Twice recently I’ve had the opportunity to speak on the subject of God justifying (declaring as righteous) sinful people who trust in Jesus Christ to rescue them from their sin and the divine judgment it deserves. An incident from the ministry of William R. Newell, a popular Bible teacher in the opening decades of the twentieth century, illustrates this profound truth beautifully.

William R. Newell as a younger man

William R. Newell as a younger man

In 1895, at the age of twenty-seven, Newell was invited by Dwight Moody to become the assistant superintendent of Moody Bible Institute under R. A. Torrey. Newell was a gifted Bible teacher, and large audiences flocked to attend the weeks-long, city-wide Bible classes that he taught in Chicago, St. Louis and Toronto.

Once while holding daily noon meetings in the Century Theatre in St. Louis, Newell spoke on Romans 4:5 from the old King James Version of the Bible: “To him that worketh not, but believeth in Him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned unto him for righteousness.” After the meeting, Newell was approached by a middle-aged man who introduced himself by saying: “I am Captain G—. You are speaking to the most ungodly man in St. Louis.”

“Thank God!” Newell responded. “What!” the captain exclaimed, “Do you mean you are glad that I am bad?” “No, Newell replied, “but I am certainly glad to find a sinner who knows he is a sinner.” “Oh, you do not know the half!” declared the captain, “I have been absolutely ungodly for years and years and years.” “Did you hear me preach on ‘ungodly people’ today?” Newell asked.

The captain, who was obviously under deep spiritual conviction, proceeded to divulge: “I have been coming to these noon meetings for six weeks. I do not think I have missed a meeting. But I cannot tell you a word of what you said today. I did not sleep last night. I have hardly had any sleep for three weeks. I have gone to one man after another to find out what I should do, and I do what they say. I have read the Bible. I have prayed. I have given money away. But I am the most ungodly wretch in this town. Now what do you tell me to do? I waited here today to ask you that. I have tried everything, but I am so ungodly!”

“Now we will turn to the verse I preached on,” Newell said simply. Placing his Bible in the captain’s hands, he asked him to read the verse aloud.  “ ‘To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly,’ the captain began, then broke off from his reading and fairly shouted, “There! That’s what I am—ungodly.” “Then this verse is about you,” Newell assured him. “Read the verse again, please,” the evangelist gently persisted.

“ ‘To him that worketh not,’ ” the captain began again. This time Newell stopped him by pointing out: “There, the verse says not to do, and you want me to tell you something to do. I cannot do that.” “But there must be something to do,” the captain stated in distress, “If not, I shall be lost forever.”

William R. Newell as an older man

William R. Newell as an older man

“Now listen with all your soul,” Newell replied. “There was something to do, but it has been done!” He then explained how that God had so loved him, all ungodly as he was, that He sent Christ to die for the ungodly. God’s judgment had fallen on Christ, who had been forsaken by God as He paid the penalty for people’s sins there on the cross. “God raised up Christ,” Newell concluded, “and sent us preachers to beseech men, all ungodly as they are, to believe on this God who declares righteous the ungodly, on the ground of Christ’s shed blood.”

The captain suddenly leaped to his feet and stretched out his hand to the evangelist. “Mr. Newell,” he exclaimed, “I will accept that proposition!” The Lord had enabled him to understand that there was nothing he could do in terms of his own good works to make himself right in the sight of God. Instead, he needed to trust solely in Jesus and His substitutionary death for him on the cross, so his sins could be forgiven and he could be declared righteous in God’s sight through faith in Christ.

Those of us who have been justified (declared righteous) by God through faith in Jesus rightly overflow with praise and thanksgiving to God and Christ for graciously providing us with justification on that basis. Those who have not yet been justified are invited to receive it through faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior from sin.

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The above true story concerning William Newell is adapted from R. Kent Hughes’ 1,001 Great Stories and “Quotes” (Tyndale, 1998).

Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie

George's Army Photo

George’s Army Photo

My dad, George Christie, went to be with the Lord at dawn on Sunday, October 7, 2018, at the age of eighty-seven. Dad missed a beautiful sunrise that morning but instead awakened to the surpassing glory of his Savior Jesus Christ in Heaven.

Here’s a short summary of Dad’s life and a brief tribute to him. All the glory goes to God for Dad’s consecrated Christian living and service. It was all by God’s grace that Dad was called as a first generation Christian, that he provided his children and grandchildren with a godly heritage, and that he served the Lord so faithfully in his ministerial career.

Dad was born on January 4, 1931, near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He graduated from Soo High School in 1950 and then attended the two-year college in the Soo. After marrying Phyllis McCarry on March 1, 1952, he transferred to Michigan State University, from which he graduated with a B.A. in Geography. Following graduation Uncle Sam drafted him for a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, which was spent serving in Germany.

