Skip to content

Faith: The prince of preachers

We live in a time where Christians are almost invisible.
chris kempling

“This present age is so flippant that if a man loves the Savior he is called a fanatic, and if he hates the powers of evil he is named a bigot.”

I’m willing to wager that many will think that whoever wrote this must still be among us and is most certainly referring to the present day.

But it is not new at all. It was written by the highly esteemed English pastor, Charles Hadden Spurgeon (b.1834-d.1890).

He is often referred to as “The Prince of Preachers,” both for the content of his sermons and the power of his oratory.

Spurgeon was a spell-binding speaker and a prolific author of devotional books. A Wikipedia entry lists 56 separate volumes. There are 63 volumes of his sermons alone, many of which were reprinted in multiple newspapers and translated into different languages.

Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon, Essex, but the family moved to Colchester when he was ten months old.

His parents were in very difficult financial straits, and he was sent to live with his grandparents when he was 18 months old.

His grandfather was a Congregationalist minister who had a great influence on him. Spurgeon spent many hours reading the volumes in his grandfather’s library and was familiar with the works of Bunyan, Calvin and dozens of other prominent Protestant authors. His personal library contained 12,000 volumes.

The story of Spurgeon’s conversion is a well-known one to those familiar with his life.

He was on his way to church, a fifteen-year old lad, when he was waylaid by a fierce snowstorm.

He sought shelter in a Primitive Methodist church where the Sunday service was in progress. It was in this service he was convicted and made a confession of faith. He was soon baptized and actually preached his first sermon at age 16.

Spurgeon never did earn a theological degree but his preaching talents secured him his first Baptist pastorate as a teenager in the town of Waterbeach, just north of Cambridge.

He was destined for a larger stage, though.

In 1854, at age 20, Spurgeon was offered an inner city pastorate in London, New Park Street.

It was one of the six largest Baptist churches in London, but despite its rich heritage, membership had dwindled to around 200 worshippers.

By the following year, New Park Street had outgrown its building and was forced to rent Exeter Hall to allow room for everyone who wanted to hear Spurgeon preach.

But even that wasn’t enough.

On October 19, 1856, 10,000 people crammed the Surrey Music Hall for Spurgeon’s message, with more outside unable to get in.

Tragically, someone shouted “Fire!” and in the ensuing panic, several were trampled to death.

This event had a profound impact on Spurgeon and likely contributed to a long struggle with depression.

In 1861, the congregation moved into a much larger church, The Metropolitan Tabernacle, which seated 5,000 and had room for another 1,000 standees. Spurgeon pastored his large flock for 38 years.

It is difficult to select quotes among so large an opus of writings. Spurgeon was quite critical of liberal tendencies among other Christian denominations (and some in his own denomination as well, which caused him some problems).

Here’s an example:

“Superficial religion will always be fashionable because it does not require self denial.”

I personally experienced some of that superficiality. I was visiting my in-laws in my former hometown and decided to go to the Sunday service in the church I attended as a child.

The congregation was miniscule. The sermon had one passing reference to a Bible verse, and focused on the importance of saving the whales and other environmental themes.

A pastor should not make you feel comfortable in your spiritual complacency.

Spurgeon pulled no punches.

He had a great burden for lost souls and thought every Christian ought to do everything in his power to convince sinners to repent:

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

Spurgeon urged his listeners to give their all to Christ, to allow Him to use them for His purposes:

“If Christ is not all to you He is nothing to you. He will never go into partnership as a part Saviour of men. If He be something He must be everything, and if He be not everything He is nothing to you.”

We live in a time where Christians are almost invisible. And, there aren’t many Spurgeons in Christian pulpits. That needs to change.

KTW welcomes submissions to its Faith page. Columns should be between 600 and 800 words in length and can be emailed to editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.