The Proceedings Of The Great Meeting In The Metropolitan Tabernacle
Much as I wish to express my gratitude, I must go at once to my business and first say a few words about the structure itself. If our Brethren who are now upon the platform have never been baptized, if the floor were to give way, they would find themselves in the baptistery. And at any time when they shall wish to be immersed in obedience to their Master’s command, they will always find a willing servant in me. The baptistery will be usually uncovered, as we are not ashamed to confess our belief in Believers' Baptism. On the occasion of the administration of the Lord’s Supper, the table will also stand here and there are steps on each side which the Deacons will descend to distribute the memorials of the Savior’s death. You will see above us the pulpit which might hold well near one hundred persons, but I cannot stand like a statue when I preach and prefer a wide range both of thought and action. The pulpit is convenient for public meetings, so that there will be no expense of erecting platforms.
Concerning this vast Chapel, I believe it is the most perfect triumph of acoustics that has ever been achieved. If it had been a failure at present, I should not have been at all disappointed, because the walls have yet to be covered with boarding, so that not a particle of brickwork is to be exposed. It being my belief that soft substances are very much the best for hearing, having proved that in a great number of buildings stone walls are the main creators of an echo. I do not think anyone completely understands the science of acoustics as yet, or will for some time. I have no theory on the subject, I have only a matter of fact to go upon.
We shall also have abundance of light, as you will perceive by the lanterns in the roof and the abundant windows on each side. It has been remarked by a great many as they entered, that the building was not so large as they expected and I was pleased to hear it, for it showed me that it was in proportion and did not look huge and unsightly. To look very large, a building must be generally out of proportion, for when there is proportion, the idea of size is often lost.
If you went down below, you would find one large room, about the same area, or rather larger than New Park Street Chapel. Then you would find a schoolroom larger in its area than the venerable Chapel in which my brother Dr. Campbell long preached the word–I mean the Tabernacle, Moorfields. I believe that four Chapels like the one at Moorfields could be put into the area of this building–two resting on the basement would only just fill up the same area and then two more on the top. Now, perhaps, you may get some idea of the size.
With regard to the appearance, I have this much to say. I think the appearance is highly creditable to the architect. I do not care about the exterior a single farthing. The omission of the towers has deprived the architect of much of the effect which he hoped to produce by his design and is perhaps the reason why the roof seems to rise too much, but they will never be erected as long as I am here. I will have no ornament which has not an object and I do not think those towers could have had any object except mere show.
As for the front elevation, it is not surpassed by anything in London. The building has no extravagance about it and yet at the same time it has no meanness. True, the roof rises to a very great height above the portico and does not present a very architectural appearance from the causeway, but we must remember this much–those who look at it from the outside have not subscribed anything towards it.
I have just remarked that there is beneath this platform a large room the size of New Park Street Chapel, that is for the Church Meetings. It is rendered fully necessary, as we have now more than 1600 members. The other large room is a school-room which will contain, I should think, 1500, if not 2000 children. There are large classrooms which will be used on the Sabbath for classes and on the week-days for my students. I have no doubt my Friend, Mr. Rogers, who has so long been my excellent helper in that work–and to whom very much credit is due–will feel himself more comfortable when he has proper rooms in which all his young men can be taught in every branch which will be necessary to give them a complete education for the ministry.
There is a very fine room for the ladies' working meetings, which will also be available for a library place where the works of all our former pastors will be collected and preserved, for you must know that of old our Church has ever been prolific with good works. We have the almost innumerable works of Keach–so many that one does not know where to find them all–the chapbooks which used to be hawked about the country printed on bad brown paper in worn-out type, yet containing right good sound theology, adorned with odd illustrations which I have no doubt interested the villagers and greatly impressed the public mind at the time. We have, then, the ponderous tomes of Gill, the tractates and hymns of Rippon and the works of those who since their day have served us in the Lord. Well, then, the pulpit of my glorious predecessor, Dr. Gill, will be brought here and placed in the vestry below, that we may retain our ancient pedigree. It is said to have had a new bottom and some of the four sides are new, yet I affirm it to be Dr. Gill’s pulpit. I am as certain that it is such, as that I am the same man as I was seven years ago, though all the component parts of my body may have been changed in the meantime. Higher still there are three magnificent rooms. In the center is the minister–right and left the elders and deacons–the officers of the army, lying on either side of the captain so that they may be ready to go forward at the word of command. Then above that, on the third story, there are three other excellent rooms, to be used for tract depositories and Bible depositories and for other schemes, which we hope the Church will undertake.
I have thus tried to explain the structure of the building to you. I do not think that anything else remains to say to you, except I draw your attention to the staircases by which you ascend to the galleries–each gallery having a distinct entrance and staircase, so that there is no fear of any overcrowding. I will only say that a design was never carried out with more fidelity by any builder than this has been.
There have been improvements made as we have gone on, but they always have been improvements to which if they did not seem absolutely necessary the builder has objected lest he should have any extras. And where we have compelled him to make them, he has done them as cheaply as possible. He is a man of whom I am proud that he is at once a member of the Church, a member of the building committee and the builder of this House of God. Mr. Higgs, besides being a magnificent donor, gives us in solid brick and stone far more than he has done in cash. If I had ten thousand buildings to erect, I would never look to anybody else. I would stick to my first love, for he has been faithful and true.
And now I come to another point, namely, the present position of this project. We have pushed beyond the era of objection to it. Now, those very wise friends, (and they were very wise), who said the building ought not to be built, it would be too big–cannot undo it. The only thing they can do is to help us through with it, for so much money has been spent already that we cannot propose to pull it down, however absurd the structure may be.
Some of our Brethren said, “When Mr. Spurgeon dies who will take his place?” As if God could not raise up servants when He would, or as if we ought not to do our duty and neglect it because something may happen in fifty years' time. You may say, “You give yourself a long lease, fifty years.” I don’t know why I should not have it. It may come to pass and will, if so the Lord ordains. I am cheered by an omen about this. Dr. Gill was chosen pastor of this Church when he was nineteen and he was more than fifty years its minister. Dr. Rippon was chosen at the same age and he was fifty-eight or more. I was nineteen, too, and is it not possible that I also, by Divine Grace, may serve my generation for a long period of time? At any rate, when I am proposing a plan, I never think whether I shall live to see it finished, for I am certain if it is God’s plan He will surely finish it, even if I should leave the work undone. I say this project has gone beyond the realm of objections. It has even passed beyond the realm of difficulties. We have had a thousand difficulties. The ground was as much given us by Divine providence, as if the Lord had sent an angel to clear it for us. The money has been given and that beyond our hopes and we have had it from quarters where we should least expect it.
All the Christian Churches have contributed their portion and almost all the ends of the earth have sent their offerings. From India, Australia, America, everywhere have we received something from God’s people to help us in this work. We hope now we shall go on even to the end of it without feeling any diminution of our joy, without loan or a debt. Our place has been spoken of in the House of Commons. And mentioned in the House of Lords and as everybody happens to know of it, as it stands conspicuously, we want to do our utmost and we ask our Brethren to give us their help, that this forefront of Nonconformity, for the time being, may have about it no failure, no defeats to which anyone can point and say, “Your own voluntarism failed to carry the project through.”
