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.

As part of his preparation for missionary service in China, Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) pursued a course of medical training in London. One of the patients he treated was an avowed atheist who was dying of gangrene. It was Taylor’s daily duty to dress the man’s infected foot.

The ailing individual was vehemently antagonistic toward anything religious. He had not entered a church since his wedding day forty years earlier. Recently when a local minister had visited him, the man spit in the pastor’s face and refused to allow him to speak.

Taylor was deeply concerned about this man’s eternal welfare but at first did not broach spiritual matters with him. Through Taylor’s physical care the patient’s suffering was eased somewhat, and he expressed appreciation to the young medical student.

Eventually Taylor worked up his courage and talked with the man about his grave condition and his need for the Savior and life eternal through Him. The man’s countenance instantly betrayed obvious annoyance. He rolled over in bed with his back toward Taylor and refused to say another word. Future efforts by the would-be evangelist to share a spiritually-beneficial word with his patient elicited similar responses.

Finally one day the earnest Christian could contain himself no longer. As he prepared to leave the dying man’s room, he paused at the doorway then suddenly burst into tears. Crossing to the patient’s bedside, he exclaimed, “My friend, whether you will hear or whether you will forbear, I must deliver my soul. How I wish you would allow me to pray with you.”

The man was completely taken aback and stammered, “W—Well, if it will be a relief to you, then do.” Immediately Taylor fell on his knees and poured out his soul to God in behalf of the individual.

Taylor later recorded: “Then and there, I believe, the Lord wrought a change in his soul. He was never afterwards unwilling to be spoken to and prayed with, and within a few days he definitely accepted Christ as his Savior. Oh, the joy it was to me to see that dear man rejoicing in hope of the glory of God!”

Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor

Years afterward Taylor reflected further on the incident: “I have often thought since, in connection with this case and the work of God generally, of the words, ‘He that goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him’ (Psalm 126:6). Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our own feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success.”

Do we care about the temporal and eternal well-being of our acquaintances who don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? When was the last time we were burdened about, or even wept over, their plight without Him? Perhaps the first thing we need to do to rekindle our evangelistic fervor is to pray for ourselves to have a heart of genuine concern for those without the Savior.

This and many other true incidents (from the lives of various outstanding Christians) modeling how we can bear a fruitful witness for Christ are related in Timeless Stories, published by Christian Focus. An inspiring account of Taylor’s remarkable life and ministry is found in Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China, published by Presbyterian & Reformed (P&R).

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on how Christians can more effectively share the Good News of Jesus with those who need to hear it.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie