Back to Christian History & Biography
Member Login:    


My Account | About Us | Forgot password?

 

CH Blog | This Week in Christian History | Ask the Expert | CH Store
 

Related Channels
Christianity Today magazine
Books & Culture





Christian History Home > 131 Christians > Pastors and Preachers > Charles Spurgeon


Charles Spurgeon
Finest nineteenth-century preacher
posted 8/08/2008 12:56PM

 1 of 2


Charles Spurgeon
ADVERTISEMENT

"I am perhaps vulgar, but it is not intentional, save that I must and will make people listen."

When Charles Spurgeon died in January 1892, London went into mourning. Nearly 60,000 people came to pay homage during the three days his body lay in state at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Some 100,000 lined the streets as a funeral parade two miles long followed his hearse from the Tabernacle to the cemetery. Flags flew at half-staff and shops and pubs were closed.

Timeline

1816

Richard Allen elected bishop of new AME church

1819

Channing issues Unitarian Christianity

1827

J. N. Darby founds the Plymouth Brethren

1834

Charles Spurgeon born

1892

Charles Spurgeon dies

1896

Billy Sunday begins leading revivals

All this for a Victorian minister—who also happened to be the most extraordinary preacher of his day.

Calvinist Baptist

Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon, Essex, to a family of clerics. His father and grandfather were Nonconformist ministers (meaning they weren't Anglicans), and Spurgeon's earliest memories were of looking at the pictures in Pilgrim's Progress and Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

His formal education was limited, even by nineteenth-century standards: he attended local schools for a few years but never earned a university degree. He lived in Cambridge for a time, where he combined the roles of scholar and teaching assistant and was briefly tutored in Greek. Though he eschewed formal education, all his life he valued learning and books—especially those by Puritan divines—and his personal library eventually exceeded 12,000 volumes.

At age 15, Spurgeon broke with family tradition by becoming a Baptist. He attributed this conversion to a sermon heard by "chance"—when a snowstorm blew him away from his destination into a Primitive Methodist chapel. The experience forced Spurgeon to re-evaluate his idea on, among other things, infant baptism. Within four months he was baptized and joined a Baptist church.

His theology, however, remained more or less Calvinist, though he liked to think of himself as a "mere Christian." "I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist," he once said. "I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist, but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, 'It is Jesus Christ.'"

Preaching sensation

Still a teen, Spurgeon began preaching in rural Cambridgeshire. He quickly filled the pews in his first pastorate in the village of Waterbeach. He had a boyish appearance that contrasted sharply with the maturity of his sermons. He had a good memory and always spoke extemporaneously from an outline.

His energy and oratorical skills and harmonious voice earned him such a reputation that within a year and a half, he was invited to preach in London, at the historic New Park Street Chapel. The congregation of 232 was so impressed, it voted for him to preach an additional six months. He moved to the city and never left.

As word spread of his abilities, he was invited to preach throughout London and the nation. No chapel seemed large enough to hold those who wanted to hear the "the preaching sensation of London." He preached to tens of thousands in London's greatest halls—Exeter, Surry Gardens, Agricultural. In 1861 his congregation, which kept extending his call, moved to the new Metropolitan Tabernacle, which seated 5,600.

At the center of controversy

Spurgeon did not go unnoticed in the secular press. On the one hand, his sermons were published in the Monday edition of the London Times, and even the New York Times. On the other hand, he was severely criticized by more traditional Protestants. His dramatic flair—he would pace the platform, acting out biblical stories, and fill his sermons with sentimental tales of dying children, grieving parents, and repentant harlots—offended many, and he was called "the Exeter Hall demagogue" and "the pulpit buffoon."




Browse More ChristianHistory.net
Home  |  Browse by Topic  |  Browse by Period  |  The Past in the Present  |  Books & Resources

   RSS Feed   RSS Help








share this pageshare this page