Spurgeon’s Heart-Knowledge of God: The Seat of This Knowledge (II of V) 

By / Oct 2

From a sermon delivered on December 6th, 1874, by C.H. Spurgeon, published in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, No. 1206, Pgs. 836-850.

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God…” – Jeremiah 24:7

See Part I here.


Though natural revelation is insufficient to bring us to a saving knowledge of himself, God, in his plan of redemption, has established an even more glorious way: the regenerating work of the Spirit made possible through the sacrificial work of Christ. Spurgeon believed that this saving knowledge of God rested in the heart. However, man’s heart has been spiritually blinded by his sin. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must shine into his heart, renewing within him a right knowledge of God. This is the permanent work of regeneration, whereby the Spirit changes the heart of the believer, provides him with the desire to call upon the Lord, and creates a deep affection for the Lord. But how can we know if we have experienced this work of the Spirit? In the sermon, “Heart-Knowledge of God,” Spurgeon gives us four evidences of God’s work upon our hearts.  

The Heart as the Organ of Knowledge

The heart is represented in Scripture as the organ of knowledge and where our spiritual life is seated. One clear example of this is in Romans 10:10, where Paul says, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” To believe is to know, and just as with the heart one believes, so also with the heart one knows. Additionally, we are taught these truths elsewhere in Scripture concerning matters of the heart: the heart is where God’s love has been poured into through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5); out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Mat. 12:34); God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:6); circumcision is a matter of the heart (Rom. 2:29); our adorning ought to be the hidden person of the heart (1 Pet. 3:4); and that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

The heart, therefore, is the seat of the spiritual life and the seat of the knowledge of God. Furthermore, Spurgeon understood the heart to be man’s essential self. He writes, “The heart is the true man; it is the very citadel of the City of Mansoul; it is the fountain and reservoir of manhood, and all the rest of man may be compared to the many pipes which run from the fountain through the streets of a city.”[1] Man’s intellect, will, and emotions are all found to be rooted in and flow out of the heart. The heart is the innermost being, the self, and to be given a new heart is to be given a new self. A heart of flesh is a new creation; from it arises a new man with new dispositions and a new nature. This heart is given the Holy Spirit-enabled power to put away the old self that is corrupt with deceitful desires and the power to put on the new self that is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24). Having set the stage for understanding the heart as the seat of this knowledge, let’s proceed to unpack four aspects of it as understood by Spurgeon. These include admiration, appropriation, affection, and adhesion. 


The greater our understanding of the sinful nature that resides within us, the greater our admiration of God, who is wholly different from us. With a heart of stone, man suppresses the knowledge of God and is hardened toward his perfect being, but given a heart of flesh, man is renewed to a right understanding of God and thereby admires his character and attributes. The Lord declares in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The man with a new heart admires God, whose ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than his own. God becomes the greatest being of his contemplation and one to whom none other compares. The great distinction between Creator and creature is realized, and with it, his supremacy and providential care over all that exists is cherished. The first aspect of the seat of man’s heart-knowledge of God, therefore, is admiration. Spurgeon writes:

“I understand by the fact that the knowledge of God here promised lies in the heart, first, that God renews the heart so that it admires the character of God. The understanding perceives that God is just, powerful, faithful, wise, true, gracious, longsuffering, and the like; then the heart being purified admires all these glorious attributes, and adores him because of them.”[2]


No matter how great his concept of God may be, man will not be content solely in admiration of Him. Admiration is not enough to fill the void that has left his heart empty. He desires not only the idea of God, as beautiful as he has seen him to be, but God himself. He will find no rest until the presence of God becomes realized; he must appropriate God unto himself and call upon him as Father. By “appropriate,” it means that man who once merely admired the Lord now knows him as the Lord of his life. Only when we enter into communion with God does our longing for something greater become satisfied. We do not rightly know God solely through admiration but through faith, and therefore, we move past admiration to appropriation

By appropriation, Spurgeon intends for man not only to approve of the God of Scripture but to cling to him in faith, submit to his Lordship, and make him his God. Man comes to a turning point when the sin that once satisfied him no longer provides fulfillment. Ultimately, he discovers that he is lost without God and, through the work of the Spirit, becomes aware of his need for redemption. Given a new heart, man chooses God over his sin and cherishes Christ as his Savior. What at a time he lacked the power to do, he now, by the Spirit, acknowledges Christ as King and follows him over and against the straying of his heart and the ruler of this world. Regarding appropriation, Spurgeon writes: 

“The heart-knowledge promised in the covenant of grace means, however, much more than approval: grace enables the renewed heart to take another step and appropriate the Lord, saying, ‘O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee’… The man who only knows the Lord with his head regards him as anybody’s God, or another man’s God; but the man who knows the Lord with his heart exclaims with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God.’ By an act of appropriating faith the gracious man cries out, ‘The Lord is my portion saith my soul…’”[3]


In the work of Spurgeon, admiration and appropriation of the Lord lead to affection for him. It is out of our affection for the Lord that we truly begin to know him and experience him. Spurgeon writes, “All true knowledge of God is attended by affection for him. In spiritual language to know God is to love him.”[4] This love brings our disposition from what was once alienated and hostile towards God (Col. 1:21) to that which now seeks to please God. When we are given a new heart, we are given new affections for God – affections that increasingly desire Him and increasingly separate us from our former passions and shallow pursuits. God becomes what is most dear to our hearts. On this new disposition, Spurgeon writes: 

“It is the great passion of the renewed soul to glorify God, whom he knows and loves; knowledge without love would be a powerless thing, but God has joined this knowledge and love together in a sacred wedlock, and they can never be put asunder. As we love God we know him, and as we know him we love him.”[5]


Lastly, admiration, appropriation, and affection are made permanent by adhesion. To know something by heart is to know something thoroughly, assuredly, and rightly. It is to know something at such a level that it is not easily forgotten. On the depth of this knowledge, Spurgeon writes, “That which is learned in the head may be unlearned, for our understanding is very fickle and our memory frail, but that which is written upon the heart cannot be erased.”[6] To have a heart-knowledge of God is one that can never be taken away; it is an abiding knowledge that will remain to our final day. In the words of Spurgeon, “Memories of the heart abide when all others depart.”[7] The man of faith can be assured that as the knowledge of the mind decays, the knowledge of the heart will stay. On the permanency of this knowledge, Spurgeon writes: 

“If we can sing, ‘O God, my heart is fixed, O my heart is fixed,’ then the knowledge which it possesses will never be taken away from it. To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, is not a fleeting attainment, but shall abide with us and increase until we know even as we are known. This is not the knowledge which shall vanish away, but that which shall be perfected when the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”[8]

Concluding Remarks 

How about you, dear reader, do you love God? Has your heart come to know him? When speaking of God, love and knowledge are inseparable; the terminology of heart-knowledge interlinks the two. In loving God, you know him, and in knowing God, you love him. The seat of this knowledge we speak of is in the heart because that is the seat of our spiritual life and affections. May the affections of your heart be ever increasingly directed towards the one true God. Looking ahead to Part III, we will uncover the necessity of having a heart-knowledge of God. For now, I will leave you with this quote from Spurgeon to consider, “Where the Lord is fully known he is intensely loved.”[9]

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 13, 50.

[2] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 840.

[3] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 841.

[4] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 841.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 841-842.

[6] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 842.

[7] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 842.

[8] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 842.

[9] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 841.

Jaron Button is a Th.M. student at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, MO. He serves as a Research Assistant for Dr. Chang and The Spurgeon Center, and as Corporal for Midwestern Seminary’s campus security. He is married to Tiffany and together they are members of Northtown Trinity Church in North Kansas City, MO.

