Charles and Susie Spurgeon’s engagement in August of 1854 got off to a great start. There was no elaborate setting with balloons and fireworks—just a simple garden. It seems that Charles never said, “I love you,” to Susie until he was ready to say, “will you marry me?” Susie said “yes,” and such marked the formal beginning of one of the great love stories in Christian history.
After Charles proposed marriage, Susie found a quiet place, fell to her knees, and she lifted her voice heavenward in prayer and thanksgiving to God “for his great mercy in giving me the love of so good a man.” Her first inclination was to pray. This proclivity toward prayer remained with her for the rest of her life.
Susie later confessed her inadequacy of carrying such a hefty load—of being the wife of a famed preacher and of being alone when he traveled— except for the “given grace to commit all into the Father’s loving hand, and the granted faith to believe that, ‘He hath done all things well.’”
On their knees with an open Bible, Charles and Susie’s spirituality deepened and steeled them for their journey together. Both recognized the emptiness of popularity and marriage without God’s help. Charles said that even having Susie’s “sweet love” was insufficient if he should “be left of God to fall, and to depart from His ways.”
How did Charles and Susie stay on the pathway of faithfulness to God?
Bible Reading Centered on Christ
Charles and Susie’s devotion to God is evident by the centrality of Christ in their thinking, writing, and practices. Charles wrote,
A man who is a believing admirer and a hearty lover of the truth, as it is in Jesus, is in a right place to follow with advantage any other branch of science. . . . Once when I read books, I put all my knowledge together in glorious confusion; but ever since I have known Christ, I have put Christ in the centre as my sun, and each science revolves around it like a planet, while minor sciences are satellites to these planets.
The Spurgeons’ marriage revolved around Jesus. Where did Charles look for guidance as a husband? He looked to Jesus: “The true Christian is to be such a husband as Christ was to his spouse.” A Christocentric reading of the Scripture informed Charles that he was to love Susie in a “special,” “constant,” “enduring,” and “delighted” manner, for he took Christ as his Savior, his model, and his teacher. And Susie felt that she was married to a man who loved her deeply because he loved Christ supremely. Susie’s marriage caused her to marvel at “the mercy of my God” Charles marveled at the depth of Susie’s spirituality. Both marveled at the glory of Christ.
Susie encouraged readers of her book, Ten Years After, to envision God’s care through the lens of Christ. She knew that spiritual nourishment was found “in Christ, in Christ’s life in thee,” for in him there is “a never-failing spring of comfort and renewing grace, which no heat of sorrow, or scorching wind of earthly care, can ever dry up.”
Charles and Susie’s Christ-centered perspective was honed through their disciplined reading of the Bible. Their approach was simple—they believed the Bible to be true, trustworthy, and sufficient because of the infallibility of God Himself. And, trusting in the reliability of the Bible—they read it faithfully, confidently, and expectantly. Everything that they needed to know about God and about how to love one another was contained in the Bible. Charles imagined that if the Bible merely contained the words of man, it should be discarded. However, he believed the Bible to be “God’s handwriting” and, therefore, authoritative.” Susie said that it was “well to ponder every weighty sentence” of God’s “loving voice.”
Why was Bible reading so important to Charles? He said that it was through the Bible that God speaks to His people. Charles desired that Christians dig deeply into the Bible itself. “If the heavenly gold is not worth digging for, you are not likely to discover it.” Daily, when Charles and Susie read the Bible, they heard the voice of God speaking from the words contained therein. The Bible was the foundation upon which their marriage stood, and it was the wisdom from which their marriage prospered.
For Charles and Susie, meditation on the Bible was the filling of their minds with Scripture: Scripture thought upon, pondered, considered, prayed over. Meditation was not a passive, mind-emptying, or mystical exercise for Charles and Susie; it involved actively marshaling all of their intellectual resources so as to make “sweet truth” of Scripture accessible. Charles proclaimed, “These grapes [Bible passages] will yield no wine until we tread on them.” Meditation was treading on the words of Scripture—pressing out from them the truth about everything that God taught for the purpose of knowing and walking with God.
Prayer was “a most precious thing” in the Spurgeons’ home because it brought them into communion with God and channeled inestimable blessings from God to them.
