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This curated course is designed to introduce the contours of the life and legacy of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Each section of the course includes a video segment and related reading to enhance the student’s understanding of the video contents. The following short videos by Steve Lawson and John Piper quickly introduce the biography of Spurgeon. Students should also consider purchasing one of the biographies below and reading some of the recommended articles as they begin to reflect on the life and legacy of the Prince of Preachers.
The most important day in Spurgeon’s life began with a snowstorm, driving him to turn aside to a church to find shelter. There the fifteen-year-old boy listened to an unknown itinerant preacher proclaim Isaiah 45:22 and responded in faith. Within a year, he had been baptized, become a church member, and preached his first of many sermons. But his journey to faith began many years before. The following documentary videos provide helpful introductions to and overviews of Spurgeon’s early life.
Before he was anything else, Spurgeon was a husband and father. On January 8, 1856, he married Susannah Thompson of Falcon Square, London and on September 20, 1856, twin sons were born to the young couple as the Spurgeons welcomed Charles and Thomas into the world. Just four years after his conversion at 15, the young Spurgeon became a pastor in April of 1854, taking the pulpit at London’s famed New Park Street Chapel in Southwark. That church had produced a number of famed Particular Baptist pastors previously, including Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and John Rippon. The congregation quickly outgrew its building as thousands flocked to hear Spurgeon preach. The church first moved to Exeter Hall and then to Surrey Music Hall where Lord’s Day attendance reached 10,000, making Spurgeon the first megachurch pastor in church history. He was only 22 years old. On March 18, 1861, the congregation moved to the newly-constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle at Elephant and Castle, Southwark, a 5,000-seat building with standing room for an additional 1,000. Metropolitan Tabernacle remains home to a Reformed Baptist Church today in that same location.
An excerpt from Spurgeon’s inaugural sermon at Metropolitan Tabernacle on March 18, 1861, summarizes the famous preacher well. He was, above all else, a gospel-driven man. He was also a theologically-convinced credoBaptist and an evangelical Calvinist in the mold of his Puritan heroes such as John Bunyan and George Whitefield.
“I would propose that the subject of the ministry of 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, although I claim to be rather a Calvinist according to Calvin, than after the modern debased fashion. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. You have there (pointing to the baptistry) substantial evidence that I am not ashamed of that ordinance of our Lord Jesus Christ; but if I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply: ‘It is Jesus Christ.’ My venerable predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity admirable and excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself for ever, God helping me, is not his system of divinity or any other human treatise, but Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel; who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.”
In the video below, Steve Lawson introduces two notable aspects of Spurgeon’s theology: he believed in the sovereignty of God in salvation and the urgency of evangelism to reach the lost. At the confluence of these two streams, Spurgeon’s ministry thrived. During this video segment, Lawson references three of Spurgeon’s sermons that present these themes in notable fashion:
Over the final five years of his life, Spurgeon became embroiled in a battle against liberal theology within the British Baptist Union in what became known as the Downgrade Controversy. Spurgeon saw liberalizing tendencies would undermine orthodox views of the atonement, the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, justification by faith, and the person of the Holy Spirit, among others and took up his pen against such forces, declaring war on them in his Sword & Trowel magazine. Spurgeon virtually stood alone as even conservative Baptists did not side with him for fear of rocking the Baptist boat. Susannah Spurgeon was convinced the controversy put her husband in an early grave. It’s not as if Spurgeon were healthy in the first place. Spurgeon had battled gout and other illnesses virtually his entire adult life and warred with depression from a young age. Spurgeon’s battle with anxiety and depression can be traced to a single tragic event; on October 19, 1856 as Spurgeon preached in the massive Surrey Gardens Music Hall for the first time, someone in the crowd far from the pulpit shouted “Fire!” A panic and stampede of the crowd followed leaving many dead. The incident nearly drove Spurgeon from the ministry and left him to wrestle with depression and anxiety for the rest of his life.
What the writer of Hebrews in 11:4 said of Abel is no less true of Spurgeon: being dead, yet he still speaks. During his lifetime, the Prince of Preachers published more than eight million words, old over fifty-six million copies of his sermons in forty languages. His output was prodigious, to say the least. Spurgeon often preached ten to fifteen times per week, for example. He founded many ministries, conducted thousands of church membership interviews, and wrote hundreds of personal letters. Today, most of Spurgeon’s written works remain extant, including the massive sermon collection, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. He continues to be the subject of dozens of books, conference addresses, and scholastic studies each year and is quoted each Sunday in sermons across the world. Thanks to the Internet and sites that house his sermons and works such as The Spurgeon Archive, it is quite possible that Charles Spurgeon’s influence and impact—even his perhaps his popularity—have never been greater.