By Grace Are Ye Saved

By / Sep 25

This article comes from the February 1865 edition of The Sword and The Trowel magazine.


Debates surrounding the doctrines of grace have gone on for centuries within the universal church. From Spurgeon’s perspective, the problem was simple—men were saved Dei Gratia (by the grace of God). “By Grace Are Ye Saved,” by C.H. Spurgeon, testifies to the reader of the undeserved gift of grace from God. This grace is for those, as Spurgeon says, “who have no worth, no merit, no goodness whatever!”

By Grace Are Ye Saved

IT is by the grace of God that ungodly men are preserved from instant death. The sharp ax of justice would soon fell the barren tree if the interceding voice of Jesus did not cry, “Spare him yet a little.” Many sinners, when converted to God, have gratefully acknowledged that it was of the Lord’s mercy that they were not consumed. John Bunyan had three memorable escapes before his conversion, and mentions them in his “Grace Abounding” as illustrious instances of long-suffering mercy. Occasionally such deliverances are made the means of affecting the heart with tender emotions of love to God, and grief for having offended him. Should it not be so? Ought we not to account that the longsuffering of God is salvation?  (2 Peter 3:15.) An officer during a battle was struck by a nearly spent ball near his waistcoat pocket, but he remained uninjured, for a piece of silver stopped the progress of the deadly missile. The coin was marked at the words DEI GRATIA (by the grace of God). This providential circumstance deeply impressed his mind, and led him to read a tract which a godly sister had given him when leaving home. God blessed the reading of the tract; and he became, through the rich face of God, a believer in the Lord Jesus.

Reader, are you unsaved? Have you experienced any noteworthy deliverances? Then adore and admire the free grace of God, and pray that it may lead you to repentance! Are you inquiring for the way of life. Remember the words DEI GRATIA, and never forget that by grace we are saved. Grace always pre-supposes unworthiness in its object. The province of grace ceases where merit begins: what a cheering word is this to those of you who have no worth, no merit, no goodness whatever! Crimes are forgiven, and follies are cured by our Redeemer out of mere free favor. The word grace has the same meaning as our common term gratis: Wickliffe’s prayer was, “Lord save me gratis.” No works can purchase or procure salvation, but the heavenly Father giveth freely, and upbraideth not.

Grace comes to us through faith in Jesus. Whosoever believeth on Him is not condemned. O, sinner, may God give thee grace to look to Jesus and live. Look now, for to-day is the accepted time!

Spurgeon’s Heart-Knowledge of God: God’s Revelation and Merciful Intervention Despite Man’s Rebellion (I of V)

By / Sep 18

From a sermon delivered on December 6th, 1874, by C.H. Spurgeon, published in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, No. 1206, Pgs. 836-850.

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God…” – Jeremiah 24:7

See Part II here.


There is nothing of greater importance to man than that he would know his Creator, a truth very near to the heart of Spurgeon. Over the course of what will be a five-part series, we will be taking an overview look into the necessary doctrine of the knowledge of God. Can we as finite beings truly know the infinite and incomprehensible God? Does God make himself known to all of humanity in the same way? What does it mean to move beyond a surface knowledge of God to, as Spurgeon puts it, a “heart-knowledge of God”? How may we attain such a knowledge?

These crucial questions are what we will be seeking to answer, though briefly, in the journey ahead. We will look first to what God has said to us through his Word as our ultimate authority on these matters, as well as to the help of Spurgeon who offers us useful insight into some key texts on this topic, particularly in his sermon entitled: The Heart-Knowledge of God, delivered on December 6th, 1874. As we explore this weighty subject, may our prayer be that of Paul’s in Ephesians 1:7, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.” 

God’s Revelation

In laying the groundwork for this series, the question at hand becomes, how can man know his Creator who is incomprehensible through our finite intellect and reasoning? The answer can only be found through God’s revelation of himself to us. God can be known because he has made himself known. God has revealed himself to us. This revelation is perceived through our consciousness in view of God’s creation (Rom. 1:19-20), is sensed within our human conscience through God’s moral law (Rom. 2:14-15), and most significantly, is spoken through the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16).

How wonderful it is that God did not create the world and then leave us hopelessly alone without the faculties to perceive his glory! As noted above with reference to Romans 1:19-20, Scripture tells us, “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world” (Rom. 1:19-20). On knowing God through creation Spurgeon writes:

 “Any man possessed of reason may know that there is a Supreme Being, who created all things and preserves the universe in existence. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork. The tokens of divine skill and power are so abundant that ‘The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are already seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.’”[1]

Man’s Distance from God

This knowledge, however, as clearly as it can be perceived through our senses, still leaves man on the outside of a saving knowledge of God; it is insufficient for the task. This is not due to any insufficiency on the part of God or in the ways by which he has revealed himself, but it is due to our sinfulness which has blinded our eyes and rendered us incapable of seeing the absolute beauty of God and cherishing him as we ought. This is the consequence of the sin that has entered the world and that permeates our being. Consumed by it, we naturally suppress the knowledge of the truth and turn away from the God who has made himself known. We want no part of him, and in our sinful delusion, we desire a world without him in it (Rom. 1:18, 21). On suppressing the knowledge of the truth Spurgeon writes:

“The thought of God is distasteful to every guilty man. It would be good news to him if he could be informed, on sure authority, that there was no God at all. He cannot know God, because his whole heart, and mind, and spirit are in such a state that he is incapable of knowing and appreciating the Holy One of Israel. Darkness covers the mind, because sin has blinded the soul to all that is best and holiest. The lover of sin does not know God, and does not want to know him.”[2]

In this state, man not only has a distorted view of God as he reveals himself, but also remains in a position of hostility towards God, the very one by whom his continual existence is owed. Man willfully puts himself at a distance from the living God and lives contrary to his design. Instead of fixing his eyes upon God in adoration, man settles his affections upon objects of his own creation and the worship of self. In this abandonment, God becomes far from man in his sinful state, and correspondingly, man’s heart becomes far from him. Without divine intervention, our own passions and lusts will be continually sought after, and the object of our worship will be set upon created things over and above the Creator of all things (Rom. 1:25). On this distortion of worship Spurgeon writes:

“Man fashions for himself a god after his own liking; he makes to himself if not out of wood or stone, yet out of what he calls his own consciousness, or his cultured thought, a deity to his taste, who will not be too severe with his iniquities or deal out strict justice to the impenitent. He rejects God as he is, and elaborates other gods such as he thinks the Divine One ought to be, and he says concerning these works of his own imagination, ‘These be thy gods, O Israel.’”[3]

God’s Merciful Intervention

The truth of our depravity reveals that the bare knowledge of God, as discussed so far, is of little value towards salvation given mankind’s helpless state. But it also directs us towards a deeper, saving knowledge of God that is of infinite value. Spurgeon notes that, “The knowledge intended here is much deeper than that which comes from observation, and only affects the intellect.”[4] This knowledge of God mentioned is one that finds its root, or seat according to Spurgeon, in the heart. It is a knowledge involving our affections, a change in heart, accompanied by new inclinations. It is through this knowledge alone that we can know truly, though never comprehend fully, the one true God. It is through him alone that this saving knowledge may be imparted to sinners. This knowledge is imparted through divine intervention in the loving condescension of Jesus Christ and the regenerating work of the Spirit upon our hearts. When it is recognized just how far we have distanced ourselves from God in our sin, the beauty and necessity of this intervention becomes increasingly clear.