Phyllis' high school graduation photo

Phyllis’ high school graduation photo

Upon returning to the States, Dad intended to go back to school to obtain a degree in geology, but God had other plans for his life. Dad and Mom started attending a newly-formed Bible-teaching church in Lansing, Michigan, and there he came to saving faith in Jesus Christ. (See my August 29, 2013, Perspective on “Appreciating One’s Personal Spiritual Heritage” for an account of both my parents’ Christian conversions.) Before long Dad sensed God’s leading to prepare for vocational Christian ministry. So they moved to Winona Lake, Indiana, where he attended Grace Theological Seminary, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1962.

Dad was immediately called to pastor the Grace Brethren Church of Grandview, Washington. His entire forty-four-year career of pastoral ministry was spent in Washington State, where he served four established Grace Brethren churches and was used of the Lord to plant three other churches. Dad continued in full-time pastoral ministry until the age of seventy-six.

My most common word of appreciation for Dad, which I have shared with countless people, is that he was a man of integrity. What we heard him preach publicly at church, we saw him live privately at home. I honestly do not recall Dad ever losing his temper or swearing, slandering or gossiping about anyone, manifesting racial prejudice or putting others down, exhibiting greed or covetousness, being envious of the successes or opportunities of others. By the Lord’s enablement, he truly did live a life that was above reproach from a human perspective.

Not that he was perfect. He would have been the first to acknowledge his own shortcomings. But even when he fell short, he modeled how to recover in a healthy fashion. Several times as a boy I heard Dad ask the Lord’s forgiveness in prayer or heard him apologize to one or another of his family members for some small way in which he had wronged them.

George and Phyllis Christie at ages 63 and 60

George and Phyllis Christie at ages 63 and 60

As a husband Dad was blessed with the love of his life for sixty-six years. He always treated his wife in a caring, respectful fashion. In the latter years of his life, he did quite a bit of walking in an effort to keep himself healthy. He divulged to me that one of his primary motivations for doing that was so he could continue to help care for mom. (And Mom certainly returned that favor to Dad by attentively caring for him throughout his final years of decline.)

As a father Dad regularly led us in a brief time of family Bible reading and prayer after breakfast or supper, thus seeking to consistently teach us the way of the Lord on a daily basis. He was a firm but fair disciplinarian. He put enough responsibility on his children to help us develop into responsible human beings, but gave us enough freedom to enjoy our childhood years. He supported our interests and attended many of our activities, whether church-related, academic, athletic, musical or merely hobbies. He celebrated our successes in a low-key way that let us know he was proud of us, but without causing us to become overly proud of ourselves. Dad continued to support and encourage us as adults, without interfering with or trying to control our lives. To the degree that he had opportunity to do so (sometimes limited by geographical distance), Dad sought to provide his grandchildren and great grandchildren with a godly example, encouragement, guidance and constant prayer support.

Dad was a friendly individual who was quick to smile at, greet and encourage others. While having a generally serious, dignified approach to life, he also had a lighthearted side. He enjoyed relating humorous, true incidents from his life with family and friends, sometimes laughing so hard that he needed to wipe away tears. He was a good-natured tease, especially with his family. At one of the churches Dad served, he was willing to dress up as Mr. Ho, Ho, Ho! for the gift-exchange portion of the congregation’s annual Christmas dinner.

Dad was a man of God’s Word, the Bible. In his long ministerial career he preached or taught through most of the books of the Bible, several of them more than once.  He repeatedly read clear through the Bible each year.

George and Phyllis Christie's 60th wedding anniversary

George and Phyllis Christie’s 60th wedding anniversary

Dad clearly modeled the Matthew 6:33 principles of serving Christ’s kingdom as his top priority in life while walking by faith that the Lord would provide the material needs of his family. Dad served smaller-sized churches on a slender salary, while Mom worked outside the home to help make ends meet. They regularly shared examples of God’s timely provision for the needs of their family or churches. Dad and Mom never owned their own home or even a second car. Their life was definitely about serving the Lord and advancing His kingdom rather than accruing material possessions.

Dad had a heart for those who needed the Savior. After coming to faith in Christ in his mid-twenties, he was ever eager that others would come to know Jesus as their Savior as well. He and Mom were careful to lead their own children to the Lord and also shared the Gospel (Good News) of salvation with their other family members. Dad regularly gave a Gospel invitation at the close of his sermons, led his church people in carrying out a weekly visitation program to share the Gospel with others, and encouraged active participation in evangelistic crusades and campaigns that took place in their area.

Dad was a faithful pastor to the congregations he served. He genuinely cared about the wellbeing of his congregants and sought to minister to their varied needs. Most of them, in turn, deeply appreciated and readily supported him. Dad spent the final seventeen years of his ministerial career serving the smallest of the various churches he had pastored. When asked the secret of his staying power through the inevitable thick and thin of Christian ministry, he indicated the key for him was being in the place of service where he believed God wanted him to be.

