On Wednesday, 26 June 1861, C. H. Spurgeon entered Merthyr, the ‘Ironopolis’ of Wales, with large crowds waiting to greet him at the Vale of Neath Station.
By 1845, the nearby Dowlais ironworks had become the biggest in the world, with 18 blast furnaces and 8800 employees. The miners were expecting a larger figure, and were surprised to see a little stout gentleman in a straw hat.
The Market House had been prepared to accommodate the 10,000 people for the afternoon service, which lasted two and a half hours. The sermon was on Ephesians 3:19: ‘And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God’.
About 8000 attended the evening service. A Welsh hymn was followed by an English hymn introduced by Spurgeon, who afterwards led in prayer. The text was Hebrews 6:9: ‘But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak’.
He spoke of a majestic procession, with election, predestination and redemption in the vanguard. Next came the bodyguard, bearing the bejewelled silver casket containing one’s heart bathed in blood; followed by four stately personages — repentance, humility, prayer and tender conscience.
These are followed by the rearguard of obedience, gratitude, consecration and then Christian knowledge and contentment. Next come zeal, hope, communion, final perseverance and perfect sanctification. Two more follow: death, carrying the golden key of heaven, and resurrection. And thus the army of salvation marches along accompanied by divine melodies.
Spurgeon then urged his hearers to come to Christ as they were, in their rags, and not to clothe themselves with a cloak of religion or good works.
As Mr Spurgeon, bound for Cardiff, left his friends at the railway station, he waved his hand warmly towards them, hoping he would come again soon.
Spurgeon spoke at Cardiff on the Thursday, preaching in the afternoon and evening in aid of the funds of the Bethel English Baptist Chapel in Mount Stuart Square, Bute Docks. The crowd of 2000-3000 assembled under threatening clouds, in the Canton outdoors horse-market, with seats at one shilling and half-a-crown.
Spurgeon requested that the open space in front of the platform be filled, at which those paying a shilling rushed forward and stood in front of those in the dearer seats and blocked their view. They complained loudly, with some requesting their money back.
Some felt that, if he preached that, ‘He that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat’, how could he charge for seats? Spurgeon replied: ‘My dear friends, I was not aware of the arrangements made upon this occasion and I could have wished there had been no charge made, I assure you’.
‘I get nothing for coming here beyond my railway expenses. If anyone is dissatisfied at the present time, if he will only pay my railway expenses, I shall have much pleasure another time in coming to preach for him; and, if my small-minded friend [alluding to a person loudly protesting against being done out of 2s 6d] will only come forward, I will return him his half crown, and give him sixpence interest as well’.
Unfortunately, this disorderly person had to be removed by the police before the hymn ‘Before Jehovah’s awful throne’ was announced. Torrential rain caused the people to shelter until it cleared, and afterwards Spurgeon announced his text as Psalm 23:1: ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want’.
At 7.00pm, about 3000-4000 people assembled in the Market House for the evening sermon. Spurgeon said he felt very ill and fatigued from his schedule. He spoke from John 6:37, as he had done in Swansea.
Back in London, he told his congregation that his hand had been shaken by so many people that he was seriously indisposed. His hand was quite tremulous, and his medical man advised that if he persisted in doing anything but attending to his own chapel, he would lose his voice or become unable to preach any longer.
Tenby and Newport
Spurgeon spoke on Tuesday, 13 September 1864, at Manorbier Castle on behalf of South Parade Baptist Church, Tenby. He spoke the following Thursday in the Deer Park Field, after singing the Old Hundredth, followed by a prayer.
He chose Mark 7:32-37 on the healing of a deaf man and, firstly, compared his healing to that of the moral healing of the sinner. Secondly, although his friends could not heal him, they did what they could and brought him to Jesus.
Lastly, Spurgeon showed how the man had to be taken out of the crowd and made to recognise his need before being healed. National or family Christianity never saved anyone. To be saved, a man’s religion needs to be personal.
Jesus put his finger on the deaf man’s ear to show where the mischief was, and he will put his hand on your heart to show how vile it is. The rain became torrential, but the crowd of several hundred waited patiently to the end.
The following year, C. H. Spurgeon spoke twice in Newport Cattle Market near the docks. The invitation came from Commercial Road English Baptist Chapel, built two years previously, to help alleviate the outstanding debt.
Tickets were a shilling, but free tickets were supplied for the benefit of the poor. Special trains were provided and many weary folk arrived on foot as early as 8.30am. His morning address was from Song of Solomon 5:16: ‘This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem’.
Most of the 12,000 people at the afternoon service were standing and several fainted in the hot weather. Spurgeon’s commanding voice calmed the audience for the prayers and reading. He said he had a large text, in a very few words, based on Revelation 22:17: ‘Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely’.
He commented on the special position of this text. The Holy Spirit has been describing the glory of God and the New Jerusalem, then suddenly stops as if to remind us that his heart is always seeking the conversion of sinners. The Spirit has been talking to us from Genesis to Revelation and, before he is about to close the book, he says he has one more invitation, and that so wide, large and clear that you cannot misunderstand it: ‘You that are at the end of the book of life, ready to die, may look to Jesus Christ and live’.
He explained the symbolism of the text as a person drinking. ‘All mankind have got what Watts calls “the aching void”. Old Quarles said “the heart of man is a triangle, and you can never fill it with a circle”; that is to say the world cannot fill it’.
One has to first recognise an inner thirst or want. Then there is the recognised supply. ‘Get Christ, and the conscience is easy, sin is pardoned, for atonement was made. Get Christ, and the heart is satisfied; when we love him, we want no other love. Get Christ, and the understanding is gratified. There is everything in Jesus Christ which your heart wants’.
Thirdly, you have to receive, not do, feel or talk. It is the same way you become a soldier, by taking the Queen’s shilling. You don’t have to give anything. ‘So you take Christ, and you are a soldier of the cross … Whosoever will let him take Christ and trust in Christ, and all the wants of his soul shall be straightway and for ever supplied’.
After opening up the text, Spurgeon then gave an invitation. ‘There are some of my brethren who think the invitation to come to Christ should be directed to none but “sensible” sinners. Oh dear friends, there are plenty of stupid sinners and I am glad of a text that belongs to them as well as to the sensible ones’.
He said that ‘whosoever will’ applied to the greatest of sinners, to those who thought they were not good enough, or who had not repented enough. ‘But you must not get the stream to get at the fountain; you must get the fountain to get at the stream. Come, sinner, needy, guilty, lost, and ruined, hard-hearted, or however you may be, come!’
He concluded by giving a word of assurance that those who come will have a hearty welcome.
There then followed a lengthy attack on high church sacramentalism and an exhortation to only believe. ‘Trust in Christ and you are safe’.
‘Sinner, nothing do, either great or small;
Jesus did it, did it all,
Long, long ago’.
‘And all that thou hast to do is to take what Christ has done and thou art saved’.
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.