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Mr. Spurgeon among the Costermongers

by C. H. Spurgeon
From the April 1867 Sword and Trowel


ON TUESDAY, the 12th of March, Mr. Spurgeon preached a sermon to the street vendors of Golden-lane and its vicinity, in the Evangelists' Tabernacle, where Mr. Orsman conducts his mission. On the previous Sunday morning, tickets of admission were distributed among the street dealers of Whitecross-street, and the result was, that by far the majority of those who attended were of this class. A goodly number of the regular attendants at the Mission-hall were absent, as they denied themselves for the sake of others. Some of the dealers came with unwashed faces and uncombed hair, but the majority were dressed in their best clothes; and those who could not recognize them, would hardly think that some were costermongers' wives. There were several in "the fried fish line," two or three "pickled whelks" merchants, a number of cabbage and vegetable dealers, coke sellers, wood-choppers, picture dealers, &c., and some representatives of street-sweepers. The bell was rung as usual to let the neighbours know that the time for service was come; for Golden-lane Tabernacle has its bell, with a fine clear throat, and rivals the parish church in this respect; this seemed much to amuse Mr. Spurgeon, who said in the vestry that he had no idea that he was among such aristocratic people, who made so much noise in the world. At seven o'clock, Mr. Spurgeon ascended the platform and opened with prayer. Then a hymn was heartily sung, and a chapter read and expounded. The preacher's prayer was frequently responded to; and when reference was made to the bodily aches and pains which so many suffered, and the poverty experienced by others, there were many deep sighs. Of course, Mr. Spurgeon arrested their attention, nor did he find any difficulty in making his audience understand what he had to tell them. Street vendors are very much like other people, only they are more acute than most persons will give them credit for. Our honored friend's easy delivery, rapid flow of words, masculine thought, earnestness and directness, were thoroughly appreciated; and the little anecdotes, homely illustrations, and forcible "hits," were much enjoyed. The text was St. John's Gospel, 4:15; and having briefly and plainly stated what the gospel was, the preacher showed how it might be compared to water. Water satisfied the thirst of man; often saved his life; took away filth; put out fire—the fire ef temper, lust, &c.; it softened things, &c. He then encouraged them to believe that if they desired this grace, they would have it, and lastly, concluded by showing how he himself had found this "living water." One or two illustrations were evidently much liked. Referring to the satisfaction which the soul felt when convinced that all its sins were atoned for, Mr. Spurgeon remarked that he saw a long file of bills at home the other day, but when he was told they were all paid ones, he did not care how many they were. Again, there was a certain fire that was felt early in the morning in the throats of some persons, who had to go to a neighboring fire-shop to get it quenched, and that fire seemed to burn most furiously on Saturday nights when the wages were just received—an allusion to their social habits which made many laugh. Sacramental efficacy had a blow. Water could go up as high as the source from whence it came, and so could God's grace; but any grace they fancied they might get from a priest or minister, could only go up as high as its source—which was the height of the priest and a number of other illustrations were so much admired as to make many give a friendly nod of approbation to those sitting by their side. The appeal to their consciences made a deep impression. After Mr. Spurgeon had concluded, over two hundred remained for the purpose of prayer. For an hour and a quarter earnest supplications were offered. Some begged that the brethren would pray especially for them, others, who had never made supplication in their lives before, expressed their wants in deep sighs; or in gentle, solemn responses. It is believed that several were convinced of sin during the services, and certainly Mr. Spurgeon's appeals will never be forgotten by many who had been unaccustomed to sympathetic, earnest entreaty.
    One curious bit of criticism we heard from several costermongers. A coster's living depends largely upon his "woice." He, therefore, knows the value of good lungs, and is a connoisseur in voices. The preacher's voice was eulogised as "wonderful," "stunning," "I never," and other equally significant phrases. One coster had lost his voice, and probably he envied the preacher's gift. Another poor fellow—a follower of Joanna Southcott—retired from the hall expressing great disappointment because no reference had been made to his own people—the Jews; and nothing had been said about the millennium, the teaching, of which, he declared with much earnestness, always led the way to conversion!
    The writer takes the present opportunity of personally thanking those readers who so generously responded to his appeal in the February number of this Magazine, on behalf of Mr. Orsman's mission. He hopes that other friends may be led to assist Mr. O. in carrying on and extending this noble and much-needed work.

E. L.

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