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On Bazaars

by G. Rogers
From the August 1868 Sword and Trowel


BAZAARS in connection with benevolent or religious institutions are of modern date; such things were unknown half a century ago, and would have been regarded as inconsistent and profane. Both Churchmen and Dissenters would have condemned them as sacrilegious; the one as an innovation upon consecrated usage, and the other as incompatible with unsullied devotion. We think we see the awful frown upon the brow of Andrew Fuller, the curling lip of contempt in Gill or Ripon, or hear the sarcastic reproof of Robert Hall should a proposal have been made to them to endeavor to raise funds for religious purposes by means of a bazaar. Many think that in this respect the former times were better than these. Many, and especially of the elder sort, think the world is going backward, but we are more disposed to conclude that it is going forward. They sigh for the good old times, but we should sigh to see them return. Every age has its faults, but it has its advantages too; and we should not he disposed to make an exchange with any that has preceded. We have never heard of a period since the time when men began to multiply in the earth in which we could have wished the world to stand still. Let it go on, we say, in its appointed course as fast as it can roll. Its glory is in the future, and not in the past.
    We meet with numerous objections to bazaars, as that they injure trade; that they encourage vanity and finery in furniture and dress; that they bring young persons into familiar intercourse with each other; that they promote a needless and injurious admixture of secular with spiritual things; and that they appeal to a false principle of charity. These objections are plausible, and are often conscientiously maintained. They are such, in fact, as would suggest themselves at first to nearly every Christian mind. Nor can it be denied that bazaars have their temptations to evil, and that they are for the most part such as have been named. It may be questioned, however, whether those temptations are not of nearly equal force without them, and whether there be not on the whole a considerable preponderance of good. They have now been extensively tried, and what have been the actual results? Have they injured trade? It would be difficult, we think, to find instances of this, while many in which they have proved beneficial to trade might be discovered. Have they encouraged finery in furniture and dress? That is a taste which is likely to prevail quite as much without them. How can that be increased which is already carried to its utmost extent? As to young people meeting together at bazaars, they are sure to meet somewhere, and better meet amongst the friends of the church than of the world. And as for the secularizing influence of bazaars, they are usually held at times in which those who are occupied in them would have been in other secular employments, so that they turn not religion to a secular, so much as secularity to a religious use. But what shall we say of the appeal to a false principle of charity? Would it not be better to give money without any equivalent? Would not that be real charity? Unquestionably it would; and it is done in a far larger extent. But why not supplement the direct by indirect means? Men may buy in charity as well as give in charity. It is sometimes greater charity to buy than to give. As direct charity is not always true, so indirect charity is not always false. Men like to exercise their benevolence in different ways, some in giving direct to the object, others in giving to those who can make more of it, and others by obtaining a memorial of their bounty. Our charity should allow others to exercise their charity as they please. We are disposed to think that real charity towards the object for which bazaars are held is the predominant motive both in those by whom they are provided and in those by whom they are patronized.
    Let us look now at the considerations that might be positively advanced in their favor. They increase the funds of our benevolent and religious institutions. Thus far their end is good; and the means, if not positively evil, are sanctioned by the end. We are not to do evil that good may come; but when the evil is imaginary and the good is real and abiding, the case is altered. Let those who complain of this method of raising money, show us not a more excellent merely, but a more practicable way. Of two evils, having a bazaar and being in debt, we should be disposed to choose the former.
    There may be some good in a bazaar, in itself considered. It evokes much latent talent, and calls forth energies that may result in useful habits. It enables many to say, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee." I have no money to give, but I have time, I have a tongue, I have eyes and ears, I have hands and feet, I have ingenuity and labor I will give these to the work. If to such five talents are given in direct charity, or two, or one; and the five talents become ten in their hands; and the two, four; and the one, two; ingenuity has been exercised, industry has been encouraged, and capital has been increased. Interest too has been taken in the object by those who have been thus employed which otherwise would not have been felt. And more than this, young people by this means have learned the secret of their own strength; that they have a power for good of which they never dreamt; and that instead of playing with toys, their fingers may be turned to good account. A young engineer may be in that little contrivance, a young artist in that little decoration, a young mechanic in that little production, and a young merchant in that little transaction. Diligent habits have been formed, and preparing for a bazaar has been a school of industry to many. Knowledge too of the art of buying and selling has been acquired. Thus many, by giving their tithe and labor to others, have learned to use them profitably for themselves.
    Where, it may be said, have we any Scripture authority for bazaars? The first tabernacle, we reply, with all its furniture, was erected from the produce of a bazaar. In the twenty-fifth chapter of Exodus we thus read, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goat's hair, and ram's skins dyed red, and badgers' skins and shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense; onyx stones and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." This was the notice given of a bazaar to be held in the wilderness at the foot of Mount Sinai. In the thirty-fifth chapter of the same book we have an account of the bazaar being held, which is too long for insertion here. Some points of resemblance with modern bazaars may be noticed. The object there was religious; it was for the erection of a house for God. That house was more externally sacred than any now erected for divine worship. If a bazaar might be held for a house of God then, why not now? and if a house of God of any kind, why not for an orphanage or any other benevolent purpose? The offerings of old were of various kinds. There were articles of gold and silver and brass. There were jewels and precious stones. There were blue and purple and scarlet and fine linen. There were pins and cords and garments. There were curtains and trimmings and lamps and vases and spices. There was all the variety and profusion of our modern bazaars. The women, as now, took a prominent part. "They came, both men and women. And all the women that were wise-hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue and of purple and of scarlet, and of fine linen." All gifts, whether of goods or of labor, were gratuitously bestowed. There were no drawbacks upon the articles presented. "They came every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation." Some were inspired by God with special ingenuity on that occasion, and why should we not acknowledge the same hand in the talents called forth on our behalf? "Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, and in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work." In the original, as in all modern bazaars, there were more articles than could be disposed of. "They spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much."
    Although we have said thus much in favor of bazaars, we see the need of much caution that lotteries and gambling and other indications of a spirit that is of the world and not of God, be not associated with them. We accept them as one of the means peculiar to the present age of advancing its social and moral and religious welfare; to give place to the superior requirements of a more enlightened age, which, in its turn, must yield to that which is more spiritual, until the church and the world part company for ever, each gathers to itself all that is its own, and goes to its own place.

G. Rogers.

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