With this intervention, no matter how far from God your sin has separated you, he has promised in Christ to remove it “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalms 103:12) and count it against you no more. In freeing sinners from their condemnation, God creates a new heart within them by His Spirit. This new heart is one that is capable of knowing him, that desires to draw near unto him, and that is no longer made of hardened stone but of softened flesh (Ezek. 36:26). On this conversion Spurgeon writes:

“The Holy Spirit…when he illuminates their minds, leads us to see that Jehovah is God, and beside him there is none else. He teaches his people to know that the God of heaven and earth is the God of the Bible, a God whose attributes are completely balanced, mercy attended by justice, love accompanied by holiness, grace arrayed in truth, and power linked with tenderness”[5]

Concluding Remarks

As we come to a close in part one of this series, the key takeaway in anticipation for the following articles is this: while God’s natural revelation is insufficient on its own to bring us to a saving heart-knowledge of himself, God in his merciful plan of redemption has established an even more glorious way – the regenerating work of the Spirit made possible through the sacrificial work of Christ. Looking ahead, we will dive deeper into what it means to have a heart-knowledge of God, and how it is that we may attain such a knowledge. For now, let this serve the reader as an introduction to the greatest knowledge that man could ever obtain as we close with this word from Spurgeon:

 “It is not enough to know that our Creator is the Jehovah of the Bible, and that he is perfect in character, and glorious beyond thought: but to know God we must have perceived him, we must have spoken to him, we must have been made at peace with him, we must have lifted up our heart to him, and received communications from him. If you know the Lord your secret is with him, and his secret is with you, he has manifested himself unto you as he does not unto the world. He must have made himself known unto you by the mysterious influences of his Spirit, and because of this you know him.”[6]

[1]Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 837.

[2]Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 34, 89-90.

[3]Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 837.

[4]Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 837.

[5]Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 837.

[6]Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 20, 838-839.

Jaron Button is a Th.M. student at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, MO. He serves as a Research Assistant for Dr. Chang and The Spurgeon Center, and as Corporal for Midwestern Seminary’s campus security. He is married to Tiffany and together they are members of Northtown Trinity Church in North Kansas City, MO.

Spurgeon’s Theology of Baptism

By / Sep 11

In the previous article, I considered how Spurgeon became a credobaptist at an Anglican school of all places, and from the Church of England catechism. A few years later, Spurgeon was baptized in the River Lark by Mr. Cantlow, and we considered his own retelling of that day which was May 3, 1850 from his Autobiography.[1] In this piece, I will consider that account again, drawing out aspects of his baptismal theology.[2]

Convinced, but catholic in spirit

When Spurgeon was baptized as a believer at the age of fifteen, he was acting out of his personal convictions. As he read the Bible, he could not find the paedobaptism he observed his entire life and received as an infant. He writes, “I knew that my father and my grandfather took little children in their arms, put a few drops of water on their faces, and said they were baptized; but I could not see anything in my Bible about babes being baptized.”[3] Such a view placed him squarely in the Baptist tradition. Yet, to be a Baptist was not his highest aim. “If I thought it wrong to be a Baptist,” wrote Spurgeon, “I should give it up, and become what I believed to be right. . . . If we could find infant baptism in the Word of God, we should adopt it.”[4] Thus, above all, Spurgeon desired to be biblical.

While Spurgeon was persuaded of the Baptist teaching, he maintained a catholic spirit towards other believers. On one occasion, Spurgeon’s grandfather wanted to assure that his grandson would “not be one of the tight-laced, strict-communion sort.”[5] The reference here is to those who practice closed communion which barred paedobaptists from the Lord’s Table. Spurgeon assured his grandfather that on this issue, they were in agreement and that each man should follow his own conscience. Open communion was practiced at The New Park Street Chapel and The Metropolitan Tabernacle under Spurgeon’s leadership and paedobaptists who belonged to evangelical churches were welcomed to the Table. Membership, however, remained closed, being available only for those baptized as believers.[6]

The nature of baptism

What was Spurgeon’s understanding of the nature of baptism? In a letter to his mother, Spurgeon wrote, “Conscience has convinced me that it is a duty to be buried with Christ in baptism, although I am sure it constitutes no part of salvation.”[7] In his testimony, he says, “I had no superstitious idea that baptism would save me, for I was saved” even prior to being baptized.[8] Thus, baptism was an act of obedience for Spurgeon. He answers his own question, “Why was I thus baptized?” by saying, “because I believed it to be an ordinance of Christ, very specially joined by Him with faith in His name.”[9] So, even though he did not believe baptism as essential for salvation, he would reject the notion that baptism is non-essential.[10]

Though baptism did not save, it symbolized or was emblematic of salvation. Spurgeon says, “I regarded baptism as the token to the believer of cleansing, the emblem of his burial with his Lord, and the outward avowal of his new birth.”[11] That word avowal conveys the idea of baptism as a public profession or declaration to the world that a person belongs to Christ. At the time, there was a practice developed by Doddridge where a believer could prayerfully sign and seal a document as a sign of dedication.[12] While not entirely condemning the practice, Spurgeon said, “I conceive that burial with Christ in baptism is a far more Scriptural and expressive sign of dedication.”[13] Peter J. Morden calls this aspect of Spurgeon’s baptismal theology, “a solemn pledge of absolute commitment,” and a “complete consecration to Christ.”[14] Thus, baptism was the ordained means whereby a person dedicated himself to Christ.

There were two further realities that baptism signified according to Spurgeon. First was the union of a believer to Christ’s dying and rising which is best displayed by dipping, or immersion. When the believer goes under the water and comes back up, his death to the world and his being raised to newness of life are visibly signified. Second is separation from the world. Morden says of baptized believers that “they had crossed the Rubicon and there was no turning back.”[15] A believer cannot go back to the world in the same way because he has crossed a point of no return. He must sever all ties with the world, for he has died to the world.

The final aspect that I will consider is the integral connection of baptism and the local church.[16] Spurgeon says, “Baptism is the mark of distinction between the Church and the world.”[17] Spurgeon makes clear that such profession ought to happen through believers’ baptism: “I never dreamed of entering the Church except by Christ’s own way, and I wish that all other believers were led to make a serious point of commencing their visible connection with the Church by the ordinance which symbolizes death to the world, burial with Christ, and resurrection to newness of life.”[18] Baptism is the entry point into the church.

Application for today

How can Spurgeon’s baptismal theology help pastors today? First, Spurgeon’s resolve to be baptized out of his biblical convictions while maintaining a spirit of honor towards his parents is instructive.[19] Spurgeon was driven by sound conviction based primarily on a reading of the New Testament, and not so much from familial, historical, traditional, or even doctrinal sources. At the same time, he maintained respectful relations with his family and sought to obtain their approval prior to his baptism.

Second, we should not miss the significance of the occasion of baptism for Spurgeon. In his journal entry for that day, he wrote, “In the afternoon, I was privileged to follow my Lord, and to be buried with Him in baptism. Blest pool! Sweet emblem of my death to all the world! May I, henceforward, live alone for Jesus!”[20] Baptism should result in joyful reflection in our union with and devotion to Christ.

Third, the combined practice of closed membership and open communion, in the way that Spurgeon understood it, seems a wise approach.[21] It upholds a Baptist ecclesiology, while maintain a catholic spirit towards our paedobaptist brothers and sisters.

Fourth, Spurgeon’s understanding of baptism—non-salvific, emblematic in nature, an act of obedience, a pledge of consecration, and a public profession—undergirds, clarifies, and sharpens our own baptismal theology and practice.

[1] This account can be found in C. H. Spurgeon, C.H. Spurgeon Autobiography, vol. 1,  The Early Years, 1834–1859, vol. 1 (London: Banner of Truth, 1962), 145–52.

