C. H. Spurgeon visited Llandudno on Thursday, 8 September 1870, where he delivered two powerful open-air discourses.
Scaffolding was erected to form a covered rostrum on which ministers sat, in front of which was a harmonium and small choir. The large congregation was composed of visitors to the resort, plus thousands brought in by special trains at reduced fares.
Collections amounting to £88 were made and these helped defray the £1000 debt outstanding on Llandudno Zion English Baptist Chapel, in Mostyn Street. (This had been built in 1862 and was one of the most beautiful churches in the town. It was demolished in 1965).
The first service commenced at noon, when Spurgeon expounded Psalm 32 ‘in a most impressive and original manner’.
After the congregation sang ‘There is a fountain filled with blood’, he preached the main sermon from John 7:37-38: ‘In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his inward part shall flow rivers of living water’.
He described the need to recognise a thirst. People may have a thirst of conscience, yet be enslaved by the chains of their passions. Some seek for a philosophy that is true and will satisfy their understanding. Others have broken hearts: they have loved and been duped, but Jesus will love us when we are poorest.
The thirst of man can only be satisfied by Christ; and he wished his brethren in the ministry to preach Christ more and more. Out of every Christian should constantly be flowing streams of living water to others; many never thought of being the means of converting others, only of going to heaven themselves.
The afternoon service commenced at 4 o’clock with the hymn ‘Let us with a gladsome mind’, and then Spurgeon expounded Psalm 62.
After the singing of ‘The Lord my shepherd is’, he preached on Isaiah 41:10: ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness’.
He first said we must ascertain whether the promise applies to us or to others. It applies to the chosen of God (vv. 8-9). God calls by the general voice of the gospel, but a man needs to be called by divine grace to come out of his former life. If so called and chosen, then this precious text was the believer’s.
The promise was for God’s servants. Did the hearer think God’s ‘servant’ a low title? To serve God is alone the highest rank a man can have. Do we serve God or ourselves and the world?
‘Fear thou not; be thou not dismayed’. Sin brought in fear and sin keeps it in; if we had no sin we would have no fear. With perfect love there could be no fear, and when love shall reign on earth then fear shall disappear.
In the text we have God’s command against a state of doubt and fear. To be afraid is absolutely forbidden, and the addition of the commandment ‘be not dismayed’ makes the prohibition more forcible still.
Unbelieving fear is denied to the Christian because it is a sin to be distrustful of God. Spurgeon remarked that this sin of fear led to other sins that prevent people from being useful in the church, and he would now bring out five bottles of medicine from the text for fear’s cure. Furthermore, these costly drugs are all free.
The first is ‘I am with thee’; then ‘be not dismayed, for I am thy God’; third, ‘I will strengthen thee’; followed by, ‘I will help thee’; and last, ‘I will uphold thee’.
The newspaper reporter then said that Spurgeon ‘concluded an impressive discourse with a thrilling anecdote of an averted shipwreck on the Goodwin Sands, brought about by the gallantry and presence of mind of a shore pilot, who gave timely warning.
‘He applied the moral to his hearers and implored them to right the ship, port the helm, make their way towards the Cross — the mark of a crucified Saviour — and steer for heaven’.
Spurgeon’s wife, although not able to travel much because of health problems, nevertheless exercised a valuable ministry after 1875, through ‘Mrs. Spurgeon’s Book Fund’.
She wrote: ‘I have been doing a brave business in Wales through the magnificent generosity of a stranger’. This benefactor (a Methodist) became a friend, and designated £50 for a copy of Lectures to my students to every Calvinistic Methodist minister, preacher and student in North Wales (of whom there were about 500).
He provided a further £50 for expenses, and 400 copies were duly sent. He then authorised that the same books be distributed throughout South Wales at his expense. Many other ministers desired the book, so he also agreed to include the Wesleyan Methodist ministers of South Wales.
Spurgeon’s son, Rev. Charles Spurgeon (1856-1926), also visited Wales, when he came in 1882 to speak at the anniversary services of Walter Road Memorial Chapel, Swansea (opened 1875; demolished 1992), and at the opening of the new Deer Park Baptist Church in Tenby, on Tuesday, 25 August 1885.
He delivered a practical address on Zephaniah 3:17: ‘The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing’. He also spoke three times the following day.
The equivalent of PowerPoint in Spurgeon’s time was the ‘magic lantern’! On both of the above occasions, Charles Spurgeon presented his famous lecture ‘Hoarding information, or lessons from advertisements’. This consisted of 40 specially prepared slides.
Charles brought his own equipment and an operator with him, and used an oxy-hydrogen light source. The Cambrian newspaper reported that: ‘The lecture has been delivered at the Tabernacle with great success. C. H. Spurgeon says, “There is only one fault I can find with it — that we all want to hear it again”. An intellectual treat, and, coupled with the views, an admirable entertainment’.
There was no question as to the magic lantern being used in a worship service, but Spurgeon heartily approved its use in an educational context.
Some general conclusions may be drawn from this short series of articles concerning C. H. Spurgeon’s visits to Wales. First, he apparently only came when invited by a local church; there was no hint of him instigating an evangelistic crusade. He was usually asked to come not only to preach the gospel, but also that a collection might be made to help defray outstanding debts on new Baptist chapel buildings. He would also take a percentage for his own pastor’s college. He needed the wisdom of Solomon in balancing the offer of a free gospel with charging for admission to the services.
It is a salutary fact that most of the church buildings Spurgeon helped in this way are now demolished. But the true church consists of saved souls and Christ is still building these living stones into a habitation for his glory.
Spurgeon held the people of Wales, including the miners of the valleys, dear to his heart, as demonstrated by his sermon ‘The wailing of Risca’.
He clearly proclaimed that ‘whosoever will’ may come to Christ, but at the same time made clear the doctrine of election, and that everyone is either going to heaven or hell. He sometimes repeated a sermon when on tour.
It may seem strange that he makes no reference to the Welsh revival of 1858-60. The main work of the preacher is to carry on preaching the gospel, whether in or out of seasons of revival, and that is what he did.
Spurgeon’s messages were seasoned with illustrations and allegories, easily understood by his audience; and so he followed his Master in the use of parables.
The author is a retired analytical chemist and member of St Mellons Baptist Church, Cardiff. In 2012, he published Thoughts fixed and affections flaming (Day One) concerning Matthew Henry.
C. H. Spurgeon autobiography — the full harvest, Banner of Truth.
Evans, E, When He is come — the 1858-60 revival in Wales, Evangelical Movement of Wales.
Fullerton, W. Y., C. H. Spurgeon — A biography, Williams and Norgate, London.
Roberts, J. H. A., A view from the hill — a history of Risca and Moriah Baptist Church, Moriah Baptist Church.
Spurgeon — the early years, Banner of Truth.
The wailing of Risca (sermon): http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0349.htm
Of special help was the Welsh newspapers search facility from the National Library of Wales, at http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk/en/home