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Yours Till Heaven - Ray Rhodes

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
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April 10, 2021 2:00 am

Yours Till Heaven - Ray Rhodes

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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April 10, 2021 2:00 am

If you like a good love story, don’t miss this edition of Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. You’ll hear the untold love story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon. Ray Rhodes will take us on a remarkable journey to the 1800s to discover how the bond of this renowned couple helped fuel their lifelong service to God. How did they handle the pressure, the illnesses, and the loneliness? Find out today on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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I mean, their faith, their spirituality, their commitment to prayer and Bible study, that was foundational, fundamental, and then from that sprung the degree and the intimacy and the sweetness of their romance. Ray Rhodes Jr. is back with that untold story. We talked with him a couple of years ago about his biography of Susanna Spurgeon, wife of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and today a guided tour of the ups and downs of their lives and how God showed himself faithful in their marriage. So Gary, we're going to step into a time machine and go back and see what made their union so special. Chris, I'm excited about this. You know, as a pastor, we've all heard and read sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and so it's going to be exciting to kind of get behind the scenes and to see what their marriage was like. So I'm excited about our time today.

Let's meet our guest. Ray Rhodes Jr. serves as founding pastor of Grace Community Church of Dawsonville, Georgia, and as president of Nourished in the Word Ministries. He served four congregations over three decades of pastoral ministry, and for 15 years he's led Nourished in the Word. Ray's published several books.

He holds theological degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He's married to Lori. They have daughters, four grandchildren, and his doctoral thesis—we talked about this last time—focused on the marriage and spirituality of Charles and Susanna Spurgeon. His book is our featured resource today, Yours Till Heaven, The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon.

You can find out more at Well, Ray, welcome back to Building Relationships. Well, thank you, Dr. Chapman, for having me back on.

It's a pleasure. Well, you know, people of my generation, I think, at least the Christians who have done any reading at all, know Charles Haddon Spurgeon, but there's a younger generation out there that maybe doesn't know very much about them. So why don't you set the stage by telling us who were these people, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Susanna Spurgeon? Well, Susanna Spurgeon was two and a half years older than Charles. She was born in 1832 in London, lived all of her life in the city, except for some excursions to Paris.

So she was a city girl. Spurgeon was born in 1834, and he was born in the country of England, small towns, small villages, more rural life there. And he lived until 1892. Susie died in 1903. So most of their lives, really all of their lives, occurred during the Victorian era.

Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, and she died in 1901. Of course, Charles Spurgeon became the most famous preacher in the world, still one of the best known preachers, Christian leaders in all of Christian history. Susie Spurgeon was pretty much behind the scenes. Her life was much more of a mystery until she met Charles Spurgeon. And after meeting him, that's what we uncovered in our research, more about her fascinating life as well.

They were married for 36 years from 1856 until Charles's death in 1892. So why have these two people captivated you so much that you dug into this and dug into the history of all this? Well, you know, many of us pastors, we have loved Spurgeon for much of our ministry, really about as long as I've known about Charles Spurgeon, became fascinated with him as a preacher, as a writer, as a Christian leader. And again, I think one of the most famous Christians in all of post-New Testament history. So I started studying him and reading biographies about him, I think maybe in 1990, and continued learning bits and pieces about him.

And I guess probably 2013 or so, I started asking more questions. Well, who and what was the influences behind Charles Spurgeon's life? What was his home life like? Who was his wife? I think many of us knew that he was married to a girl named Susanna, that she was sick for much of their marriage, and that she gave away books.

But beyond that, I didn't know much about her. And the more I started studying her life and their lives together, the more fascinated I became. Well, behind the Prince of Preachers was also a great lover, and a great lover of one woman for all of his life, and she loved him devotedly as well. So she's a fascinating woman, he's a fascinating man, and their marriage is fascinating for numerous reasons. I love so much that we'll talk about today, but the romance, the love, the devotion, the perseverance, the commitment that they had, it just thrilled my soul.

