I have read a book or two on Spurgeon that were more hagiographical than biographical. Even the terminology was glittery, gauzy, glistering and gagular.
Spurgeon's own remarks about himself were nothing of the kind.
Once I had nothing but a heart of stone, and although through grace I now have a new and fleshy heart, much of my former obduracy remains. I am not affected by the death of Jesus as I ought to be; neither am I moved by the ruin of my fellow men, the wickedness of the times, the chastisement of my heavenly Father, and my own failures, as I should be. O that my heart would melt at the recital of my Saviour’s sufferings and death. Would to God I were rid of this nether millstone within me, this hateful body of death. Blessed be the name of the Lord, the disease is not incurable, the Saviour’s precious blood is the universal solvent, and me, even me, it will effectually soften, till my heart melts as wax before the fire. (Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : April 28 PM, emphases added)I confess that this deeply resonates with me. Spurgeon echoes laments and prayers of my own, as if he had eavesdropped on some (many) of my own pleas, supplications, and confessions.
And this is why I have kept coming to Spurgeon for something like three decades, now. I have known of a fine Bible teacher or two, perhaps accurate in their rehearsal of doctrine and interpretation, but whose confessions of imperfection (if they ever come) seem de rigeur and formal rather than heartfelt. Sermon illustrations are drawn from others' follies or frailties.
Spurgeon's confessions never, ever have that feel. They are clearly always heartfelt and genuine. Yet at the same time he always avoids the opposite snare of that sort of self-indulgent transparency which betrays the generation of God's children (Psalm 73:15).
For with these admissions, all the more do we read of Spurgeon's deep love for Christ, his unending and ever-fresh delight at the riches of God's covenant with His elect. As I've said, he's like a man amazed to find himself an heir, incredulously plunging his hands deeply into piles of gold coins again and again, letting them trickle out and ring back into the abundance. Only for Spurgeon the riches are far better than gold; they are the riches of Christ.
In this I think he rather reflects the Psalms that he loved (and I love) so much. We overhear both strains in the songs of Israel, often and poignantly.
If we hear the psalmists sing...
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,...or...
nor discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD--how long?
For evils have encompassed me beyond number;...we can also overhear...
my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me
You have put more joy in my heart...and...
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy,...and again...
and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,Spurgeon admits his neediness, but he does so that the reader may identify with him as he does so, and then immediately Spurgeon takes both himself and his reader to the Savior. Never does Spurgeon plead for pity; always does he speak so that the reader will hasten to the same Cross, the same grace, the same mercy, the same Savior, to whom Spurgeon himself keeps hastening with all his sorrows and needs and pain.
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Spurgeon uses himself as James uses Elijah: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours," he says. The KJV memorably renders ἄνθρωπος ἦν ὁμοιοπαθὴς ἡμῖν as "a man subject to like passions as we are." The BAGD lexicon explains the adjective as " pert. to experiencing similarity in feelings or circumstances, with the same nature."
And? What of it? James continues, "and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth" (James 5:17). We do not and must not look at Elijah (nor Spurgeon) and see a creature of different frame than we. They are of the same frame as we. Ah! but captivated by faith — what did God do through them! So, take heart, hope, trust, rise, do also.
"I know weakness and frailty and coldness, in myself, like you," Spurgeon says (in effect). "But I find all I need and more in Jesus Christ. I am poor in myself, I despair of myself; but that drives me to Him, and I rejoice in Him, and am rich in Him. We have the same nature, you and I, and we have the same Savior. Flee to Him, as I do, and find your sorrowing heart's deepest desire — as I have."
I know that Christ is perfect. But I also know I am not. What I need to know is: can such a miserably flawed man as I find hope, life, and joy in Christ?
Spurgeon tells us he knows for a personal fact that we can.
And his testimony has both the ring of authenticity, and the backing of Scripture.