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Sermon on Spurgeon

Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2006 by Charlie Trimm

This post is a sermon I preached last Sunday. It is a little unusual because it is not based on a text, but is a biographical sermon about Charles Spurgeon. I think that there are many things we can learn from him and his faith, and it is these points that I highlight in the sermon. And Spurgeon is a fun one to talk about because he was really funny, so there are lots of good stories! I hope you are encouraged by Spurgeon's example.

Charles Spurgeon

August 20, 2006


            The sermon today is going to be a little different than normal. Usually what we do for a sermon is to take a look at a passage of Scripture, study what it said to the original audience, and then apply it to our lives today. Today, we are going to do something a little different. We are going to take a look at someone from church history, see how he applied the Scriptures to his life, and then see what we can learn from his example. This is a biblical idea. Hebrews 13:7 says the following:

Hebrews 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

As we see those who are godly, we should seek to imitate their faith. So that is what we are going to do this morning. As we take a brief look at the life of this man, let us be open to what the Holy Spirit can teach us through this man’s example.

Our topic this morning is going to be Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Spurgeon was a very famous preacher in London during the last half of the nineteenth century. He was famous for being an excellent and very talented preacher. He preached to thousands of people every Sunday, and at times spoke to crowds of tens of thousands of people. He is the most published and most read preacher ever in English. He was a man to whom God gave simply amazing gifts and abilities. The work ethic of Spurgeon is beyond comprehension. As a matter of fact, it would be easy to look at the life of Spurgeon and be put on a guilt trip. That is not my point today. You are not Spurgeon. And considering the type and number of problems he encountered, you will be glad you are not Spurgeon. But we can learn from Spurgeon in the way that he dealt with life and what God did through him. We are responsible not to do what Spurgeon did, but we are responsible to use the gifts and abilities that God has given us. How we use our gifts is what we can learn today from Spurgeon.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born on June 19, 1834 in the village of Kelvedon, Essex, in Britain. His parents had 17 children, but 9 of them died in infancy. When Charles was 14 months old he was sent to live with his grandparents for an unknown reason. He lived with his pastor grandfather and his wife for many years. It was in his grandfather’s house that he first read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, a book which he read over 100 times over the course of his life. Young Charles was not shy. One time his grandfather pastor mentioned about how a man in his church was causing him heartache by living in sin. So young Spurgeon (about 5 or so I guess) went to the pub where this man spent most of his time and upbraided him for his bad behavior. The man was initially angry, but then repented! But Spurgeon also had his fearful side: he was deathly afraid of cows.

            When Spurgeon was six he returned to his parent’s home. He started attending school and did very well in it. He loved books and reading books. Spurgeon was usually top of the class. But once, his grades plummeted, and the teacher could not figure out why until he noticed that the student who was top had a special seat which was away from the fire and close to a drafty door! The seating arrangement was changed and Spurgeon quickly went back to the top of the class.

            The most important event in Spurgeon’s life was the day he got saved. Spurgeon knew a lot about God and the Bible, but the gospel had never come home to Charles. When he was 15, on a cold January Sunday, he went to town to go to church. He had intended to go to a specific church, but it was very cold and snowy, and as he passed by another church, he remembered that his mother had recommended that he visit that church. So he walked into a Primitive Methodist Church and joined about 15 other worshipers. Charles recognized his sin very clearly, and was very depressed that he could not escape his sin. The usual preacher could not make it because of the snow, so one of the laymen of the church got up to preach. Spurgeon did not have a high regard of the man’s abilities, as he called him “really stupid” and said that he did not even know how to pronounce the words correctly. But the man had a profound impact on Spurgeon in spite of his lack of sophistication. The man preached on Isaiah 45:22 “Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else.” These words struck Spurgeon to the heart, and he realizes that he simply needed to call on the Lord to save him, apart from his own work. Spurgeon claimed to have never seen that preacher again, but the effect of that sermon was lifelong.

            Spurgeon quickly grew spiritually, due largely to his previous study of the things of God, and was soon baptized. He started to teach a Sunday school class of young boys, whom he said “made wheels of themselves twisting around.”

