20 March 2012

Thomas Spurgeon (Part 2)

In part 1, Thomas Spurgeon, son of the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon heads back out to Australia, after a year at home much to the disappointment of his father. His father was eager to have him trained and groomed as both his 'side kick' and eventual successor but clearly the Lord had other plans-for the time being at least. CHS didn't know that his son's time in Australia would be formative for him and would prepare him to be successor.

Thus due to ill health Thomas headed out to Australia. It is worth noting that Thomas would send lengthy letters home on his voyages, one being over 150 pages! On one occasion he included table of contents to make it easier for his parents to find what interested them.

In December of 1878 he arrived at his destination. He spent most of his time preaching and still drew crowds. A year later, 1881, he found himself in New Zealand preaching at Hanover Street Church where there was no pastor. He was hosted by the Rutherfords for a few months who he had known in Australia on his first voyage. He grew very close to them on his first trip and eventually wed their daughter, Lila Rutherford, at the very church -Hanover. In November at age 25, he accepted temporarily the invitation to pastor Auckland Baptist Church. In a letter to a friend he said:
"...I have accepted the Pastorate here at least for a time, and mention this as an extra reason why you should visit N.Z. I feel sure the Lord would have me stop here for a while, nor should I be surprised if I remain for good. It depends on three things. (1) If my health holds good. (2) If the Lord blesses the word. (3) If my parents offer no decided objection."

The following month, his father's reply arrived:

"Mine own Dear Son,

How your whole conduct delights me, you are quite able to judge for yourself, and yet you defer to your parents in all things. May your days, according to the promise, be long in the land. I think the case is clear enough that you ought to settle, for a time at least, in Auckland, but still you see, we know but little of the facts and so I preferred to leave you to your own judgment. I know what that judgment will be. I believe the work before you will arouse all your energies—which is good; but I hope it will not tax them—which would be mischievous. It is a sphere worthy of you, and yet its excellence lies rather in what it may be than in what it is. All things considered, it is full of promise..."
CHS' counsel was ironic since exhaustion was a contributing factor to his relatively early death at 58.
The church soon came alive with their new pastor, and the numbers grew exponentially. Thomas reported in a letter to a colleague in February that they were experiencing the largest numbers ever 547 in the morning and 600 in the evening on one particular Sunday. By the middle of the year, similar tidings were still being reported: 19 baptisms, 16 new members, overflowing congregations, "larger congregations than ever", etc.

As for how his preaching developed over the Auckland years, The Chicago Standard of August 25th 1887 reported, speaking of Thomas Spurgeon:

"He is quite tall, rather spare, sharp-visaged and spiritually intellectual, a plain, unaffected, strong preacher, often, when deep in his subject, much like his father in manner and style. There is that same deep earnestness, that same yearning of soul, that same sweetness of spirit, that same simplicity and devoutness of manner which captivates and captures his hearers, and that same boldness of utterance which commands the respect of all."

By March of 1882, 6 months into his pastorate, having already shifted venues upon his arrival to Chorall Hall, it was decided that a building project should be undertaken. It was later determined that Mr. Spurgeon travel to England to get financial aid from brethren there, he left for England in May of 1884.

Arriving back at his father's church to a hero's welcome, one guest said that there was only one name in Australia and New Zealand which was heard as much as his father's, his own. Thomas went on to spend 5 months in England most of which were spent preaching and lecturing on behalf of his church back in Auckland. He occupied his father's pulpit several times during his time back home.

Having raised £2500, on December 12th 1884, he set sail for New Zealand, his father bidding him never to return saying he would not bare to part with his son again. He never saw his father again.

At Adelaide he wasted no time in wiring a rather cleverly crafted telegraph to his church in Auckland that made a fair circulation in the New Zealand papers due to the wit it exhibited. The cable ran, "Romans first eight twelve Second Corinthians first eleven". The church received it and read out the two passages to the congregation:

"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers : making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you. that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end that ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf."

Tuesday, May 12th 1885 was the day of the opening service of the constructed Auckland Tabernacle which still stands today in Auckland, New Zealand. The total cost of the building that accommodates at least 1200 people and was designed after his father's church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle back in England, was £14, 628. It opened debt free. A week after opening, 1700 persons attended the evening service. Such were the numbers. The next few years saw incredibly vibrant church life which the Lord blessed with fruit.

In 1886, Mr Spurgeon and Miss Rutherford were engaged and married two years later in February of 1888. Like the senior Spurgeon's wedding, the junior Spurgeon's wedding chapel was full to capacity with many more people outside. The church purchased, as a wedding gift for their pastor, a writing table. A replica of the one the people of New Zealand gave the Pope. On Christmas day of the same year Daisy Spurgeon was born but died three months later. Mr Spurgeon later said that he owned no land in New Zealand except a small plot in the Auckland cemetery on which a simple stone had the inscription-

Daisy Spurgeon

Aged 3 Months

"Even so, Father..."