I believe in the might of the voluntary principle. I believe it to be perfectly irresistible in proportion to the power of God’s Spirit in the hearts of those who exercise it. When the Spirit of God is absent and the Church is at a low ebb, the voluntary principle has no power whatever. Then it becomes a question with many carnal wise men whether they shall not look to Egypt for help and stay themselves on horses. But, when the Spirit of God is shed abroad and men’s hearts are in the right state, we find the voluntary principle equal to every design of the Church.
Whenever I see any denomination turn a little aside and begin to take so much as a single halfpenny from the hand of the State, I think they do not believe in their God as they ought and the Spirit of God is not with them in all His power. Only give us a ministry preaching Christ and a people who will serve their God and feel it to be their pleasure to devote themselves with their substance to His cause and nothing is impossible. Well then, I ask you to prove this to all men and I appeal not only to those present, but to the Christian public at large to help us in the last struggle to wipe off that remnant of L8,000. I believe we shall have a good and hearty response and that on the day of opening we shall see this place filled with a vast multitude who will complete the last stroke of the work and leave not a shilling unpaid. We pledge ourselves to the Christian public that they shall be no losers by us. While this work has been going on we have done as much as any other Church for all other agencies–as much at least as it was possible for us to do.
We hope to help other places, by first giving to our young men education when God has called them to the ministry and afterwards helping them when they are settled. We wish to become a fruitful mother of children and pray that God may make this place a center out of which many rays of truth and light and glory, may be dispersed through the darkness of the land. We will not be an idle Church. We do not ask to have our load taken away–that we may eat and drink and play–but only that we may go straight on to do God’s work.
Of all things, I do abhor a debt. I shall feel like a guilty sneaking sinner if I come in here with a hundred pounds debt upon it. “Owe no man anything” will stare me in the face whenever I try to address you. I do not believe that Scripture warrants any man in getting into debt. It may stimulate the people to raise more money. But after all, attention to the simple Word of God is infinitely better than looking at the end which may be obtained by the slightest deviation from it. Let us not owe a farthing to any living soul. That when we come in here we may find that all has been paid. REV. HUGH ALLEN–I consider this a most important day. It is a day in which we celebrate a very important fact, a fact with which I hold the great success of Mr. Spurgeon’s preaching in London to be immediately connected, namely, that we have arrived, by the Grace of God, at a period when the masses of the people are not unwilling to hear the Gospel and when the whole Gospel may be preached in its fullness by those who have up to now been ashamed of it–who have up to now been too careful about the prejudices of the world–forgetting that if the Gospel is preached in love and affection you cannot preach it too fully.
There is also in connection with the movement which God has caused through my beloved Brother’s ministry another important fact–the people of God draw nearer one to the other. I am bold to affirm that considering my Brother’s more than ordinary faithfulness in preaching all the points of the Gospel, there has resulted such a drawing towards him of love and esteem and approbation, that is truly remarkable. And as a direct result of my beloved Brother’s ministry, there has of late been realized that wonderful statement which was made with regard to the primitive Church, “See how these Christians love one another.” REV. C. H. SPURGEON–I thank my Brother, the Rev. Hugh Allen, for coming here today. I know the opposition he has met with and I know he cares about as much for it as a bull when a gnat settles on his horn. He shall have my pulpit any time he likes–I am quite sure he will commit no offense. If it is a sin for a clergyman to preach in a licensed place, there are one hundred clergymen who are great sinners, for I licensed Exeter Hall as a place of dissenting worship a few years ago and it stands on the bishop’s book yet. About one hundred clergymen have since preached there. Dr. CAMPBELL said–I do not know, Mr. Spurgeon, that I shall address the meeting, but I am sure I can look at it and I am sure I can love it. For a long time I have been accustomed from want of voice to decline all public speaking, but there are seasons when a man ceases to be voluntary. Notwithstanding what Mr. Spurgeon has said about being voluntary, he sent me a note some two or three days ago and said, “Do come to our meeting next Tuesday if you can and come whether you can or not.”
There is no dealing with a man of this description, so to cut the matter short I simply submitted. I came tonight for the special purpose of congratulating our friend Mr. Spurgeon on his safe return from the land of popery and superstition. I know he will tell us very good things tonight, when he shall come to compare his own native land with those in which he has lately traveled. I do unite with you all in giving thanks to God for the extent to which you have advanced in your magnificent undertaking. You may say in verity, “Up to now has the Lord helped us.”
God has been with Mr. Spurgeon and made him the instrument of turning a multitude of you from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God. We come–I am sure I may speak for all–to congratulate you and to rejoice with you and with our whole hearts to bid you Godspeed. The work is a mighty one. I confess I came to see it some three or four months ago. I had seen no such structure before and rejoice to be living in a period when such a structure has been brought into being. Our desire for our dear Brother is that he may be spared to labor for fifty years more. I think by that time he will be prepared with me for garrison service and I think you will be prepared to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, retire to your rest and to your glory.” THE CHAIRMAN then called upon the Reverend Jonathan George to address the meeting as the representative of the immediate neighborhood. REV. JONATHAN GEORGE said–Dear Christian friends, I am not the man to address you at very great length, for public speaking is not my forte and extreme weakness will prevent me from saying much to you. I did not, however, throw myself in the way of this engagement, but I was solicited to come and could not say no. The card of invitation which I hold in my hand says that the object of the meeting is “to render devout thanksgiving to God for granting this enterprise so much success.”
I am sure your hearts must be gladdened in seeing, what you thought perhaps Utopian, at last succeed. It is now clearly demonstrated that the work has begun and must go on in spite of all its foes. It would be well for us all to remember when God blesses us with any measure of prosperity, that prosperity is very hard to bear. How is that? Cannot Christianity, or the Grace of God bear it? No, it is because of the extreme carnality and pride of our hearts. Here is a portion of Scripture we should all remember–“They shall fear and tremble for all the prosperity that I send.”
It is a blessing when God has succeeded our poor efforts and poured out a blessing on us if we are jealous of our own hearts and fear and tremble. Oh, God, how rich, how beneficent You are! Let us not lose Your full blessing by our own pride–by pointing to some second cause and saying, “It was I. It was we. It was our ministers.” On! Go on fearing and trembling and the Lord Jehovah will bless you. I am requested to be considered as the representative of the ministers and friends in this neighborhood. I am happy to say that I can safely represent the hearts and feelings of most of the ministers in this locality, more especially through the extent of Woolworth, Camberwell and Clapham. I am associated with a conference of the ministers of these districts, (irrespective of the denominations to which they belong) who meet at the house of our esteemed and worthy friend Dr. Steane. I can, therefore, come to you in the name of my fellow-ministers and offer you our congratulations for God’s blessing on your ministry, on this undertaking and on the gathering of today. REV. DR. ARTHUR, as the representative of the Wesleyan denomination, addressed the meeting and expressed his cordial sympathy with the undertaking, hoping that–
“When on Zion’s height
The hosts of God appear,
May thousands, thousands, reign in light,
Who found salvation here.”
