As was fitting and right, they brought him home to sleep his last sleep. They have laid him amongst the comrades who fought by his side, and fell only a little time before him. Never since the days of the immortal Wesley has there been such lamentation over a prince falling in Israel. For several days prior to that memorable Sunday, the whole nation had watched with fear and anxiety by that sick bed at Mentone. Anxiously was every telegram scanned and every message analyzed. Hope and fear alternately predominated. With some that ‘hope deferred which maketh the heart sick,’ had taken possession. Whilst we anxiously waited, with every fiber of our beings strung to the utmost tension, a mighty host supplicated Him, in whose hands are the issues of life and death, that if agreeable to His will this precious life might be spared. But it was not to be. His will is always the right will. He who doeth all things well took the beloved pastor of thousands to one of His many mansions. Ere the close of Sunday, 31st January, 1892, ‘the laborer’s work was o’er; his eyes had seen the King in His beauty,’ and the land of promise was his inheritance. At last the message reached our shores, and a chord of sympathy vibrated in every heart as they heard or read its import. Although sorrowful to some, yet there was a joy and hope declared that none could gainsay. It was touchingly beautiful in its simplicity. ‘Our beloved pastor entered heaven at 11:15 on Sunday night.’
In response to a universally expressed wish, if for no other reason, it was decided to lay all that was mortal of the great chieftain in English soil. Those three days’ services m the Tabernacle will never be forgotten by those who were present. Well might his able co-adjutor, Dr. Pierson, say he doubted if any one since Paul’s day had entered heaven to find so many people gathered there saved by his ministry as Mr. Spurgeon. The vast crowds who again and again filled the Tabernacle were permeated with one common sorrow. They all sighed
‘For the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still.’
They all ‘wept, most of all that they should see his face no more’
In tile multitude of tributes offered to the memory of the great preacher at those monster gatherings, we can only notice one. Mr. Harrald, in the course of his pathetic address, said, ‘The beloved pastor had a last word for them, by a most remarkable over-ruling of the providence of God, in the sermon which he appointed for this very week, and which Mrs. Spurgeon had entitled, ‘His own funeral sermon.’ The text was, remarkable to say, ‘Having served his generation by the will of God he fell on sleep.’ The last message sent by the deceased pastor to his beloved church was, ‘Self and wife’s hearty thank-offering, 100 pound for Tabernacle general expenses fund; love to all friends.’ This was the last greeting this side eternity.’
In Mr. Spurgeon’s desk was found by his secretary the following verse. It was in his own handwriting, which was as clear as any he ever penned, and was as follows:
‘No cross, no crown; no loss, no gain;
They, too, must suffer who would reign.
He best can part with life without a sigh,
Whose daily living is to daily die.
Youth pleads for age, age pleads for rest,
Who pleads for heaven will plead the best.’
It was a wonderful and never-to-be forgotten sight that passed through London streets on Thursday, 11th February, 1892. Nothing was seen for miles but bared heads, closed blinds, and universal signs of grief and sorrow. It was indeed a memorable scene. What a lesson that Bible decked coffin preached to its tens of thousands as it passed through their midst! All classes, all creeds, all parties joined in the voice of mourning. The orphan children sang their last hymn to their beloved father as they bore him out of their sight for ever. But their little hymn of praise elicited no song of recognition now from him they had learnt to love so well. No, he is already singing the new song with that multitude which no man can number. Weep on, ye orphan ones, no wonder sobs choke your utterance
and you can sing no more. The father’s dead, yea, well we know it; but don’t forget, ye desolate ones, your Heavenly Father lives and ‘He careth for you.’ Oh how loudly does ‘he, being dead yet speak’ to this sorrowing multitude. Who will hear that message, and receive his Christ and live? Then verily, he shall not have died in vain!
Whether on the Tuesday, when more than 60,000 wended their way through the Tabernacle, silenfly and sadly, to view that olive-wood coffin, with its paints waving o’er it, or the next day when so many of England’s greatest divines (Church of England and Nonconformist alike) paid their last tribute of respect to one whom all recognized as a leader, deep and effective must have been the sermons all this preached; long and lasting we trust the impressions trade; but the real effect of which eternity alone will reveal.
With hearts bowed with a great grief, with tender and loving hands, is that precious burden born to its last resting-place. Eight students (specially chosen for that last sad duty) from that college of which he had so long been the head and chief, deposit with reverent hands and stricken hearts that prized casket in its last resting-place. They weep. Well they may. Behold how they loved him! Their master is taken from their head today. They shall see his face no more. It is their last act of service; their last tribute of affection to him who had been so much to them. Alas! how much they have lost as yet they know not! Yet they sorrow not as those without hope. Their beloved one only sleeps, he shall rise again.
One scene more. Charles, the beloved and loving son, has a double, nay, a treble portion of duty and affection to discharge in this last trying hour. Does he not represent the other son (equally beloved) in the distant Antipodes, and her who has been so much to them all; now keeping her lonely vigil at Mentone? God help him! God bless and sustain her! May the father and husband’s God put round about them each the ‘everlasting arms,’ is the prayer of many in that vast assembly Next comes the brother (J. A. Spurgeon), dearly beloved, who has labored so arduously and zealously in the battlefield. With the sleeping warrior at his feet, he can scarce control his feelings as he bids that loved one farewell.
One by one the mourners draw near to take their last look into that open grave, and speak the last good-bye. Nothing is heard save the sobs of that vast throng. Strong men weep as little children as the first notes of the hymn he loved so well rises upon the air. But hush! this must not be now. We will weep later on. It was his hymn. So for a season the tears are held in check and most of that massive gatheringjoin in singing,
‘Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more.
A few words spoken by the dear friend of the departed, the Rev. A. G. Brown, a prayer by Dr. Pierson, and the benediction by the Lord Bishop of Rochester, brings this simple service to a close. So it was that Charles Haddon Spurgeon was laid to rest until ‘the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, and we shall be changed.’ May the reader and writer meet him in the better land!
I know of no more fitting words to close this short biography of this great man (whose life-work we have tried to depict in these pages) than this splendid but true eulogy spoken by the Rev. A. G. Brown at the grave side:
‘Loving president, prince of preachers, brother beloved, faithful servant, dear Spurgeon, we bid thee not ‘Farewell,’ but only for a little while ‘Goodnight.’ Thou shall rise soon, ‘at the first dawn of the Resurrection day of the redeemed; but yet it is not ours to bid ‘Farewell,’ but thine. It is we who linger in the darkness. Thou art in God’s own light. Then with thee will we greet the morning of a day that knows no end. for ‘there is no night there.’ Straight has been the furrow thou hast ploughed. No looking back has barred thy course. Champion of God, that battle, long and nobly fought, is over. A palm branch has taken the place of the Sword and Trowel. No longer does the helmet press thy brow; the victor’s wreath from the great Commander has already proved thy full reward. Here for a little while shall rest thy precious dust, then shall thy well-beloved come and His voice shall cause thee to spring up from thy couch. Until then we will praise God for thee, and by the blood of the everlasting covenant, yet hope and expect to praise God with Thee.’