When the 19-year-oldurgeon received a call to the New Park Street Church in April 1854, the church was fledgling and less than healthy; but within ten months the congregation grew to such a size that it was forced to move to Exeter Hall. Before long even Exeter Hall was inadequate, which caused another move, this time to Surrey Gardens Music Hall, whereurgeon preached to more than 9,000 men and women each Sunday. The ministry continued to flourish, so much that on October 7, 1857, the Prince of Preachers addressed a record crowd of 23,654 in the famous Crystal Palace. Something extraordinary was happening.
More than Talent
It was March 1861 whenurgeon's congregation finally moved to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, where he would preach the next 31 years and personally see more than 14,000 men and women profess faith in Christ. While there, he started an orphanage, the Pastor's College, and eventually produced an avalanche of published sermons that would circle the globe. Suchuitfulness naturally raises the question: "Why did God use C. H.urgeon in such a profound way?"
The exceptional nature of Charlesurgeon's gifts is undeniable (as his sermons demonstrate). However, in response to this question,urgeon provides a different answer:
If we had theirit sealing our ministry with power, it would signify very little about talent. Men might be poor and uneducated, their words might be broken and ungrammatical; but if the might of theirit attended them, the humblest evangelist would be more successful than the most learned divine, or the most eloquent of preachers.
After reading this quote, I imaginedurgeon mounting the Metropolitan's pulpit, where he customarily repeated to himself, "I believe in the Holyirit. I believe in the Holyirit. I believe. . . ." Such has been my own practice over the last decade of preaching, followingurgeon's example (the only part ofurgeon that I can effectively emulate). Herein is a lesson. Mental strength and eloquence ofeech (for those of you who possess them) may gather large crowds and earn you recognition, but only the power of theirit can reach into a human soul to bring transformation. And this, myiends, is what our nation and world needs the most: genuine gospel transformation.
The Reality of Revival
Spurgeon's ministry was devoted to revival; he would settle for nothing less. In his own words, "Death and condemnation to a church that is not yearning after theirit, and crying and groaning until theirit has wrought mightily in their midst." In order for this to happen, however,urgeon realized that theirit needed to first engage his own soul. Therefore, in his sermon titled "My Prayer," he remarks:
The prayer before us, "Quicken Thou me in Thy way," deals with the believer'sequent need. . . . You yourselves know, in your own souls, that youririt is most apt to become sluggish and that you have needequently to put up this prayer, "Quicken Thou me." If there is a prayer in the book which well becomes my lips, it is just this.
After first seeking personal renewal of God'sirit,urgeon then prayed for his church. In a message titled "One Antidote for Many Ills," he says:
This morning's sermon, then, will be especially addressed to my own church, on the absolute necessity of true religion in our midst, and of revivalom all apathy and indifference. We may ask God for multitudes of other things, but amongst them all, let this be our chief prayer: "Lord, revive us; Lord, revive us!"
Examples of this sort of prayer are numerous. The point is simple: pursuing revival was a priority forurgeon. And what was the outcome of his request? During the years whenurgeon prayed, Protestant churches in London enjoyed a 60 percent increase in attendance, exceeding the population growth of the city. At the samt time theirit moved powerfully in America, especially in the winter of 1857 and 1858 through the noontime prayer meetings of Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York. As both sides of the Atlantic welcomed waves of revival,urgeon noted in 1859, "At this time, the converts are more numerous than heretofore, and the zeal of the church groweth exceedingly."
Revival in Our Day
As ouriends, coworkers, neighbors, and loved ones descend into deeper levels of despair, the church is poised to direct the world's attention to the gospel of Christ in whom we find the light ofiritual revival. Here is howurgeon articulated the vision:
We must confess that, just now, we have not the outpouring of the Holyirit that we could wish. . . . We seek not for extraordinary excitements, thoseurious attendants of genuine revivals, but we do seek for the pouring out of theirit of God. . . . Theirit is blowing upon our churches now with his genial breath, but it is a soft evening gale. Oh, that there would come a rushing mighty wind, that should carry everything before it! This is the lack of the times, the great want of our country. May this come as a blessingom the Most High!
The revival thaturgeon describes may very well be on our horizon, unobservable to the naked eye; but through the eyes of faith, against the backdrop of ages past, we may see enough of its glow to believe that it exists. Whether it remains off in the distance, or if it should come near, time will tell. In the meantime, why would we not give ourselves to prayer and proclamation in the hope of seeing genuine revival in our day?