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SERMONS IN CANDLES:

BY

C. H. SPURGEON.

Lecture 1

Continued...............Part 2


It would be too great a task for me to guide you into every corner in history or archaeology where the candle leads the way. But there are a few odds and ends which may be worth picking up. Candle- ends must not be wasted, but put upon the save-all, and used for a good purpose.

Diogenes with his lantern lives before us, as he ranges through the city in the glare of the sun, looking for an honest man. He could not dispense with his light even now, if he went to some places in our land -- I mean not exclusively the parliaments of politicians; there are religious assemblies where his lantern would not be unnecessary.

Alfred the Great, to whom we have already referred, is said to have measured time by the burning of candles, marking them, we suppose, so that so much candle meant an hour. No wonder, that to secure accuracy in his chronometer, he invented a shield in the form of a lantern, to keep off the draughts which would cause his measurers of time to burn away in no time.

Our forefathers kept a festival known as CANDLEMAS: it comes on February 2nd, and celebrates the Purification of the Virgin, and the Presentation of the infant Christ in the Temple. The feast takes its name from the custom, as old as the seventh century, of carrying lighted candles in procession, in memory of Simeon's words (Luke ii. 32), "A light to lighten the Gentiles."

On this day Roman Catholics consecrate the candles to be used in their churches throughout the year. The feast is retained in the Anglican and Lutheran churches. It is frequently called The Purification. In Scotland, Candlemas is one of the quarter days for paying and receiving rents, interest, school fees, &c. In former days the boy who brought his Dominie the largest present was made king of the school. Poor honours which could thus be bought! How like most of the glories of the world!

Christmas Eve has its candles to light up the Christmas tree. Our German friends observe this pretty ceremony with great care, to the great delight of the juniors of the family. Among the things in Luther's life which charm all hearts, were his enjoyment of music and his delight in the children's Christmas tree.

In Chaucer's England one hears little of candles; but in the list of articles of a manor-house of the time we read of "an iron or lantern candlestick," meaning, we suppose, an iron candlestick covered with brass, or a brass candlestick. Ancient candlesticks, such as we are able to set before you, were more solid than elegant, and look as if they might have been copied from an hour-glass. After long research in olden history for some hints about candles, a friend, who noticed our failure, suggested that we should search through a History of Greece; but we did not give him a fig, much less a groat, for his puny wit. Of old, the Shunammitish woman, who had a prophet's chamber, had provided a candlestick for the man of God; but far nearer our own day a domestic candlestick seems to have been a rare thing in this country. Until windows were supplied with glass, naked candles must have been too liable to be blown out to be used without lanterns. Moreover, we suspect that our fathers were not so apt to turn night into day as we are, but went to bed with the lamb, and rose with the lark. They lost somewhat by this habit; but possibly they gained more. The curfew, which put out all lights at an early hour, has been represented as an instrument of tyranny; but in all probability it was a needful social regulation to prevent the frequent fires which fell out in wooden houses, where the floor was covered with rushes, and candles were apt to be carelessly used. On the whole, we do not weep very bitterly over "the good old times", when we sit at ease far into the night, and read by the electric light.

The making of lanterns would seem to have been a flourishing trade in the olden time. Many were made of horn; but we have seen all engraving in which tin or thin iron would seem to be largely used.

Excommunications were pronounced by "Bell, book, and candle." After the formula had been read, and the book closed, the assistants cast the lighted candles, they held in their hands, to the ground, so as to extinguish them, and the bells were clashed without order: the last two ceremonies symbolized the quenching of grace, and the disorder in the souls of the persons excommunicated. Now we understand why

"The Cardinal rose with a dignified look,
He call'd for his candle, his bell, and his book!
In holy anger and pious grief
He solemnly cursed that rascally thief!"

There was a special warning form of the same terrible punishment wherein the sinner was allowed space for repentance so long as a candle continued to burn. If he expressed no regret till the light was out, he was cast off; but while the candle yet would burn, the vilest sinner might return.

