Introducing Mr. Spurgeon…

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is unarguably one of the greatest pulpiteers that ever lived. He has been dubbed the “prince of preachers.” Since Spurgeon passed off this world’s scene, many others have been influenced by his vast source of writings and works, and blessed through the agencies that he set into motion.

Eliza Jarvis Spurgeon, at the age of nineteen, gave birth to Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was born in a little cottage at Kelvedon in Essex on June 19, 1834, which was ten days after William Cary, the great leader of the Baptist Missionary movement, died in India.

Young Charles Spurgeon grew up knowing about the Lord, but he was never in Christ. From the time Charles was between ten and eleven until he was fifteen or sixteen, he had an intense search for Christ. Into these years was crowded a world of experience that enabled Spurgeon to scrutinize the secret hearts of men in his later ministry. It seems that he learned more in those years than most men learn in a lifetime. It is amazing that a boy so sheltered and so trained in the ways of God from the time he was a baby could have felt so much and have had such exertion of the soul placed upon him.

After extensive searching, then came the memorable day of January 6, 1850. Spurgeon had risen early to go to his regular place of worship, but a terrible snowstorm had blown into the area. The storm prevented him from reaching his intended place of worship. Instead, he turned into the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Artillery Street in Colchester. It was not the place he preferred to be, but it was the place that God had chosen for him that morning. Unknown to him at the time, he would listen to a pastor who was entrusted by God with the key that would lead the young boy out of his darkness and into His glorious light.

There were only about a dozen people in the service that day at the little Methodist church. The minister was an unlearned man. Even though the preacher’s pronunciation left a lot to be desired, it seemed that hope was dawning on the strange seeker in the pew that morning. The sermon from Isaiah 45:22 went like this: “My dear friends, this is a simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a great deal of pains. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger. It is just ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look . . . . Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto me.’”[1]

After putting out the gospel message as plain as anyone could, the Methodist preacher then looked straight at the young Spurgeon and confronted him from the pulpit. He said, “Young man, you look very miserable. You always will be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment you will be saved.”[2] Spurgeon was struck to the core with this direct challenge concerning his spiritual condition.

Spurgeon could never quite recall what the preacher had said in his sermon after that point. The only thing that Spurgeon could vividly remember was that the way of salvation had been opened up to him and he was possessed by the freeness and simplicity of it. Spurgeon thought that all of the preaching in the past he had heard was devoid of the true gospel. “He thought at first that he had never heard the Gospel before, that the preachers he had listened to had not preached it, but he came to see the difference between the effectual calling of God and the general proclamation of the Gospel.”[3]

By mid-1850, Spurgeon had not yet partaken of the Lord’s Table. Concerning baptism, Spurgeon had been convinced by the study of the New Testament and also by the Church of England’s catechism that believers in Christ should be baptized in his name after they believed. He also thought that it was logical that he be baptized before he partook of communion. Before he was baptized, he wrote home to get his parent’s permission. “Like an obedient son he wrote to his parents asking their consent, which was readily given, but not without a warning from his father that he must not trust in his baptism, and a playful reminder from his mother that even though she had often prayed that her son might be a Christian, she had never asked that he should be a Baptist. Just as playfully, Spurgeon rebutted that the Lord had dealt with her in His usual generosity and had given her exceeding abundantly above what she had asked.”[4] On May 3, 1850, Spurgeon was baptized.

Spurgeon began as an itinerant preacher of sorts. “The attractiveness of his sermons and speeches is found very largely in the fact that his illustrations and subjects were intimately connected with everyday events, and were well known in the experience of his hearers.”[5] “He was a Christocentric preacher from the very beginning.”[6] His popularity grew around the countryside and he was to preach on Sundays at various churches and also throughout the week.

Not long afterwards, Spurgeon went on to become the pastor of the famed New Park Street Chapel in the heart of London. It was during his tenure there that he married and had twin boys. “[Spurgeon] was quite elated at the event; his father to the end laughed when he recalled that on the letter his son sent him announcing the birth of his twin boys, the figure 2 was written five times outside the envelope.”[7]

Spurgeon was a Calvinist in doctrine. Spurgeon recounts his Calvinistic reasoning and convictions in the following way: “The thought struck me, ‘How did you come to be a Christian?’ I sought the Lord. ‘But how did you come to seek the Lord?’ The truth flashed across my mind in a moment. I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him . . . . then in a moment I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith; and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed.”[8]

C.H. Spurgeon was a great preacher. “He has used no arts to draw hearers; he has preached no sensational sermons, has presented no novel ideas, has advertised no subjects, has taken no pains to make himself known; yet for more than a generation there has been no vacillation of his power or popularity nor any variation in the strength of his hold upon the people.”[9] He never found a shortage of sermon material from God’s Word. But, as great as his sermons were heard as he preached them, it could be argued that his printed sermons have become all the more greater.

In March 1887, Charles Spurgeon published in his monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel a series of articles entitled “The Down-Grade.” Tracing the state of evangelicalism from the Puritan age to his own era, Schindler, a close friend of Spurgeon’s and a fellow pastor, noted that every revival in the evangelical faith had followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine. He likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope and thus entitled it “the down-grade.”

Schindler observed in his articles the steps that led to the down-grade. “The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God’s Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching . . . . In looking carefully over the history of the times, . . . this fact is apparent: that where ministers and Christian churches have held fast to the truth that the Holy Scriptures have been given by God as an authoritative and infallible rule of faith and practice, they have never wandered very seriously out of the right way.”[10]

In August, September, and October of 1887, Spurgeon penned his own observations concerning the down-grade. Spurgeon stated that “a new religion had been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching.”[11] Spurgeon was proposing that the members of the Baptist Union unify under a “plain-language” doctrinal statement. People were racing to align themselves under the banners of unification, harmony, unity, and brotherhood. They had the classic “no-creed-but-Christ” mentality.

In the end, the Baptist Union would not even bring up the issue of instituting a doctrinal creed. Spurgeon resigned from the Union on October 28, 1887, as a result of this controversy. The Union accepted Spurgeon’s resignation and also censured him. Concerning the openness of acceptance that the Baptist Union expressed, Spurgeon commented that, “What is wished (by them) for is a Union which will, like Noah’s Ark, afford shelter both for the clean and for the unclean, for creeping things and winged fowls.”[12]

One hour before midnight on the last day of January, 1892, Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s spirit departed from Mentone to his eternal home. After forty years of committed ministry to the Lord, he entered into His rest. “As the casket was lowered into the grave nothing was to be seen but the text at the foot of it about the good fight, and the Bible that lay on the top of it, open at the text that led Spurgeon into the light: ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.’”[13]

[1] Fullerton, W. Y., C. H. Spurgeon: A Biography (London: Williams and Norgate, 1920), 33.

[2] Ibid., 31.

[3] Ibid., 32.

[4] Ibid., 38.

[5] Cronwell, Russell H., Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Edgewood Publishing Co., 1982), 156.

[6] Bacon, Ernest W., C. H. Spurgeon: Heir of the Puritans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1967), 29.

[7] Fullerton, Spurgeon, 165.

[8] Ibid., 120.

[9] Wayland, H. L., Charles H. Spurgeon: His Faith and Works (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1892), 71.

[10] MacArthur, John F., Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1993), 202.

[11] Ibid., 205.

[12] Ibid., 220.

[13] Fullerton, Spurgeon, 336.