It still moves me to tears, often reading about them, and there's still so much more to learn. Now, you mentioned that they lived, of course, in the 1800s, mainly, in the Victorian era. What really was going on during those years in the general culture? Yeah, maybe Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities is a good way to describe Victorian culture.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a time of great progress and growth, and with that progress and growth, people flooded into London and created all sorts of challenges for the culture. There were many, many orphans, prostitution was high, the air quality was awful, sometimes folks would be burning their lights throughout the day.

It would be the fog and the smog and the dirty air from London would create such darkness. So there was that, there was poverty, there were times of great financial booms and losses, but also it was a time of great progress. London was the greatest city in the world at that time, and with the revolution brought money and progress and creativity, and a lot of that was symbolized, I think, by the building of the Crystal Palace, first in 1851 in Hyde's Park and then later rebuilt in 1854 in South London. And it housed the great inventions and stories of the progress of London and England also around the world. So yeah, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Yeah, you mentioned the climate, I mean the smog and all of that, and we're still talking about that. You're in our culture, but we're not going to go there in our discussion today.

That's right. So what was their courtship like in the 1800s, and what role did their faith play in the early stages of their relationship? Yeah, their courtship in some ways seems a bit different from Victorian courtship. Typically, as I understand it, a young lady would have a coming out indicating that she was ready to be courted, and that would be probably for the higher middle class and upper class girls, and the lower middle class girls. It could be as simple as the way they wore their hair or a type of dress that they would wear. There's really no indication of any of that.

Susanna Spurgeon was an attendee at the New Park Street Chapel when Charles Spurgeon first preached there in 1853. As I talk about in both books, she was unimpressed with him, and she was struggling with her own spirituality. Some of us can identify with that, I think.

Yes, yes. She was really struggling spiritually. She had been converted maybe about a year, and she described herself as being backslidden and could not really appreciate Spurgeon's ministry. She was just preaching as a guest preacher at the church in London.

But the church was really taken by him, and by April they invited him to become their pastor. Susie had also begun confiding in him her spiritual struggle, so they got to know one another really by studying biblical issues and looking at spiritual growth and talking about conversion and the fruit of salvation, those sorts of things. But sometime between, I would say, April 1854 and June 1854, so just a period of a few months, Charles became really enamored with her. She didn't really know his feelings. He seemed to conceal those, and he didn't know for certain her feelings either.

But in June of 1856, with the grand reopening of the Crystal Palace, he opened a book of poetry and pointed to a section on marriage. And he leans over, whispers in her ear, asks her if she prays for the man that is to be her husband. So they're both attending this grand reopening with other church members, just a church group going to an event. That's what Susie thought.

Charles had other ideas. And by the end of that evening, she describes herself as really being in love with this man, and her heart's beating, her face is flushed. And their courtship was really pretty simple. Charles would go over to her home after they were engaged two months later. So the meeting in June at the Crystal Palace engaged by August, so her heart had changed dramatically since her first meeting with Charles.

But they were engaged in August. He would go over to her home on Monday nights and edit his sermon that had been preached and taken down in shorthand on Sunday, and it would be published every week. And so she would sit there pretty quietly. He gave her a job to do on at least one occasion. He handed her some of the works of Thomas Brooks, the Puritan, asked her to go through those and pull out some great quotes. And as a result, a book came out of that, Smooth Stones Taken from Ancient Brooks, a play on the name. Susie was a part of that.

Her name was not on the book then nor now, but she says there's a tender love story through that process. And then they would meet once a week at the Crystal Palace. Spurgeon would leave church. Susie would walk over to the Crystal Palace. They'd meet at the Crystal Fountain, and they would walk around for a couple of hours and just have some time of leisure and getting to know one another. So that was essentially their courtship, that and Susie attending the new Park Street Chapel initially.

Later it would be named the Metropolitan Tabernacle. And so their love grew and developed, and eventually Charles would baptize her before they were married. Ray, you talked a little bit about their courtship and what was going on with them and kind of their love story, but was there an emphasis in their day of finding the right one?

I've got to find the right one to complete me or that fits exactly. Any idea about that? I have not seen anything that would suggest that in general in Victorian times, but specifically with Charles and Susie.