Dad’s final years of life were more difficult and discouraging for him, especially as he experienced physical decline which curtailed his ability to carry out his accustomed ministries. But even through those challenging years he remained fully trusting, extremely patient and very thankful for God’s many blessings. He never exhibited self-pity or resentment. The final months of his life he just wanted to go be with the Lord, and we his family members are grateful that God has mercifully granted that earnest desire. We grieve our temporary earthly separation from Dad but rejoice that he is safely with his glorious Savior, has already been clothed with Christ’s perfect righteousness and has begun to experience eternal life in Heaven.

Dad’s life verse was Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” By God’s grace and enablement both aspects of that personal declaration concerning life and death were true of Dad. So also are the declarations of 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie

 

Susannah Spurgeon

Susannah Spurgeon

Throughout much of her married life Charles Spurgeon’s wife, Susannah, was a semi-invalid.  For long periods at a time she was confined to her home and was not well enough to attend services at the Metropolitan Tabernacle where her husband preached.  But she longed to be useful to the Lord and of service to others.

In 1875 Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students was published.  After reading the book, Susannah said to her husband, “I wish I could send a copy to every minister in England!” “Then why not do it?” he replied.  “How much will you give?”

For quite some time she had been in the habit of saving every five-shilling piece that had come to her.  (Each five-shilling coin was worth one-quarter of a pound.)  Using these savings, she had just enough to purchase 100 copies of the Lectures and to send them out to needy pastors.

Susannah assumed that was the end of the matter but God had much bigger plans in mind for her charitable ministry.  Though Susannah did not permit Spurgeon to mention what she had done, news of her donations quickly spread, and friends started contributing money so she could send out more books.  She ordered a number of sets of Spurgeon’s multi-volume commentary on the Psalms, The Treasury of David, and sent those out to disadvantaged ministers.

Charles and Susannah Spurgeon in older years

Charles and Susannah Spurgeon in older years

Donations for her Book Fund and requests for books from straitened pastors began to pour in.  These gifts and requests came from individuals in a variety of denominations and independent church settings.  In less than half a year she had sent out over 3,000 books.

The letters received from ministers were filled with expressions of hearty thanksgiving to God and Mrs. Spurgeon for supplying them with cherished study resources they could not afford to buy for themselves.  Some of these pastors were paid as little as 40 or 60 pounds (equaling 200 or 300 American dollars) per year.  Some had large families.  Not a few spoke of sick family members and heavy doctor bills.  While seeking to provide basic necessities for their families, these ministers had no extra funds with which to purchase books.

Some indicated they and their family members were in need of better and warmer clothing, more bedding or personal items.  In response, Susannah also launched the Pastors’ Aid Fund.  Her appeal for gifts of money, clothing, and blankets met with a tremendous response.  Donations of clothing and bedding were sent to the Tabernacle where a group of volunteers forwarded them to needy ministerial families.

Susannah Spurgeon

Susannah Spurgeon

Susannah continued to package the books in her own home.  Every two weeks a full cartload of volumes left for the railroad station en route to many different destinations.  Susannah sometimes carried out this ministry in weakness and pain. But she felt more than compensated by the rich blessings the ministry brought both to her and to others.

Of this ministry and its blessings to his wife, Spurgeon wrote: “Our gracious Lord ministered to His suffering child in the most effectual manner, when He graciously led her to minister to the necessities of His service.  By this means He called her away from her personal grief, gave tone and concentration to her life, led her to continual dealings with Himself, and raised her nearer the center of that region where other than earthly joys and sorrows reigned supreme.”

Susannah herself testified of these blessings: “I am personally indebted to the dear friends who have furnished me with the means of making others happy.  For me there has been a double blessing. I have been both recipient and donor.  My days have been made indescribably bright and happy by the delightful duties connected with the work and its little arrangements … that I seem to be living in an atmosphere of blessing and love, and can truly say with the Psalmist, “My cup runneth over” [Psalm 23:5].

As the years passed, Susannah increased the different books she made available.  She often sent sets of her husband’s sermons, as many as six volumes at a time, as well as several of his other writings.  She frequently added the works of other men, which volumes she described as “solid, old-fashioned, Scriptural, Puritanic theology.”

Year by year thousands of volumes went out to hundreds of pastors ministering on nearly every continent around the globe.  Susannah carried out this ministry the final twenty-eight years of her life.  By the time of her death, she had sent out over 200,000 books plus countless copies of her husband’s individual sermons.

 

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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.

Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie

 

 

Charles Spurgeon's Orphanage, Stockwell, London

Charles Spurgeon’s Orphanage, Stockwell, London

Charles Spurgeon is remembered primarily for his powerful, Spirit-anointed preaching ministry that pointed thousands of individuals to Jesus Christ as their Savior and built up tens of thousands of believers in their Christian faith. For three decades Spurgeon regularly preached to 5,000 or more people at his church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

But Spurgeon was well aware of other ministry needs in the metropolis as well, and he led his congregation to seek and follow God’s direction in identifying and responding to such needs. Spurgeon serves as a great reminder to us to remain sensitive to needs that go beyond our regular, primary ministries. He shows that as we do, God may lead us into some special new ministries that will prove to be of great benefit.

In the summer of 1866, five years after worship and preaching services commenced at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon challenged his congregation at its Monday evening prayer meeting: “Dear friends, we are a huge church, and should be doing more for the Lord in this great city. I want us tonight to ask Him to send us some new work. And if we need money to carry it on, let us pray that the means also be sent.”

A few days later Spurgeon received a letter from Mrs. Anne Hillyard, the widow of a Church of England clergyman.  She stated that she had 20,000 pounds (equaling 100,000 American dollars) which she desired to use in establishing an orphanage for the training and educating of orphan boys, and asked for Spurgeon’s assistance.

Earlier Mrs. Hillyard had asked a friend to recommend some totally reliable public figure to whom she could entrust her considerable fortune to be used for orphans.  The man, though not a particular admirer of the prominent Baptist preacher, nonetheless immediately replied, “Spurgeon.”

Charles Spurgeon and William Higgs meeting with Anne Hillyard

Charles Spurgeon and William Higgs meeting with Anne Hillyard

At her request, Spurgeon and one of his deacons, William Higgs, paid the would-be benefactress a visit at her home.  The modest home and neighborhood in which she lived hardly indicated an individual who possessed a large sum of money.  So Spurgeon opened the discussion by stating, “We have called, Madam, about the 200 pounds that you mentioned in your letter.”

“200?” she responded.  “I meant to write 20,000.”

“Oh yes, you did put 20,000,” replied the pastor, “but I was not sure whether a nought [zero] or two may have slipped in by mistake, and I thought I would be on the safe side.”

He then queried whether there was some relative to whom the money should be given, to which she responded there was not.  He next suggested the funds might be sent to George Muller to assist him in his orphan work in Bristol.  But she insisted she wanted Spurgeon to have it to use in assisting fatherless boys right there in London.  She also expressed the certainty that many other Christians would want to help in the establishment and ongoing support of such a ministry, which did indeed turn out to be the case.

Young orphans at Spurgeon's orphanage

Young orphans at Spurgeon’s orphanage

As Spurgeon and Higgs left her home they remarked to each other how God was evidently answering the specific requests that had been made at the congregational prayer meeting just days earlier.  He was sending them a new work and the means to carry it out.

Within a month arrangements were made to purchase two and a half acres of land situated not far from the Metropolitan Tabernacle.  Eventually a row of several individual homes, all connected as one continuous building, were erected.  Each two-story home housed fourteen orphans and was sponsored by various donors.  A dining hall, infirmary, large gymnasium and even a swimming pool were constructed as part of the expansive complex.  Eventually a corresponding row of homes were built for orphan girls.  The area between the two sets of orphan houses was a grass-covered playing field, edged with flowers and shrubs. 250 boys and 250 girls at a time were housed and received a well-rounded education at the orphan complex.

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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.

 

Charles Spurgeon preaching at the Metropolitan Tabernacle

Charles Spurgeon preaching at the Metropolitan Tabernacle

Sharing the Christian Gospel (Good News!) of salvation from sin and God’s gift of eternal life is both a tremendous privilege and a sobering responsibility.  Charles Spurgeon kept the faithful proclamation of the Gospel front and center throughout his fruitful ministry career. His outlook on sharing the Gospel is worthy of our consideration and emulation.

One evening in the late autumn Spurgeon was returning from a speaking engagement.  The hansom cab in which he was riding made its way along the level ground at the base of London’s steep Herne Hill ridge which he needed to ascend.

LamplighterPresently he saw a light before him, and as he came near the hill he watched that light gradually go up the ascent, leaving a train of stars behind it.  Eventually the line of newborn lights reached from the foot of the hill to its summit. Spurgeon was witnessing the work of a lamplighter whom he could not see in the darkness.  In those days London’s streetlights burned gas but still had to be lit individually.

Spurgeon afterward reflected on what he had seen: “I did not see the lamplighter.  I do not know his name, nor his age, nor his residence. But I saw the lights which he had kindled, and these remained when he himself had gone his way.

“As I rode along I thought to myself, ‘How earnestly do I wish that my life may be spent in lighting one soul after another with the sacred flame of eternal life! I would myself be as much as possible unseen while at my work, and would vanish into eternal brilliance above when my work is done.’ ”

Charles Spurgeon lived with a weighty sense of the eternal peril of the unconverted and of his responsibility to point them to Christ.  He was also deeply concerned for those who might wrongly suppose themselves to be Christians.