He became a strong evangelist and spent a lot of time going out and talking to people about Jesus. He started to tutor students in various topics and teach. Eight months after he got saved he preached his first sermon. One of the church leaders asked him to go to a church near by where a young man would be preaching who might need some company. He met another man on the way, and Spurgeon expressed his desire that God would work through the sermon of the other man. But the other man said that he could not preach and would not preach. It turned out Spurgeon was supposed to be the young man! He did well (according to his own estimation, at this point a good sermon was one when he did not collapse!), and the church expressed interest in him coming back. So for the next year he preached on an off at various churches as a pulpit supply for churches which did not have a pastor.

            Then about two years after he got saved, at the age of 17, he became the pastor of a church. He continued to work during the week, since the church did not have enough money to support him, but eventually he did work full time at the church. He ended up spending two years at this church.

            At the end of his time at this church, he received an invitation to preach at a church in London named New Park Street Chapel. This was the largest Baptist church building (although only a few attended) in London. Spurgeon thought there must have been a mistake, so he sent a letter back saying that he was sure that they were asking for a different Spurgeon. But it turned out that one of the leaders of the church had heard Spurgeon speak at a conference, and had been very impressed.

            So Spurgeon went off to London, one of the first times in the city, if not the first. No church member offered him hospitality, and the room they got for him at the boarding house was a small closet over the entryway. Spurgeon thought it felt like crawling into a casket. He was the classic country bumpkin, looked down on by the city elites.

            The church fit 1200 people, but only about 80 people arrived for the service. The people went out and told all their friends about the new preacher, and the evening service was well-attended. The people had already come to love Spurgeon, and they refused to leave until the deacons said they would try to convince Spurgeon to come back for a few more weeks. The one major exception to this general affirmation was Susannah Thompson, the future wife of Spurgeon, who thought that he was rather comical.

            Spurgeon came back for a trial period, and then was asked to be the pastor of the church. He stayed as the pastor of the church until his death many years later. The church had 300 members when he started, and thousands of people joined the church over the course of his ministry. He had been saved just four years when he became the pastor, and was just under twenty years old.

            Spurgeon preached very differently than the other pastors of the time. The usual sermon was read from a manuscript. They were great literary works, but did not communicate very well. Spurgeon, in contrast, preached without notes. He prepared beforehand, but spoke extemporaneously. He spoke in the language of the people instead of the high language that preachers usually used. He used many illustrations that hit home with his listeners. He once gave a lecture telling all the different illustrations that one could make with candles. He was very aware of who people were and where they were at, so that he could deliver the Bible to them in a way that they could understand and apply. He also was one of the first to use humor in the pulpit. Spurgeon had quite the wit.

A typical order of service was as follows:

Those holding pew subscriptions enter first

Those without subscriptions would enter five minutes before service

Spurgeon and the deacons entered

Silent Meditation

Pastoral Prayer


Bible Reading with Comments

Long Prayer




Spurgeon got criticism because people were talking before the service, and even laughing.

            The building soon ran out of space, and another building was built. While this building was being built, they met in Exeter Hall, a huge building that sat 5000 people. This place was paced out, and when they moved into their new building, it was already too small.

            About this time he also started publishing his sermons. He ended up publishing thousands of sermons. One sermon a week was published from 1855 until 1917, when World War I caused a stoppage. Even though he died in 1892, there were plenty of unpublished sermons since he preached more than once a week. Spurgeon read at least six books a week, and he claimed to have read every book in his library. When Spurgeon read a heretical book, he would tear it into small pieces so no one else could read it.

            Spurgeon also got married about this time to Susannah Thompson. They eventually had two twin boys, both of whom became pastors.

Since the church was too small, plans were begun to build a new church. This church would not simply be an expansion, but a brand new building. Spurgeon believed it should not garner any debt, so it was all built with cash on hand. When it was built, it could 6,000 people. Many of the pews were rented out, so that people could be guaranteed a spot. The building is still there today, although only the façade is original, as the inside has been burned and bombed out several times.

