Six Reasons Why the Savior Was Born in a Stable

By / Dec 1

Every detail surrounding the incarnation is significant. The virgin birth, the parents from Galilee, the journey to Bethlehem, the line of David, the shepherd, the angels, and many others are all strands woven into the tapestry of God’s work of redemption from the creation of the world. Therefore, every detail is worth meditating on, even the smaller ones. In his sermon, “No Room for Christ in the Inn,” preached on December 21, 1862, Spurgeon meditates on Luke 2:7 and the fact that Christ was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Why is this detail significant? He gives six reasons:

To show Christ’s humility

Would it have been fitting that the man who was to die naked on the cross should be robed in purple at his birth? Would it not have been inappropriate that the Redeemer who was to be buried in a borrowed tomb should be born anywhere but in the humblest shed, and housed anywhere but in the most ignoble manner? The manger and the cross standing at the two extremities of the Savior’s earthly life seem most fit and congruous the one to the other. He is to wear through life a peasant’s garb; he is to associate with fishermen; the lowly are to be his disciples; the cold mountains are often to be his only bed; he is to say, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.”

To declare Christ to be the king of the poor

With what pertinacity will workingmen cleave to a leader of their own order, believing in him because he knows their toils, sympathizes in their sorrows, and feels an interest in all their concerns. Great commanders have readily won the hearts of their soldiers by sharing their hardships and roughing it as if they belonged to the ranks. The King of Men who was born in Bethlehem, was not exempted in his infancy from the common calamities of the poor, nay, his lot was even worse than theirs. I think I hear the shepherds comment on the manger-birth, “Ah!” said one to his fellow, “then he will not be like Herod the tyrant; he will remember the manger and feel for the poor; poor helpless infant, I feel a love for him even now, what miserable accommodation this cold world yields its Savior; it is not a Caesar that is born today; he will never trample down our fields with his armies, or slaughter our flocks for his courtiers, he will be the poor man’s friend, the people’s monarch; according to the words of our shepherd-king, he shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save the children of the needy.”

To invite the lowliest to come to him

We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger… Never could there be a being more approachable than Christ. No rough guards pushed poor petitioners away; no array of officious friends were allowed to keep off the importunate widow or the man who clamored that his son might be made whole; the hem of his garment was always trailing where sick folk could reach it, and he himself had a hand always ready to touch the disease, an ear to catch the faintest accents of misery, a soul going forth everywhere in rays of mercy, even as the light of the sun streams on every side beyond that orb itself. By being laid in a manger he proved himself a priest taken from among men, one who has suffered like his brethren, and therefore can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities.

To show the freeness of his person to all who come

He had not to purchase admittance to the caravanserai, for it was free to all, and the stable especially so. Now, beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ was born in the stable of the inn to show how free he is to all comers. The Gospel is preached to every creature and shuts out none… Class exclusions are unknown here, and the prerogatives of caste are not acknowledged. No forms of etiquette are required in entering a stable; it cannot be an offense to enter the stable of a public caravanserai. So, if you desire to come to Christ you may come to him just as you are; you may come now. Whosoever among you hath the desire in his heart to trust Christ is free to do it. Jesus is free to you; he will receive you; he will welcome you with gladness, and to show this, I think, the young child was cradled in a manger.

To give himself even to those turned into beasts by sin

I believe our Lord was laid in the manger where the beasts were fed, to show that even beast-like men may come to him and live. No creature can be so degraded that Christ cannot lift it up. Fall it may, and seem to fall most certainly to hell, but the long and strong arm of Christ can reach it even in its most desperate degradation; he can bring it up from apparently hopeless ruin. If there be one who has strolled in here this morning whom society abhors, and who abhors himself, my Master in the stable with the beasts presents himself as able to save the vilest of the vile, and to accept the worst of the worst even now. Believe on him and he will make thee a new creature.

To warn us about turning away from Christ

But as Christ was laid where beasts were fed, you will please to recollect that after he was gone beasts fed there again. It was only his presence which could glorify the manger, and here we learn that if Christ were taken away the world would go back to its former heathen darkness. Civilisation itself would die out, at least that part of it which really civilizes man, if the religion of Jesus could be extinguished. If Christ were taken away from the human heart, the most holy would become debased again, and those who claim kinship with angels would soon prove that they have relationship to devils. The manger, I say, would be a manger for beasts still, if the Lord of Glory were withdrawn, and we should go back to our sins and our lusts if Christ should once take away his grace and leave us to ourselves.



“A Symbol of the Invisible”: Spurgeon’s Teaching on Animals

By / Nov 15

This is part two of a series on Spurgeon’s teaching on animals. See Part 1 here.


Perhaps the primary feature of Spurgeon’s thinking on animals is in using the animal world to illustrate spiritual truths. This can be seen particularly in his sermons. During a lecture to his students on preaching, Spurgeon once provided this basis for using sermon illustrations from nature:

There is a certain type of thought which God has followed in all things. What he made with his Word has a similarity to the Word itself by which he made it; and the visible is the symbol of the invisible, because the same thought of God runs through it all. There is a touch of the divine finger in all that God has made; so that the things which are apparent to our senses have certain resemblances to the things which do not appear. That which can be seen, and tasted, and touched, and handled, is meant to be to us the outward and visible sign of a something which we find in the Word of God, and in our spiritual experience, which is the inward and the spiritual grace; so that there is nothing forced and unnatural in bringing nature to illustrate grace; it was ordained of God for that very purpose. Range over the whole of creation for your similes; do not confine yourself to any particular branch of natural history… vary the instruction by stories, and anecdotes, and similes, and metaphors drawn from geology, astronomy, botany, or any of the other sciences which will help to shed a side light upon the Scriptures.

If you keep your eyes open, you will not see even a dog following his master, nor a mouse peeping up from his hole, nor will you hear even a gentle scratching behind the wainscot without getting something to weave into your sermons if your faculties are all on the alert.[1]

During a time when preaching tended to be intellectual and dry, Spurgeon was famous for his memorable and down-to-earth illustrations. As one biographer observed, “Mr. Spurgeon abounds in illustrations – illustrations gathered chiefly from nature.”[2] However, Spurgeon’s use of these illustrations was not merely pragmatic. Rather, in the quote above, Spurgeon gives a theological basis for using these illustrations from nature.

Spurgeon believed that the natural world was particularly suited for illustrating the spiritual world because both came from God. “The same thought of God runs through it all.” In other words, the visible, physical world is a reflection or an expression of God’s character and will. Therefore, “there is nothing forced and unnatural in bringing nature to illustrate grace; it was ordained of God for that very purpose.”

