lO^Pl^^^i T this time, the Crystal Palace was a favourite resort with us. It possessed great attractions of its own, and perhaps the associations of the opening day gave it an added grace in our eyes. In common with many of our friends, we had season tickets; and we used them to good purpose, as my beloved found that an hour or two of rest and relaxation in those lovely gardens, and that pure air, braced him for the constant toil of preaching to crowded congregations, and relieved him somewhat from the ill effects of London’s smoky atmosphere. It was so easy for him to run down to Sydenham from London Bridge that, as often as once a week, if possible, we arranged to meet there for a quiet walk and talk. After the close of the Thursday evening service, there would be a whispered word to me in the aisle, “Three o’clock to-morrow,” which meant that, if I would be at the Palace by that hour, “somebody” would meet me at the Crystal Fountain. I was then living at 7, St. Ann’s Terrace, Brixton Road, in the house which my parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Thompson, shared with my uncle, H. Kilvington, Esq., and the long walk from there to Sydenham was a pleasant task to me, with such a meeting in view, and such delightful companionship as a reward. We wandered amid the many Courts, which were then chiefly instructive and educational in character; we gazed with almost solemn awe at the reproductions of Egypt, Assyria, and Pompeii, and I think we learned many things beside the tenderness of our own hearts towards each other, as the bright blissful hours sped by.
The young minister had not much time to spare from his duties, but he usually came to see me on a Monday, bringing his sermon with him to revise for the press; and I learned to be quiet, and mind my own business, while this important work was going on. It was good discipline for the Pastor’s intended wife, who needed no inconsiderable amount of training to fit her in any measure for the post she was ordained to occupy. I remember, however, that there was one instance of preparation for future duty, which was by no means agreeable to my feelings, and which, I regret to say, I resented. As a chronicler must be truthful, I tell the story, and to show how, from the very beginning of his public life, my dear husband’sdevotion to his sacred work dominated and even absorbed every other passion and purpose of his heart. He was a “called, and chosen, and faithful” servant of Christ in the very highest degree; and during all his life he put God’s service first, and all earthly things second. I have known him to be so abstracted, on a Sabbath morning at the Tabernacle, just before preaching, that if I left his vestry for a few moments, he would, on my return, rise and greet me with a handshake, and a grave “How are you ?” as if I were a strange visitor; then, noting the amused look on my face, he would discover his mistake, and laughingly say, “Never mind, wifey dear, I was thinking about my hymns.” This happened not once only, but several times, and when the service was over, and we were driving home, he would make very merry over it.
But I must tell the promised story of the earlier days, though it is not at all to my own credit; yet, even as I write it, I smile at the remembrance of his enjoyment of the tale in later years. If I wanted to amuse him much, or chase some gloom from his dear face, I would remind him of the time when he took his sweetheart to a certain service, and there was so preoccupied with the discourse he was about to deliver, that he forgot all about her, and left her to take care of herself as best she could. As I recalled the incident, which really was to me a very serious one at the time, and might have had an untoward ending, he would laugh at the ludicrous side of it till the tears ran down his cheeks, and then he would lovingly kiss me, and say how glad he was. that I had borne with his ill manners, and how much I must have loved him.
This is the story. He was to preach at the large hall of “The Horns,” Kennington, which was not very far from where we then resided. He asked me to accompany him, and dined with us at St. Ann’s Terrace, the service being in the afternoon. We went together, happily enough, in a cab ; and I well remember trying to keep close by his side as we mingled with the mass of people thronging up the staircase. But, by the time we had reached the landing, he had forgotten my existence; the burden of the message he had to proclaim to that crowd of immortal souls was upon him, and he turned into the small side door where the officials were awaiting him, without for a moment realizing that I was left to struggle as best I could with the rough and eager throng around me. At first, I was utterly bewildered, and then, I am sorry to have to confess, I was angry. I at once returned home, and told my grief to my gentle mother, who tried to soothe my ruffled Spirit, and bring me to a better frame of mind. She wisely reasoned that my chosen husband was no ordinary man, that his whole life was absolutely dedicated to God and His service, and that I must never, never hinder him by trying to put myself first in his heart. Presently, after much good and loving counsel, my heart grew soft, and I saw I had been very foolish and wilful ; and then a cab drew up at the door, and dear
Mr. Spurgeon came running into the house, in great excitement, calling, “Where’s Susie? I have been searching for her everywhere, and cannot find her; has she come back by herself?” My dear mother went to him, took him aside, and told him all the truth; and I think, when he realized the state of things, she had to soothe him also, for he was so innocent at heart of having offended me in any way, that he must have felt I had done him an injustice in thus doubting him. At last, mother came to fetch me to him, and I went downstairs. Quietly he let me tell him how indignant I had felt, and then he repeated mother’s little lesson, assuring me of his deep affection for me, but pointing out that, before all things, he was God s servant, and I must be prepared to yield my claims to His.
