Charles Spurgeon was unaware, when he addressed a small group of Christians on December 31, 1891, and again on January 1, 1892, that he was four weeks away from death. For Spurgeon, ignorance concerning specific future events was a blessing. He declared: “Could we procure a telescope which would enable us to see to the end of the year, should we be wise to use it? I think not.” He further said: “What a mercy that these things are hidden from us!” Spurgeon believed that if we knew our “best blessings” in advance that they “would lose their freshness and sweetness while we impatiently waited for them.” He also believed that if we knew our trials ahead of time that we would fret and “miss the joy of our present blessings.” He said: “Great mercy has hung up a veil between us and the future; and there let it hang.”

On New Year’s Eve, 1891, from his hotel room in Mentone, France, where he was recovering from poor health, Spurgeon encouraged his hearers to join him in considering “the dangers we have escaped” in the previous year. He found wisdom in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress:

After Bunyan’s pilgrim had safely traversed the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the morning light dawned upon him, and sitting down, he looked back upon the terrible road, which he had passed. It had once seemed an awful thing to him that he had marched through the valley by night; but when he looked back, and saw the horrors he had escaped, he must have felt glad that darkness had concealed much of its peril when he was actually in the midst of it. Much the same has it been with us: thank God, now that we clearly see the perils, we have passed them in safety.

Spurgeon knew that some in his group had been “very near to the jaws of death” during the past year and that they had been unaware of how close they had been to various dangers. He said: “No one of us knows how near he has been to some great sin, or some false step. A single act might have changed the whole aspect of life to us; but from that act we have been preserved.” The sovereignty of God was a comfort to Spurgeon: “The Lord saw what we could not see, and kept us where we could not have kept ourselves.”

As Spurgeon reflected on the year 1891, he was especially thankful for the love that he had felt from God’s people: “During the past year I have been made to see that there is more love and unity among God’s people than is generally believed.” He felt this love in an intently personal way. He had suffered many trials. Physically, his body was wearing out under the stress of gout, kidney disease, and other afflictions. Mentally and emotionally he knew the strain of defending the truth amidst doctrinal compromise. He was encouraged that Christians both near and far prayed for him:

I had no idea that Christian people, of every church, would spontaneously and importunately plead for the prolonging of my life. I feel myself a debtor to all God’s people on this earth. Each section of the church seemed to vie with all the rest in sending words of comfort to my wife, and in presenting intercession to God on my behalf. If anyone had prophesied, twenty years ago, that a dissenting minister, and a very outspoken one, too, would be prayed for in many parish churches, and in Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, it would not have been believed; but it was so. There is more love in the hearts of Christian people than they know of themselves. We mistake our divergences of judgement for differences of heart; but they are far from the same things.

On New Year’s Day, 1892, Spurgeon encouraged his fellow Christians who gathered at his hotel:

The vista of a praiseful life will never close, but continue throughout eternity. From psalm to psalm, from hallelujah to hallelujah, we will ascend the hill of the Lord; until we come into the Holiest of all, where, with veiled faces, we will bow before the Divine Majesty in the bliss of endless adoration.

 January is a strategic month to ponder the mercies of God experienced over the previous year. Let us thank him that he graciously concealed many of the dangers that we passed through during 2019; in challenging days, God’s care for us was more abundant than we have realized. As we move forward into 2020, there are troubles that await us. Though mercy has “hung a veil between us and the future,” there are comforting certainties that we can know about what is ahead. We can rest assured that our sovereign God has planned the future and that he will care for his people. The knowledge of God’s past mercies will encourage us to trust him as we make plans for 2020. Spurgeon said: “God all-sufficient will not fail those who trust him. When we come to the place for shouldering the burden, we shall reach the place for receiving the strength.”

*This article originally appeared here: It has been edited for this post.

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is author of Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon; Wife of Charles Spurgeon from Moody Publishers. Ray is a pastor and conference speaker.

Quotes are from Charles Spurgeon’s addresses in Mentone on the last evening of 1891 and the first morning of 1892 as found in Robert Schindler, The Life and Labors of Charles Haddon Spurgeon Part II: From the Pulpit to the Palm-Branch (New York: Gospel Publishing House, n.d.), 20-31.

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