While remembering the holy candles of the Church of Rome, one cannot forget the miracles connected with these humble household luminaries.

We quote from Hone's "Every-day Book."' "Several stories of the miraculous faculties of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, represent them as very convenient in vexatious cases of ordinary occurrence; one of these will serve as a specimen. On a dark, wet night she was going to church with her maidens with a candle borne before her, which the wind and rain put out; the saint merely called for the candle, and as soon as she took it in her hand it was lighted again, without any fire of this world.

"Other stories of her lighting candles in this way call to mind a candle, greatly venerated by E. Worsley in "A Discourse of Miracles wrought in the Roman Catholic Church, or, a Full Refutation of Dr. Stillingfleet's unjust Exceptions against Miracles," 8vo, 1676. At page 64, he says, 'that the miraculous wax candle yet seen at Arras, the chief city of Artois, may give the reader entertainment, being most certain, and never doubted by any. In 1105, that is, more than 500 years ago (of so great antiquity the candle is), a merciless plague reigned in Arras. The whole city, ever devout to the Mother of God, experienced her, in this their necessity, to be a true mother of mercy. The manner was thus: the Virgin Mary appeared to two men, and enjoined them to tell the Bishop of Arras, that on the next Saturday, towards morning, she would appear in the great church, and put into his hands a wax candle burning; from whence drops of wax should fall into a vessel of water prepared by the bishop. She said, moreover, that all the diseased that drank of this water should forthwith be cured. This, truly promised, truly happened. Oar Blessed Lady appeared all beautiful, having in her hands a wax candle burning, which diffused light over the whole church; this she presented to the bishop; he, blessing it with the sign of the cross, set it in the urn of water; when drops of wax plentifully fell down into the vessel. The diseased drank of it, all were cured, the contagion ceased, and the candle, to this day preserved with great veneration, spends itself, yet loses nothing; and therefore remains still of the same length and greatness it did 500 years ago. A vast quantity of wax, made up of the many drops which fall into the water upon those festival days, when the candle burns, may be justly called a standing, indeficient miracle."

This candle story, though gravely related by a Catholic writer, as 'not doubted of by any', and as, therefore, not to be questioned, altogether failed in convincing the Protestant Stillingfleet, that "miracles wrought in the Roman Catholic Church" ought to be believed. It fails with us also.

Even these lying wonders are more pleasant reading than the stories which relate to the use of candles in the conversion of Protestant heretics. They had their choice either to turn or burn, and judicious proselyters gave the obstinate a little taste of flame beforehand, to save them from the greater fire. Here are two precious stories from the famous "Acts and Monuments."

Fox tells us concerning Thomas Tomkins, a weaver, of Shoreditch, who was burned at Smithfield, that Bishop Bonnet kept him in prison at Fulham half-a-year, "during which time the said bishop was so rigorous with him, that he beat him bitterly about the face; whereby his face was swelled...

"The rage of this bishop was not so great against him, but the constancy of the sufferer was much greater with patience to bear it; who, although he had not the learning as others had, yet he was so endued with God's mighty Spirit, and so perfectly planted in the knowledge of God's truth, that by no means could he be removed from the confession of the truth. Whereupon Bonner the bishop being greatly vexed against the poor man, when he saw that by no persuasions he could prevail against him, devised another practice not so strange as cruel, further to try his constancy; to the intent, that seeing he could not otherwise convince him by doctrine out of the Scriptures, yet he might overthrow him by a fore-feeling and terror of death. So he calls for Thomas Tomkins, who, coming before the bishop, and standing as he was wont, in defence of his faith, the bishop having there a taper or wax candle of three or four wicks standing upon the table, took Tomkins by the fingers, and held his hand directly over the flame, supposing that by the smart and pain of the fire being terrified, he would leave off the defence of his Protestant doctrine.

