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This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.

1. His ministry began in the year of his conversion as a young man.

Spurgeon was raised in a Christian home, but was converted in 1850 at fifteen years old. Caught in a snowstorm, he took refuge in a small Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester. After about ten minutes, with only twelve to fifteen people present, the preacher fixed his eyes on Spurgeon and spoke to him directly:

“Young man, you look very miserable.” Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.” Spurgeon later wrote, ‘Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.’ 1

The ‘Prince of Preachers’ was tricked into preaching his first sermon that same year. An older man had asked Spurgeon to go to the little village of Teversham the next evening, “for a young man was to preach there who was not much used to services, and very likely would be glad of company.” It was only the next day that he realized the ‘young man’ was himself.2

2. He was a man of hard work and huge influence.

He went on to preach in person up to thirteen times per week, gathered the largest church of his day, and could make himself heard in a crowd of twenty-three thousand people (without amplification). In print he published some eighteen million words, selling over fifty-six million copies of his sermons in nearly forty languages in his own lifetime.

3. He was self-consciously a theological and doctrinal preacher.

While Spurgeon is not known as a theologian as such, he was nevertheless a deeply theological thinker and his sermons were rich in doctrine, and dripping with knowledge of historical theology – especially the Puritans.

Some preachers seem to be afraid lest their sermons should be too rich in doctrine, and so injure the spiritual digestions of their hearers. The fear is superfluous. . . . This is not a theological age, and therefore it rails at sound doctrinal teaching, on the principle that ignorance despises wisdom. The glorious giants of the Puritan age fed on something better than the whipped creams and pastries which are now so much in vogue.3

4. He was pre-eminently a theologian and preacher of the cross.

Spurgeon’s was a cross-centered and cross-shaped theology, for the cross was “the hour” of Christ’s glorification (John 12:23–24), the place where Christ was and is exalted, the only message able to overturn the hearts of men and women otherwise enslaved to sin. Along with Isaiah 45:22, one of Spurgeon’s favorite Bible verses was John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

He insisted on celebrating the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and often broke bread during the week as well. He believed his preaching of the crucified Christ was the only reason why such great crowds were drawn to his church for so many years.

Who can resist his charms? One look of his eyes overpowers us. See with your heart those eyes when they are full of tears for perishing sinners, and you are a willing subject. One look at his blessed person subjected to scourging and spitting for our sakes will give us more idea of his crown rights than anything besides. Look into his pierced heart as it pours out its life-flood for us, and all disputes about his sovereignty are ended in our hearts. We own him Lord because we see how he loved.4

5. He aimed his ministry and preaching at new birth.

Regeneration was one of the “three Rs” (ruin, redemption, and regeneration) Spurgeon always sought to preach. And regeneration was something he always expected to see as he preached the gospel. A friend of his once came to him, depressed because for three months of ministry he had not seen a single conversion. Spurgeon slyly asked, “Do you expect the Lord to save souls every time you open your mouth?” Embarrassed, the man answered “Oh, no, sir!” “Then,” Spurgeon replied, “that is just the reason why you have not had conversions: ‘According to your faith be it unto you.’”5

Regeneration, he saw, is a work of pure grace—and those the Lord regenerates, he will indwell. And “with such an indweller we need not fear, but that this poor heart of ours will yet become perfect as God is perfect; and our nature through his indwelling shall rise into complete meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light.”6

6. He knew how to enjoy life.

Spurgeon loved life and saw the creation as a blessing from God to be enjoyed. For tired ministers, he recommended:

A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm,’ which ‘would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.’7

He couldn’t resist walking outside in thunderstorms (‘I like to hear my Heavenly Father’s voice in the thunder’), he is known for his cigar smoking, and he had a keen interest in botany. Like us all, Spurgeon was uniquely himself. Yet his big-heartedness and joy as he walked through his Father’s creation displays exactly the sort of life that will always grow from the theology he believed.

“The marvel of heaven and earth, of time and eternity, is the atoning death of Jesus Christ. This is the mystery that brings more glory to God than all creation.”

C. H. Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpg

What I Learned from Charles Spurgeon

Article by Alistair Begg

Pastor, Chagrin Falls, Ohio

On Sunday morning, August 5, 1855, 21-year-old Charles Haddon Spurgeon stepped behind the pulpit of New Park Street Chapel to challenge his congregation to follow the example of one of the saints who had inspired his ministry, the apostle Paul. “As a preacher of the word,” Spurgeon said of Paul, “he stands out pre-eminently as the prince of preachers and a preacher to kings.”

Young Spurgeon’s description of Paul was prophetic of his own future ministry. Within a few short years of that Sabbath morning, Spurgeon also earned the moniker “the prince of preachers” as he proclaimed God’s word to congregants from every stratum of society. The boy preacher from humble beginnings even became the “preacher to kings” as members of the British royal family filled his pews.

