- A Dark Shadow
ON September 20th, 1856, twin sons were born to Mrs. Spurgeon at her home in the New Kent Road, and the joy of husband and wife knew no bounds. Fortunately the event fell upon a Saturday, and C. H. Spurgeon was able to remain indoors from morning to night. With what pride he gazed upon the babes, and how tenderly he comforted his wife and spoke of the new and happy responsibility which they now had to fulfill!
The boys were named Charles and Thomas, and from the first there was a tacit understanding and desire that they should be devoted to the service of God. No cloud that could mar the happiness and joy of the home seemed visible, and there was a holy peace brooding over the little family for which husband and wife repeatedly and devoutly thanked their Lord. But suddenly and without warning, when things seemed at their brightest, the black shadow of a dreadful sorrow was cast over the young and happy lives, and the faith of the wife and mother must have been such as that which the prophets of old possessed or she would have been distraught. Exactly a month had elapsed since the birth of her boys. She was still very weak although able to leave her room, and on a certain Sunday evening, was lying upon the couch in the little, sitting room of her home. That evening, October 19th, 1856, was to become a terrible memory in the lives of husband and wife, but at that time no dread was entertained, at any rate on the part of Mrs. Spurgeon, and there was every prospect that her husband was to have another of those triumphs in the service of His master, which had followed in constant succession since his advent to London. The young minister was to preach for the first time in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, where, later in the evening, owing to the machinations of evil-disposed persons, a scene of death and desolation resulted. There had been prayer at home, and with his wife’s parting benediction, the young minister set out for the Hall. She lay at home thinking of the great task and praying that the Lord would bless His message to the assembled thousands. Then her mind reverted to her children: “I was dreaming of all sorts of lovely possibilities and pleasures,” says Mrs. Spurgeon, “when I heard a carriage stop at the gate. It was far too early for my husband to come home and I wondered who my unexpected visitor could be. Presently one of the deacons was ushered into the room, and I saw at once, from his manner, that something unusual had happened. I besought him to tell me all quickly and he did so, kindly, and with much sympathy; and he kneeled by the couch and prayed that we might have grace and strength to, bear the terrible trial which had so suddenly come upon us. But how thankful I was when he went away! I wanted to be alone, that I might cry to God in this hour of darkness and death! When my beloved was brought home he looked a wreck of his former self,…. an hour’s agony of mind had changed his whole appearance and bearing. The night that ensued was one of weeping and wailing and indescribable sorrow. He refused to be comforted. I thought the morning would never break; and when it did come it brought no relief. “The Lord has mercifully blotted out from my mind most of the details of the time of grief which followed when my beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent that reason seemed to totter in her throne, and we sometimes feared he ‘would never preach again. It was truly ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ through which we then walked; and, like poor Christian, we here sighed bitterly for the pathway was so dark that ofttimes when we lifted up our foot to set forward, we knew not where or upon what We should set it next.”
The story of the disaster at the Music Hall is too well-known to need any description here, but how many women in Mrs. Spurgeon’s delicate condition could have borne the terrible trouble as she did, and not only have fulfilled the duties of a mother but proved a comfort and stay to her husband in his mental anguish? C. H. Spurgeon was taken by friends to Croydon where he stayed in the house of Mr. Winsor, one of his deacons, and Mrs. Spurgeon with the babies joined him there. It was hoped that the rest and the change of scene would aid in the restoration of his mental equilibrium, and although at first his spirit seemed to be imprisoned in darkness, light at last broke in. “We had been walking together as usual “in the garden,” says Mrs. Spurgeon, “he restless and anguished; I, sorrowful and amazed, wondering what the end of these things would be; when at the foot of the steps which gave access to the house, he stopped suddenly, and turned to me, and, with the old sweet light in his eyes (ah! how grievous had been its absence!), he said, ‘ Dearest, how foolish I have been! Why! what does, it matter what becomes of me, if the Lord shall but be glorified?’ — and he repeated with eagerness and intense emphasis, Philippians 2:9-11: ‘Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’ ‘If Christ be exalted,’ he said, — and his face glowed with holy fervor, — ‘let Him do as He pleases with me; my one prayer shall be, that I may die to self and live wholly for Him and for His honor; Oh, wifey, I see it all now! Praise the Lord with me!”
The husband having recovered his peace of mind, and the wife being strengthened in body, it was decided, while at Croydon, to dedicate the twin sons to the Lord and His service. A number of friends were invited, and the time was spent in prayer and praise, the babies being carried round the room at the conclusion, so that they might be kissed and blessed by those present. Surely those prayers have been answered many times over in the lives of Charles and Thomas Spurgeon. The Music Hall disaster called forth the virulent abuse of a certain section of the Press, and the preacher collected the newspaper comments and criticisms, as indeed he did throughout his career, and handed them to his wife who stuck them in a book, on the cover of which C. H. Spurgeon himself wrote the title, “Facts, Fiction and Facetiae.” Late in life the devoted wife could smile as she read the unjust and cruel words written by her husband’s enemies, “but at the time of their publication what at grievous affliction these slanders were to me,” she says. “My heart alternately sorrowed over him and flamed with indignation against his detractors. For a long time I wondered how I could set continual comfort before his eyes, till, at last, I hit upon the expedient of having the following verses printed in large Old English type and enclosed in a pretty Oxford frame: ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in Heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’ — Matthew 5:11, 12. The text was hung up in our own room and was read over by the dear preacher every morning, …. fulfilling its purpose most blessedly, for it strengthened his heart and enabled him to buckle on the invisible armor, whereby he could calmly walk among men, unruffled by their calumnies, and concerned only for their best and highest interests.”