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London: A Plea

by C. H. Spurgeon
From the April 1875 Sword and Trowel


TRAVERSING ALL PARTS OF LONDON very frequently, we are nevertheless lost in it. Has any living man any idea of the vastness of our metropolitan world? It is not a city, but a province, nay, a nation. Every now and then we find ourselves quite at sea in a locality which we thought we knew as well as our own garden; the large mansion is gone, and the park which surrounded it, and our friend's house with its almost rural appurtenances is swallowed up by a town, the garden and paddock of six acres are cut up into building lots, and a large public house stands on the site of the arbor where we held familiar chats and talked about the cows. We lose our bearings, and think we have taken the wrong turning, for lines of contractors' make-believe houses have replaced that fine old avenue of trees, and the green pastures and still waters have vanished, dissolving into an ugly view of rows of tenements, all of the same hideous pattern, with roads not yet recovered from being up for the drains and gas. We need explorers to pry into the mysteries of London, old and new, and the maps need as frequent altering as the almanacs.
    We cut out from an American paper the other day a short article which shows how what Cobbett called "the great wen" is demanding more and more space in the body politic; it is worth reading, though it contains not a tithe of what might be said.

    "In few cities are there more than half-a-dozen railway stations. In London there are at least one hundred and fifty. Some of the railways never pass beyond the limits, and of one, the Tottenham and Hampstead, ' Punch' says ' No one ever travels by it, as no one knows where it begins or where it ends.' The Metropolitan and other intramural railways run trains every three or five minutes, and convey from twenty to fifty millions of passengers annually. Clapham Junction is the great south-western center, and through it seven hundred trains pass every day. Its platforms are so numerous, and its underground passages so perplexing, that how to find the right train is one of those things that no fellow can understand.
    "As a proof of the expansive nature of London traffic, it was supposed that when the Metropolitan Railway was opened, all the City to Paddington omnibuses would be run off the ground: but, although it carried forty-three millions of passengers last year it has been found necessary to increase the number of omnibuses on the southern route, and they yield one per cent. more revenue than before the opening of the railway.
    "Besides the railways, there are some fourteen or fifteen thousand tramcars, omnibuses, and cabs traversing the streets; there are lines of omnibuses known only to the inhabitants of their own localities—such as those across the Isle of Dogs, from Poplar to Millwall; from London Bridge along Tooley Street to Dockhead, etc. The London Omnibus Company have five hundred and sixty-three omnibuses, which carry millions of passengers annually.
    "It is more dangerous to walk the streets of London than to travel by railway or cross the Atlantic. Last. year one hundred and twenty-five persons were killed and two thousand five hundred and thirteen injured by vehicles in the streets. Supposing every individual man, woman, and child made one journey on foot in London per diem, which is considerably above the average, the deaths would be one in eleven millions, while the railways only kill about one in fifty millions of passengers, and the Cunard Company of Atlantic steamers boast of having never lost a passenger.
    "Other tokens of the immensity of the population of London are that three-quarters of a million of business men enter the city in the morning, and leave it in the evening for their suburban residences.
    "There are ten thousand policemen, as many cab-drivers, and the same number of persons connected with the post-office: each of these tribes of workers, with their families, would make a large town. When London makes a holiday, there are several places of resort, such as the Crystal Palace, the Zoological Gardens, Kew Gardens, etc., which absorb from thirty to fifty thousand visitors each. The cost of gas for lighting is,2,500,000 annually; the water supply is one hundred millions of gallons per diem. In the year 1873 there were five hundred and seventy-three fires; and for the purpose of supplying information on the passing events of the day, three hundred and fourteen daily and weekly newspapers are required.
    "What London will eventually become it is idle to predict. It already stands in four counties, and is striding on to a fifth (Herts.) The probability is that by the end of the century the population will exceed five millions, and will have quintupled itself in the century. Should it progress at an equal rate in the next, it will in the year 2,000 amount to the enormous aggregate of twenty-five millions; and the question that naturally arises is how could such a multitude be supplied with food. But the fact is, the more its population increases the better they are fed. In the Plantaganet days, when the population was not a third of a million, famines were of frequent occurrence, but now, with the command of the pastures, the harvests, and the fisheries of the world, starvation becomes an almost impossible eventuality, even with the twenty-five millions of mouths to feed."

    Our heart has been palpitating with the question,—what is to be done for these millions religiously? Whatever it is, it ought to be done at once. We ought not to allow new towns to spring up around us, and to begin their history without the means of grace. It is far easier to secure a fitting position for the house of prayer at the founding of a new suburb than it can be afterwards; and we are much more likely to get the ear of new-comers than if we allow them to form the habit of going nowhere, or of frequenting the mass-houses of ritualism. Every Christian denomination should be on the alert for London; it is the first duty of Londoners themselves, but believers in the country are also concerned in the right condition of the metropolis. London is in some respects the very heart of the world; it influences every land, its vice is a plague to the whole human race, and its religion may be a balm to the remotest lands. London must be the Lord's; we long to see it set as a gem in the diadem of Jesus, as the Kohinoor among his crown jewels.
    We long to commence more churches in and around London, and to see those churches comfortably lodged in suitable meeting-houses, or chapels if we must use that name. The Anglican church builds its temples everywhere; they spring up in amazing numbers, and no fear is entertained that they will be too near each other. They secure the people by being first on the ground; dissenters are slow, and find themselves too late; if they were more generously enterprising they would not remain so much in the rear.
    We know of an instance where a piece of land was given for a chapel, the London Baptist Association voted its annual.grant, friends on the spot added to it, a neat house of prayer was built, and a good man placed in it. Three or four gentlemen guaranteed a moderate salary, and the work began. In one year a church has been formed, a large Sabbath school collected, and a good congregation gathered. The place has been self-supporting from the first, the guaranteed income has been exceeded, the debt is but nominal, and a tower of strength has been added to the Baptist body. What has been done in one case might be accomplished in scores of positions. We have done a similar work over and over again by means of our College, and when our health is restored we mean, by God's grace, to be at it again. Without the slightest injury to existing interests new ones may be formed, and the work, by God's blessing, can be carried through with ease. The people want the gospel; in some localities they are pining for it; only let the fountain be opened and the thirsty ones will flock to it. We have lacked faith, but whenever God has given it to any they have found difficulties vanish and success awaiting them.
    For our own part we cannot live if Christ's kingdom does not grow, we hunger and thirst to see men saved. How can they hear without a preacher? The preacher must be sent among them, and they must be evangelised, and then churches will be formed, from which the light will be yet further spread. By means of our young brethren in the College very many districts have been supplied with the means of grace, and we trust our beloved friends will not cease to supply us with the funds to keep that work in full operation. Not only London, but England and the world must have the gospel. Men and brethren, help! We ask for your prayers, your personal aid in the districts where you live, and a portion of your offerings to the Lord. Our pleadings are with God that he will move you to act promptly, earnestly, and liberally.

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