The subscriptions were then brought forward and Mr. Spurgeon stated that more than a million persons had contributed to the erection of this place of worship, chiefly in small sums. REV. C. H. SPURGEON said–I am astonished at Dr. Campbell for not knowing that the word Tabernacle involves a religious doctrine, namely, that we have not come to the temple state here, we are now passing through the Tabernaclestate. We believe this building to be temporary and only meant for the time that we are in the wilderness without a visible King. Our prayer is, “Your kingdom come.” We firmly believe in the real and personal reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, for which we do devoutly wait. That is the reason why it is called a tabernacle, not a temple. We have not here the King in person, the Divine Solomon. Till He come, we call it a tabernacle still.
As to the word Metropolitan, it is too long and I could fairly give it up, but I will keep it now in spite of the Doctor. I will always concede to him, I am sure, the chief seat. He and I will never quarrel for any precedence, his is a most mighty pen. He may have the kingdom of the pen if he will let me keep some part of the kingdom of the tongue. His pen is sharper and more mightier than Ithuriel’s spear. It has detected many of the toads of heresy and transformed them to their right shape and I have no doubt it will find out a great many more yet. REV. CHARLES STOVEL–Of all the addresses received by us this afternoon, that by my friend Mr. George pleased me by far the most and deserved, as I think, the most prayerful consideration. I have watched two or three times (opportunities having been given during the progress of your work of coming in among the workmen) the arrangement of your structure. I have in every case been greatly pleased with the whole business and seem to realize my own expectation as the building advances now to completeness–both in respect to the acoustics and the sight and command which the speaker may have when accustomed to it over so large an assembly as is required to fill the place.
It appears to me to have been guided by great wisdom and that your plans well formed have been with equal skill and accuracy carried out. I think, respecting the place itself, I am not so much pleased, nor do I feel so glad respecting the structure as I do when I think of the combination of mind and the operation on moral feeling and principle presented in the movements of your Society. I rejoice much in being permitted to see the advancement of your pastor to the present moment. And at the same time gathering up all my recollections of the past, in which it has happened to me to hang upon the lips of any teacher advancing to anything like the popularity now enjoyed–in no case have I been permitted to witness the ripening of years and the termination of days without some fearful lesson–some solemn and humbling circumstance.
Let that fact lie before you–not to discourage, certainly, but to humble–and especially to keep your minds from anything like self-confidence in the thing which you yourselves have done. God is pleased to employ earthly agencies to accomplish great purposes, but He is pleased to make the agencies He employs feel that it is not the sword nor the instrument of any work that accomplishes it–it is the hand that wields the sword. It is the Operator. It is the Operator which conducts the instrument and when the operator withdraws His mind, the instrument is as feeble as the sword without a hand.
I would present this simply as a guide to that thought, which lies, as I think, at the basis of all the operations developing through the prosperity of your Church–who, when your congregations, as I hope they soon will, shall have crammed you to your ceilings. When from every one of these seats, glowing eyes shall look down upon this center of address. When up to yon roof the crowded assembly shall gaze with lighted eye and listen to the Holy Word. When school upon school shall be at work–visitors following visitors. Then when the tendency of human nature to lag and to let go their hold shall present itself, when anything shall occur to break or jar the machinery of our great work–who then shall be your Guide? Let me tell you, you will learn then at that moment what the blessed Redeemer said to His disciples when He launched His great operation upon the world, “Without Me you can do nothing.” Be sure of this, that at such points, (and such points will come, for though I hail and greet you in your work, I cannot flatter you), I tell you, my Brethren, the more you lie humble in the dust the sweeter it will be for you in after-life. Let us remember we hold every gift from above as stewards enriched and blessed that we may be made blessings and honor and serve the God we trust and love.
My earnest wish and prayer is that from this night you may advance in closer fellowship with God through that personal Savior and that personal Spirit. You will soon forget the peculiar dogmas of Calvin and of all the rest. You will take the truth of God which comes to you from any man, not because the man has spoken it, but because it comes from God. You will feel that salvation is treasured up in Christ. That Christ is proclaimed to man, that man enjoys salvation by embracing Christ and thousands led to Him shall be your honor and reward. May God grant it beyond all your thoughts and hopes for Christ’s sake. The REV. C. H. SPURGEON then came forward to give some account of his continental tour–I have been requested by two well-known and deservedly eminent publishers to print some notes of my journey on the continent. But I went there for rest and recreation and certainly the toil of writing notes at the end of each day is not a pleasant task to me, though I have no doubt it is quite a luxury to a great many young ladies who travel on the continent, for I have always seen them on board boat and elsewhere, taking notes of everything they saw.
I never knew what was in the notes, of course, but I am afraid they were not of so much value as those which have helped to make up the sixty pounds. I went abroad to re-string my nerves, to give rest to my brains and repose to the whole mental man. And I felt that this most sacred purpose could never be attained if I chained myself to the drudgery of book-writing. My congregation would have been disappointed if I had come home as tired as I went and I could have had no solid excuse for ceasing my daily preaching if I had not really rested my weary soul. I believe, moreover, that the narrative of my journey will be far more valuable to me as a fountain of fresh illustrations and suggestions, than if I could pour it all out into a book.
Will it not be better to retain my pearl and let it glitter every now and then, than to melt it into one small draught, too shallow to satisfy the public thirst? I shall hurry through a few of the matters which I observed and I would have my friends remember that this is not a solemn service of worship, but a mere lecture at which I shall use great freedom of speech and give you full license to laugh.
I went from St. Katherine’s docks down the river, accompanied by my well-beloved deacons and several of my friends. At Gravesend my friends left me with the kindest wishes and with many a prayer to God for my safety. I assure you the journey was rendered abundantly pleasant by the evening which we spent together in prayer and fellowship before I departed. For I never heard such kind words and such loving prayers uttered concerning any human being, as I heard that night concerning myself.
There was nothing like fulsome flattery, all the glory was given to God. But every Brother’s heart invoked such blessings upon my head that I went away with a rich cargo of joy, knowing that a full wind of prayers was following behind. I had an Essex captain to go with and as all Essex men have a high opinion of their countrymen, we soon found ourselves in full talk upon the excellencies of our native county. Many were our anecdotes and swiftly flew the time. Mine I have told so many times, I dare say you know them.