[2] “In Spurgeon’s accounts of his baptism as a believer the main features of his baptismal theology appear.” Tim Grass and Ian Randall, “C. H. Spurgeon on the Sacraments,” in Baptist Sacramentalism, ed. Anthony R. Cross and Philip E. Thompson, Studies in Baptist History and Thought 5 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2003), 57. This insight was first pointed out to me by Michael Haykin who advised me to “begin with his accounts in his autobiography of his baptism. In that you have the essence of his baptismal theology.”

[3] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:145.

[4] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:152.

[5] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:119.

[6] Grass and Randall, “C.H. Spurgeon on the Sacraments,” 61.

[7] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:113.

[8] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:151.

[9] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:151.

[10] Grass and Randall, “C. H. Spurgeon on the Sacraments,” 59.

[11] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:151. Two helpful articles on Spurgeon’s baptismal theology are by Peter J. Morden. In the first article, Morden argues that Spurgeon’s baptismal theology was non-sacramental. Peter J. Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Baptism: The Question of Baptismal Sacramentalism,” The Baptist Quarterly 43, no. 4 (October 2009): 196–220. In the second article, he presents Spurgeon’s baptismal theology more positively and then proceeds to critique his non-sacramental view. Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Baptism: The Importance of Baptism,” The Baptist Quarterly 43, no. 7 (July 2010): 388–409.

[12] Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Baptism: The Importance of Baptism,” 395.

[13] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:148.

[14] Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Baptism: The Importance of Baptism,” 394.

[15] Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Baptism: The Importance of Baptism,” 394.

[16] Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Baptism: The Importance of Baptism,” 396.

[17] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:147.

[18] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:150.

[19] Our church receives two interns from a German missions organization each year. Since many of them were baptized in the state church, some of them will end up wrestling with the issue of baptism during their time at our Baptist church. Perhaps reading Spurgeon’s correspondence with his parents, along with his recounting of his own baptism, would be a helpful starting point. Those who are convinced of the soundness of credobaptism should have a sense of urgency to pursue baptism in obedience to Christ.

[20] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:131.

[21] Spurgeon’s reticence to participate in the Lord’s Table prior to his (believer’s) baptism should be a check to those who take Spurgeon to be supportive of an open communion in which the only requirement for partaking is belief in Christ and the gospel. In other words, Spurgeon seems to be saying, one may partake in communion at this church if they are a genuine believer, have been baptized (whether by pedobaptism or credobaptism), and belong to a local church. To those who would call themselves Christians but are not yet baptized, the words of Spurgeon should be instructive, “I was invited to the communion table, although I had not been baptized [i.e., as a believer]. I refused [to take communion], because it did not appear to me to be according to the New Testament order.” Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:145.

Yuta Seki serves as the Associate Pastor of Youth at Maple Avenue Baptist Church in Georgetown, Ontario. He earned a Master of Divinity at The Master’s Seminary and is pursuing a Doctor of Educational Ministry at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is happily married to Alyssa, and they have three boys.

“A Seal of Consecration”: Spurgeon’s Account Of His Own Baptism

By / Aug 28

Spurgeon’s “Conversion” to Credobaptism[1]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was sent to an Anglican school, St. Augustine’s College of Maidstone, Kent, at the age of fourteen.[2] He excelled in the school and rose to the top of his class, his intellectual acumen being evident even in those early years. Ironically, it was there at an Anglican school, during an instruction given by one of the clergymen on the Church of England Catechism, that the young Spurgeon came to a conviction concerning believer’s baptism. Spurgeon, reflecting on this event forty years later, wrote, “When I afterwards became a Christian, I also became a Baptist; and here I am, and it is due to the Church of England Catechism that I am a Baptist.”[3]

At the school, Spurgeon was given a homework assignment to locate any passages that denied that faith and repentance must come before baptism. This was the teaching in the Anglican Prayer Book. Spurgeon’s teacher was seeking to demonstrate that the Anglican Church’s teaching on this matter was superior to that of the Congregationalists. This was motivated by the fact that Spurgeon had been baptized by his grandfather who was a dissenter. Congregationalists did not require godparents to act as sponsors, but Anglicans did.[4] Thus, Spurgeon’s teacher was contending that the Anglican practice was more in line with scriptural teaching, as the godparents made promises of faith and repentance on behalf of the infant.

The plan backfired, however, and Spurgeon came to the conclusion that both the Church of England and the Congregationalists were wrong regarding baptism. Spurgeon could not find any biblical passages that denied that faith and repentance must come before baptism. This was in contrast to what his father and grandfather believed. But he was also not convinced by the argument of his teacher that a godparent legitimatized the Anglican practice. Instead, Spurgeon, who had not yet been converted, resolved, “If ever Divine grace should work a change in me, I would be baptized” as a believer by immersion.[5] Thus, Spurgeon departed from the conviction of his forebearers, and he was never won to the Anglican position.

Spurgeon’s Baptism

Spurgeon would follow through on that commitment on May 3, 1850, incidentally on his mother’s birthday. In the spring of that year, Spurgeon was away at school in Newmarket and exchanged letters with his parents. He was converted to Christ on January 6, 1850 and began thinking about baptism.[6] In his Autobiography, there are six letters written prior to his baptism and five of them mention some aspect of baptism. The thrust of those letters is twofold: to convey his personal convictions concerning credobaptism and to ask his parent’s blessing for acting on those beliefs.

From that same period we also have Spurgeon’s diary entries from April to June.[7] In the diary, the references to baptism are far less, proportionately speaking—in the twenty-seven entries up until he was baptized, he mentioned thinking seriously about baptism, receiving a letter from Mr. Cantlow, a comment his father had made, an anticipation of baptism, and an exuberant entry on the actual day of his baptism. All this clarifies Spurgeon’s thoughts at this juncture of his life. While he felt the tensions of familial relations (and departing from his religious upbringing) expressed in the letters, the diary entries do not reveal an inner wrestling concerning baptism. To put it slightly differently, Spurgeon seemed to have made up his mind regarding baptism and he was now navigating how to live out his convictions while still honoring his mother and father (Eph 6:2).

This brings us to the baptism event itself.[8] Michael Reeves recounts the events of the day succinctly: “Unable to find a Baptist church any nearer where he was then living, in Newmarket, Spurgeon arranged to be baptized by immersion in the river Lark, eight miles away.”[9] Spurgeon took a day off of work and spent a few hours in “prayer and dedication to God” before embarking on an joyful and prayerful eight-mile walk to Isleham, which took two to three hours.[10] Together with Mr. Cantlow, who was the minister that conducted the baptism, Spurgeon walked to the Isleham Ferry on the River Lark. Spurgeon commends the Isleham believers for they “had not degenerated to indoor immersion in a bath by the art of man, but used the ampler baptistery of the flowing river.”[11] This river served as the baptistry for no less than five churches across seven or eight miles. Mr. Cantlow, Spurgeon and two women, found the customary spot where there is sure footing and a gentle flow of water. There was a service prior but Spurgeon relates no details concerning it, claiming that “all remembrance of it has gone from me.”[12] He does recall, however, the weather conditions of the day, saying that there was a chilling wind and that it was a not so warm day.

It was a glorious day for Spurgeon. He remembers there being observers on both shores, on the ferry-boat, and in other boats. He says that all the cosmos could have been looking on, for he was unashamed of following the Lord Jesus in baptism and “to own myself a follower of the Lamb.” He continues, “My timidity was washed away; it floated down the river into the sea, and must have been devoured by the fishes, for I have never felt anything of the kind since. Baptism also loosed my tongue, and from that day it has never been quiet.”[13] Indeed, Spurgeon would have great boldness throughout his life, and became a mighty herald of the gospel from that time forth.

