Reading Biographies Together - Spurgeon (II)
Today we continue reading Arnold Dallimore’s Spurgeon: A New Biography. Two weeks ago we read the first couple of chapters and, after a one-week vacation, we’re back today to look at chapters 3-6.
The four chapters we read for today covered a lot of ground (which is both a benefit and a drawback of a relatively short biography). We began in the days immediately following Spurgeon’s conversion, progressed to the days where he began his very first efforts to share the gospel with others and ended with marriage. Along the way he felt God’s call to preach, he became the Boy Preacher who accepted his first pastorate at just seventeen years of age, he was called to New Park Street Baptist Church and he fell in love with and soon married Susannah Thompson.
Let me mention just a few of the things that stood out to me.
I loved reading of Spurgeon’s immediate desire to live out his new faith. No sooner was he converted than he became active in sharing that faith with others. And while it seems that he had always been bold, it was not until his baptism that God destroyed his shyness and his fear of man. His obedience in baptism was richly rewarded by God who made it the occasion of a remarkable transformation. As a Baptist I was glad to read of his decision to be baptized as a believer, and I enjoyed at his short reply to his mother when she wrote “Ah Charles, I often prayed the Lord to make you a Christian, but never asked that you might become a Baptist.” His reply? “Ah, Mother, the Lord has answered your prayer with His usual bounty, and has given you exceedingly abundantly above what you asked or thought.” That made me laugh out loud.
As I continued to read I was struck by the way that God shapes men for a specific purpose. Here he created Charles Spurgeon and gave him a unique set of gifts and opportunities. And, of course, Spurgeon was faithful to use them to the best of his ability. He used his gifts and God continued to open doors, to give him times and places to fulfill his ministry. When you hear people say, “There can never be another Spurgeon” you realize that this is right. God so obviously raised him up to a specific purpose. Having accomplished that purpose, we should not expect to see another man quite like him. And what an amazingly talented person he was. And this gives me yet another reason to love biographies; they help me see how God is the one who raises up people for his own glory.
The character trait that most stood out to me in this portion of the book was humility. Humility is a rare trait at the best of times. But in a young preacher, and one so greatly lauded, it is almost unheard of. It is rare that anyone, least of all a man in his teens and early twenties, could bear up under the kind of praise and attention Spurgeon received. Yet he fought pride and successfully put it to death. God gave him a profound sense of his own unworthiness and through such self-assessment Spurgeon had no place for pride to take root. From Spurgeon we can learn the value of a life marked by humility. Little wonder that God so greatly used this humble man.
Allow me one critical note. In his description of the marriage of Charles to Susannah, Dallimore seemed to transition from biographer to fan. I suppose no biographer is entirely objective, but here it seemed that he simply could not contain his enthusiasm for this marriage, that he stepped from description to personal reflection. And somehow it seemed to me that this was just a little bit out of character or a little bit inappropriate. That’s a strange reaction, I suppose, but I felt as if in the narrative of the biography he should have maintained more objectivity. Of course he is right—Susannah was a near-perfect fit for her husband. And yet certain statements seem to go just a little bit too far: “It is impossible to imagine anyone who would have been so suitable a wife for Charles Spurgeon as was this extraordinary woman.”
Nevertheless, it was good to read of the young Charles Spurgeon and good to read of the way God shaped his man for his purpose. Generations of Christians have been the happy beneficiaries of Spurgeon’s gifts and talents.
For next Thursday, please read the next two chapers, chapters 7 and 8.
The purpose of this program is to read biographies together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you've chosen to write about this on your own site.