Some of the captain’s tales were new and original. I shall give you one, because it tends to illustrate the town in which I landed–Antwerp. Antwerp, you must know, is so full of Virgin Mary statues, that you can’t turn the corner of a street but there is a glossed Virgin, sometimes under a canopy of many colors, arrayed in all manner of pretended jewelry and at other times in a neat little niche which seems to have been picked out of the wall for her ladyship’s special accommodation. Sometimes she is represented by an ugly black doll and at other times by a decent respectable statue. Well, so many of these Virgin Mary statues are there, that the sailors may be excused for imagining every image which they see to be a Virgin Mary. A sailor who landed there, went to buy some tobacco and when he returned to the ship, one of them said, “That is very good tobacco, Jack, where did you get it?” “Oh,” he said, “you will know the shop, for there is a Virgin Mary sitting over the door, smoking a pipe.” I don’t wonder at the man’s mistake, for one gets so accustomed to see that excellent lady in all manner of shapes, that you may easily mistake a Turk in his turban for the Virgin and her crown. I am sure they think more vastly of her than of our Lord Jesus Christ, for, though we saw many crucifixes and many images of Him, yet even in their image-work it seemed to me that the Virgin Mary was cent-per-cent beyond the Lord Jesus Christ.
It happened, the very day we landed at Antwerp, that there was a grand procession just steaming in its full glories out of the Cathedral, an old and venerable building. There were priests in their robes, beadles resplendent in their livery and a great number of men, whom I supposed to be penitents, carrying huge candles, certainly I should think two inches in diameter. These men walked two and two along the streets. Whether that burning of the candles typified the consumption of their sins, the melting of their Church, or the illumination of soul which they so greatly needed, I do not know.
There also carried great lamps of silver, of electric very much like our own street lamps, only of course not quite so heavy. And these, too, when the sun was shining brightly and there was not need of the slightest illumination. And this was not in the dark cathedral, but in the open streets. In all solemnity they marched along with these candles and lanterns, blazing and shaming the sunlight. They told me they were taking the most blessed and comfortable sacrament to some sick people. But what the candles had to do with the sacrament, the sacrament with the candles, or they with the sacrament, I do not know.
I noticed two little boys, very handsomely dressed, walking in the middle of the procession, who were throwing flowers and oak leaves before the priests as they walked–so that as they went along, their holy feet scarce needed to touch the soil, or to be polluted with the stones. The presence of those little ones full of infantile joy relieved the soul for a moment and bade us pray that our little ones might take part in a nobler celebration when the Lord Himself should come in the glory of His Father. Almost every house had just before the window a little place for holding a candle and as soon as they heard the procession coming along, the candles were lighted.
I noticed that the moment it passed, the thrifty housewives blew out the lights and though they saved their tallow, I doubt they saved their souls. I enquired and was informed–and I think on good authority–that even some of the Protestants in Antwerp burn these candles in the front of their houses lest it should hinder their trade if they did not conform to the customs of the rest of the people. I am sure it is an unutterable disgrace to them if they do and it is very much akin to that which our brother Stovel was saying, being charitable with what is not our own by being conformed to this world and seeking to win either profit or applause by giving up our own peculiar sentiments.
I would like to have seen Martin Luther with a candle before his door! Unless, indeed, he had burned the Pope’s bull before their eyes. He would have sooner died than have paid respect to baptized heathenism, a mass of idolatries and superstitions. I do not think that the Romish religion has any very profound effect upon the morals of the people, for I observed publicly exposed for sale in the window of an old shop under the eaves of the cathedral, in fact, in a part of the cathedral itself, articles which I dare not describe to you and which I almost need to blush for having seen, for they were so horribly indecent.
The things themselves, the religion, is not accountable for, but how they allow their sale within the holy precincts, I cannot tell. Never did I feel my Protestant feelings boiling over so tremendously, as in this city of idols, for I am not an outrageous Protestant generally and I rejoice to confess that I feel there are some of God’s people in the Romish Church, as I shall have to show you by-and-by. But I did feel indignant when I saw the glory and worship which belongs to God alone, given to pictures and images of wood and stone.
When I saw the pulpits magnificently carved, the gems set in the shrines, the costly marbles, the rich and rare pictures upon which a man might gaze for a day and see some new beauty in each face, I did not marvel that men were enchanted therewith. But, when I saw the most flagrant violation of taste and much more of religion in their Calvarys and cheap prints, my spirit was stirred within me for I saw a people wholly given unto idolatry. I believe Antwerp to be the most religious place on the face of the earth in a bad sense–the most superstitious–for everywhere, all over the continent, we were compelled to say, “Well, this does not come up to the glory of Antwerp.”
There the people dive into the very depths of formalism, they seem as if they could not live without Mary the Virgin and without continually paying reverence and adoration to her.
I found throughout Belgium, what I was not sorry to see, a hearty dislike of the Emperor Napoleon. A salutary dread of that man may prevent his future attempts at aggrandizement. It may unite the weak until they shall be strong enough to become a useful check to the strong. When I was at an inn in Belgium, I heard some persons saying, “Ah, if they come here, they will never go back again.” Now, I knew they were afraid. Whenever I hear a man brag of what he is going to do, I always know he is frightened. The man said, “If they were once to come to Belgium, they would never go back again.”
I doubt they would stop there and that the goodness of their quarters would be the only reason why they would not go back. For the small force that Belgium can command I am afraid would interpose a very small barrier to the ambition of that mighty lord of a war-like people. I remarked throughout Prussia the utmost distrust of him. I cannot say that I found a very good opinion of the English in Prussia. Talking with intelligent Prussian gentlemen, I found that many felt very coldly towards us. As we had quietly permitted Bonaparte to annex Savoy and Nice, they felt persuaded he would never rest quiet until he had added Switzerland and rectified the boarders of the Rhine.
The German jocular publications, similar to our Punch, represent Napoleon as setting the boundaries straight with a ruler and as trying to climb a ladder, one round of which, marked Savoy, he has just reached and is preparing for one or two longer steps. The Prussians, I know, feel exceedingly full of suspicion and distrust as to what future events will be and I said to them, “Do you not think if the Emperor should touch any of your provinces on the Rhine, that England certainly would speak out?” “No,” said one gentleman. “Your nation never speaks out except it touches your commerce. You are a people that care for nothing except cotton and Manchester.”
It was no easy task to controvert his opinion, for many acts of government certainly wear that aspect. I am a peace man myself and a very great lover of everything that may tend to peace, but there are times when we cannot afford to vacillate. I believe that Oliver Cromwell was the best peacemaker that could be found, because he just said, “You may have peace if you will behave yourselves, but do not trifle with me, or expect me to wink at your oppressions, or you shall soon see my cannon at your doors.” Kings and potentates felt they had a firm bold man to deal with, not a man who could buckle and tremble, but who would most resolutely defend the right.
I would not say a word that would provoke in any man a warlike feeling, but I cannot bear that our Prussian Brethren should mistrust us, for they are our natural allies. It is to them we must look for true alliance in times of disaster, we must look to a Protestant country to stand by us and not to a Romish land. I do not like that a country that is married to England’s fairest daughter should entertain any suspicion but that we would stand by them in their struggle and expect them to stand by us. The fact is, it is only a combination of free and Protestant states that can be of lasting use and a cordial alliance with Romish and despotic powers is a dream and a delusion.
