It is the 19th of June 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1834. As yesterday's show centered in Scotland, today, we will be visiting their neighbors to the south. Of course, England and Scotland joined in 1603 under King James I, and by 1707 the Kingdom of Great Britain encompassed Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales.
1834 was a monumental year for the island nation. It was in this year that slavery was abolished, the work of many abolitionists in the UK, many of whom were evangelicals. The law was passed the year prior and put into effect. However, all of this would be accompanied by a significant bit of political tumult.
The salutary effects of abolition were muted by the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act that same year. The new law was based on the assumption that given a choice between work and claiming relief, men would always choose relief. Thus, it required anyone who could not work to live in poor houses. The idea was to make receiving assistance so undesirable that only the most destitute would apply. This law caused consternation amongst both the people and the political elite. This year was a year of four Prime Ministers. The first, the Earl Grey, resigned, giving way to Charles Lamb, the Viscount of Melbourne. The viscount became the last Prime Minister to be removed by a monarch. One of the complaints was that the viscount was a vocal proponent of slavery. The Duke of Wellington became a temporary caretaker until the Tory's decided to back Robert Peel becoming Prime Minister. He would become one of the most important Tories. Among his contributions were the creation of the first modern police force, an income tax, and free trade, which required the income tax as tariffs had been a chief source of income.
It was in this year, 1834, that in the act of irony and life imitating art, the Palace of Westminster caught fire. The meeting place of the Houses of Parliament had been undergoing political strife with the fast political of change. However, the burning was not an act of malice. The parliament had recently moved from recording votes with wooden sticks to paper ballots. The tally sticks were taken to the basement of the Parliament building to dispose of in the furnace. It did not go well.
It wasn't until 1852 that a new, stone building was erected in its place, and Parliament sat in Westminster Palace once again. It was the most famous fire since the Great Fire of 1666 and ranks amongst historical British fires along with the great fire at the Surrey Music Hall later in the century. We told the story of that fire on this show last year. It began with the proverbial act, then a literal yelling of fire in a crowded auditorium.
The preacher then was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who was born on this day, the 19th of June, in 1834. Spurgeon was born in Essex, the first of seventeen children. While he grew up in church and even won an award for writing an anti-catholic book at the age of 15, he placed his conversion in the following year when a snowstorm diverted his path to a Particular Baptist Church. It was not any particular church, but a "Particular" church. Those are what might be called "Reformed Baptists." The particular referred to their view of the atonement. They hold that the atonement was only for particular people. It is the doctrine also called "limited atonement" in other circles.
Spurgeon would preach his first sermon in this denomination within a year and was soon preaching in his own church. Known for his sermons, which would be printed and sold for a penny the next day, he once preached to as many as 23,000 at the Crystal Palace in London. A voluminous writer, Spurgeon wrote devotionals, magazines, hymns, and more. He founded a college and an orphanage. While the slavery question had been settled in the UK, he continued to speak against the practice in America. He saw his popularity plunge amongst the Southern Baptists. American editors began to delete any comments in his texts on slavery.
Unlike some of his American counterparts, he was by all accounts a jovial man who enjoyed his cigars. The title of one chapter of his autobiography is "pure fun." He, however, suffered from depression, and his wife had a disability from the time she was thirty-three. Spurgeon preached his last sermon in 1891 at his Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, and he died the following year. Born on this day in 1834, Charles Spurgeon was 57 years old.
The reading for today comes from the always quotable Spurgeon:
"We shall, as we ripen in grace, have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians. Bitter-spirited Christians may know a great deal, but they are immature. Those who are quick to censure may be very acute in judgment, but they are as yet very immature in heart. He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more; he overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by my favorite one-and-a-half-point Calvinist, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. And remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.