Charles Spurgeon

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Born June 19, 1834(1834-06-19)
Kelvedon, Essex, England
Died January 31, 1892 (aged 57)
Menton, Alpes-Maritimes, France
Nationality British
Occupation pastor, author
Religious stance Christian (Reformed Baptist)
Spouse Susannah Spurgeon (née Thompson)
(January 8, 1856)
Children Charles & Thomas Spurgeon (twins) (1856)
Parents John & Eliza Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, commonly C.H. Spurgeon, (June 19, 1834 – January 31, 1892) was a British Reformed Baptist preacher who remains highly influential amongst Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known in various circles as the "Prince of Preachers." He also founded the charity organization now known as Spurgeon's, that works worldwide with families and children. His sermons were translated into many languages in his lifetime.

 

Early beginnings

Born in Kelvedon, Essex, Spurgeon's conversion to Christianity came on January 6, 1850 at the age of fifteen. On his way to a scheduled appointment, a snow storm forced him to cut short his intended journey and to turn into a Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester where, in his own words: "God opened his heart to the salvation message." The text that moved him was Isaiah 45:22 - "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else."

Later that year he was admitted to the church at Newmarket on April 4, 1850. His baptism followed on May 3 in the river Lark, at Isleham. Later that same year he moved to Cambridge. He preached his first sermon in 1851 and, from the beginning of his ministry, his style and ability were considered to be far above average. In the same year, he was ordained as pastor of the small Baptist church at Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, where he published his first literary work: a Gospel tract written in 1853.

 

The New Park Street Pulpit

Spurgeon at age 23.
Spurgeon at age 23.

In April 1854, after preaching three months on probation and just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 19, was called to the pastorate of London's famed New Park Street Chapel, Southwark (formerly pastored by the Particular Baptists Benjamin Keach, theologian John Gill, and John Rippon). This was the largest Baptist congregation in London at the time, although it had dwindled in numbers for several years. Spurgeon found friends in London among his fellow pastors, such as William Garrett Lewis of Westbourne Grove Church, an older man who along with Spurgeon went on to found the London Baptist Association. Within a few months of Spurgeon's arrival at Park Street, his powers as a preacher made him famous. The following year the first of his sermons in the "New Park Street Pulpit" was published. Spurgeon's sermons were published in printed form every week, and enjoyed a high circulation. By the time of his death in 1892, he had preached almost thirty-six hundred sermons and published forty-nine volumes of commentaries, sayings, anecdotes, illustrations, and devotions.

Immediately following his fame was controversy. The first attack in the Press appeared in the Earthen Vessel in January 1855. His preaching, although not revolutionary in substance, was a plain spoken and direct appeal to the people using the Bible to provoke them to consider the claims of Jesus Christ. Critical attacks from the media persisted throughout his life.

The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000 — all in the days before electronic amplification. At twenty-two Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of the day.

On January 8, 1856, Spurgeon married Susannah, daughter of Robert Thompson of Falcon Square, London, by whom he had twin sons, Charles and Thomas September 20, 1856. At the end of that eventful year, tragedy struck on October 19, 1856 as Spurgeon was preaching at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall for the first time. Someone in the crowd yelled, "Fire!" and there was a panic and a stampede that left several dead. Spurgeon was emotionally devastated by the event and it had a sobering influence on his life. He struggled against clinical depression for many years and spoke of being moved to tears for no reason known to himself.

Walter Thornbury later wrote in "Old and New London" (1897) describing a subsequent meeting at Surrey:

a congregation consisting of 10,000 souls, streaming into the hall, mounting the galleries, humming, buzzing, and swarming-a mighty hive of bees-eager to secure at first the best plates, and, at last, any place at all. After waiting more than half an hour-for if you wish to have a seat you must be there at least that space of time in advance .. Mr. Spurgeon ascended his tribune. To the hum, and rush, and trampling of men, succeeded a low, concentrated thrill and murmur, of' devotion, which seemed to run at once, like an electric current, through the breast of every one present, and by this magnetic chain the preacher held us fast bound for about two hours. It is not my purpose to give a summary of his discourse. It is enough to say of his voice, that its power and volume are sufficient to reach every one in that vast assembly; of his language that it is neither high-flown nor homely; of his style, that it is at times familiar, at times declamatory, but always happy, and often eloquent; of his doctrine, that neither the 'Calvinist' nor the ' Baptist' appears in the forefront of the battle which is waged by Mr. Spurgeon with relentless animosity, and with Gospel weapons, against irreligion, cant, hypocrisy, pride, and those secret bosom-sins which so easily beset a man in daily life; and to sum up all in a word, it is enough to, say of the man himself, that he impresses you with a perfect conviction of his sincerity.
Spurgeon preaching at the Surrey Music Hall circa 1858.
Spurgeon preaching at the Surrey Music Hall circa 1858.