We journeyed from Antwerp to Brussels. I cannot say that Brussels interested me much. I am never interested in great towns in which there is nothing but fine buildings and museums. I had much rather see an odd, old-fashioned town like Antwerp with its sunny memories of Rubens, Quintin Mastys and other princes in the realms of art. It was the first place I saw and I think its singular houses, its old-fashioned costumes and its ancient streets will never die out of my memory. In Brussels I heard a good sermon in a Romish Church. The Church was crowded with people, many of them standing, though you might have a seat for a halfpenny or a farthing.
But I stood, too. And that good man–for I believe he is a good man– preached the Lord Jesus with all his might. He spoke of the love of Christ so that I, a very, very poor hand at the French language, could fully understand him and my heart kept beating within me as he spoke of the beauties of Christ and the preciousness of His blood and of His power to save the chief of sinners. He did not say justification by faith, but he did say, “Efficacy of the blood,” which comes to very much the same thing. He did not tell us we were saved by grace and not by our works, but he did say that all the works of men were less than nothing when they were brought into competition with the blood of Christ and that that blood was in itself enough.
True there were objectionable sentences, as naturally there must be, but I could have gone to that man and could have said, “Brother, you have spoken the truth.” And if I had been handling that text myself, I must have done it in the same way, if I could have done it as well. I was pleased to find my own opinion verified in that case, that there are some, even in the apostate Church, who cleave unto the Lord. There are some sparks of heavenly fire that tremble amidst the rubbish of old superstition, some lights that are not blown out, even by the strong wind of Popery, but still cast a feeble gleam across the waters sufficient to guide the soul to the rock Christ Jesus.
I saw in that Church a box for contributions for the Pope and his empty exchequer may well require the consideration of the faithful. Peter’s pence were never more needed than at the moment when the patrimony of his pretended successors is likely to be delivered from their paternal protection. The Pope will never grow rich with what I put into the box. I have seen money-boxes on the continent for different saints–Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Dominic and another box for the Virgin and another for the poor. Now I never could make out how the money got to the Virgin and to Dominic and to the rest of them. But I have a notion that if you were to find out how the money gets to the poor, you would find out how it reaches the Saints.
On board our ship, from London to Antwerp, there were a considerable number of Irishmen, who were going out to be a part of the Popish Legion. I hope they were not fair specimens of the bulk. There is such a dash of chivalry about that enlistment of these brave crusaders, that I looked for fine noble fellows. This company could by no means warrant me in giving such a description. I felt exceedingly grateful to the Pope for finding some occupation for such a company. The captain said, “There ain’t but one man among them, Sir, as would cut up for a mop,” and first appearances seemed to justify the opinion, whatever that expressive phrase may mean. They were the most irregular set of regular troops I had ever seen. Their luggage was the least expensive that ever the captain carried, for out of the whole batch, I was told that no mate had more luggage than he could carry in a pocket handkerchief. As they ware going along, they were down on the deck playing at cards–I suppose that was to qualify them for the service of his holiness. But as soon as the ship began to roll they played quite other cards. What this new occupation was I leave to your imagination.
After going from Brussels and getting a distant glimpse of the lion mound of Waterloo, we hurried down to Namur and steamed along the Meuse–that beautiful river the Meuse–which is said to be an introduction to the Rhine, but which to my mind is a fair rival to that noble river. It quite spoiled me for the Rhine. Everywhere, on each side, there were now phases of beauty and sweet little pictures which shone in the sunshine like small but exquisite gems.
It was not one vast Kohinoor diamond. It was not sublimity mingling its awe with loveliness such as you would see in Switzerland with its majestic mountains, but a succession of beautiful pearls, threaded on the silver string of that swiftly flowing river. It is so narrow and shallow that as the steamboat glides along, it drives up a great wave upon the banks on either side. In some parts along the river there were signs of mineral wealth and the people were washing the iron stone at the river’s brink to separate the ore from the earth. One thing I saw here I must mention, as being a type of a prevailing evil in Belgium. When there were barges of iron-stone to unload, the women carried the heavy baskets upon their backs. If there were coals or bricks to be carried, the women did it. They carried everything. And their lords and masters sat still and seemed to enjoy seeing them at work and hoped it might do them good, while they themselves were busily engaged in the important occupation of smoking their pipes.
When we came to a landing-place, if the rope was to be thrown off so that the steamboat might be secured, there was always a woman to run and seize the rope and there stood a big-looking fellow to give directions as to how she should do it. We joked with each other upon the possibility of getting our wives to do the like, but indeed, it is scarcely a joking matter to see poor women compelled to work like slaves, as if they were only made to support their husbands in idleness. These poor women were worn out. They looked more fully developed than the men and seemed to be more masculine.
If I had been one of those women and I had had a little bit of a husband sitting there smoking his pipe, if there is an act that gives a woman two months for beating her husband, I fear I should have earned the penalty. Anyhow, I would have said to him, “No. I am very much obliged to you for doing me the honor of marrying me, but at the same time, if I am to work and earn your living, and mine too, you will smoke your pipe somewhere else.”
The fact is, my dear Friends, to come to something that may be worth our thinking about, employment for women is greatly needed in our country and the want of it is a very great evil, but it is not so much to be deplored as that barbarity which dooms women to sweep the streets, to till the fields, to carry heavy burdens and to be the drudges of the family. We greatly need that watch-making, printing, telegraphs, book-selling and other indoor occupations should be more freely open to female industry, but may Heaven save our poor women from the position of their Continental sisters.
The Gospel puts woman where she should be, gives her an honorable position in the house and in the Church, but where women become the votaries of superstition they will soon become the burden-bearers of society. Our best feelings revolt at the idea of putting fond, faithful and affectionate woman to oppressive labor. Our mothers, our sisters, our wives, our daughters are much too honorable in our esteem to be treated otherwise than as dear companions, for whom it shall be our delight to live and labor.
We went next to a sweet little village called Chaufontaine, surrounded with verdant hills and so truly rural, that one could forget that there was such a place as a busy, noisy, distracting world. Here we found the villagers at work making gun barrels with old-fashioned tilt hammers, which I understand have not been used in England for fifty years. Here it was for the first time we saw industrious men. Talk about long hours in England!–these blacksmiths rise at four o'clock in the morning and I do not know when they leave off–only this I know, that we passed by them very late and found them at it still and that too, hard at work at the blazing forge. They were hammering and knocking away at the oldfashioned way of making gun barrels, welding one piece of iron into a tube, working almost without clothing, the sweat pouring down them, mingling with the black and soot of their faces.
The real workers on the continent seem to be always working and never appear to stop at all, except at dinner time. Then you may go to the shop and knock until your arm aches and there is never a man to sell you anything. They are all having their dinner. Dinner is a respectable operation and they do not like to come out even to wait upon a customer.
