Recently, my wife and I spent nine days in London and traveled out each day to various cities such as Bristol, Bedford, Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be writing a series of articles on specific people from church history that left us with testimonies of genuine faith in the gospel, perseverance under persecution, and remained steadfast to the end. The goal in this series of articles is to lightly explore their lives and focus on their perseverance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A life that finished well in the gospel is a life worth remembering. We have already looked at the life of John Bunyan, but today’s focus is Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon the Lost Sinner
A young fifteen year old Spurgeon was walking to church in the town of Colchester when a snowstorm redirected him into a small Primitive Methodist church. The regular minister was not present for the services due to the storm, and an unlearned man took his place that particular Sunday morning and preached a simple sermon from Isaiah 45:22. There was a small crowd of a dozen people gathered in the sanctuary. That day would alter Spurgeon’s life not only for his earthly life, but also for all of eternity. The young sinner was converted that day as the man preached and urged him saying, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live.” 
Charles Haddon Spurgeon the Prince of Preachers
Within one year as Spurgeon was growing in grace, he was eager to preach the gospel. He preached his first sermon and everyone knew that God had gifted this young man with the unique ability to proclaim God’s gospel. As he continued to preach the Word, his gift was recognized by many people. He soon received an invitation to preach at the New Park Street Chapel in 1853, which was the largest Particular Baptist Church in all of London.
This historic church had been pastored by men such as Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and John Rippon, but by 1853, the church was in serious decline. After preaching for a few months, at the age of 19, Spurgeon was called to be the pastor of this historic church. By the end of his first year of ministry, the church went from dealing with problems of decline to navigating the problems of tremendous growth. The chapel had to be enlarged to accommodate the growing crowds. Soon, the people in attendance would be standing in the aisles, sitting in the windowsills, and there would be many others in the streets waiting and hoping to enter.
This growth soon caused the church to move into Exeter Hall which was a large public building with seating capacity of four thousand with a standing room capacity of five thousand. It did not take long for every seat to fill to capacity. People were being turned away, so they had to build a large building for the church to accommodate the unusual growth. They built the Metropolitan Tabernacle which became the largest Protestant worship center in all of the world at this time. The young pastor was simply phenom. London and beyond had never seen anything like him. Soon this young pastor was preaching to thousands every week and his sermons were being printed and distributed on the streets of London and all around the world.
The sermons of Spurgeon would be recorded on the front row and later put into print after an editing process that Spurgeon managed. The collected sermons fill 63 volumes which is equal to the 27 volume ninth edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, and is the largest set of books produced by any author in the history of Christianity. His sermons sold approximately 25,000 copies per week and were translated into 20 languages. One man ordered one million copies of one sermon of Spurgeon and then had it distributed to the entire continent.
Charles Spurgeon’s ministry was not fluff. His preaching was gospel centered and his heart was hot for God. He was ambitious, but not selfish. He desired to live a life that counted for God. Some of the accomplishments of Spurgeon’s ministry include:
- He preached 600+ times before he was 20 years old.
- His sermons sold approximately 25,000 copies per week and were translated into 20 languages.
- He read 6 books each week in order to prepare for his sermons and to sharpen his mind.
- He read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress over 100 times.
- He saw over 14,400 people added to his church during his ministry.
- He founded a pastors’ college.
- He trained approximately 900 men for the ministry.
- He founded an orphanage.
- He produced more than 140 books.
- He edited a magazine.
- He responded to 500+ letters each week.
- He often preached 10+ times each week (combined through guest appearances and through his own church).
- He labored to spare the Baptist name from the liberals of his day. (See the Down-Grade Controversy for more information.)
- He had two sons who became pastors. When asked by his son to ordain him to the ministry, Spurgeon instructed him to read Matthew Henry’s commentaries in full two times before he would honor his request.
It’s quite an impressive list of accomplishments for any preacher, but to consider that he died at the age of 57, it becomes even more impressive. Spurgeon’s son, Charles Jr., was not exaggerating when he once said of his father:
There was no one who could preach like my father. In inexhaustible variety, witty wisdom, vigorous proclamation, loving entreaty, and lucid teaching, with a multitude of other qualities, he must, at least in my opinion, ever be regarded as the prince of preachers. 
