Born JUNE 19, 1834
Charles Haddon Spurgeon earned the title “The Prince of Preachers.” While preaching scriptural truths like other pastors before and since, he drew thousands of listeners for three and a half decades during the 1800s. While other preachers’ sermons have sold books, over 5,ooo of his messages have been published and repackaged through the years. As a matter of fact, in the 21st Century, more of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and other writings are available than those of any preacher who ever lived. The impact of his ministry is even more profound considering he never attended a day of college to prepare for ministry.
Charles was born in England in Kelvedon, Essex. His family’s financial woes caused his parents to send one-year-old Charles to live with his grandparents in Stambourne. There, in the home of his grandfather, a preacher, Charles lived among the disciplines of church attendance, Bible reading and prayer. In his grandparents’ attic, he found and devoured books by John Bunyan and other Puritan leaders.
However, it wasn’t until age fifteen that Charles had a salvation experience. He awoke one wintry morning planning to attend a church his mother had suggested. The snowstorm outdoors hindered him. Instead he ducked into a Methodist chapel that was closer. The unpolished lay minister kept repeating God’s invitation in his text, “Look unto Me and be saved” (Isaiah 45:22). Charles did. His autobiography describes the walk home: “And as the snow fell on my road home from the little house of prayer, I thought every snowflake talked with me and told me of the pardon I had found, for I was white as the driven snow through the grace of God.”
Charles grew rapidly in his faith. He preached his first sermon at age sixteen. In 1851, he began pastoring Waterbeach Baptist Church, not far from Cambridge. During his two years there, weekly attendance greatly increased. Word of his abilities spread.
MIXED REVIEWS IN LONDON
Charles was invited to be a guest preacher at London’s New Park Street Chapel. After three weeks, he became the pastor. His preaching style was new. Unlike London’s other pulpiteers, he didn’t rely on extended flowery sentences. He used shorter, to-the-point statements in the language of his listeners. He incorporated dramatic gestures. He infused his sermons with humor. His critics attacked his youthfulness and his unsophisticated sermon style, but the public attended his services, heard the gospel preached and were drawn to Jesus.
In a short time the New Park Street Chapel congregation outgrew their building. During the construction of a larger building, they relocated to larger venues to accommodate the growing crowds.October 19, 1856, was Charles’ first night to preach in Surrey Hall. The building was packed. Thousands awaited outside, unable to enter. When someone yelled, “Fire!” everyone ran for the exits. In the excitement, seven people fell under foot and were trampled to death. The tragedy really disturbed Charles; he saw the deaths as seven people thrust into eternity, possibly without being ready.
Also in 1856, Charles married Susanna Thompson. They had twin sons who became preachers.
In 1861, the remodeled New Park Street Chapel opened as the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Pastor Spurgeon delivered sermons to large crowds in that building for the next thirty-one years. Sunday morning attendances often exceeded 5,000. He also accepted invitations to preach in chapels and cottages in the area. To prepare for his demanding speaking schedule, the avid reader finished an armful of books every week and recalled extensive passages when preaching. He entered a pulpit with a page of notes and a plan: “I take my text and make a bee-line for the cross.”He’d become the most popular preacher of his day. His Sunday morning sermons were revised and published on Mondays. Those with subscriptions received them in the mail. They were also bound in volumes as The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. After his death, the Sunday evening sermons he’d preached during those years were also printed each year until 1917. Most of those messages are available today, including in a sixty-three book set.
During his years at Metropolitan Tabernacle, Charles launched other ministries. I’ll name two. In 1856 he made studying for the ministry affordable for many through what became Pastor’s College (Spurgeon’s College since his death). In 1867 he opened Stockwell Orphanage.
Charles suffered for years with the arthritic condition known as gout. As the painful condition grew worse, he spent many a respite in Mentone, France. He died suddenly during one such rest on the last day of January, 1892.
WRITINGS AND QUOTES
Charles wrote at least 135 books. Along with the sermon series already mentioned, titles still popular include The Treasury of David (commentary on the Psalms), Lectures to my Students (from a class he taught at the college), and the devotional, Morning and Evening. His autobiography, titled C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, was actually compiled by his wife and secretary from various sources.Mr. Spurgeon remains very quotable. Here are just a few of his sayings:
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”
“You may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives.”
Speaking from experience, he could say, “Those who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls.”
An example of his humor: “With perseverance the snail reached the ark.”
And, one of my favorites: “A good character is the best tombstone.”
LET ME KNOW: How has Charles’ story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
Larsen, Timothy, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
“Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Christian History. Vol. 10. No. 1, 1991.
Woodbridge, John D., ed. Great Leaders of the Christian Church. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1988.
Learn more about John Charles Spurgeon’s life from the following resources————-
Read Spurgeon Online-
- At http://www.ccel.org/index/author/S you can click his name to access sermons, The Treasury of David and Morning and Evening.
- At http://www.spurgeon.org/mainpage.htm you also have access to some of his letters and a biography of him.
- You can read his autobiography at http://archive.org/details/spurgeonsautobio01spuruoft.
Listen to others read Spurgeon-
- http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/spurgeon-sermons/listen/ gives you options to read, listen, or purchase sermons and writings.
- YouTube also offers audio readings of a few of his printed sermons.
- Murray, Iain. The Forgotten Spurgeon. Banner of Truth, 2009.
- Drummond, Lewis. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel, 1992.
- Dallimore, Arnold. Spurgeon: A New Biography. Banner of Truth, 1985.
- C. H. Spurgeon: The People’s Preacher. Directed by Crawford Telfer. 2010. DVD. You can watch this docudrama at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYWAaTQpqJs.
- C. H. Spurgeon Tonight. Directed by Craig Skinner. 1990. Vision Video. DVD.