I never forgot the teaching of that day; I had learned my hard lesson by heart, for I do not recollect ever again seeking to assert my right to his time and attention when any service for God demanded them. It was ever the settled purpose of my married life that I should never hinder him in his work for the Lord, never try to keep him from fulfilling his engagements, never plead my own ill-health as a reason why he should remain at home with me. I thank God, now, that He enabled me to carry out this determination, and rejoice that I have no cause to reproach myself with being a drag on the swift wheels of his consecrated life. I do not take any credit to myself for this; it was the Lord’s will concerning me, and He saw to it that I received the necessary training whereby, in after years, I could cheerfully surrender His chosen servant to the incessant demands of his ministry, his literary work, and the multiplied labours of his exceptionally busy life. And now I can bless God for what happened on that memorable afternoon when my beloved preached at “The Horns,” Kennington. What a delightfully cosy tea we three had together that evening, and how sweet was the calm in our hearts after the storm, and how much we both loved and honoured mother for her wise counsels and her tender diplomacy!
Some little time afterwards, when Mr. Spurgeon had an engagement at Windsor, I was asked to accompany him, and in forwarding the invitation, he referred to the above incident thus :—” My Own Darling,—What do you say to this? As you wish me to express my desire, I will say, ‘Go ;’ but I should have left it to your own choice if I did not know that my wishes always please you. Possibly, I may be again inattentive to you if you do go; but this will be nice for us both,—that ‘Charles’ may have space for mending, and that ‘Susie’ may exhibit her growth in knowledge of his character, by patiently enduring his failings.” So the end of this little “rift in the lute” was no patched-up peace between us, but a deepening of our confidence in each other, and an increase of that fervent love which can look a misunderstanding in the face till it melts away and vanishes, as a morning cloud before the ardent glances of the sun.
Two tender little notes, written by my husband sixteen years later (1871), will show what an abundant reward of loving approval was bestowed on me for merely doing what it was my duty to do :—
“My Own Dear One,—None know how grateful I am to God for you. In all I have ever done for Him, you have a large share, for in making me so happy you have fitted me for service. Not an ounce of power has ever been lost to the good cause through you. I have served the Lord far more, and never less, for your sweet companionship. The Lord God Almighty bless you now and for ever!”
“I have been thinking over my strange history, and musing on eternal love’s great river-head from which such streams of mercy have flowed to me. I dwell devoutly on many points ;—the building of the Tabernacle,—what a business it was, and how little it seems now! Do you remember a Miss Thompson who collected for the enlargement of New Park Street Chapel as much as ,£100? Bless her dear heart! Think of the love which gave me that dear lady for a wife, and made her such a wife; to me, the ideal wife, and, as I believe, without exaggeration or lovetlourishing, the precise form in which God would make a woman for such a man as I am, if He designed her to be the greatest of all earthly blessings to him; and in some sense a spiritual blessing, too, for in that also am I richly profited by you, though you would not believe it. I will leave this ‘good matter’ ere the paper is covered; but not till I have sent you as many kisses as there are waves on the sea.”
It was our mutual desire to pay a visit to Colchester, that I might be introduced to Mr. Spurgeon’s parents as their future daughter-in-law; and, after some trouble and disappointment, my father’s consent was obtained, and we set off on our first important journey together, with very keen and vivid perceptions of the delightful novelty of our experience. It is not to be wondered at that my memories of the visit are somewhat hazy, although intensely happy. I was welcomed, petted, and entertained most affectionately by all the family, and I remember being taken to see every place and object of interest in and around Colchester; but what I saw, I know not; the joy of being all the day long with my beloved, and this for three or four days together, was enough to fill my heart with gladness, and render me oblivious of any other pleasure. I think we must have returned on the Friday of our week’s holiday, for, according to our custom, we exchanged letters on the Saturday as usual, and this is what we said to each other :—
“75, Dover Road,
“April, ’55. “My Own Doubly-dear Susie,
“How much we have enjoyed in each other’s society! It seems almost impossible that I could either have conferred or received so much happiness. I feel now, like you, very low in spirits; but a sweet promise in Ezekiel cheers me, ‘ I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them.’ (This was in reference to the preparation of sermons for the Sabbath.—S. S.) Surely my God has not forgotten me. Pray for me, my love; and may our united petitions win a blessing through the Saviour’s merit! Let us take heed of putting ourselves too prominently in our own hearts, but let us commit our way unto the Lord. ‘What I have in my own hand, I usually lose,’ said Luther; ‘but what I put into God’s hand, is still, and ever will be, in my possession.’ I need not send my love to you, for, though absent in body, my heart is with you still, and I am, your much-loved, and ardently-loving, C. H. S.” “P.S.—The devil has barked again in The Essex Standard. It contains another letter. Never mind; when Sal an opens his mouth, he gives me an opportunity of ramming my sword down his throat.”
