Charles Spurgeon was a pastor and theologian whose body of work is still serving the church long after his death. His books and sermons are rich in biblical truth. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist, but if I am asked what my creed is, I reply, it is simply Jesus Christ.
Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart here on BBN. Our Bible teacher, Stephen Davey, is working through a series called Legacies of Light. It's a series of biographies and today we come to the biography of Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon is often heralded for his flowery language and his rich commentary on the biblical text. But it wasn't his ability to speak that made him a great pastor. It was his ability to listen. At a time when other preachers were turning to cultural and scientific experts for direction, Spurgeon held fast to the source of truth, Jesus Christ himself. Stay with us as Stephen explores the life of Charles Spurgeon today on Wisdom for the Heart. Born into a legacy of pastors, Charles Spurgeon entered the world on June 19, 1834. He, many of you would know, would become the most profoundly influential, internationally known pastor for the next nearly 200 years now. Because of economic difficulties, in fact I think his mother had 17 children, Charles was sent for a time to live with his grandparents when he was two years of age.
When he returned back to his parents' home, he was six years old and ready to begin formal schooling, but his grandparents had already taught him how to read. He had been taught to read the Bible. Even though Spurgeon had such a bold, godly heritage, he resisted the work of God's Spirit. In fact, he wrote this, and I quote him, I must confess that I never would have been saved if I could have helped it. As long as I could, I rebelled and revolted and struggled against God. When he would have me pray, I would not pray.
When I heard him and the tear would roll down my cheek, I would wipe it away and defy him to melt my soul. Oh, he writes, but long before I began with Christ, he had begun with me. Spurgeon once said that at the age of 16, the Holy Spirit had been plowing his soul with ten horses, referring to the Ten Commandments, and then cross-plowing with the gospel. Well, there are many accounts of this event, and I read several of them, and I'm summarizing for you, but one Sunday morning, the snow was falling so hard that Charles couldn't make it to his own church, and so he wandered into a primitive Methodist chapel, much different than the doctrinal creed that he followed as a Congregationalist. He arrived a bit late, and when he arrived, he discovered that the pastor wasn't even there, and they had a guest speaker. Well, at any rate, nobody knew where the pastor was, actually. Probably stuck in a snowdrift, and so after some rather awkward delays, another man volunteered to preach.
He was a lay preacher, but he was uneducated, and to this day, by the way, still unknown. Spurgeon later recounted the event in detail, and let me read from his journal. He writes, This man could barely read, yet he preached on the text, look unto me and be ye saved. After about ten minutes, Spurgeon writes, he had quite exhausted all he had to say. But then he noticed young Spurgeon sitting in the back of the chapel under the balcony, noticing his downcast expression, he suddenly cried out, looking back at Spurgeon, Young man, you look miserable, and you will always be miserable.
Miserable in life, and miserable in death. If you don't obey this text, if you obey now, this moment you will be saved. Young man, look to Jesus Christ, look, look, look. That was the end of his sermon. God's invitation from his word delivered in that simple message was enough, and Spurgeon that evening looked to Christ and was saved.
His life would be changed forever. By the way, the passage that that man read from is a great passage. It's Isaiah chapter 45, and it really will come to summarize the theme of Spurgeon's life. In Isaiah chapter 45, the prophet is quoting God, and it's a wonderful invitation. In verse 22, he is quoting God who says, Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.
For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by myself, the word has gone forth from my mouth in righteousness and will not be reversed. To me, every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Paul picks up on that in Philippians chapter 2. They will say of me, Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength. Men will come to him, and all who are angry at him will be put to shame.
In the Lord, all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory. Now in the King James translation, the invitation of verse 22 is, Look to me and be saved. That would be the verse that would change Spurgeon's heart and life. In fact, Spurgeon would really go on throughout his ministry and life to point everybody in his world to Jesus Christ. Within a year, Charles was invited to preach, he was 17 years of age, and a handful of villagers meeting in a barn asked him to preach for them on the Lord's day, and so he agreed. And then they invited him back, and he continued to preach in that makeshift barn to a handful of people. But within two years, that group of villagers had grown to just over 400 people without any formal education. But he did have a photographic mind.
