Reading Biographies Together – Spurgeon

You are familiar, I think, with the Reading Classics Together program. Over the past few years, I and many of the readers of this site have read a series of classics of the Christian faith. We’ve read them concurrently, a chapter or two at a time, and then have met up here at the blog once a week to discuss what we’ve read. After we finished the most recent version of this program (which saw us read The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes) I thought it would be fun to try something new. And thus I proposed that we read a biography together. Today we begin.

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The biography we are reading together is Arnold Dallimore’s Spurgeon: A New Biography. Of course it’s not that new anymore, having been first printed in 1985. Nevertheless, it is a good biography and one that is thorough enough without being too long or too dense. Dallimore was a Canadian pastor and biographer who ministered not too far from where I live. He is best-known for his work on George Whitefield, a massive two-volume set that is still regarded as the definitive biography of the great evangelist. Tomorrow I’ll share a guest article written by Dallimore’s granddaughter and will allow her to introduce you to her her grandfather.

As we turn from classics of the faith to biographies, I am not entirely sure what I ought to maintain as a format as I try to share just a few thoughts on the week’s reading. So I may mix things up a little bit week-by-week as I attempt to find a workable format.

This week we were to read the first two chapters of the book along with Dallimore’s brief Preface. In the Preface Dallimore defends his decision to write yet another biography of Spurgeon, saying that many other biographies had been flawed, either by neglecting some aspects of Spurgeon’s ministry or by neglecting some aspects of his character. Dallimore has sought to provide a view of Spurgeon that is more rounded and more accurate. He has tried to give us a glimpse of the essential Spurgeon.

In the first two chapters he writes about Spurgeon’s family background, his home life and his eventual conversion. And I must say that no matter how many times I read it, I never grow weary of Spurgeon’s account of his conversion. I love the contrast of the smart, educated and capable Spurgeon sitting in a pew and the “really stupid” man who climbs into the pulpit one day to exhort him to be saved. It never fails to encourage me to see how God works through the humble to shame, or in this case to humble, the wise.

But moving back in time just a little bit, I enjoyed reading how Spurgeon attributed so much of his spiritual growth and development to his mother. I have been reading a lot of biography lately and this has been a recurring theme. Just last week I read of Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln, both of whom said without shame that whatever they were, whatever they had become, they owed to their mothers and especially to their mothers’ fervent prayer. And as Spurgeon’s brother said of their mother, “She was the starting point of all the greatness and goodness any of us, by the grace of God, have ever enjoyed.” While I would always wish to affirm that dad is the spiritual leader within the home, none of us should neglect the importance of mom and her ministry to her children. Many great men of the faith owe who and what they are to the teaching and the prayers of their mothers.

Finally, I see a challenge for me in this chapter. I am the father of three children who, like Spurgeon, are being raised in a Christian home. And yet I cannot allow myself to assume their salvation. I must continually remind myself that, like Spurgeon and, indeed, like myself, it may take them many years and much wrestling before they find salvation. It will take a work of the Holy Spirit to draw them to himself and this is a work that will take place in his good timing.

Next Week

I will not be near a computer next Thursday, so we will actually take a one-week break and be back on the 22nd of July. For that date, please read the next four chapters (which keeps us at our regular pace of two chapters per week). That will take you to the end of the chapter titled “Spurgeon’s Marriage.”

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.