Charles Spurgeon, often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers” died in January of 1892. Although he has been gone from this earth for a long time, he remains very much present in sermons as pastors quote from his work, in articles as bloggers talk about him, and in religious publications as modern historians and preachers look back at this towering giant known by his last name – Spurgeon. Spurgeon is quoted by men wearing skinny jeans and suits, referenced by both Calvinists and Arminians, and is loved by a wide range of evangelical Christians. Spurgeon’s sermons and quotes appear on blogs, although he never owned a computer or read a single article from the blogosphere. Why does Spurgeon matter today? What is it about this English preacher that sticks with us? I want to suggest several reasons why Spurgeon is relevant in our modern culture.
Charles Spurgeon’s Message Transcends Time
As an English Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon did not invent the gospel, but he did preach it. In fact, he was known as a preacher of the gospel far and wide. Spurgeon’s message was gospel centered and gospel saturated. Spurgeon declared:
Preach Christ, that is the magnet; He will draw his own to Himself….If we want to see conversions there must be…more constant preaching of Christ; Christ must be in every sermon and He must be top and bottom of all the theology that is preached.1
Spurgeon was known as a powerful preacher. Although he possessed rare oratory skills and was gifted with mental abilities that were superior to many of his contemporaries, he didn’t showcase his eloquence and raise the enticing words of man’s wisdom above the gospel. He once described his own style by saying, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” For Spurgeon, Christ was not an optional additive to the sermon. Spurgeon didn’t focus on cleverly constructed clichés in his preaching – he focused on Christ.
While we can argue that we must be careful to guard against allegorical interpretations and faulty misguided hermeneutics, we must get to Christ in our Christian pulpits. One reason that Spurgeon is so remembered is because of his faithful, persistent, and often courageous gospel preaching. Spurgeon openly criticized preaching and wondered “what some sermons were preached for, what design the preacher had in concocting them” as he claimed they practiced very long to “avoid troubling you in the least with the truth.”2 While much preaching today seems locked in a time vault, Spurgeon’s preaching transcended time and remains relevant because it was saturated with gospel truth.
Charles Spurgeon’s Accomplishments
It’s really hard to imagine that Spurgeon died at age 57. Consider the vast amount of time investment from Spurgeon’s list of ministry accomplishments:
- 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. (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.)
- 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.
Half of this list would easily fill several ministry careers, but by God’s grace, Spurgeon was able to do much for Christ in a short period of time. For that very reason, he is remembered as a prolific author, insatiable reader, and powerful preacher with a big heart for people.
Charles Spurgeon’s Evangelistic Zeal and Theological Richness
It has been said that Baptists produce the preachers and Presbyterians produce the theologians. That was not the case with Charles Spurgeon. He was the full package. In the introduction to his book, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, Steven Lawson describes Spurgeon by writing:
In one hand, he firmly held the sovereignty of God in man’s salvation. With the other hand, he extended the free offer of the gospel to all. He preached straightforward Calvinistic doctrine, then, in the same sermon, fervently urged lost sinners to call on the name of the Lord. Having expounded the truths of predestination, he then warned his listeners that if they refused Christ, their blood would be on their own hands.
Spurgeon had biblical depth, but his depth didn’t cause his heart to grow cold nor his passion to fade away. The more Spurgeon visited the deep wells of divine truth, the more his heart pulsated for the lost world.
Charles Spurgeon’s Boldness in Conflict
Spurgeon was bold in Christ, but not arrogant and prideful. He would often approach the pulpit and as he was ascending the pulpit stairs, he would repeat over and over again, “I need the Holy Spirit, I need the Holy Spirit, I need the Holy Spirit.” When it came to controversy, “he despised wrangling over minutiae, splitting over whims, and arguing over issues that could be reduced to merely personal differences.”3 When it came to issues that mattered, such as the nonnegotiable truths, Spurgeon faced them with the boldness of a lion.
The Downgrade Controversy was an issue worth fighting. As he entered the controversy in 1887, he spoke out boldly in defense of the gospel. 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. 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.4
For Spurgeon, truth mattered. That’s why Spurgeon matters today. With keen precision, Spurgeon was able to navigate the complicated web of controversy and determine what was worthy of a fight and what was merely a difference of opinion. We need more Spurgeons in the blogosphere, in books, in denominational affairs, and in the pulpits of our churches.
1. Charles H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitian Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. XX (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1981), 94
2. Sword & Trowel, May 1877, 205-207.
3. Tom Nettles, Living By Revealed Truth, (Scotland, Christian Focus Publications, 2013), 541.
4. Ibid, 541.