The Lesson of the Snowstorm: Spurgeon’s Conversion

Geoff Chang March 13, 2024

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born on June 19, 1834 to John and Eliza Spurgeon in Kelvedon, Essex. However, his parents would soon face financial challenges, so for his first five years, Charles would be sent to live with his grandfather, James, who was a Congregationalist pastor in Stambourne. This relationship would prove to be formative for the young boy as he watched his grandfather shepherd a small village church. It was through his grandfather’s books that he was introduced to the Puritans. Many summer months were spent in his grandfather’s library, reading figures like Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, and Joseph Alleine.

Despite these godly influences, even at an early age, Spurgeon was sensitive towards his own sinfulness. He was never outwardly rebellious, but he knew the sinfulness of his heart: his pride, envy, selfishness, impatience. As he grew older, he wrestled with doubts about the gospel and the existence of God. Amid all this, he wasn’t sure what it meant to be a Christian. He regularly sat under preaching, but these sermons emphasized more what he had to do, rather than what Christ had done. As the years passed, Spurgeon found himself growing discouraged and helpless in his sin.

The answer finally came on a cold winter morning, January 6, 1850. Spurgeon was back home in Colchester for the winter holiday. He decided he would visit every chapel in town, in the hopes that someone might tell him the way of salvation. On that Sunday morning, as he was walking to another church, a snowstorm suddenly blew in. Spurgeon was forced down into a side street and found refuge in the Primitive Methodist chapel on Artillery Street.

There were just a handful of people there. He said the Methodists sang so loud it made his head ache. Then after the singing, an uneducated lay deacon got up (the regular preacher was unable to make it) and delivered the sermon. He preached from Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto me and be saved all you ends of the earth,” calling his hearers simply to look to Christ. As Spurgeon sat there dripping wet, it all became clear to him. Salvation is not by our efforts, but by a simple trust in Christ alone. This is what he records:

I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, ‘Look!’ what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him.

That Sunday morning, Spurgeon was radically converted. And this would change the course of his life forever. For the first time, he understood that faith in Christ was not about doing something for God. It was about receiving, about trusting in what Christ had done for him by his life, death, and resurrection.

The lesson of the snowstorm is this: Never underestimate what God might do through very ordinary circumstances and the simple preaching of the gospel.

Things to look for:

  • Visit the Hallway Display to see the story of Spurgeon’s early life, from his birth to his conversion.
  • Spurgeon’s collection of Puritan books. Some volumes to look for:
    • John Calvin’s Institutes (right of main entrance)
    • John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (front lobby)
    • Richard Sibbes’ Bowels Opened (along the outside wall)
  • Original pew (hallway) and pulpit (main room) from the Artillery Street chapel where Spurgeon was converted

Next – The Lesson of the River: Spurgeon’s Baptism