spurgeonOnce a year we consider the story of a well known Christian as part of our Sunday evening service. This is largely a chance for me to be self-indulgent and pretend that I am still studying history. The more serious aim is to be encouraged by the Lord’s work in years past and also allow those from different generations to speak into some of our potential blind spots as Christians today. In previous years we have considered people such as Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther, Johns Bunyan and Newton and Jonathan Edwards. You can find most of the handouts and links to those talks here.

Last week we spent 45 minutes or so in the company of the 19th century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. My preference when doing the biographies is to let the individual speak for themselves as much as possible- so I use a lot of quotes. Hence I have pasted the handout for the talk below. If you don’t have time to listen to the talk, that’s fine- enjoy the quotes below (slightly tongue-in-cheek this is the “Spurgeon red letter” version). If you want to listen as well then you can find the talk here (with thanks to our tech team who did something to recover a talk that hadn’t recorded properly initially!)


Charles Haddon Spurgeon

1853 New Park Street- membership of 313.                                                          1882- membership of 5472

Last ten years of ministry- average of 269 baptisms per year.


Born 1834

Aged 15- “I wanted to know how I might be saved.”

One snowy day in Colchester- Isaiah 45:22

This man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to the text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was- “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth…There was, I thought, a glimmer of hope for me in the text

“Young man, you look very miserable…and 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. “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look!”

I saw at once the way of salvation…I had been wanting to do fifty things but when I heard that word “Look!” what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could have almost looked my eyes away…I can testify that the joy of that day was utterly indescribable. I could have leapt, I could have danced…

Later reflection:

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 to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession- “I ascribe my change wholly to God.

Baptism (May 3rd 1850) Spurgeon’s mother- “I often prayed the Lord to make you a Christian, but I never asked that you might become a Baptist.”

The highest position anybody could have is Sunday School Teacher.”

First sermon…


Baptist Chapel in Waterbeach (40-400) 1851-53

New Park Street 1854-

One thing is due, namely that in private as well as public, they must all wrestle in prayer that I may be sustained in this great work”

“I cannot forget how earnestly they prayed…We had prayer meetings in New Park Street that moved our souls very much.

October 19th 1856- Surrey Music Hall

Susannah: “My beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent that reason seemed to totter in his throne, and we sometimes feared that he would never preach again.”

I feel utterly unable to preach to you…I have been utterly unable to study…Oh Spirit of God, magnify thy strength in thy servant’s weakness, and enable him to honour his Lord, even when his soul is cast down within him.”

1857- Preached to 24 000 in Crystal Palace

1860- “The times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord have at last dawned upon our land. Everywhere there are signs of aroused activity and increased earnestness.”


Opening of Metropolitan Tabernacle 1861

I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand…shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of a Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply “It is Jesus Christ.”

“I charge you by the living God; I charge you by the world’s Redeemer; I charge you by the cross of Calvary, and by the blood which stained the dust of Golgotha, obey this divine message and you shall have eternal life; but refuse it, and on your own heads be your blood forever and ever.”

“I beg you to think much of the fullness of Christ. You are full of sin but he is full of mercy. You are full of guilt, he is full of atoning merit. You are full of mistakes, he is full of wisdom. You are empty of all power, he is full of might. Though you have nothing, he has everything.”

“Is it worth while to choose Barabbas for the sake of the temporary gain he may give you and give up Christ, and so renounce the eternal treasures of joy and happiness which are at His right hand forevermore?”

1866- “Dear friends, we are a huge church and should be doing more for the Lord in this great city. I want us, tonight, to ask Him to send some new work; and if we need money to carry it on, let us pray that the means also may be sent.”

Opened college, orphanage, school, tract distribution

But also ill health- “I have been brought very low; my flesh has been tortured with pain and my spirit has been prostrate with depression.”

A great care comes upon me, and not for this church only, but for many other churches in various parts of the country, which have been formed by the brethren who have gone out from the College; and I have to deal with all sorts of cases all over England and I might almost say all over the world- things that try the mind and exercise the judgement, and sometimes fret the heart; and therefore I must have your prayers.”

“Greatly do I need your prayer for the work and ministry of this huge church…Sometimes, I become so perplexed that I sink in heart and dream that it were better for me never to have been born than to have been called to bear all this multitude upon my heart.”

Towards the end of his life he is forced to spend much time away.


1887- Withdraws from the Baptist Union

Desire for some form of doctrinal statement

“The error in the Baptist denomination is ten times more widespread than we knew of…”

“Fellowship with known and visible error is participation in sin”

“For Christians to be linked in association with ministers who do not preach the Gospel of Christ is to incur moral guilt.”

“What have you and I to do with maintaining our influence and position at the expense of truth? It is never right to do a little wrong to obtain the greatest possible good…”

“The pain it has cost me none can measure.”


