The Pastor once had occasion to see Mr. Gladstone at Downing Street. Having asked for an interview of ten minutes, he arrived punctually, and, having transacted the business about which he had called, rose to leave directly the allotted time had expired. “The grand old man” was not willing to allow his visitor to go away so quickly;—though he said he wished others who called upon him would be as prompt both in arriving and departing;—and “the two prime ministers,” as they were often designated, continued chatting for at good while longer. It was during the conversation which ensued that Mr. Spurgeon suggested to the great Liberal leader a grander measure of reform than any he had ever introduced;—his proposal was, that all the servants of the State, whether in the Church, the Army, the Navy, or the Civil Service, should be excluded from Parliament, just as the servants in a private family are not allowed to make the rules and regulations under which the household is governed. Possibly, archbishops, bishops, generals, admirals, noble lords, and right honorable gentlemen might imagine that this suggestion was a sample of Mr. Spurgeon’s pure fun, but he introduced it to Mr. Gladstone with the utmost seriousness, and he often referred to it as a plan which would greatly and permanently benefit the whole nation, and which he believed his fellow-countrymen would adopt if it were laid before them by the great statesman to whom he submitted it.
The caricature on page 343, reproduced from Figaro’s phrenological cartoons, shows one of the many instances in which Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Spurgeon were pictorially and amusingly associated, and it may therefore appropriately introduce a brief series, of—
On one of Mr. Spurgeon’s visits to Mentone, a lady, who was a great admirer of Mr. Gladstone, asked the Pastor to guess the word which would explain the following riddle:—(1) What Mr. Gladstone likes; (2)what he does not like; (3) what he would like to do; and (4) where his enemies would like to put him. When Mr. Surgeon learned the solution of the puzzle, he was so pleased with it that he passed it on to other friends. The answers were,—(1) Reform; (2) a Tory; (3) to reform a Tory; and (4) in a reformatory!
During a General Election, it was discovered, one Monday morning, that the front gates and walls of “Helensburgh House” had been, in the course of the night, very plentifully daubed over with paint to correspond with the colors of the Conservative candidates for that division of Surrey. In speaking, at the Tabernacle, the same evening, concerning the disfigurement of his premises, Mr. Spurgeon said, “It is notorious that I am no Tory, so I shall not trouble to remove the paint; perhaps those who put it on will take it off when it has been there long enough to please them;” and, in due time, they did so.
The mention of a General Election recalls a characteristic anecdote which Mr. Spurgeon delighted to tell. He had gone to preach for his friend, Mr. John Offord, and, contrary to his almost universal practice, was a little late in arriving. He explained that: there had been a block on the road, which had delayed him; and, in addition, he had stopped on the way to vote. “To vote!” exclaimed the good man; “but, my dear brother, I thought you were a citizen of the New Jerusalem!” “So I am,” replied Mr. Spurgeon, “but my ‘old man’ is a Citizen of this world.” “Ah! but you should mortify your ‘old man.’” “That is exactly what I did; for my ‘old man’ is a Tory, and I made him vote for the Liberals!”
At another General Election, it was widely reported that Mr. Spurgeon had declared that he would vote for the devil himself if he were a Liberal; and so many inquiries with regard to the statement came from all parts of the country, that a large number of post cards had to be printed and sent in reply. Those who had started or circulated the falsehood were probably somewhat ashamed when they read Mr. Spurgeon’s emphatic denial: “I certainly should not vote for the devil under any circumstances, nor am I able to conceive of him as so restored as to become a Liberal. I think he has had a considerable hand in the invention of many a story which has of late been published concerning me.”