If you haven’t fallen in love with a dead person yet, you really should try it.
It all started when my father took me on a pilgrimage to England. We visited the chapel in Colchester where Spurgeon was converted, the river in Isleham where he was baptized, the Tabernacle in London where he ministered for nearly forty years. We saw Spurgeon’s tomb, his college, his house, and a dozen other haunts inhabited by the Victorian preacher.
Everything changed after that. Spurgeon’s biographies came rushing to life. His sermons, illustrations, and analogies found living color within my teenaged soul.
And so it began. My love of a Victorian pastor led me on a journey with many milestones: a college paper, a master’s thesis, a PhD, a Lost Sermons project, a Spurgeon Library, and now a twice-weekly blog.
Even today, as I read Spurgeon’s glowing words, my heart strangely warms. Listen to what others have said about Spurgeon:
“I never tire of reading about him or anything connected to him.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“When I get to Heaven, after I see the Saviour and my own dear family, I want to see Charles Haddon Spurgeon. To me he is the greatest preacher who ever lived.” – W. A. Criswell
“I can think of no group of sermons that will mean more to sincere Gospel preachers of today than these great messages from the Word of God burning with the passion that marked Charles Spurgeon’s ministry.” – Billy Graham
My advice? “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Go fall in love with a dead pastor, preacher, theologian, author, missionary, or martyr. Spend the rest of your life reading dead people. Get inside their heads and hearts. Sit at their feet. Let them encourage you, challenge you, rebuke you, improve you. Find a soul mate, feed your crush, date the dead.
Why? Because like Abel who “still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4), dead people still have something to say. Here are three reasons why you should read Spurgeon:
1. Spurgeon can teach you how to go back to the future.
The same principle is true in football, soccer, hockey, and any sport: to send an object forward we have to reach backwards.
Our faith works like this too. In order to go into the future, we must reach into the past. We must go back to the future.
“Through a long line of bold forefathers the banner of the truth has been handed down to you. From the Anabaptists, and the Covenanters, and the Puritans, and men of whom the world was not worthy, its folds have passed down to your protecting care.”
How else can we avoid making yesterday’s mistakes tomorrow? Spurgeon reminds us we are not the first ones or the last ones to live out our faith. His struggles can teach us about our struggles. The goal is not to hoard or squander our faith on the sideline. The goal is to pass the ball downfield to someone who can take it further.
2. Spurgeon can help you dethrone idols.
Whenever something enters your heart, it travels through your entire circulatory system. Love infects all of us, not just part of us.
Unchecked intimacy can lead to idolatry, which Spurgeon defined as “putting man where God should be.”
“We may very easily make an idol of anything, and in different ways. No doubt many mothers and fathers make idols of their children, and so many husbands and wives idolize each other, and we may even make idols of ministers, even as there were idol shepherds of old.”
“Any form of love which divides the heart from Jesus is idolatry.”
“If there is anything you would not give up for God it is your idol.”
“We are all far too prone to trust in something else instead of in God; and God is always jealous of these rivals.”
Spurgeon even preferred the accusation of murder to idolatry:
Spurgeon's love for Christ is contagious. He teaches us to keep ourselves centered on the only One worthy of that love. God’s middle name is Jealous (Exodus 34:14). The throne belongs to Christ alone.
3. Spurgeon can help you read history in light of Jesus Christ.
Every time I walk into the Spurgeon Library, I pass through a transparent portrait of Spurgeon frosted into the glass door. It reminds me to look not just to Spurgeon but through Spurgeon to Jesus Christ.
Before its renovation, the library was the seminary chapel. The danger in putting Spurgeon in a chapel is the temptation to worship him. But there is also a danger of forgetting him. If we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it. The heartbeat of the Spurgeon Library is to see Jesus Christ through Spurgeon life, legacy, and library so that one day others will see Christ through our own.
That’s what church history does best. It exposes what God’s been up to in the lives of his people. It reveals God’s grand narrative of redemption and reminds us we are part of the story.
“Learn, from Church History, what [God] has done from the days of Christ’s sojourn upon the earth until now.”
Spurgeon admired the heroes, preachers, and martyrs of the past and urged his church to remember their witnesses. God has been up to something since the first century. As Christians who worship the risen Christ, each new generation is an opportunity to rediscover his activity in history.
A Final Word
Spurgeon once said, “I would fling my shadow through eternal ages if I could.”
Truly, Spurgeon's shadow has spanned the century. In this Age of Information, it’s possible Spurgeon will gain more readers in the twenty-first century than he did in the nineteenth.
“God has purposely put his treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power should be ascribed to himself alone.”
So let’s learn from the past. Go fall in love with a dead guy. Live to make Christ famous. Because one day, someone in the future is going to fall in love with you.
And when that happens, let’s make sure they see not just the shadow, but the Son who caused the shadow.