Charles Spurgeon

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Alexander Melville.jpg
Born (1834-06-19)19 June 1834
Kelvedon, Essex, England
Died 31 January 1892(1892-01-31) (aged 57)
Menton, Alpes-Maritimes, France
Nationality British
Occupation Pastor, author
Spouse(s) Susannah Spurgeon (born Thompson)
(22 October 1903)
Children Charles and Thomas Spurgeon (twins) (1856)
Parent(s) John and Eliza Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (/ˈhædən ˈspɜːrən/; 19 June 1834 – 31 January 1892) was an English Particular Baptist preacher. Spurgeon remains highly influential among Christians of various denominations, among whom he is known as the "Prince of Preachers". He was a strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition, defending the Church in agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith understanding, and opposing the liberal and pragmatic theological tendencies in the Church of his day. He also famously denied being a Protestant, and held to the view of Baptist Successionism.

Spurgeon was the pastor of the congregation of the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for 38 years.[1] He was part of several controversies with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and later he left the denomination over doctrinal convictions.[2] In 1867, he started a charity organisation which is now called Spurgeon's and works globally. He also founded Spurgeon's College, which was named after him posthumously.

Spurgeon was a prolific author of many types of works including sermons, an autobiography, commentaries, books on prayer, devotionals, magazines, poetry, hymns, and more.[3][4] Many sermons were transcribed as he spoke and were translated into many languages during his lifetime. Spurgeon produced powerful sermons of penetrating thought and precise exposition. His oratory skills held his listeners spellbound in the Metropolitan Tabernacle and many Christians hold his writings in exceptionally high regard among devotional literature.[5]


Early life[edit]

Born in Kelvedon, Essex, Spurgeon's conversion from nominal Anglicanism came on 6 January 1850, at age 15. On his way to a scheduled appointment, a snow storm forced him to cut short his intended journey and to turn into a Primitive Methodist chapel in Artillery Street, Newtown, Colchester where, he claimed, God opened his heart to the salvation message. The text that moved him was Isaiah 45:22 – "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else." Later that year on 4 April 1850, he was admitted to the church at Newmarket.

His baptism followed on 3 May in the river Lark, at Isleham. Later that same year he moved to Cambridge, where he later became a Sunday school teacher. He preached his first sermon in the winter of 1850–51 in a cottage at Teversham while filling in for a friend. From the beginning of his ministry his style and ability were considered to be far above average. In the same year, he was installed as pastor of the small Baptist church at Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, where he published his first literary work, a Gospel tract written in 1853.

New Park Street Chapel[edit]

Spurgeon at age 23.

In April 1854, after preaching three months on probation and just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 19, was called to the pastorate of London's famed New Park Street Chapel, Southwark (formerly pastored by the Particular Baptists Benjamin Keach, theologian John Gill and John Rippon). This was the largest Baptist congregation in London at the time, although it had dwindled in numbers for several years. Spurgeon found friends in London among his fellow pastors, such as William Garrett Lewis of Westbourne Grove Church, an older man who along with Spurgeon went on to found the London Baptist Association.

Within a few months of Spurgeon's arrival at Park Street, his ability as a preacher made him famous. The following year the first of his sermons in the "New Park Street Pulpit" was published. Spurgeon's sermons were published in printed form every week and had a high circulation. By the time of his death in 1892, he had preached nearly 3,600 sermons and published 49 volumes of commentaries, sayings, anecdotes, illustrations and devotions.

Immediately following his fame was criticism. The first attack in the press appeared in the Earthen Vessel in January 1855. His preaching, although not revolutionary in substance, was a plain-spoken and direct appeal to the people, using the Bible to provoke them to consider the teachings of Jesus Christ. Critical attacks from the media persisted throughout his life. The congregation quickly outgrew their building, and moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000. At 22, Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of the day.[6]

On 8 January 1856, Spurgeon married Susannah, daughter of Robert Thompson of Falcon Square, London, by whom he had twin sons, Charles and Thomas born on 20 September 1856. At the end of that year, tragedy struck on 19 October 1856, as Spurgeon was preaching at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall for the first time. Someone in the crowd yelled, "Fire!" The ensuing panic and stampede left several dead. Spurgeon was emotionally devastated by the event and it had a sobering influence on his life. He struggled against depression for many years and spoke of being moved to tears for no reason known to himself.

Spurgeon later in life.

Walter Thornbury later wrote in "Old and New London" (1897) describing a subsequent meeting at Surrey:

Spurgeon's work went on. A Pastors' College was founded in 1857 by Spurgeon and was renamed Spurgeon's College in 1923, when it moved to its present building in South Norwood Hill, London.[7] At the Fast Day, 7 October 1857, he preached to the largest crowd ever – 23,654 people – at The Crystal Palace in London. Spurgeon noted:

Metropolitan Tabernacle[edit]

Spurgeon preaching at the Surrey Music Hall circa 1858.

