22 March 2012

Thomas Spurgeon (Part 3)

Thomas' biographer says:
In one respect Thomas Spurgeon the Twin resembled Jacob the Twin—he served two periods of seven years for his reward. In all else he was an Israel, having power with God and with man. His experience in London was very similar to his experience in Auckland—he built a tabernacle and, in a comparatively short time, found his health unequal to the task the Church involved, and was compelled at length to resign it. The great personal event in his Auckland ministry was his Marriage, in his London ministry his Jubilee.

Indeed, due to poor health Thomas resigned his pastorate in Auckland, New Zealand in June of 1889. The church was obviously disappointed to see him go but knew it was necessary. Thomas lingered in New Zealand and was involved in 'missions' where in particular locations evangelistic meetings would be held. He did this for 18 months. In those endeavors 776 conversions where recorded. Several churches invited him to pastor including his former Auckland church from which he resigned. He declined them all. Australia soon beckoned for him to get involved in the missions there but this was eliminated as a possibility due to the events soon to follow back home.

In 1892 on the first of February Thomas' father, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, died and this only a few months after the birth of a son Thomas Harold Spurgeon. By June, Thomas and his family where in England. A Dr. Pierson who offered CHS his services to preach while he was ill continued on after Spurgeons death. After a year, he had to leave and the church invited him to come back. Thomas Spurgeon stepped in the gap while he was away.

His preaching warmed the hearts of the people. The authentic Spurgeon note could not be missed. On October 9, he preached his farewell sermon and on the 14th set sail for Australia. About four hundred people saw him off. Thomas stated that any invitation to him would have to be a probation of atleast 12 months in view him taking over as pastor, none negotiable. This was a rather bold position to take but it paid off. In March of 1893 after a period of debate and discussion two thirds voted to take Thomas Spurgeon on for 12 months of probation. Thomas left his family in New Zealand and headed back to England to begin the probation. At no point during the probation did he send for his family, which he could have. This gesture won him the respect of many. It showed that he did not want to give the impression that the case was closed and he would be confirmed as pastor even if at the expense of time away from his beloved family. Much to his own credit, the allocated probation period did not even elapse. 8 months into his probation, another meeting was called where Thomas, without further ado, was elected to succeed his father as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. This he revealed, when asked for a few words, to be his father's wish. "When I die," CHS said, "I'm sure they'll call Tom." In his address to the congragation he read a letter from his father quoting him to say, "Get very strong, and when I am older and feebler be ready to take my place."

Thomas went on to pastor the church for 14 years in which time the Tabernacle was infamously burnt down due to negligence rather than spite as was first believed. Thus he built two Tabernacles in his life time. His wedding was the most significant event in New Zealand and his 50th birthday (jubilee) in England.

Thomas Spurgeon at 50 with his wife Lila Rutherford SpurgeonUB
Due to illness, he tendered his resignation in 1907, which the church reluctantly accepted. He devoted his last 10 years after his pastorate to overseeing the three auxillary wings of the church as president: The Theological College, Orphanage and Colportage Association. He also spent alot of time travelling and turned back to his first love -art .

He arguably did more painting in his last days than the rest of his life combined holding three exhibitions where 80 paintings were exhibited in the first, 100 in the second and 124 in the last totaling just over 300 paintings. The last exhibition of 124 paintings being only a year before he died. All proceeds went to the Orphanage. He also spent his after-tabernacle-years in literally works.

In his last years, his health deteriorated and on October 20th, 1917, he complained of a sharp pain between his eyes, lapsed into a coma and died. The direct cause of death being a burst artery in the brain.

Thomas Spurgeon became known in his day, not as he is known today-the son of the great prince of preachers, but rather for his own merits. As I read his biography, I began to see him clearly. Both the description of himself and what he did brought him into clear light from the shadow of his father as no doubt was the case for those in whose time he lived. He developed his own identity not by trying or deliberate effort but as a result of his evident love for God and his church. He lived a full life and died having fought the good fight, run the race and kept the faith.

Note: To download his biography, click here.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I enjoyed reading it. Thank You.