Spurgeon never really got over his baptism. Towards the end of the account that we have been considering, he writes, “That open stream, the crowded banks, and the solemn plunge, have never faded from my mind, but have often operated as a spur to duty, and a seal of consecration.”[14] His baptism, thus, anchored him and spurred him on over the course of his life and ministry.

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, vol. 1, The Early Years, 1834–1859 (1962; repr., London: Banner of Truth, 2018), 33–36.

[2] Peter J. Morden dates this event to “sometime in the academic year 1848–49.” Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Baptism: The Question of Baptismal Sacramentalism,” The Baptist Quarterly 43, no. 4 (October 2009): 198.

[3] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:38.

[4] Morden, “C. H. Spurgeon and Baptism: The Question of Baptismal Sacramentalism,” 199.

[5] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:35.

[6] For Spurgeon’s account of his conversion, see Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:78–96.

[7] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:123–43.

[8] For details concerning his baptism, see C.H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:145–52.

[9] Michael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ, Theologians on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 87.

[10] In his account of the baptism, Spurgeon says that he enjoyed “the two or three hours of quiet foot-travel,” then mentions being greeted by a smiling Mr. Cantlow. Yet, in his diary entry for that day (May 3), Spurgeon wrote, “Started with Mr. Cantlow at eleven, reached Isleham at one o’clock.” Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:131. It is unclear to me whether Mr. Cantlow accompanied Spurgeon from his walk from Newmarket to Isleham, or not. That is besides the point, though.

[11] Spurgeon, C.H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:148.

[12] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:149.

[13] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:149.

[14] Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, 1:150.

Yuta Seki serves as the Associate Pastor of Youth at Maple Avenue Baptist Church in Georgetown, Ontario. He earned a Master of Divinity at The Master’s Seminary and is pursuing a Doctor of Educational Ministry at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is happily married to Alyssa, and they have three boys.

Personal Hurt in Ministry: Spurgeon on Feelings of Betrayal

By / Aug 14

Anyone engaged in pastoral ministry will need to grapple with feelings of personal hurt at some point or another. Occasionally these feelings are the fruit of misunderstanding, sin, or leadership failure on the part of the pastor. But other times, they arise from a genuine sense of abandonment or betrayal.

Spurgeon knew well the hurt that can accompany the departure of close friends. The latter portion of his ministry seemed acutely marked by convictional stands that brought with them a deep personal cost. But would Spurgeon’s later reactions to personal abandonment mirror his earlier writings on the topic? Would he, in short, practice what he preached? The record seems to indicate so.

Spurgeon and the Bible on Personal Hurt

Psalm 55 represents a touchstone passage on the visceral nature of relational breakdown. In it, David lamented over his broken relationship, likely with Saul or Ahithophel.[1] Indeed, David’s hurt is magnified not merely by the devices of his enemy, but by the close personal connection previously shared between them.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.

Psalm 55:12-14

Spurgeon treated this Psalm in his first volume of The Treasury of David. This work was likely finalized in late 1869 and was being sold from bookstore shelves by November 1870.[2] In it, Spurgeon taught the following:

None are such real enemies as false friends. Reproaches from those who have been intimate with us, and trusted by us, cut us to the quick; and they are usually so well acquainted with our peculiar weaknesses that they know how to couch us where we are the most sensitive, and to speak so as to do us the most damage. The slanders of an avowed antagonist are seldom so mean and dastardly as those of a traitor, and the absence of the elements of ingratitude and treachery renders them less hard to bear. . . We can find a hiding-place from open foes, but who can escape from treachery?[3]

Spurgeon waxed poetic on the deep hurt of betrayal:

“But thou.” Et tu, Brute? And thou, Ahithophel, art thou here? Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man? “A man mine equal.” Treated by me as one of my own rank, never looked upon as an inferior, but as a trusted friend. . . Religion had rendered their intercourse sacred, they had mingled their worship, and communed on heavenly themes. If ever any bonds ought to be held inviolable, religious connection should be.[4]

It is true that the closer the relationship, the greater the propensity for hurt when a relationship breaks down. David knew this from experiencing outright betrayal. Spurgeon knew it from experiencing the departure of those he’d mentored during a time of doctrinal upheaval.

One of My Own Rank

As far back as two decades before the Down Grade Controversy got fully underway, Spurgeon was engaged in a debate with the Baptist Missionary Society over who could be a member and to what degree the society would be unabashedly evangelical. Spurgeon had a vested interest in these questions since he was a prominent member and some of his own Pastor’s College graduates had served under the BMS’s auspices.[5]

After a season of sustained advocacy for orthodoxy and prudent organizational parameters among these affiliations, Spurgeon decided to withdraw. By October 1887, Spurgeon withdrew from the Baptist Union. In November 1887, Spurgeon announced his rationale for withdrawal from the BU.[6] In April 1888, he withdrew from the London Baptist Association, which he had helped to found. He desired to go quietly, seeing no fruit in continued advocacy within these organizations. In truth, the process hurt him deeply. The Baptist Union Council charged him of making ill-founded accusations of doctrinal infidelity and censured him.[7] The resolution to censure was moved by William Landels, an erstwhile stalwart companion during Spurgeon’s Baptismal Regeneration Controversy. To make matters worse, Spurgeon’s own brother, James, believing himself to be helping Charles’s cause, advocated for the adoption of a would-be conciliatory statement seeking to appear more in line with Spurgeon’s view. The statement was adopted, but for Charles, he wasn’t sufficiently vindicated from the false accusations.[8] The damage was done, and the Council wasn’t relenting. He lamented,

My brother thinks he has gained a great victory, but I believe we are hopelessly sold. I feel heartbroken. Certainly he has done the very opposite of what I should have done. Yet he is not to be blamed, for he followed his best judgment.[9]

While the distancing from Spurgeon of such figures as Landels and the disappointment brokered by his brother proved palpable, Spurgeon was only entering the storm. After he felt it necessary to reorganize his Pastor’s College under clearly evangelical auspices, adopting a statement of faith very similar to the proposal rejected by the Baptist Union, some 80 students revolted. They refused to follow Spurgeon into his re-tooled College. This proved devastating to Spurgeon. He penned to one friend,

“I cannot tell you by letter what I Have endured in the desertion of my own men. Ah me! Yet the Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock!”[10]

Spurgeon’s Prescription Considered

In commenting on how one might be sustained during times of abandonment and betrayal, Spurgeon provided a few prescriptions.

First, he encouraged looking to the example of Christ, who too “had to endure at its worse the deceit and faithlessness of a favored disciple.” He continued,

“let us not marvel when we are called to tread the road which is marked by his pierced feet.”[11]

Second, he counseled calling upon God alone as a source of solace.

“As for me, I will call upon God.” The Psalmist would not endeavor to meet the plots of his adversaries by counterplots, nor imitate their incessant violence, but in direct opposition to their godless behaviour would continually resort to his God.[12]

He pointed to the victory to be had in the privacy of the prayer closet:

Some cry aloud who never say a word. It is the bell of the heart that rings loudest in heaven.[13]

Finally, he entrusted himself to the vindication of God, believing that even God’s stripping us of friends is a vehicle of his kind, sanctifying power.

The Lord can soon change our condition, and he often does so when our prayers become fervent. The crisis of life is usually the secret place of wrestling. . . He who is stripped us of all friends to make us see himself in their absence, can give them back again in greater numbers that we may see him more joyfully in the fact of their presence.[14]

Physician, Heal Thyself

The exhortations written years before Spurgeon’s controversy convey one level of credence when surveyed in isolation. But when considered in light of Spurgeon’s practicing of his own remedies, they prove all the more meaningful.

