“To Glorify Christ”: The Goal of Spurgeon’s Preaching

In one important respect C. H. Spurgeon is a great model for today’s preacher in that he consistently sought to make his sermons Christ-centred and Christ-exalting. Throughout his preaching ministry, Spurgeon was faithful to the intentions that he declared when the Metropolitan Tabernacle first opened in 1861. The various meetings and services that accompanied the opening of the Tabernacle went on for a month and Spurgeon knew that they would be widely attended and reported. As Timothy Albert McCoy has rightly noted [“The Evangelistic Ministry of C. H. Spurgeon: Implications for a Contemporary Model for Pastoral Evangelism” (Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1989), 132], the words that he spoke in his first sermon in the new home for his congregation’s worship were therefore carefully chosen. “I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, & as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, “It is Jesus Christ.” My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity, admirable & excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin & bind myself for ever, God helping me, is not his system, or any other human treatise; but Jesus Christ, who is the sum & substance of the gospel, who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, & the life.” [C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, compiled Susannah Spurgeon and J.W. Harrald (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899), III, 1].

We find the same emphases in a sermon which he preached on April 24, 1891, to graduates of his College who had gathered for the annual conference which took place under the auspices of the Tabernacle. “Ah, brothers! the Holy Ghost never comes to glorify us, or to glorify a denomination, or, I think, even to glorify a systematic arrangement of doctrines. He comes to glorify Christ. If we want to be in accord with him, we must preach in order to glorify Christ.”[“Honey in the Mouth!”, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 37:381.].

Spurgeon was conscious that devotion to the doctrines of grace and dedication to Baptist principles can well exist without the all-essential heart of Christianity, namely, devotion to the Lord Jesus. He was determined that when he preached it would be the Lord Jesus who was pre-eminently exalted in his sermons. As Nigel Lacey, an English Baptist pastor, has observed, Spurgeon detested any preaching ministry that did not centre upon the Saviour [“Spurgeon—The Preacher”, Grace Magazine (January 1992), 6].

At the same time it should be understood that he never sought to conceal his doctrinal convictions as a Calvinistic Baptist. In a remarkable address which he gave at the Tabernacle on August 19, 1861 in honour of the centenary of the birth of William Carey (1761-1834), he declared to a packed auditorium of 6,000 that Carey’s theology was profoundly influenced by what he called “the noblest type of divinity that ever blessed the world,” that is, the theological convictions of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), the great eighteenth-century American theologian.

He then went on to emphasize that “Carey was the living model of Edwards’ theology, or rather of pure Christianity. His was not a theology which left out the backbone and strength of religion—not a theology, on the other hand, all bones and skeleton, a lifeless thing without a soul: his theology was full-orbed Calvinism, high as you please, but practical godliness so low that many called it legal.” Moreover, Spurgeon stated that he admired “Carey all the more for being a Baptist: he had none of that false charity which might prompt some to conceal their belief for fear of offending others; but at the same time he was a man who loved all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ.” [“C.H. Spurgeon’s tribute to William Carey”, Supplement to the Baptist Times, (16 April, 1992), 1].