Their faith was simple—they asked God for whatever they needed and trusted that He would supply. Charles believed that God gave promises in the Bible with intent to fulfill said promises to those who asked by faith. He was not advocating for what is today commonly called a prosperity gospel. Quite the opposite; he earnestly read the Bible in context and searched for God’s promises. Discovering them, he asked God to fulfill His promises. Very simply, Charles and Susie prayed expectantly that God, out of His generous kindness and love, would act on their behalf.
When Susie’s mind and body were taxed, she looked “entreatingly to Him who alone could move brain, and heart, and hand.” Though she leaned on her husband for help, she recognized that the source of her ultimate support for every task was the Lord. Sometimes Susie’s prayers were unuttered; they were merely her glances upward with longing eyes.Prayer was her direct line to God—“a telephone from my lips to thy heart and every sigh is recorded there.” Susie didn’t view God as reluctant to hear her prayers for He had invited her to approach Him with a sense of boldness.
Charles prayed spontaneously, and he prayed in connection with his Bible reading. He asked his church members, “Do you wish to begin to be true readers? Will you henceforth labor to understand?” He answered, “Then you must get to your knees. You must cry to God for direction.” This was Charles’s practice, and he found that prayer was a means of “soul enrichment” and “the vessel which trades with heaven and comes home from the celestial country laden with treasures.” In Spurgeon’s thinking, each of the spiritual disciplines build on and complement one another. Pray to understand Scripture, read Scripture to understand prayer, and meditate on Scripture to internalize its truths and to consider how to apply God’s Word in every area of life.
Charles and Susie prayed together “as joint heirs of grace” because “any temper of habit, which hinders this, is evil” and indicative of a pilotless household. Charles, directly connected the effectiveness of his prayers to his love and honor for Susie.” During a particular season in Charles’s life, he felt cold toward God—and he was not content in his coldness. So, he fought, by prayer, for spiritual heat—for passion—for fervent joy in Christ. He knew that in Susie he had a praying wife, one who believed, as he did, that when God blesses his people, He always uses the prayers of His people. “Pray for me, my love; and may our united petitions win a blessing through the Saviour’s merit.” She responded to that particular request with a benediction: “May His blessing rest in an especial manner on you to-night, my dearly-beloved.”
Whether reading the Bible and praying privately or engaging in family worship, Charles and Susie were not half-hearted in their efforts. Susie encouraged readers of her books not to be content with a “sickly, spiritual life” as such dishonors Christ and hurts oneself.” Charles and Susie simply kept “drinking of that [the Bible] living water constantly,” and they were “refreshed and strengthened thereby for suffering or for service.”
Biographer Russell Conwell points to Charles and Susie’s “cheerful trust in God, unshakable love for each other, and a domestic peace such as only the most perfect English homes enjoy.” Though Charles and Susie are a stellar example of marital love, they would not have imagined their home as “perfect.” However, their home was characterized by the peace of God and they were enabled by their spirituality that was rooted in Scripture and directed upward in prayer.
Ray Rhodes, Jr. is author of Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon and Yours, Till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon (Feb. 2021) from Moody Publishers. This article was adapted from Yours, Till Heaven and Ray’s doctoral thesis, “The Role of Bible Intake and Prayer in the Marriage of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon.”
C. H. Spurgeon, C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography: Complied from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1897–1900; repr., Pasadena, TX), 2:29.
Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, Ten Years After! (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1895), 26.
C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography., 2:26.
Michael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 36. Reeves’s quote is from a Spurgeon sermon.
C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1970–2006), 11:253.
C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:9
Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, Ten Years After!, 38.
C. H. Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1970-2006), 1:111.
Susannah Spurgeon, Free Grace and Dying Love: Morning Devotions (1896; repr., Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 64.
C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1970-2006), 25:631.
C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon, 25:629
C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 20:506.
Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, Ten Years After (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1895), 27.
Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, A Cluster of Camphire (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 2016, reprint from 1898), 40.
C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1970-2006), 25:629.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1970-2006), 20:506.
C. H. Spurgen, Autobiography, 2:18.
Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, Ten Years After!, 38.
Russell H. Conwell, The Life of Charles H. Spurgeon: The World’s Great Preacher (Philadelphia: Edgewood, 1892), 236.