During a period of sore illness he traveled to Marseilles, France, to rest.  He was suffering from gout of which he once wrote: “Lucian says, ‘I thought a cobra had bitten me and filled my veins with poison. But it was worse, it was gout.’ That was written from experience, I know.”

Arriving at his hotel in Marseilles, Spurgeon asked for a fire to warm his room and help him bear his pain.  When the porter came, he brought vine branches with which to kindle the fire.  As the branches began to burn, Spurgeon cried out in agony.  His distress at that moment, however, was psychological and spiritual rather than physical.  He was thinking of Christ’s teaching in John 15:6 concerning the destiny of fruitless branches of the Vine, how they are cast out and burned.

Charles Spurgeon's Funeral Procession

Charles Spurgeon’s Funeral Procession

In a sermon preached several years before his death, Spurgeon attempted to picture the scene that he desired to exist at his own funeral.  He spoke of a concourse of people in the streets and of the discussion that would be taking place among them:

“What are all these people waiting for?”

“Do you not know?  He is to be buried today.”

“And who is that?”

“It is Spurgeon.”

“What! The man that preached at the Tabernacle?”

“Yes; he is to be buried today.”

Continued Spurgeon: “That will happen very soon.  And when you see my coffin carried to the silent grave, I should like every one of you, whether converted or not, to be constrained to say, ‘He did earnestly urge us, in plain and simple language, not to put off the consideration of eternal things. He did entreat us to look to Christ. Now he is gone, our blood is not at his door if we perish.’ ”

 

Charles Spurgeon quotation on Hell

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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.

Susannah Spurgeon as a young woman

Susannah Spurgeon as a young woman

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.

Charles Spurgeon preaching at New Park Street Church

Charles Spurgeon preaching at New Park Street Church

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.”

Charles and Susannah Spurgeon in younger years

Charles and Susannah Spurgeon in younger years 1

“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.”

Charles and Susannah Spurgeon in younger years 2

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?”

“Johnny Dear.”

“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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Timeless Stories by Vance Christie

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.

Charles Spurgeon preaching as a young man

Charles Spurgeon preaching as a young man

Shortly after Charles Spurgeon became a Christian as a teen, it started becoming apparent that God had specially gifted him as a preacher and called him to be a minister of the Gospel. It is easy to be impressed with the young man who had such extraordinary abilities. But we do well to remember (as young Spurgeon did) that those abilities were given by the Spirit of Christ to effectively point people to Jesus, not to draw attention to the messenger. We’re also reminded that the Lord sometimes uses wholly-consecrated servants of His to carry out remarkable ministry, even from quite an early age.

Several months after Charles Spurgeon’s Christian conversion (see my July 18, 2018, Perspective for that fascinating account) he moved to Cambridge, England. There, at age sixteen, he was again both a student and a part-time teacher at a school. He also joined the membership of St. Andrew’s Street Baptist Church. Shortly after doing so, he was asked to address the church’s Sunday School, which he did on more than one occasion.

Another of the ministries of the St. Andrew’s Church was sending out lay preachers to speak in villages in the area. James Vinter was the man who superintended that lay preaching ministry. When Vinter heard Spurgeon address the Sunday School, he was highly impressed with the teen’s exceptional speaking ability and earnest Christian spirit. Vinter sought to enlist Spurgeon as a lay preacher but did so in a rather sneaky fashion. He invited Spurgeon to go to Teversham the following Sunday evening, stating that, “A young man is to preach there who is not much used to leading services and very likely would be glad of the company.”

St. Andrews's Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, England

St. Andrews’s Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, England

Spurgeon agreed to do so and, with the young man whom he assumed was to do the preaching, set out for Teversham late on the appointed Sunday afternoon. When he remarked to his companion that he hoped his preaching would be blessed by God that evening, the startled man exclaimed, ‘I have never done such a thing in my life! You’re the one who is to preach! I’m here to keep you company.” Spurgeon stated that he was equally surprised, inexperienced and unprepared for such a task. But the other responded that Spurgeon was accustomed to addressing the Sunday School and could simply reuse one of the talks he had given there.

So that evening Spurgeon spoke in a thatched-roof cottage to several simple farm laborers and their wives. He preached on the preciousness of Christ Jesus from 1 Peter 2:7, “Unto you therefore who believe He is precious.” At the close of the service an elderly woman called out, “Bless your heart, how old are you?”  “I am under sixty,” Spurgeon responded good-naturedly. “Yes, and under sixteen!” she replied. “Never mind my age,” rejoined Spurgeon, “think of the Lord Jesus Christ and His preciousness.”

The lay preachers’ association regularly ministered at thirteen villages. Following Spurgeon’s first visit to any of those places he was invariably urged to return as often as he could. With the encouragement of Vinter and the other men in the association, Spurgeon accepted those repeat invitations and was out evening after evening preaching God’s Word.

