Church history is full of some fascinating figures. Some of them are my heroes (and some of them are definitely not!!). One of those heroes has to be the great C H Spurgeon, of whom I've always been a fan and I've been back recently reading more of his life. The 'Prince of Preachers' has come down to us as a somewhat austere, irrelevant puritan but the reality is far different. Here was a man, who was innovative way beyond his time, who connected with his culture and day in a way few preachers had ever done before and who delighted in using the language and imagery of the ordinary people, as opposed to the obscure references and quotations from literary classics, beloved of other preachers of his day. You see, that’s why I love this man so much. He has so much to teach us about how to be contemporary and yet remain biblical at the same time, to be ‘orthodox’ yet fresh. When he died aged 58 in 1892, almost 100,000 attended the funeral. That’s impact!!
Spurgeon came to faith as a young man one very wintry morning. Making his way to a local Primitive Methodist Church, he discovered that the invited preacher had been unable to make it to the service due to the fierce weather. An old deacon, untrained in preaching and unable to deliver a proper sermon, simply quoted the text from Isaiah “look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth” and urged all to look and believe. God used the words to bring conviction to Spurgeon’s heart and he fell in love with Christ. His unique gifts became apparent early and he eventually found himself in the big city of London, daunted by the prospect of bringing Christ to the masses. Quickly, God blessed him and the New Park Street Church was soon too small for the thousands who flocked regularly to hear the message. Plans were drawn up and the mighty Metropolitan Tabernacle was constructed and opened in March 1861. Spurgeon was 27 years old.
Here was a man of the people – an uncompromising believer in the inerrancy and authority of God’s word and a fearless opponent of liberalism in all its forms. But he refused to bow down to the conventions of his day. His dress sense was deemed too casual, his language too ordinary, his methods uncouth. He was an ardent opponent of slavery and lost friends because of it. And when he and his church leaders decide to hold services in the Surrey music hall, critics were aghast. Was not the music hall for entertainment and dancing? Surely it was far too worldly for religious services? Was not this man a charlatan, a con man, a deceiver? Undeterred, he pressed ahead to great advancement of the gospel.
See - this is contemporary and relevant. Some of the issues are today’s issues – some of the lessons are bang up to date. Get to know this man; you won’t be disappointed.
If you would like a very straightforward but helpful introduction to this man try 'Charles Spurgeon: The Great Orator' in the Heroes of the Faith series by Barbour Publishing.