Nothing at all like that that I found. Take a broad view, Ray, on their lives and give us some marriage lessons for today that we might learn from their relationship back in the 1800s. I think the most moving, one of the most moving things about their relationship that I need to learn from is the way they talk to one another. Their communication was, of course, like all of us, there's just utilitarian conversation with things that need to be taken care of. But their communication was very tender, it was thoughtful, it was kind, and it was often very romantic. Reading the love letters of Spurgeon, I'm just struck by how the Prince of Preachers could speak so romantically about his wife to others, but to her specifically in the love letters that he wrote. So communication, good communication. As a pastor, I know you guys know this very well also in your ministry, communication is often issues that couples come to me to discuss in their own marriage, so I think we can learn much.

And I write an entire chapter on communication in the book. But perseverance also, they didn't quit. They didn't quit on the Lord and His work, and they didn't quit on one another through some very hard times.

Very hard times. They persevered through trial, they both sacrificed. I think Susie's level of sacrifice is really stunning to me, and it's not yet, even in my works, not fully grasp the level of sacrifice that she made to keep their marriage going and to support her husband as she did. But they also had vision for their marriage. They had no concept of not being married. And they also had a vision that after their deaths, that they would be together in heaven, not as husband and wife. Jesus said there's no marriage in heaven. But if they would love one another really for the first time perfectly around the throne of God and together with the saints of the ages, they would praise God. So that eternal vision really pulled them forward in their marriage through many challenges. But if I would say one thing, their faith, their spirituality, their commitment to prayer and Bible study, that was foundational, fundamental. And then from that sprung these other things, especially I think the way they talked to one another.

Yeah. You think their lives were a lot different from ours. I mean, you know, who were in the modern world, communication and travel and all this stuff. But were their lives really that different? Dr. Chapman, I don't think so.

Of course, most of us aren't Charles Spurgeon, and we don't have the sort of fame and all the things that connects to him. But just pulling some of that away, the nuts and bolts of their lives were very similar to ours. They're both busy. They were parents. They had many, many bouts, long bouts with sickness, affliction.

Spurgeon struggled with depression, Susie with loneliness and anxiety, especially over him being gone. So they have many of the same challenges that we know. And early in their marriage, they had financial challenges as well, as they were trying to work together to support the ministry, to help fund the education for young pastors who didn't have the funds themselves.

They sacrificed their budget. So they knew about financial difficulties. They knew about marriage through suffering.

They knew about the challenges of parenting and separation due to work issues. So in many ways, you know, there's nothing new under the sun, and so is true in marriage. They experience the same sorts of things that we do. Yeah, I think a lot of our listeners can identify with all those things.

Depends on how old you are, how long you've been together. But now in your research, there must have been a few things along the way about the Spurgeons that may really have surprised you. Does something come to mind? Yeah, again, I think, and I write about this early in the book, how Spurgeon, many descriptors have been placed on Charles Spurgeon over the years. The Prince of Preachers is probably the most familiar one to your listeners. He's been called the last of the Puritans. Many great titles, lofty titles placed upon Spurgeon by biographers and others. But I think that we can put a new title on Spurgeon that fits, and that is Spurgeon Was the Great Lover. And he was the great lover of Susie. We don't tend to think about our Christian heroes so much like that. I think a lot of times we know hardly anything about their marriages and about their spouses. But with Charles Spurgeon, he was the great lover.

Maybe that's a book title. Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, the Prince of Lovers. But their romance was really surprising to me in spite of the fact that he was gone from home so often. Early in their marriage, she's preaching 10 or 12 times a week in various places.

Sometimes she traveled with them, but often she could not. So sweetness in their romance, the tenderness, the affection. Maybe we tend to think of our heroes, whether it's a Martin Luther or George Whitfield or a John Wesley, whomever. We tend to think of them as so larger than life that they didn't really have much of a romance. In some cases, some of our heroes didn't, but Spurgeon surpasses them all, I think, he and Susie. So their romance and the way they sprinkle that with laughter, they had a lot of fun together. And Spurgeon's sense of humor was large and could laugh and could cause anyone around him to start laughing as well. So I would say the most surprising thing is the degree and the intimacy and the sweetness of their romance. Yeah, your laughter would be good for all of us pastors if we can learn to laugh.

