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January 31, 2013 it will have been 121 years since the great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon passed away. In memory of him I bring to you 32 things you might not know about Charles Spurgeon.
1. One woman was converted through reading a single page of one of Spurgeon’s sermons wrapped around some butter she had bought.
2. Spurgeon read The Pilgrim’s Progress at age 6 and went on to read it over 100 times.
3. The New Park Street Pulpit and The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit—the collected sermons of Spurgeon during his ministry with that congregation—fill 63 volumes. The sermons’ 20-25 million words are equivalent to the 27 volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The series stands as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.
4. Spurgeon’s mother had 17 children, nine of whom died in infancy.
5. When Charles Spurgeon was only 10 years old, a visiting missionary, Richard Knill, said that the young Spurgeon would one day preach the gospel to thousands and would preach in Rowland Hill’s chapel, the largest Dissenting church in London. His words were fulfilled.
6. Spurgeon missed being admitted to college because a servant girl inadvertently showed him into a different room than that of the principal who was waiting to interview him. (Later, he determined not to reapply for admission when he believed God spoke to him, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not!”)
7. Spurgeon’s personal library contained 12,000 volumes—1,000 printed before 1700. (The library, 5,103 volumes at the time of its auction, is now housed at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
8. Before he was 20, Spurgeon had preached over 600 times.
9. Spurgeon drew to his services Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone, members of the royal family, Members of Parliament, as well as author John Ruskin, Florence Nightingale, and General James Garfield, later president of the United States.
10. The New Park Street Church invited Spurgeon to come for a 6-month trial period, but Spurgeon asked to come for only 3 months because “the congregation might not want me, and I do not wish to be a hindrance.”
11. When Spurgeon arrived at The New Park Street Church, in 1854, the congregation had 232 members. By the end of his pastorate, 38 years later, that number had increased to 5,311. (Altogether, 14,460 people were added to the church during Spurgeon’s tenure.) The church was the largest independent congregation in the world.
12. Spurgeon typically read 6 books per week and could remember what he had read—and where—even years later.
13. Spurgeon once addressed an audience of 23,654—without a microphone or any mechanical amplification.
14. Spurgeon began a pastors’ college that trained nearly 900 students during his lifetime—and it continues today.
15. In 1865, Spurgeon’s sermons sold 25,000 copies every week. They were translated into more than 20 languages.
16. At least 3 of Spurgeon’s works (including the multi-volume Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series) have sold more than 1,000,000 copies. One of these, All of Grace, was the first book ever published by Moody Press (formerly the Bible Institute Colportage Association) and is still its all-time bestseller.
17. During his lifetime, Spurgeon is estimated to have preached to 10,000,000 people.
18. Spurgeon once said he counted 8 sets of thoughts that passed through his mind at the same time while he was preaching.
19. Testing the acoustics in the vast Agricultural Hall, Spurgeon shouted, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” A worker high in the rafters of the building heard this and became converted to Christ as a result.
20. Susannah Thompson, Spurgeon’s wife, became an invalid at age 33 and could seldom attend her husband’s services after that.
21. Spurgeon spent 20 years studying the Book of Psalms and writing his commentary on them, The Treasury of David.
22. Spurgeon insisted that his congregation’s new building, The Metropolitan Tabernacle, employ Greek architecture because the New Testament was written in Greek. This one decision has greatly influenced subsequent church architecture throughout the world.
23. The theme for Spurgeon’s Sunday morning sermon was usually not chosen until Saturday night.
24. For an average sermon, Spurgeon took no more than one page of notes into the pulpit, yet he spoke at a rate of 140 words per minute for 40 minutes.
25. The only time that Spurgeon wore clerical garb was when he visited Geneva and preached in Calvin’s pulpit.
26. By accepting some of his many invitations to speak, Spurgeon often preached 10 times in a week.
27. Spurgeon met often with Hudson Taylor, the well-known missionary to China, and with George Muller, the orphanage founder.
28. Spurgeon had two children—twin sons—and both became preachers. Thomas succeeded his father as pastor of the Tabernacle, and Charles, Jr., took charge of the orphanage his father had founded.
29. Spurgeon’s wife, Susannah, called him Tirshatha (a title used of the Judean governor under the Persian empire), meaning “Your Excellency.”
30. Spurgeon often worked 18 hours a day. Famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone once asked him, “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day?” Spurgeon replied, “You have forgotten that there are two of us.”
Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together writes in chapter 27 about the ministry of proclaiming. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…
We speak to one another on the basis of the help we both need. We admonish one another to go the way that Christ bids us to go. We warn one another against the disobedience that is our common destruction. We are gentle and we are severe with one another, for we know both God’s kindness and God’s severity.
Walker writes that The Big Idea is…
Because we are connected to Christ, we carry the responsibility in our fellowship of believers to speak the Word to one another. We are a witness of the Holy Spirit’s counsel, of the mind of Christ, and of the wisdom of God, and Jesus speaks through us in order to keep each other headed in the right direction.