Now, to be clear, Spurgeon held to the inspiration and sole authority of the Holy Scriptures. These outward, visible signs did not illustrate a truth separate from or contrary to Scripture, but only that “which we find in the Word of God.” If someone were to interpret the natural world as proclaiming a message different from Scripture, Spurgeon would reject this as a misinterpretation. Natural revelation was ultimately not sufficient to replace special revelation. But for those whose minds have been regenerated by the Spirit and the gospel, natural revelation can serve as an aide to Scripture, shedding a “side light” to help illuminate its teaching.[3]

Animals Revealing Something About God

Spurgeon often used the animal world to teach his people about the nature and character of God. Though God is infinite and unknowable, the Creator can be partially revealed by contrasting him with his finite creatures. For example, regarding God’s aseity, Spurgeon declares, “God is the only self-existent Being… All else of nature is continually borrowing; vegetables draw their nourishment from the soil, animals from them, or from one another, [and] man from all.”[4] Even as man observes the dependence of animals on the world around them, he is reminded that God alone is self-existent, and therefore, He alone is worthy of praise.

Likewise, the animal world reveals the sovereign wisdom of the Creator. As Victorian scientists made advances in their study of the animal world, this opened whole new vistas into God’s wisdom. One example of this was in the study of ecosystems.

So beautiful is the order of nature, that we cannot want only destroy a race of little birds without suffering from their removal. When the small birds were killed in France, by the peasantry, who supposed that they ate the corn, the caterpillars came and devoured the crops. Man made a defect in an otherwise perfect circle; he took away one of the wheels which God had made, and the machine did not work perfectly; but let it alone, and no jars or grindings will occur, for all animals know their time and place, and fulfill the end of their being.[5]

As science has revealed, all the intricate details of the natural world are intentional, from small birds to caterpillars, and all function in their place according to God’s wisdom. Spurgeon uses this point to illustrate God’s sovereignty not only in nature but over our lives. For the Christian, God’s wisdom and sovereignty should inspire great hope and patience even “when you thought it was all confusion.”

The animal world also reveals something of God’s wisdom and patience in teaching his creatures all of their varied skills and instincts.

God not only teaches beasts, he also teaches fish, and I never heard of any man who could teach a fish as God does. The fishes of the sea know exactly the day of the month when they ought to begin to go round the English coast; and the herrings and the mackerel come exactly to the time, though nobody rings the bell to say to them, “It is such a day of the week, and such a month of the year; and you ought to swim away.” When the time comes for them to go back again, away they go, and they seem to understand everything that they should do. If God can teach even the fish of the sea, what a wise Teacher he must be![6]

Spurgeon refuses to attribute animal behaviors simply to natural, evolutionary forces. Instead, he envisions a God closely involved with his creatures, instructing them in everything they do. And if this is true for herrings and mackerel and all the other creatures, how much more should people made in the image of God be taught by Him? Spurgeon’s point in this illustration was to encourage his hearers to go to God as the great Teacher of their souls.[7]

Finally, the animal world also reveals God’s powerful and gracious beneficence toward his creatures. Reflecting on Psalm 104:28, Spurgeon writes,

THIS sentence describes the commissariat of creation. The problem is the feeding of “the creeping things innumerable, both small and great beasts,” which swarm the sea, the armies of birds which fill the air, and the vast hordes of animals which people the dry land; and in this sentence we have the problem solved, “That thou givest them they gather.” The work is stupendous, but it is done with ease because the Worker is infinite; if he were not at the head of it, the task would never be accomplished. Blessed be God for the great Thou- of the text. It is every way our sweetest consolation that the personal God is still at work in the world: leviathan in the ocean, and the sparrow on the bough, may be alike glad of this, and we, the children of the great Father, much more.[8]

Once again, he marvels at God’s intimate involvement with the animal world, feeding “the vast hordes” of creatures in every part of the world. For any human to attempt such a task would be impossible. But God does it day after day, as a comforting reminder to His children that “the personal God is still at work in the world.” As those who are prone to worry and to doubt God’s goodness, we must remember that “He who cares for birds and insects will surely care for men.”[9] In these and many other examples, Spurgeon turns to the animal world to reveal something of the power and goodness of God.


This paper was presented at the Andrew Fuller Center Conference in May 2021You can read the rest of the presentation here.


[1] Spurgeon, The Art of Illustration, 63.

[2] William Walters, Life and Ministry of the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon (London: Walter Scott, 1882), 261.

[3] “The works of creation are pictures to the children of God of the secret mysteries of grace. God’s truths are the apples of gold, and the visible creatures are the baskets of silver” MTP 8:109.

[4] Autobiography 1:322.

[5] MTP 52:98-99.

[6] MTP 57:484.

[7] “God is a needful Teacher. It is really necessary that every one of us should be taught of God; for, if we are not, somebody else will teach us, and that somebody else will so teach us that we shall lose our souls for ever.” Ibid.

[8] MTP 55:289.

[9] MTP 17:392.



Spurgeon: A Fighter and a Lover

By / Nov 2

Charles Spurgeon should not be interpreted as a theological sadist, deriving pleasure from pummeling his doctrinal opponents. That he was a notable defender of the faith, is without question. He fought against baptismal regeneration and the undermining of essential evangelical doctrines, which he saw as threats to the gospel. He was outspoken and took strong stands on many issues, but his primary target was false teachings that tinkered with the fundamentals of the faith, doctrines such as the deity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, and the reality and horrors of Hell. Beyond that, he enjoyed a rather broad communion with fellow gospel-lovers with whom he disagreed on secondary or tertiary doctrines. If one loved and treasured the gospel, Spurgeon claimed him as a friend.

Spurgeon fearlessly defended truth while displaying gospel unity. One example is evident in his book review of The Doctrines of Annihilation and Universalism, viewed in the Light of Reason, Analogy, and Revelation by Thomas Wood of the Wesleyan Conference. Spurgeon writes, “part of his [Wood’s] argument bears hard upon Calvinists, but we can very well endure all that he can say on that point, and yet thank him for service rendered in slaying the deadly error.” Spurgeon was a Calvinist. Wood was Arminian. Significant differences stand between Calvinism and Arminianism. Spurgeon even closely equated Calvinism with the gospel. That said, even with his high regard for Calvinistic theology, he was most concerned about the “deadly error” which undermined the gospel. In fighting the serious errors of annihilation and universalism, he was one with his fellow gospel advocate, Thomas Wood.

Spurgeon valued Wood’s book, finding essential agreement with its main arguments. To deny eternal punishment for the wicked was to cut at the heart of the gospel that saves men from such judgment. Spurgeon, the Calvinist, understood the stakes and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Thomas Wood, the Arminian, in opposing damnable heresy.

