Can you ever have too much Charles Spurgeon? As a research assistant at the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I find myself often having to answer this very question. I've been working with the curator, Dr. Christian George, and my colleagues for over one year now. And yes, it is true: we live and breathe Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Sometimes, we're even tempted to hang a “Caution: Burnout” sign here are there, especially if it matches our Victorian decor.
“We can have too much of a good thing, aye, too much even of the best things, for our poor frail vessel cannot hold all that God would be willing to put into it.” – Charles Spurgeon
Indeed, I'm a “poor frail vessel.” I'm not particularly clever, scholarly, or holy. I'm certainly not Spurgeon himself, or even Dr. George for that matter (his love for Spurgeon is unmatched). My Spurgeon-meter at times runs low, and it sometimes seems I can't hold much more. What keeps me coming back, week after week, to dive into the mind and heart of the Prince of Preachers? What keeps me excited about brushing Victorian dust off Spurgeon's books and exploring their yellowed pages? It's really quite simple. I don't go a day in the Spurgeon Library without encountering Jesus Christ.
A Great Cloud of Witnesses
The author of Hebrews tells us we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), faithful men and women who have gone before us and have something important to teach us. At the Spurgeon Library, that cloud of witnesses is materialized in the thousands of books Spurgeon personally owned (5,100 books to be exact). Those authors are all dead and gone, but they've left us something valuable–something that tells us about Jesus. It's a privilege to open bookshelves and grab ancient tomes written by John Bunyan, Richard Baxter, Charles Simeon, and John Gill. Any time I want, I have the opportunity to touch history itself.
In libraries like these, we feel the living legacies of vintage saints. The dead speak to the living.
When I open their pages, their faithful witnesses become tangible and incarnational. Sometimes the dead whisper; other times they shout. More than occasionally, their words are convicting and punch me in the face with the reminder of Jesus' preciousness and the cost of Christianity. Every once in a while, when I open a old book it's almost like touching Jesus himself.
This is especially true of Charles Spurgeon. It's why his first words at the Metropolitan Tabernacle were, “If I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply — ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”
Jesus was always on the tip of Spurgeon’s tongue. He continually dipped his pen in the blood of Christ. The pastor's life fell into orbit around the proclamation of Jesus Christ.
“Precious Jesus! thou art a storehouse of substantial delights and solid joy.” – Charles Spurgeon
Can we have too much of Charles Spurgeon? Surely. But we can never have too much of Spurgeon's Christ. Here at the Spurgeon Library, Spurgeon is our lens, but Jesus is our focal point. For the foreseeable future, I'm honored to serve in the library and absorb as much Spurgeon as possible. And as I do, it's helpful to remember Spurgeon's wise words: “Do not be afraid at any time of having too much of Christ.”
Drake Osborn is a Christ follower, book nerd, and proud church member. He lives with his English-teaching wife Allie in Kansas City, where he is pursuing a Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as a pastoral resident at Emmaus Church. He also blogs regularly at drakeosborn.com, and you can follow him on twitter @drakeharl.