Charles Spurgeon

spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

If I were to pick any Baptist preacher in Church history whom I’d like to meet, the beloved “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon would be amongst the top of my list.  I was often blessed upon reading his sermons, for he has a way with words that can encourage the soul.  He provides concrete examples with which his layman audience could easily understand.  His diction and delivery are inspirational; they enhance the beauty and force of his message.  After reading Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore, I’ve come to appreciate also his character, wit, and humor, for Spurgeon showed with his ready humor how it is possible for the highest spirituality to be exemplified in the cheeriest character.  His wit is as abundant as his wisdom.

Some favorite sayings and writings of Spurgeon which I find rather memorable (some are funny, and others edifying)…

On criticism:

Spurgeon was well-known as a cigar smoker, mostly for medicinal reasons as he faced certain health problems in his life.  He didn’t view cigar smoking as intrinsically wrong, if not in excess, and said he would quit if he finds himself smoking too much.  One time someone, who was particularly critical of Spurgeon, asked him how much is “too much”; to which Spurgeon replied, “Two at a time, of course.” 🙂

On head of family:

One time, in speaking to a couple getting married, he encouraged that they would both be “dearly-beloved” not only at the beginning of their marriage, but all through the end; and that, while their sorrows would be mutually shared, their joys would all be multiplied.  Referring to Ephesians 5:23, he addressed the bride and said:

“According to the teaching of the apostle, ‘The husband is the head of the wife.’  Don’t you try to be the head; but you be the neck, then you can turn the head whichever way you like.”

On his age:

Spurgeon had incredible oratory skills.  On his first effort at preaching in the pulpit, an elderly woman, who was enthusiastic of his preaching, cried out, “Bless your heart, how old are you?”  He replied that there should not be interruption in the service.  After the last hymn was sung she asked the same question again.  He replied, “I am under sixty.”  “Yes, and under sixteen!” the lady replied.  The congregation asked him to come and preach to them again as soon as possible.

On the truly Christian marriage:

From his sermon titled “The Saint One With His Savior” in which he beautifully describes a happy marriage and the true wife, all the while describing his beloved wife Susannah:

Sometimes we have seen a model marriage, founded on pure love, and cemented in mutual esteem.  Therein, the husband acts as a tender head; and the wife, as a true spouse, realizes the model marriage-relation, and sets forth what our oneness with the Lord ought to be.  She delights in her husband, in his person, his character, his affection; to her, he is not only the chief and foremost of mankind, but in her eyes he is all-in-all; her heart’s love belongs to him, and to him only.  She finds sweetest content and solace in his company, his fellowship, his fondness; he is her little world, her Paradise, her choice treasure.  At any time, she would gladly lay aside her own pleasure to find it doubled in gratifying him.  She is glad to sink her individuality in his.  She seeks no renown for herself; his honor is reflected upon her, and she rejoices in it.  She would defend his name with her dying breath; safe enough is he where she can speak for him.  The domestic circle is her kingdom; that she may there create happiness and comfort, is her lifework; and his smiling gratitude is all the reward she seeks.  Even in her dress, she thinks of him; without constraint she consults his taste and considers nothing beautiful which is distasteful to him.

Susannah & Charles Spurgeon

A tear from his eye, because of any unkindness on her part, would grievously torment her.  She asks not how her behavior may please a stranger, or how another’s judgment may approve her conduct; let her beloved be content, and she is glad.  He has many objects in life, some of which she does not quite understand; but she believes in them all, and anything she can do to promote them, she delights to perform.  He lavishes love on her, and, in return, she lavishes love on him.  Their object in life is common.  There are points where their affections so intimately unite that none could tell which is first and which is second.  To watch their children growing up in health and strength, to see them holding posts of usefulness and honor, is their mutual concern; in this and other matters, they are fully one.  Their wishes blend, their hearts are indivisible.  By degrees, they come to think very much the same thoughts. Intimate association creates conformity; I have known this to become so complete that, at the same moment, the same utterance has leaped to both their lips.