Reflecting on Wood’s book Spurgeon wrote,

The new doctrines have certainly gone tolerable lengths now, and from annihilation to restoration has been a mere foot-race. We expect soon to hear that the ungodly are to be exalted at once to heaven, and the righteous sent to outer darkness. Why not? All the sympathies of our modern divines are with the unbelieving; the gospel which they preach to them is, ‘doubt and be saved,’ and therefore we may naturally look for a heaven prepared for loose thinkers, who are so brave as to despise all creeds and believe in nothing whatever. The blameworthy folks would seem to be those simple people who believe in plenary inspiration, who feel sin to be a terrible evil, and who therefore believe in eternal punishment: to such narrow-minded bigots our liberal modern thinkers award a place more hot than heavenly. Everybody is received as a Christian nowadays by the Broad School except those who are so in deed and of a truth.

The Broad School included those who were embarrassed by old orthodoxy and who were intoxicated by intellectualism and worldly favor. Such required them to position themselves as more cultured and intellectual than bumpkins who still believed in antiquated theology, communicated in evangelical certainties expressed in the historic creeds and confessions. These Broad School men were, Spurgeon argued,

  1. More sympathetic to the broadmindedness of unbelievers than to simple people who accepted old settled orthodox views. 
  2. Proclaimers of a gospel of doubt which they preached to unbelievers. Doubt was a virtue to the “Broad School.” Dripping with sarcasm, Spurgeon wrote that their “heaven [is] prepared for loose thinkers who are so brave as to despise all creeds and believe in nothing whatever.” 
  3. Elitists who despised “simple people who believe in plenary inspiration, who feel sin to be a terrible evil, and who therefore believe in eternal punishment.”
  4. Proud of their broadness of thought, imagining that everybody was a Christian except those who held historically accepted doctrines that were articulated and defended in creeds and confessions. 

Clearly, Spurgeon was a fighter; he fought earnestly for the faith.

We do not claim to be unsectarian, if by this be meant the absence of all distinctive principles, and a desire to please parties of all shades of opinion. We believe and therefore speak. We speak in love, but not in soft words and trimming sentences. We shall not court controversy, but we shall not shun it when the cause of Christ demands it.”

Spurgeon was solidly on the side of “simple people who believed in plenary inspiration” and the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. And he was willing to align himself in battles for truth with gospel-loving Christians such as Thomas Wood, with whom he differed on important but somewhat lesser matters. Spurgeon was a fighter and a lover. In this, he is instructive to us on where and how to draw battle lines.


Ray Rhodes, Jr. is the author of Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon and Yours, till Heaven, both from Moody Publishers. He is also the author of the upcoming (2024) biography of Charles Haddon Spurgeon from Broadman and Holman Academic Publishers. Follow Ray on Twitter @susiespurgeon1, Facebook @susiespurgeonbook, Instagram @Spurgeonbook, and at www.rayrhodesjr.com. Email Ray at btnpub@gmail.com.



Spurgeon’s Associationalism after the Downgrade Controversy

By / Oct 25

Throughout his ministry, Spurgeon was a champion of Baptist associationalism. While he believed in the congregational autonomy of each local church, Spurgeon gladly partnered with other Baptist churches for the cause of missions, evangelism, and church planting. So he reinvigorated the London Baptist Association, often hosting and chairing meetings. He became active in the Baptist Union, contributing to its growth throughout the 19th century. His church also supported and sent out workers through numerous evangelistic and missionary societies. This kind of associationalism would carry on throughout his ministry. But in the Downgrade Controversy, all of that would seemingly change.

In the Downgrade Controversy, Spurgeon took a stand in the Baptist Union against the infiltration of a new kind of theology. Advocates of this theology claimed to be teaching an updated, modern version of Christianity. But Spurgeon believed they were teaching an entirely different religion.

A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching. The Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of Scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into fiction, and the resurrection into a myth, and yet these enemies of our faith expect us to call them brethren, and maintain a confederacy with them!

While some evangelicals felt that they could continue to work with such people, Spurgeon believed that to remain in association with them was to compromise the gospel. After all, how could churches work together for evangelism, missions, and church planting when they didn’t even agree on the gospel? On October 1887, Spurgeon resigned from the Baptist Union, and he would soon also resign from the London Baptist Association and all other associations that had no clear evangelical statement of faith. For this, Spurgeon would be publicly rebuked by the Baptist Union, and many of his friends would turn on him. This event proved to be one of the greatest heartaches of his life. Though some hoped for restoration, his breach with the Baptist Union was never healed.

In retelling the story of the Downgrade Controversy, some have argued that Spurgeon entirely gave up on all formal associations. R. J. Sheehan writes, “Spurgeon saw the way ahead as an informal alliance of those separatists that desired fellowship. Nothing organized or formal was desired or envisaged.” Additionally, such informal associations “[should not be] limited to one strand of evangelical thought.” [1] In other words, according to Sheehan, Spurgeon believed that if any associations were to exist, they should be informal, and they should not focus on second-tier distinctives (i.e. baptism, church government, etc…), but only on gospel orthodoxy.  

But was this really Spurgeon’s position?

The Fraternal Union

Sheehan gives evidence of such a position in the formation of a pastors’ fraternal in London after the Downgrade Controversy.[2] Led by Spurgeon and Archibald Brown, seven evangelical pastors began to meet together for mutual encouragement, prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. Over time, they would invite other like-minded pastors across all denominations to join their group, so that eventually, 30 pastors belonged to this fraternal.  

However, these pastors were not content to merely leave this as an informal gathering. They decided to go public and articulate their convictions. In 1891, they released the following confession of faith:

We, the undersigned, banded together in Fraternal Union, observing with growing pain and sorrow the loosening hold of many upon the Truths of Revelation, are constrained to avow our firmest belief in the Verbal Inspiration of all Holy Scripture as originally given. To us, the Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, but is the Word of God. From beginning to end, we accept it, believe it, and continue to preach it. To us, the Old Testament is no less inspired than the New. The Book is an organic whole. Reverence for the New Testament accompanied by scepticism as to the Old appears to us absurd. The two must stand or fall together. We accept Christ’s own verdict concerning “Moses and all the prophets” in preference to any of the supposed discoveries of so-called higher criticism.

We hold and maintain the truths generally known as “the doctrines of grace.” The Electing Love of God the Father, the Propitiatory and Substitutionary Sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, Regeneration by the Holy Ghost, the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness, the Justification of the sinner (once for all) by faith, his walk in newness of life and growth in grace by the active indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and the Priestly Inter­ cession of our Lord Jesus, as also the hopeless perdition of all who reject the Saviour, according to the words of the Lord in Matt. xxv. 46, “These shall go away into eternal punishment,”—are, in our judgment, revealed and fundamental truths.