“St. Ann’s Terrace,
“April. ’55. My Dearest,
“I thank you with warm and hearty thanks for the note just received. It is useless for me to attempt to tell you how much happiness I have had during the past week. Words are but cold dishes on which to serve up thoughts and feelings which come warm and glowing from the heart. I should like to express my appreciation of all the tenderness and care you have shown towards me during this happy week; but I fear to pain you by thanks for what I know was a pleasure to you. I expect your thoughts have been busy to-day about ‘the crown jewels.’ (He had talked of preaching on this subject.—S. S.) The gems may differ in size, colour, richness, and beauty, but even the smallest are ‘precious stones’, are they not?
“That Standard certainly does not bear ‘Excelsior’ as its motto; nor can ‘Good will to men ‘ be the device of its floating pennon, but it matters not; we know that all is under the control of One of whom Asaph said, ‘Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee; the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain.’ May His blessing rest in an especial manner on you to-night, my dearly-beloved; and on the approaching Sabbath, when you stand before the great congregation, may you be ‘filled with all the fulness of God’! Good-night. Fondly and faithfully yours,—Sus1e.”
The mention of The Essex Standard, in the foregoing letters, points to the fact that, even thus early in his ministerial career, the strife of tongues had commenced against God’s servant, and the cruel arrows of the wicked had sorely wounded him. He had also begun to learn that some of his severest critics were the very men who ought to have been his heartiest friends and warmest sympathizers. The first reference to this persecution is in a letter to me, written January 1, 1855, where he says:—”I find much stir has been made by ‘Job’s letter’, and hosts of unknown persons have risen up on my behalf. It seems very likely that King James (James Wells) will shake his own throne by lifting his hand against one of the Lord’s little ones.” Then, in May, in one of the Saturday letters, there occur these sentences :—” I am down in the valley, partly because of two desperate attacks in The Sheffield Independent, and The Empire, and partly because I cannot find a subject. Yet faith fails not. I know and believe the promise, and am not afraid to rest upon it. All the scars I receive, are scars of honour; so, faint heart, on to the battle! My love, were you here, how you would comfort me; but since you are not, I shall do what is better still, go upstairs alone, and pour out my griefs into my Saviour’s ear. ‘Jesus, Lover of my soul, I can to Thy bosom fly !'”
These were only the first few drops of the terrible storm of detraction, calumny, and malice, which afterward burst upon him with unexampled fury; but which, blessed be God, he lived through, and lived down. I do not say more concerning these slanders, as they will be described in detail in later chapters.
When my parents removed to a house in Falcon Square, City, we met much more frequently, and grew to know each other better, while our hearts were knit closer and closer in purest love. A little more ” training” also took place, for one day my beloved brought with him an ancient, rusty-looking book, and, to my amazement, said, “Now, darling, I want you to go carefully through this volume, marking all those paragraphs and sentences that strike you as being particularly sweet, or quaint, or instructive; will you do this for me?” Of course, I at once complied; but he did not know with what a trembling sense of my own inability the promise was given, nor how disqualified I then was to appreciate the spiritual beauty of his favourite Puritan writers. It was the simplest kind of literary work which he asked me to do, but I was such an utter stranger to such service, that it seemed a most important and difficult task to discover in that “dry ” old book the bright diamonds and red gold which he evidently reckoned were therein enshrined. Love, however, is a matchless teacher, and I was a willing pupil; and so, with help and suggestion from so dear a tutor, the work went on from day to day till, in due time, a small volume made its appearance, which he called, Smooth Stones taken from Ancient Brooks. This title was a pleasant and Puritanic play upon the author’s name, and I think the compilers were well pleased with the results of their happy work together. I believe the little book is out of print now, and copies are very rarely to be met with; but those who possess them may feel an added interest in their perusal, now that they know the sweet love-story which hides between their pages.
