Charles Spurgeon was considered the most extraordinary preacher of the 19th century. He was known as the “Prince of Preachers.” He was a dramatic speaker, often pacing the platform, acting out biblical stories, and filling his sermons with sentimental tales of dying children, grieving parents, and repentant harlots. His messages offended many earning him the titles, “the Exeter Hall demagogue” and “the pulpit buffoon.”
His reply, “I am perhaps vulgar, but it is not intentional, save that I must and will make people listen. My firm conviction is that we have had enough polite preachers.”
On certain subjects, he was incapable of moderation: Rome, ritualism, hypocrisy, and modernism—the last of which became the center of a controversy that would mark his last years in ministry.
The “Down-Grade Controversy,” as it came to be known, was started in 1887 when Spurgeon began publicly claiming that some of his fellow Baptist ministers were “down grading” the faith. This was the late-nineteenth century, when Darwinism and critical biblical scholarship were compelling many Christians to re-evaluate their understanding of the Bible. Spurgeon believed the issue was not one of interpretation but of the essentials of the faith. He proclaimed in his monthly, The Sword and the Trowel, “Our warfare is with men who are giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and casting slurs upon justification by faith.”
His wit and sense of humor were legendary. He disliked instrumental music in the church, especially anthems. After hearing a special performance Spurgeon was told that it was music supposedly sung by David. His immediate reply was, “Then I know why Saul threw his javelin at him.” In one of his Friday lectures to his college students the pastor told his students, “When you preach on heaven, have a face that reflects the sweetness of God; when you preach on hell, your normal face will do quite well.”
Some Calvinists called him an Arminian and many Arminians called him a hyper-Calvinist. These attacks mattered little to Spurgeon. What he longed for was to see God pour out His Spirit on His people. He was always calling the church to true revival.
If there is any one remaining tangible evidence of the influence Spurgeon had in his day it can be found in his sermons. In particular, his printed sermons have had a monumental impact for over 100 years. There are 63 volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons in print to this day. Newspapers carried his sermons on a weekly and sometimes daily basis for many years. Well over 100 million of those weekly sermons were sold. If one took into account all of his publications they would fill 200 large books.
Such a preacher has much to tell us today in the 21st century. Here are 19 lessons for pastors from Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
A Lesson From Charles Spurgeon on Evangelism: “If our preaching never saves a soul, and is not likely to do so, should we not better glorify God as peasants, or as tradesmen? What honour can the Lord received from useless ministers?”
Charles Spurgeon: Preachers Need to Help People Understand their Need for Repentance Before Offering Hope: “It will never do for men to be led to think that they are healed before they know that they are sick unto death, or to imagine that they are clothed before they see themselves to be naked, or to be taught to trust Christ before they are aware that they have anything for which they have need to trust Him.”
Christian George: What Charles Spurgeon Has to Say to the Church Today: “Just because a church is large doesn’t mean it’s healthy; it could just mean it’s swollen.”
12 Preaching Tips From Charles Spurgeon: “Prayer will singularly assist you in the delivery of your sermon; in fact, nothing can so gloriously fit you to preach as descending fresh from the mount of communion with God to speak with men. None are so able to plead with men as those who have been wrestling with God on their behalf.”
“Advice for Seekers,” by Charles Spurgeon: “If you think about it, God’s value of heaven and yours are very different things. His salvation, when he set a price upon it, was to be brought to men only through the death of his Son. But you think that your good works can win the heaven which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, procured at the cost of his own blood! Do you dare to put your miserable life in comparison with the life of God’s obedient Son, who gave himself even to death? Does it not strike you that you are insulting God? If there is a way to heaven by works, why did he put his dear Son to all that pain and grief? Why the scenes of Gethsemane? Why the tragedy on Golgotha, when the thing could be done so easily another way? You insult the wisdom of God and the love of God.”
Morning & Evening, by Charles Spurgeon: “It is our duty and our privilege to wait upon the Lord in service, in worship, in expectancy, in trust all the days of our life. Our faith will be tried faith, and if it be of the true kind, it will bear continued trial without yielding. We shall not grow weary of waiting upon God if we remember how long and how graciously He once waited for us.”
“Compel Them to Come In:” The Posture and Persuasion in the Preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon: “I exhort you, then, to look to Jesus and be [en]lightened. Sinner, you will never regret—I will be bondsman for my Master that you will never regret it—you will have no sigh to go back to your condemnation…”
3 Ways the Holy Spirit Helped Spurgeon Preach: “Our hope of success, and our strength for continuing the service, lie in our belief that the Spirit of the Lord rest upon us.”
3 Things You Didn’t Know About Spurgeon’s Wife: “two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart.”
3 Reasons You Should Read Spurgeon: “We are all far too prone to trust in something else instead of in God; and God is always jealous of these rivals.”
13 Spurgeon Quotes for Surviving Guilt: “It is the church that is unmerciful sometimes, but not the Master: He is ever willing to receive us when we come to him.”
11 Reasons Spurgeon Was Depressed: “The troubled man experiences a good deal, not because he is a Christian, but because he is a man, a sickly man, a man inclined to melancholy.”
How Spurgeon Scheduled His Week: “I wish it could be said of us that we wasted neither an hour of our time, nor an hour of other people’s time.”
Spurgeon Almost Quit: “I have gone to the very bottoms of the mountains, as some of you know, in a night that never can be erased from my memory … but, as far as my witness goes, I can say that the Lord is able to save unto the uttermost and in the last extremity, and he has been a good God to me.”
Spurgeon on God’s Power in Our Lives: “It is not, ‘Canst thou work, O God?’ but it is, ‘Canst thou believe, O Christian?’ Thou hast a mighty arm, O God, but that arm is thy people’s arm; for it is written, ‘he is their arm every morning, and their salvation every night.’ Come then with confidence, ye who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice, for this God is our God for ever and ever, and he will help us. yea, he will help us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.”
“Till He Comes,” by Spurgeon: “The process of destroying follies is more hopefully performed at Jesus’ feet than anywhere else. Oh, that the Lord would come again to us as at the first, and like a consuming fire discover and destroy the dross which now alloys our gold!”
We Shall See God: Spurgeon’s Devotional Thoughts on Heaven: “Oh, the intensity of the divine love of the Father to the Son! There was no world, no sun, no moon, no stars, no universe, but God alone. And the whole of God’s omnipotence flowed forth in a stream of love to the Son, while the son’s whole being remained eternally one with the Father by a mysterious essential union.”
What is the Criteria for Pastoral Calling? (Spurgeon’s Answer): “The will of the Lord concerning pastors is made known through the prayerful judgement of His church. It is needful as a proof of your vocation that your preaching should be acceptable to the people of God.”
Spurgeon on the Inexhaustibility of Jesus: “Brethren, there is an abiding fullness of truth in Christ; after you have heard it for fifty years, you see more of its fullness than you did at first.”