Spurgeon also started many other organizations. He started a Pastor’s College, which was essentially a hands on seminary. He began an orphanage which had 500 boys and girls living in them. Spurgeon said he had shaken the hand of every single boy and girl in them. He started an old ladies home. There was a pastor’s aid society which went to support poor pastors. A Book Fund Ministry supplied books to poor pastors. The church gave thousands of dollars to the poor members. There was a tract society that produced tracts for rural areas. A group of ladies started supplying clothes for the poor, while another group made clothes for the poor pregnant ladies. Spurgeon was very active in politics, and advocated such ideas as expanding the right to vote, removing the Church of England from being the official church, and resisting Irish home rule. He opposed war in any form. 

Spurgeon had a tremendous on the church in England as well as the worldwide church. God gave him amazing gifts and abilities, and he was faithful in how he used them.

But there was another side to Spurgeon as well. He faced intense criticism during his entire life. He experienced dramatic physical problems for most of the second half of his life. He went through times of deep depression.

Spurgeon often struggled with doubt. Before he got saved, he started to doubt God’s existence for some time. Then he started to doubt everything else as well, including his own existence. This extreme doubt showed him the absurdity of the doubt and brought him back to belief in a God. 109-110


About five days after he got saved, during which time he had been full of joy, he fell into a deep depression. He realized at this point that laying down laws for himself only made him sin.

The press did not appreciate Spurgeon when he started at New Park Street Baptist Church. Here are some of the comments. “A coarse, stupid, irrational bigot.” “A flash in the pan.” They said his prayers were “irreverent, presumptuous, and blasphemous.” People made tracts against Spurgeon with titles like “Review of Spurgeon’s Chamber of Horrors.”

One pastor spent time each Sunday criticizing Spurgeon’s sermon from the previous week. “Once a critic said Spurgeon’s sermons were not striking. Charles replied he thought that preachers were supposed to feed the sheep, not strike them!”

Spurgeon also had to pay the price of fame in odd ways. “On one occasion, a very unwelcome visitor came to the Spurgeon home. Spurgeon’s hospitality was renowned, but this man was far from welcome… A man came up to the door. Charles happened to be passing the entrance hall just as the man rapped loudly at the door. Without considering who the visitor might be, Spurgeon opened the door. A wild looking man, armed with a huge stick, sprang in slammed the door, and stood with his back against it. He blurted out in the most menacing tones that he had come to kill Mr. Spurgeon. Spurgeon seemed trapped; there was no way out or no opportunity to summon any assistance. But Spurgeon, always up to the hour, said “You must mean my brother, his name is Spurgeon.” Charles realized that if he would go to Croydon to find Charles’ brother James , there would be opportunity for warning. “Ah,” said the insane fellow, “it is the man that makes jokes that I mean to kill.” Charles replied, “Oh, then you must go to my brother, for he makes jokes!” “No, no,” replied the man, “I believe you are the man. Do you know the asylum? That’s where I live, and it takes ten men to hold me.” Right then Spurgeon saw his opportunity. He drew himself up to his full height, all five feet six inches of it, but still a rather imposing figure, and shouted with his most impressive, deep, rich voice. “Ten men! That is nothing; you don’t know how strong I am. Give me that stick.” The poor man, thoroughly cowed, handed over the weapon. Spurgeon seized it, opened the door, and almost shouted, “If you’re not out of the house this very moment, I’ll break every bone in your body.” The man fled in fear. Of course, Spurgeon at once gave the information to the police and he was apprehended and taken back to the mental hospital.”

Spurgeon also paid the price of fame in the area of friends. While he had many admirers and thousands who knew him, Spurgeon never really had any close friends outside his family.

Spurgeon also had the opposite problem of criticism: there were many pastors who simply preached his sermons. One pastor of a small church was reading a Spurgeon sermon and got so excited that he read “And now I turn to you, the hundreds in the gallery” before he realized what he was doing.