As the days went by, my beloved’s preaching engagements multiplied exceedingly, yet he found time to make me very happy by his loving visits and letters ; and, on Sunday mornings, I was nearly always allowed by my parents to enjoy his ministry. Yet this pleasure was mingled with much of pain; for, during the early part of the year 1855, he was preaching in Exeter Hall to vast crowds of people, and the strain on his physical power was terrible. Sometimes his voice would almost break and fail as he pleaded with sinners to come to Christ, or magnified the Lord in His sovereignty and righteousness. A glass of Chili vinegar always stood on a shelf under the desk before him, and I knew what to expect when he had recourse to that remedy. Oh, how my heart ached for him! What self-control I had to exercise to appear calm and collected, and keep quietly in my seat up in that little side gallery! How I longed to have the right to go and comfort and cheer him when the service was over! But I had to walk away, as other people did,—I, who belonged to him, and was closer to his heart than anyone there! It was severe discipline for a young and loving spirit. I remember, with strange vividness at this longdistance of time, the Sunday evening when he preached from the text, ” His Name shall endure for ever.” It was a subject in which he revelled, it was his chief delight to exalt his glorious Saviour, and he seemed in that discourse to be pouring out his very soul and life in homage and adoration before his gracious King. But I really thought he would have died there, in face of all those people! At the end of the sermon, he made a mighty effort to recover his voice; but utterance wellnigh failed, and only in broken accents could the pathetic peroration be heard,— “Let my name perish, but let Christ’s Name last for ever! Jesus ! Jesus! Jesus! Crown Him Lord of all! You will not hear me say anything else. These are my last words in Exeter Hall for this time. Jesus ! Jesus! Jesus! Crown Him Lord of all!” and then he fell back almost fainting in the chair behind him.
In after days, when the Lord had fully perfected for him that silver-toned voice which ravished men’s ears, while it melted their hearts, there was seldom any recurrence of the painful scene I have attempted to describe. On the contrary, he spoke with the utmost ease, in the largest buildings, to assembled thousands, and, as a master musician playing on a priceless instrument, he could at will either charm his audience with notes of dulcet sweetness, or ring forth the clarion tones of warning and alarm.
He used to say, playfully, that his throat had been macadamised; but, as a matter of fact, I believe that the constant and natural use of his voice, in the delivery of so many sermOns and addresses, was the secret of his entire freedom from the serious malady generally known as “clergyman’s sore throat.” During this first visit to Exeter Hall, New Park Street Chapel was enlarged, and when this
improvement was completed, he returned to his own pulpit, the services at the hall ceased, and for a short time, at least, my fears for him were silenced.
But his work went on increasing almost daily, and his popularity grew with rapid strides. Many notable services in the open-air were held about this time, and my letters give a glimpse of two of these occasions. On June 2, 1855, ne writes :— “Last evening, about 500 persons came to the field, and afterwards adjourned to the chapel kindly lent by Mr. Eldridge. My Master gave me power and liberty. I am persuaded souls were saved; and, as for myself, I preached like the chief of sinners, to those who, like me, were chief sinners, too. Many were the tears, and not a few the smiles.”
Then, on the 23rd of the same month, I had a jubilant letter, which commenced thus :—” Yesterday, I climbed to the summit of a minister’s glory. My congregation was enormous, I think 10,000 (this was in a field at Hackney); but certainly twice as many as at Exeter Hall. The Lord was with me, and the profoundest silence was observed; but, oh, the close,—never did mortal man receive a more enthusiastic ovation! I wonder I am alive! After the service, five or six gentlemen endeavoured to clear a passage, but I was borne along, amid cheers, and prayers, and shouts, for about a quarter of an hour,—it really seemed more like a week! I was hurried round and round the field without hope of escape until, suddenly seeing a nice open carriage, with two occupants, standing near, I sprang in, and begged them to drive away. This they most kindly did, and I stood up, waving my hat, and crying, ‘The blessing of God be with you!’ while, from thousands of heads the hats were lifted, and cheer after cheer was given. Surely, amid these plaudits I can hear the low rumblings of an advancing storm of reproaches; but even this I can bear for the Master’s sake.”
This was a true prophecy, for the time did come when the hatred of men to the truths he preached rose to such a height, that no scorn seemed too bitter, no sneer too contemptuous, to fling at the preacher who boldly declared the gospel of the grace of God, as he had himself learned it at the cross of Christ; but, thank God, he lived to be honoured above most men for his uprightness and fidelity, and never, to the last moment of his life, did he change one jot or tittle of his belief, or vary an iota of his whole-hearted testimony to the divinity of the doctrines of free grace.
