It’s was the first Sunday of the New Year, and this was how it opened! On roads and footpaths the snow was already many inches deep; the fields were a sheet of blinding whiteness; and the flakes were still falling as though they never meant to stop. As the caretaker fought his way through the storm from his cottage to the chapel in Artillery Street, he wondered whether, on such a wild and wintry day, any one would venture out. It would be strange if, on the very first Sunday morning of the year, there should be no service. He unbolted the chapel doors and lit the furnace under the stove. Half an hour later, two men were seen bravely trudging their way through the snow drifts; and, as they stood on the chapel steps, their faces flushed with their recent exertions, they laughingly shook the snow off their hats and overcoats. What a morning, to be sure! By eleven o’clock about a dozen others had arrived; but where was the minister? They waited; but he did not come. He lived at a distance, and, in all probability, had found the roads impassable. What was to be done? The stewards looked at each other and surveyed the congregation. Except for a boy of fifteen sitting under the gallery, every face was known to them, and the range of selection was not great. There were whisperings and hasty consultations, and at last one of the two men were first to arrive—‘a poor, thin-looking man, a shoe maker, a tailor, or something of that sort’— yielded to the murmured entreaties of the others and mounted the pulpit steps. He glanced nervously round upon nearly three hundred empty seats. Nearly, but not quite! For there were a dozen or fifteen of the regular worshipers present, and there was the boy sitting under the gallery. People who had braved such a morning deserved all the help that he could give them, and the strange boy under the gallery ought not to be sent back into the storm feeling that there was nothing in the service for him. And so the preacher determined to make the most of his opportunity; and he did.
The boy sitting under the gallery!A marble tablet now adorns the wall near the seat which he occupied that snowy day. The inscription records that, that very morning, the boy sitting under the gallery was converted! He was only fifteen, and he died at fifty-seven. But, in the course of the intervening years, he preached the gospel to millions and led thousands and thousands into the kingdom and service of Jesus Christ. ‘Let preachers study this story!’ says Sir William Robertson Nicoll. ‘Let them believe that, under the most adverse circumstances, they may do a work that will tell on the universe for ever. It was a great thing to have converted Charles Haddon Spurgeon; and who knows but he may have in the smallest and humblest congregation in the world some lad as well worth converting as was he?’
—Taken from A Bunch of Everlastings, pp. 143-145.