Our hope is the Personal Pre-millennial Return of the Lord Jesus in glory.

This confession was published in the newspapers (with no small controversy) as a public declaration to the world that historic Christianity had not yet died, but was still being held by pastors throughout the city. Sheehan cites the example of the Fraternal Union as an example of an informal association. Yet, this group was formal enough to release a public confession of faith and to closely limit her membership to those who held to it.

The Surrey and Middlesex Association

After leaving the Baptist Union, people asked Spurgeon if he would ever consider joining another Baptist association. Spurgeon made it clear that he would not join any that was still connected to the Baptist Union. But by the summer of 1888, Spurgeon learned that the Surrey and Middlesex Association was also planning on leaving the Baptist Union. Writing to a friend, Spurgeon confided that he would “probably unite with it.” He was encouraged to know that “this will be an Association outside of the Union, sound in doctrine.” In this regional association, Spurgeon had hopes that it would be “the nucleus of a fresh Union,” drawing more theologically like-minded churches together.

Eventually, the Surrey and Middlesex Association did leave the Baptist Union, and on October 30, 1888, Spurgeon applied for membership, “I feel that I can endorse your principles… I apply for personal membership with you on the belief that you are not a part of the Baptist Union.”

In addition to not being a part of the Union, the association had a robust evangelical statement of faith.

Surrey and Middlesex Statement of Faith

Declaration

That among the truths believed and held by the Churches comprising this Association, the following are entitled to special enumeration:

1. The Divine inspiration of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and their absolute sufficiency as the only authorized guide in matters of religion.

2. The existence of three equal persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

3. Eternal and personal election to holiness here, and eternal life hereafter.

4. The depraved and lost state of mankind.

5. The atoning efficacy and vicarious nature of the death of Christ.

6. Free justification by his imputed righteousness. The necessity and efficacy of the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion and sanctification.

7. The final preservation of the saints.

8. The duty of all men to whom the Gospel is made known to believe and receive it.

9. The spirituality of the Kingdom of Christ, and His supreme authority as sole Head of the Church.

10. The resurrection of the dead, both the just and the unjust.

11. The general judgment.

12. The eternal happiness of the righteous, and the eternal misery of such as die impenitent.

On May 5, 1890, Spurgeon would also lead the Metropolitan Tabernacle in joining the Surrey and Middlesex Association. With Spurgeon presiding, the church minutes record that Deacon Buswell made the case that “in the interest of the Church, as [a] source of strength to the Association, this Church should be affiliated.” So the congregation passed the following resolution: “Resolved: that this Church do apply for admission to the Surrey and Middlesex Association.” In one sense, the Metropolitan Tabernacle did not need an association. She was a mega-church and had resources for every kind of ministry that was needed. And yet, the church was convinced that she did not exist only for her own prosperity, but also to see other churches strengthened. Joining this Baptist association would allow the Metropolitan Tabernacle to be a “source of strength” for other gospel-preaching Baptist churches.

Later that spring, Spurgeon would speak at the Surrey and Middlesex Associational meeting on May 21, 1889, and at that meeting, he and his church would be elected members. He would speak again at the Associational meeting in 1890, drawing large crowds and new applicants to the association. Though his time in the Association was brief, he was able to strengthen their work during this critical period, and the Metropolitan Tabernacle would continue to be involved after his passing.

The Pastors’ College Evangelical Association

Throughout his life, Spurgeon had invested in the Pastors’ College, not only training men but building a network of like-minded, Baptist pastors and churches. But this network would also be rocked by the events of the Downgrade Controversy.

In the spring of 1888, Spurgeon presented a new Declaration of Faith to the graduates of the Pastors’ College. At their annual meeting, he resigned his office as the president of the Pastors’ College Conference and sought to reform their conference as the Pastors’ College Evangelical Association, under the new Declaration of Faith. This declaration stated:

We, as a body of men, believe in the “doctrine of grace,’ what are popularly styled Calvinistic views (though we by no means bind ourselves to the teaching of Calvin, or any other uninspired man), but we do not regard as vital to our fellowship any exact agreement upon all the disputed points of any system, yet we feel that we could not receive into this our union any who do not unfeignedly believe that salvation is all of the free grace of God from first to last, and is not according to human merit, but by the undeserved favour of God. We believe in the eternal purpose of the Father, the finished redemption of the Son, and the effectual work of the Holy Ghost.

1. The Divine inspiration, authority, and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures.

2. The right and duty of private judgment in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, and the need of the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to a true and spiritual understanding of them.

3. The unity of the Godhead and the Trinity of the persons therein, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

4. The true and proper Godhead of our Lord Jesus, and his real and perfect manhood.

5. The utter depravity of human nature in consequence of the Fall, which Fall is no fable nor metaphor, but a literal and sadly practical fact.

6. The substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which alone sin is taken away, and sinners are saved.

7. The offices of our Lord as Prophet, Priest and King, and as the one Mediator between God and man.

8. The justification of the sinner by faith alone, through the blood and righteousness of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

9. The work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and preservation of the saved.

10. The immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the judgment of the world by our Lord Jesus, which judgment will be final, according to the words of the Great Judge: “These shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

11. The Divine institution of the Christian ministry, and the obligation and perpetuity of the ordinances of Believers’ Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

We utterly abhor the idea of a new Gospel or an additional revelation, or a shifting rule of faith to be adapted to the ever-changing spirit of the age. In particular we assert that the notion of probation after death, and the ultimate restitution of condemned spirits, is so unscriptural and un-protestant and so unknown to all Baptist Confessions of Faith, and draws with it such consequences, that we are bound to condemn it, and to regard it one with which we can hold no fellowship.

The vote for this new declaration and the new formation of the Pastors’ College Evangelical Association was 432 out of 496. This was a clear victory, but not without controversy.  The ‘Nays’ continue to voice their protest and threatened to force their way into the membership. As the year went on, Spurgeon would learn of more defections. At least 80 of his men rejected the declaration and supported the Baptist Union. Spurgeon wrote to a friend, “I have been sorely wounded and thought I would quite break down, but the Lord has revived me and I shall yet see his truth victorious. 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.”

Despite these heartaches, the Pastors’ College network would continue through the newly formed Pastors’ College Evangelical Association. As an association working for church planting and pastoral training, it was important to affirm not only primary gospel doctrines (articles 1-10) but also secondary ecclesiological convictions (article 11). Amid the battle for gospel fidelity, Spurgeon believed that the work of training pastors and planting healthy churches was vital for the defense and advancement of the gospel.