By speaking the Word to one another, we keep Christ in our conversations. This is not the kind of proclaiming meant for the pulpit and, when we attempt it that way, we come off as “preachy.” Rather, it is speaking to others on behalf of the Word, where Bonhoeffer notes we give “the whole consolation of God, the admonition, the kindness and the severity of God.”
When we speak the Word to one another, Bonhoeffer isn’t referring to the sort of superficial, often mindless, verse-dropping we do when we slip into the language of Christian-ese. We come to our brother or sister submitted to the word, not only saying what Jesus tells us to say, but also reflecting our obedience to Christ in our own behavior. As the apostle Paul says, we come representing Christ, as if “God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead ‘Come back to God!'” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT).
This means we come actively listening…
This means we come in an attitude of humble helpfulness, willing to invest in the life of the one we confront…
…To be like Jesus…When we speak the Word to others, we are serving one another…
The path of discipleship is narrow, and it is fatally easy to miss one’s way and stray from the path, even after years of discipleship. And it is hard to find. On either side of the narrow path deep chasms yawn. To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way.
Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together writes in chapter 26 about the ministry of bearing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…
The brother is a burden to the Christian, precisely because he is a Christian.
Walker writes that The Big Idea is…
Jesus wants us to understand that bearing of one another is a required service in the Body of Christ. We’re connected together through Jesus and so any burden that threatens to overwhelm one of us should be a burden to all of us.
We are called to bear one another’s burdens, even if that means we carry someone’s burden for a while…
As we become more like Christ, we will see that those who are a burden–who we may label as weak–are the very things that make us a community. They teach us to offer sacrificial service to others and they help us understand that, bearing the cost so that others may go free, is the very thing Jesus did for us.
To be like Jesus…We’re called to bear the sins of others, regardless of the costs. Bearing one another’s burdens is one of the ways we become like Jesus.
by KATHLEEN NIELSON
Imagining a concrete picture can bring abstract truth to life. To help us understand what this month’s 40th anniversary of legalized abortion in the United States means, one Care Net website offers this picture:
[I]magine Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and Miller Park in Milwaukee filled with fans. Now consider this: to host more than 55 million people, all three of these stadiums would need to fill to capacity 290 separate times!
We cannot undo this human tragedy, this dark undercurrent in a culture marked by an inflow of countless material things and an outflow of discarded life. To be specific—more than 55 million discarded human lives since Roe v. Wade was decided in January 1973. Many, though, are helping invade the darkness with the light by pursuing these actions, which we can aim to pursue more faithfully every passing year, along with God’s people and by God’s grace.
For many, the reality of abortion breaks in only every now and then. For so many others, though, abortion is a personal, ongoing reality. As Albert Mohler reminds us in a thought-provoking article (responding to Time magazine’s January cover story), at current rates one out of every three American women will have an abortion by age 45. That means a huge percentage of the women with whom we attend church, shop for groceries, work, exercise, and raise children carry painful abortion stories inside them. Men carry them as well. Many of these stories are not yet resolved.
This issue should seem to us as real as a deep, bleeding cut on a friend’s hand: we’ll notice it. . . . it will affect the way we reach out our hands. . . . it will make us aim to help heal.
In the Bible, healing involves prayer. Abortion is hard to pray about, in a way. Often Christians pray that God would “heal our land,” claiming the beautiful promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14. That promise, of course, was originally directed to the nation of God’s people, and so we sometimes struggle to understand how it applies or does not apply to nations like the one Americans inhabit today. We can know for sure, though, that those words speak to God’s people. We can be certain that we are called to humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways.
We can start by praying for the people around us in Christ’s body, the ones with whom we worship—and the ones whom we would like to bring into the church. We can get to know the women God brings into our lives and share their ongoing stories. There’s nothing like ministering to real people to make us pray.
3. Offer Gospel Hope
As believers, we know the gospel is the “ground zero” of healing. Counseling in general can prop up a woman or a man, but counseling that tells the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done for us offers the only lasting hope. Counseling that offers the food of the Word of God feeds people with what they need to live—and to choose life over death. Many Christian pro-life clinics these days offer not just pre- but also post-abortion Bible-based counseling, aiming not just to stop the taking of babies’ lives but also to offer eternal life in Christ to all who will hear. Women and men in life-and-death crises often have open ears to hear.
Even if we’re not involved directly in such formal counseling, we are all involved in daily conversations with needy people—usually more needy than we ever realize. What if we were more ready to offer biblical words of hope and encouragement? What if we were a little less fearful? A few years ago, in a talk to college students, I addressed this topic of abortion with some trepidation. The dramatic response by both female and also male students took me by surprise. The Spirit and the Word do their work to open avenues of gospel healing and hope.
4. Add Concrete Action
As we realize the depths of this tragedy not only in our own nation but also globally, we can help in other ways, as God leads us.