Remembering C.H. Spurgeon’s success and spirituality

In many ways, C.H. Spurgeon's ministry was nothing less than amazing: the crowded auditories that assembled to hear the "Cambridgeshire lad" in the 1850s and that continued unabated till the end of his ministry in the early 1890s; the remarkable conversions that occurred under his preaching and the numerous churches in metropolitan London and the county of Surrey that owed their origins to his Evangelical activism; the solid Puritan divinity that undergirded his Evangelical convictions-something of a rarity in the heyday of the Victorian era during which he ministered for that was a day imbued with the very different ambience of Romanticism; and finally, the ongoing life of his sermons that are still being widely read around the world today and deeply appreciated by God's children. What accounts for all of this? Numerous reasons could be cited, many of which may indeed play a secondary role in his ministerial success. For example, in a fairly recent biography of Spurgeon, Mike Nicholls emphasizes the importance of Spurgeon's voice to his success as a preacher.  He possessed, Nicholls writes, "one of the great speaking voices of his age, musical and combining compass, flexibility and power."(1) Augustine Birrell (1850-1933), the son of one of Spurgeon's fellow Baptist pastors and who served as the Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1907 to 1916, testifies to this fact. Birrell records that when he went to hear Spurgeon preach once, the only seat he could find was in the topmost gallery, in what the English call "the gods." He was squished between a woman eating an orange and a man sucking peppermints.  Finding this combination of odours unendurable, he was about to leave, when, he said, "I heard a voice and forgot all else."(2) But Spurgeon himself looked to quite a different source for the blessings that attended his ministry.  In a speech that he gave at a celebration held in honour of his fiftieth birthday in 1884, the Baptist preacher forthrightly declared that the blessing he had enjoyed in his pastorate "must be entirely attributed to the grace of God, and to the working of God's Holy Spirit... Let that stand as a matter, not only taken for granted, but as a fact distinctly recognized."(3) In other words: behind Spurgeon's successes as a minister of the gospel was his walk with God.

  1. C. H. Spurgeon: The Pastor Evangelist (Didcot, Oxfordshire: Baptist Historical Society, 1992), 37.
  2. Cited E.J. Poole-Connor, Evangelicalism in England (London: The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, 1951), 226-227.
  3. C.H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, compiled Susannah Spurgeon and J.W. Harrald (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1900), IV, 243.