We, being assured of the gospel, go on to prove its working character. More than ever must we cause the light of the Word to shine forth… If sinners are converted…, and the churches are maintained in purity, unity, and zeal, evangelical principles will be supplied with their best arguments. A ministry which, year by year, builds up a living church, and arms it with a complete array of evangelistic and benevolent institutions, will do more by way of apology for the gospel than the most learned pens, or the most labored orations.[3]

Conclusion

As Lewis Drummond writes, following the events of the Downgrade Controversy, “Spurgeon and his Metropolitan Tabernacle were not Independent Baptists, as some would like to emphasize.”[4] It is true that Spurgeon did not join another Baptist association right away after his resignation from the Baptist Union in 1887. Even as others asked him about this, he waited to see how this controversy would play out. But as the leader of the Pastors’ College Conference, he reformed that association in the spring of 1888 under clear evangelical convictions. One would think that such an association would have been sufficient. But Spurgeon wanted to be involved with Baptists beyond his own circles. So, in 1889, he and his church joined the Surrey and Middlesex Association, seeking to strengthen the hand of Baptists throughout the region.

Even after the Downgrade Controversy, Spurgeon clearly remained committed to Baptist associationalism. What changed, however, was his conviction that all such associations require a confessional basis, the affirmation of a clearly articulated, evangelical declaration of faith as the basis for membership in the association – from regional Baptist associations to church-planting or pastoral training institutions, all the way down to a pastors’ fraternal. The importance of this lesson remains for our day.


[1] R. J. Sheehan, C. H. Spurgeon and the Modern Church, 120-121. Many thanks to Andrew King for pointing this out to me. To learn more about his work to promote gospel-centered Baptist associations in the UK, see https://gracebaptists.org/.

[2] S&T 1891: 446-447.

[3] S&T 1890:3.

[4] Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon, 708-711.



Spurgeon, the Sending Pastor

By / Sep 27

In the spring of 1861, the newly-constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle opened for services. This magnificent building in London was constructed debt-free and provided a home for the thousands who were coming week after week to hear pastor Charles Spurgeon. But even as Spurgeon celebrated the new meeting space, he was also burdened by a massive spiritual need that existed far beyond London. Preaching in March of 1861, Spurgeon declared,

At this very moment China is open to Christian enterprise… Now, I do honestly avow, if this place had not been built, and I had had nothing beyond the narrow bounds of the place in which I have lately preached, I should have felt in my conscience bound to go to learn the language and preach the Word there; but I now know what to do. I must here abide, for this is my place; but I would to God some were found in the Church, some in London, who have not such a gracious tie as this to keep them in their own land…

Again, in the following month, Spurgeon repeated the same concern,

I have made it a solemn question whether I might not testify in China or India the grace of Jesus, and in the sight of God I have answered it. I solemnly feel that my position in England will not permit my leaving the sphere in which I now am, or else tomorrow I would offer myself as a missionary.

Even as he and his congregation and the broader evangelical community had just built a beautiful new building devoted to his preaching ministry, Spurgeon was wrestling with this important question: Why should he stay? Why shouldn’t he spend his life preaching among those who have no access to the gospel? As he prayed and discerned God’s providence, Spurgeon was convinced that God had called him to pastor this church and continue preaching from the heart of the British empire.

But even if he could not go, Spurgeon would do all he could to mobilize other workers for the harvest. How did he do that? Here are three ways:

Preaching a big vision of God and his victory

Week after week, Spurgeon confronted his congregation with a big vision of God. God’s glory as revealed in Jesus Christ deserved not only the praise of English-speaking people but people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Not only that, but Spurgeon showed from Scripture that the day is coming when all nations will bow in worship before God.

God hath gotten unto himself the victory over false gods, and taught their worshippers that he is God, and that beside him there is none else. Are there gods still worshipped, or idols before which the nations bow themselves? Wait but a little while, and ye shall see them fall. Cruel Juggernaut, whose ear still crushes in its motion the foolish ones who throw themselves before it, shall yet be the object of derision, and the most noted idols, such as Budha and Brahma, and Vishnu, shall yet stoop themselves to the earth, and men shall tread them down as mire in the streets; for God will teach all men that he is God, and that there is none else.

Christ’s victory over the nations is guaranteed. Therefore, missions is not some fanciful, hopeless task. No, missions is the church’s privilege. Christians on this side of the cross have the opportunity to play a part in the work that God is doing to call the nations to himself.

Jesus Christ said there will be many that will come from the east and from the west. There will be a multitude from that far off land of China, for God is doing a great work there, and we hope that the gospel will yet be victorious in that land. There will be a multitude from this western land of England; from the western country beyond the sea, in America; and from the south, in Australia; and from the north, in Canada, Siberia, and Russia. From the uttermost parts of the earth there shall come many to sit down in the kingdom of God.

Preaching the gospel and clarifying missions

Week after week, Spurgeon presented the gospel powerfully and clearly to his people, and this message clarified what the task of missions is. Missions is bringing the gospel cross-culturally to people without the gospel and seeing a gospel witness (i.e., local church) established in that place. In his day, many Christians confused missions with British imperialism. Spurgeon declared,

I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel. The gospel will proceed without them, but never through them. “Not by might.” Now don’t be be fooled again, if you hear of the English conquering in China, don’t go down on your knees and thank God for it, and say it’s such a heavenly thing for the spread of the gospel—it just is not. Experience teaches you that, and if you look upon the map you will find I have stated only the truth, that where our arms have been victorious, the gospel has been hindered rather than not.

Though some argued that these wars were paving a way for the gospel, Spurgeon did not believe that the ends justified the means. Such violence actually undermined the message of the gospel and made things more difficult for subsequent Western missionaries. Instead, the gospel that Spurgeon preached every week called the nations not to war, but to repentance and trust in the Prince of Peace.

Preaching a call to missions and helping people discern it

Spurgeon regularly pointed his people to the unique opportunities of their time. Even as he spoke out against the oppression of British imperialism and the wars of nations in foreign lands, he also recognized that these world events created new opportunities for Christians to take the gospel abroad. These opportunities were a stewardship for the Christians of his day.

We are at this time blessing God that great doors have been opened for the spread of the gospel. Hindostan, China, Japan, many lands we hope shall soon be visited by the Christian missionary. But are we not conscious that our opportunities are greater than our strength? Must not the Christian church confess that she has now a greater field, but she has, perhaps, fewer laborers than ever? The harvest is greater, but the laborers are fewer.

