I don’t have many heroes but Charles Haddon Spurgeon is one of them. Through his personal example, preaching, and writing, he never ceases to point others to the Lord Jesus. God has used him to shape my life in many ways. Few men inspire me more than the prince of preachers.
And yet, (you knew this was coming), he was not a sinless man. One of my concerns amongst Christians is that when we discuss the great saints of the past (Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, etc.), we tend to maximize their strengths and minimizes their sins. We put them on pedestals. Sometimes, it feels likes we don’t even talk about their faults at all. But learning about the mistakes and faults of spiritual giants is encouraging because it humanizes them, makes them more relatable, and teaches us lessons.
What lessons can we learn from Charles Spurgeon?
Recently, I’ve been reading through Peter Morden’s biography on Spurgeon (which is also accompanied by a DVD). One of the strengths of the biography is Morden’s ability to winsomely speak about Spurgeon’s faults. Sometimes biographers paint the wrong picture of a man, often making them seem like indestructible heroes. But the Fall doesn’t exclude anyone.
Here are a few of Charles Spurgeon’s faults and what you can learn from them.
1. Spurgeon’s scathing attitude toward his opponents
Spurgeon disagreed with Roman Catholics on many things, but how he voiced his disagreements was often harsh. “His views on Roman Catholics,” writes Morden, “can be colorful, to say the least.” Morden also says that “even friends felt that he could, at times, be severe on opponents.”
Here are a few of those colorful remarks:
“The mass is a mass of abominations, a mass of hell’s own concocting, a crying insult against the Lord of glory.”
“I question if hell can find a more fitting instrument within its infernal lake than the Church of Rome is for the cause of mischief.”
“It is not [the Church of Rome] to be spoken of in any terms but those of horror and detestation.”
Spurgeon was also not afraid to voice his opinions about certain commentaries he did not like, even publicly calling them “useless,” “rubbish,” and “utter rubbish.”
You and I need to believe the truth, love the truth, and defend the truth. But we should always keep in mind Paul’s charge to the Colossians when he says to “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6).
Also, it may be helpful to invite input into your life from other Christians you trust. Ask them to give you honest feedback on your speech and, when necessary, to call you out when you’re being harsh. You’ll appreciate this in the long-run.
2. Spurgeon fell victim to overwork and busyness
“Another flaw,” Morden writes, “was that there were periods of his life when he was too busy.”
Morden adds, “He didn’t always keep a proper day off and did too much.”
What did exactly did Spurgeon do?
- It is estimated that he preached to over 10,000,000 people.
- He started and edited a monthly magazine.
- He typically read 6 books per week.
- He often worked 18 hours a day.
- He started a pastor’s college.
- He wrote over 150 books.
- He built two orphanages.
Just to name a few things.
He died at the young age of 57, which can only make you wonder if he worked himself to death.
Busyness can be an unappreciated blessing. It’s not always a bad thing to be busy. And surely laziness and apathy are often bigger problems than working too hard. But many of us are living busy, hurried lives that are unhealthy. We are burning out when the Lord doesn’t need us for anything. We need to learn how to rest.
Take a sabbath day. Take vacation. Take some things off your plate. Rest. And don’t work yourself to death.
3. Spurgeon struggled with pride
In 1854, Spurgeon wrote a letter to his uncle: “You have heard that I am now a Londoner and a little bit of a celebrity. No college could place me in a higher situation. Our place is one of the pinnacles of the denomination.”
Was this true? Absolutely. But was Spurgeon’s tone a little prideful? Probably.
“My pride is so infernal that there is not a man on earth who can hold it in.”
“Pride is yet my darling sin, I cannot shake it off.”
“Oh, may I be kept humble! Pride dwells in my heart.”
By God’s grace, Spurgeon grew in humility over time. You can’t fool those who live with you and Spurgeon’s son, Thomas, was eager to confess a quality in his dad that he knew so well. The quality was humility.
As Morden observes, “He [Spurgeon] had been enabled to grow so that an area of weakness became a real strength.”
I asked R.C. Sproul once how he stayed so humble in light of his highly fruitful ministry. “What can make us more humble than to be recipients of such grace?” Sproul replied. I think about these words often. How can I be arrogant when my entire life is the result of God’s grace?
Though he died, Spurgeon’s words still live today. He is widely known as one of the greatest writers, preachers, and pastors of all time. And yet, it is encouraging to know that he was a man of many flaws. I think Spurgeon would be fine with us learning from his mistakes since his desire would be to “Let my name perish, but let Christ’s name last forever!”
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