Lessons from the Prince of Preacher

I first heard the name “Spurgeon” as a young boy in Scotland. However, when I became a man, and began to read his sermons and writings, he endeared himself to me even more. Today, as a minister, I find in his work and life a wonderful example of what it means to be a preacher of the gospel.

1. Preach the Word

As Spurgeon stood before the congregation of New Park Street Chapel that same August Sunday to discuss what it means to preach the word, he pointed his listeners to the veracity and sufficiency of the Scriptures. “Am I to take God’s Bible and sever it and say, ‘This is husk and this is wheat?’” Spurgeon said, “Am I to cast away any one truth and say, ‘I dare not preach it’? No — God forbid!”

Throughout his ministry, Charles Spurgeon maintained an unwavering commitment to the word of God. Over time it became apparent that whether he was preaching in the Crystal Palace, before thousands in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, or with his students, Spurgeon was a man of integrity. His integrity, however, extended beyond his own personal life to encompass his concern for the gospel and theology. His preaching was forever crystal clear and Jesus-centered — qualities that have chased me down through the corridors of time to make me an unabashed fan of Spurgeon.

2. Cultivate the Heart of a Shepherd

Following the example of his Good Shepherd, Spurgeon was filled with compassion for sinners and longed to see them safely returned to the fold of God. Spurgeon firmly believed God loved saving the lost. It was a conviction that fueled his ministry. His tremendous longing to see men and women respond to the offer of the gospel was only matched by his intolerance for those who tainted the gospel of grace with the fallacy of good works.

“I find a great many preachers are preaching that kind of doctrine,” Spurgeon said. “They tell a poor convicted sinner, ‘You must go home and pray and read the Scriptures; you must attend the ministry.’ Works, works, works — instead of, ‘By grace are you saved through faith’” (see Ephesians 2:8).

“It is easier to spend five hours preparing for a sermon than to consecrate five minutes to prayer for our people.

Spurgeon was also committed to tenderly feed his flock.

For the rest of the post…

Five Timeless Quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Who’s the most quotable Christian writer you’ve encountered? Last year, I nominated C.S. Lewis and Charles Spurgeon as candidates and shared five memorable quotes from each as evidence.But since then, I’ve been forced to acknowledge another candidate: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous World War 2 pastor and martyr. Bonhoeffers’ writing style doesn’t lend itself to punchy quips like those of Lewis and Spurgeon, but he had a remarkable gift drawing practical advice out of complex or potentially vague subjects.

Here are five of my favorite Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes, drawn from the 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoefferdevotional.

1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Discipleship

“Those who follow Jesus’ commandment entirely, who let Jesus’ yoke rest on them without resistance, will find the burden they must bear to be light. In the gentle pressure of this yoke they will receive the strength to walk the right path without becoming weary.…Where will the call to discipleship lead those who follow it? What decisions and painful separations will it entail? We must take this question to him who alone knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows where the path will lead. But we know that it will be a path full of mercy beyond measure. Discipleship is joy.”

2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Intercessory Prayer

“A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.”

3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Virtue of Listening

“We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to ‘offer’ something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening.”

4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Worry

“Do not worry! Earthly goods deceive the human heart into believing that they give it security and freedom from worry. But in truth, they are what cause anxiety. The heart which clings to goods receives with them the choking burden of worry. Worry collects treasures, and treasures produce more worries. We desire to secure our lives with earthly goods; we want our worrying to make us worry-free, but the truth is the opposite. The chains which bind us to earthly goods, the clutches which hold the goods tight, are themselves worries.”

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On the influential preacher’s 180th birthday, some of his most profound sayings.

Obviously, there’s no sure way to quantify any preacher’s impact, but the numbers for Charles Spurgeon are telling.

Known as the “Prince of Preachers,” the British Baptist pastor is estimated to have preached 3,500 sermons to about 10 million people, a staggering number in pre-Internet days. He published 49 volumes of commentaries, anecdotes and devotionals during his lifetime, and the complete collection of his sermons fills 63 volumes, making it the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.

A pastor in London for almost 40 years, Spurgeon was one of the most well-known pastors of his day. And even now, more than 120 years after his death, he continues to be an important and influential voice across denominations in the Church.

Perhaps one reason for Spurgeon’s continuing legacy is his ability to speak plainly and clearly. He is immensely quotable. So, in honor of Spurgeon’s 180th Birthday, here is a collection of some of his most profound quotes.

“God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the sea of its water, or deprive the sun of its light, or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God”

“If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.”

“The way to do a great deal is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.”

“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.”

“All the flowers of the field, and many of the beasts of the plain, and now the very orbs of heaven, are turned into metaphors and symbols by which the glory of Jesus may be manifested to us. Where God takes such pains to teach, we ought to be at pains to learn.”

“A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.”

“None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves.”

“Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.”

“Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.”

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32 Things You Might Not Know About Charles Spurgeon

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.”

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