Therefore, Spurgeon called every Christian not only to pray but also to consider the missionary call for themselves. “Has God called me to the mission field?” Just as Spurgeon wrestled with this question, so should every Christian.

“Well,” says a young man, “I have been arguing with myself whether I should go.” I will tell you another thing to argue. Take it for granted that you ought to go unless you can prove that you should not. Every Christian man is bound to give himself to the Master’s work in that department which most needs him, and that is foreign missions, unless he can prove to his own satisfaction that he ought not, and that he has not the gift. I wish that could be learned by our men. You want a call to the ministry. I believe that is right, but those who can speak well ought rather to try and show that they are not bound to preach, and if they can show that they are excused; but they ought to go through that process first. You are bound, brother, unless you can show that God in his providence has utterly prevented you.

At the same time, Spurgeon knew that mere ambition was not enough. The church also had to role to play in discerning the call. Many young men in his congregation admired the stories of Judson and Carey and pictured themselves preaching heroically to natives as tears streamed down their cheeks. They would come to Spurgeon ready to be sent out, and here’s how he would respond:

I have no wish to discourage them, but a great desire to try the genuineness of the call. I therefore say, “Yes, there is an excellent street-corner down the Old Kent Road, or away by Finsbury Square; go and try your abilities next Sunday.” Very frequently the task is declined. Do you believe that a crowd of Hindoos are more accessible to the gospel than a company of Englishmen? You are very greatly mistaken if you do… Do not fall into a spiritual Don Quixotism, and neglect usefulness within your reach in order to dream over imaginary wonders of heroism. If you feel a call to India, seek to prove it by working successfully at home first, for India stands in no need of men who would be useless in England.

In calling all Christians to missions and coming alongside them in discerning the call, Spurgeon sought to mobilize gifted, qualified workers for the mission field.

Conclusion

Though Spurgeon never became a missionary, his nearly 40-year ministry in London would mobilize men and women for the harvest and produce missionary efforts a hundredfold beyond what he could have done alone. Pastors and churches today have the same task in front of us: to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. How will you be faithful to the Great Commission?



Spurgeon Library Update – Fall 2022

By / Sep 20

The 2022-23 academic year has begun at Midwestern Seminary, and at the Spurgeon Library, we are excited about the year ahead. As a new feature on spurgeon.org, we would like to provide occasional updates on the work that is happening here.

Recent Publications

In August, we saw the release of Spurgeon the Pastor. My goal for this book was to provide a conversation partner in C. H. Spurgeon for those who serve in church ministry, and it has been encouraging to hear good feedback from pastors and church leaders around the world. If you’re interested in learning more about it, here are a few resources:

Also in September, we saw the release of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 7. With the publication of this volume, this 10-year project of publishing Spurgeon’s earliest sermons has come to an end. Along with the New Park Street Pulpit and the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, we now have 40 years’ worth of sermons from the Prince of Preachers, from his humble beginnings in 1851 as a village preacher to his death in 1892 as the greatest preacher of his generation. Learn more here:

Upcoming Publication

We have a number of projects in the works here at the Spurgeon Library. I want to tell you about our latest one. We have in our collection a one-of-a-kind, handwritten notebook. Like all of our other books, it contains the bookplate confirming it belonged to Spurgeon. But there’s no title page. The only attribution is what is written on the spine: “Poems ~ Spurgeon”

Having researched the content of this notebook, we are convinced that this volume is exactly what the spine says it is: a collection of 186 unpublished poems written by Spurgeon, likely copied and compiled by one of his associates after his death. While Spurgeon was known to be a hymn-writer and poet, these poems are unlike anything else that he published. Rather than being for public consumption, these poems were written as personal reflections and devotional exercises. As such, they reveal something of his private spiritual life in a way that is different from any of his other writings.

This project, then, will be a collection of all of Spurgeon’s poetry, both this notebook and all his published poems and hymns. We’ve tentatively titled it Pilgrim Prayers: The Poems of C. H. Spurgeon. Once again, we have the privilege of partnering with B&H Academic to bring this project to life. Our hope is that this volume will be a helpful devotional resource for the church, pointing Christians to the glory of Christ and the hope of our salvation. Look for it in the spring of 2023.

Digital Library

Last year, we digitized Spurgeon’s complete set of The Sword and the Trowel from 1861-1892 and added them to our digital library.

This fall, the Spurgeon Library assistants are scanning Spurgeon’s seven-volume set of The Treasury of David. This is a particularly interesting set as it once belonged to Spurgeon and so contain his own markings, underlinings, corrections, and marginalia. Be on the lookout for these volumes being available soon on Spurgeon.org!

Visiting the Spurgeon Library

As a reminder, the Spurgeon Library is open Monday through Friday, 11 AM to 4:30 PM, when on-campus classes are in session. This fall, we will be closed on the following dates:

  • October 10-14 – Fall Reading Week
  • November 21-25 – Thanksgiving Week

What if you were hoping to visit on a day we’re closed? Feel free to contact us, and we’ll see if we can make special arrangements for a visit.

When you come, feel free to ask one of the assistants at the front desk for a brief tour. Be sure to leave some time to look around and explore the various books and artifacts that we have on display. If you love books and church history, there is much for you to see!

Tea Time with Spurgeon

Tea Time with Spurgeon is starting once again! We will be meeting on Thursdays at noon beginning on September 15. Weather permitting, we will meet in the courtyard next to the Spurgeon Library, so feel free to bring food and drinks.



Christ Is Precious

By / Sep 12

Public speaking is hard. Extemporaneous speaking is even harder. But then again, on any given day, we find ourselves speaking spontaneously about the things that we love: a favorite sports team, a fun memory, a movie we recently enjoyed, and more. Perhaps the secret to extemporaneous speaking is simply to speak on a subject that you love. This is how Spurgeon ended up preaching his very first sermon.

On a Saturday afternoon in the winter of 1850-51, sixteen-year-old Charles Spurgeon learned that he was going to be preaching for the first time in his life that day. He had been invited to accompany a friend to encourage him as he was going to preach in a service in the village of Teversham. But on the way there, they both learned they had been told the same thing! The friend was expecting Charles to preach. And if Charles wasn’t going to preach, then there wasn’t going to be a service, because he certainly wasn’t going to preach. Well, at that point, Charles decided to go for it. And he would preach on a subject he knew well. He wrote in his Autobiography,

It seemed to me that I could surely tell a few poor cottagers of the sweetness and love of Jesus, for I felt them in my own soul. Praying for Divine help, I resolved to make the attempt. My text should be, “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious,” and I would trust the Lord to open my mouth in honor of His dear Son.