I waited a long time at a door in Zurich where I wanted to buy a print, but no, no, I must wait. Where has the man gone? He has gone to dinner. I must wait till the dinner is done. That breaking up of the day, I have no doubt, tends, after all, to shorten the hours of labor, but I think there is work to be done in the villages of the continent by the Early Closing Association–it will be well if they can persuade people that they can do quite as much work if they work fewer hours. In the country villages science appears to be very backward. My friend declared he saw the linchpin of a wagon which weighed two pounds. I never saw such a huge linchpin anywhere else. And as to the carts and wagons, they were like racks put on a couple of pair of wheels and in every case five times as heavy as they need be. And thus the horses have a load to begin with before the cart is loaded. On the continent I think they have in some towns and cities made progress superior to our own, but in the villages and in the rural parts of any one country you like to choose throughout the whole continent you would find there far behind our rural population.
The intelligence of those countries is centered in the large towns and it does not radiate forth and spread its healthy influence in the rural districts so swiftly as in our own beloved land. It is well to see advances even in these social matters, because, as men advance in social discoveries, in arts and commerce, it often happens that they are brought into contact with other lands and so the Word of God becomes more widely known. I believe every steam engine, every railroad, every steamboat and every threshing machine to be a deadly enemy to ignorance and what is ignorance but the cornerstone of superstitions? Let but the light go forth mentally and the way will be prepared for the light Divine.
At Aix-la-Chapelle I saw another batch of the Pope’s guards–they were very carefully looked after and required it I do not doubt. They were the right sort for fighting, if all accounts are true, and although I thus speak of them, I feel indignant at the abominable manner in which they have been treated. True hearts have been rejected by the chief-priest, but the day will soon come when he would give all Rome to get a few hundred of such true fellows as these Irish lads. Beyond a question, their motive entitled them to the best of treatment from those whom they volunteered to serve. It has been a sad, sad affair. I pray God the day may come when Ireland, the real Emerald Isle, first gem of the ocean, may shake off the cloud that now hangs so heavily upon her and when her brave sons–for brave they are–may find better work than to uphold a rotten throne, which I pray may fall. And may Garibaldi be the means of shaking it!
As everybody, when they go on the continent visits Cologne, so did we. But I must say of Cologne, I have a more vivid recollection of what I smelt than of what I saw. The Cologne odor is more impressive than the Eau de Cologne. I had heard Albert Smith say he believed there were eighty-three distinct bad smells in Cologne and in my opinion he underrated the catalogue, for every yard presented you something more terrible than you had ever smelt before. Better to pay our heavy taxes for drainage than live in such odors. Our filthy friend, the Thames, is as sweet as rose-water when compared with Cologne or Frankfort. Hear this, you grumblers, and be thankful that you are not worse off than you are.
We went down the Rhine and it was just a repetition of what we saw down the Meuse, with the addition of castles and legends. My want of taste is no doubt the cause of my disappointment upon seeing this river. The lakes of Westmoreland and Cumberland and the lochs of Scotland, fairly rival the Rhine and are much of the same character. Go and see it yourselves and you will not repent it. We went across to Frankfort and Heidelberg and then to Baden.
Let me say a few words about Baden. I went to see the gaming table. It is, without exception, the most mournful sight I ever put my eyes on. The Conversation House at Baden is a gorgeous building. Wealth could not make it more splendid than it is. All the luxuries that can be gathered from the farthest ends of the earth are lavished there. It is a fairy palace, more like the gorgeous creation of a dream than sober substantial fact. You are freely admitted–no charge is made. The most beautiful music that can be found waits to charm your ear. The most excellent performers are there and if there is a special concert it is always free.
The theatres are free–every place of amusement is free–even the public library is free and nothing has to be paid for. You ask me how all this is supported? To the left of the building there are two rooms for gaming. There is a long table and a great crowd standing round it. The table is as full as it will accommodate and there sit four men in the middle with long rakes, pulling money this way and that way and shoving it here and there. I hardly ever saw such a mass of money, except upon a banker’s counter. There are long rolls of gold done up in marked quantities and then there are heaps of silver money. You see a young man come in, he looks around him, but does not seem like a gambler. He puts down half a Napoleon as a mere joke. You watch him–in a minute it is shoveled away, he has lost his money.
He walks round again and puts down another. This time he wins and he has two. By-and-by he will play deeper and the day will probably come when he will stake his all and lose it. You see women sitting there all night playing high stakes. Some people win, but everybody must lose sooner or later, for the chances are dreadfully against any man who plays. The bank clears an enormous sum every year. I am afraid to mention the amount lest I should be thought to exaggerate. What staring eyes, what covetous looks, what fiery passions I saw there! And what multitudes go into that place happy and return to curse the day of their birth! I had the sorrow of seeing some fools play. I saw young men who put down money and spent so much that they had hardly enough to take them back to England.
Such was the infatuation that I am not surprised when spectators are carried away by the torrent. There are some who defend the system. I hold it to be fraught with more deadly evils than anything that could be invented even by Satan himself. I saw an old respectable looking man come there and put down ten pounds. He won. He receives twenty. He puts down the twenty. He wins and he has forty. Again he puts down the forty and receives eighty. He puts down the eighty and takes up one hundred and sixty. Then he took it all up, put it in his pocket and walked away as calmly as possible.
Now that man will lose money by that, because he will come back tomorrow. And he will probably play so deep, he will sell his house that is to cover his children’s heads and pawn the very bed from under his wife. The worst thing that can happen to a man who plays is to win. If you lose, it serves you right and there is hope that you will repent of your folly. If you win, the devil will have you in his net so thoroughly, that escape will be impossible. I charge every young man here–for there are such temptations now in London, though not well known–I charge you, above all things, never have anything to do with games of chance.
If you desire to make your damnation doubly sure and ruin your body and soul, go and do it. But if not, avoid it, pass by it, look not at it for it has a basilisk’s eye and may entice you and then it has the sting of an adder and will certainly destroy you. I repeat what I said before of Baden- Baden, it is a bewitching place and well worth a visit from the man who would see evil in its finest robes. But let not the weak and frivolous venture to touch the gilded bait here so temptingly displayed, or his ruin will be near and his remorse most bitter.
We went from there to Freburg and afterwards to Schafthausen. There for the first time we saw the Alps. It was a wonderful sight though in the dim distance we hardly knew whether we saw clouds or mountains. We had to hold a sort of controversy with ourselves–is that solid–that glittering whiteness, that sunny glitter that I see there? Is it a bank of white mist? Is it cloud, or is it a mountain? Soon you are assured that you are actually beholding the everlasting hills. If a man does not feel like praising God at that moment, I do not think there is any grace in him. Sentimental tears I never indulge in, but I will aver that if there is anything like piety in a man’s soul when he sees those glorious works of God, he will begin to praise the Lord and magnify His holy name. We soon passed into Switzerland. We went from Schafthausen to Zurich. Everywhere there was something to delight us. The magnificent falls of the Rhine, the clear blue waters of the Zurich lake, the distant mountains, the ever-changing costumes of the people–all kept us wide awake and gratified our largest love of novelties. All nature presented us with a vast entertainment and every turn of the head introduced us to something new and beautiful.