“The sands of time are sinking”

31st Jan 1892

Funeral- Isaiah 45:22

When you see my coffin carried to the silent grave I should like every one of you, whether converted or not, to be constrained to say- “He did earnestly urge us, in plain and simple language, not to out off the consideration of eternal things. He did entreat us to look to Christ.”


The Emphases of Spurgeon

Larger than Life

“An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead for he will never succeed in influencing the living.”

“Great hearts are the main qualifications for great preachers…A man must have a great heart if he would have a great congregation.”

There is definitely humour around in Spurgeon’s sermons

 “Let us thank God for laughter”

“He would not blame me if he only knew how many of them I keep back”

 “I have frequently said of myself that I would not cross the road to hear myself preach; but I will venture to say of certain brethren that I would even go across the road in the other direction not to hear them preach. Some sermons lend support to the theory that the brain is not essential to life.”

“I cannot endure meetings when the only exhibition of life is seen in heated discussions over points of order.”

The reason this matters:

 “Some people are so afraid of joy that one might suppose them to labour under the delusion that all who are devout must also be unhappy.”

“With a glad and merry heart will I praise God.”


Bold Preaching of Jesus

The centrality of Christ as a recurring theme in his instructions to younger preachers:

“Preach Christ always and evermore.”

“Give people Christ and nothing but Christ.”

“We, my brethren, who are preachers of the Word, have but a short time to live; let us dedicate all that time to the glorious work of magnifying Christ.”

“The object of all true preaching is the heart: we aim at divorcing the heart from sin and wedding it to Christ.”

“Perishing sinners do not want your poetry, they want Christ.”

“No Christ in your sermon sir? Then go home and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”

“Any doctrine which magnifies man but not man’s Redeemer, any doctrine which denies the depth of the Fall and consequently derogates from the greatness of salvation, any doctrine which makes sin less and therefore makes Christ’s work less- away with it, away with it.”

The need to be direct in preaching Christ: aiming at conversion:

 “Some preachers remind me of…Chinese jugglers.”

“We ought to hurl grenades into the enemy’s ranks.”

“I long to see souls brought to Jesus every time I preach.”

“I do not know how a preacher can be much blessed of God who does not feel an agony when he feels that some of his hearers will pass into the next world impenitent and unbelieving.”

A Calvinist who strongly believed in the Gospel going to all:

 “It is my delight to preach the doctrine of election and all the other grand teachings which declare Jehovah’s special love to his chosen but at the same time, I have felt it my duty to preach the Gospel to every creature.”

“Not only must something be done to evangelize the millions, but everything must be done.”

In order to preach like this hard work is necessary and a cultivation of the inner soul:

 “We shall be likely to accomplish most when we are in the best spiritual condition.”

“Neglect your whole life and your whole being will deteriorate.”


Fainting Fits

We have seen Spurgeon’s own experience:

 “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”

“The mind can descend far lower than the body for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.”

“I could readily enough have laid violent hands upon myself to escape from my misery.”

This will be a common experience of ministry:

Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression.”

“The loneliness, which if I mistake not is felt by many of my brethren, is a fertile source of depression.”

“He who has an easy time of it in his ministry here, will have a hard time of it in the account to be rendered.”

The comfort is that the Lord is at work and we follow the pattern of Christ

“Such mature men as some elderly preachers are could scarcely have been produced had they not been emptied from vessel to vessel and made to see their own emptiness and the vanity of all things round them. Glory be to God for the furnace, the hammer and the file.”

“I am certain that I have seen more in the dark than ever I saw in the light.”

“Jesus is touched, not with a feeling of your strength, but of your infirmity…as the mother feels the weakness of her babe, so does Jesus feel with the poorest, saddest and weakest.”

 “When was Christ strongest but when He was weakest? His victory was in the extremity of His weakness, namely in His death and it must be the same for His trembling church…”

“I owe more than I can tell you to pain and weakness, and other forms of my Lord’s dear cross.”


The importance of private prayer

“When you are engaged in prayer, plead your strength and you will get nothing…plead your weakness and you will prevail.”

“If your temptations reach the most tremendous height and force, still lay hold of God in prayer and you shall prevail.”

“Now the tempter will whisper- ‘Do not pray just now; your heart is not in a fir condition for it.’ My dear brother, you will not become fit for prayer by keeping away from the mercy seat.”

Spurgeon’s experience of the prayer meeting

“What a change took place in the prayer meetings! Now instead of dull prayers…each one appeared determined to storm the Celestial City by the might of intercession; and soon the blessing came upon us in such abundance that we had not the room to receive it.”

“What prayer meetings we have had! The Spirit of God was so awfully present that we felt bowed down to the dust.”

The vital lesson:

“Have we not members who are never seen at a prayer meeting?”

“I hear perpetually of prayer meetings abandoned…put down as a second rate affair: “only a prayer meeting”. Is this a right view of the throne of grace? Will this bring blessing?”

“Brethren, we shall never see change for the better in our churches…till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.”

“Prayer is the engine of the church; it supplies the force. I like to see the engines going; praying, praying, praying, praying.”