The Lesson of the Cottage: Spurgeon’s First Sermon

Geoff Chang March 13, 2024

In the summer of 1850, Spurgeon left Newmarket and moved to Cambridge to work as a tutor. He joined St. Andrew’s Baptist Church, and right away, he began to serve, teaching Sunday school, passing out tracts, going on visitation, and sharing the gospel. Throughout the fall of 1850, some in the church began to notice Spurgeon’s gifts, and he was soon made into a head Sunday School teacher, helping to train other teachers.

One of the ministries at St. Andrew’s was a Preachers’ Association. From it, capable men would go out into the nearby villages to preach and lead services on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. The leader of this society, James Vinter, was always looking for recruits, and he was among those who noticed young Spurgeon. So, likely sometime in January of 1851, he asked him if he would be willing to accompany another young man as he went out to preach in the villages and to lead in the prayers and songs. Spurgeon gladly agreed.

On the appointed Sunday afternoon, they set out for the village of Teversham. But on the way there, as they were talking, they both came to find out that they had both been told the same thing! The friend was expecting Spurgeon to preach. He made it clear that if Spurgeon didn’t preach, then there would not be a service. At that point, Spurgeon had never preached in the context of a worship service. He didn’t have a sermon prepared. And yet, breathing a prayer, Spurgeon decided to take the service.

It seemed to me that I could surely tell a few poor cottagers of the sweetness and love of Jesus, for I felt them in my own soul. Praying for Divine help, I resolved to make the attempt. My text should be, “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious,” and I would trust the Lord to open my mouth in honor of His dear Son.

And so, young Spurgeon arrived in a small cottage, and there, he preached his very first sermon from 1 Peter 2:7, meditating on the preciousness of Christ. And surprising himself, he got through the sermon! He didn’t run out of things to say or break down in the middle of the sermon, but he made his way through and wrapped up the service. After the service, an old woman asked the question on everybody’s mind:

“How old are you?” was the leading question. “I am under sixty,” was the reply. “Yes, and under sixteen,” was the old lady’s rejoinder. “Never mind my age, think of the Lord Jesus and His preciousness.”

At that point, Spurgeon was 16 years old. In January of 1851, he joined the Preachers’ Association and began to preach throughout the villages around Cambridge. At the age of 17, a Baptist church in Waterbeach called him to be their pastor, and word began to spread about a gifted boy preacher in the Cambridge countryside. At the age of 19, a church in London invited him to be a guest preacher, and after a short trial period, they would eventually call him to be their pastor. In the three years between his very first sermon and his arrival in London, Spurgeon preached nearly 700 sermons!

So what’s the lesson of the cottage? Start serving Jesus wherever you are. Spurgeon began preaching not in a cathedral but in a cottage.

“Many of our young folks want to commence their service for Christ by doing great things, and therefore do nothing at all; let none of my readers become the victims of such an unreasonable ambition.”

Things to look for:

  • The Waterbeach preaching rail (main room)
  • Spurgeon’s earliest preaching influences:
    • John Gill (table display)
    • William Jay Sermons – 252 J33
    • Charles Simeon’s Horae Homileticae – 252 Si4

Next – The Lesson of the Palace – Spurgeon and the Fast Day Service 1857