As someone who loves history, is trained in history, and has occasion to teach history, I am often asked about places in history I would like to have been. One of those answers surprises many. I would love to be on New Park Street of London in the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the second half of the 1800s singing acapella hymns with thousands of voices just before Charles Spurgeon stood to expound the word and deliver the gospel.
Spurgeon was born 182 years ago today. I would be remiss if I let the day pass without saying a few words. Since I have arrived in my present pastoral role I have been teaching through the Psalms on Wednesday night (we are on Psalm 122 after five years). An irreplaceable gem in my study has been reading The Treasury of David straight through – Spurgeon’s magnum opus of a homiletical commentary. In some sense, after this much reading and processing, one begins to have a sense for where the author is going, how he might process a particular text, when he may make an somewhat appropriate jab at “papists” or liberal Baptists of his day, how he might turn a phrase or when he is about to offer some keen insight one can no longer not see once the Prince of Preachers has shown it.
His short 58 years of life on earth were larger than life on the spectrum of church history. He wrote voluminously, still maintaining more room on the shelf (and in print) than any other writer in church history and many combined. That’s impressive. The number of charitable organizations, push for missions, love for orphans, care for the poor and continuous striving for gospel centered baptistic orthodoxy are legend and seem almost humanly impossible. In fact, Spurgeon was once asked about this when the inquisitor pointed out he lived as if there were two of him. He smiled and quipped, “You forget sir, but there is two of us.” All this and he managed to maintain being a faithful husband and doting father. His wife Susannah was as much a part of who he was as, well, he was.
I cannot express how thankful I am for Spurgeon’s phraseology, one liners, humor, faithful theology and inspiration in pastoral care and leadership though he died 91 years before I was born.
If you have not yet been introduced to the unavoidable Spurgeon, you must read both Arnold Dallimore’s biography and Tom Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon . For a shorter and equally necessary read, find Iain Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon . Also available is a condensed version of Dallimore .