12 February 2012

The Generosity of Charles H. Spurgeon

It's nearing mid-February here in North Dakota, and the last couple of days have been two of the colder days we've had thus far this winter.  After last year, this year has been a breeze with only a handful of days with lows in the teens below zero.  Last year, the average high in January was 9.  This year, it was 26, which was the average high for March last year.  Not too bad at all.

Last summer, as I've mentioned previously here and here on this site, I had an internship with the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University.  That internship with the digital library gave me an opportunity to research all sorts of seemingly random people.  Most of the documents I reviewed were letters to President Roosevelt or one of his close associates.  The authors of these letters could at times be quite famous people, such as Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge, or Mark Hanna (those with knowledge of the Progressive Era will find these names familiar).  At times, they would be unknown to me. 

Finding the names of these less-well-known individuals in the correspondence would invariable lead to that all-too-twentieth-century research tool--the Google search.  At times, these folks were like ghosts...nonexistent.  At other times, I would learn some interesting information.  One of the people that I had to research in this manner was a New York Judge by the name of F. W. Holls.  He was influential in leading a famous peace delegation at the Hague.  My search for Judge Holls led me to the New York Times' October 23, 1903, edition.  Old NYT articles are available for search on the web, and they were invaluable for me over the summer.  Holls died in July of that year, and President Roosevelt sent a personal eulogy to be read at the memorial service. 

This was not what caught my interest, however.  Right below the account of Holls' memorial was an obituary for the widow of the famous British Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The main emphasis of the obituary that struck me was the mention of both Charles and Susannah Spurgeon's generosity.  The obituary stated: "In 1879 Mr. Spurgeon's congregation, on the occasion of his silver wedding, presented a purse containing 6,000 [pounds sterling] to him.  He immediately divided the money between the Orphanage, Pastor's College, and other institutions he founded."

A sum such as that provided to the Spurgeons would no doubt have been equivalent to several years' wages for an average Briton in 1879.  He was a mega-church pastor before anyone had heard of the mega-church.  He is still regarded one of the more influential figures in Baptist history.  How many modern American ministers would be inclined to give such a sizable sum away today?  While most ministers are no doubt in the ministry for the good of their parishioners, there are those who are infamous for their flaunting of wealth--be it clothing, cars, or houses.  I won't mention names, but one comes to mind that was on basically every TV station early in the morning during my high school years. 

The church could use a few more Spurgeons in my opinion (on so many levels).

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