I Remember … Charles Haddon Spurgeon

I’d never heard of Charles Haddon Spurgeon until my good mate and fellow student John Webster urged me to start reading him. So I bought ‘The New Park Street Pulpit Volume One’. I read about half of the first sermon, closed the book, put it back on the shelf and decided that it was not for me. It was too flowery and, frankly, too Victorian.

             Time passed and I became editor of ‘Australian Presbyterian Life’. My predecessor had left a pile of unopened mail, including a bundle of books for review from Baker Book House titled ‘Twelve Sermons On …’ various themes by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I took to reading them one by one, drawn in by the discovery that here was a preacher who met the deepest needs of his hearers.

            What are those needs? People need, in fact they yearn, to know that there is a God in Heaven; that He is Almighty, All-powerful, All-wise; that He has spoken in His Word, which is absolutely true, completely authoritative, abidingly relevant, totally sufficient, and in a word, wonderful; that all of our sin goes rolling away down at the Saviour’s Cross; that by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone we will stand justified on Judgment Day and receive entry into Heaven. Further to this we need to have a road map through life, a world-view which enables us to overcome the mysteries and difficulties of life and which is informed by the sovereign plan, purpose and power of God in Creation, Providence and Redemption.

Spurgeon met those needs and gave me a model to do this myself as best I could in my own little way. Spurgeon’s first words at the opening of the Metropolitan Tabernacle set the agenda for his ministry there, and we who follow do well to make them our own: ‘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 … The body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me, is not any 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.’

Then another book came along which gave me a fuller understanding of Spurgeon’s remarkable ministry: ‘Sense Appeal in the Preaching Of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’ by Jay Adams. Adams analysed Spurgeon’s preaching in a way which threw further light on ‘the Prince of Preachers’. Soon I was not only devouring his sermons but also benefitting from reading ‘Lectures To My Students’, ‘An All Round Ministry’, and so on. I wouldn’t dream of preaching the Psalms without reference to ‘The Treasury of David’, his massive commentary on the Psalms. The two volume ‘Autobiography’ published by Banner Of Truth tells Spurgeon’s absorbing life story.

There are many smaller books, such as the little gem titled ‘Come, Ye Children’ which is a great blessing to anyone involved in any kind of Christian Education.

            Finally let me mention ‘Morning And Evening’, Spurgeon’s book of brief devotionals which is a helpful adjunct to family or individual quiet times. Here’s a brief taste of Spurgeon from his ‘Morning And Evening’ for 2 August:

‘Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn’ – Ruth 2:2

‘Downcast and troubled Christian, come and glean today in the broad field of promise. Here are abundance of precious promises, which exactly meet thy wants. Take this one:

• ‘He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax’. Doth not that suit thy case? A reed, helpless, insignificant, and weak; a bruised reed, out of which no music can come; weaker than weakness itself; a reed, and that reed bruised, yet, He will not break thee; but on the contrary, will restore and strengthen thee.

• Thou art like the smoking flax: no light, no warmth, can come from thee; but He will not quench thee; He will blow with His sweet breath of mercy till He fans thee to a flame.

• Wouldst thou glean another ear? ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. What soft words! Thy heart is tender, and the Master knows it, and therefore He speaketh so gently to thee. Wilt thou not obey Him, and come to Him even now?

• Take another ear of corn:’ Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee, saith the Lord and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel’. How canst thou fear with such a wonderful assurance as this?

• Thou mayest gather ten thousand such golden ears as these! ‘I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thy transgressions.’

• Or this, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’.

• Or this, ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”.’

• Our Master’s field is very rich; behold the handfuls. See, there they lie before thee, poor timid believer! Gather them up, make them thine own, for Jesus bids thee take them. Be not afraid, only believe! Grasp these sweet promises, thresh them out by meditation and feed on them with joy.’

If I were still a parish minister I’d put this in next week’s bulletin.

– Bob Thomas