Charles Haddon Spurgeon only lived for 57 years, but the impact he had on the Church and arguably, the whole world, was incalculable. The ‘Prince of Preachers’ as he’s been dubbed, was the Pastor of the New Park Street Chapel (later called the Metropolitan Tabernacle) for 38 years. He was initially a Baptist preacher but left that denomination later in life over doctrinal differences.
Even if you don’t agree with everything Spurgeon preached or wrote, you have to admit he was one of the most influential preachers the world has ever seen. Here are some things you may not know and him:
1. One woman was converted through reading a single page of one of Spurgeon’s sermons wrapped around some butter she had bought.
2. Spurgeon read Pilgrim’s Progress at the age of six and went on to read it over 100 times.
3. The New Park Street Pulpit and The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit – the collected sermons of Spurgeon during his ministry with that congregation – fill 63 volumes. The sermons’ 20-25 million words are equivalent to the 27 volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The series stands as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.
4. Spurgeon’s mother had 17 children, nine of whom died in infancy.
5. When Charles Spurgeon was only 10 years old, a visiting missionary, Richard Knill, said that the young Spurgeon would one day preach the gospel to thousands and would preach in Rowland Hill’s chapel, the largest Dissenting Church in London. His words were fulfilled.
6. Spurgeon missed being admitted to college because a servant girl inadvertently showed him into a different room than that of the principal who was waiting to interview him. (Later, he determined not to reapply for admission when he believed God spoke to him, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not!”)
7. Spurgeon’s personal library contained 12,000 volumes – 1,000 printed before 1700. (The library, 5,103 volumes at the time of its auction, is now housed at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
8. Before he was 20 years old, Spurgeon had preached over 600 times.
9. Spurgeon drew to his services Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone, members of the royal family, Members of Parliament, as well as author John Ruskin, Florence Nightingale, and General James Garfield, later president of the United States.
10. The New Park Street Church invited Spurgeon to come for a 6-month trial period, but Spurgeon asked to come for only 3 months because “the congregation might not want me, and I do not wish to be a hindrance.”
11. When Spurgeon arrived at The New Park Street Church, in 1854, the congregation had 232 members. By the end of his pastorate, 38 years later, that number had increased to 5,311. (Altogether, 14,460 people were added to that Church during Spurgeon’s tenure.) The Church was the largest independent congregation in the world a that time.
12. Spurgeon typically read six books every week and could remember what he had read – and where – even many years later.
13. Spurgeon once addressed an audience of 23,654 – without a microphone or any mechanical amplification.
14. Spurgeon began a Pastors’ college that trained nearly 900 students during his lifetime – and it continues today.
15. In 1865, Spurgeon’s sermons were selling at a rate of 25,000 copies a week. They were translated into more than 20 languages.
16. At least three of Spurgeon’s works (including the multi-volume Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series) have sold more than 1,000,000 copies. One of these, All of Grace, was the first book ever published by Moody Press (formerly the Bible Institute Colportage Association) and is still its all-time bestseller. This is a small paperback which impacted my life immeasurably as a teenager. I still have it on my shelf and I open its dog-eared pages regularly.
17. During his lifetime, Spurgeon is estimated to have preached to over ten million people.
18. Spurgeon once said he counted eight sets of thoughts that passed through his mind at the same time while he was preaching.
19. Testing the acoustics in the vast Agricultural Hall, Spurgeon shouted, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” A worker high in the rafters of the building heard this and became converted to Christ as a result.
20. Susannah Thompson, Spurgeon’s wife, became an invalid at age 33 and could seldom attend her husband’s services after that.
21. Spurgeon spent twenty years studying the Book of Psalms and writing his commentary on them: The Treasury of David.
22. Spurgeon insisted that his congregation’s new building, The Metropolitan Tabernacle, employ Greek architecture because the New Testament was written in Greek. This one decision has greatly influenced subsequent church architecture throughout the world.
23. The theme for Spurgeon’s Sunday morning sermon was usually not chosen until Saturday night.
24. For an average sermon, Spurgeon took no more than one page of notes into the pulpit, yet he spoke at a rate of 140 words per minute for well over 45 minutes.
25. The only time that Spurgeon wore clerical garb was when he visited Geneva and preached in John Calvin’s pulpit.
26. By accepting some of his many invitations to speak, Spurgeon often preached up to thriteen times in a week.
27. Spurgeon met often with Hudson Taylor, the well-known missionary to China, and with George Muller, the orphanage founder.
28. Spurgeon had two children – twin sons – and both became preachers. Thomas succeeded his father as pastor of the Tabernacle, and Charles, Jr., took charge of the orphanage his father had founded.
29. Spurgeon’s wife, Susannah, called him Tirshatha (a title used of the Judean governor under the Persian empire), meaning ‘Your Excellency.’
30. Spurgeon often worked 18 hours a day. Famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone once asked him, “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day?” Spurgeon replied, “You have forgotten that there are two of us.”
31. Spurgeon spoke out so strongly against slavery that American publishers of his sermons began deleting his remarks on the subject.
32. Occasionally Spurgeon asked members of his congregation not to attend the next Sunday’s service, so that newcomers might find a seat. During one 1879 service, the regular congregation left so that newcomers waiting outside might get in; the building immediately filled again.
33. Spurgeon penned around 500 letters every week, using a pen dipped in ink!
34. By the age of 50, Spurgeon had personally founded 66 organizations.
35. Spurgeon accepted his first pastorate at the age of 17 at Waterbeach, where he was dubbed the Boy Preacher.
36. When Spurgeon died in 1892, an estimated 50,000 people viewed his casket.