Still the work went on. A Pastor's College was founded in 1857 by Spurgeon and was renamed Spurgeon's College in 1923 when it moved to its present building in South Norwood Hill, London;[2]. At the Fast Day, October 7, 1857 he preached to the largest crowd ever: 23,654 people at The Crystal Palace in London. Spurgeon noted:

In 1857, a day or two before preaching at the Crystal Palace, I went to decide where the platform should be fixed; and, in order to test the acoustic properties of the building, cried in a loud voice, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." In one of the galleries, a workman, who knew nothing of what was being done, heard the words, and they came like a message from heaven to his soul. He was smitten with conviction on account of sin, put down his tools, went home, and there, after a season of spiritual struggling, found peace and life by beholding the Lamb of God. Years after, he told this story to one who visited him on his death-bed.

 

The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit

Metropolitan Tabernacle in 2004
Metropolitan Tabernacle in 2004

On March 18, 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed purpose-built Metropolitan Tabernacle at Elephant and Castle, Southwark, seating five thousand people with standing room for another thousand. The Metropolitan Tabernacle was the largest church edifice of its day and can be considered a precursor to the modern "megachurch."[1] It was at the Tabernacle that Spurgeon would continue to preach several times per week until his death 31 years later. He never gave altar calls at the conclusion of his sermons, but he always extended the invitation that if anyone was moved to seek an interest in Christ by his preaching on a Sunday, that they could come to meet with him at his vestry on Monday morning. Without fail, there was always someone at his door the next day. He wrote his sermons out fully before he preached, but what he carried up to the pulpit was a note card with an outline sketch. Stenographers would take down the sermon as it was delivered, then Spurgeon would have opportunity to make revisions to their transcripts the following day for immediate publication. His weekly sermons that sold for a penny each were widely circulated and still remain one of the all-time best selling series of writings published in history.

Spurgeon in his late twenties.
Spurgeon in his late twenties.

Besides sermons, Spurgeon also wrote several hymns and published a new collection of worship songs in 1866 called "Our Own Hymn Book". It was mostly a compilation of Isaac Watts' Psalms and Hymns that had been originally selected by John Rippon, a Baptist predecessor to Spurgeon. What is remarkable compared to most modern practices, is that the singing in the congregation was exclusively a cappella under his pastorate. It is noteworthy that thousands heard the preaching and were led in the singing without any amplification of sound that exists today. Hymns were a subject that he took seriously. While Spurgeon was still preaching at New Park Street, a hymn book called "The Rivulet" was published. Spurgeon's first controversy arose due to his critique of its theology, which was largely deistic. At the end of his review, Mr Spurgeon warned:

We shall soon have to handle truth, not with kid gloves, but with gauntlets, – the gauntlets of holy courage and integrity. Go on, ye warriors of the cross, for the King is at the head of you.

On June 5, 1862, Spurgeon also challenged many paedobaptist Christian leaders when he preached against infant baptism in his most famous sermon called "Baptismal Regeneration". However, Spurgeon did build bridges across denominational lines as well. It was during this period at the new Tabernacle that Spurgeon found a friend in James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the inter-denominational China Inland Mission. Spurgeon supported the work of the mission financially, and directed many missionary candidates to apply for service with Taylor. He also aided in the work of cross-cultural evangelism by promoting "The Wordless Book", a teaching tool that he described in a message given on January 11, 1866 regarding Psalm 51:7 "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." This "book" has been and is still used to teach uncounted thousands of illiterate people - young and old - around the globe about the Gospel message.[2]

Missionary preaching in China using The Wordless Book
Missionary preaching in China using The Wordless Book

In the steps of another Christian figure that he admired from a different denomination - George Muller, Spurgeon founded the Stockwell Orphanage, which opened for boys in 1867 and for girls in 1879 and continued in London until it was bombed in the Second World War.[3] [4] [5] This orphanage turned into Spurgeon's Child Care which still exists today.

On the death of missionary David Livingstone in 1873, a discolored and much used copy of one of Spurgeon's printed sermons "Accidents, Not Punishments" was found among his few possessions much later, along with the handwritten comment at the top of the first page "Very good, D.L." He had carried it with him throughout his travels in Africa, and it was returned to Spurgeon and treasured by him (W. Y. Fullerton, Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Biography, ch. 10).