Charles Haddon Spurgeon the Calvinist
Charles Spurgeon was an unashamed Calvinist. Spurgeon once stated, “John Knox’s gospel is my gospel.” He embraced the doctrines of grace and upheld a robust view of God’s sovereignty in salvation. Spurgeon once said:
Puritanism, Protestantism, Calvinism [he said, are simply] . . . poor names which the world has given to our great and glorious faith,—the doctrine of Paul the apostle, the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 
He was a faithful pastor, one who labored in the Word, and one who was not disconnected from evangelism. In one sermon titled, “Now” preached December 4th, 1864, he repeated the word, “now” 173 times in the sermon as he urged people to cling to Christ as their eternal hope. In that sermon, he said:
As a sinner, I also address thee concerning this “now.” “Now is the day of salvation: thou needest it now. God is angry with thee now. Thou art condemned already. It is not the torment of hell thou hast to dread only, but if thou hast thy senses, thou wouldst tremble at thy present state. Now without God, now without hope, now an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, now dead in trespasses and sins, now in danger of the wrath to come, thou wantest a Savior this morning, young man. 
In his day, he labored to make a clear distinction between Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism. If you look at Spurgeon’s ministry, examine his theology, and look at his evangelistic zeal, you will see the clear distinction put on outward display. On the first week in the newly built Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1861, Spurgeon desired for the ministry of the church to be set upon the doctrines of grace. He said:
I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, “It is Jesus Christ.” 
Charles Haddon Spurgeon Persevering Under Pressure
With all of the accomplishments and successes came also the pressure, criticism, attacks, and a massive amount of pressure. Spurgeon entered into a theological fight in 1887. The fight became known as The Downgrade. Many people believe that this fight cost him his life. That’s why he died at 57. However, as Spurgeon would tell you to this very day if you could ask him, the fight was worth it. He refused to allow his congregation to float down the stream of liberalism in the Baptist associations of his day. He labored to correct it, and when he was unable to do so, he withdrew from the Baptist Union.
The pulpits of England were in steady decline. Spurgeon strongly warned against the undermining of Scriptural authority which opened the door to a lengthy list of compromises. For Spurgeon, it was too much. He couldn’t bear it any longer and he refused to compromise. He resigned from the Baptist Union in October of 1887. Spurgeon said,
It is my highest ambition to be clear of the blood of all men. I have preached God’s truth, so far as I know it, and I have not been ashamed of its peculiarities. That I might not stultify my testimony I have cut myself clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them. 
You can read his letters and exchanges between he and other ministers during this time of theological conflict. Spurgeon was unwilling to compromise the truth for the sake of association. He consistently called these men to repent. Spurgeon was not afraid of their pursuit of him and was unwilling to back down. Spurgeon was not willing to avoid conflict in order to assure the end of his life and ministry was well spoken of and provided ministerial ease. Instead, he put on the full armor of God and remained faithful when it seemed that many around him were willing to compromise.
One of the clear doctrines of Scripture and one that Spurgeon himself loved is the perseverance of the saints. No matter how difficult the obstacles became, Spurgeon was unwilling to throw in the white towel on God. Too many people quit on God and prove to be false Christians. True children always persevere to the end. Spurgeon’s life was poured out for God. He loved his church. He loved his God. He loved the gospel. He loved his Savior. He never forgot that he needed saving. He finished his life well. It should be our desire to life life well, and die without regrets. That seemed to be the method of life and ministry for Charles Spurgeon. What about you?
When Spurgeon died, there were five funerals. Thousands crowded the streets and followed the funeral procession to the burial site. Spurgeon’s work on this earth was now finished. His life had a unique aroma of consistency and faithfulness to God. Spurgeon’s preaching was robust and expressed a full-bodied gospel. Even those who didn’t agree with Spurgeon could recognize this, and they paid respect to him as they flooded the streets of London and southward to the burial site at West Norwood. Spurgeon’s preaching is over, but his singing has just begun.
When I visited his grave in the West Norwood Cemetery recently, etched into the side of his rather large monument are these words:
This monument was erected in loving memory of
who was born in Kelvedon Essex, June 19th 1834
and fell asleep in Jesus at Mentone, France January 31st 1892.
E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing thy power to save.
When this poor lisping stammering tongue,
Lies silent in the grave.
- Charles H. Spurgeon, Susannah Spurgeon, and W.J. Harrald, C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol. I:1834-1854 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899), 233.
- C. H. Spurgeon: Autobiography, vol. 2, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 278.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, An All Round Ministry, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960), 160.
- “Now” – A Sermon (No. 603), Delivered on Sunday Morning, December 4th, 1864 by C. H. SPURGEON, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
- Bob L. Ross, A Pictorial Biography of C. H. Spurgeon, (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1974), 66.
- Tom Nettles, Living By Revealed Truth, (Scotland, Christian Focus Publications, 2013), 541.