You will recall that four months after his conversion on a cold, snowy, January Sunday at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Colchester, Charles had been baptised in the River Lark, near Isleham in Cambridgeshire:
He later left Newmarket for Cambridge, where he joined St. Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, and it quickly became obvious that he had a gift for public speaking as had been prophesied by Richard Knill.
Throughout his life he was deeply influenced by the theology of John Calvin, the devotion of the English Puritans, the preaching of George Whitefield, the faith of George Müller and the imagination of Hudson Taylor. Soon his compelling and captivating preaching led to his call to a fruitful lay pastorate at Waterbeach Baptist Chapel, situated to the East of Cambridge. This call helped the young pastor to mature in his preaching and to develop his other ministerial gifts. In addition to his profound influence upon the surrounding community, the thatched church was packed to overflowing as the membership more than doubled, and people came to hear “The Prince of Preachers”.
Before his twentieth birthday, Spurgeon was invited to become the pastor of the historic church at Park Street, London. Run down and discouraged before he arrived, within weeks it was crowded to capacity. This new ministry began on the first Sunday of May 1854. Soon the newspapers were noticing the stir he was causing. In 1855 the chapel had to be extended, and between 11 February and 27 May services were held at Exeter Hall in the Strand where several thousand gathered to hear him preach.
At this time another extremely significant event in the life of the young Spurgeon occurred, namely his meeting with a Miss Susannah Thompson. She actually became his wife and helpmeet on the 8th January 1856.
It was soon realised that something would have to be done to house all those who wanted to hear Spurgeon preach, and in 1856 steps were taken to build what was to become known as
the Metropolitan Tabernacle. There was much criticism of this project; many accused Spurgeon of engaging in this project for his own self-glorification, and still more predicted financial disaster and said that the young preacher, still in his mid-twenties, would never be able to sustain the congregations of over 5,000 for whom the building was designed. However, on the 18 March 1861 the Tabernacle was opened with a prayer meeting, free of all debt, although it cost £32,000. Soon the building was filled with people who came week after week to hear Spurgeon. Those who heard and were converted, received initiation into the life of a well-pastored church.
As well as being a compelling preacher C. H. Spurgeon was also an energetic activist. He lived in a time when there was no such thing as the ‘Welfare State’, and the church took responsibility for the poor and needy. His pastoral care was by no means confined to those who attended the Tabernacle, and he made it very clear
that ‘every member who joins my church is expected to do something for his fellow creatures’. He was particularly noted for his sponsorship of alms houses and orphanages and indeed, as a church, we continue to support Spurgeon’s Child Care today.
There is so much more that could be said about this great man who had so much influence on the Baptist Church in Victorian times. He not only stood up for, and cared for, those who were suffering in his own community, but got involved in other political campaigns, and spoke out strongly against slavery and the evils of war. He was well respected by men and women of all classes, and perhaps the greatest tribute of all was paid to him on 8 February 1892 when a funeral procession more than two miles in length, including men and women of ‘all classes and conditions’, paid respect to this man who had no title or academic degree, and no political reputation or aristocratic connections.”
I’d always imagined C.H. Spurgeon to be a physically attractive man as well as a great speaker, so it came as quite a shock to me in my reading to discover that he had been born with a congenital abnormality, his legs from the thigh to the knee being very short. He also suffered from gout, and the two conditions combined made robust physical exercise out of the question, so he became increasingly sedentary.
He had battled with this adversity all his life, but in the early weeks of May 1891 his illness worsened. He appeared in the pulpit of the Metropolitan Tabernacle for the last time in early June. By November he had recovered enough to travel to Mentone, his favourite place for vacations in the South of France where he worked quietly, assisted by his wife and private secretary, on a commentary on the entire New Testament. At 11.05p.m. on 31 January 1892 he died when only fifty-seven years of age.