Waterbeach Baptist Church building today

Waterbeach Baptist Church building today

In October, 1851, Spurgeon was invited to preach at the Baptist church in the village of Waterbeach, six miles from Cambridge. After preaching there only twice and though he was but seventeen years of age at the time, he was asked to become the church’s regular pastor. Waterbeach was notorious for its drunkenness and related forms of degradation. But believing that God was calling him into the ministry, and knowing the village had a great need of a strong Gospel witness, Spurgeon accepted the pastoral call.

The church at Waterbeach was a small thatch-roofed chapel. When Spurgeon first went there the church numbered about forty. But as word of the capable, fervent young preacher spread, people were soon flocking to church from the village and surrounding countryside. In a relatively short time attendance at the church was regularly 400 and more. Doors and windows of the little building were left open so that those who could not get in could stand outside and listen to the zealous young minister. In addition to his public preaching ministry, Spurgeon also ministered to people in their homes.

In what can only be described as a Holy Spirit-wrought revival, Waterbeach was dramatically transformed. Spurgeon later wrote of that:

Did you ever walk through a village notorious for its drunkenness and profanity? Did you ever see poor wretched beings … leaning against the posts of the ale-house or staggering along the street? Have you ever looked into the houses of the people and beheld them as dens of iniquity, at which your soul stood aghast? Have you ever seen the poverty and degradation and misery of the inhabitants and sighed over it?

Charles Spurgeon as a young man

Charles Spurgeon as a young man

But was it ever your privilege to walk through that village again, in after years, when the Gospel had been preached there? It has been mine. I once knew just such a village as I have pictured … There went into that village a lad who had no great scholarship but was earnest in seeking the souls of men. He began to preach there, and it pleased God to turn the whole place upside down. In a short time the little thatched chapel was crammed, the biggest vagabonds in the village were weeping floods of tears, and those who had been the curse of the parish became its blessing. Where there had been robberies and villainies of every kind, all round the neighborhood, there were none, because the men who used to do the mischief were themselves in the house of God, rejoicing to hear of Jesus crucified.

I am not telling an exaggerated story, nor a thing I do not know, for it was my delight to labor for the Lord in that village. It was a pleasant thing to walk through that place, when drunkenness had almost ceased, when debauchery in the case of many was dead, when men and women went forth to labor with joyful hearts, singing the praises of the ever-living God, and when, at sunset, the humble cottager called his children together, read them some portion of the Book of Truth, and then together they bent their knees in prayer to God. I can say with joy and happiness that almost from one end of the village to the other, at the hour of eventide, one might have heard the voice of song coming from nearly every rooftree

I do testify, to the praise of God’s grace, that it pleased the Lord to work wonders in our midst. He showed the power of Jesu’s name, and made a witness of that Gospel which can win souls, draw reluctant hearts and mold afresh the life and conduct of sinful men and women.

Timeless Stories by Vance Christie#          #          #

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.

Charles Spurgeon as a young man

Charles Spurgeon as a young man

Charles Spurgeon was one of the most prominent preachers and powerful heralds of the Christian Gospel in the history of the Church. The account of Spurgeon’s own conversion is both fascinating and instructive.

From the time he was just a child Charles Spurgeon was heavily burdened by an awareness of his own sinfulness.  Throughout several boyhood years he was constantly conscious that in both thoughts and actions he was unable to fulfill the requirements of God’s holy laws.  Though he knew Christ had died for the sins of human beings, he saw no application of that truth to himself.  He tried to pray, but the only complete request he could utter was, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Though he had never uttered a blasphemy, all manner of cursing God and man began to fill his mind.  Then followed severe temptations to deny the very existence of God as well as efforts to convince himself he was an atheist.  When all such futile thinking failed, he told himself that he must feel or do something to merit salvation.  He wished he might have his back scourged or that he could undergo some difficult pilgrimage to that end.

In 1849, at age fifteen, he entered a school in the town of Newmarket in Essex County, England, as both a student and a part-time teacher.  In Newmarket he attended services at one church after another, hoping he might hear something that would help remove his spiritual burden.  He later related that, while he heard pastors preach on a variety of themes, they did not address his basic spiritual question and need. “What I wanted to know was, ‘How can I get my sins forgiven?’, and they never told me that.”

That December an outbreak of fever temporarily closed the Newmarket school, and Spurgeon returned home to Colchester for the Christmas season.  One Sunday morning early in January he was making his way to one church when a fierce snow storm led him, instead, to enter the Primitive Methodist Chapel located closer to his home.  Only about a dozen people were there that morning, and he took a seat near the back, under the gallery.

