Over the years I’ve grown in my appreciation for puritan theologians like Edwards, Owen, Bunyan and Baxter. I love their preaching, their style of writing and their tenacious stance upon the sovereignty of God. But if there is one man who stands above the rest in my mind, a man whose life and ministry has shaped me more than any other, it would be the “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Here are just three things that have helped develop my appreciation, and if I’m honest, my fascination with this man of God.
It happened in 1850 at a Primitive Methodist church in Colchester. Spurgeon stumbled upon this meeting as a 15 year old boy. A sudden snow storm forced him to divert from his originally planned destination into a small court and into a chapel where he heard the simple gospel of “look to Christ!”.
In his own words – “He (the preacher) was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had nothing else to say. The text was, ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.’ He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter.
There was no grand altar-call and no blinding light at young Spurgeon’s conversion. The Spirit of love and conviction through the power of the preached word fell on his heart. His eyes were directed upward for the first time, though he was raised with an awareness of God, and in an ocean of tears he was touched by a loving Savior and repented of sin having been born again by the Spirit. Spurgeon’s conversion was genuine and therefore resulted in true repentance and genuine, Spirit-dependent ministry. Without this, Spurgeon’s life would have come to nothing. Genuine conversion, that which is of the Spirit, leads to genuine and fruitful ministry. That inspires me.
I’m quite certain that my love for books and reading is due in part to Spurgeon. His favorite was John Bunyan’s, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which he first read at 6 years old after finding it in his grandfather’s library. He read this volume over 100 times before he died. Along with his Bible, he carried Bunyan’s book everywhere. But his love for great authors and their works did not end with Bunyan. “He was well read in Calvin, Baxter, Owens, Gill, Fuller and many others. In his sermons Spurgeon quoted from the likes of Justin Martyr, Augustine, John Bunyan, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, Andrew Fuller, and John Newton. By the time of his death, Spurgeon held a personal library of around 12,000 volumes.” (http://www.tlogical.net/biospurgeon.htm) It has been told that “Spurgeon typically read 6 books per week and could remember what he had read—and where—even years later.”
Does a man’s reading patterns make or break his spiritual life or his ability to be used of God? Not entirely. The Bible says that “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” and God has surrounded us with many. Along with the faithful brothers and sisters we serve along side and have come to lean on, it’s important that we do not shut out the wise counsel and riches of wisdom that have been written down. Spurgeon understood this and has influenced me to place value here as well. No written work will ever outshine the Word of God, for it alone has the Words of eternal life, but I owe many thanks to the men and women who have faithfully gone before me, writing down what they learned along the way. I will cherish these forever and I hope you will do the same.
Last, but certainly not least, I love Spurgeon’s zeal for the Cross, the central theme of the Gospel. He was wholly committed to proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. Preachers have come and gone and left their faithful mark upon this world for Christ, but none have left a mark on me like Spurgeon. The revelation of the cross of Christ and all its glory is from the Spirit of God, but men like Spurgeon and others who have picked up this cross and faithfully stood upon its message are an inspiration to my life and my preaching.
“The cross is the standard of victorious grace. It is the light-house whose cheering
ray gleams across the dark waters of despair and cheers the dense midnight of our
fallen race, saving from eternal shipwreck, and piloting into everlasting peace.” CH Spurgeon
“I wish that our ministry—that mine especially—might be tied and tethered to the
cross. I have no other subject to set before you but Jesus only.” CH Spurgeon
More than his books, more than his conversion and more than all his accomplishments as a vessel for God, I can look at Spurgeon and glean from his passion for the Cross. How a man views the cross tells me much about how he views life and even God Himself. Fueling Spurgeon’s passion for the Cross was his understanding of sin and grace. Spurgeon preached on a daily basis realizing that there is but one cure for the depraved and sinful human heart; faith in Christ and the work of the cross. He longed for souls to be saved so he offered the one thing that could. May this be our aim as ministers of truth and may we ever grow in our love and appreciation for Christ as Spurgeon did.
“Beloved, there is a cure for every spiritual disease in the cross.” CH Spurgeon