 

Downgrade controversy

Additional controversy flared in 1887 with Spurgeon's first "Down-grade" article, published in The Sword & the Trowel. In the ensuing "Downgrade Controversy" The Metropolitan Tabernacle became disaffiliated from the Baptist Union, effectuating Spurgeon's congregation as the world's largest self-standing church and thus a precursor of megachurches of the 20th century. Contextually the Downgrade Controversy was British Baptists' equivalent of hermeneutic tensions which were starting to sunder Protestant fellowships in general. The Controversy took its name from Spurgeon's use of the term "Downgrade" to describe certain other Baptists' outlook toward the Bible (i.e., they had "downgraded" the Bible and the principle of sola scriptura). Spurgeon alleged that an incremental creeping of the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and other concepts was weakening the Baptist Union and reciprocally explaining the success of his own evangelistic efforts. In a typological standoff between academic theorists and an in-the-trenches practitioner, each side accused the other of raising issues which did not need to be raised.[3] The Downgrade Controversy continues.[4]

 

Final years and death

Often Spurgeon's wife was too ill for her to leave home to hear him preach. C.H. Spurgeon too suffered ill health toward the end of his life, afflicted by a combination of rheumatism, gout, and Bright's disease. He often recuperated at Menton, near Nice, France, where he eventually died on 1982 January 31. Spurgeon's wife and sons outlived him. His remains were buried at West Norwood Cemetery in London.

 

Chronology of Spurgeon's life and legacy

  • Born at Kelvedon, Essex, England, June 19, 1834
  • Converted to Christianity at Colchester, January 6, 1850
  • Becomes a Baptist, May 3, 1850 (Baptized in the River Lark, at Isleham)
  • Preaches first sermon [6], at a Cottage in Teversham, 1850
  • Preached first sermon at Waterbeach Baptist Chapel, October 12, 1851
  • Preached first sermon at New Park Street Chapel, London, December 18, 1853
  • Accepts pastorate at New Park Street Chapel, April 28, 1854, (232 members, then)
  • First sermon in the "New Park Street Pulpit" series published, January 10, 1855
  • Marriage to Miss Susannah Thompson (born January 15, 1832), January 8, 1856
  • 10-Day wedding trip in Paris, France by the newly married Spurgeons, Spring 1856
  • Twin sons (not identical) Thomas and Charles Born, September 20, 1856
  • Metropolitan Tabernacle Building Committee begins, June 1856
  • Establishes the Pastor’s College, 1856, and Expanded in 1857
  • Metropolitan Tabernacle opens with a great prayer meeting, March 18, 1861
  • First sermon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle March 31, 1861 [7]
  • Metropolitan Tabernacle Colportage Association founded, 1866
  • Stockwell Orphanage (Boy's side) Founded, 1867, foundation stone laid Sept. 9, 1869
  • Foundation stone laid by senior deacon Thomas Olney for the Pastor's College building, May 6, 1867 (with construction completed in March, 1868)
  • Begins annual vacations to southern France for rest & relaxation, December 1871
  • 571 new members added by February 1873, now 4,417 total membership
  • Foundation stone laid for a newer Pastor's College building, October 14, 1873
  • Mrs. Spurgeon's Book Fund inaugurated, 1875
  • Presentation of the pastoral silver wedding gift (offering) May 20, 1879
  • Stockwell Orphanage (Girl's side) founded, 1879. Stone laid June 22, 1880
  • Jubilee celebrations and testimonials, June 18 & 19, 1884
  • The seven volumes of "The Treasury of David" begin were published weekly over a 20-year time period in The Sword and the Trowel, with the final volume being released in 1885.[5]
  • "Downgrade" paper #1 [8] published in The Sword & the Trowel, March 1887
  • Spurgeon's Mother Eliza Dies, Aged 75 Years, 1888
  • Last sermon delivered at Metropolitan Tabernacle, June 7, 1891
  • During his Pastorate, 14,692 were baptized and joined the Tabernacle
  • As year 1891 ends, membership given as 5,311 (Tabernacle capacity: 6,000 people, with 5,500 seated, 500 standing room; Tabernacle dimensions: 146' long, 81' wide, 68' high)
  • Suffers much pain and sickness during the months of June & July, 1891
  • Travels to Mentone, France again (for the last time), October 26, 1891. While there, becomes severely ill from his long-suffering combination of Rheumatism, Gout and Bright's disease (Kidney)
  • Still resting in Mentone, he finally takes to bed, January 20, 1892
  • Spurgeon dies, January 31, 1892
  • Remains interred and buried at Norwood Cemetery, February 11, 1892
  • His Brother (& Asst. Tabernacle Pastor) James dies, aged 61 years, March 22, 1899
  • His Father (& Pastor) John dies, aged almost 92 years, June 14, 1902
  • His Wife Susannah dies, aged 71 years, October 22, 1903
  • His Son (& Pastor) Thomas dies, aged 61 years, October 17, 1917
  • His Son (& Pastor) Charles dies, aged 70 years, December 13, 1926

