Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, July 8, 2010 3:54 pm
The Messenger, July 8, 2010
Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, Part 1
By RICHARD M. SMITH
Special to The Messenger
“These words are God’s … Thou book of vast authority, thou art a proclamation from the Emperor of Heaven; far be it from me to exercise my reason in contradicting thee … This is the book untainted by any error; but it is pure, unalloyed, perfect truth. Why? Because God wrote it.”
These words, spoken by Charles Spurgeon as he held his Bible up before his congregation, define his passion for biblical truth. He was equally passionate about seeing souls come to Christ. C.H. Spurgeon, called the “Prince of Preachers,” is considered one of the most influential ministers of the gospel in English history. Over 10 million people flocked to hear this great man of God.
Spurgeon was born at Kelvedon, in Essex, in England June 19, 1834, to devout Christian parents. For reasons unknown, Spurgeon was sent as a small child to live with his grandfather, James Spurgeon, who ministered to the church at Stambourne. After several years of being exposed to and influenced by the writings of the Puritans, Spurgeon returned to live in his father’s house.
His schooling, although irregular, was the best permitted under the circumstances. At the age of 14, he attended an Anglican school at Maidstone, where he quickly mastered his studies and began to think independently. After a debate with a clerical examiner on baptism, Spurgeon determined that, if he were ever converted, he would become a Baptist, even though his family was Congregationalist.
On Jan. 6, 1850, just before turning 16, he was converted, under rather unique circumstances. A snow storm prevented his reaching his intended place of worship for the day, and Spurgeon turned aside for shelter into the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Colchester. A dozen or so worshipers were gathered, but weather prevented the pastor from arriving. The sermon was delivered by a layman on the text from Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” Young Spurgeon looked and was saved.
From his early days as a 16-year-old pastor of the Waterbeach Chapel, to his ministry at the magnificent Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon was greatly blessed of God. In his lifetime he wrote 140 books; founded an orphanage that grew to serve 500 children; published a religious magazine, “The Sword and Trowel”; and founded and served as president of a pastors’ school which trained nearly 900 young men for the ministry.
A pronounced Calvinist, Spurgeon said, “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.”
And indeed it did. During the 38 years of his London pastorate, Spurgeon baptized and saw added to his congregation 14,460 people. It was estimated that nearly 20,000 eventually came under his ministry.
Spurgeon’s Calvinism was not the reserved or esoteric sort that is kept in books and laid away on shelves. From his very practical faith he extracted a strong sense of vocation. His faith in predestination — the understanding that God Almighty chose him from before the beginning of the world — powered the soul of this great man. His Calvinistic understanding of election provided not only assurance of his salvation, but served also as the basis of his mission and service. Spurgeon viewed his vocation as God’s chosen direction for his life, and he affirmed: “I am as much called to preach the gospel as Paul was.”
Many Calvinists abide in the Baptist fold today, a legacy of this Prince of Preachers. Modern-day “Spurgeons” include Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky; John Piper of Desiring God Ministries and D.A. Carson of the Gospel Coalition.
Editor’s note: Richard M. Smith is a redeemed sinner and a believer in the Reformed doctrines of faith. (www.graceunioncity.com)