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The Gospel: The Sum and Substance of Spurgeon’s Spirituality

April 29, 2020

From the day he first met Christ in the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Artillery Street in Colchester, Charles Spurgeon’s life and ministry was captivated by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any brief examination of his sermons, writings, and personal correspondence demonstrates the centrality of Christ and his atoning work on the cross in Spurgeon’s spiritual vision. He was a pastor driven by a theologically robust piety that could be characterized as Christ-centered, Spirit-driven, and kingdom-focused.

 

Christ-Centered

Spurgeon’s life and ministry produced an aroma of Jesus Christ primarily because of his pursuit of Christ. He labored daily not only to delight in the Savior but to be conformed to the Savior. According to Spurgeon, the totality of the Christian life was strung together by Jesus Christ. In his sermon, “Christ in the Covenant,” Spurgeon described the significance of Christ in this way:

In fact, if you take Christ out of the covenant, you have just done the same as if you should break the string of a necklace: all the jewels, or beads, or corals, drop off and separate from each other. Christ is the golden string whereon the mercies of the covenant are threaded, and when you lay hold of him, you have obtained the whole string of pearls.[1]

 

Spurgeon observed the supremacy of Christ in God’s promises of salvation. This emphasis extended to all aspects of life, including participation in the ordinances. When reflecting on his own desire to be baptized, he wrote to his mother, “Conscience has convinced me that it is a duty to be buried with Christ in baptism, although I am sure it constitutes no part of salvation.”[2] Spurgeon also recognized the necessity of Christ and his atoning work in the Lord’s Supper. The “glorious sacrifice” of Jesus was to be remembered and celebrated in this meal.[3]

 

Spirit-Driven

Spurgeon’s spirituality followed the instruction of the Scriptures through the direction of the Spirit. For Spurgeon, the testimony of the Spirit affirmed the message of the gospel in the life of the Christian. In reflecting on the gospel, he said:

A thing of power! Ah! It is a thing of power. I have felt it here, in this heart; I have the witness of the Spirit within, and know it is a thing of might, because it has conquered me; it has bowed me down. . . . The gospel to the Christian is a thing of power.

 

Spurgeon understood the power of the Spirit in the Christian’s life, both as a witness and as an influence. The Spirit brings new life and provides assurance of salvation. Likewise, the Spirit assists the believer with understanding the Scriptures. In the same letter to his mother, he penned, “I should like to be always reading my Bible, and be daily gaining greater insight into it by the help of the Spirit.”[4] In addition, Spurgeon confirmed the Spirit’s influence in the saint’s pursuit of holiness. Spurgeon wrote, “God searches the Christian, that he may cleanse him of his weeds; he ploughs him deep that he may turn up the subsoil to the air, that the influence of the Divine Spirit may rest upon him.”[5]

 

Kingdom-Focused

Spurgeon’s piety was never insular because the gospel moved him to be engaged in a variety of ministries and partnerships. He knew of the importance of advancing the kingdom of God alongside fellow believers. As such, he warned against obstructing the work of God:

I would affectionately admonish you, and beseech you, not to impede the Lord’s own work. There be some of you, perhaps, here present to-day who are not consistent in your living. And yet you are professors of religion; you take the sacramental cup into your hand and drink its sacred wine, but still you live as worldlings live, and are as carnal and as covetous as they. Oh, my brother, you are a serious drawback to the church’s increase.[6]

 

For Spurgeon, personal holiness affected the advancement of the gospel. Likewise, he argued that diligent habits of piety were necessary for Christ’s people in their work of making disciples. In his devotional Evening by Evening, he wrote:

Study your great Exemplar, and be filled with his Spirit. Remember that you need much teaching, much upholding, much grace, and much humility, if your witnessing is to be to your Master’s glory.

 

Spurgeon’s piety did not lead him to isolation or to theological ambiguity. He learned to go deeper into the gospel and to proclaim widely the hope of the gospel.

 

Conclusion

Most certainly, the sum and substance of Spurgeon’s spirituality is the gospel of Jesus Christ. While his piety is Christ-centered, Spirit-driven, and Kingdom-focused, it is much more. For a devotional overview of Spurgeon’s life and his Christocentric piety, consider The Sum and Substance of the Gospel: The Christ-Centered Piety of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Reformation Heritage, 2020). To dig deeper, check out Michael Reeves’ Spurgeon on the Christian Life (Crossway, 2018) or Peter Morden’s Communion with Christ and His People: The Spirituality of C. H. Spurgeon (Pickwick, 2014).


Nathan A. Finn serves as the Provost and Dean of the University Faculty at North Greenville University in Tigerville and Greer, SC. Finn is a well-known Baptist historian, theologian, and teacher. Some of his works include The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement and serving as an Associate Editor of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller. His most recent publication, The Sum and Substance of the Gospel: The Christ-Centered Piety of Charles Haddon Spurgeon was co-edited with Aaron Lumpkin.

Aaron Lumpkin serves as Campus Minister and Director of Faith & Service at Missouri Baptist University where he also serves as Instructor for Christian Ministry. He recently co-edited The Sum and Substance of the the Gospel: The Christ-Centered Piety of Charles Haddon Spurgeon with Nathan A. Finn.


[1] Spurgeon, “Christ in the Covenant,” Spurgeon’s Sermons (1883; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), 2:404–06. A sermon from Isaiah 59:8.

[2] Spurgeon, “A Letter to his Mother. Newmarket, February 19, 1850,” in The Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon  (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth, 1992), 23.

[3] Spurgeon, “A Talk with a Few Friends at the Lord’s Table,” ST (March 1888): 106–07.

[4] Spurgeon, A Letter to his Mother.

[5] Spurgeon, “The Solar Eclipse,” NPSP, 4:149–50. Sermon delivered March 14, 1858 at the Music Hall.

[6] Spurgeon, “The Great Revival,” NPSP (London; Glasgow: Passmore & Alabaster; James Paul; George John Stevenson; George Gallie, 1858), 4:167–68. Sermon on Isaiah 52:10 delivered March 28, 1858 at the Music Hall.