Happy woman and happy man!  If heaven be found on earth, they have it!  At last the two are so welded, so engrafted on one stem, that their old age presents a lovely attachment, a common sympathy, by which its infirmities are greatly alleviated, and its burdens are transformed into fresh bonds of love.  So happy a union of will, sentiment, thought, and heart exists between them, that the two streams of their life have washed away the dividing bank, and run on as one broad current of united existence, until their common joy falls into the main ocean of felicity.

On agnosticism:

A gentleman said to Spurgeon, “Ah! Mr. Spurgeon, I don’t agree with you about religion; I am an agnostic.”  Spurgeon replied, “Yes!  That is a Greek word, and the exact equivalent is ignoramus; if you like to claim that title, you are quite welcome to.”

On God’s providence:

From Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening; Or, Readings at Eventide for the Family or the Closet (p. 318):

Believer, if your inheritance be a lowly one, you should be satisfied with your earthly portion; for you may rest assured that it is the fittest for you.  Unerring wisdom ordained your lot, and selected for you the safest and best condition.  A ship of large tonnage is to be brought up the river; now, in one part of the stream there is sand-bank; should some one ask, “Why does the captain steer through the deep part of the channel, and deviate so much from a straight line?” his answer would be, “Because I should not get my vessel into harbor at all if I did not keep to the deep channel.”  So, it may be, you would run aground and suffer shipwreck, if your divine Captain did not steer you into the depths of affliction, where waves of trouble follow each other in quick succession.  Some plants die if they have too much sunshine.  It may be that you are planted where you get but little; you are put there by the loving Husbandman, because only in that situation will you bring forth fruit unto perfection.  Remember this: had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.  You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances, and if you had the choosing of your lot, you would soon cry, “Lord, choose my inheritance for me, for by my self-will I am pierced through with many sorrows.”  Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good.  Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God.  Down, busy self and proud impatience; it is not for you to choose, but for the Lord of Love!


Christopher Love’s Last Prayer on the Scaffold

Christopher LoveAt two o’clock in the afternoon on Friday, August 22, 1651, the great Puritan minister Christopher Love ascended the platform of the scaffold at Tower Hill, London.  He was accompanied by fellow ministers, Thomas Manton, Simeon Ashe, and Edmund Calamy.  His life was to be cut short at 33 years of age due to alleged involvement with a plan to raise money for the restoration of the monarchy, a charge Love denied.  Believing that his death would glorify God, these were among his last words: “I do more good by my death than by my life, and glorify God more in my dying upon a scaffold than if I had died of a disease upon my bed.”

Prior to his execution, Love prayed for his accusers, for the Church, for England and Scotland to be one, and for the friend who was to be executed after him.

I found his submission to the will of God and prayer so inspiring:

“Most glorious and eternal Majesty, Thou art righteous and holy in all thou dost to the sons of men, though thou hast suffered men to condemn Thy servant, Thy servant will not condemn Thee.  He justifies Thee though Thou cuttest him off in the midst of his days and in the midst of his ministry, blessing thy glorious name, that though he be taken away from the land of the living, yet he is not blotted out of the Book of the Living.  Father, mine hour is come.  This Thy poor creature can say without vanity and falsehood.  He hath desired to glorify Thee on earth; glorify Thou now him in heaven.  He hath desired to bring the souls of other men to heaven; let his soul be brought to heaven.

“O Thou blessed God, whom thy creature hath served, who hath made thee his hope and his confidence from his youth, forsake him not now while he is drawing near to Thee.  Now he is in the valley of the shadow of death, Lord, be Thou life to him.  Smile Thou upon him while men frown upon him.  Lord, Thou hast settled this persuasion in his heart that as soon as ever the blow is given to divide his head from his body he shall be united to his Head in heaven.  Blessed be God that Thy servant dies in these hopes.  Blessed be God that Thou hast filled the soul of Thy servant with joy and peace in believing.