Where Spurgeon could speak, he spoke. He advocated for truth in the institutions where he had a platform. But when that influence proved ineffectual, he withdrew, preferring not to “meet plots with counterplots,” and instead entrusting himself and his cause to the Lord in quiet submission.

Yet at his Pastor’s College, a realm more squarely under his purview, Spurgeon effected reform, and at great cost. When his mentees departed by the score, he rehearsed a refrain similar to the one penned from Psalm 55: “Yet the Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock!”

Spurgeon wrote powerfully of the personal hurt David endured when seeking to be faithful to the Lord. Little did he know that he too would be called upon to live out his own creed. Readers today do well to follow Spurgeon’s pattern in this regard: contending for the truth, yes, but looking to the Lord for final vindication.

[1] Spurgeon took the betraying friend of Psalm 55 to be Ahithophel. Charles H. Spurgeon, “Psalm LV,” in The Treasury of David, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988), 447-48. While Calvin took David’s enemy here to be Saul, other scholarship agrees with Spurgeon on this point. Cf. John Calvin Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 2, trans. James Anderson (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 327; Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 5 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 381.

[2] Spurgeon notified his The Sword and the Trowel readers of the impending project release in November 1869. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, November 1869, p.524. See also Thomas J. Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Fearn, UK: Mentor, 2013), 400-401.

[3] Spurgeon, “Psalm LV,” in Treasury of David, vol. 1, 448.

[4] Ibid., 449.

[5] Larry James Michael, “The Effects of Controversy on the Evangelistic Ministry of C. H. Spurgeon” (PhD diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1989), 194.

[6] Spurgeon, “A Fragment Upon the Down-Grade Controversy,” Sword and Trowel, November 1887, 558.

[7] Ernest A. Payne, The Baptist Union: A Short History (London, UK: The Carey Kingsgate Press Ltd., 1958), 136.

[8] It should be noted that at some points, scholars leave open the question of whether the objective actions of others or the subjective interpretation of Spurgeon caused his feelings of abandonment. These questions notwithstanding, the history of the Baptist Union’s trajectory largely vindicates Spurgeon in his feeling that men with whom he had once held fast to sound doctrine were drifting.

[9] W. Y. Fullerton, Charles H. Spurgeon: London’s Most Popular Preacher (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), 256.

[10] Miscellaneous correspondence, Spurgeon’s College, London. Quoted in Michael, 251.

[11] Spurgeon, “Psalm LV,” in Treasury of David, vol. 1, 449.

[12] Ibid., 450.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

Sermon of the Week: “As Thy Days, so Shall Thy Strength Be.”

By / Jun 26

“As thy days, so shall thy strength be,” Deuteronomy 33:25


As a preacher who struggled with periods of depression, Spurgeon proclaimed the power and grace of God amid spiritual darkness. This strange paradox enabled him to declare, “How much reason have we to bless God for nights! for if it were not for nights how much of beauty never would be discovered…were it not for winter we should never see the glistening crystals of the snow; we should never behold the beauteous festoons of the icicles that hang from the eaves.” For Spurgeon, such times were the reason that God could declare the promise of Deuteronomy 33:25 to his people in their weakness. This is the truth that he sought to bring out in his sermon “As Thy Days, So Shall Thy Strength Be.” Spurgeon understood that “we must shudder at our own trembling weakness, but we still do bless God that we are weak because it makes room for the display of his own invincible strength in fulfilling such a promise as this.”

The Sermon

In the first point, Spurgeon speaks of “the self-weakness hinted at in the text.” Here, he emphasizes that before we have the ability to “behold the brightness of this rich and exceeding promise,” we need, “a good fair idea of the great depth of our own weakness.” Spurgeon describes four contexts in which weakness is most clearly felt: 1) the day of duty, as we our overwhelmed by the work set before us; 2) the day of suffering, as we find ourselves frail and falling to sickness and impatience; 3) the pursuit of spiritual progress, when the Lord seeks to “grow us downward when we are only thinking about going up;” and 4) the time of temptation, when Satan has his arrows trained on the Achilles’s heel of our heart. Spurgeon states that the key declaration of these experiences is that “every child of God will be ready to confess that he is weak.” But God’s people are not left alone in this state.

Spurgeon’s second point is the proclamation of, “the great promise,—‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be.’” For those discouraged by their weaknesses, “this is a well guaranteed promise.” As we see in Job 38-41, we can be confident that God will fulfill His promise because He is omnipotent. But Spurgeon does not make room for his words to be mistaken for a prosperity gospel. There are limits to this promise because, “it says our strength is to be as our days are…not as our desires are.” For Spurgeon, this was a reminder that God’s people need His grace and strength every day of the week, and that God will give His grace to His people according to their needs. Spurgeon further demonstrated that the power of this promise is its omniscient quality. During, “a fine sunshiny morning; all the world is laughing…‘My strength shall be as my day is declares the pilgrim,’” and in, a day of tempest…wherever you may be and whatever trouble awaits you, ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be.’” It is here the preacher reflects on his own daily weaknesses and the Lord’s supply of strength in the midst of weakness. Spurgeon transitions to his conclusion by staunchly declaring, “You may live till you are never so old, but this promise will outlive you.”

Therefore, Spurgeon concludes with one “inference” or point of application, “Children of the living God be rid of your doubts, be rid of your trouble and fear…your day shall never be more troublesome, or full of temptation, than your strength shall be full of deliverance.” For those in Christ, Spurgeon calls for them to press on in the confidence of God’s strength. But for those who do not know God, Spurgeon warns that their strength is fleeting and in opposition to God, and he called such people to repent lest they not know God’s strength as their own in the day they meet Him.


Spurgeon understood both the pain and beauty seen in the complexity of this life. In the midst of sorrows, he guarded his congregation from despair at its seeming endlessness. And in earthly pleasures, he warned his people not to revel in their own strength. In all this, our confidence should remain fixed in the Lord’s promise, “As thy days, so shall be thy strength.”

Read the sermon here.

The Queen of Preachers?: Spurgeon, his Sister Eliza, and Women Preachers

By / Jun 6

Baptists these days are once again debating the Bible’s teaching on women preachers. But this is not an entirely new phenomenon. In Charles Spurgeon’s day, he saw the growing popularity of women preachers, particularly among the Salvation Army and Quakers. Such a practice was largely unheard of among Baptists. But there was one notable exception: his sister, Eliza. Even as she grew in popularity as a preacher, we see in Spurgeon’s teaching and letters that he held fast to historic biblical convictions.

Eliza Jackson, “the Queen of Preachers”

Eliza Rebecca was the second child of John and Eliza Spurgeon, younger only to her big brother Charles. She would go on to marry a Baptist minister, Rev. W. Jackson of Waltham Abbey. It’s unclear when she begins to preach, but by mid-1870, we begin to find reports on Eliza’s preaching.

One newspaper gives this account of her preaching at Ridgmount Baptist Chapel on October 14, 1874: “On Sunday last, two sermons were preached at the Baptist Chapel in support of the ministry, by Mrs. W. Jackson, sister to the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon. In the morning the chapel was crowded to excess, many being unable to obtain admission.”[1] Eliza’s preaching at Ridgmount received significant attention and may have been her first public preaching occasion. Later that week, Eliza preached at a Tuesday night service in Wellington-street Chapel to help raise funds for the Luton College Hospital.[2] In 1876, she preached again, this time at the 147th-anniversary celebration of Paradise Row Chapel. On this occasion, her husband preached in the morning service and “Mrs. Jackson, sister of the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle, at the evening service.”[3] Such accounts continue into the 1880s and 90s, though they seem to receive less attention as the years go on.