"Tomkins, thinking no otherwise but there presently to die, began to commend himself unto the Lord, saying, 'O Lord! into thy hands I commend my spirit? In the time that his hand was in burning, the same Tomkins afterward reported to one James Hinse, that 'his spirit was so rapt that he felt no pain.' In the which burning he never quailed, till the veins shrank and the sinews burst?

If a bishop acted thus, we do not wonder that the more brutal ones among the bigoted laity did the like. Here is another record from that Fox who spied out and laid bare the doings of Romish devotees.

"On the 2nd of August, 1557, five men and five women were burnt at Colchester, for the testimony and witness of Christ Jesus and his glorious gospel. In the number was one William Mount, of Much Bentley, in Essex, husbandman, with Alice, his wife, and Rose Allin, maid, the daughter of the said Alice Mount.

"At two o'clock on a Sunday morning in March, one master Edmund Tyrrel took with him the bailiff, and two constables, with divers others, a great number. Going into the room where father Mount and his wife lay, they bade them rise, for that they must go to Colchester Castle. Mother Mount, being very ill, asked that her daughter might fetch her some drink. This Tyrrel permitted. So Rose Mount took a stone jug in one hand, and a candle in the other, and went to draw drink for her mother; and as she came back again through the house, Tyrrel met her, and willed her to give her father and mother good counsel, and advertise them to be better Catholic people." Thus they conversed:--

Rose:--"Sir, they have a better instructor than I; for the Holy Ghost doth teach them, I hope; and he, be ye sure, will not suffer them to err."

"Why?" said master Tyrrel, "art thou still in that mind, thou naughty house-wife? Marry, it is time to look upon such heretics indeed."

Rose:-- "Sir, With that which you call heresy, do I worship my Lord God; I tell you truth."

Tyrrel:-- "Then I perceive you will burn, gossip, with the rest, for company's sake."

Rose:-- "No, sir, not for company's sake, but for my Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, if so I be compelled; and I hope in his mercies if he call me to it, he will enable me to bear it."

So he, turning to his company, said, "Sirs, this gossip will bum: do you not think it?" "Marry, sir", quoth one, "prove her, and ye shall see what she will do by-and-by?'

"Then the cruel Tyrrel, taking the candle from her, held her wrist, and put the burning candle under her hand, burning cross-wise over the back thereof so long, till the very sinews cracked asunder." Yet the brave Rose endured the pain like a true heroine, and then went and fetched her mother the drink.

How many of us, who preach with much confidence, could have endured the like torture? Let us hope that if we were called to such pain, grace would be given to sustain us under it.

One is soon weary of such quotations, and we will leave them when we have reminded ourselves of the brave word of old Latimer. When standing on the fagots, with his back to the stake, he turned round to his brother Bishop, Ridley, and said, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man, and we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out": AND SO SAY ALL OF US."

In the City of London, in olden times, the streets being unlighted by public lamps, and thieves being plentiful, a law was made for everybody to put a candle out over his door. As the story comes to me, the law was obeyed -- a candle was exhibited, but it was not lighted. The letter of the law was darkness, for the spirit of the law was absent.

The wise Corporation had to meet and ordain a regulation that everybody should light the candle which by law was to be over his door. So they did; but after it had been lighted according to law the wind blew it out, and again the citizens saved their tallow. The City fathers made another alteration in their edict, and decreed that everybody should hang a lantern over his door. This was soon accomplished; but the householders put no candle in the lantern. The Corporation has always been amazingly wise, and is so still. You laugh, but my reverence for all public bodies is so great that you cannot suppose that I intended anything sarcastic. The Council went over the old ground, and settled that the lantern should have a candle in it. Again, the good folks did as they were bidden, but they did not light the candle. This called forth the decree that in the lantern there should be a lighted candle. Canny citizens put only a very small length of candle; and though it was soon burnt out, they could not be charged with a breach of the law in that case made and provided. The Corporation specified the length of the candle to be lighted, but I dare say clever people still dodged the law. It is never difficult to drive a coach and four through the Acts of Parliaments and Corporations. There is one way of doing a right thing, but there are dozens of ways of not doing it; and people are very ingenious at avoiding rules which involve expense.