That kind of makes up for everything, doesn't it? And he was a voracious reader. He'd read about six books a week.
His library would include more than 12,000 volumes. And he loved to study, and he loved to preach. At the age of 19, folks in London had heard about those villagers in the barn and the passion of this young man. And so they invited him to preach at this well-known but dying church called New Park Street Chapel. It had an auditorium that sat right around 1,200 people, a long history of pastors like Dr. Gill, who had been published in several volumes, brilliant men and biblically oriented.
But the church had over time been enveloped by the developing city of London and had become what we would call today an inner city church. A Spurgeon, it's interesting, actually thought their invitation to him was a mistake, and so he didn't act upon it. They invited him again, and when he realized they were serious, he declined. I mean, why would a city church want an uneducated country boy to be their pastor? But this once vibrant church had heard about this uneducated boy who spoke with passion and color and truth, and they persisted. And so he finally accepted an invitation to come and preach. When he arrived to preach, he spoke that Sunday, less than 200 people were there. History records that his clothing didn't fit him, his hair didn't lay down obediently, he had a cow lick, and he simply didn't fit the London city scene. His father had already told him he was making a mistake and going.
Maybe he was right. A teenage girl in the congregation that Sunday happened to recall how Spurgeon's appearance was odd and distracting, if not comical. She actually wrote in her diary, and I quote, about his long, badly trimmed hair, oversized black satin coat, and his mismatched blue handkerchief with large white spots, which he graphically described as an illustration in a sermon calling all the more attention to it. She writes, he awakened in me feelings of amusement. He awakened more than that because within two years she'd marry him and pick out his handkerchiefs for the rest of his life.
Susanna was her name. By the time he turned 20, he was married, and he and Susanna began their ministry, and he accepted the call to become the pastor of this church. It's remarkable to read the unique blessing of God's hand upon his ministry because as soon as he became their pastor, the church began literally to explode with growth. In fact, within one year, the congregation had outgrown their auditorium, and the people decided to build a new one. So while that church building was under construction, the congregation rented a public hall to meet in, which was in that day and age scandalous because the church should never use a public building to meet in. It was unheard of. Spurgeon didn't care he'd been preaching in a barn for three years. This was probably an improvement, right? A year later, they moved into that new church building, which was immediately filled to capacity.
They had to leave it again and rent space while they built another new church building. By now, the name of Charles Spurgeon was a household name. Some called him a glory hound. Others called him the boy actor.
No matter. Just about everybody wanted to hear him preach, and everybody from the queen down would. Once he was asked, what do you call yourself? And he said that he preferred to think of himself as a mere Christian.
Probably picked up later by C.S. Lewis. He went on, and I quote him, I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. But if I am asked what my creed is, I reply, it is simply Jesus Christ.
You can't improve on that. On March 1861, they moved into their newly built Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Still in ministry, still orthodox, still being pastored, and I've had the privilege of visiting there. In his day, although it's smaller now, but in his day it's seated 5,600 people. By the end of his ministry, he would see 14,500 people baptized. And his church would have a standing active membership of 5,300.
Remarkable in these days. In the midst of all of this, Spurgeon suffered with his own physical issues. He suffered with severe gout, swelling in his joints, rheumatism, and inflammation of the kidneys that brought him intense pain. In fact, from the age of 35 until he died at the age of 57, he literally would spend one third of his time out of the pulpit recovering from his ailments. Still he worked 18 hours a day, he produced more than 140 books. In fact, when his missionary friend by the name of David Livingston asked him on one occasion, Charles, how do you manage to do two men's work in a single day?
Spurgeon replied, well you've forgotten that there are two of us. That's a good answer. He loved the verse from Paul to the Colossians, I labor striving according to his power, which mightily works within me. Colossians 1 29. Early on, he founded a school for pastors. He wanted men to get training he never received.
Hundreds of men would graduate from this school. In this enterprise, he just had this straightforward approach to ministry, to education. He taught the students as well as other faculty. He had a blunt sense of humor that became rather legendary.
