posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from volume 3 of Spurgeon's Autobiography. It is the account of how Spurgeon responded to some critics who had charged him with hypocrisy. Spurgeon was fairly young at this point in his ministry but was already well known for opposing the growing tendency for preachers to stupefy their congregations with a show of erudition or entertain them with pageantry, a performance, or a parade. Secular critics (and some fellow churchmen) attacked Spurgeon for lecturing on a topic deemed "secular."
Actually, Spurgeon used the opportunity to draw spiritual lessons from the naturalist's work, and he spoke passionately of the need for missionaries in unreached parts of Africa. But critics were relentless. The caricatures below are samples of how he was lampooned in the secular press.
The episode nevertheless shows Spurgeon's thoughtfulness, tenderness, and good humor in the face of criticism.
We are now to be entertained by Mr. Spurgeon's lecture on the gorilla, but, in after ages,—according to the development theory,—we shall doubtless have a gorilla lecturing on Mr. Spurgeon."—Extract from the speech of the Rt. Hon. A. H. Layard, M.P., at Mr. Spurgeon's lecture on "The Gorilla and the Land he Inhabits"
N October 1, 1861, Mr. Spurgeon gave, in the Tabernacle, a lecture which was destined to attract more public attention than any which he had previously delivered. It was entitled, "The Gorilla and the Land he Inhabits," and was largely concerned with the volume, then recently published, and severely criticised,—Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa, by Paul B. Du Chaillu (John Murray). A. H. Layard, Esq., M.P., presided, and by his side sat M. Du Chaillu. . . .
Coming to the gorilla,—a stuffed specimen of which was on the platform,—the lecturer said:—"He is an enormous ape, which claims to approach the nearest to man of any other creature. How nearly he approaches, I leave you to judge.
True, his claim to be our first cousin is disputed, on behalf of the koolo-kamba, by several very learned men. If we should, therefore, admit you (addressing the gorilla) to be man's first cousin, we fear that the koolo-kamba might institute a suit at law to claim equal rights, and so many cousins would be far from convenient.
Besides, I have heard that, if we should admit this gentleman to be our cousin, there is Mr. Darwin, who at once is prepared to prove that our great-grandfather's grandfather's father—keep on for about a millennium or two,—was a guinea-pig, and that we were ourselves originally descended from oysters, or seaweeds, or starfishes. Now, I demur to that on my own account.
Any bearded gentleman here, who chooses to do so, may claim relationship with the oyster; and others may imagine that they are only developed gorillas; but I, for my own part, believe there is a great gulf fixed between us, so that they who would pass from us to you (again turning to the gorilla) cannot; neither can they come to us who would pass from thence. At the same time, I do not wish to hold an argument with the philosopher who thinks himself related to a gorilla; I do not care to claim the honour for myself, but anyone else is perfectly welcome to it.
"Seriously, let us see to what depths men will descend in order to cast a slur upon the Book of God. It is too hard a thing to believe that God made man in His own image; but, forsooth, it is philosophical to hold that man is made in the image of a brute, and is the offspring of 'laws of development.' O infidelity! thou art a hard master, and thy taxes on our faith are far more burdensome than those which Revelation has ever made. When we have more incredulity than superstition can employ, we may leap into infidel speculation, and find a fitting sphere for the largest powers of belief.
But who can deny that there is a likeness between this animal and our own race? . . . There is, we must confess, a wonderful resemblance,—so near that it is humiliating to us, and therefore, I hope, beneficial. But while there is such a humiliating likeness, what a difference there is! If there should ever be discovered an animal even more like man than this gorilla is; in fact, if there should be found the exact facsimile of man, but destitute of the living soul, the immortal spirit, we must still say that the distance between them is immeasurable. . . ."
At the time of the delivery of the "gorilla" lecture, M. Blondin was performing at the Crystal Palace, and some wag wrote to him a letter purporting to come from Mr. Spurgeon. He sent it on to the Pastor, who endorsed it thus,—"This was received by M. Blondin, and is a specimen of the genus "hoax',"—and then put it away for future reference. The envelope contained the following epistle:—
The lecturer could well afford to laugh at this clumsy attempt to hoax M. Blondin; but some of the newspaper attacks upon him, with reference to the "gorilla" and other lectures, were of such a character that they could not be reproduced here. One friend was sufficiently influenced by them to write an expostulatory letter to Mr. Spurgeon, and thus evoked the following reply:—
The vote of thanks and sympathy referred to in the above letter, together with the Pastor's grateful acknowledgment of it, are thus recorded in the Tabernacle church-book:—
"At the church-meeting, held October 14, 1861, from which the Pastor was absent through illness, the following resolution was proposed, seconded, and carried unanimously:—'That the members of this church, constantly refreshed by the gospel ministry of their beloved Pastor, and deeply obliged to him for the lectures he gives upon secular and social subjects, have noticed, with sincere regret, and heartfelt sympathy with him, the scandals heaped upon his name by the public press, and beg to express to him their most loving confidence, their strong desire to endure with him a full share of his reproach, and their full determination, by God's help, to bear him constantly on their heart in prayer.'
"Church-meeting, October 28, 1861.—Our Pastor expressed his thanks to the church for the vote of sympathy with him passed at the church-meeting on October 14, and rejoiced in the fact that all the members had remained steadfast notwithstanding the virulent attacks made upon him."