Acts America

Biographies of Great Christians


Charles Spurgeon

spurgeonAt the age of seventeen, Spurgeon became Pastor of a handful of believers at Waterbeach. Within five years he had become the best known minister in the Metropolis. Before another two years had passed, he was judged competent to conduct a service of National Humiliation when almost 24,000 persons were assembled. His pulpit ministry extended to all lands through the printed sermons which came weekly from the press.

Both his father and grandfather were believing ministers of the Gospel. Even as a young lad in Essex he had been an avid reader and had read many of the Puritan works long before he was converted at the age of fifteen.

For years he remained under deep conviction of sin until one Sunday morning in January of 1850, a snow storm forced him to cut short his intended journey and turn in to a Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester. Spurgeon describes his conversion as fallows: "The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach...He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth'. When he had managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, 'Young man, you look very miserable.' Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, 'and you always will be miserable — miserable in life, and miserable in death — if you don't obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.' Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, 'Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin' to do but to look and live.' I saw at once the way of salvation...I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, 'Look!' What a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to HIM...

'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.'
In that day when I surrendered myself to my Savior, I gave Him my body, my soul, my spirit; I gave him all I had, and all I shall have for time and eternity. I gave him all my talents, my powers, my faculties, my eyes, my ears, my limbs, my emotions, my judgment, my whole manhood, and all that came of it, whatever fresh capacity or new capability I might be endowed with, had a moment's leisure, I must be upon my knees or at my Bible; if I were in company, I must turn the subject of conversation to Christ, that I might serve my Master. It may be that, in the young dawn of my Christian life, I did imprudent things in order to serve the cause of Christ, but I still say, give me back that time again, with all its imprudence and with all its hastiness, if I may but have the same love to my Master, the same overwhelming influence in my spirit, making me obey my Lord's commands because it was a pleasure to me to do anything to serve my God.”

Spurgeon was only 17 years old when he became pastor of a small chapel in Waterbeach near Cambridge. “There went into that village a lad, who had no great scholarship, but who was spurgeonearnest in seeking the souls of men. He began to preach there, and it pleased God to turn the whole place upside down. In a short time, the little thatched chapel was crammed, the biggest vagabonds of the village were weeping floods of tears, and those who had been the curse of the parish became its blessing. Where there had been robberies and villainies of every kind, all around the neighborhood, there were none; because the men who used to do mischief were themselves in the house of God, rejoicing to hear of Jesus crucified.” By a strange providence, his plan to undertake formal Bible school training never saw fruition. He continued in his rural situation; his salary was £45 a year and, because it was not enough to keep him, he was thrown upon the generosity of the people. One reminiscence of those early days has a peculiarly modern ring about it. "In my first pastorate, I had often to battle with Antinomians—that is people who held that because they believed themselves to be elect, they might live as they liked. I knew one man who stood on the table of a public house, and held a glass of gin in his hand, declaring all the while that he is one of the Lord's chosen people. They kicked him out of the public house, and when I heard of it, I felt that it served him right. Even those ungodly men said that they did not want any such 'elect' people there. There is no one who can live in sin—drinking, swearing, lying, and so on—who can truly declare that he is one of the Lord's chosen people."

Church officers of the well known New Park Street Chapel, London heard about the "boy preacher from the Fens." Spurgeon's father recalled a conversation soon after his son had accepted the call. "Your son will never last in London six months; he has no education." His own reply was, "You are terribly mistaken, he has the best education that can possibly be had; God has been his teacher, and he has had earthly teachers too." He was twenty years old. Two weeks after his London ministry commenced one man made a remarkable prophecy, "...that young man will live to be the greatest preacher of this or any other age. He will bring more souls to Christ than any man who ever proclaimed the gospel, not excepting the apostle Paul. His name will be known everywhere, and his sermons will be translated into many of the languages of the world."

In one of his sermons at an annual conference of ministers, Spurgeon spoke about that faith in God is necessary for godly ministers to bear much hardship, to exercise much self denial, and yet to persevere in the Ministry. "My heart rejoices over the many brethren here whom God has made to be winners of souls; and I may add that I am firmly persspurgoenuaded...that the privations they have undergone, and the zeal they have shown in the service of their Lord, though unrewarded by any outward success, are a sweet savor unto God. True faith makes a man feel that it is sweet to be a living sacrifice unto God. Only faith could keep us in the ministry, for ours is not a vocation which brings with it golden pay; it is not a calling which men would follow who desire honor and rank. We have all kinds of evils to endure, evils as numerous as those which Paul included in his famous catalog of trials; and, I may add, we have one peril which he does not mention, namely the perils of church meetings, which are probably worse than perils of robbers. Underpaid and undervalued, without congenial associates, many a rural preacher of the gospel would die of a broken heart did not his faith gird him with strength from on high."

For thirty-eight years he was the pastor of a huge London congregation, he traveled extensively to preach, and he was the author of an immense number of books probably including the finest ever commentary on the Psalms and other works covering all aspects of Christian life and service. From 1865, he began to publish a monthly magazine entitled, "The Sword and the Trowel." His sermons were published weekly until 1917. He promoted and guided the work of the Colporteurs' Association and Mrs. Spurgeon was actively engaged in running the Book Fund which raised money to buy good Christian literature to supply needy ministers. As a contender for the faith and preacher of the gospel, C.H. Spurgeon was a colossus. Spurgeon died at Mentone in the south of France in 1892, where he often wintered because of his chronic ill-health. His secretary J.W. Harrald immediately sent a telegraphed message to the Tabernacle in London. It read, "Our beloved pastor entered heaven, 11:15 Sunday night." The news became the chief subject of the Monday newspapers in London, and so heavy was the demand for copies that it was soon difficult to find one left for sale anywhere.

Here was a man who lived to the full — he was all out for God. It is unlikely that any of us can compare remotely with his God-given brilliance, but we can all ask God for something of his devotion to the Savior and his love for souls. His life can be a great encouragement to us. His, like ours, was a time of wicharles spurgeondespread apostasy and yet he saw revival with thousands being converted while elsewhere many were turning to Romanism or liberal theology. It is encouraging to recognize that the truths he preached are the ones we hear so faithfully expounded upon week by week. His God is our God, and his prayer is our prayer. "Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?"


Copied by Stephen Ross for from Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1898.