Some might think the courtship stories of yesteryear Christians quaint. But many of them have a lot to teach about courting in a way that is spiritually-focused and God-honoring. Charles Spurgeon’s courting of Susannah Thompson is one such beneficial example.
When Spurgeon preached his first Sunday evening service at London’s New Park Street Church on December 18, 1853, a young lady, Susannah Thompson, was in the audience. Spurgeon was nineteen and Susannah was twenty-one years old at the time. Despite the young preacher’s eloquence and fervent Gospel appeal, she was more amused than impressed by him because of his rather countrified appearance and manner.
But when Spurgeon became the church’s pastor early the next year Susannah quickly came to appreciate and profit spiritually from his earnest, capable ministry. He began to be attracted to her and, two and a half months after settling in London, sent her a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress as a gift. In it he wrote: “Miss Thompson, with desires for her progress in the blessed pilgrimage, from C. H. Spurgeon – April 20, 1854.”
On June 10 they attended, with a group of friends, the opening of London’s Crystal Palace. This was a massive exhibition hall that also featured elaborate walkways and an extensive garden. While they waited for the dedication ceremony to begin, Spurgeon handed Susannah a copy of Martin Tupper’s Proverbial Philosophy, pointed out a passage, and queried, “What do you think of the poet’s suggestion in those verses?” She read:
Seek a good wife from thy God, for she is the best gift of His providence;
Yet ask not in bold confidence that which He hath not promised;
Thou knowest not His good will: be thy prayer then submissive thereunto,
And leave thy petition to His mercy, assured that He will deal well with thee.
If thou art to have a wife of thy youth, she is now living on the Earth;
Therefore think of her, and pray for her weal.
“Do you pray for him who is to be your husband?” Spurgeon asked in a whisper. Susannah blushed and said nothing but felt in her heart “that heaven was coming near.”
“Will you come and walk around the palace with me?” he asked as the dedication ceremony drew to a close. Leaving their companions, the couple enjoyed each other’s company while wandering for a long time through the building, its garden and down to a nearby lake.
On August 2 he proposed to her as they walked together in the garden at her grandfather’s home. Years later she testified: “I think of that old garden as a sacred place, a paradise of happiness, since there my beloved sought me for his very own, and told me how much he loved me. Though I thought I knew this already, it was a very different matter to hear him say it, and I trembled and was silent for very joy and gladness. To me, it was a time as solemn as it was sweet. With a great awe in my heart, I left my beloved and, hastening to the house and to an upper room, I knelt before God, and praised Him with happy tears, for His great mercy in giving me the love of so good a man.”
Early the next year, 1855, Susannah applied to be baptized. Though the couple had felt it best to keep their relationship a private matter, they were not entirely successful. When it came time for the list of baptismal candidates to be read to the church, the name immediately before hers was that of an elderly man, Johnny Dear. Two old maids at the back of the room were overheard conversing, as the first asked, “What was that man’s name?”
“Oh, I suppose the next will be ‘Susie dear,’ then!”
Charles and Susannah were not married for another year, until January 8, 1856. The ceremony was held at the New Park Street Church, with more than 2,000 people filling the recently-enlarged facility to overflowing.
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You’ll find many other enjoyable and beneficial incidents from the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon in my book Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians. Two quality readable Spurgeon biographies are: Arnold Dallimore’s Spurgeon, A New Biography (Banner of Truth, 1987); W. Y. Fullerton’s Charles H. Spurgeon, London’s Most Popular Preacher (Moody, 1980). The latter work is currently out of print but is well-worth purchasing through used book sources at a reasonable rate.