Man Crush Confession: Charles Spurgeon (1834-92)

This may be the beginning of a Chief of Least man-crush series. Don’t judge me. I can admit when other dude’s theological muscles make me blush like a school girl.

Charles Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers”, was a venerable wordsmith among other things. He could turn a simple phrase or analogy into a heart piercing point of utter conviction. After reading one of his devotions or sermons I have frequently walked away with a deeper understanding of the gospel and sometimes even small quibble from my human nature: “Dang, why can’t I speak or write like that?”

Though he was Baptist, he was considered a rogue of his day, leaving the Baptist Union for doctrinal and discipline issues during the “Downgrade Controversy.” Though he had a growing church and drew thousands during his open air preaching, he had enemies in high places. One reporter wrote of him:

His style is that of the vulgar colloquial, varied by rant….All the most solemn mysteries of our holy religion are by him rudely, roughly and impiously handled. Common sense is outraged and decency disgusted. His rantings are interspersed with coarse anecdotes.

He knew of personal adversity and suffering. Because of a medical condition, his wife was a bed ridden invalid for most of their marriage. He suffered physically from severe cases of rheumatism and gout.  He suffered emotionally from severe cases of depression. These maladies nagged him all the way up to his death, at the age of 57.

He maintained a high view of God’s sovereignty, especially in the midst of suffering:

`Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’ Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing of the honor due to the Great Worker….Those who are honoured of their Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil.

One main take-away from his life and preaching I have gleaned: No matter what the topic or verse being exposited, always make the central point “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

Here is an apt warning from Spurgeon about chasing after the cultural whims and fancies of the day, instead of simply stressing the good ancient paths of the gospel:

The apostles never traveled far from the simple facts of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and second advent. These things, of which they were the witnesses, constituted the staple of all their discourses. . . .

What a rebuke this should be to those in modern times who are ever straining after novelties. There may be much of the Athenian spirit among congregations, but that should be no excuse for its being tolerated among ministers; we, of all men, should be the last to spend our time in seeking something new.

Our business, my brethren, is the old labor of apostolic tongues, to declare that Jesus, who is the same yesterday to-day and for ever. We are mirrors reflecting the transactions of Calvary, telescopes manifesting the distant glories of an exalted Redeemer. The nearer we keep to the cross, the nearer, I think, we keep to our true vocation. When the Lord shall be pleased to restore to his Church once more a fervent love to Christ, and when once again we shall have a ministry that is not only flavoured with Christ, but of which Jesus constitutes the sum and substance, then shall the Churches revive—then shall the set time to favor Zion come.

The goodly cedar which was planted by the rivers of old, and stretched out her branches far and wide, has become in these modern days like a tree dwarfed by Chinese art; it is planted by the rivers as aforetime, but it does not flourish, only let God the Holy Spirit give to us once again the bold and clear preaching of Christ crucified in all simplicity and earnestness, and the dwarf shall swell into a forest giant, each expanding bud shall burst into foliage, and the cedar shall tower aloft again, until the birds of the air shall lodge in the branches thereof.

I need offer you no apology, then, for preaching on those matters which engrossed all the time of the apostles, and which shall shower unnumbered blessings on generations yet to come.

If you would like to get better acquainted with this English dead giant who lived and died in the 19th century yet still speaks to living generations, you should go here.

Bryan Daniels