N July of this year (1855), my dear one went to Scotland, intending to combine a holiday with the fulfilment of many preaching engagements ;—-a very bad plan this, as he afterwards found, for an overtaxed mind needs absolute repose during resting times, and sermons and spirits both suffer if this reasonable rule be broken. His letters to me during this journey are not altogether joyful ones; I give a few extracts from them, which will serve to outline his first experiences in a form of service into which he so fully entered in after years. On this occasion, he was not happy, or ” at home,” and was constantly longing to return. This was, too, his first long journey by rail, and it is curious to note what physical pain the inexperienced traveller endured. In those days, there were no Pullman cars, or luxurious saloon carriages, fitted up with all the comforts and appliances of a firstclass hotel, so our poor voyager fared badly. He writes a note from Carlisle, just to assure me of his safety, and then, on reaching Glasgow, he gives this account of his ride :—” At Watford, I went with the guard, and enjoyed some conversation with him, which I hope God will bless to his good. At 10.45, I went inside,—people asleep. I could not manage a wink, but felt very queer. At morning-light, went into a second-class carriage with another guard, and rejoiced in the splendid view as well as my uncomfortable sensations would allow. Arrived here tired, begrimed with dust, sleepy, ‘not over high in spirits, and with a dreadful cold in my head. Last night, I slept twelve hours without waking, but I still feel as tired as before I slept. I will, I think, never travel so far at once again. I certainly shall not come home in one day; for if I do, my trip will have been an injury instead of a benefit. I am so glad you did not have my horrid ride; but if I could spirit you here, I would soon do it. Pray for me, my love.”
The next epistle I will give at length. I have been trying in these pages to leave the “love” out of the letters as much as possible, lest my precious things should appear but platitudes to my readers, but it is a difficult task; for little rills of tenderness run between all the sentences, like the singing, dancing waters among the boulders of a brook, and I cannot still the music altogether. To the end of his beautiful life it was the same, his letters were always those of a devoted lover, as well as of a tender husband; not only did the brook never dry up, but the stream grew deeper and broader, and the rhythm of its song waxed sweeter and stronger.
“July 17th, 1855.
“My Precious Love,
“Your dearly-prized note came safely to hand, and verily it did excel all I have ever read, even from your own loving pen. Well, I am all right now. Last Sabbath, I preached twice; and to sum up all in a word, the services were ‘glorious.’ In the morning, Dr. Patterson’s place was crammed; and in the evening, Dr. Wardlaw’s Chapel was crowded to suffocation by more than 2,500 people, while persons outside declared that quite as many went away. My reception was enthusiastic; never was greater honour given to mortal man. They were just as delighted as are the people at Park Street. To-day, I have had a fine drive with my host and his daughter. To-morrow, I am to preach here. It is quite impossible for me to be left in quiet. Already, letters come in, begging me to go here, there, and everywhere. Unless I go to the North Pole, I never can get away from my holy labour.
“Now to return to you again, I have had day-dreams of you while driving along, I thought you were very near me. It is not long, dearest, before I shall again enjoy your sweet society, if the providence of God permit. I knew I loved you very much before, but now I feel how necessary you are to me; and you will not lose much by my absence, if you find me, on my return, more attentive to your feelings, as well as equally affectionate. I can now thoroughly sympathize with your tears, because I feel in no little degree that pang of absence which my constant engagements prevented me from noticing when in London. How then must you, with so much leisure, have felt my absence from you, even though you well knew that it was unavoidable on my part! My darling, accept love of the deepest and purest kind from one who is not prone to exaggerate, but who feels that here there is no room for hyperbole. Think not that I weary myself by writing; for, dearest, it is my delight to please you, and solace an absence which must be even more dreary to you than to me, since travelling and preaching lead me to forget it. My eyes ache for sleep, but they shall keep open till I have invoked the blessings from above—mercies temporal and eternal—to rest on the head of one whose name is sweet to me, and who equally loves the name of her own, her much-loved, C. H. S.”
The dear traveller seems to have had his Scotch visit interrupted by the necessity of a journey to fulfil preaching engagements at Bradford and Stockton. On his way to these towns, he stayed to see the beauties of Windermere, and sought to enjoy a little relaxation and rest; but he writes very sadly of these experiences. “This is a bad way ot spending time,” he says, “I had rather be preaching five times a day than be here. Idleness is my labour. I long for the traces again, and want to be in the shafts, pulling the old coach. Oh, for the quiet of my own closet! I think, if I have one reason for wishing to return, more cogent than even my vehement desire to see you, it is that I may see my Lord, so as I have seen Him in my retirement.”
Of the services at Bradford, he gives this brief record :—” Last Sabbath was a day of even greater triumph than at Glasgow. The hall, which holds more people than Exeter Hall, was crammed to excess at both services, and in the evening the crowds outside who went away were immense, and would have furnished another hall with an audience. At Stockton, I had a full house, and my Master’s smile; I left there this morning at 8 o’clock.”