At Zurich I saw in the great fair what I also saw at Baden-Baden, a sight which gave me pleasure, namely, the little star of truth shining amid the darkness. Opposite the house at Baden, where Satan was winning souls at the gaming table, there was a little stall at which an agent of the Bible Society was selling Bibles and Testaments. I went up and bought a Testament of him and felt quite cheered to see the little battery erected right before the fortifications of Satan, for I felt in my soul it was mighty through God to the pulling down of the stronghold. There in the midst of the fair at Zurich were selling all manner of things, like John Bunyan’s Vanity Fair, there stood an humble looking man with his stall, upon which there were Bibles, Testaments and Mr. Ryle’s Tracts.
It is always a great comfort to me to see my sermons in French and other languages sold at the same shops as those of that excellent man of God. There is the simple Gospel in his tracts and they are to my knowledge singularly owned of God. How sweet it is to see these dear Brethren in other Churches, loving our Lord and honored by Him. At Lucerne we stopped and spent our third Sabbath and of all days in the year, Sabbaths on the Continent are most wretched, so far as the means of grace are concerned. This, however, was spent in quiet worship in our own chamber.
Our first Sabbath was a dead waste, for the service at Church was lifeless, spiritless, graceless, powerless. Even the grand old prayers were so badly read that it was impossible to be devout while hearing them and the sermon upon, “The Justice of God in Destroying the Canaanites,” was as much adapted to convert a sinner, or to edify a saint, as Burke’s Peerage, or Walkers dictionary. There was nothing, however, in the service Puseyistical or heretical.
Far worse was our second Sunday in Baden, which effectually prevented my attending Episcopal services again, until I can be sure of hearing truthful doctrine. The preacher was manifestly a downright Puseyite, an admirer, doubtless, of Mr. Bryan King, because during one part of the service he must needs go up to the Roman Catholic altar and there bow himself with his book to us. The images and idols of the Church were not concealed as they should have been by some proper hangings. There they were in all their open harlotry and I must say they were in full keeping with the sermon which was inflicted upon us.
The preacher thought he would give us a smart hit, so he began with an attack upon all who did not subscribe to Baptismal regeneration and sacramental efficacy. He did not care what we might say, he was certain that when the holy drops fell from the fingers of God’s ordained minister, regeneration there and then took place. I thought, well that is coming out and the man is more honest than some of the wolves in sheep’s clothing, who hold Baptismal regeneration but will not openly confess it. The whole sermon through, he treated us to sacramental efficacy and made some allusion to riot. George’s riots, saying that it was an awful thing that the servants of God were subjected to persecution and then he let fly at us all and told us we had not sufficient respect for our ministers, that the real ordained successors of the Apostles were trod down as mire in the streets. Who could blame the poor man for thus trying to honor himself, for I am afraid no other would be able to endure, much less to honor him. I abstained from going to Church after that and if I were to continue for seven years without the public means of grace, unless I knew that a man of kindred spirit, with Mr. Allen, Mr. Cadman, Mr. Ryle and that holy brotherhood of evangelicals would occupy the pulpit, I never could or would enter into an Anglican Church again. These Puseyites make good Churchmen turn to the Dissenters and we who already dissent, are driven further and further from the Establishment.
In the name of our Protestant religion, I ask whether a minister of the Church of England is allowed to bow before the altar of a Popish Church? Is there no rule or canon which restrains men from such an outrage upon our professed faith, such an insult to our constitution? This, I know, in no other English denomination would such a thing be tolerated and I beseech some clergyman of the Church of England to ask the question whether this is to be permitted and allowed.
In the Church at Lucerne I think they had the head of St. John the Baptist, with some of the blood in a dish and other relics innumerable. And yet I was expected to go on Sunday and worship there. I could not do it, for I should have kept thinking of John the Baptist’s head in the corner. Though I have a great respect for that Baptist and all other Baptists, I do not think that I could have controlled myself sufficiently to worship God in the midst of such fooleries as that. In this case I believe the idols are covered and the truth is preached, but I did not know this till the time was past. But my time will utterly fail me, therefore let me pass on.
We went up the Righi, as everybody must do, toiling up, up, up, some nine miles, to see the sun go to bed and then we were awakened in the morning with a most dreadful blowing of horns to get up and see the sun rise. Out we went, but his gracious majesty, the sun, would not condescend to mountains with either sharp or rounded peaks and snowy heads, all worthy of the toil which brings them into view. The circular panorama seen from the Righi Culm is perhaps unrivalled. There is the lake of Zug and yonder a strip of Zurich and there the long arms of Lucerne and yonder the Pilatus mountains and further yet the Black Forest range. Just at your feet is the buried town of Goldau, sad tomb in which a multitude were buried by a falling mountain. The height is dizzy to unaccustomed brains, but the air is bracing and the prospect such as one might picture from the top of Pisgah, where the Prophet of Horeb breathed out his soul to God.
We went here, there and everywhere and saw everything that was to be seen and at last, after a long journey we came to Geneva. I had received the kindest invitation from Geneva. By the way, there is a very officious Brother, who very much teases and vexes me and certainly on no occasion more than when he brought out a pamphlet in my glory and honor. For once the Dial Newspaper spoke right, good, sound truth and logic. Of all things, I dislike the most that fawning at one’s feet and licking the dust off the soles of one’s boots into which that poor man has fallen. However wellintentioned the thing may be, it makes my blood boil at it, I cannot endure it.
But I went to Geneva, not by the invitation of one who would play the showman for me, but by the invitation of our esteemed and excellent brother, Mr. D'Aubigne. He came to meet me at the station, but I did not come by that train and therefore he missed me. I had to run about all over the town to find him. I met a gentleman in the street and told him I was Mr. Spurgeon. He then said, “Come to my house–the very house where Calvin used to live.” I went home with him. We went all over the city to find Mr. D'Aubigne and Pastor Bard. I was taken to the house of Mr. Lombad, an eminent banker of the city and a godly and gracious man. I think I never enjoyed a time more than I did with those Brethren–real true-hearted Brethren.
There are, you know, two Churches there–the Established and the Free. And there has been some little bickering and some little jealousy, but I think it is all dying away. At any rate, I saw none of it, for Brethren from both these Churches came and did me every kindness and honor. I think I must be a little proud, notwithstanding Mr. Stovel’s advice to the contrary, for I was allowed to stand in the pulpit of John Calvin. I am not superstitious, but the first time I saw this medal bearing the venerated effigy of John Calvin I kissed it, imagining that no one saw the action. I was very greatly surprised when I received this magnificent present, which shall be passed round for your inspection. On the one side is John Calvin with his visage worn by disease and deep thought and on the other side is a verse fully applicable to that man of God–He endured as seeing him who is invisible. That is the very character of the man. That glorious man, Calvin! I preached in the cathedral. I do not think half the people understood me in the Cathedral of St. Peter’s. But they were very glad to see and join in heart with the worship in which they could not join with understanding. I did not feel very happy when I came out in full canonicals, but the request was put to me in such a beautiful way that I could have worn the Pope’s tiara, if by so doing I could preach the Gospel the more freely.