“O Lord, think upon that poor brother of mine, who is a companion in tribulation with me, who is this day to lose his life as well as I.  O fill him full with the Holy Ghost when he is to give up the ghost!  Lord, strengthen our hearts that we may give up the ghost with joy and not with grief.

“We entreat Thee, O Lord, think upon Thy poor churches. O that England might live in Thy sight!  And O that London might be a faithful city to Thee!  That righteousness might be among them, that peace and plenty might be within her walls and prosperity within their habitations.  Lord, heal the breaches of these nations; make England and Scotland as one staff in the Lord’s hand, that Ephraim may not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim, but that both may fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines.  O that men of the Protestant religion, engaged in the same cause and covenant, might not delight to spill each other’s blood, but might engage against the common adversaries of our religion and liberty!  God, show mercy to all that fear Thee.  The Lord think upon our covenant-keeping brethren of the Kingdom of Scotland; keep them faithful to Thee, and let not them that have invaded them overspread their whole land.  Prevent the shedding of more Christian blood if it seems good in Thine eyes.

“God show mercy to Thy poor servant who is now giving up the ghost.  O blessed Jesus, apply Thy blood not only for my justification unto life, but also for my comfort, for the quieting of my soul so I may be in the joys of heaven before I come to the possession of heaven!  Hear the prayers of all Thy people that have been made for Thy servant, and though Thou hast denied prayer as to that particular request concerning my life, yet let herein the fruit of prayer be seen, that Thou wilt bear up my heart against the fear of death.  God show mercy to all that fear Him, and show mercy to all who have engaged for the life of Thy servant.  Let them have mercy at the day of their appearing before Jesus Christ.  Preserve Thou a godly ministry in this nation, and restore a goodly magistracy, and cause yet good days to be the heritage of Thy people for the Lord’s sake.

“Now, Lord, into Thy hands Thy servant commits his spirit; and though he may not with Stephen see the heavens open, yet let him have the heavens open.  And though he may not see upon a scaffold the Son of God standing at the right hand of God, yet let him come to the glorious body of Jesus Christ and this hour have an intellectual sight of the glorious body of his Saviour.  Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and, Lord Jesus, stand by me, Thy dying servant who hath endeavoured in his lifetime to stand for Thee.  Lord, hear, pardon all infirmities, wash away his iniquities by the blood of Christ, wipe off reproaches from his name, wipe off guilt from his person and receive him pure and spotless and blameless before Thee in love.  And all this we beg for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Amen and Amen.”

Christopher Love knew how to live well, and to die well.  He was another servant of Christ of whom the world was not worthy.  As his dear wife Mary said of him, “He lived too much in heaven to live long on earth.”

Christopher Love’s prayer is excerpted from Don Kistler’s A Spectacle Unto God: The Life and Death of Christopher Love.


Christopher and Mary Love

It is inspiring to hear or read of godly women in the faith, including those from centuries past.  One such woman in my reading is Mary Love, the wife of the great 17th century Puritan preacher Christopher Love.

Christopher Love’s life was cut short at the age of 33 when he was executed (beheaded) in 1651 for alleged conspiracy against Oliver Cromwell, then the Lord Protector of England.  His wife was eight months pregnant with their fifth child, the third to live, at the time of his execution.

Love used the scaffold as a final pulpit to preach his last sermon and pray for his accusers.  These were among his last words: “There is but two steps between me and glory.  It is but lying down upon the block that I shall ascend upon a throne.  I am exchanging a pulpit for a scaffold and a scaffold for a throne.  I am exchanging a guard of soldiers for a guard of angels, to carry me to Abraham’s bosom.”

What was Mary’s response in the weeks approaching her husband’s execution?  We can see a glimpse of her heart and faith through a letter she wrote to her husband.  It is hard to read her letter with a dry eye:

July 14, 1651

My Dear Heart,

Before I write a word further, I beseech thee think not that it is thy wife but a friend now that writes to thee. I hope thou hast freely given up thy wife and children to God, who hath said in Jeremiah 49:11, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.”  Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children.