Maybe our spouse and our family would laugh more as well. Now, both Charles and Susie, as you mentioned earlier, dealt with some major health concerns in the course of their lives. How did they handle that? They were spiritual people, and by that I mean biblical spirituality. Charles and Susie individually read the scriptures every day. Susie read through the Bible every year. At one juncture, she was discussing Bible reading with some of Spurgeon's students. And at that time, she had read through the Bible 14 times over the course of her life, once a year, three chapters a day. And beyond that, she meditated on the scriptures.

So she loved taking just a small section, a verse or even part of a verse, and turning it over in her mind and thinking about it and pondering it, contemplating it. Charles did that a lot as well. So they read the scripture individually. And every day, family worship happened in the Spurgeon home, typically twice a day. And when Charles was gone, Susie led that.

And as their sons, they had twin sons in 1856, the sons would help lead that. And everyone in their household participated. So if you were visiting the Spurgeons at the time of family worship every day, you would gather with them. Their household employees, they had a number of those as Spurgeon's ministry grew and responsibilities grew. They all gathered.

Spurgeon treated all of those as family members. So they read the Bible. They had family worship. They prayed individually. And they prayed together. And the church was just essential, being connected to the local church and how important that was to their lives.

And they supported one another. Susie, for the first 12 years, she could offer her full support and her energy, really, to encouraging Charles, praying with him. When he would be suffering bouts of depression, she would read to him. And then later, when she's suffering so much, Spurgeon, he did this really all of his marriage, not just later. It was common for Spurgeon to go over to her, put his arm around her and pray for her. So I don't think that they, and I don't think we, will make it unless we are grounded in the Word and we're seeking God in prayer and we're singing the hymns.

They love to sing hymns together and with their family and that we are connected to the local church. So spirituality was just vital to Charles and Susie. It was in their bloodstream. And beyond that, just from that, I should say, their devotion to one another was total, unreserved, unqualified, unhesitating, their commitment to one another. So they were not going to let one another go in the midst of hard times. So it sounds like that their handling of the illnesses, the depression and physical illnesses, really, it was God and their relationship with God that brought them through all of that. That's right. They both had a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. And you cannot read any of Charles' writings or any of Susie's writings without seeing something of the beauty of Jesus and the glory of the gospel. Christ was their center and everything else revolved around Him as their center.

Yeah. Is there any evidence of conflict in their relationship, and if so, how they dealt with it? There's not any evidence that I've found of any serious conflict early in their relationship, during their engagement. Spurgeon forgot her on one evening. They walked to the church, to the building together where he was going to be preaching. He just simply forgot about her, so focused, we'll see, on his ministry that he was about to engage in. And she left upset, ran home to her mother. And Spurgeon, after it was all over, realized what he had done.

He had that sinking feeling in his gut that many of us guys have, and we know we've done something really dumb. And that's the way Charles felt. And he also ran home to her mother as well.

And thankfully, she had a very wise mother who brought them together, else their engagement could have been in trouble, because Susie was deeply distraught and felt greatly offended by that. But later they laughed about that. And there's kind of a funny disagreement maybe in their marriage that was not really a source of great strife, but Charles did not believe in using instruments in congregational worship.

He thought the human voice was the instrument and we should use it in it only. He was not dogmatic about that when he preached in other churches. Sometimes he would poke fun at the pastors and all in good fun. But Susie, later in life, Susie donated, even while Charles was still alive, she donated an organ to a church to help them in their congregational worship.

And then after he died, she did the same thing again. She just insisted that it only be used for congregational worship and not used for any other sort of entertainment purposes. So maybe they disagreed over the use of instruments in worship. Of course, their conflict is not a striking point in their marriage. It doesn't mean it didn't happen. I'm sure that it did happen. I had a couple tell me one time they had been married 40 years and never had an argument.

