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Reading Biographies Together – Spurgeon (VII)

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Today we come to our second-to-last reading in Arnold Dallimore’s life of Charles Spurgeon. I’m grateful that some of you continue to read along with me even at this plodding pace of a couple of chapters per week.

This week’s chapters focused on just two aspects of Spurgeon’s life–his writing and the so-called Down-Grade Controversy.

Spurgeon was a prolific author. I’ve long been under the impression that the majority of the books published under his name were simply sermons that had been repurposed, but according to Dallimore he did write a very large number of original works. Of course his books of sermons were his most popular writings, being distributed in the hundreds of millions and being translated into all kinds of different languages from around the world. Among the most popular of his books were The Treasury of David, Commenting and Commentaries and John Plowman’s Talk. And, of course, we can’t forget the devotional works Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening, classics that are read and treasured today.

Besides the 140 books and thousands of sermons he preached, Spurgeon also wrote monthly for The Sword and the Trowel and maintained voluminous correspondence, typically writing some 500 letters each week (and, as Dallimore points out, he had to do this with a pen that had to be dipped in ink every few seconds…and he often had to do this while suffering from terrible arthritis). Biographers who wish to reconstruct the life of the man have a vast and almost insurmountable amount of writing to turn to.

The second chapter from this week’s section looked to the Down-Grade controversy, one of those final battles that contributed to driving Spurgeon to an early grave. He began to see how many of the churches and pastors associated with the Baptist Union were turning to new and false doctrine, embracing Higher Criticism and explaining away the miracles of Jesus (and any other supernatural elements that made the Bible claim to be more than a human book).

I appreciated Dallimore’s insistence that Spurgeon was not naturally a fighter. Spurgeon may have a bit of a reputation as a fighter but it is important for us to know that he fought only when he felt that he had no other choice. He did not fight for his own reputation or his own power, but for the truth of God.

The experience proved all the more difficult for him because he did not like to fight. He was utterly unflinching in his stand for what he believed to be God’s truth, but his affections for his fellow-men were very large and it was with deep sorrow that he parted from many dear friends in the Union. His battle was waged with boldness and decision, yet he labored to avoid anything that would cause the least unnecessary strife. “I am anxious to have nothing said,” he wrote, “which can trouble our friends or cause discord. A few heedless persons would be glad to see strife; but I can differ and not quarrel.

Of course time showed that Spurgeon was right to fight this great fight. In time the churches that gravitated away from biblical teachings would become weak and powerless. “As he foretold, with the denial of the Scriptures church attendences began to fall off, prayer meetings became places of a mere few till they were dropped altogether, and the miracle of a life transformed by the Grace of God was witnessed less and less, if at all.” The churches gradually died out and disappeared. Spurgeon knew and loved the Bible and was aware of what would inevitablly foliow when it was abandoned.

Next Week

For next Thursday, please read chapters 20 and 21. This will take us right to the end of the book. Take some time to reflect not just on those two chapters, but on the man himself and all we’ve learned about him even in this short work.

Your Turn

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.

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