Chapter 9 – Mid Life

    Mid Life

    AFTER the preacher and his wife had been living in Helensburgh House, Nightingale Lane, for close upon a dozen years, the building was found altogether too small and inconvenient for a man whose work needed a very large library and consequently much space to store his books. The old house was loved for its happy associations by both husband and wife, but, realizing the need for a more commodious dwelling, it was, after due consideration, decided to pull down the building and erect a new Helensburgh House which should meet the altered and increased needs of the preacher and his wife. The demolition took place in 1869, and on the site arose a handsome house with ample room for all the requirements of its owners. Mr. and Mrs. Spurgeon had always been lavishly generous with their money, and had at all times given every available pound that they possessed to one or other of the great causes which they had at heart. A few of their wealthier friends therefore came to the conclusion that it would be unfair to let them be saddled with the cost of the new house, which was only rendered a necessity because of the unselfish labors and extraordinary energy of the pastor in ever increasing his efforts for good, and these friends determined to defray the principal part of the cost as a token of their esteem and appreciation. Mr. William Higgs, the builder of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, built the new Helensburgh House, and no efforts were spared to make it a worthy gift and a suitable dwelling for the devoted minister and his invalid wife.

    Some time before the building was ready for occupation, the preacher met the donors, and Mrs. Spurgeon, who had been staying at Brighton since the demolition of her old home, came up to London in order to be present at the gathering. C. H. Spurgeon made a dainty little speech, thanking his kind friends for their gift and paying a loving tribute to their generosity. “My wife and I,” he concluded, “have firmly resolved that we will never go into debt for anything, yet you know something of the continuous claims upon us in connection with the work of the Lord,” and he explained that the reason why he was not rich was that he refused to avail himself of many opportunities of acquiring wealth, such as by a lecturing trip to America, when he could have obtained more money in a few weeks than he was likely to receive through his ministry in many years. “There is no intent on my part to rest now that I have a new house. If possible, I shall work harder than ever before and preach better than ever,” and all that the speaker uttered for himself, he declared, his wife re-echoed.

    After this interesting meeting, Mrs. Spurgeon, who was at great sufferer at the period, went back to Brighton, where Sir James Y. Simpson, of Edinburgh, performed a difficult operation upon her that had the effect of giving her some relief from pain and resulted in a slightly better state of health. Meanwhile her husband took upon himself the whole duty of furnishing and preparing the new house for habitation. How lovingly he did this work, and how carefully he sought to please his wife in all that he performed, the following letter which Mrs. Spurgeon received will show: — “My Own Dear Sufferer, — I am pained indeed to learn from T — ‘s kind note that you are still in so sad a condition. Oh, may the ever merciful God be pleased to give you ease! “I have been quite a long round today — if a ‘round’ can be ‘long.’ First to Finsbury to buy the wardrobe, — a beauty. I hope you will live long to hang your garments in it, every thread of them precious to me for your dear sake. Next to Hewlett’s for a chandelier for the dining-room. Found one quite to my taste and yours. Then to Negretti and Zambra’s to buy a barometer for my own very fancy, for I have long promised to treat myself to one. On the road I obtained the Presburg biscuits and within their box I send this note, hoping it may reach you the more quickly. They are sweetened with my love and prayers. “The bedroom will look well with the wardrobe in it; at least, so I hope. It is well made, and, I believe, as nearly as I could tell, precisely all you wished for Joe Mr. Joseph Passmore had given this as a present is very good, and should have a wee note whenever darling feels she could write it without too much fatigue; but not yet. I bought also a table for you in case you should have to keep your bed. It rises or falls by a screw, and also winds sideway’s, so as to go over the bed, and then it has a flap for a book or paper, so that my dear one may read or write in comfort while lying down. I could not resist the pleasure of making this little gift to my poor suffering wifey, only hoping it might not often be in requisition, but might be a help when there was a needs-be for it. Remember, all I buy, I pay for. I have paid for everything as yet with the earnings of my pen, graciously sent me in time of need. It is my ambition to leave nothing for you to be anxious about. I shall find the money for the curtains, etc., and you will amuse yourself by giving orders for them after your own delightful taste. “I must not write more; and, indeed, matter runs short except the old, old story of a love which grieves over you and would fain work a miracle and raise you up to perfect health. I fear the heat afflicts you. Well did the elder say to John in Patmos concerning those who are before the throne of God, ‘Neither shall the sun light on them nor any heat.’ — Yours to love in life and death, and eternally, C. H. S.”

    When everything was ready, Mrs. Spurgeon’s health for a time forbade her returning from Brighton, and her husband had to inhabit the house alone. But when at last she could take up her abode once again in Nightingale Lane she found that the loving care of her husband had forgotten nothing that could in any way conduce to the comfort of an invalid almost entirely confined to her couch. “Never,” she wrote, “will the rapture with which he welcomed her home be forgotten, nor the joyful pride with which he pointed out all the arrangements he had made so that her captivity should have every possible compensation and alleviation. There was a cunningly-contrived cupboard in one corner of the room into which he had gathered all the details of his loving care for her. When the doors were opened, a dainty washing apparatus was disclosed with hot and cold water laid on, so that no fatigue in ascending and descending the stairways should be necessary, and even the towels were embroidered with her name. He had thought of everything; and there were such tender touches of devoted love upon all the surroundings of the little room that no words can describe her emotions when first she gazed upon them, and afterwards when she proved by practical experience their exceeding usefulness and value.”

