days was to ‘make both ends meet’; we never had enough left over to ‘tie a bow and ends’; but I can see now that this was God’s way of preparing us to sympathize with and help poor pastors in the years which were to come.” There were times when the devoted couple abstained from almost necessary things in order to have money to help on the work, and to the young wife it must have been truly a period of anxiety when “means were sorely straitened and the coffers of both College and household were well-nigh empty.” But there were joys which more than compensated for any cares of this kind.
What times of happiness were spent in the little home on Sunday evenings after the duties of the day were done. On his return from Chapel tired by his labors the preacher would enjoy a light repast and then throw himself into an easy chair by the fireside, while his wife sat on a low cushion at his feet reading to him from the pages of George Herbert or some other Christian poet. Or, if the young minister felt that he had not been as earnest in his preaching as he should have been, the poet would give place to Baxter’s Reformed Pastor, and as the solemn words were read, husband and wife would sob and weep together, he “from the smitings of a very tender conscience towards God,” and, she because, she “loved him and wanted to share his grief.”
The constant absence from home of Charles Haddon Spurgeon in fulfillment of his reaching engagements, were sources of sore trial to the young wife. Often tired of waiting in the sitting-room late at night for his return, she would pace up and down the passage, praying that he might he brought back in safety to his home, and with what a thrill of joy and thankfulness did she open the door and welcome him, when his step was heard outside. Once and once only she broke down, when her clear one was about to leave in the early morning for a distant mission, and the tears could not be kept back. “Wifey,” said her husband, “do you think that when any of the children of Israel brought a lamb to the Lord’s altar as an offering to Him they stood and wept over it when they had seen it laid there?” and when she replied in the negative he added, tenderly, “Well, don’t you see, you are giving me to God in letting me go to preach the Gospel to poor sinners, and do you think He likes to see you cry over your sacrifice?” “Could ever a rebuke have been more sweetly and graciously given?” says Mrs. Spurgeon. ‘It sank deep into my heart, carrying comfort with it and thenceforward when I parted with him, the tears were scarcely ever allowed to show themselves, or if a stray one or two dared to run over the boundaries he would say, “What! crying over your lamb, wifey!’ and this reminder would quickly dry them up, and bring a smile in their place.” One very remarkable incident happened about this time. On a certain Saturday evening C. H. Spurgeon found himself quite unable to get any light upon the text from which he believed he ought to preach on the following morning. Commentaries were consulted, but in vain, and his wife could not help him. The rest of the story shall be told in Mrs. Spurgeon’s own words.
“He sat up very late and was utterly worn out and dispirited, for all his efforts to get at the heart of the text were unavailing. I advised him to retire to rest and soothed him by suggesting that if he would try to sleep then, he would probably in the morning feel quite refreshed and able to study to better purpose. ‘If I go to sleep now, wifey, will you wake me very early so that I may have plenty of time to prepare? ‘With my loving assurance that I would watch the time for him and call him soon enough, he was satisfied; and, like a trusting, tired child, he laid his head upon the pillow and slept soundly and sweetly at once. “By-and-by a wonderful thing happened. During the first dawning hours of the Sabbath, I heard him talking in his sleep, and roused myself to listen attentively. Soon I realized that he was going over the subject of the verse which had been so obscure to him, and was giving a clear and distinct exposition of its :meaning with much force and freshness. I set myself with almost trembling joy to understand and follow all that he was saying, for I knew that if I could but seize and remember the salient points of the discourse he would have no difficulty in developing and enlarging upon them. Never preacher had a more eager and anxious hearer! What if I should let the precious words slip? I had no means at hand of ‘taking notes,’ so, like Nehemiah, ‘I prayed to the God of Heaven,’ and asked that I might receive and retain the thoughts which He had given to His servant in his sleep, and which were so, singularly’ entrusted to my keeping. As I lay repeating over and over again the chief points I wished to remember, my happiness was very great in anticipation of his surprise and delight on awaking; but I had kept vigil so long, cherishing my joy, that I must have been overcome with slumber just ‘when the usual time for rising came, for he awoke with a frightened start, and seeing the tell-tale clock, said, ‘Oh, wifey, you said you would wake me very early, and now see the time! Oh, why did you let me sleep? What shall I do? What shall I do?’ ‘Listen, beloved,’ I answered; and I told him all I had heard. ‘Why! that’s just what I wanted,’ he: exclaimed; ‘that is the true explanation of the whole verse! And you say I preached it in my sleep?’ ‘It is wonderful,’ he repeated again and again, and we both praised the Lord for so remarkable a manifestation of His power and love.”