 “One of the most beautiful and positive incidents of the plagiarism of Spurgeon occurred in Charles’ own experience. As has been noted, Spurgeon at times fell into despondency and depression. His depression would ever run so deep on occasion that he would begin to question his own relationship to God, and if he truly had been saved. Once, in such a state, he walked into a small chapel to spend an hour of worship with the people, unknown to the congregation and the preacher as well. In the grace of God, the pastor preached one of Spurgeon’s sermons on the assurance of faith. Spurgeon, deeply and profoundly touched, said that he “made my handkerchief wet with my tears” as God spoke to him through the message and gave him full assurance of faith. When the service concluded, Charles went to the pastor and expressed how profoundly grateful he was for the message and how it had touched his life. The pastor asked who he might be. One can imagine the embarrassment when he found out that Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the visitor. As Charles expressed it, the pastor “turned all manner of colors.” The good preacher said, very sheepishly, “Oh Mr. Spurgeon, that was your sermon.” Spurgeon in his typical and gracious and Christlike demeanor replied, “Yes, I know, but wasn’t it gracious of the Lord to feed me with the food that I had prepared for others.”

During a cholera plague, Spurgeon worked himself to the bone, throwing himself into depression once again.

One very traumatic event happened early in his ministry. Spurgeon preached at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall before 10,000-12,000 people. This was the largest crowd that had ever gathered to hear a Nonconformist preacher. But during the prayer, someone started shouting that there was a fire. There was a mad rush to exit, and seven people and 28 injured were killed as people trampled each other and a banister gave way. Spurgeon, not knowing the extent of the disaster, continued to preach. Then when the service was over he was whisked away quickly by friends. When he found out what happened, he virtually collapsed. This event would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Spurgeon got out of his depression when one day he was walking through a garden and a Bible passage occurred to his mind. It was Philippians 2:9-11. “Charles then reasoned within himself, “If Christ be exalted, let Him do as He pleases with me; my one prayer shall be that I may die to self and live wholly for Him and for His honor.” He said to his wife “Dearest, how foolish I have been! Why! What does it matter what becomes of me if the Lord shall but be glorified?” “The tragedy, however, did something to Spurgeon he never quite overcame. He called it “the most memorable crisis of my life.” Up to that time he enjoyed reasonably robust health, but after 1856, illness seemed to plague him regularly. His first protracted, serious confinement befell him in 1858 when he could not preach from October 10th to November 7th.

Spurgeon spoke to a crowd of 25,000 at the Crystal Palace on October 7, 1857. He went to bed that night (Wednesday) and slept until Friday. During his visit to Scotland in 1858, he fell into a great depression.

Spurgeon also had physical problems. “At a young age he developed chronic kidney problems, that merged into Bright’s disease. This, plus his rheumatic gout, often made life difficult.”

 “After he reached his mid-forties, his illness and seasons of depression increasingly plagued him. His inherited rheumatic gout played havoc as Bright’s disease began taking its toll. In another letter he stated, “I have never lost my calm faith in God, but at times I have been so depressed that the cable has been strained to the utmost.” His malady cut more and more into his ministry as the years progressed.”

Spurgeon at times prepared a backup person to preach in case he broke down.

One time Spurgeon got so weak while preaching that he had to have the congregation sing a hymn while he rested to regain his strength.

In 1879 Spurgeon was so sick he was away from the church for five months.

“Once at Mentone he fell down a marble staircase, but did not realize at first how seriously he had been hurt. He knocked out two front teeth as he turned a double somersault. The money fell out of his pocked into his boots. He humorously described the whole transaction as “painless dentistry, with money to boot!”

When in the midst of depression once, he said “Why this depression, why this chicken-hearted melancholy? If I cannot keep a public Sabbath, yet wherefore do I deny my soul her inner Sabbath? The causes are not enough to justify yielding to despondency. Up my heart! Play the man, and thy casting down shall turn to lifting up. Hope thou in God. Hope carries stars in her eyes… Let us fly to our God! Blessed downcastings that drive us to thee, O Lord.”

Even though Spurgeon had tremendous gifts from God, he also had more than his share of trials. The basic point that I want us to learn from Spurgeon today is his reaction to his trials. He did not become bitter. He did not become angry. Instead, he continually went back to the word of God and the grace of God to get him through his times of depression. Just because we go through trials or times of depression does not mean that we ungodly or that God has given up on us, even though that is how it feels. We can still have victory and still trust God. Here is a final quote from Spurgeon that I want to close with.

“I find nothing bears me up but a simple trust in the blood which cleanses from all sin. There is our sure and abiding hope.”

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