The regular minister had not been able to make it due to the storm.  So when it was time for the sermon a thin man whom Spurgeon supposed to be a shoemaker or a tailor went up to the pulpit.  He announced and read the Scripture text for his impromptu sermon, Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”   The man obviously had little formal education, and he mispronounced some of his words.  But that did not matter to Spurgeon, for upon hearing the Bible verse he thought it contained a glimmer of hope for him.

The lay preacher began to deliver a homespun discourse in his broad Essex dialect: “This is a very simple text indeed.  It says, ‘Look.’  Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain.  It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just ‘Look.’  Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look.  You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look.  A man needn’t be worth a thousand pounds a year to look.  Anyone can look; even a child can look.

“But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay! many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there.  You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves.  Some say look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by.  Jesus Christ says, “Look unto Me.”  Some on ye say, “We must wait for the Spirit’s workin.” You have no business with that just now.  Look to Christ.  The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ ”

Charles Spurgeon preaching as a young man

Charles Spurgeon preaching as a young man

Assuming the perspective of Jesus, the preacher continued: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross.  Look unto Me, I am dead and buried.  Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!”

After he had spoken for about ten minutes, the layman apparently reached the end of his tether.  Then, fixing his eyes on Spurgeon, he startled him by saying, “Young man, you look very miserable.  And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text.  But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.”  Then raising his hands, he literally shouted: “Young man, look to Jesus Christ.  Look!  Look!  Look!  You have nothing to do but look and live!”

Far from taking offense at being singled out, Spurgeon at once saw the way of salvation.  He hardly noticed anything the lay exhorter said after that, so taken was he with that one thought: “I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word—‘Look!’—what a charming word it seemed to me. … There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun.  And I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him.  Oh, that somebody had told me this before, ‘Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.’ ”

When Spurgeon arrived back home early that afternoon, his family immediately noticed the dramatic change that had come over him.  His despair was gone, and he was overflowing with joy.  “Something wonderful has happened to you!” they exclaimed.  And he was only too eager to tell them all about it.  “Oh! there was joy in the household that day,” he afterward reported, “when all heard that the eldest son had found the Savior and knew himself to be forgiven.”

If any readers of this simple blog post have not yet looked to Jesus for salvation from sin and God’s gift of spiritual and eternal life, my sincere hope is that they soon will. If I may be of further assistance to anyone in this vital matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

For those of us who have already looked to Jesus for salvation, may the example of the humble lay preacher remind us that we do not need to be highly educated or skilled in order to point people to Christ. We only need to clearly share what we already know about salvation through faith in Jesus. God can use our sincere (though perhaps imperfect) witness to play a part in drawing

Timeless Stories by Vance Christie

people to the Savior.

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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.

The China Inland Mission's first group of missionaries

The China Inland Mission’s first group of missionaries

When God calls us to carry out some faith-stretching ministry for Him, He supplies us with the faith to do so. And when we follow His lead with marked faith, He blesses in significant or even incredible ways. Hudson Taylor serves as a tremendous example of these principles.

When Hudson surrendered to God’s definite direction by establishing the China Inland Mission in faith (see my May 9, 2018, Perspective) there was immediate and immense interest in the new mission and its objectives. Speaking invitations from churches of several different denominations and requests for promotional literature flooded in. Within six months nearly thirty adults had applied to go as missionaries to the previously unreached inland provinces of China, and sixteen of those applicants were approved.

The cost of transporting and outfitting such a sizeable missionary party was enormous, more than 2,000 pounds (equaling 10,000 American dollars). But each day, over the noon hour, a prayer meeting was held at the Taylors’ home, and in answer to those earnest petitions the funds were fully supplied in timely fashion. When the CIM party sailed from England in May, 1866, just eleven months after the mission was founded, it was the largest delegation of missionaries sent out to China by any mission society to date.

China Inland Mission map, 1948

China Inland Mission map, 1948

Over the next seven and a half years the CIM established a number of mission stations in two of the eleven inland provinces of China. The number of CIM missionaries more than doubled. Those gains were made despite not a few marked personal trials and sometimes fierce opposition faced by missionaries and Chinese Christians alike. Hudson’s wife Maria and his eight-year-old daughter Grace both died of illness during those years.

Hudson’s heart remained burdened for the multiple millions of people in the nine inland provinces that did not yet have a single missionary or Chinese evangelist to share the Good News of salvation with them. On January 27, 1874, while ministering in Chekiang Province, he wrote in the back of his Bible: “Asked God for fifty or a hundred additional native evangelists and as many foreign superintendents [missionaries] as may be needed to open up the forty-eight counties still unoccupied in Chekiang, also for men to break into the nine unoccupied provinces. Asked in the name of Jesus. Give me all needed strength of body, wisdom of mind, grace of soul to do this Your great work.”