I brought a few illustrations along. For example, on one occasion a search committee wrote to Spurgeon asking for a minister from among his student body. They presented the job description and then told him the salary they would pay a student. Spurgeon wrote back to them that the salary was so small, and I quote from his letter, the only individual I know who could live on such a salary as you are offering is the angel Gabriel.
He wouldn't need cash or clothing. He could just come down from heaven on Sunday and go back up that same night. So I advise you to invite Gabriel to be your pastor. On another occasion, a letter arrived from a pastoral search committee, again looking for a student. They wrote to Spurgeon asking if Spurgeon would send them a student who could come and fill their auditorium. Spurgeon replied they didn't have any students that large. But then he added that he would send a student who would capably fill the pulpit.
Good, huh? Spurgeon personally interviewed every prospective student. He was looking for what he called the clear evidence of the call of God on their lives. He didn't believe the college called them in the ministry.
They must be called and then they came and were trained, which is exactly the right way to go about it. He would turn down so many applicants that he earned the nickname Parson Slayer. He simply felt concerned for protecting the church.
You can imagine it back in his day. Their great concern was getting men to fill the pulpits who were actually converted to Christ. Like the time a young man came to apply for entrance, Spurgeon writes, and I quote, his face could have served as the title page to a volume on pride and conceit. He said word to me that he must see me at once without any appointment. His audacity gained him entrance. And when he stood before me, he said, sir, I want to enter your college and I wish to enter it at once. He informed me that as to his preaching, he could produce the highest testimonials, but hardly thought they would be needed as a personal interview with me would convince me of his ability at once. His surprise was great when I said, sir, I'm obliged to tell you I cannot accept your application.
Why not? Well, I'll tell you plainly. You are so dreadfully clever that I could not insult you by receiving you into our student body where we have nothing but rather ordinary students. You would have to condescend too much in joining us. Well, then, he said, you ought to at least allow me to show my preaching abilities. Select any text you like.
Suggest any subject you please. And here in this very room, I will preach upon it. Spurgeon responded, oh, I cannot, for I feel myself unworthy of the privilege. And the interview was over. You can imagine how Spurgeon was constantly being demanded upon. He would start more than 60 different ministries under his supervision. Spurgeon was actually a textual preacher. That is, he would expound on one verse. The next Sunday, it might be an entirely different book, a different text, Old Testament, New Testament. His congregation never had the privilege of spending years and years in one book of the Bible.
Supposed to say amen there, not laugh, all right? Anyhow, sometimes on Saturday night, I read he couldn't find the verse. He just couldn't locate the text. And so he'd call out in desperation to Susanna, whom he affectionately called wifey, which doesn't sound all that affectionate, does it? But he would say, wifey, come here.
Come help me. And Susanna would come in and she would write how with great joy she'd bring her Bible into his study. And she would read to him several texts that had marked her life over the course of the last few days or weeks.
And then suddenly, she said Spurgeon would seize on a text and say, that's it, that's it. She would leave his study and within a few hours, he would have a sermon prepared. The following Monday, he would edit his notes, by the way, his sermon transcript, and it would be sent to newspapers in different parts of the world.
It would be read by millions of people. I found this interesting. On one particular Saturday night, Spurgeon was in bed and he was asleep, but Susanna said he began to preach in his sleep. Even though he was asleep, he was plainly speaking. And so Susanna got up, got a pen and paper and began to write down the notes. And when Spurgeon awakened the next morning, she handed him what he had unconsciously preached that night. And he took one look at those notes, immediately discarded the sermon he had prepared for that Sunday morning, went into his pulpit with her notes and preached that sermon. Can you imagine? I've told my wife not to write down what I say when I'm asleep.
Don't take notes on it. You can well imagine that Spurgeon's ministry was often clouded with controversy. He was a lightning rod. Once, Spurgeon preached a message condemning infant sprinkling and it caused this incredible uproar throughout Great Britain, just one sermon. Eventually, American newspaper editors, the New York Times was running his sermons. They began editing his sermons to take out any of his comments against slavery because he condemned it publicly. He wasn't interested in the majority opinion of the day.
