Blog Entry

Susannah Spurgeon's "A Cluster of Camphire"

By Ray Rhodes Jan 25, 2018

Although Susannah Spurgeon was not as prolific an author as her husband Charles, her writing nevertheless was profound. Her pen, like her beloved husband, had a poetic and practical quality about it.

Susannah was the author of three devotional books, as well as two books concerning the Book Fund that she managed. She was also a major contributor to and co-editor of C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography. Beyond that, she regularly supplied material for Spurgeon's monthly missive, The Sword and the Trowel, and was the author of numerous tracts and pieces.

For a sample of Susannah’s picturesque writing, consider Susannah’s book A Cluster of Camphire: Or, Words of Cheer & Comfort For Sick and Sorrowful Souls

Susannah penned this devotional work after Charles Spurgeon died in 1892. It is, in part, an expression of her grief over the death of her “most precious treasure” and the comfort that she found in Christ in the midst of her suffering.

Here are six reasons to read Susannah Spurgeon’s wonderful book, A Cluster of Camphire:

 

1. She opens each chapter with Scripture.

The first Bible passage, in the section “Soul Comfort” is Psalm 94:19, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul." Out of 19 readings that head each chapter in her book, six of the passages are from The Psalms, six from the Gospels, three from the Prophets, one from Exodus, one from Deuteronomy, one from 2 Corinthians, and one from Hebrews. As with much of her writing, Susannah seems to favor The Psalms and The Gospels.

2. She prays Scripture.

Just as her beloved husband often did, Susannah quickly builds additional thoughts upon her Scriptural foundation. She seamlessly moves from Scripture to prayer to her own comments on the text. She prays for God to give her grace to "eat and drink abundantly from "Thy table." She requests that God help her to speak of the "dainties" that his "love has provided", asking of God that His truth will not only benefit her personally, but that through her writing "the souls of others may enjoy the Heavenly manna, and be filled with the mingled and spiced wine of remembrance and expectation."

3. She Employs Scripture Throughout.

In "Soul Comfort", she begins with Psalm 94:19, moves to The Song of Solomon, and then to the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. Along the way she picks flowers of Scriptural thought from both the Old and the New Testaments and places them in her devotional basket. It is obvious that she is very familiar with the whole of Scripture, able to skillfully interact with various passages under her one theme of comfort. In this respect, she echoes her husband Charles.

"Yes, truly, God's care for us is one of the sweetest comforts of our mortal life."

4. She is Conversant with Theology.

In "Soul Comfort", Mrs. Spurgeon finds encouragement in God's grace. She writes of the doctrines of God's sovereign election, preservation, providential care, omniscience, and love. Susannah not only knows her Bible, she understands how the parts of Scripture fit into the whole. For Susannah, deep theology is not only the trade of the professional theologian but is needed by and belongs to every Christian.

5. She Writes With a Practical Aim.

Susannah hopes her readers find comfort in the theology that she expounds, and so she employs biblical language as food to nourish one's soul and wine to cheer one's heart. Susannah was a Calvinist — she believed, embraced, and found comfort in the doctrines of God' sovereign grace. For her, the doctrine of election was not a topic to debate but a truth designed to "comfort our hearts" and to give us "good hope through grace." For Susannah, the place for biblical theology is not the ivory tower of academia, but the heart, hands, and feet of the child of God.

"If we would trust Him for the keeping as we do for the saving, our lives would be far holier and happier than they are." 

6. She Writes Beautifully.

Susannah finds no virtue in extolling the attributes of God through a vehicle of dull language. She writes as a women captivated by grace — poetic dainties spring from her heart, to her lips, through the nib of her pen, and then to her paper. Her lovely language is obvious throughout A Cluster of Camphire. Musing on the love of God, Susannah asserts:

"This truth has been running through the fields of previous thought, as a silver streamlet glides throughthe meadows;––here, it should deepen and expand to a broad and fathomless ocean, had I the power to speak of its height, and depth, and length, and breadth, and to tell of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."

Susannah could have simply declared that God's love was obvious in all of the other doctrines that she expounds in her chapter. However, she chooses to write of truth as a "silver streamlet" that "glides through the meadows" and ultimately into the "fathomless ocean." Even with such descriptive language, Susannah feels that her pen is wholly inadequate to describe the beauty of God.

Susannah Spurgeon's A Cluster of Camphire is marinated in Scripture and practical in application. It is poetic, descriptive, and beautiful in its presentation of Christ as the comfort of every Christian. Find it and read it to challenge your mind, warm your heart, and change your life.

 


Ray Rhodes is pastor of Grace Community Church of Dawsonville, GA, president of Nourished in the Word Ministries, and author of the upcoming Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon from Moody Publishers. You can contact him via Facebook or Twitter.