Returning to Glasgow, via Edinburgh, he preached in that city, and I afterwards had a doleful little note, in which he wrote bitter things against himself,— perhaps without reason. His words, however, show with what tenderness of conscience he served his God, how quick he was to discover in himself anything which might displease his Master, and how worthless was the applause of the people if the face of his Lord were hidden. He says :—” I preached in Edinburgh, and returned here, full of anguish at my ill-success. Ah! my darling, your beloved behaved like Jonah, and half wished never more to testify against Nineveh. Though it rained, the hall was crowded, and there was I,—without my God! It was a sad failure on my part; nevertheless, God can bless my words to poor souls.” (A further reference to this incident will be found in the chapters in which Mr. Spurgeon describes his Scotch tour in fuller detail than I have given.)
A hurried excursion to the Highlands,—a day’s sight-seeing in Glasgow,— another Sabbath of services, when enormous crowds were disappointed,—20,000 people being turned away, because admittance was impossible,—and then the Scotch journey—the forerunner of so many similar events,—was a thing of the past, and work at home was recommenced with earnestness and vigour.
Even at this early period of my beloved’s ministry, while he was still so youthful that none need have wondered had he been puffed up by his popularity and success, there was in his heart a deep and sweet humility, which kept him low at the Master’s feet, and fitted him to bear the ever-increasing burden of celebrity and fame. This is manifest in so many of these letters of 1855, that I have felt
constrained to refer to it, since even now some dare to speak of him as self-confident and arrogant, when, had they known him as his dearest friends knew him, they would have marvelled at his lowliness, and borne witness—as these have often done, —that “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” was one of the many charms of his radiant character. His dear son in the faith, Pastor Hugh D. Brown, of Dublin, speaks truly when he says of him, in a lately-published eulogy, “So wonderful a man, and yet so simple,—with a great child-heart ;—or rather, so simple because so great, needing no scaffoldings of pompous mannerism to buttress up an uncertain reputation; but universally esteemed, because he cared nought for human opinion, but only for what was upright, open-hearted, and transparent, both in ministry and life ;—we never knew a public man who had less of self about him, for over and above aught else, his sole ambition seemed to be, ‘How can I most extol my Lord ?” These thoughtful, discriminating words would have been applicable to him if they had been written in the long-past days, when his marvellous career had but just commenced, and his glorious life-work lay all before him.
The following letter reveals his inmost heart, and it costs me a pang to give it publicity; but it should silence for ever the untrue charges of egotism and selfconceit which have been brought against him bv those who ought to have known better :—” I shall feel deeply indebted to you, if you will pray very earnestly for me. I fear I am not so full of love to God as I used to be. I lament my sad decline in spiritual things. You and others may not have observed it, but I am now conscious of it, and a sense thereof has put bitterness in my cup of joy. Oh! what is it to be popular, to be successful, to have abundance, even to have love so sweet as yours,—if I should be left of God to fall, and to depart from His ways? I tremble at the giddy height on which I stand, and could wish myself unknown, for indeed I am unworthy of all my honours and my fame. I trust 1 shall now commence anew, and wear no longer the linsey-woolsey garment; but I beseech you, blend your hearty prayers with mine, that two of us may be agreed, and thus will you promote the usefulness, and holiness, and happiness of one whom you love.”
Then, some months later, he wrote :—” The Patriot has a glowing account of me, which will tend to make me more popular than ever. May GodPreserve Me! I believe all my little troubles have just kept me right. I should have been upset by flattery, had it not been for this long balancing rod.”
Let any impartial reader decide whether these are the words of a vain and selfcomplacent man!
The year 1855 was now drawing to a close, and we were looking forward, with unutterable joy, to having a home of our own, and being united by the holy ties of a marriage “made in Heaven.” My beloved went to spend Christmas with his parents in Colchester; and after a personal “Good-bye,” wrote again thus:—” Sweet One,— How I love you! I long to see you; and yet it is but half-an-hour since I left you. Comfort yourself in my absence by the thought that my heart is with you. My own gracious God bless you in all things,—in heart, in feeling, in life, in death, in Heaven! May your virtues be perfected, your prospects realized, your zeal continued, your love to Him increased, and your knowledge of Him rendered deeper, higher, broader,— in fact, may more than even my heart can wish, or my hope anticipate, be yours for ever! May we be mutual blessings ;—wherein I shall err, you will pardon; and wherein you may mistake, I will more than overlook. Yours, till Heaven, and then,—C. H. S.”