On 18 March 1861, the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed purpose-built Metropolitan Tabernacle at Elephant and Castle, Southwark, seating 5000 people with standing room for another 1000. The Metropolitan Tabernacle was the largest church edifice of its day. Spurgeon continued to preach there several times per week until his death 31 years later. He never gave altar calls at the conclusion of his sermons, but he always extended the invitation that if anyone was moved to seek an interest in Christ by his preaching on a Sunday, they could meet with him at his vestry on Monday morning. Without fail, there was always someone at his door the next day.

He wrote his sermons out fully before he preached, but what he carried up to the pulpit was a note card with an outline sketch. Stenographers would take down the sermon as it was delivered and Spurgeon would then have opportunity to make revisions to the transcripts the following day for immediate publication. His weekly sermons, which sold for a penny each, were widely circulated and still remain one of the all-time best selling series of writings published in history.

Missionary preaching in China using The Wordless Book

Besides sermons, Spurgeon also wrote several hymns and published a new collection of worship songs in 1866 called "Our Own Hymn Book". It was mostly a compilation of Isaac Watts's Psalms and Hymns that had been originally selected by John Rippon, a Baptist predecessor to Spurgeon. Singing in the congregation was exclusively a cappella under his pastorate. Thousands heard the preaching and were led in the singing without any amplification of sound that exists today. Hymns were a subject that he took seriously. While Spurgeon was still preaching at New Park Street, a hymn book called "The Rivulet" was published. Spurgeon aroused controversy because of his critique of its theology, which was largely deistic. At the end of his review, Spurgeon warned:

On 5 June 1862, Spurgeon challenged the Church of England when he preached against baptismal regeneration.[9] However, Spurgeon taught across denominational lines as well: for example, in 1877 he was the preacher at the opening of a new Free Church of Scotland church building in Dingwall. It was during this period at the new Tabernacle that Spurgeon found a friend in James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the inter-denominational China Inland Mission. Spurgeon supported the work of the mission financially and directed many missionary candidates to apply for service with Taylor. He also aided in the work of cross-cultural evangelism by promoting "The Wordless Book", a teaching tool that he described in a message given on 11 January 1866, regarding Psalm 51:7: "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." The book has been and is still used to teach people without reading skills and people of other cultures and languages – young and old – around the globe about the Gospel message.[10][11]

Following the example of George Müller, Spurgeon founded the Stockwell Orphanage, which opened for boys in 1867 and for girls in 1879, and which continued in London until it was bombed in the Second World War.[12][13][14] The orphanage became Spurgeon's Child Care which still exists today. On the death of missionary David Livingstone in 1873, a discolored and much-used copy of one of Spurgeon's printed sermons, "Accidents, Not Punishments,"[15] was found among his few possessions much later, along with the handwritten comment at the top of the first page: "Very good, D.L." He had carried it with him throughout his travels in Africa. It was sent to Spurgeon and treasured by him.[16]

Downgrade Controversy[edit]

Sword and Trowel original cover page

A controversy among the Baptists flared in 1887 with Spurgeon's first "Down-grade" article, published in The Sword & the Trowel.[17] In the ensuing "Downgrade Controversy," the Metropolitan Tabernacle became disaffiliated from the Baptist Union, effectuating Spurgeon's congregation as the world's largest self-standing church. Spurgeon framed the controversy in this way:

The Controversy took its name from Spurgeon's use of the term "Downgrade" to describe certain other Baptists' outlook toward the Bible (i.e., they had "downgraded" the Bible and the principle of sola scriptura).[19] Spurgeon alleged that an incremental creeping of the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and other concepts were weakening the Baptist Union.[20][21][22] Spurgeon emphatically decried the doctrine that resulted:

The standoff caused division amongst the Baptists and other non-conformists, and is regarded by many as an important paradigm.[a][20][24][25]

Opposition to slavery[edit]

Spurgeon strongly opposed the owning of slaves.[26] He lost support from the Southern Baptists, sales of his sermons dropped to a few, and he received scores of threatening and insulting letters as a consequence.[27]


Like other Baptists of his time, despite opposing Dispensationalism,[28][29] Spurgeon anticipated the restoration of the Jews to inhabit the Promised Land.[30]

Final years and death[edit]

Tomb of Charles Spurgeon, West Norwood Cemetery, London

Spurgeon's wife was often too ill to leave home to hear him preach. Spurgeon also suffered ill health toward the end of his life, afflicted by a combination of rheumatism, gout and Bright's disease. He often recuperated at Menton, near Nice, France, where he died on 31 January 1892. He enjoyed cigars and smoked a "F. P Del Rio y Ca." in his last days according to his grandson.[31] Spurgeon was survived by his wife and sons. His remains were buried at West Norwood Cemetery in London, where the tomb is still visited by admirers. His son Tom became the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle after his father died.


William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri purchased Spurgeon's 5,103-volume library collection for £500 ($2500) in 1906. The collection was purchased by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary[32] in Kansas City, Missouri in 2006 for $400,000 and is currently undergoing restoration. A special collection of Spurgeon's handwritten sermon notes and galley proofs from 1879–91 resides at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.[33] Spurgeon's College in London also has a small number of notes and proofs.


