June 26, 2024

Stopping by a Wood with Spurgeon

Stephen Nichols
Stopping by a Wood with Spurgeon

When the pressure of his busy schedule weighed on him, Charles Spurgeon would escape to the woods for rest. Today, Stephen Nichols reads from several of Spurgeon’s reflections on peaceful times in nature.


Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. On this episode, we are spending time with Spurgeon, and not the Spurgeon we know the most, that is, Spurgeon the preacher, but this is Spurgeon the traveler, who loved to go out into nature. And I found this wonderful letter in a book titled, Letters and Travels by C.H. Spurgeon, edited by Kevin Belmont. Well, it begins with some quotes from Spurgeon’s wife Susanna, and she recalls that, “Many sweet days of rest were thus snatched from weeks of heavy toil, and a furlough of a few hours helped to restore and refresh.” She’s talking about the challenges her husband faced with his busy, busy schedule and all the pressures weighing down on him, and he would sneak away out of the bustling city of London and head out into the country. He had a carriage and his old horse, and he would often take a friend with him.

Susanna said, “His ideas of comfort and his disregard of external appearances were equally conspicuous. He liked a cozy seat and easy traveling, but he cared nothing for the style of his equipage. An old horse, most inappropriately named Peacock, and a shabby carriage were matters of perfect indifference to him, so long as they were safe and trustworthy and carried him out of the noise of the crowded world into the stillness and beauty of nature’s quiet resting place.” And off Spurgeon would go into the country. Well, at one point he visited Bolderwood and Mark Ash forests, and he writes, “The most wonderful forest scenery I have ever beheld or even dreamed of.” He said, “No place on earth could so fitly minister to a wearied brain by giving such perfect rest. It’s better than cities, pictures, or even mountains, for all is peace. And there’s not even sublimity to excite the motions of the mind. “Thank God,” Spurgeon writes, “for such peaceful scenes.”

He loved the trees there in this wood. He said, “The huge beeches and oaks were so fantastic as to seem wizard like. They’re beyond measure marvelous, and one could visit them 12 times a day and yet not see half their beauties. The most singular thing of all is the flying buttress of the beech trees, which I never observed before. A long bough will be supported by another, which joins it from lower down and grows into it and so as to hold it up. The habit in the beech leads to great curiosities of growth, for there are sometimes threefold bracings and great branches will be thus locked together, while in other instances, one bough will curl under another in order apparently to hold it up. These are shapes most unshapely, and twistings unexpected, but the one object appears to buttress one another and contribute to each other’s strength by this strange interlacing. Just so should all believers aid one another as we are all branches of one tree?”

He also writes of another place, Beaulieu Abbey. He says, “It’s all in ruins, but some remarkable parts remain, and the foundations of the buildings are marked out on the turf by a sort of stone edging so that one can in imagination restore the whole structure.” He goes on to say, “We amused ourselves by trying to decipher the inscription on a broken memorial stone, but we could not succeed.” And then he muses on Scripture, “What a blessing to have a complete revelation, or we should be spelling out the meaning of what we could see and losing ourself in endless speculation as to what might have been written on that last fragment.” And then as he ends, and sending this letter to his wife, he writes, “I am better and better, and all of the ocean of my love is yours.”

Well, there’s Spurgeon taking a break from all of the challenges of pastoring what was a mega church and being involved in controversies and being a figure in the City of London and writing books and running an orphanage and even running a college. And he hops into his carriage and he goes off into the woods, and he finds his rest and peace. That’s Spurgeon, and I’m Steve Nichols and thanks for joining us for 5 Minutes in Church History.