Candles suggest save-alls, and economical minds need not that the hint be repeated. Misers have been known to go to bed to save candle for themselves; what would they not do to escape burning a candle for other people?

The watchmen of our city were in the old time the themes of constant jest. They had come to be venerable persons wrapped in capes of many folds, and night-caps of the warmest sort: each one of these had his lantern, with which he emulated in the streets the glow-worms of the country lanes. Stowe represents these guardians of the night as carrying and using bells to give warning to householders to put out fire, and light candle. Nice helps to repose these old gentlemen must have been, especially if they conscientiously obeyed orders, and both knocked at doors and sounded their alarums to wake people out of their first sleep to look to their candles! All very pretty it sounds in the rhyme, but not quite so delightful if heard in the still of night.



"A light here, maids, hang out your light,
And see your horns be clean and bright,
That so your candle dear may shine,
Continuing from six till nine;
That honest men that walk along
May see to pass safe without wrong."

In the days of Henry VIII. the citizens of London did little in the way of hanging out candles, and hence men cut purses in the dark with impunity. Harry's remedy was, "Hang up the thieves, and let honest men keep indoors?” Very thoroughly did he practise his own rule, so that it is recorded that three-score and twelve thousand petty thieves were hung up during his reign. Poor saving this, to spare the hanging out of candles and indulge in the hanging up of men! There can be no doubt that good light is the friend of honesty and the destruction of thieves. This is a parable which we need not wait to expound.

Many bequests have been left for the keeping up of lights, especially in places near the river Thames. I will give you a specimen. John Wardall, by will, dated 29th August, 1656, gave to the Grocers' Company a tenement called “The White Bear", in Walbrook, to the intent that they should yearly, within thirty days after Michaelmas, pay to the Churchwardens of St. Botolph, Billingsgate, 4 pound, to provide a good and sufficient iron and glass lantern, with a candle, for the direction of passengers to go with more security to and from the water-side all night long, to be fixed at the north-east corner of the parish church of St. Botolph, from the feast day of St. Bartholomew to Lady Day. Out of this sum 1 pound was to be paid to the sexton for taking care of the lantern. It is well in life and in death to minister light to this dark world.

It was a curious way of expressing his appreciation of a politician, when Mr. Alderman White, of Winchester, sent Wilkes, the author of the notorious Number 45, a present of forty-five dozens of candles. Possibly the worthy Alderman had an eye to advertisement as well as to admiration. At any rate, he succeeded; for the wags, one of whom signs himself Will Wickham, immortalized him in their verses.

"What hero, what king,
Sweet muse, wilt thou sing?
What alderman venture to handle?--
No subject so bright
As Alderman White,
And his forty-five dozen of candle.

From him the bright name
Of freedom shall flame,
And all who that cause understand ill
May see wrong from right,
By the true patriot light
Of forty-five dozen of candle.

On a theme so sublime,
I for ever would rhyme,
But my muse I no longer shall dandle
So I wish you good-night,
Mr. Alderman White;
But beware of a thief in the candle."

We must not fail to mention Hogarth's famous drawing of The Politician. That admirable publication, The Penny Magazine in the year 1834, had such an excellent exposition of the picture, that I cannot forbear to quote it in full. “This piece of exquisite humour, is said to have been suggested to Hogarth by a living and well-known character in his day, a Mr. Tibson, laceman in the Strand, who preferred politics to trade, and the Gazetteer newspaper to the ledger and day-book. Never was a ruling passion -- an intentness on a favourite subject -- more happily portrayed than in the print before us. The mere position or seat of the old quidanne tells a story! From the way in which he has squared himself in his chair, you may see he is a man determined not to budge until he has conned his dear paper through to the last line, word, and syllable. His short, stout legs, with those broad bases of high-quartered shoes, are set down on the floor like pillars! It would require a dray-horse to drag him from his occupation!

