When reading about Charles Spurgeon you will be drawn to the unavoidable conclusion that he was a unique individual. He was uniquely gifted by God and then raised up to a unique ministry. There can never be another Charles Spurgeon.
I spent some time this morning pondering what is unique in Spurgeon’s background that would keep another Spurgeon from arising in our day. And I started to think about our media-saturated world. And i started to think about the character qualities exemplified by the Prince of Preachers. And I started to think about a lot of other things. And then I started writing and rambling.
From his earliest days Spurgeon was drawn to great writing by great authors. Even when he was just barely old enough to read, he was reading some of the greatest theological tomes ever written. Even in the youngest days of his ministry, when most pastors today are finishing up high school, he was able to quote widely and quote deeply from these great writers of days gone by, relying on a photographic memory (or a near-photographic memory) to recall what they had said. But he did not rely on mere recall; he had not just read these authors, but he had applied their words to his own life. From the day of his conversion he was exceptionally godly and almost unbelievably mature.
By the time Spurgeon was in his mid-teens he was already successfully pastoring a church. Already he was becoming known as the boy preacher and his fame was beginning to spread. Yet God had gifted him with an extraordinary humility and a profound sense of his utter dependence upon God. He would pray earnestly before he preached, throwing himself on God’s mercy and begging for God to be present with him and to give power to his words–power to change the hearts of his hearers. Though he was the Prince of Preachers, easily one of the greatest preachers the world has ever known, still he relied entirely upon God rather than upon his own skill. More rightly, his utter reliance was the root and the cause of the power in his words.
If Spurgeon arose today, I wonder if we would ruin him. If we saw a young boy, just old enough to read, who was spending his time studying the Puritans, I think we would grab some footage of it and put it out on YouTube. We would want all the world to know, to ooh and ah just as we do today when we see a three-year old reciting Scripture. Grab the video camera! By the time that boy was seventeen and preaching in local churches–and not just preaching but preaching powerfully–we would be hoping for his videos to go viral, to be the talk of Twitter and to be linked on all the Christian blogs. We would beg for him to speak at conferences, to write forewords to our books, to start his own radio program. We’d commoditize him, turning him into something more, or something less, then he really was. And we might just ruin him along the way. Certainly we’d cheapen him.
Or maybe we wouldn’t. Maybe God would so gift the man, as he did with Spurgeon, that he could hold up even under such pressure.
I wonder sometimes what the Bible would read like if Jesus had come to earth 2010 years later than he did. Can you imagine the media frenzy that would follow Jesus today as he drove the dusty highways of the middle east, with all the networks following in their vans, cameras rolling? Can you imagine the skepticism regarding his miracles as we watched them unfold on his very own YouTube channel? Wouldn’t you want to hear him guest on the radio shows and watch him on Larry King? Can you imagine what the gossip blogs would say about him, what they’d accuse him of, how they’d have paparazzi staked out on every hill and in every garden in all the land?
I digress, I think. Except to say that God chooses his men and he chooses their context. I think there is a sense in which Jesus had to be born when he was born. Obviously God isn’t bound by circumstances and by technology. Yet the context of Jesus’ day was just as it needed to be. And i suppose the context for Charles Spurgeon was just as it needed to be. God shaped a specific man to a specific purpose. He gifted a man, placed him in just the right context to maximize those gifts, and gained so much glory through it all. There can never be another Spurgeon because there can never be another time and another set of circumstances that would necessitate or that would even allow such a man. There will be other great men, to be sure. But there will never be another Charles Spurgeon.
For next Thursday, please read chapters 9, 10 and 11. We will do three since the chapters are quite short.
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.