Charles Haddon Spurgeon, commonly C.H. Spurgeon, (June 19, 1834 January 31, 1892) was a British Baptist preacher who remains highly influential amongst Reformed Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the "Prince of Preachers."
Born in Kelvedon, Essex, Spurgeon's conversion to Christianity came on January 6, 1850 at the age of fifteen. On his way to a scheduled appointment, a snow storm forced him to cut short his intended journey and to turn into a Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester where, in his own words: "God opened his heart to the salvation message." The text that moved him was Isaiah 45:22 - "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else."
Later that year he was admitted to the church at Newmarket on April 4, 1850. His baptism followed on May 3 in the river Lark, at Isleham. Later that same year he moved to Cambridge. He preached his first sermon in 1851 and, from the beginning of his ministry, his style and ability were considered to be far above average. In the same year, he was ordained as pastor of the small Baptist church at Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire.
The first literary work published by Spurgeon was a tract written at Waterbeach in 1853.
In April 1854, after preaching three months on probation and just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 19, was called to the pastorate of London's famed New Park Street Chapel, Southwark (formerly pastored by the Particular Baptist theologian John Gill). Within a few months of his call his powers as a preacher made him famous. The following year the first of his sermons in the "New Park Street Pulpit" was published. Spurgeon's sermons were published in printed form every week, and enjoyed a high circulation. By the time of his death in 1892, he had preached almost thirty-six hundred sermons and published forty-nine volumes of commentaries, sayings, anecdotes, illustrations, and devotions.
Immediately following his fame was controversy. The first attack in the Press appeared in the Earthen Vessel in January 1855. His preaching, although not revolutionary in substance, was a plain spoken and direct appeal to the people using the Bible to provoke them to consider the claims of Jesus Christ. Critical attacks from the media persisted throughout his life.
The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000 all in the days before electronic amplification. At twenty-two Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of the day.
On January 8, 1856, Spurgeon married Susannah, daughter of Robert Thompson of Falcon Square, London, by whom he had twin sons, Charles and Thomas September 20, 1856. At the end of that eventful year, tragedy struck on October 19, 1856 as Spurgeon was preaching at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall. Someone in the crowd yelled, "Fire!" and there was a panic and a stampede that left several dead. Spurgeon was emotionally devastated by the event and it had a sobering influence on his life. He struggled against clinical depression for many years and spoke of being moved to tears for no reason known to himself.
Spurgeon preaching at the Surrey Music Hall circa 1858. Spurgeon at age 23.Still the work went on. A Pastor's College was founded in 1857 by Spurgeon and was renamed Spurgeon's College in 1923 when it moved to its present building in South Norwood Hill, London;. At the Fast Day, October 7, 1857 he preached to the largest crowd ever: 23,654 people at The Crystal Palace in London. Spurgeon noted:
In 1857, a day or two before preaching at the Crystal Palace, I went to decide where the platform should be fixed; and, in order to test the acoustic properties of the building, cried in a loud voice, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." In one of the galleries, a workman, who knew nothing of what was being done, heard the words, and they came like a message from heaven to his soul. He was smitten with conviction on account of sin, put down his tools, went home, and there, after a season of spiritual struggling, found peace and life by beholding the Lamb of God. Years after, he told this story to one who visited him on his death-bed.
On March 18, 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed purpose-built Metropolitan Tabernacle at Elephant and Castle, seating five thousand people with standing room for another thousand. Some say that the Metropolitan Tabernacle is considered the first modern "megachurch."
Spurgeon also founded the Stockwell Orphanage, which opened for boys in 1867 and for girls in 1879 and continued in London until it was bombed in the Second World War.
Spurgeon was a Baptist and a Calvinist in the tradition of the Puritans, and is especially highly regarded amongst Presbyterians and Congregationalists, although he differed with them over the issue of baptism (on June 5, 1862, Spurgeon alienated many paedobaptist Christian leaders when he preached against infant baptism in his most famous sermon called "Baptismal Regeneration"). Additional controversy flared again, this time among his fellow Baptists in 1887 with the publication of the "Down-grade" paper which exposed the spiritual decline among the churches. This led to The Metropolitan Tabernacle separating from the Baptist Union to become essentially the largest non-denominational church of the time.
His widow and sons survived him. Often his wife was too ill to even leave home to hear him preach. Spurgeon, too suffered ill health towards the end of his life, afflicted by a combination of rheumatism, gout, and Bright's disease. He often recuperated at Menton, near Nice, France, where he eventually died on January 31, 1892. His remains were buried at West Norwood Cemetery in London.
On the death of missionary David Livingstone, a discolored and much used copy of one of Spurgeon's printed sermons "Accidents, Not Punishments" was found among his few possessions, along with the handwritten comment at the top of the first page "Very good, D.L." He had carried it with him throughout his travels in Africa, and it was returned to Spurgeon and treasured by him (W. Y. Fullerton, Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Biography, ch. 10).
From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Spurgeon