Mentone is situated where the Maritime Alps kisses the Mediterranean Sea. It was Spurgeon’s favorite place to rest and recover from his overburdened workload and his numerous physical afflictions. Mentone also served as a choice place for Spurgeon to meet with friends both old and new. The Winter of 1879 was an especially rich time of camaraderie as at different times Spurgeon met with Hudson Taylor, George Müller, and John Bost. Spurgeon held all three men in the highest regard, appreciating their common love for God but also their diversity in personality and methodology.
Who was John Bost and what did Spurgeon think of him?
Bost was a musician, pastor, and the founder and head of the Asylums of La Force in France. He was a man of song, a man of laughter, a preacher of the gospel, and a man who loved well under very trying circumstances.
Spurgeon found commonality with Bost in his sense of humor. Bost was a man “of considerable dimensions.” Contrasting himself with George Müller he said, “You will see that there is a difference between me and Mr. Müller. George Müller is a great man and John Bost is a large man.” Spurgeon retorted, “This was true, but not all the true, for John Bost is great as well as large.” This large and great man had a giant sense of humor one that put a smile on Spurgeon’s face. After an enjoyable evening with Bost, Spurgeon recalled finding him “full of zeal and devotion, and brimming over with godly experience, and at the same time abounding in mirth, racy remark, and mother wit.” These characteristics were also those Spurgeon’s.
Bost’s humor resonated with Spurgeon because it was a humor that blossomed in trial. Spurgeon was in Mentone due to his own affliction and laughter was a medicine that he needed and one that he often dispensed.
Love in Hard Places
John Bost founded eight asylums designed to help people who were facing terrible afflictions. These afflicted ones included orphans, the insane and ignorant, epileptic persons, incurables, the blind, ignorant, and other such people. Bost loved them all. “It touched our heart,” Spurgeon said, “to hear him speak of the deaf and dumb, and blind and lame, but especially of the poor epileptics, who are his special favorites, because they suffer so greatly and involve so much weary watching and painful care.” The weary watching also included weary hearing. Shrieks and screams of epileptics and the mentally ill rang thought the halls at night. These people were hard cases in hard places, but they had John Bost as an advocate, friend, and helper. He bore their burdens–great burdens as they were.
A Real Man with Real Faith Facing Real Trials
Bost was a real man with a real faith who faced real trials. Spurgeon thought of him as,
a man after our own heart, with a lot of human nature in him, a large-hearted, tempest tossed mortal who has done business on the great waters, and would long ago have been wrecked had it not been for his simple reliance upon God. His is a soul like that of Martin Luther, full of emotion and of mental changes; borne aloft to heaven at one time and anon sinking in the deeps. Worn down with labor, he needs rest, but will not take it, perhaps cannot, for even at Mentone he was lecturing for his institutions, and melting us all by the story of his afflicted residents.
Did Spurgeon see himself in Bost? Was Bost full of high and low emotions? So was Spurgeon. Was Bost worn down with labor and in need of rest? Spurgeon too was often weary, overworked, and needed rest. Spurgeon and Bost shared a like “human nature” tossed on many tempests, were afflicted with many mental challenges and emotional descents; they were mortals after all.
Full of Tender Sympathies
Spurgeon was moved by Bost’s ability to maintain a good sense of humor amidst the difficult ministry that he embraced.
How John Bost can be otherwise than troubled in spirit when he hears the cries of the epileptics, and sees the horrible contortions into which they are thrown in their frequent fits? It cuts him to the heart to see the sufferings of the dear objects of his care, and many are his sleepless nights with such a charge around him. He is full of tender sympathies, and in consequence he has a great power over his poor patients, who love and revere him; but this costs him great wear and tear of heart, and often brings him very low. In temperament he is emotional, and loves intensely: we had all his heart very soon, and we shall retain it while we live, for ours is knit to him in brotherly affection.