    During her sad illness at this time, Mrs. Spurgeon had one very remarkable instance of a desire of hers being granted by what cannot but be accepted as a Divine interposition. Her husband often used to ask if there were anything she would like him to get for her. The usual answer was a negative. But one day in a half-bantering tone she said, “I should like an opal ring and a piping bullfinch!” Her husband was surprised, but replied, “Ah, you know I cannot get those for you!” For several days the curious request was laughed over, and then it passed from the memories of both husband and wife. Mrs. Spurgeon herself shall tell the sequel of the story. “One Thursday evening, on his return from the Tabernacle, he (the preacher) came into my room with such a beaming face and such love-lighted eyes, that I knew something had delighted him very much. In, his hand he held a tiny box, and I am sure his pleasure exceeded mine as he took from it a beautiful little ring and placed it on my finger. ‘There is your opal ring, my darling,’ he said, and then he told me of the strange way in which it had come. An old lady whom he had once seen when she was ill, sent a note to the Tabernacle to say she desired to give Mrs. Spurgeon a small present, and could someone be sent to her to receive it. Mr. Spurgeon’s private secretary went accordingly and brought the little parcel, which, when opened, was found to contain this opal ring. How we talked of the Lord’s tender love for His stricken child and of His condescension in thus stooping to supply an unnecessary gratification to His dear servant’s sick one, I must leave my readers to imagine; but I can remember feeling that the Lord was very near to us.

    “Not long after that I was moved to Brighton, there to pass a crisis in my life, the result of which would be a restoration to better health, or death. One evening, when my dear husband came from London, be brought a large package with him, and, uncovering it, disclosed a cage containing a lovely piping bullfinch! My astonishment was great, my joy unbounded, and these emotions were intensified as he related the way in which he became possessed of the coveted treasure. He had been to see a dear friend of ours, whose husband was sick unto death, and after commending the sufferer to God in prayer, Mrs. T___ said to him, ‘I want you to take my pet bird to Mrs. Spurgeon; I would give him to none but her; his songs are too much for my poor husband in his weak state, and I know that “Bully” will interest and amuse Mrs. Spurgeon in her loneliness while you are so much away from her.’ Mr. Spurgeon then told her of my desire for such a companion, and together they rejoiced over the care of the loving Heavenly Father who had so wondrously provided the very gift His child had longed for. With that cage beside him the journey to Brighton was a very short one, and when ‘Bully’ piped his pretty song and took a hemp seed as a reward from the lips of his new mistress, there were eyes with joyful tears in them and hearts overflowing with praise to God in the little room by the sea that night, and the dear Pastor’s comment was, ‘I think you are one of your Heavenly Father’s spoiled children, and He just gives you whatever you ask for.’ “Does anyone doubt that this bird was a direct love-gift from the pitiful Father” asks Mrs. Spurgeon. “Do I hear someone say, ‘ Oh! it was all “chance” that brought about such coincidences as these’? Ah, dear friends, those of you who have been similarly indulged by Him know of a certainty that it is not so. He who cares for all the works of His hand cares with infinite tenderness for the children of His love, and thinks nothing which concerns them too small or too trivial to notice. If our faith were stronger and our love more perfect, we should see far greater marvels than these in our daily lives.”

    Although so weak and ailing and confined to her bedroom for such long periods of time, Mrs. Spurgeon was a faithful trainer of her twin sons in the Christian doctrine, and she had the joy of seeing them both brought to the Lord at an early age. “I trace my early conversion,” Pastor Thomas Spurgeon has written, “directly to her earnest pleading and bright example. She denied herself the pleasure of attending Sunday evening services that she might minister the Word of Life to her household. There she taught me to sing, but to mean it first, — “‘I do believe, I will believe, That Jesus died for me; That, on the cross, He shed His blood From sin to set me free.’ “My dear brother was brought to Christ through the pointed word of a missionary; but he, too, gladly owns that mother’s influence and teaching had their part in the matter. By these, the soil was made ready for a later sowing.” On September 21st, 1874, the sons were baptized by their father at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the presence of an immense concourse of people, and Mrs. Spurgeon was herself an eye-witness of this open confession of faith made by her boys. On that occasion she was presented by the Church with an illuminated address, in which hearty thanks were expressed “to Almighty God for calling so early in life to the fellowship of the saints the two sons of our beloved and honored pastor,” and praising “Our gracious Lord that it should have pleased Him to use so greatly the pious teachings and example of our dear sister, Mrs. Spurgeon, to the quickening and fostering of the Divine Life in the hearts of her twin sons, and we earnestly pray,” concluded the address, “that amidst her long-continued sufferings she may ever be consoled with all spiritual comfort and by the growing devoutness of those who are thus twice given to her in the Lord.”

    From the book The Life of Susannah Spurgeon by Charles Ray


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