Ah! my husband, the blessed earthly ties which we welcomed so rapturously are dissolved now, and death has hidden thee from my mortal eyes; but not even death can divide thee from me, or sever the love which united our hearts so closely. I feel it living and growing still, and I believe it will find its full and spiritual development only when we shall meet in the glory-land, and worship “together before the throne.”
There is just one relic of this memorable time. On my desk, as I write this chapter, there is a book bearing the title of The Pulpit Library; it is the firstpublished volume of my beloved’s sermons, and its fly-leaf has the following inscription :—
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The wedding-day was fixed for January 8th, 1856; and I think, till it came, and passed, I lived in a dreamland of excitement and emotion, the atmosphere of which was unfriendly to the remembrance of any definite incidents. Our feet were on the threshold of the gate which stands at the entry of the new and untrodden pathway of married life; but it was with a deep and tender gladness that the travellers clasped each other’s hand, and then placed them both in that of the Master, and thus set out on their journey, assured that He would be their Guide, “even unto death.”
I have been trying to recall in detail the events of the—to me—notable day on which I became the loved and loving wife of the best man on God’s earth; but most of its hours are veiled in a golden mist, through which they look luminous, but indistinct ;—only a few things stand out clearly in my memory.
I see a young girl kneeling by her bedside in the early morning; she is awed and deeply moved by a sense of the responsibilities to be taken up that day, yet happy beyond expression that the Lord has so favoured her; and there alone with Him she earnestly seeks strength, and blessing, and guidance through the new life opening before her. The tiny upper chamber in Falcon Square was a very sacred place that morning.
Anon, I see a very simply-dressed damsel, sitting by her father’s side, and driving through the City streets to New Park Street Chapel,—vaguely wondering, as the passers-by cast astonished glances at the wedding equipage, whether they all knew what a wonderful bridegroom she was going to meet!
As we neared our destination, it was evident that many hundreds of people did know and care about the man who had chosen her to be his bride, for the building was full to overflowing, and crowds of the young preacher’s admirers thronged the streets around the chapel. I do not remember much more. Within the densely-packed place, I can dimly see a large wedding party in the table-pew, dear old Dr. Alexander Fletcher beaming benignly on the bride and bridegroom before him, and the deacons endeavouring to calm and satisfy the excited and eager onlookers.
Then followed the service, which made “us twain most truly one,” and with a solemn joy in our hearts we stood hand in hand, and spake the few brief words which legally bound us to each other in blessed bonds while life lasted. But the golden circlet then placed on my finger, though worn and thin now, speaks of love beyond the grave, and is the cherished pledge of a spiritual union which shall last throughout eternity.
It would not have been possible for me to describe the marriage ceremony, or recollect the prayers and counsels then offered on our behalf; but, as reporters were present, and I have preserved their notes, I am able to record ^in a muchcondensed form) some of the Doctor’s kind and earnest words on the memorable occasion. The service was commenced by the congregation singing the hymn,—
“Salvation, O the joyful sound!”
Dr. Fletcher then read the 100th Psalm, and offered the following prayer:— “Father of mercies, our God and Father in Christ Jesus, we approach Thy throne in the Name of our great Surety, our Intercessor, now pleading for us before Thy face! Glory to God in the highest, that salvation is provided for our ruined race! May it be the happiness of all here, constituting this immense assembly, to be interested in that salvation! Oh, that each individual now present on this joyful occasion may be enabled to say, in the language of appropriating faith, ‘Salvation, and pardon, and acceptance are mine; Jesus is mine, and I am His!’ Lord, look upon us in mercy in this place! Give us Thy presence, give us Thy countenance and smile! Multitudes of prayers have ascended to Thy throne on behalf of our beloved young friends, now about to be united by the most sacred union existing under the heavens. Oh, let Thy Spirit descend upon them! May they feel that they are now enjoying the light of Thy countenance, and that this important event in their history is under Thy blessed sanction, by Thy blessed direction, and shall be crowned with Thy blessing while they live, to be followed by blessings lasting as eternity, when they are called to their Heavenly home! Thou, Lord Jesus, who wast present at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, be tenderly with us at this time, and fill this house with Thy glory! These, our feeble supplications, we present before Thy mercy-seat in the Name of our exalted Advocate, and to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be ascribed the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
“Allow me, my respected friends, to address you only for a few moments, previous to that most important event which we have met to celebrate. Marriage is not the invention of man, it is the institution of God. It originated in God’s wisdom and mercy; and, if necessary for man while in a state of innocence, it is much more indispensable for us in our fallen condition. It bears the impress of the Deity, and so important is it that it is presented to us in the Scripture as a figure of the union that is formed betwixt Christ and His chosen people,—that marriage union which is never to end. Christ has honoured this institution by comparing Himself to the Husband of the Church, and by designating the Church as His bride. ‘I have espoused you,’ says the apostle Paul, when writing to the believing Corinthians, ‘ I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.’ Look at the advantages marriage confers upon individuals, and families; on communities, on nations, and on the Church of Christ. The founding of families is an epitome of the organization of nations, without which they could never be properly consolidated. Marriage is the foundation of all those distinguished privileges which are enjoyed by us in this island of the sea. I have referred before to the presence of Christ at the marriage at Cana; what a lovely sight it must have been to see the blessed Jesus in the midst of that little assembly! He blessed the bridegroom, and He blessed the bride; He diffused joy through the hearts of all around. Your beloved Pastor has many times, in his preaching, alluded to Christ’s smiles; and if He smiled upon little children, whom He took up in His arms and blessed, He must surely have smiled upon the bride and bridegroom whose marriage feast was graced by His presence. Lord Jesus, Thou art here! Thy humanity is in Heaven, but Thy Deity pervades the universe. With the eyes of our faith we can see Jesus in the midst of us, ready to bless both bride and bridegroom. He has blessed them already, and He has more blessings in reserve for their enjoyment, felicity, and usefulness; and we trust He will crown them, through life, and through all eternity, with lovingkindness and tender mercy.”