"To throw a full, clear light on his sheet (the only sheet, we may be sure, he ever reads), he has taken his tallow candle from its socket, and, indifferent to the abomination of grease, holds it in his right hand, whilst his left hand grasps his journal -- the Benjamin of his heart.

"The ascending flame has set fire to his hat, has literally burnt a hole through its broad brim. The candle has also fearfully burnt down and has guttered; the red-hot wick and the base of the flame are within the eighth of an inch of his finger, and it is difficult to say which part of him will be burnt first, his forehead, his nose, or his unflinching hand. But what of that? He is rapt, and altogether unconscious of his danger, and on he will read until the fire reaches him. Look at his countenance the while! with its deep lines of thought, and the half acute and half solemn compression of his lips! There is many a siege and blockade in the dropping corner of that mouth, and a campaign or a treaty in every wrinkle of that face!

"Thanks to the introduction of narrow-brimmed hats, there is now no danger of our quidnuncs setting fire to their beavers. Their heads, indeed, are sometimes heated by flaming paragraphs; but the heat is all inward. There are political occasions on which the people have to think and to act, as far as they can act legally; but the only way to think and to act rightly is to be cool, and not set their hats or their heads on fire."

In the days of the great Napoleon the rage of English people against Boney knew no bounds. Woodward designed a cartoon entitled "The Corsican Moth", which flying towards the candle is made to say, "It is a very fierce flame; I am afraid I shall singe my wings!" Old George III., just below the candlestick, is muttering "Thou little contemptible insect, I shall see thee consumed by-and-by!" We are glad that no such irrational hate now stirs our population with enmity to France. There is no need for me to moralize upon the moth and the candle; yet it were well if some who have been already injured by vicious courses could have the sense to shun those evils which have already wrought them so much ill.

It brings us back to the dark ages, when we find that, so late as 1836, His Majesty William IV. was dependent upon wax candles for the due delivery of his speech to Parliament. I will give you the passage:--



A ROYAL SPEECH By CANDLELIGHT.

"The opening day of the Session of Parliament, in 1836 (February 4). was unusually gloomy, which, added to an imperfection in the sight of King William IV., and the darkness of the House, rendered it impossible for His Majesty to read the Royal Speech with facility. Most patiently and good- naturedly did he struggle with the task, often hesitating, sometimes mistaking, and at others correcting himself. On one occasion he stuck altogether, and after two or three ineffectual efforts to make out the word, he was obliged to give it up, when, turning to Lord Melbourne, who stood on his right band, and looking him most significantly in the face, he said, in a tone sufficiently loud to be audible in all parts of the House, 'Eh! what is it?' Lord Melbourne having whispered the obstructing word, the King proceeded to toil through the speech; but by the time he got to about ta middle, the librarian brought bin, two wax-lights, on which he suddenly paused; then raising his head, and looking at the Lords and Commons, he addressed them on the spur of the moment, in a perfectly distinct voice, and without the least embarrassment or mistake of a single word, in these terms:--

"'My Lords and Gentlemen, -- I have hitherto not been able, from want of light, to read this speech in thc way its importance deserves; but as lights are now brought me, I will read it again from the commencement, and in a way which, I trust, will command your attention.'

"The King, though evidently fatigued by the difficulty of reading in the first instance, began at the beginning, and read through the speech in a manner which would have done credit to a professor of elocution!"

Ladies and Gentlemen, it would seem to be a wonder, that a King should be able to read without fainting away! When he does his royal best he seems to be nearly as good as "a professor of elocution.' This is not saying much. People who try to flatter rulers generally succeed in making them ridiculous. Think of his Majesty's being able to deliver an extempore speech of one sentence! Wonders will never cease.


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