“Oh, do let me see you in earnest!”
Charles Spurgeon loved Christ’s kingdom and longed for its advance. For Spurgeon, being for the kingdom required a heart for missional local churches. In his view, the missionary mandate of the Great Commission had yoked the two together. Like his master, he longed to see the Word of God proclaimed in every nation by the power of God. So, he devoted his life to sending missionaries “in the strength of the Lord God,” and exclaimed, “That is the right way to go. If you have nobody else to help you! Go in his strength.”
First, Spurgeon believed that being for the kingdom required an ardent desire to see Christ glorified by all peoples. As Spurgeon explained to his congregation, “All nations are to glorify the Lord,” and so missions existed because “this they have not done as yet.” However, for this to happen missionaries had to be sent from local churches. On this point he pleaded, “If you were all firebrands for Christ, you might set the nation on a blaze,” knowing that every brand in the hand of Christ had to be plucked from its home hearth and sent abroad to set the world on fire.
Spurgeon was desperate that “God send the missionary work back again.” He yearned for an “outlet for our liberality and our zeal.” Without missions he claimed “we become like a pool dammed up, that is full of filth, and toads, and frogs, and all sorts of foul things.” In his view the health of the local church was connected to mission of building the global church. And so he asked, “Lord, open the river for our zeal and let us once again have an opportunity to serve thee for the nations that are far away!” He was distressed to see churches “standing totally aloof from the missionary field.” In short, “That maniac nonsense about God doing his own work, and our sitting still and doing nothing, ought to have been buried long ago.”
Second, Spurgeon believed that being for the kingdom necessitated training young men to preach God’s Word. In keeping with this conviction, Spurgeon founded the Pastors’ College in 1856 to sharpen and equip “rough and ready” young men to spread the gospel. The impetus for this was that he saw that “young men who felt an irresistible impulse to preach the gospel,” his own “spiritual children,” were “springing up around me.”
The only difficulty was that anyone with “half an eye” could that these young men would be hindered by their “want of education.” Although untrained, Spurgeon could not bid them to “cease their preaching,” and so “no other course was open but to give them an opportunity to educate themselves for the work.” Spurgeon’s solution then was provide free “seminary” to these firebrands so that they might set the nations on a blaze instead of each other. Thus, just as Spurgeon was compelled to preach, the necessities of ministry compelled him to teach.
Indeed, as a sign of grace the Lord blessed the Pastors’ College with rapid student growth. Within the first twenty years of operation Spurgeon’s students planted fifty-three new Baptist churches in London, not counting missions around the world or across England. And while Spurgeon never personally went to China or India, although he desired to do so, his printed sermons formed a missionary force all their own, evidenced by his sermons being translated into nearly forty languages including; Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Castilian, Chinese, Congolese, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, French, Gaelic, German, Hindi, Russian, Serbian, Syriac, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and Welsh.
Finally, Spurgeon believed that being for the kingdom demanded evangelical cooperation for the sake of the nations. He readily welcomed other denominations to join in missionary enterprise, if and only if, the Scriptures were to be the final authority. Furthermore, this commitment was centered on Christ, leading Spurgeon to warn, “if Christ Jesus is not the topic that suits you, why then I think we may question your Christianity.”
In short, the crimson blood of Christ was the cement of the church. Spurgeon understood that “The more Christ is preached, the more will the Church prove, and exhibit, and assert, and maintain her unity,” but he warned, “the less Christ is preached…the more of strife and division, and the less of true Christian fellowship.” For Spurgeon, true Christian fellowship must be centered on Christ Jesus, and Christ’s servants needed to lashed to the mast of Scripture. He acknowledged that “It is not likely we should all see eye to eye,” but still asserted that if all were untied on the final authority of Scripture then “the Church could not be divided.”
This missional philosophy was incarnated in Spurgeon’s relationship with Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission. Spurgeon had the utmost respect for Taylor, even calling him one of the “King’s Three Mighty Men.” Taylor was a man set on fire to save “China’s millions,” saying that “China is not to be won for Christ by quiet ease-loving men and women.” Such was Taylor’s passion that the echo of his evangelistic fervor can be heard in his now famous words: “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all.”
Notably, in the background of this sacred effort were significant theological differences. Charles Spurgeon was a Calvinistic Baptist and Hudson Taylor was a Methodist. Yet, as Christ’s crimson blood built his church, Christ’s gospel bound these men together in fast friendship.
Today, Spurgeon stands as an immortal example to all of ministry for the kingdom. He possessed a contagious desire to see all nations and peoples worship Jesus. He trained ministers in the pastors’ college, and he supported missionaries, even when they differed with him doctrinally. Sacred efforts galvanized by a zeal born of confidence in the power of the gospel. After all, “The Gospel must succeed; it shall succeed; it cannot be prevented from succeeding; a multitude that no man can number must be saved.”
Edward G. Romine is a Residency Ph.D. student in historical theology studying Spurgeon at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. He received his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been a preacher of the gospel since 2007. He currently serves as a Research Assistant at The Spurgeon Library.