Some of the controversies were of his own making. In fact, two of the most famous pastors in Victorian England were Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker. Spurgeon, of course, preached on a Sunday to close to 10,000 people in two Sunday services. Parker's congregation was second in size only to Spurgeon's. They were both very influential and orthodox.
Early in their ministries, they fellowshiped together and often exchanged pulpits. But unfortunately, they had a disagreement. Spurgeon started it. He accused Joseph Parker of being an unspiritual pastor because he often attended the theater where plays and operas were performed, which Spurgeon thought was inappropriate.
So Parker fired back, criticizing the fact that Spurgeon was a poor example because he smoked cigars, both in private and in public. Both considered one another to be misled and misleading. These two great men of the faith broke fellowship over that and their friendship would never be the same. On another occasion, an innocent conversation made it into the newspapers when Spurgeon's friend, D.L. Moody, came to visit and Spurgeon had him preach for him one Sunday.
They evidently sparred a little later on, probably just in good humor. But it was widely reported that Moody asked Spurgeon when was he going to give up these awful cigars. And Spurgeon pointed a finger into Moody's considerable midsection and said, when you get rid of this. I use these examples to remind us that even the greatest men of faith can bicker and argue and even divide over issues far less significant than the gospel. If you read Spurgeon's works, and I recommend that you at least read his devotional entitled Morning and Evening, you'll be caught up with, above everything else, the simple fact that he loved the Lord, he loved people, he loved Christ, he loved the church, he loved shepherding. And his writings have this uncanny ability, even now nearly 200 years later, to especially bring encouragement when your heart is discouraged. For example, Spurgeon once wrote, oh dear friend, when thy grief presses thee to the dust, worship there. If that spot has come to be thy Gethsemane, then present there thy strong crying and tears unto thy God. Remember David's words, ye people pour out your hearts.
But don't stop there, finish the quotation. Ye people pour out your hearts before him. Turn the vessel upside down, it is a good thing to empty it, for this grief may ferment into something more sour.
Turn the vessel upside down and let every drop run out, let it run out before the Lord. Spurgeon wrote of his own sufferings, and I quote, the good that I have received from my sorrows and pains and griefs is altogether incalculable. Affliction is the best piece of furniture in my house. It is the best book in my library. His final years were filled with controversy over what came to be called the downgrade. Spurgeon charged the pastors in the Baptist Union, of which he was a member, a fellowship of pastors he belonged to, with neglecting the gospel, dumbing down doctrine. He attacked their growing accommodation of Charles Darwin's book, which had been recently published, which he believed was a compromise that must be decried on God's literal, miraculous six days of creation. Hundreds of pastors were incensed with his accusation that they were abandoning their post, and he was eventually voted out of the union.
He would learn later that when they voted him out, there were cheers that he had been censored. But all I can say is history has vindicated his warning, hasn't it? The warnings he delivered are still freshly needed today. Throughout his ministry and his life, Spurgeon never got very far from that verse which arrested his attention as a young teenager that brought salvation to his soul. He had looked to Christ.
In fact, let me close with words from one of his own sermons. How marvelous that we mortals, sinners, worms, should be the objects of divine love, that we are in the accepted by Christ. Some Christians feel accepted by their own experience.
That is, when their spirit is lively and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them and they feel so happy, so heavenly minded, so drawn above the earth. But when their souls collapse in the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted. Rejoice then, believer, in this. You are, even then, accepted in the beloved. Your sins trouble you. But God has cast your sins behind his back and you are accepted in the righteous one. You have to fight with corruption and to wrestle with temptation, but you are already accepted in him who has overcome the powers of the evil one. The devil tempts you, but be of good cheer. He cannot destroy you, for you are already accepted in him. You look within and you say, There is nothing acceptable here in me.
Look at Christ instead, and you will see that everything acceptable is in him. Look to Christ alone. This is Wisdom for the Heart, the teaching ministry of pastor and author Stephen Davey. You can learn more about Stephen and our ministry by visiting wisdomonline.org. I encourage you to call us today and learn more about Stephen's book called Legacies of Light. That number again is 866-48-Bible or 866-482-4253. Thanks for listening today. Join us again next time for more Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-21 01:38:53 / 2023-07-21 01:48:21 / 9