“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
This is a fantastic story about two giant men in the faith, –for two of the greatest preachers that ever lived, pastored in London at the same time…
…and a misunderstanding arose between them that made it to the newspapers and was headed toward even bigger things. You see, Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker both had large churches, and in those early days they were close friends. Spurgeon had a fiery temper and personality to match, while Joseph Parker was quiet; tending to be more meek and mild-mannered.
One day, Parker made a comment about the terribly poor condition of the children being admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. You see, Spurgeon’s church had just taken up operations for an orphanage for boys. And it was fact that Spurgeon’s great love was for “his” orphanages. It is also well recorded that Spurgeon gave away most of the money that he ever made to these orphanages. And so on this day Parker said to some members of his church, “We ought to help Spurgeon with his orphanage, for there are times when the boys don’t have proper clothes, and I am sure they could use some food.”
However, one of the men standing there, twisting the truth, and reported to Spurgeon, that Parker had in fact, criticized the orphanage itself; telling Spurgeon that “Joseph Parker says the boys in your orphanage don’t have enough clothes to wear or sufficient food to eat.”
Spurgeon was incensed. For him, this was a knife in the back by a friend. So Spurgeon retaliated and blasted Parker and his alleged statement from the pulpit on the following week.
Now you have got to understand, that in every church service which Spurgeon held in those days, two newspaper reporters were always there, –faithfully transcribing the sermon to be printed in the next newspaper going out. So Spurgeon’s attack against Parker was immediately printed in the newspapers. And further, a newspaper reporter raced over to Parker’s home and asked him whether he would reply to Spurgeon attack on the following Sunday. Parker thought for a moment and then replied. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I will respond to him next Sunday.”
As you can imagine, these great minister’s battle became the talk of all London, if not in all of England. What would Dr. Parker do? The town buzzed. Bets were wagered among the non-church folk. People, religious and not, talked and speculated back and forth about it all that week.
Understandably, huge throngs of people as well as a herd of newspaper reporters flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear the rebuttal. Hundreds were there when the doors opened. You could feel the high tension at the church service. The singing was strained. Everyone waited with bated breath And when it came time for Dr. Parker to speak, a hush fell upon the crowd. You could hear a pin drop. The good pastor, slowly got up and went to the pulpit, quietly cleared his throat and said, “Brother Spurgeon is sick today and cannot preach. This is the day when he takes up an offering for his orphans. May I suggest that we take up that offering for him in our church, for he’s doing a great work, and I know all of us would like to have a part in it.”
The crowd was delighted. Parker’s compassion stirred such a response that the deacons had to empty the offering plates three times. They bagged the money and took it over to Spurgeon after the service, commenting, “This is a gift from Joseph Parker. He really promoted your program in church today.”
Spurgeon was transfixed by Parker’s generosity. On Tuesday morning there was a knock at Parker’s study. It was Spurgeon. Throwing his arms around his “rival,” he said, “You have more of the spirit of Jesus Christ than any man I know. You know, Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed.”
I have observed several things in this story:
- People love a scandal. Newspapers filled pages with scandalous stories about the supposed fighting between these two preachers. Joseph Parker’s church filled up with people looking to watch a good fight. Yes, too often we have “feet that be swift in running to mischief” (Prov. 6:18).
- Not everything you hear is true. Joseph Parker simply commented about the condition of the poor children that Spurgeon had taken in. He, in no way, suggested that the poor condition was the fault of Spurgeon’s orphanage, yet, that was how it was reported to Mr. Spurgeon. Be very careful not to believe everything you hear about others. Remember, there are those who love to sow “discord among brethren” with a “false witness that speaks lies” (Prov. 6:19).
- Good people make serious mistakes. Charles Spurgeon was a faithful man of God that pastored thousands of people, and he served pastors all over the world. He had become known as the “Prince of Preachers.” No preacher has ever had more sermons printed than Charles Spurgeon. He was a godly man. But he blew it this time! Proverbs 14:17 clearly says, “He that is soon angry deals foolishly.” God plainly required that a pastor was not be “self-willed, not soon angry” (Titus 1:7). No matter how close we are to the Lord we can still fail in a big way.
- Grace always rules the day. When people came looking for a scandal and a fight, Joseph Parker confronted them with grace. Instead of being disappointed, that crowd became overwhelmed with grace and gave money to support the orphanage. Jesus Christ was exalted, the orphans were fed, the critics were silenced, and the preachers were reconciled when one person showed grace. How true it is that “a soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).
“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” Galatians 6:18
Thoughts were taken from several sources, including;
“Word of Truth” by Pastor Dean Miller, August 14, 2013.
Norman Gulley, of the Fredericksburg Church of Christ, date unknown.
“Confronting the Disclosure’s of the Soul” By Robert Hanson