The Prince of Preachers
By Nick Bibile
Without human manipulations for altar calls, or using sensational and emotional gimmicks, Spurgeon trusted on God alone to convict the sinners, as he said, "I do not come to this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter, I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, ‘you are mine, and you shall be mine, I claim you for myself.’ My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will."
He was born in Kelvedon, Essex, England on June 19, 1834. Both his father and grandfather were pastors, he was raised in a Christian home, but it was in January 1850 that he was converted. Spurgeon preached his first sermon in August the same year. Spurgeon read the Pilgrims Progress at the age of six and went on to read it over 100 times. Before he was 20 years of age he had preached over 600 times. Spurgeon typically read 6 books per week, and could remember what he had read and where even years later.
As a teenager Spurgeon was doubting God and one Sunday morning he began to go to Church to find the answers. Due to a snowstorm he could not go to the Church he wanted to go and he reached a small Methodist Church. The Pastor of the Church did not show up due to an illness. Then a laymen went to the pulpit and began to preach. He preached on Isaiah 45:22, "Look to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth." He was obliged to stick to the text for the simple reason he had little else to say. Then afterwards Spurgeon said of the preacher, "Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if I knew all my heart, he said, ‘young man, you look very miserable. And you always will be miserable-miserable in life, and miserable in death. If you don’t obey the text; but if you obey now, this moment you will be saved. Young man look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live." Spurgeon said, "Like as the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me."
It didn’t take long to see the fruit of his salvation. Spurgeon began to work for the Lord with much zeal. He began to pass out tracts and then later he began to witness to people of Jesus. Then he began to teach a Sunday School class. He preached his first sermon when he was only 16, and people were amazed of a teenager preaching with such power in the Word of God. When he was 17, he became the pastor of a small village Church named Waterbeach. Then when he was 19, he became the pastor of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, London. He came there on a trial basis for three months and the rest is history. London was blessed by his preaching as people began to come from all direction and very soon Spurgeon became the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. In one year 200,000 copies of his sermon tracts were distributed at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. His sermons were translated into twenty different languages. The American newspapers were printing his sermons every week and called him the, greatest preacher of the age. Over the years Spurgeon published 3,561 sermons.
The New Park Street Pulpit and the
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, where Spurgeon preached, collected his sermons
during his ministry that would fill 63 volumes. The sermons 20-25 million
words are equivalent to the 27 volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia
Britannica. Spurgeon’s series stands as the largest set of books by a
single author in the history of Christianity.
Spurgeon’s personal library contained 12,000 volumes. Spurgeon looked upon his ministry as a reformer as he was laboring to bring people back to the truths they have left. Although the Protestant pastors were evangelical they were weak in their doctrine. Spurgeon’s goal was to straightened the church with strong doctrine. Spurgeon said, "My daily labor is to revive the old doctrines of Gill, Owen, Calvin, Augustine and Christ." Spurgeon's theology was God centered, Chirst centered and was a strong Calvinist, as he said, "The old truths that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, is the truth that I preach today, or else I would be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. And that gospel which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again." His love for the Lord manifested in his preaching, he had a great love for the souls of mankind. Christians were fed and needy sinners were comforted under his ministry, but above all sinners were pleaded to come to Christ, in one of his early sermons he closed with the following.
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned, weary sinner, hellish sinner, thou who art at the devil’s castaway, reprobate, profligate, harlot, robber, thief, adulterer, fornicator, drunkard, swearer,-list! I speak to thee as to the rest. I exempt no man. God hath said there is no exemption here. Whosoever believeth in the name of Jesus Christ shall be saved. Sin is no barrier, the guilt is no obstacle. Whosoever, though he were black as Satan, though he were guilty as a fiend - whosoever this night believes shall every sin forgiven, shall every crime effaced, shall every iniquity blotted out; shall be saved in the Lord Jesus Christ, and shall stand in heaven safe and secure. That is the glorious gospel. God apply it home to your hearts and give you faith in Jesus!" He also said in a very strong manner, "There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write damnation with your fingers."
