Thursday, January 08, 2015

Spurgeon's first preaching "assignment"

I just saw, and loved, Through The Eyes of Spurgeon. Great film, joy to watch. I recommend it heartily. I would pick a nit, here. The film suggests that "Bishop Vinter" lied to Spurgeon and his companion, telling each that the other would preach. The real story is much more charming. In Spurgeon's own words, relating the incident not long after his sixteenth birthday:
There is a Preachers’ Association in Cambridge, connected with St. Andrew’s Street Chapel, once the scene of the ministry of Robert Robinson and Robert Hall. A number of worthy brethren preach the gospel in the various villages surrounding Cambridge, taking each one his turn according to plan. In my day, the presiding genius was the venerable Mr. James Vinter, whom we were wont to address as Bishop Vinter. His genial soul, warm heart, and kindly manner were enough to keep a whole fraternity stocked with love; and, accordingly, a goodly company of zealous workers belonged to the Association, and laboured as true yoke-fellows. My suspicion is, that he not only preached himself, and helped his brethren, but that he was a sort of recruiting sergeant, and drew in young men to keep up the number of the host; at least, I can speak from personal experience as to one case 
I had, one Saturday, finished morning school, and the boys were all going home for the half-holiday, when in came the aforesaid “Bishop” to ask me to go over to Teversham, the next evening, for a young man was to preach there who was not much used to services, and very likely would be glad of company. That was a cunningly-devised sentence, if I remember it rightly, and I think I do; for, at the time, in the light of that Sunday evening’s revelation, I turned it over, and vastly admired its ingenuity. A request to go and preach, would have met with a decided negative; but merely to act as company to a good brother who did not like to be lonely, and perhaps might ask me to give out a hymn or to pray, was not at all a difficult matter, and the request, understood in that fashion, was cheerfully complied with. Little did the lad know what Jonathan and David were doing when he was made to run for the arrow, and as little did I know when I was cajoled into accompanying a young man to Teversham. 
My Sunday-school work was over, tea had been taken, and I set off through Barnwell, and away along the Newmarket Road, with a gentleman some few years my senior. We talked of good things, and at last I expressed my hope that he would feel the presence of God while preaching. He seemed to start, and assured me that he had never preached in his life, and could not attempt such a thing; he was looking to his young friend, Mr. Spurgeon, for that. This was a new view of the situation, and I could only reply that I was no minister; and that, even if I had been, I was quite unprepared. My companion only repeated that he, in a still more emphatic sense, was not a preacher, that he would help me in any other part of the service, but that there would be no sermon unless I delivered one. He told me that, if I repeated one of my Sunday-school addresses, it would just suit the poor people, and would probably give them more satisfaction than the studied sermon of a learned divine. I felt that I was fairly committed to do my best. I walked along quietly, lifting up my soul to God, and it seemed to me that I could surely tell a few poor cottagers of the sweetness and love of Jesus, for I felt them in my own soul. Praying for Divine help, I resolved to make the attempt. My text should be, “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious,” and I would trust the Lord to open my mouth in honour of His dear Son. It seemed a great risk and a serious trial; but depending upon the power of the Holy Ghost, I would at least tell out the story of the cross, and not allow the people to go home without a word.
[C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1834–1854, vol. 1 (Cincinatti; Chicago; St. Louis: Curts & Jennings, 1898), 200–201.]


Susan said...

Hmm. I would agree that Bishop Vinter deceived Spurgeon, if he had known ahead of time that the other man would never preach. Maybe "deceived" is too strong--but "coaxed" would seem too mild if there was foreknowledge.

Susan said...

Don't know if my previous comment showed up, but I think that Vinter did deceive Spurgeon if he had known ahead of time that the other man would refuse to preach. Perhaps "deceived" is a bit strong, but "coaxed" seems a bit too mild if foreknowledge is involved. Nevertheless, Spurgeon was a trooper who trusted in the Lord.

Larry Geiger said...

This is an often used tactic of mentors. Place young men in a situation and let them work it out. Actually Lord Baden Powell's whole Boy Scouting program is built around this idea.

Young men must often be challenged before their true capabilities are revealed. It appears that Bishop Vinter wanted to know whether or not Spurgeon and his companion would come to the conclusion they did: "It seemed a great risk and a serious trial; but depending upon the power of the Holy Ghost, I would at least tell out the story of the cross, and not allow the people to go home without a word."

Larry Geiger said...

Where are the Bishop Vinters of our day? Who is collecting young men and making leaders and preachers of them? This has been greatly on my mind since reading this.

DJP said...

I think that's a really good response, Larry. Mostly we thing of guys who want to be but shouldn't. What of those who are humble and need a nudge?