It’s clear from these accounts that Eliza was not being ordained as a pastor, but these were occasional preaching opportunities, mostly for fundraising events or special celebrations. It’s evident that part of her appeal was her ability to draw a crowd. A big part of her attraction was the novelty of a female preacher. Victorians loved to hear sermons and, as one paper comments, “The presence of a female in the pulpit on Sunday evening will no doubt succeed in attracting a large congregation.”[4] But just as appealing, if not more, was her connection to her famous brother. Like her brother, Eliza clearly had speaking gifts. One newspaper gives this comparison: “Mrs. W. Jackson is very much like her rev. brother in face, voice, and talent. The following brief analysis of the services conducted by her will give but a brief idea of her Spurgeonic talents for preaching.”[5] For these special services in Baptist churches, Eliza was a way to bring a connection to the most famous Baptist preacher of their day. One paper concludes, “If the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon is the prince of preachers among men, Mrs. Jackson, his sister, is the queen of preachers among women. The services will long be remembered in the village of Ridgmount.”[6]

Spurgeon’s Teaching on Women Preachers

How did Spurgeon feel about all this? He never spoke publicly against Eliza or his brother-in-law. In fact, from his correspondence with Jackson, it’s clear that they maintained a good relationship throughout their lives. At the same time, Spurgeon made clear his position on women preachers. For example, preaching in 1885 on Matthew 8:14-15 and the example of Peter’s mother-in-law, Spurgeon declares,

But notice that what this good woman did was very appropriate. Peter’s wife’s mother did not get out of bed and go down the street and deliver an address to an assembled multitude. Women are best when they are quiet. I share the apostle Paul’s feelings when he bade women be silent in the assembly. Yet there is work for holy women, and we read of Peter’s wife’s mother that she arose and ministered to Christ. She did what she could and what she should. She arose and ministered to him. Some people can do nothing that they are allowed to do, but waste their energies in lamenting that they are not called on to do other people’s work. Blessed are they who do what they should do. It is better to be a good housewife, or nurse, or domestic servant, than to be a powerless preacher or a graceless talker.[7]

Throughout his ministry, Spurgeon exemplified this balance: On the one hand, upholding Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2 about the complementary roles of men and women in the church; on the other, promoting the countless ways women are called to serve.[8]

But his sister’s preaching likely put Spurgeon in an awkward position. His celebrity was being used by a family member to promote something he believed to be unbiblical. In public, he restrained himself from commenting on Eliza. But in private, this seems to have been a topic of lively conversation.

Spurgeon’s Letter to His Father

In a letter dated September 23, 1876, Spurgeon wrote to his father, letting him know that he was still planning on preaching for him in an upcoming service, but he was battling “a very bad cold & headache” that made his arrival “a little dubious.” Then, Spurgeon writes,

What an advantage it would be to have a wife to preach for me!! I fear you are envious of Mr. Jackson. Perhaps if I don’t come, Mother will fill my place & then you will no longer be averse to women preaching. Why should not the pretty dears preach? Paul forbids it, but then Paul did not live in these enlightened times. I think the darlings deserve a testimonial & I will subscribe to it if it takes the form of a pair of leather breeches. I do not believe that your wife will ever come up to Mr. Jackson’s in that respect – so dismiss all envy & give your wife two warm kisses for me.[9]

Three observations stand out from this letter.

First, in his characteristic wit, it seems that Spurgeon does not see the issue of women preaching as a first-order gospel issue but as a second-order issue. Being a Baptist and his father being a Congregationalist, they had learned to get along despite differences in second-order issues. Hence, his tone is more humorous rather than serious. His suggestion of being “envious of Mr. Jackson” and that Mother should preach likely brought a chuckle from his father.

Second, Spurgeon seems to echo the arguments he heard in his day supporting women preachers. First, there was the sentimental argument: “Why should not the pretty dears preach?… I think the darlings deserve a testimonial.” In an age of growing concern for equality and liberality, many argued that it would be unfair not to allow women to preach. This concern was likely connected to the second argument of progress: “Paul forbids it, but then Paul did not live in these enlightened times.” This was the tactic of the Modernists, whom Spurgeon would battle in the Downgrade Controversy. They applied this same hermeneutic of progress to gospel doctrines, veering away from historic orthodoxy. Of course, Spurgeon, here, is speaking tongue in cheek. From his teaching elsewhere, we know that he rejected both sentimentality and chronological snobbery as sufficient to contradict the clear teaching of Scripture.

Third, Spurgeon did not see women preachers as part of the Baptist tradition. His comment, “I will subscribe to it if it takes the form of a pair of leather breeches,” refers to George Fox, the leader of Quakerism. Fox traveled so widely in his preaching that he made himself a coat and pants (breeches) out of leather as a practical measure to warm and protect himself during his extensive travels. This was a strange sight, and so the title, “the man in leather breeches,” stuck. Spurgeon here seems to be saying that he would subscribe to women preachers if he were a Quaker, given their understanding of the Holy Spirit, inner light, and preaching. But as a Baptist and his parents Congregationalists, both in the larger Reformed tradition, Spurgeon was convinced that their understanding of preaching was more faithful to Scripture. So instead of innovating, they should “dismiss all envy” and continue to walk in obedience.

To be sure, this letter was not a theological treatise on women preachers. It was a humorous private letter written to his father. But it reveals that despite his sister’s talents and ability to draw a crowd, Spurgeon believed there were more important concerns to guide Christians on this issue.


The questions that Baptists face in our day are very different from those that Spurgeon faced in his. But as is so often the case, his biblical and theological convictions are so helpful for us as we navigate these difficulties. On the issue of women preachers, Spurgeon’s faithful restriction of the function and office of elders to men, fervent support of women’s ministry, differentiation of first and second-order issues, holding to the authority of Scripture, and clear understanding of the Baptist tradition, should all guide our discussions today.

[1] The Luton Reporter, Wednesday, 14 October 1874.

[2] The Bedfordshire Mercury, Saturday, October 17, 1874.

[3] Waltham Abbey and Cheshunt Weekly Telegraph, Saturday, Sept. 9, 1876.

[4] Waltham Abbey and Cheshunt Weekly Telegraph, Saturday, Sept. 9, 1876.

[5] The Leighton Buzzard Observer, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 1874.

[6] Ibid.

[7] MTP 31:225. https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/first-healing-and-then-service/#flipbook/

[8] For more on this, see https://www.9marks.org/article/charles-spurgeon-womens-ministry-and-female-preachers/

[9] C. H. Spurgeon, Letters to His Father and Mother 1850-84, Angus Library and Archive, Regent’s Park, Oxford.

Spurgeon Library Conference 2023: “The Gospel Devotion and Evangelical Activism of Charles Haddon Spurgeon”

By / May 9

The goal of the Spurgeon Library Conference is to look not to but through Spurgeon so that we might encounter the risen Christ and be encouraged and equipped in our service to Him. This year’s theme was “The Gospel Devotion and Evangelical Activism of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Through these lectures, we consider Spurgeon’s example and encouragement for our private devotional life AND our outward gospel activism. In other words, we want to be helped in our obedience to Paul’s words in 1 Tim. 4:16:

16 Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

We want to avoid what Spurgeon warns his students about in the first lecture in Lectures to My Students:

Too many preachers forget to serve God when they are out of the pulpit, their lives are negatively inconsistent. Abhor, dear brethren, the thought of being clockwork ministers who are not alive by abiding grace within, but are wound up by temporary influences; men who are only ministers for the time being, under the stress of the hour of ministering, but cease to be ministers when they descend the pulpit stairs. True ministers are always ministers. Too many preachers are like those sand-toys we buy for our children; you turn the box upside down, and the little acrobat revolves and revolves till the sand is all run down, and then he hangs motionless; so there are some who persevere in the ministrations of truth as long as there is an official necessity for their work, but after that, no pay, no [prayer]; no salary, no sermon.