And I thought, wow, I've met my first space aliens. So I'm sure that Charles and Susie had disagreements, but maybe the Victorian era kept that sort of buttoned up and they didn't share those. Thanks for joining us today for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. Our guest today is Ray Rhodes, Jr., author of Yours Till Heaven, the untold love story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon. You can find out more at our website, Now, Susie contributed greatly to Charles's preaching ministry.

Tell us about that. Yes, Charles read all the time. He read six substantive books a week, plus his Bible reading. So he was constantly studying. He was a student of nature and all the rest. And they walked together and they'd point out things that they saw in a bird or a flower or their cows that they had and horses that they had, those sorts of things.

But on Saturday evening at a specific time, they entertained guests for much of the day, most Saturdays. But Spurgeon would say goodbye to his guest and he would go to a study and shut his door and he would begin his intense sermon preparation for Sunday, for the Lord's Day. And after a while, after the guests were all gone and he was engaged in study, he would call Susie in and he would say, Susie, come and read to me from some commentaries. And he would tell her, go to Shelf So-and-So, Book 3, Paragraph 9. He knew his books.

He had a wonderful memory. And she would read commentaries to him and other books that brought some light upon the passage. And that was pretty frequent in his ministry. I do tell one story in the book of how he went to bed one Saturday evening and he just couldn't get the meaning of a particular passage. He had studied. He had worked. He was upset that he was not going to have his sermon as he wanted it on Sunday. And Susie said, go to bed and I'll wake you up early and after a night of sleep, your mind will be fresh.

You'll be able to complete it in the morning. Well, a strange thing happened. Spurgeon went to bed, fell asleep, and Susie heard him talking in his sleep. And so she woke up and she realized what he was doing. He was expounding the passage that he had been studying that Saturday night. And she took careful note of that. So much, she said, was such a wonderful sermon she heard in his sleep that the next morning she didn't wake him up early and when he woke up at his normal time, he was a bit bothered. And she said, don't worry about it. I've got a gift for you. And so she gave him his sermon in his sleep and he preached it that morning and was delighted. That's never happened to me.

That I've never experienced either. Now the title of your book is Yours Till Heaven. Where did that title come from? December of 1855, Charles was about to get on a train and head out of London to Colchester. That's where his parents were. He said his goodbyes to Susie. They were just a few weeks from their wedding day in January the 8th. And so he says goodbye to Susie.

The train lunges forward and Spurgeon pulls out his dip pen and his ink and he begins doing what he did all of their relationship. Writing her a love letter. He wrote her every day that he was separated from her.

Every day. On days when he couldn't lift his arms because of gout later in life, he dictated the letters. So she got a letter from her husband essentially every day of their marriage. But here on the eve of their wedding, he writes this letter and he signs it. He signs it, Yours Till Heaven and Then.

And so the way he signed that became, and he signed other letters similarly to that later on. So that became our book title. And later in the book I describe what he means by and then.

So Yours, exclusively Yours, Susie. Till death do us part and I go to heaven or you go to heaven first. And then was his eternal vision that we spoke of earlier. And then I will love you perfectly in heaven.

We will love one another perfectly in heaven around the throne of God. Yeah. That's powerful. It's hard to believe that he wrote her a letter every day that he was away from her.

That's pretty impressive. I said text. Can you imagine doing it with a dip pen too? He preferred that. Even though a fountain pen was available, he liked dipping and writing. I think it helped him to be more thoughtful perhaps.

Yeah, probably so. And I'm also grateful for telephones, you know, FaceTime. We don't write as much today. In these years we don't write as much letters.

But I think letters you've got them to look back on. Well, tell us about the Surry Gardens musical hall disaster. And how did this affect Spurgeon's ministry and his marriage? Yeah, so Charles and Susie married in January of 1856.

The music hall disaster happened in late October of 1856. So they've only been married a year. And Susie had recently given birth to twin sons. The only children she would be able to have, they would be able to have throughout their marriage.

