Posts Tagged ‘charles haddon spurgeon’

Birth and Early Life

“What doest thou here, Elijah, sitting with the ungodly, and you a member of the church, and breaking your pastor’s heart? I’m ashamed of you. I wouldn’t break my pastor’s heart, I’m sure” (Fullerton 1920). With these words, at six years old, Charles Haddon Spurgeon gave one of the first indications of his God-appointed purpose in life. Spurgeon’s biographer, W. Y. Fullerton records a time when young Charles, then living with his grandparents, overheard his grandfather’s distress regarding the inconsistent life of one of his flock, known as “old Roads.” Upon hearing of the matter, Spurgeon boldly announced his intention to solve the problem by killing old Roads. His grandparents sternly warned him about the evil of murder but Charles was undeterred and insisted that he did not intend to do anything bad but that he was indeed going to kill the man causing his grandfather so much grief. Not long after this, then, Charles announced that he had done the deed, he had killed old Roads. But the family did not have to wait in suspense for long because the mystery was soon solved by a visit from Roads himself. He explained that as he was sitting in the pub nursing his pint a pint-sized preacher came through the door of the place and boldly addressed Roads in the manner described above. Mr. Roads’ life was changed forever. For the last four years of his life he lived exemplarily. “[Roads] could not read, but he knew that the words of life were in the Bible, and with pathetic love for the Book, he counted the very leaves of it” (Ibid.).

Spurgeon was born June 19, 1834 at Kelvedon, Essex. He was the first of what would be seventeen children (many of whom died in infancy) born to his parents, John and Eliza Spurgeon. His siblings often provided a good audience for Charles to practice his preaching skills and he could usually be found doing so. But during Spurgeon’s early life it was his grandfather, James Spurgeon, who had the most significant influence on young Charles. His grandfather lived in Stambourne and it was there that Spurgeon would reside for the first six years of his life. Under the care of his grandfather the boy was encouraged in Bible study and developed lasting memories that often served him in his adult ministry.

Conversion

Just as God had used an unlikely tool in the conversion of “old Roads” so he used providential circumstances and an unsuspecting layman in Spurgeon’s own conversion. From the time that he was ten years old Spurgeon began to have questions about the state of his own soul. Naturally strong-willed, he would later confess “I never would have been saved if I could have helped it. As long as ever I could, I rebelled, and revolted, and struggled against God…. But long before I began with Christ, He began with me” (Ibid.). During this time Spurgeon had difficulty accepting the free grace of God and rejected the thought that there was no way that one might earn salvation through works-based righteousness. These years were challenging for such a young child who felt the weight of his sin but often suffered in silence while looking for ways that he might justify himself:

Oh, the many times I have wished that the preacher would tell me something to do to be saved! Gladly would I have done it, if it had been possible. If he had said, “Take off your shoes and stockings and run to John o’ Groats,” I would not even have gone home first, but would have started off that very night if I might win salvation. How often have I thought that if he had said, “Bare your back to the scourge and take fifty lashes,” I would have said, “Here I am. Come along with your whip and beat as hard as you please, so long as I can obtain peace and rest, and get rid of my sin.” Yet the simplest of all matters—believing in Christ crucified, accepting His finished salvation, being nothing and letting Him be everything, doing nothing, but trusting to what He has done—I could not get hold of it (Ibid.).

All of this changed, however, one God-appointed day when Spurgeon was fifteen.  As the preacher himself recalls, a snowstorm was more than coincidence this Lord’s Day. Spurgeon was attempting to make his way to services but, because of the weather, he was forced to turn down a side street and to seek shelter in a primitive Methodist church. The pastor of that church seemingly was kept away by the storm and a layman stepped up to deliver the message whose simple point was “look unto Jesus.” The layman went one step further and called Spurgeon out specifically and, upon this message and this confrontation, the Lord Jesus wrought a permanent change in the heart of C. H. Spurgeon. Shortly thereafter, having been convinced by his study of the Word on the importance of believers’ baptism, Spurgeon travelled to Isleham where he was baptized into the local Baptist congregation there, just shy of his sixteenth birthday. Spurgeon famously said that “[b]aptism also loosed my tongue, and from that day it has never been quiet” (Ibid.). Later that year, when he was just sixteen, he preached his first sermon at Teversham, Cambridge.

References

Chadwick, Harold J. ed. 2009. Biography of Charles H. Spurgeon. In Spurgeon on Prayer: How to Converse with God, Charles H. Spurgeon, 1-39. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos.

Fullerton, William Young. 1920. Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Biography. Available at http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/biopref.htm (accessed February 13, 2012).

Johnson, J.E. 2001. Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 1146-1147. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.