Well, what an awful thing that would be for church leaders to be “clockwork ministers” and for our churches to have “clockwork ministers.” Rather, for the sake of Christ and his people, we want to be ministers who pay careful attention to our life and doctrine, who preach out of our nearness to Christ and who model a life of active obedience to Him. That’s the kind of ministry that we trust the Lord will bless. May these lectures encourage you to pursue that kind of faithfulness wherever the Lord has you serving.

Session 1: “Spurgeonic Women: Five Women Who Embodied the Evangelical Ideals of C. H. Spurgeon” with Alex DiPrima

Session 2: “Spurgeon’s Devotional Life” with Don Whitney

Session 3: “The Ministry of C. H. Spurgeon and the Metropolitan Tabernacle to the Poor of London, 1854-1892” with Don Whitney

Session 4: “The Pastors’ College: Spurgeon’s Vanguard in the Fight for Souls” with Alex DiPrima

Session 5: “The Pastoral Burdens of C. H. Spurgeon in his Unpublished Poems” with Geoff Chang

“On the Borders of the Infernal Lake”: Spurgeon on Church Revitalization

By / Apr 3

When Spurgeon first arrived at the New Park Street Chapel in the winter of 1853, the church was dying. But in the coming years, through the preaching of the Word, God would do a remarkable work. With the thousands being drawn to Spurgeon’s ministry, church membership would grow dramatically, elders would be called, and the church would become an engine for gospel ministry throughout the world. It was this vision of the power of God’s Word to revive dying churches that fueled the Pastors’ College.

From the beginning, Spurgeon’s plan “was not only to train students but to found churches,”[1] and this included both church planting and church revitalization. As demographics in London shifted from the city to the suburbs in the 19th century, urban congregations began dwindling. Young pastors were drawn more to church plants in the suburbs than to historic churches in the city. Spurgeon himself recognized that “the resurrection and salvation of an old church is often a more difficult task than to commence a new one.”[2]

At the same time, Spurgeon encouraged his students not to neglect these dying churches. After all, it is God who resurrects and saves, not the student. The privilege of the church revitalizer is to see God work miraculously through His powerful Word.

To encourage his students in church revitalization, Spurgeon once gave two motivations and three practical admonitions for his students.

Motivation 1: Chances are, things will get better

When you take a dying church, chances are, your ministry will lead to the improvement of the church’s condition.

Brethren, do not be afraid when you go to a place, and find it in a very bad condition. It is a fine thing for a young man to begin with a real downright bad prospect, for, with the right kind of work, there must come an improvement some time or other. If the chapel is all but empty when you go to it, it cannot well be in a much worse state than that; and the probability is that you will be the means of bringing some into the church, and so making matters better. [3]

Spurgeon was not guaranteeing to his students that their ministries in a dying church would always flourish. It is quite possible that under God’s providence, your role might simply be to help that church close well and steward its resources faithfully in that transition. At the same time, the encouragement is that things cannot get much worse than they already are, and yet chances are that under a faithful ministry, the Lord will use you to make things better. As the church brings in a new pastor, as the people are energized under his ministry, as they begin to pray and invite others, the probability is that the Lord will use you to bring new life to the church.

Motivation 2: Chances are, the congregation will love your ministry

Rather than taking over a successful church and dealing with constant comparisons with previous pastors, a dying congregation will gratefully love the young pastor who comes and serves them sacrificially. This will be especially true as sinners are brought to faith under your ministry.

If there is any place where I would choose to labour, it would be just on the borders of the infernal lake, for I really believe that it would bring more glory to God to work among those who are accounted the worst of sinners. If your ministry is blessed to such people as these, they will be likely to cling to you through your whole life.[4]

In an established church, gaining the love and trust of your congregation may prove to be a decade-long process. But in church revitalization, you have the opportunity to care for people who know their need and are grateful for your ministry.

Along with those encouragements, however, Spurgeon recognized that the greatest challenge in church revitalization is entrenched nominalism. Whereas in a church plant, a pastor can pull together a team that has fresh vision and spiritual life, in so many dying churches, many who remain “are destitute of grace, having a name to live, and yet being dead.”[5] Such nominalism can exist among church members and even church leaders. Revitalization, then, is the work of pushing back nominalism and bringing spiritual life back into the church.

In such a context, Spurgeon gave these three pieces of advice to his students:

Advice 1: Be patient

In seeking to imitate Spurgeon’s practices of church discipline and regenerate church membership, too many young pastors ended up dividing their churches and making a mess of their ministry. But Spurgeon urged them towards patience.

It is dreadful to have dead members where every single part of the body should be instinct with divine life; yet in many cases it is so, and we are powerless to cure the evil. We must let the tares grow until the harvest.[6]

This is not a call to passivity, but it is a call to prayerful dependence on God. In such a context, the pastor must recognize the need for God to work in the hearts of these nominal church members. This is not an organizational matter or an administrative challenge. This is fundamentally a spiritual problem. But even while the pastor prays, he must also begin to preach and teach faithfully.

Advice 2: Preach faithfully

The first thing that the pastor of a dying church is to give himself to is the faithful ministry of God’s Word. Only God’s Word is able to bring the dead to life.

But the best thing to do, when you cannot root up the tares, is to water the wheat, for there is nothing that will keep back the tares like good strong wheat.[7]

The way to end nominalism in the church is not by uprooting nominal members through church discipline right away. Rather, it is by watering the church patiently with the faithful teaching of the Word so that the Word begins to take root in the congregation and change the culture of the church. Rather than being characterized by preferences and traditions, the church begins to be marked by gospel unity and spiritual vitality so that nominalism will slowly become more and more out of place.

This, then, will lead to Spurgeon’s final piece of advice.

Advice 3: Be willing to lose people

As the Word of God takes root by the Spirit, this will result either in the conversion of the nominal or in such discomfort for them that they eventually leave. Though perhaps sad, this sometimes is the best outcome.

I have known ungodly men who have had the place made so hot for them that they have been glad to clear right out of the church. They have said, “The preaching is too strong for us, and these people are too Puritanical and too strict to suit us.” What a blessing it is when that is the case! We did not wish to drive them away by preaching the truth; but as they went of their own accord… we will leave them where they are, praying the Lord, in the greatness of His grace, to turn them from the error of their ways, and to bring them to Himself, and then we shall be glad to have them back with us to live and labour for the Lord.[8]

Sometimes, their departure will prove difficult. Some church members will not want to see long-time friends depart. Their departures might lead to other departures. But in the end, the pastor must understand that the mission of the church is not simply to hold hands and remain all together. Rather, the church must be built on Christ and His mission. If people depart because of the preaching of the truth, we send them off with our prayers, we do our best to connect them with other churches, and we carry on with a faithful ministry of the Word.


Spurgeon understood that there was no programmatic formula for church revitalization. But like Ezekiel preaching to the dry bones, he believed in the power of the Word of God to raise dead church members to life and to make them into an army for gospel ministry. This is what he saw happen at New Park Street Chapel, and this is the confidence he sought to instill in his students as they stepped into dying churches.

This post was first featured on the Replant Blog of NAMB.

[1] The Sword & the Trowel, 1878, 240.

[2] Ibid., 263.

[3] The Soul-Winner, 147.

[4] Ibid., 147-148.

[5] Ibid., 148.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.