O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations.  I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ.

I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain.  Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory.

Thou leavest but children, brothers, and sisters to go to the Lord Jesus, thy eldest Brother.  Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory.

Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace.  And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above.  I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.

My dear, I know God hath not only prepared glory for thee, and thee for it, but I am persuaded that He will sweeten the way for thee to come to the enjoyment of it.  When thou art putting on thy clothes that morning, O think, “I am putting on my wedding garments to go to be everlastingly married to my Redeemer.”

When the messenger of death comes to thee, let him not seem dreadful to thee, but look on him as a messenger that brings thee tidings of eternal life.  When thou goest up the scaffold, think (as thou saidst to me) that it is but thy fiery chariot to carry thee up to thy Father’s house.

And when thou layest down thy precious head to receive thy Father’s stroke, remember what thou saidst to me: Though thy head was severed from thy body, yet in a moment thy soul should be united to thy Head, the Lord Jesus, in heaven.

And though it may seem something bitter, that by hands of men we are parted a little sooner than otherwise we might have been, yet let us consider that it is the decree and will of our Father, and it will not be long ere we shall enjoy one another in heaven again.

Let us comfort one another with these sayings.  Be comforted, my dear heart.  It is but a little stroke and thou shalt be there where the weary shall be at rest and where the wicked shall cease from troubling.  Remember that thou mayest eat thy dinner with bitter herbs, yet thou shalt have a sweet supper with Christ that night.

My dear, by what I write unto thee, I do not hereby undertake to teach thee; for these comforts I have received from the Lord by thee.  I will write no more, nor trouble thee any further, but commit thee into the arms of God with whom ere long thee and I shall be.

Farewell, my dear, I shall never see thy face more till we both behold the face of the Lord Jesus at that great day.

Mary Love

Mary’s letter challenges my thoughts about the kind of love prevalent in today’s culture.  Her love for her husband was not a selfish nor idolatrous love that elevated him above God, but a love firmly rooted in the One who first loved us and who dealt the heaviest stroke of all upon His only begotten Son whom He loves (so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but receive eternal life).  Instead of focusing upon her great loss, Mary directed her focus (and her husband’s) upon their first Love and eternal Bridegroomthe Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary Love’s letter is excerpted from James Anderson’s Memorable Women of the Puritan Times, Volume One.


Jonathan Edwards’ Personal Narrative

This evening, came across Jonathan Edwards’ account of his early years and testimony of his faith in Christ.   He reminds me of the infinite riches and beauty of God’s grace and mercy with such eloquence, that I wanted to take notes for future reminder:

“My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or mountain over my head.  I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite.  Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mouth, ‘Infinite upon infinite … Infinite upon infinite!’  When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell.  And it appears to me, that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fulness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power and grace stretched forth in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of his sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins below hell itself; far beyond the sight of every thing, but the eye of sovereign grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth.”  —Jonathan Edwards, “Personal Narrative”

I can relate.  C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We read to know that we are not alone.”  It’s immensely encouraging to read of great theologians or heroes of the faith writing with such transparency about the reality of human frailties and struggles in their own spiritual pilgrimage, because I could then perhaps learn something of their perseverance and growth in the Christian life by God’s grace.


Sarah Edwards

I came across a memorable excerpt about the wife of 18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards.  He wrote the following about his (then to be) future wife, Sarah Pierrepont, in the first page of his Greek grammar textbook:

Sarah Edwards“They say there is a young lady [in New Haven] who is beloved of that almighty Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him — that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always.  There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight forever.  Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction.  She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being.  She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those seasons in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind.  She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what.  She loves to be alone, and to wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”

Edwards’ description conjures up a picture in my mind of someone who lives her life coram Deo (‘before the face of God’), always aware of God’s ever presence, in daily communion with Him.   What an inspiring picture.

Quotation is excerpted from George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life.