And so, young Charles preached his very first sermon, from 1 Peter 2:7a, meditating on the preciousness of Christ. We can get a flavor of what that sermon might have sounded like as he preached on this text again just a couple of years later. This is what he wrote down in his sermon notes:

Now what need is there to enlarge this point, we know that Christ is precious! I will merely give some meditations on it.

Subpoint 1. My Christ is more precious than anything my fellow creatures love.

I see some who live in palaces, wear crowns, live on dainties, sit on thrones. I have heard of Alexanders, Napoleons and Caesars, but I envy them not. Christ is more precious than dominion.

I see others rich, they frown on me. They are groaning after more. They are afraid to use what they have, they have many cares. They must leave it all. They may lose it all, but Christ is better. Shall I give up Christ for gold[?] No.

Christ is more precious than wealth.

Some men have nobler minds. They long for knowledge, they toil that they may measure the earth, survey the heavens, read the ancients, dissolve minerals etc., but Christ to me is better than learning.

Others pant for fame. I shall be forgotten, save by the few whose steps I guided in the path to heaven. But I weep not at that for he is more precious than fame.

Subpoint 2. He is more precious than anything I have myself.

If I have a home, and a fireside, and feel a comfort in them, yet if am called to suffer banishment I have a better home. Christ is better than home.

If I have relatives, mother, father, wife, children, these I value and rightly too. ‘Tis a bitter pang to lose them, but Christ is better than relatives or friends.

He is my Husband, my Brother, my Lover.

I have health, and a precious jewel that is. Take it away and pleasures lose their gloss, but my Jesus is mine still, and he is better than health.

Yea, life itself is valueless in comparison.

When I consider the glory of his nature, the excellence of his character, the greatness of his offices, the richness of his gifts, surely he is precious indeed.

If someone asked you, “Why do you follow Jesus? Why is Jesus precious to you?”, what would you say? In his notes, Charles begins by comparing Jesus with all those things this world admires (dominion, wealth, learning, fame). How often are we tempted to covet and fear these things! And yet we know they do not satisfy and will all pass away. What difference would it make in your life to see Christ as more precious than the world’s treasures?

But in Charles’ second point, we see that our knowledge of the preciousness of Christ is more personal than that. Though we might never acquire the world’s treasures, we do have our own personal treasures (home, relatives, friends, health). And yet, we are learning that Christ is better than these also.

It’s interesting to see Charles speaking of Christ being better than health. He was still young at this point, but throughout his adult life, he would face debilitating sickness and depression. But amid those sufferings, Christ remained his anchor. Charles also talks about Christ being better than friends. Towards the end of his ministry, Charles would take a stand for gospel orthodoxy, and many of his closest friends would turn on him. But even then, Christ is better than friends and even family.

What about you? Have you known Jesus to be precious to you personally, amid pain, loss, and disappointments? So often it is in these times that we learn that Christ is the only One on whom we can build our lives, and those who trust in him will never be put to shame.

You may never be asked to preach a sermon unexpectedly. But whatever your situation, may we always be ready to speak “of the sweetness and love of Jesus,” because we have come to know it for ourselves.


Learn more about Spurgeon’s earliest sermons in The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon.



The Waterbeach Pulpit – The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Vol. 7

By / Sep 1

It is easy to recount the story of C. H. Spurgeon’s arrival in London as a kind of Elijah story. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah comes on the scene suddenly with virtually no background information, and he goes on to play a pivotal role in Israel’s history. Likewise, many in Spurgeon’s day wondered at this young preacher’s origins. One paper described him as “a comet that has suddenly shot across the religious atmosphere.” But there was one group that was not at all surprised at Spurgeon’s success, namely his own congregation at Waterbeach.

When Spurgeon received the invitation to supply the pulpit in London, one of his deacons “shook his head, and remarked that… he always knew that his minister would be run away with by some large church or other.” Upon his return, his congregation “wept bitterly at the sight of [him],” knowing it was only a matter of time before his departure.

Prior to The Lost Sermons, the revival that took place in London under Spurgeon’s ministry was something of a mystery. How was this teenage preacher without a college education able to preach such powerful and eloquent sermons? But now, with the publication of the seven volumes of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, the veil has been pulled aside, revealing these formative years of Spurgeon’s ministry prior to London. Spurgeon was not a comet that came out of nowhere. His star was already burning brightly in Waterbeach.

During his pastorate there from 1851 to 1854, “it pleased God to turn the whole place upside down. In a short time, the little thatched chapel was crammed, the biggest vagabonds of the village were weeping floods of tears, and those who had been the curse of the parish became its blessing.” And as this volume reveals, the first sermons that Spurgeon preached in London were first preached in Waterbeach. In other words, revival came to Waterbeach, before it ever came to London.  

But even Spurgeon’s ministry in the Waterbeach years should not be imagined as an overnight success. Before he was known as the Prince of Preachers, Spurgeon first had to learn how to preach. Up to this point, The Lost Sermons have revealed an earnest young preacher, steeped in Puritan theology and maturing in his ability to handle Scripture and communicate it effectively. Undoubtedly, his congregation at times sat through sermons where they did not always track with the young preacher. Spurgeon’s own sense of his weakness and dependence on God are revealed in the prayers scribbled at the conclusion of every sermon. Nonetheless, every sermon was preparing Spurgeon for his future ministry. By the time, Spurgeon arrived in London, he had preached nearly 700 sermons, over a decade’s worth of preaching experience for a typical pastor.

Volume 7 of The Lost Sermons contains sermons that Spurgeon preached from the summer of 1853 to the fall of 1854. They encompass the last year of his pastorate in Waterbeach and the first year of his pastorate in London. These sermons also form a link to The New Park Street Pulpit, which began in January 1855. Together with The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, these three collections form an unbroken chain of 40 years’ worth of sermons from the greatest preacher of the 19th century. 

  • The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon – 399 sermons – Feb. 1851 to Fall 1854 
  • The New Park Street Pulpit – 347 sermons – Jan. 1855 to Nov. 1860 
  • The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit – 3,216 sermons – Dec. 1860 to Jan. 1892 

Excerpted with permission from The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume VII. Click here to learn more.



Spurgeon on Expositional Preaching

By / Aug 29

Spurgeon believed that the power of the pulpit lay not in the preacher, but in the Word of God. Therefore, he believed that preachers should preach expositional sermons. These were sermons that took a text of Scripture as their main theme and sought to explain and apply those texts to the people. Spurgeon did not forbid other kinds of sermons, but he charged pastors to make expositional preaching their main practice.           