When Spurgeon arrived at the New Park Street Church in 1854, there were 232 members, but after 38 years later the number had increased to 5,311. The church was the largest independent congregation in the world. Spurgeon drew to his services Prime Minister W.E. Gladstone, members of the Royal family, members of Parliament etc
Then a larger sanctuary was built which was called the Metropolitan Tabernacle. During the construction of the building once when he was inside, he was repeating the scripture, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world." His words was heard by a man working somewhere in the building. Later on that man came to Spurgeon and said that message of the verse reached his heart, and he had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. When the building was done, it was the largest indoor congregation ever reached with human voice in all history until that time. The following is a portion of his first sermon in the new sanctuary.
Spurgeon said in his first sermon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, March 31, 1861.
"Let God send the fire of His
Spirit here, and the minister will be more and more lost in his Master. You
will come to think less of the speaker and more of the truth spoken....
Suppose the fire should come here, and the Master be seen more than the minister, what then? Why, this church will become two, three and four thousand strong.... We shall have the lecture hall beneath this platform crowded at each prayer meeting, and we shall see in this place young men devoting themselves to God; we shall find ministers raised up, and trained, and sent forth to carry the sacred fire to other parts of the globe.... If God shall bless us, He will make us a blessing to multitudes of others.
Let God but send down the fire,
and the biggest sinners in the neigbbourbood will be converted; those who live
in dens of infamy will be changed; the drunkard will forsake his cups, the
swearer will repent of his blasphemy, the debauched will leave their lusts-
Dry bones be raised, and clothed afresh. And hearts of stone be turned to flesh.
I do not come to this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter, I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, ‘you are mine, and you shall be mine, I claim you for myself.’ My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will."
Spurgeon said in another time, "Suppose that God saved men on account of their merits. Where would you drunkards be? Where would you swearers be? You who have been unclean and unchaste, and you whose hearts have cursed God, and who even now do not love him, where would you be? But when it is all of grace, then all your past life, however black and filthy it may be, need not keep you from coming to Jesus."
Spurgeon was a man of prayer, not that he spent long hours in prayer but he lived in the spirit with communion with God. According to Dr. Wayland Hoyt an American, "I was walking with him in the woods, when we came to a certain place he said, come let us pray and kneeling beside the log he lifted his soul to God in the most loving and yet reverent prayer." Prayer was natural thing for him as breathing. Then another American Dr. Theordore Cuyler was walking with Spurgeon in the woods, having a humorous time, then suddenly Spurgeon stopped and said, "Come Theodore, let us thank God for laughter" and prayed.
Spurgeon was a very humble man, although thousands of people came to listen to him, he never took the glory for himself, as he saw himself as nothing and gave all the glory to God. Spurgeon said, " I always fell inclined to take the very lowest room in my Father’s house, when I enter Heaven, it will be to go among the less than the least of saints, and with the chief of sinners."
At the end of his years he went through severe physical agony of a gout attack. Many a times he was in great pain as he preached. He knew what suffering was, and his ministry was attacked by opponents. The following is a letter he wrote to his brother.
My Dear Brother
I was taken ill while trying to preach on Thursday an awful depression and choking sensation made my preaching a great misery I have taken medicine twice but feel half dead.
Will you come prepared with a sermon on Sunday night for I may not be able to preach? My teeth made me nervous, my liver made me giddy, and my heart made me sorrowful. I hope I may get through the Conference, but yesterday I was very far from hoping it. The strain Is terrible.
I want to get the College Report done, and time is running close .... Hearty love,
Your grateful brother
Although sick, Spurgeon took time to write to a boy whom he had never met, and whom he had learned only through the prayers of his parents.
During his last days he was only partly conscious, Mrs. Spurgeon and the doctors knew that he was sinking away fast. He became totally unconscious on Jan. 28 and on Jan 31, evening 1892 he entered heaven to be with our heavenly Father.
Spurgeon's messages were truly evangelistic. In one of his sermons he made this plea to the sinners.
"Sinner, trust n Jesus; and if thou dost perish trusting in Jesus, I will perish with thee. I will make my bed in hell, side by side with thee, sinner, if thou canst perish trusting in Christ, and thou shalt lie there, and taunt me to all eternity for having taught thee falsely, if we perish. But that can never be; those who trust in Jesus shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand. Come to Jesus, and He will in no wise cast thee out.