The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Stambourne: Spurgeon’s early childhood

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Stambourne signKelvedonStambourneColchesterLavenhamDedham ∙ Maldon

Stambourne is a place that you tend to go to, rather than stumble upon.  It is a beautiful and quiet village that stretches out for some distance along the road – the traveller is never quite sure if he has really arrived or if he is still there.  It was to Stambourne that the young Charles Spurgeon was sent in order to live with his grandparents, thus easing the financial burden on his struggling parents.  It is fair to say that Charles’ grandfather, James, was one of the seminal influences on the young man.  Also in the Spurgeon home at Stambourne was an aunt, Anne, who also had a great influence on him.

Charles’ grandparents, James & Sarah, are buried outside the Congregational church (a new building) at which he ministered.  There is a new manse beside the building, but the one Spurgeon knew had many of its windows Stambourne (new manse)bricked up because of the window tax.  Here the young Spurgeon read the Bible at family worship, interspersing it with questions from his inquisitive mind (and, on one occasion when he did not obtain a satisfactory answer the first time, eventually obtaining one by the simple expedient of choosing the same passage every day, and asking the same question, until he got it).

It was also in one of the little, tax-darkened rooms of the old manse that Charles discovered the Puritans for the first time.  In his autobiography, he wrote:

It is easy to tell a real Puritan book even by its shape and by the appearance of the type. I confess that I harbour a prejudice against nearly all new editions, and cultivate a preference for the originals, even though they wander about in sheepskins and goatskins, or are shut up in the hardest of boards. It made my eyes water, a short time ago, to see a number of these old books in the new Manse: I wonder whether some other boy will love them, and live to revive that grand old divinity which will yet be to England her balm and benison.  (1:23)

It was at Stambourne that Richard Knill uttered his ‘prophecy’ that one day Spurgeon would preach in the chapel of Rowland Hill.

Spurgeon’s departure was a sad day for him and his grandfather:

I recollect, when first I left my grandfather, how grieved I was to part from him; it was the great sorrow of my little life.  Grandfather seemed very sorry, too, and we had a cry together; he did not quite know what to say to me, but he said, “Now, child, to-night, when the moon shines at Colchester, and you look at it, don’t forget that it is the same moon your grandfather will be looking at from Stambourne;” and for years, as a child, I used to love the; moon because I thought that my grandfather’s eyes and my own somehow met there on the moon.  (1:28)

In later years, Charles and his grandfather – a highly esteemed preacher in his own right – remained close.  On one occasion, the younger man was due to preach, but was unavoidably delayed.  James Spurgeon therefore took his place and began to deliver a sermon.  After making some headway, Charles arrived, and his grandfather paused and declared of his grandson, “He can preach Christ better, but he cannot preach a better Christ.”  There was a brief delay while James informed Charles of his headings so far and what he had said, and then the older man vacated the pulpit for the younger, and Charles finished off his grandfather’s sermon.

Read more of Spurgeon at Stambourne here.

Stambourne Congregational Church

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 5 June 2009 at 09:48

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