Instead of receiving additional strength, however, shortly thereafter Hudson fell seriously ill.  For weeks he was bedridden.  In addition, for several months funds had been so low and needs so great that he hardly knew how to distribute the little that came in.  There simply were no available funds for extending the mission work to new locations.  Still he wrote to CIM officials in London: “I do so hope to see some of the destitute provinces evangelized before long.  I long for it by day and pray for it by night. Can He care less?”

China Inland Mission prayer appeal for the Hundred Workers

China Inland Mission prayer appeal for the Hundred Workers

One day as he slowly recovered he received a letter that had been two months in arriving from England.  In it an unknown correspondent had written:  “My dear Sir, I bless God—in two months I hope to place at the disposal of your council, for further extension of the China Inland Mission work, 800 pounds [equaling 4,000 American dollars].  Please remember, for fresh provinces.” Hudson could hardly believe what he was reading.  The letter had actually been mailed before he had recorded his prayer in his Bible.  Now the correspondence had come as a wonderful confirmation of the faith-filled request God had placed in his heart.

The CIM missionary force continued to grow to just over 100 by its sixteenth anniversary in 1881. Then, in a huge step of faith, Hudson and his fellow missionaries sensed God leading them to pray for seventy new missionaries in the next three years (1882-1884). Within that period of time the additional missionaries were supplied.

Late in 1886 Hudson and other missionaries started praying, rather audaciously, that God would send 100 new missionaries to the field in just one year’s time, by the end of 1887! Everyone affiliated with the CIM was invited to pray for “the Hundred.”          Hudson and his friends began to sing this prayer at every meal:

Oh send the Hundred workers, Lord,

Those of Thy heart and mind and choice,

To tell Thy love both far and wide—

So we shall praise Thee and rejoice:

And above the rest this note shall swell,

My Jesus hath done all things well.

 

A veteran missionary in Shanghai told Hudson, “I am delighted to hear that you are praying for large reinforcements. You will not get a hundred, of course, within the year; but you will get many more than if you did not ask for them.”

Hudson Taylor quote 2Hudson replied, “Thank you for your interest. We have the joy of knowing our prayers are answered now.  And I feel sure that, if spared, you shall share that joy by welcoming the last of the hundred to China!”

Hudson put legs to his prayers by returning to Britain, where he carried out an exhausting schedule of speaking engagements to promote interest and enlist potential recruits.  The response was overwhelming.  In all, 600 men and women offered themselves for service in China.  The London Council of the CIM refused to lower its standards, so five out of every six candidates were declined.  By the end of 1887, however, 102 new missionaries had been accepted and sailed for China.

Hudson Taylor by Vance ChristieAt the time of Hudson Taylor’s death in 1905, 800 missionaries and more than 2,000 Chinese pastors and evangelists were serving at 1,000 CIM stations and outstations. In Taylor’s lifetime the equivalent of 7.5 million dollars had been given to support the CIM, and 30,000 Chinese had become Christians.

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You can learn much more about Hudson’s life of exceptional Christian faith and service in my book Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China. I think you’ll find (as I certainly have) his outstanding example both instructive and encouraging in your own relationship with and service for Christ.

Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie

 

 

 

 

When our three daughters were in elementary school they always participated in the summer reading program that our local public library sponsored. They had a bit more free time available, and they loved to fill some of it by reading a variety of good, entertaining books.

Not only young children, but also many teens and adults enjoy the opportunity to do some recreational reading in the summer. The schedule demands are not quite as relentless as they are during the schoolyear. The days seem longer with it staying light well into the evening. Leisurely visits to a park or the lake, restful Sunday afternoons, vacation time in the car or at a cabin, and other such summertime opportunities all seem like inviting occasions to enjoy a good book.

As part of your summertime reading this year I’d encourage you to read at least one quality Christian biography. And I hope you’ll encourage your kids at home or church to do the same. Perhaps you’ll want to read one such book with them. For a list of the benefits of this particular type of book, check out the very first Perspective I wrote for this website when I launched it five years ago – “Why Read Historic Christian Biography?”

Perhaps one of the biographies I’ve had the privilege of writing will be of interest to you:

There are lots of good historic Christian biographies that have been published for younger children and older youth. See Christian Focus Publication’s Trailblazer series (under its CF4Kids imprint), YWAM’s Christian Heroes Then & Now series, as well as similar series by other publishers.

Plenty of other great Christian biographies have been published for adults also. You may be interested in Tim Challies’ recently-published book, Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms (a collection of biographical vignettes on that theme, published by Cruciform Press). You may also want to peruse the outstanding biography offerings of Christian Focus Publications (including its History Makers series), EP Books (including its Bitesize Biographies), and Banner of Truth Trust. A number of other evangelical Christian publishers offer additional quality biographies.

So quick! – before any more relaxing reading time slips away this summer – order online, pick up at a local Christian bookstore or borrow from your church library a Christian biography that catches your interest and dive into it. You just may find it to be some of the most enjoyable and beneficial reading you’ll do all summer.

Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie