Notes from the May 1865 edition of The Sword and the Trowel, the monthly magazine edited by Spurgeon.
This edition begins with an article on Samuel Pepys which focused on how his diary entries for Sunday gave an insight into what someone who was “educated in the pure faith of the Church of England” at the time was like.
“We believe him to be a type of thousands now bearing the Christian name in our land, we shall hold up his portrait as drawn by himself, that others may trace the family likeness in themselves, and that all the world may see what are the heights and depths of grace to which the pure faith of the Church of England conducted its adherent two hundred years ago.”
The remark is made that “his religion is performed as a matter of duty” and would be “laid on one side to make room for more congenial occupations.”
What evidence was there for this? A part of Sunday was usually given to his accounts; he records his trading on Sunday with sailors; he sought to show off his clothing at church – “To church, and with my mourning, very handsome, and new periwig made a great show”; he “even goes to churches with the view of seeing the dress and admiring the beauty of the ladies”; he sleeps frequently during the sermon which he “usually attributes his drowsiness to the dullness of the discourse”; and criticises the preacher’s appearance.
One humorous note of Pepys is on the lack of variety in the sermons he heard: “I heard a good sermon of Dr. Bucks, one I have never heard before.”
Pepys is called “an average Christian”, to which Spurgeon comments “We suppose he was; but God grant that our readers may be found far above such an average.”
Spurgeon clearly was not impressed that faithful Christians in the Church of England remained in a compromised denomination. If he was around today, I guess he would still say what he did back in 1865.
“But what we astounded at above measure is, the way in which believers in the Lord Jesus and evangelical Christians continue to countenance all this Popery by remaining in communion with it!”
“We wish we could say a word kindly but forcibly in the ear of our brethren, who are still in fellowship with the works of darkness practiced in the Anglican denomination of Romanists. When will you come out? How far is the cannot element to prevail before you will separate from it.”
“For the love you bear to your Redeemer, be duped no longer, and by your own hatred of monkery and priestcraft, come ye out from among them, be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing.”
“Jesus crucified must be your hope; turn now your weeping eyes to him. He is able now to save you, and if now you trust him, you are saved, and shall meet in glory with those who have gone before.”
The final item in this issue of The Sword and the Trowel is a description of the Pastor’s College. “The College has now become the most important of all the Institutions connected with the Church at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The place which it once held in the heart of the pastor alone, it now holds in the hearts of the elders and deacons with him. It is indeed a part of the whole Church. It is not only sustained by it, but its students are chiefly from its own members, or have subsequently become united with it.”
It is not just the teachers in the College who had an impact on the students. The Church did too. “The effects of its piety, and prayefulness, and zeal upon the College, united with the wisdom, and example, and familiar friendship of the pastor, comprise one principal part of the educational process, and supply that practical knowledge of Church discipline and of the whole compass of pastoral duties which similar institutions have failed to impart.”
Included in this report is part of an address to the students by Mr John Olney where he describes what he hopes their time training will be like: “As by keeping the flocks of Jethro for forty years, Moses was prepared and qualified to bring forth out of Egypt the chosen people like sheep, so may your studies qualify you as good pastors, to lead and feed the sheep of Christ. May this College prove to you as Arabia did to Paul, wherein you may more perfectly learn the doctrines of grace, and be enabled to plant Churches in many cities. We pray this may prove as Patmos did to the beloved disciple. Wherein you may have glimpses of glory and visions of God, the revelation of which may be for the comfort and establishment of the people of your charge.”
– I wonder whether the diaries of the members at Banstead Community Church give a description of an average Christian or as I hope above such an average.
– A reminder of the importance of the local church being involved in the training of future gospel workers. It’s certainly been my experience.
– That comment “the whole compass of pastoral duties which similar institutions have failed to impart” is one of the reasons for our trainee pastor programme.