So she was at home recovering, young in their marriage, new parents. Spurgeon leaves to go preach at the music hall. He's there because the attention he is getting everywhere is unbelievable. Folks are flocking to hear him. Their church building will not hold the people. And so they rent this music hall.

And the very first evening that he is to preach there, he preaches at his church in the morning, goes to the music hall in the evening. As he's preaching, some mischief makers come in and yell, fire, fire. There's 10,000 people packed inside, another 10,000 estimated outside wanting to get in. And so these mischief makers crying out, fire, caused great chaos. People panicked. They began trying to storm out of the building. Seven people were trampled to death. Almost 30 people hospitalized. The horror stories from that night, the papers are full of them.

If you go back and look at some of the old papers, just horror stories of things that were happening. And so Spurgeon really couldn't see from where he was exactly what was happening. But once he sort of figured it out, he collapsed.

And they had to carry him out of the building. One newspaper reported that he had died that night. He didn't die, but something died in him, I think, that affected him the rest of his life. I believe he already struggled with depression. The depression intensified and became darker at times.

He was an overall very joyful, happy man. But he would fall into these times of great depression, some memory or something could happen that reminded him of the music hall. And it's almost like a post-traumatic stress disorder.

That's the way I sort of liken it. I think Spurgeon had something like that, that certain events could trigger that. And so it would lead to these times. Suzy would find him at times weeping. And he didn't know why he was weeping. He was just so overwhelmed with sadness.

He said there was just dungeons below the dungeon of despair. So he looked at John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. So it was a sad time. He had many sad times. But again, he fought that by faith and joy. And he loved being with people and prayer and all the rest.

And they did that together. Thankfully, Suzy does not seem to have suffered with depression. Even though she was anxious at times.

So she was able to really support him during those very dark seasons in his life. What do you think of preachers of today who have experienced trauma in their journey? What can we learn from his experiences of this? Yeah, I think using God's ordinary means of grace, scripture and prayer and congregational life, drawing near to people, really working hard not to pull away.

And in others around us, seeing us, knowing something of our situation, drawing near to us. But I think we can learn from Spurgeon that we don't give up. We keep pressing into Jesus, not pulling away from him.

And that's what Spurgeon did. He pressed into Christ. And he pressed into his relationship with Suzy. And that sustained him. He wasn't merely just sort of getting by every day.

He was thriving. But when those dark times come, he knew he needed help. He needed God's help. He needed the help of his wife. And he needed the help of his friends. And Spurgeon really didn't like being alone, whether he was happy or sad. He wanted people with him.

He enjoyed companionship. And I think as pastors, sometimes we can be very isolated. Even when we're with a crowd, we need intimate friendships and intimate relationships that offer support to us and ways that we can be supportive of others. Yeah, I think a lot of pastors fail to understand the importance of that.

We tend to withdraw when we're under stress, rather than reaching out and allowing people into our lives. Now, again, about Susanna Spurgeon. What is it that makes her, what many have said, one of the Christian history's greatest women? Yeah, we tend to think of her, again, coming into existence almost, upon her marriage to Charles Spurgeon.

And of course, it's just us using our imaginations to imagine what they would have been like married to someone else. Maybe we would know less of Charles Spurgeon. Maybe we would not know anything about Susanna Spurgeon. But Susanna Spurgeon was a godly woman in her own right. And of course, the Lord used her circumstance.

He used her husband as a part of that, a part of her sanctification and growth in Christ, just as he used her in Charles' life. But I think one of the things that makes her such a remarkable and fascinating and great woman was that she found life beyond her own immediate circumstances. She had a large view of life and ministry. Life was not all about her. It was how can we best get the gospel out. And so she was willing to sacrifice time, energy, money, even time with her husband to support the extension of the gospel.

And the sacrifice was no small matter. Again, 12 years after they were married, 1869, she's essentially an invalid for most of the rest of their marriage, almost never able to go anywhere with them, not even to church. And yet, she says that she encourages him, I want you to fulfill your ministry. And Charles never worried that he had a bitter wife at home, that she was begrudging him in any way, that she was sulking, just the opposite. On one particular occasion, he was at an event and she was sick when he left. And he always left her well attended. She was not sick alone, she was attended. But he got a word that she had taken a turn for the worse and that it appeared she was going to die.

