There is a wealth of wisdom in this anecdote from Spurgeon’s early days at New Park Street in London (he was about nineteen years old at the time of this incident). Brother pastors, Spurgeon can keep us out of a world of trouble if we'll listen to him:
Not long after I was chosen pastor at Park Street, I was interviewed by a good man who had left the church, having been, as he said, “treated shamefully.” He mentioned the names of half-a-dozen persons, all prominent members of the church, who had behaved in a very unchristian manner to him—he, poor innocent sufferer, having been a model of patience and holiness.
I learned his character at once from what he said about others (a mode of judging which has never misled me), and I made up my mind how to act. I told him that the church had been in a sadly unsettled state, and that the only way out of the snarl was for every one to forget the past, and begin again. He said that the lapse of years did not alter the facts; and I replied that it would alter a man’s view of them if in that time he had become a wiser and a better man. I added that all the past had gone say with my predecessors, that he must follow them to their new spheres, and settle matters with them, for I would not touch the affair with a pair of tongs.
He waxed somewhat warm, but I allowed him to radiate until he was cool again, and we shook hands, and parted. He was a good man, but constructed upon an uncomfortable principle, so that, at times, he crossed the path of other people in a very awkward manner, and if I had gone into his case, and taken his side, there would have been no end to the strife. I am quite certain that, for my own success, and for the prosperity of the church, I took the wisest course by applying my blind eye to all disputes which dated previously to my advent. It is the extremity of unwisdom for a young man, fresh from College, or from another charge, to suffer himself to be earwigged by a clique, and to be bribed by kindness and flattery to become a partisan, and so to ruin himself and one-half of his people.
C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2005), 1:264–265.
Eric Smith is the pastor of Sharon Baptist Church in Savannah, Tennessee. He and his wife, Candace, have three children: Coleman, Crockett, and Clarabelle. Eric is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.