They said–“Our dear Brother comes to us from another country. Now, when an ambassador comes from another country, he has a right to wear his own costume at Court. But, as a mark of very great esteem, he sometimes condescends to the manners of the country which he visits and wears the Court Dress.” “Well,” I said–“yes, that I will, certainly, if you do not require it, but merely ask it as a token of my Christian love. I shall feel like running in a sack, but it will be your fault.” But it was John Calvin’s cloak and that reconciled me to it very much. I do love that man of God, suffering all his life long, enduring not only persecutions from without but a complication of disorders from within. And yet serving his Master with all his heart.
Now, I want to ask your prayers for the Church at Geneva and in their name I speak to you. That little Republic of Geneva stands now like an island, as it were, on each side shut in by France and I can assure you there are no greater Anti-Gallicans in the whole world than the Genovese. Without knowing that I trod upon tender ground, I frequently said, “Why, you are almost French people!” At last they hinted to me that they did not like me to say so and I would not say it any more. They are afraid of being Frenchified. They cannot endure it. They know the sweets of liberty and cannot bear that they should be absorbed into that huge monarchy. Mr. D'Aubigne charged me with this message, “Stir up the Christians of England to make Geneva a matter of special prayer. We do not dread the arms of France, nor invasion, but something worse than that– namely, the introduction of French principles.” There is a French population constantly crossing the border. They bring in infidelity and neglect of the Sabbath and Romanism is making very great advances. The Brethren said, “Ask the people to pray for us, that we may stand firm and true. As we have been the mother of many Churches, desert us not in the hour of our need, but hold us up in your arms and pray that the Lord may still make Geneva a praise throughout the earth.”
The Evangelical Alliance is to be held there next year. I heartily wish I could go there, though our friends will say I must not run away again. I should like to go to the Evangelical Alliance, to mingle with those beloved Brethren once more, for it is as the days of Heaven upon earth, when in foreign lands we see Brethren in Christ and commune with them. To my dying day I shall remember those servants of Jesus Christ who greeted me in my Master’s name and loved me for my Master’s sake. Hospitality unbounded, love unalloyed and communion undisturbed are precious pens with which the Brethren in Geneva wrote their names upon my heart.
At last we got away from Geneva and went off to Chamounix. What a glorious place that Chamounix is! My heart flies there in recollection of her glories. The very journey from Geneva to Chamounix fires one’s heart. The mind longs to climb the heavens as those mountains do. It seemed to sharpen my soul’s desires and longings, till like the peaks of the Alps, I could pierce the skies. I cannot speak as I should if I had one of those mountains in my view. If I could point out of the window and say–“There! See its frosted brow! See its ancient hoary head,” and then speak to you of the avalanches that come rattling down the side–then I think I could give you some poetry.
Here we went up the Mer de Glace on mules. I had the great satisfaction of hearing three or four avalanches come rolling down like thunder. In descending, I was alone and in advance. I sat down and mused, but I soon sprang up, for I thought the avalanche was coming right on me, there was such a tremendous noise and rushing. We crossed many places where the snow, in rushing down from the top, had swept away every tree and every stone and left nothing but the stumps of the trees and a kind of slide from the top of the mountain to the very valley. What extraordinary works of God there are to be seen here! We have no idea of what God is.
As I went among these valleys, I felt like a little creeping insect, wondering what the world could be, but having no idea of its greatness. I sank lower and lower and growing smaller and smaller, while my soul kept crying out, “Great God, how infinite You are! What worthless worms are we!” After leaving Chamounix we came at last to what was to be the great treat of our journey, namely, the passage of the Simplon. The passage of that mountain is an era in any man’s life. That splendid road was carried over the Alps by Napoleon, not for the good of his species, but in order that he might transport his cannon to fight against Austria. “It stands there,” says James Macintosh, “the noblest work of human skill.” There are other works which may contain more genius and some which may seem to be more grand. But this, in the midst of the rugged stern simplicity of nature seemed to say, “Man is little, but over God’s greatest works man can find a pathway and no dangers can confine his ambition.” Where the rock was so steep that the road could not be carried by any other means, workmen were hung down from the top in cradles and they chipped a groove and thus carried the road along the precipitous face of the rock. Frequently too, it was carried through a huge tunnel cut in the solid rock and on and on we went up the enormous height until we came to the region of perpetual frost and snow.
There one could play snowballs in the height of summer and gather ice in abundance. On the top of the mountain stands the hospice into which we entered. There are some four or five monks who came out and asked us to enter. We did so and would honor the religious feeling which dictates such constant hospitality. We were shown up into a very nice room, where there was cake and wine ready and if we had chosen to order it, meat, soup and anything we liked to have and nothing to pay. They always feed four hundred people gratuitously that they may minister to the necessities of the poor. They go out in the cold nights and bring in those that are frost-bitten. They dig them out from under the snow, simply that they may serve God by serving their fellow men.
I pray God bless the works of the Augustine Order and may you and I carry out the spirit of Augustine, which is the true spirit of Christ, the spirit of love, the spirit of charity, the spirit which loves truth and the spirit which loves man and above all, loves the man Christ Jesus. We never need fear with our strong doctrines and the spirit of our Master in us that we shall be much led astray, or much carried away by heresies which continually arise and which would deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect.
I wanted to talk to you about Venice tonight, but time fails me. Some other occasion will offer for me to speak to my friends about that. If any of you can save up money–after this Tabernacle is paid for–go to Switzerland. You will never regret it and it need not be expensive to you. If you do not feel your head grow on both sides and have to put your hands up and say, “I feel as if my brains are straining with their growth,” I do not think you have many brains to spare. Really, Brothers and Sisters, as I have stood in the midst of those valleys, I have wished I could carry you all there. I cannot reproduce those thoughts to you in this darkness. I cannot talk about those storms we saw below us, when we were on the top of the hill.
I cannot tell you about those buried villages, about the locusts that came in clouds and devoured everything before them, for time would utterly fail to tell all the wonders of God which we saw in nature and in Providence. One more thing and I have done. If you cannot travel, remember this sweet verse–
“God, in the Person of His Son,
Has all His mightiest works outdone.”
Get a view of Christ and you have seen more than mountains, cascades and valleys and seas can ever show you. Thunders may bring their most sublime uproar and lightning their awful glory. Earth may give its beauty and stars their brightness. But all these put together can never rival Him–
“For in His looks a glory stands,
The noblest labor of your hands;
God in the Person of His Son,
Has all His mightiest works outdone.”
It was announced that L1,050 had been collected in the course of the day. The doxology was then sung and the proceedings terminated. Adapted from The C. H.. Spurgeon Collection, Version 1.0, Ages Software, 1.800.297.4307