And somehow Susie was able to get a telegram to him, do not come home. You continue your ministry. And essentially, I'm in God's hands. God is sovereign, we can trust God here. Now Spurgeon did stay.

Now we can have a debate over whether he should have stayed or whether he should have come home anyway, I understand that. But it's just remarkable to me that she had that ability to focus when it appeared she may be dying. This is long before her death. And that's the way she lived.

It was not easy. She talked about being lonely. She would hear noises at home at night just like any other person.

Charles is not there. She gets a little bit nervous about that. She's concerned about his health. And you can read that into her letters that she wrote. So it's not that she was this woman of steel, but she was a woman of real faith and real commitment and she willingly sacrificed so much so that Charles Spurgeon could be the man that he was.

And I've said this many times, and I believe it to be true in the depths of my heart, we don't have Charles Spurgeon as we have him today. The 63 volumes of sermons, the 135 books, the large legacy that he left behind, we don't have any of that, I don't believe, without his wife, Susie. And then all the while, she's doing things like writing her own books. She writes five standalone books. She's the co-editor of his massive four-volume biography. She starts a church after his death. I mean, it's just remarkable to me what she does in poor health and even when she is elderly herself. Yeah, when the wife's commitment is to God and she's God's support of him, man, it just makes it a lot easier for a pastor or a preacher of any kind.

Yeah, it's amazing. So tell us a little bit about the formation of Spurgeon's Pastors College and the role that he played in it and the role that she may have played in it. Yeah, early on in Spurgeon's ministry in London, he had a desire to help poor pastors.

And he really had two objectives in this. One, some pastors, some guys who felt called into the ministry, just did not have money to attend any of the formal institutions of the land. And also, Spurgeon was concerned about the doctrine of some of the places where pastors otherwise might go to be trained. And so he wanted to start a school that would benefit poor pastors or pastors who couldn't afford a more traditional educational route, a traditional Bible college or seminary kind of setting. But he also wanted to have a college that was doctrinally sound and faithful and the men there all came believing and would leave believing.

That was his goal. As their education grew, so did their commitment to the authority and inerrancy and sufficiency of God's Word. And so Suzy, early in their marriage, she actually became known as the mother of the college. I think some of the students put that descriptor on her, the mother of the college.

And so as we mentioned, she sacrificed a family budget to help support these students. They opened their home. They would greet students a lot of times on Saturdays. They had a place on their property where they would sit outside during nice weather. And Spurgeon would just answer questions from the students.

And sometimes Suzy would answer questions. And they just took care and loved on and supported and encouraged these students. And many of these students Spurgeon sent out to start churches. Just numerous, numerous churches across England and in London were planted as a result of Spurgeon's college and Spurgeon's desire to see the church grow. So they both were essential to that work.

Yeah, and of course that had a tremendous ministry in terms of, even today, those who are reading of the things that went on there. Now, Spurgeon was a gifted teacher, preacher, no question about that. But he was also a challenging person.

Most of us are in some way or another. In what ways was he, let's say, difficult to be married to? The event I mentioned earlier we forgot, Suzy. That's something that actually plagued him in various times in their marriage. He would be so focused that he could lose sense of what was going on around him. An example of that is, you know, there's at least one occasion, I think it happened multiple times when he was about to preach on a Sunday morning. Suzy would come into his study there. And he would stand up and extend his hand to greet her as if she was a visitor to the church, meeting her for the first time. So he was just absorbed in what he was doing ministry-wise.

And so that happened. And of course the long separations, as his own health deteriorated, really the last 20 years of their marriage, Spurgeon is traveling usually three months of the year just for health recovery. His doctor prescribed warmer weather for him. Her doctor prescribed that she could not leave, so she could not travel with him. And so they're separated beyond his preaching times.