When crafting a sermon, Spurgeon taught his students to stick closely to the text. Whatever doctrine or application they taught, their matter “must be congruous to the text.” They should avoid thrusting the text to the side to make room for their own ideas. Instead, “the discourse should spring out of the text as a rule.” This should be evident not only to the preacher but to all that listen. The more people can see that the preacher is speaking “plainly the very word of God,” the more the sermon comes “with far greater power to the consciences of hearers.”

Some have critiqued Spurgeon’s preaching and have wondered if he was really an expositional preacher. Perhaps in reading his devotions from Morning and Evening or working through one of his more typological sermons, some have found Spurgeon to be looser in his handling of the text than they’re used to. At least two things can be said in response.

First, Spurgeon’s expositional preaching was not about a style, but a commitment to rooting his sermons in the Word of God. Some associate expositional preaching with a certain style, particularly with verse-by-verse preaching. Spurgeon, however, cared less about style. He cared more about his preaching being rooted in God’s Word. Preaching was “not a lecture about the Scripture, but Scripture itself opened up and enforced.” Most of Spurgeon’s sermons covered a single verse. But on occasion, he also preached longer passages.

But regardless of style or length of passage, Spurgeon’s aim (and the aim of all expositional preaching) was to open and apply the Scriptures to his people.

Second, Spurgeon was not afraid to preach the overarching narrative and theology of Scripture. When preaching on a single verse, Spurgeon often used that verse as a lens through which he meditated on all of Scripture, both systematically and redemptive-historically. But even in doing so, he did not abandon the text but constrained his reflections by it. A careful reading of his sermons will show that his points are not random; they flow from the structure and content of the passage. Additionally, Spurgeon was mindful of the context of the passage, which he often incorporated in the Scripture reading. In planning the service, Spurgeon always looked for readings drawn from the context or related to the text. He also provided brief commentary as he read so that by the sermon, his people had some understanding of the context. This preparatory work in the text allowed him to go further and deeper in his preaching without losing the historical-grammatical context.

At the end of the day, whether he succeeded in preaching any given sermon expositionally can be debated. What is clear is that Spurgeon advocated such preaching and sought to do it himself. These are the kinds of sermons that should make up the bulk of a pastor’s preaching. “Although in many cases topical sermons are not only allowable, but very proper, those sermons which expound the exact words of the Holy Spirit are the most useful and the most agreeable to the major part of our congregations.”


Excerpted with permission from Spurgeon the Pastor by Geoff Chang. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.



“The Thermopylae of Christendom”: Spurgeon the Pastor and Preaching

By / Aug 22

Spurgeon’s pastoral ministry was more than just preaching. With so much to do, he envied Daniel Rowland who “would have nothing to do with the management of the church… He kept himself to his preaching, came in through a door in the back wall of the meeting-house and disappeared suddenly when he had done.” A pastor in that situation “ought to preach like an angel.” This was not Spurgeon’s situation. He did not occupy a preaching station but pastored a church.

And yet, we should note that Spurgeon’s pastoral ministry was not less than preaching. Even with everything on his plate, he never failed in this most fundamental of pastoral responsibilities: to preach the Word. Spurgeon believed this to be true not only for himself but for all pastors. Spurgeon believed that the pulpit was “the Thermopylae of Christendom.” But in referring to “Christendom,” Spurgeon did not have any grand ideas about a Christian nation. Rather, he was referring to the local church. Just as the future of Greece depended on King Leonidas I in the Battle of Thermopylae, so Spurgeon believed that the health and unity of the church depended on the preaching of the Word. No matter how industrious of an administrator or counselor a pastor was, if he failed in his preaching, the church would also fail. At the pulpit, “the fight will be lost or won.” Therefore, Spurgeon charged his pastoral students that “the maintenance of our power in the pulpit should be our great concern, we must occupy that spiritual watch-tower with our hearts and minds awake and in full vigor.”

Throughout Spurgeon’s ministry, for a congregation of more than 5,000 members, the Metropolitan Tabernacle demonstrated remarkable unity. The church meeting minutes do not give any evidence of congregational infighting or disagreement with the elders. The church repeatedly affirmed their love and support for their pastor. The reason for this cannot be that Spurgeon always made the right decisions and pastored his church perfectly. Rather, if you were to ask him, Spurgeon would point to his preaching. Week after week, his congregation was “really fed” from God’s Word, and thus, they were satisfied and forgave “a great many sins.” Therefore, for the pastor, “pulpits must be our main care,” or everything else will fail.

As we will see, Spurgeon’s responsibilities as a pastor grew throughout his ministry. To help him with new members and pastoral care, Spurgeon led the church in calling men to serve as elders. To help him with the day-to-day pastoral and administrative responsibilities, he brought on his brother, James, to serve as his associate pastor. For all the various institutions and societies connected with the church, he relied on his deacons to assist him in his leadership. But when it came to the pulpit ministry of the church, Spurgeon alone took charge of the responsibility. He did most of the preaching, and when he was unable to preach, he arranged for pulpit supply from faithful preachers. This is not because he was territorial about the pulpit. Rather, Spurgeon understood that the heart of his pastoral calling was to responsibly give oversight to the preaching of the Word. The health and ministry of the church depended on this one thing, and he would not delegate that responsibility to anyone else.

As a result, Spurgeon felt the weight of responsibility in his preaching. The pulpit was his Thermopylae, and every sermon was a spiritual battle against the schemes of Satan. Because he preached so often and was so gifted, it would be easy to imagine Spurgeon growing comfortable with the task of preaching. This, however, was far from the case. Susannah, his wife, tells of the “soul-travail and spiritual anguish” that Spurgeon experienced during his sermon writing, not “in their preparation or arrangement, but in his own sense of accountability to God for the souls to whom he had to preach the gospel of salvation.” As his congregation multiplied and his sermons were being published around the world, Spurgeon felt the growing responsibility of each sermon. One friend tells how, in his earlier years, Spurgeon could not keep anything down before each sermon, in anticipation of the throngs who would gather to hear him. Only later in life would that physical struggle be overcome.

He did not, however, find this to be a deficiency. He once confessed to his grandfather about his physical and emotional struggles before entering the pulpit. His grandfather responded, “Be content to have it so; for when your emotion goes away your strength will be gone.” Though he preached thousands of sermons, Spurgeon never got over the weighty and awesome responsibility of preaching. “When we preach and think nothing of it, the people think nothing of it, and God does nothing by it.” As his ministry grew, Spurgeon did not coast in the pulpit but approached each sermon with trembling and prayerful dependence. This was his work as a pastor.


Excerpted with permission from Spurgeon the Pastor by Geoff Chang. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.