[The ceremony was then performed in the usual manner.]
A portion of Scripture was read, the congregation joined in singing “the Wedding Hymn,” and Dr. Fletcher again engaged in prayer:—
“Look down, O Lord, with great kindness, complacency, and grace on our beloved young friends who have now entered into this sacred covenant with each other! We praise Thee for that grace which Thou hast given them, an inheritance infinitely more precious than the wealth of empires. We praise Thee for the love to Jesus which Thou hast enkindled in their hearts, and for that mutual affection which they cherish, and by which they are united in the most endearing and sacred ties. Lord, bless them! Bless them with increasing usefulness, increasing happiness, increasing enjoyment of Thy fellowship! Long preserve them! May they live to a good old age, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless! May this most interesting relationship be accompanied with innumerable mercies, especially to Thy dear ministering servant, engaged in the most honourable of all employments, and placed by the great Head of the Church in a sphere of usefulness seldom, if ever, equalled in this land of our nativity! Lord, this is Thy doing; Thou hast provided for him the sphere, and Thou hast fitted him by Thy providence and grace to fill it. May he be preserved in bodily vigour, as well as mental and spiritual strength, to prosecute that glorious work in which he has embarked; and may he long continue to serve Thee, and be as useful at the close of life as he is at the commencement of his
career! We now commit him and the beloved partner of his days to Thine everlasting arms; we lay them in the bosom of Thy love. Lord, bless all here present! Vast is the multitude, but it is nothing compared with the plenitude of Thy mercy, or the abundance of Thy grace. We thank Thee for presiding over the assembly, and that no accident has happened to this large concourse of people. All we ask is in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all, now and for ever! Amen.”
A London newspaper, of January 9th, 1856, contained the following notice of our wedding :—
“Yesterday morning, a curious scene was witnessed in the neighbourhood of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, a large building belonging to the Baptist body of Dissenters, at the rear of the Borough Market. Of this place of worship the minister is the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, a very young man, who, some months since, produced an extraordinary degree of excitement at Exeter Hall, where he preached during the time his chapel was in course of enlargement. Yesterday morning, the popular young preacher was married; and although the persons who evinced an interest in the proceedings were not quite of the aristocratic character of those who usually attend West End weddings, in point of numbers and enthusiasm they far outstripped any display which the West End is in the habit of witnessing. Shortly after eight o’clock, although the morning was dark, damp, and cold, as many as five hundred ladies, in light and gay attire, besieged the doors of the chapel, accompanied by many gentlemen, members of the congregation, and personal friends. From that hour, the crowd increased so rapidly, that the thoroughfare was blocked up by vehicles and pedestrians, and a body of the M division of police had to be sent for to prevent accidents. When the chapel doors were opened, there was a terrific rush, and in less than half-an-hour the doors were closed upon many of the eager visitors, who, like the earlier and more fortunate comers, were favoured with tickets of admission. The bride was Miss Susannah Thompson, only daughter of Mr. Thompson, of Falcon Square, London; and the ceremony was performed by the Rev. Dr. Alexander Fletcher, of Finsbury Chapel. At the close of the ceremony, the congratulations of the congregation were tendered to the newly-married pair with heartiest goodwill.”
Mr. Spurgeon’s own inscription in our family Bible, recording the marriage, and adding a loving comment eleven years afterwards, is reproduced infacsimile on the following page.