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.
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 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