 

Some of Spurgeon's written works

Spurgeon near the end of his life.
Spurgeon near the end of his life.
  • 2200 Quotations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon compiled by Tom Carter
  • Able To The Uttermost
  • According To Promise
  • All of Grace
  • An All Round Ministry
  • Around the Wicket Gate
  • Barbed Arrows
  • C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography
  • Chequebook Of The Bank Of Faith, The
  • Christ’s Incarnation
  • Come Ye Children
  • Commenting and Commentaries
  • The Dawn of Revival, (Prayer Speedily Answered), Diggory Press ISBN 978-1846856822
  • Down Grade Controversy, The
  • Eccentric Preachers
  • Feathers For Arrows
  • Flashes Of Thought
  • Gleanings Among The Sheaves
  • Good Start, A
  • Greatest Fight In The World, The
  • Home Worship And The Use of the Bible in the Home (American reprint of "The Interpreter" with the devotions of Rev. Joseph Parrish Thompson)
Caricature of Spurgeon from Vanity fair (1870)
Caricature of Spurgeon from Vanity fair (1870)
  • Interpreter, The or Scripture for Family Worship
  • John Ploughman’s Pictures
  • John Ploughman’s Talks — the Gospel in the language of "plain people"
  • Lectures to My Students — Four volumes of lectures to students of college Spurgeon established
  • Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, The
  • Miracles and Parables of Our Lord-- Three volumes
  • New Park Street Pulpit, The
  • Only A Prayer Meeting
  • Our Own Hymn Book edited by Spurgeon and he authored several hymns
  • Pictures From Pilgrim’s Progress
  • The Preachers Power and the Conditions of Obtaining it Diggory Press ISBN 978-1846856358
  • Saint And His Saviour, The
  • Sermons In Candles
  • Sermons On Unusual Occasions
  • Soul Winner, The
  • Speeches At Home And Abroad
  • Spurgeon's Commentary on Great Chapters of the Bible compiled by Tom Carter
  • Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening — a book of daily devotional readings
  • Sword and The Trowel, The — a monthly magazine edited by Spurgeon
  • Till He Come
  • Treasury of David, The — a multi-volume commentary on the Psalms
  • We Endeavour
  • The Wordless Book
  • Words Of Advice
  • Words Of Cheer
  • Words Of Counsel

It is known that Spurgeon's writings were published in the following languages: Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Castilian (for the Argentine Republic), Chinese, Kongo, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, French, Gaelic, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Kaffir, Karen, Lettish, Maori, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Syriac, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and Welsh, with a few sermons in Moon's and Braille type for the blind.

 

Spurgeon's library

William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri purchased Spurgeon's 5,103-volume library collection for £500 ($2500) in 1906. The collection was purchased by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary [9]in Kansas City, Missouri in 2006 for $400,000 and is currently undergoing restoration. A special collection of Spurgeon's handwritten sermon notes and galley proofs from 1879–1891 resides at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.[10]

 

References

  • Austin, Alvyn (2007). China’s Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. 
  • The Standard Life of C. H. Spurgeon. GLondon: Passmore and Alabaster. 

 

Notes

  1. ^ Austin (2007), p.86
  2. ^ Austin (2007), 1-10
  3. ^ An accessible analysis, sympathetic to Spurgeon but no less useful, of the Downgrade Controversy appears at http://www.tecmalta.org/tft351.htm.
  4. ^ See, e.g., Jack Sin (2000), "The Judgement Seat of Christ," The Burning Bush 6(2), pp. 302-323, esp. p. 310:[1]

    Was it right for Charles Haddon Spurgeon to be censured by that vote of the Baptist Union of Great Britain for opposing the inroads of modernism in the Downgrade Controversy?

  5. ^ Treasury of David. Retrieved on 2007-10-25.

 

External links

 
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