*a version of this article was previously posted as “Reconsidering Charles Spurgeon“*
In recent months Midwestern Seminary announced the Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching and the construction of the Spurgeon Library, which will house more than 6,000 books, letters, and artifacts once owned by Spurgeon. The Spurgeon Center and the Spurgeon Library are major advances for Midwestern Seminary, for Spurgeon studies, for biblical preaching, for the study of historical theology, and for the church at large. The construction project is being completed this summer and the Spurgeon Library will be formally dedicated this coming October 20th.
Additionally, this past year B & H Publishers announced a major project with Dr. Christian George—who serves as curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Seminary—and forthcoming publication of more than 400 of Spurgeon’s previously unpublished sermons. In total, this set will be ten volumes and will contain some 800,000 words; half from Spurgeon and half will be Dr. George’s annotations. What is more, this fall Midwestern Seminary will host Dr. Mark Dever as to deliver our third annual Spurgeon Lectures.
All of this points to a broader movement within the church, an even deepening appreciation for Spurgeon’s work, and a growing realization of his contemporary relevance. This is fitting and right, and Midwestern Seminary is thankful to be at the center of this Spurgeonism.
Why so much buzz about Spurgeon, and why is Midwestern Seminary happy to be ground zero for it? Because, as Carl F. H. Henry observed, C. H. Spurgeon is “one of evangelical Christianity’s immortals,” and we look to him as a ministry model as we perpetuate his legacy.
As a preacher, Spurgeon pastored the largest Protestant church in the world—the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London—where he preached for nearly 40 years to a congregation of some 6,000 members. Spurgeon is commonly ranked, along with George Whitefield, as one of the two greatest preachers of the English language. In 1858 he preached to a crowd numbering 23,654 at London’s Crystal Palace, and by the end of his ministry he had preached to more than 10,000,000 people without the aid of modern technologies.
As an author, Spurgeon owned an unstoppable pen. He averaged writing 500 letters per week, and by the time of his death he had penned approximately 150 books. His sermons, which he edited weekly and were shipped globally, sold over 56,000,000 copies in his lifetime. In Spurgeon’s day they were translated into more than 40 languages, and now total more than 62 hefty volumes. Additionally, Spurgeon wrote for various magazines and journals, including his Sword and Trowel.
As a humanitarian, Spurgeon hurled himself at the great social ills of his day. He founded two orphanages, a ministry for “fallen women,” was an ardent abolitionist, started a pastors’ college, and began a book distribution ministry for undersupplied pastors. He launched clothes closets and soup kitchens, all for members and nonmembers of the Metropolitan Tabernacle alike. By the age of 50 he had started no less than 66 social ministries, all of which were designed to meet both physical and spiritual needs.
As an apologist Spurgeon ardently defended his Baptist, evangelical, and reformed convictions. He attacked hyper Calvinism and Arminianism; Campbellism and Darwinism. Most especially, Spurgeon defended the person and work of Christ and the comprehensive inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. Spurgeon’s apologetic efforts were most clearly witnessed through the prism of the Downgrade Controversy, where he challenged and ultimately withdrew from his own Baptist Union for their equivocation over these same issues.
As a soul winner, Spurgeon relentlessly preached the gospel and consistently won sinners to Christ. He remains an unsurpassed model for balancing the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in evangelism. In fact, one is hard-pressed to find any sermon Spurgeon ever preached that does not conclude with a presentation of the cross. By the end of his ministry, Spurgeon had baptized 14,692 believers.
Spurgeon’s ministry still owns a certain mystique. This is in part due to the fact that he was a genius. He devoured books, possessed a photographic memory, and once testified of simultaneously holding eight thoughts in his head. His enormous influence, intriguing life and times, and his many physical and emotional travails factor in as well.
Spurgeon’s mystique is also due to his indefatigable ministerial work ethic, which prompted David Livingston to ask of Spurgeon “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day?” Spurgeon, in reference to the Holy Spirit, replied, “You have forgotten there are two us.”
Spurgeon was a phenom who preached in the largest Protestant church in the world in the context of the most powerful city in the world, London. Yet, his ministry coursed through and beyond the expansive tentacles of the British Empire. He embodied all that is right about biblical ministry and all that the contemporary church must recover in the 21st century: biblical faithfulness, evangelistic fervor, self-sacrificial ministry, power in the pulpit, social awareness, and defense of the faith.
In reference to important statesmen, Charles de Gaulle once quipped, “graveyards are full of indispensible men.” No one is indispensable in Christ’s Kingdom either, but certain individuals are irreplaceable. Charles Spurgeon was one such individual.topicsCharles Spurgeon, Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching, Sp