SPURGEON, CHARLES HADDON (1834–1892)
Spurgeon was the son of a Congregational minister, but among his ancestors were Huguenots and Quakers. Born at Kelvedon, Essex, he spent much of his youth with his grandfather, himself a Congregational minister in Essex. He was sent to school in Colchester from 1845 to 1849, and it was in the same town, in a Primitive Methodist Chapel, that he was converted in 1850. Rejecting the tradition of his father, he decided to be baptized as an adult believer. After his baptism, he joined a Baptist church in Cambridge, where he was helping at a school; then he started his own private school.
By this time he had discovered his gifts as a preacher, and he was much in demand. After a brief pastorate near Cambridge at Waterbeach (1852–1854), he was called to the pastorate of the Baptist church in New Park Street, Southwark, London. The congregation was small when he arrived, but within a few weeks he was attracting large crowds, even though he was only twenty years of age. The chapel proved too small, and it was decided to extend it. While this was proceeding he preached at the Exeter Hall, but again the crowds could not be accommodated. When he returned to the extended chapel in New Park Street, this quickly proved too small; so a great tabernacle was planned. While this was being built, he preached to great crowds at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall.
The Metropolitan tabernacle cost thirty–one thousand pounds and could hold six thousand people. Spurgeon preached here from 1861 until just before his death. His preaching was powerful and even humorous. In theology he was a Calvinist. He was a careful expositor of the Scriptures and a dedicated evangelist. The excellency of his sermons is proved by the fact that in their printed form they are still popular and eminently readable today, a century later.
The Tabernacle was more than a preaching place; it was also an educational and social center. Spurgeon founded a pastor’s college in 1856 and an orphanage in 1867—both still exist. He also founded a colportage association; and from the church, various societies operated to help in the local slums.
Spurgeon was a prolific writer. From 1855 a sermon by him was printed each week. These have been collected in many volumes. In 1865 he started a monthly magazine, The Sword and the Trowel. His comments on the Psalms are in The Treasury of David (1870–1885). The advice he gave to preachers is found in his Lectures to My Students (1875, 1877) and Commenting and Commentaries (1876). His autobiography, edited by his wife and two friends and taken from his letters, diaries, etc., was published in four volumes between 1897 and 1900. Many of his writings still remain in print.
In such a position he could not escape from controversy. Sometimes he was drawn into it, and at other times he initiated it. He attacked both extremes of Protestant theology—hyper–Calvinism and Arminianism. In 1864 he deeply offended the evangelical Anglicans by accusing them of dishonesty. By using the Prayer Book Service of Holy Baptism and at the same time denying the doctrine of instantaneous baptismal regeneration, the Anglicans were being dishonest, said Spurgeon. Then there was the famous “Downgrade Controversy” of 1887 to 1889. He accused some of his fellow Baptists of teaching radical and “modernist” theology. This caused great troubles in the Baptist Union and caused his withdrawal from the Union. Despite these controversies, Spurgeon will always be known as the great preacher and orator. P.Toon
J. D. Douglas, Philip Wesley Comfort and Donald Mitchell, Who’s Who in Christian History, Illustrated Lining Papers. (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1997, c1992).
This Biographical Sketch comes from…
Who’s Who in Christian History
With over 1,500 biographical entries, this bibliographical dictionary is a comprehensive resource, spanning the first through the twentieth centuries-from Jesus and the apostles to Billy Graham and Mother Teresa. Any reader will be fascinated and inspired by the lives of men and women-well known and obscure-who were influential in Christian history. This one volume biographical dictionary is also a perfect resource for pastors, Bible teachers, Sunday school teachers, Bible students, and seminarians.