Spurgeon's works have been translated into many languages and Moon's and Braille type for the blind. He also wrote many volumes of commentaries and other types of literature.[34]


  1. ^ An accessible analysis, sympathetic to Spurgeon but no less useful, of the Downgrade Controversy appears at Tec Malta .


  1. ^ "History of the Tabernacle". Metropolitan Tabernacle. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  2. ^ Farley, William P (January 2007). "Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Greatest Victorian Preacher". Enrichment Journal. AG. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  3. ^ Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (1982), "Immanuel", in Houghton, Elsie, Christian Hymn-writers, Bridgend, Wales: Evangelical Press of Wales, ISBN 0-900898-66-6 
  4. ^ The Baptist Hymn Book, London: Psalms and Hymn Trust, 1982 
  5. ^ Dallimore, Arnold (1985), Spurgeon: A New Biography, pp. 178–79 
  6. ^  "Spurgeon, Charles Haddon". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  7. ^ Spurgeon's 
  8. ^ "The First Sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle". Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Preached Monday, March 25, 1861. Archived from the original on 30 January 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  9. ^ Spurgeon, Charles Haddon, Baptismal Regeneration, archived from the original on 4 January 2007 
  10. ^ The Wordless Book, 
  11. ^ Austin 2007, pp. 1–10.
  12. ^ Brief history, Spurgeon's child care 
  13. ^ Birchington history, The Birchington roundabout 
  14. ^ Orphanage, Vauxhall Society, archived from the original on 24 September 2006 
  15. ^ Spurgeon, Charles Haddon, Accidents, Not Punishments, archived from the original on 18 September 2006 
  16. ^ W. Y. Fullerton, Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Biography Archived 27 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine., ch. 10
  17. ^ Spurgeon, Charles (2009). The "Down Grade" Controversy. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications. p. 264. ISBN 1-56186211-8. Archived from the original on 23 June 2014. 
  18. ^ Spurgeon, Charles Haddon (August 1887), "Preface", The Sword and the Trowel, archived from the original on 4 November 2014 
  19. ^ "The Down Grade Controversy". The Reformed Reader. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  20. ^ a b Dallimore, Arnold (September 1985). Spurgeon: A New Biography. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust. ISBN 978-0-85151451-2. 
  21. ^ Sheehan, Robert (June 1985). Spurgeon and the Modern Church. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed. ISBN 978-0-94646205-6. 
  22. ^ Nettles, Tom (21 July 2013). Living By Revealed Truth The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Ross-shire: Christian Focus. ISBN 978-1-78191122-8. 
  23. ^ Spurgeon, Charles (2009). The "Down Grade" Controversy. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications. p. 2. ISBN 1-56186211-8. Archived from the original on 4 November 2014. 
  24. ^ Swanson, Dennis M, The Down Grade Controversy and Evangelical Boundaries (PDF), Narnia 3, archived from the original (PDF) on 25 June 2008 
  25. ^ Sin, Jack (July 2000), "The Judgement Seat of Christ" (PDF), The Burning Bush, SG: Far Eastern Bible College, 6 (2), pp. 302–23, esp. 310 
  26. ^ a b Spurgeon, Charles (4 March 1883). "The Best War Cry". Retrieved 2014-12-26. 
  27. ^ Ray, Charles. A Marvelous Ministry: The Story of C.H. Spurgeon's Sermons: 1855–1905 (PDF). Pilgrim publications. ASIN B0006YWO4K. 
  28. ^ Sermon on 'Jesus Christ Immutable', Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1869, vol. 15, no. 848 [1].
  29. ^ Lewis, Donald (2 January 2014). The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury And Evangelical Support For A Jewish Homeland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 380. ISBN 9781107631960. 
  30. ^ a b Spurgeon, Charles (1864), "Sermon preached in June 1864 for the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews", Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 10 
  31. ^ Religious views on smoking § Christianity.
  32. ^ "Spurgeon collection", Library, MBTS 
  33. ^ "Spurgeon", Library, Samford 
  34. ^ "Spurgeon's Writings". The Spurgeon Archive. Archived from the original on 30 June 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

Source of info from Charles H. Spurgeon[edit]


  • Austin, Alvyn (2007), China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, ISBN 978-0-8028-2975-7 
  • Brackney, William H. A Genetic History of Baptist Thought: With Special Reference to Baptists in Britain and North America. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2004.
  • Dallimore, Arnold (September 1985), Spurgeon: A New Biography, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, ISBN 978-0-85151451-2 
  • Hoyt, Wayland (1892), Walks and Talks with Charles H. Spurgeon, American Baptist Pub. Society 
  • Murray, Iain (1972), The Forgotten Spurgeon, Edinburgh UK: Banner of Truth, ISBN 978-0-85151-156-6 
  • Nettles, Tom (21 July 2013), Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publishing, ISBN 978-1-78191122-8 , 700 pp.
  • Sheehan, Robert (June 1985). Spurgeon and the Modern Church. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed. ISBN 978-0-94646205-6. 
  • The Standard Life of CH Spurgeon. London: Passmore and Alabaster. 

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by
William Walters
Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle
Succeeded by
Arthur Tappan Pierson