Charles Spurgeon is one of the most popular preachers to tweet, “meme” quote and misquote. He quotes are punchy and pithy, ideally suited for an age of social media where 140 characters matter.
But you may be shocked to realize that Spurgeon didn't say these six quotes often attributed to him.
1. “When you can't trace his hand, trust his heart.”
This quote was popularized by Christian singer-songwriter Babbie Mason who wrote “Trust His Heart” with Eddie Cardwell. The chorus goes like this:
“When you can't trace his hand
When you don't see his plan
When you don't understand
Trust His Heart”
In an interview, Mason said the song was inspired by a North Atlanta pastor who
“became inspired by the words that Charles Haddon Spurgeon had coined in his writings, ‘God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind. And, when you can’t trace His hand, you can always trust His heart.’”
But Spurgeon didn't say this quote in this way. The original idea comes from his sermon “A Happy Christian”:
“The worldling blesses God while he gives him plenty, but the Christian blesses him when he smites him: he believes him to be too wise to err and too good to be unkind; he trusts him where he cannot trace him, looks up to him in the darkest hour, and believes that all is well.”
2. “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”
Spurgeon conveyed this idea at least three times, but he never said it this way. The closest quote is found in Spurgeon’s 1886 sermon “Christ and His Co-Workers”:
“Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindl stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best 'apology' for the gospel is to let the gospel out.”
For all three full quotations, see Elliot Ritzema’s helpful post.
3. “A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Spurgeon did say this. Problem is, others said it first.
In the early 18th century, Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) conveyed the idea in his proverb: “Falsehood flies, and Truth comes limping after it.”
In 1787, Anglican clergyman Thomas Franklin modified the saying: “Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind.”
Although Spurgeon could have read these two quotes from books in his personal library, by the 19th century the Proverb had become engrafted into the common English culture.
In his 1855 sermon “Joseph Attacked by the Archers,” Spurgeon said:
“If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. It is well said in the old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’”
For additional uses of this quote throughout history, see the Quote Investigator.
4. “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.”
Spurgeon did say this, but Alexander Maclaren said it first.
In 1859 sermon “Anxious Care,” Maclaren said:
“And what does your anxiety do? It does not empty to-morrow, brother, of its sorrows; but, ah! it empties to-day of its strength.”
Spurgeon gets credited with this quote because he published it without proper attribution in his The Salt-Cellars (Vol. 1):
“It has been well said that our anxiety does not empty to-morrow of its sorrows, but only empties to-day of its strength.”
5. “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
Spurgeon never said this. The closest quote is found in his 1874 sermon “Sin and Grace”:
“The wave of temptation may even wash you higher up upon the Rock of ages, so that you cling to it with a firmer grip than you have ever done before, and so again where sin abounds, grace will much more abound.”
6. “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.”
Be forewarned. This mythbust might sting. Do a search online and you’ll find dozens of popular Christian blogs, church history articles, and even reputable publications that attribute this famous quote to Spurgeon.
But Spurgeon didn't say this, or anything close to it.
Most people who've cited this quotation (including myself, I'm sure) did so because Lewis Drummond attributed it to Spurgeon in his definitive 1992 biography, Spurgeon: The Prince of Preachers (pg 223). But Drummond didn't cite the original source (for a reason).
Neither did W. A. Criswell in his 1955 sermon “Nothing But Jesus”:
“And somebody came to Mr. Spurgeon and said, 'Mr. Spurgeon, a man who’d heard you preach a lot said you have just one sermon, just one sermon, and you preach that sermon all the time.' And Mr. Spurgeon replied, 'That’s right. That’s right.' He said, 'Wherever in the Bible I take my text, I make a beeline to the cross and start preaching about the Lord Jesus.'”
Spurgeon never published the word “beeline” in his books or sermons. The word originated in America in the early 19th century. By 1891, James M. Dixon defined the idiom “to make a bee-line” as “following a straight course, as a bee is supposed to do” (see Dictionary of Idiomatic English Phrases, 1891, pg. 28).
Spurgeon would've been familiar with this word, but did he “make a beeline to the cross” in his preaching?
In one sense, yes. In his 1859 sermon “Christ Precious to Believers,” Spurgeon quoted a Welsh minister as saying (though this, too, is often falsely attributed to Spurgeon):
“I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.”
But the answer is also no. In Spurgeon’s personal copy of Frank Cheshire’s Bees & Bee-Keeping (1886) the expression “beeline” is critiqued:
“Bees are accomplished fliers, but they never traverse the air with the same directness as many birds, so that the expression 'bee line,' used by bee-hunters, needs to be accepted in a modified sense. It is their habit to skim along, in extended sweeps, alternately curving to the right and left.”
This modified definition of “beeline” better characterized Spurgeon’s preaching. Instead of flying in a straight line to the cross, Spurgeon zig-zagged his way through Scripture to Calvary.
So while Spurgeon never said this quote, it's consistent with his hermeneutic.
If you can prove me wrong by locating the original source of the exact quotation for any of these quotes, I’ll tip my hat in your direction and send you some Spurgeon bling from the Spurgeon Library.