They're separated sometimes three months a year for maybe 20 years of their marriage, just Spurgeon trying to survive physically. And he would go off to the south of France and he would come back better and stronger and his ministry would take off again. But I guess we could say he was a workaholic. He worked all the time. Well, not all the time, but he worked a lot. And the demands on his time were great. He told one of his biographers, G. Holden Pike, that he seldom has a moment to claim as his own.

In a very sort of interesting scene, he points to his garden and he tells Pike, but I have my garden and God delights to let me have moments of peace in my garden. So Spurgeon's working a lot. Now, the good thing is when he's at home, he's working at home and Suzy is there with him. And as I've mentioned, she's helping him, but he works a lot. He's away a lot. And he's distracted in his work a lot as well.

And so I guess some of those things. I mean, I can't, but can you imagine sort of using our imagination a bit, Suzy being married to one of the most famous Victorians, not only in England, but also one of the most famous people in the world as his ministry grew. He's also been called not only one of the most important Victorians, he's been called one of the most important people in all the world. So everywhere he goes, there's people flocking to see him. There's people wanting to visit him in his home. There's folks sending him their books to endorse, asking if he will endorse their books. Everybody wants Spurgeon's name on what they're doing.

Instant bestseller, maybe a Spurgeon. So just so many demands on him. And that had to be taxing on both Spurgeon, but also on Suzy and their marriage. Yeah. Do you think he was fully as supportive of her and her gifts and her role as she was of him?

Yes, I do. And I see that pretty early in their marriage. I mean, he saw that Suzy's own struggles, he believed one of the great remedies for that was service. And he encouraged her. I think he saw some of her gifts and talents. Early on, he's having her participate in this book that he puts together. And then in 1875, he hands her a copy, a manuscript of the first volume of his lectures to my students. And he asked her to read it, and she does. She says, I wish we could give every pastor in England a copy of this.

And he said, well, Suzy, why don't you make that happen? And she was a bit taken aback by that, but she accepted the challenge. And what Spurgeon was doing there is, one, though she was sick, he believed that it would be comforting to her.

It would be encouraging to her to be a part of something like this. And he saw gifts in that. And so she would write a piece for his monthly magazine called The Sword and the Trowel. And she would give a report of the book fund. So the book fund started as a result of that.

She ultimately gave away 200,000 books before she died in 1903. But she would write these reports to be included in his magazine. And she would call Spurgeon, her editor, I want my editor to read this and anything that you see. And Spurgeon would often send it back and say, it's perfect as it is.

I love it. So he would help her in areas in which she needed help, but he encouraged her in that. He encouraged her in her writing. He encouraged her in her service to poor pastors.

Both of them had such a burden for poor pastors and invested in them. So he was very, very much, he treated her as his equal. He valued her opinion.

He asked for her opinion. He respected her. And in the Victorian era, I mean, women were not yet coming along as quickly as we see maybe in our day and time. And they were often treated as second class citizens. In fact, when they got married, they lost all rights to anything. They completely came under the control of their husbands. And of course, that was true in Spurgeon's marriage, but she was under the leadership of a very kind and gentle and tender husband who respected her intellectually and emotionally in every other way.

And that's one reason I think their marriage flourished is he did support her and he did respect her. Well, Ray, this has been a fascinating conversation. And I know that many of our listeners are going to want to get this book and read it because there's so much we can't talk about today to get around to that. But thank you for being with us today and continuing your ministry. And may God continue to use you and your wife.

Well, thank you, Dr. Chapman, for having me on again. Blessings to you and your staff there. Thank you. What an encouraging hour about an amazing couple. And if you want to read more, go to to find out about Yours Till Heaven, the untold love story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon. That's the book written by our guest, Ray Rhodes, Jr. Again, go to And next week, we'll go to the front lines and learn about the lives of persecuted believers. When faith is forbidden, that's in one week. Well, a big thank you to Steve Wick and Janice Todd and their work behind the scenes. And thank you for joining us today. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in Chicago in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-21 08:36:22 / 2023-08-21 08:54:48 / 18

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