A True Original
“He is an original,” Spurgeon said,
his plans of working and collecting money are not a feeble copy of another man’s. Bost is not a second Müller, as we had been told–he is John Bost, and nobody else, and differs as much from Mr. Müller, as a rose differs from a lily. Even in the exercise of his faith he is unlike our venerated father of Bristol, and no only prays for the money which he needs, but uses ingenious means to obtain it. We are sure that Mr. Müller’s plan is best for him, perhaps in itself the best intrinsically; but Mr. Bost’s methods are in the main most admirable in every way; are certainly the best which in his circumstances he could follow, and possibly in some aspect the best for the majority of workers. The two brethren love and esteem each other very highly, and Mr. Müller has been greatly pleased with a visit which he has lately paid to La Force, though the signs of the epileptics was too painful for him, as it well might be.
Who is the Best?
Who was best in Spurgeon’s view, Taylor, Müller, or Bost”?
Who are we to judge the King’s servants, and especially such as these, whose feet we should feel it an honor to wash? We may, however, venture to say that if we had to apportion the precious stones to individuals, we would engrave the name of Hudson Taylor upon an emerald, pleasant and beautiful; that of George Müller upon a diamond of the first water, clear as crystal, and that of John Bost upon a ruby fall of warmth and vividness.
By that he meant not to rank them as there was debate then among jewelers as to precious stones but to display God’s work in making all of them beautiful.
Spurgeon warned against finding fault with God’s living servants and idolizing his dead ones.
There has been too much of finding fault with God’s servants while they live, and of idolizing them after death; we resolve to see the Father in the children, the Master in the disciples, the Holy Ghost in the temples of God, and to give them our loving word while they live. It is a small matter to them what we think of them, but they will not be grieved at our glorifying God in them.
What can we gain from the life of John Bost?
*Cultivate a Seasoned Sense of Humor: Humor might be trivial and of the cotton-candy variety. Or it might be seasoned by life, Suffering, experiences, and relationships all serve to flavor humor so that it is but a reflection of the joy of the Lord. Read Spurgeon and learn from his sermons, lectures to students, and proverbs and you will gain a sense of what seasoned humor looks like.
*Love People in Hard Places: It is easy to be affectionate towards the lovely, the healthy, and those who need nothing from you. It is hard to love those who are dependent and facing horrific afflictions. Night-after-night, and day-after-day, Bost heard the screams of the mentally and physically afflicted. Yet he loved. How? He knew the all surpassing love of God. To learn how to love people in hard places, marinate your heart and mind in the love of God who sent His Son when we were the most unlovely and in the hardest of places.
*Be Real. Counterfeit money is void of value for it cannot rightly purchase needed goods. Counterfeit faith leads to hell. Hypocrisy leaves one’s heart empty and it argues against the Christian faith. And false faith will not see you through real trials. Be real. Have real faith that will stand up to the hardest of trials.
*Be Full of Tender Sympathies. True sympathy is forged in the valley of suffering. As Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians chapter 1, God comforts his suffering servants that they then might comfort others who suffer. Such was the testimony of John Bost.
*Be An Original. Spurgeon valued Taylor, Müller, and Bost and he appreciated the diversity that he saw among his friends. Be who God made you and fear not to do things, as long as they are biblically lawful, that differ from your heros. Müller and Bost had different methods of fund raising, both were biblically faithful.
*Love the People of God. Hear again Spurgeon’s words. “There has been too much of finding fault with God’s servants while they live, and of idolizing them after death; we resolve to see the Father in the children, the Master in the disciples, the Holy Ghost in the temples of God, and to give them our loving word while they live. It is a small matter to them what we think of them, but they will not be grieved at our glorifying God in them.”
Ray Rhodes, Jr. is author of Yours, till Heaven; the Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon and Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon both from Moody Publishers. He is presently working on a biography of Charles Spurgeon for B&H Academic You can visit Ray on the web, order signed copies of his books, and schedule him to speak for your next event by visiting www.rayrhodesjr.com.