The Lesson of Love: Charles and Susie

Geoff Chang March 13, 2024

When Spurgeon first preached at New Park Street, Susannah Thompson, who went by Susie, was living with a deacon in the church, William Olney. After Olney had heard Spurgeon preach that Sunday morning, he quickly called others around him and urged them to invite others to come back for the evening service, lest the young preacher be discouraged by their small numbers. So the Olneys went home and urged Susie to come with them to their church in the evening. She went with them, somewhat reluctantly, and there, she heard Charles preach for the very first time. She recalled her first impression of him, “the huge black satin stock, the long, badly-trimmed hair, and the blue pocket-handkerchief with white spots… these attracted most of my attention, and, I fear, awakened some feelings of amusement.” In other words, she was not impressed. And yet, his preaching was intriguing enough for her to keep coming back.

Over time, God would use Charles’ preaching to bring about conversion in Susannah’s life, and on January of 1855, she was baptized by the young pastor and joined the church. But God would have more in store for the young couple. Later that year, Charles would initiate a relationship, and within a few months, Susannah found herself engaged to the most popular preacher in the English-speaking world. Amid a busy schedule, Charles and Susannah found pockets of time to spend together, for instance, when he was editing his sermons for publication. Those moments were filled with delight.

However, there were also challenges. Whenever Charles would preach, he would sometimes get so focused that he would forget about her. On one occasion, she visited his vestry before his sermon, and he introduced himself and shook her hand as if she were a complete stranger. On another occasion, they went to a speaking engagement together and Charles was so focused on his preaching that he forgot about her and left her behind. Susannah was indignant and yet, through the wise counsel of her mother, she learned to accept the challenges of being married to a figure like Charles. Charles would also learn how to better care for Susannah.

Life was not easy for them, but they loved each other deeply and were married on January 8, 1856. And for the rest of his life, Susannah would prove to be a vital partner in the ministry to Charles. Together, they would have twin boys, Charles and Thomas. As only a mother can, Susannah would provide a loving home for these boys, raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Both would go on to be ministers and would attribute much of their spiritual growth to her. Susannah would also support Charles in his ministry. On Saturday evenings, she helped Charles as he worked on his sermons, laying out his commentaries and reading from them, as her husband reflected. On one occasion, she recorded a sermon that Charles had dictated in his sleep and provided him a full manuscript when he woke up! Through her efforts, their home would be a place of hospitality, where church members, Pastors’ College students, and famous guests regularly visited.

Susannah also had several vibrant ministries of her own. The most remarkable was her Book Fund, which raised money to send much-needed books and resources to poorer pastors. As a result of her efforts, countless books were sent out, and thousands of pastors were blessed through her efforts. She also wrote several devotional volumes and, after her husband’s death, compiled a four-volume autobiography of his life. In her later years, she would contribute to the planting of a Baptist chapel at Bexhill-on-Sea. Though, like her husband, Susie struggled with physical ailments all her life, she proved to be a wonderful partner in the ministry. Without Susie, there would not have been a Charles.

And so, the lesson of marriage is simply this: We cannot go at it alone. We need the support of others. Wherever God has you serving, find others to serve alongside you.

Things to look for:

  • Susannah’s Book Fund Treasury of David set and Autobiography set
  • George Herbert poems

Next – The Lesson of the Orphanage: Spurgeon’s Mercy Ministries