The Gift of Tongues

In the early 1960s a conservative Episcopalian journalist, John Sherrill, was commissioned to write an investigative book on Pentecostalism. He began consulting with academics and church historians to see if this was a worthwhile pursuit. He was surprised to discover that they spoke of Pentecostalism not in terms of small churches, or a single denomination, but of an apparently unstoppable global movement growing by millions every year. The academics claimed that, in terms of its breadth of influence, and size, that this was the most significant religious shift since the Reformation.

So Sherrill got to work, and part of his investigation was examining its distinctive features. He soon found that the experience of the baptism, or infilling, of the Spirit followed by the gift of tongues was a key distinctive.

The definition of ‘tongues’: Tongues is a prayer language not learned but which is spoken out by the believer usually after being filled with the Holy Spirit, and which then becomes a regular part of their spiritual life.

Testing the claims
He interviewed people of all denominations who had experienced being filled with the Spirit and who spoke in tongues. They claimed to have received these various languages as a gift. They weren’t making up the sounds. Could he test whether that claim was true?

‘I’d decided to get some tape recordings of people speaking in tongues, with the idea of playing them back for some language experts and seeing what they made of it all.’

He invited people to come and make the recordings at his publisher’s offices in New York. He tried unsuccessfully to sound-proof the room, with hilarious results as his fellow-workers eagerly listened to whatever it was that was happening inside.

Speaking in tongues – What does the Bible say?
At the same time he needed to find out whether this was a legitimate part of Christian worship. Here’s some of his results:

He discovered the New Testament contains some 30 references to tongues, and that they were used in different ways:

to exalt the greatness of God, not only as a one-time event but as a regular spiritual exercise
to build up the believer in prayer;
– that they helped the believer pray when he wasn’t sure what to pray for, or in worship;
– that they were spoken out in public meetings, followed by an interpretation by someone else, and that this combination invigorated the church gatherings.

In terms of Paul’s response to tongues he found:
‘there was no sense of surprise about tongues…He accepts them without discussion as a genuine part of the Christian experience.’
that Paul considered the Holy Spirit to be the source of tongues, and that their use is appointed by God
that they are given for ‘useful purpose..the strengthening of the one who uses them.’
that he is not teaching about them theoretically, ‘but from personal experience. He himself uses tongues extensively.’ ‘I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all…’ 14.18
that he not only prays in tongues but sings in tongues too 1 Cor 14.15
that he does not expect the tongue to be understood by the hearers
that not everyone in the church speaks in tongues
that he encourages them, ‘Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues.’ 14.5
and that one of the cautions them, ‘do not forbid speaking in tongues’. 14.39

But, he asked, why is there a gift of tongues? He asked one of those tongues speakers: ‘What’s the use of speaking in tongues?’ She replied, ‘The only way I can answer that is to say… ‘What is the use of a sunset? Just sheer, unmitigated uplift, just joy unspeakable and with it health and peace and rest and release from burdens and tensions.’

In the end, rather than focus on Pentecostalism as such, Sherrill called his book, ‘They Speak with Other Tongues’. He recounts instances where someone praying in tongues in church is discovered to be praying in a known language with highly specific knowledge of a visitor. These are amazing accounts, but relatively rare. Tongues usually are unknown languages.

Language experts examine the taped recordings of people speaking in tongues
After making recordings he gathered six language experts to examine a selection of the tapes: Two specialists in modern languages, three in ancient languages, and an expert in language structure. They convened at Columbia University:

‘I was interested in their reactions to our experiment. They were extremely attentive, dubious without being hostile. As I put on the first tape each one leaned forward, straining to catch every syllable. Several took notes…For the better part of an hour we listened to one prayer after another, spoken ‘in the Spirit’.’

‘There were some interesting observations… One of the linguists reported that although he did not identify words he felt that one tape had been structured in much the same way as a modern poem is structured. ‘Modern poetry depends upon sound as much as upon verbal meaning to get across its message,’ he said. ‘In this one prayer, I felt that although I didn’t understand the literal sense of her words, I did catch the emotional content of what she was saying. It was a hymn of love. Beautiful.’…
‘Although no language known to these men was recorded, they frequently identified language patterns on the tapes. The shape of real language, the variety of sound combinations, infrequency of repetition and so forth, is virtually impossible, they said, to reproduce by deliberate effort…

Fake tongues exposed!
‘I had slipped onto the tapes two instances of pure made-up gibberish, one by our son, Scott, and one by Tib [his wife]. They had tried to sound as much as possible like the tongues on the rest of the tapes, but the linguists spotted the deception immediately.

“That’s not language,’ one man said. ‘That’s just noise.”‘

The academics were impressed. And Sherrill was impressed that these unknown tongues had definite structural similarities to known languages. He continues,

‘I had always read the opening words of St Paul’s great thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,’ in a poetic sense…But there is no doubt in my mind now that Paul was speaking of tongues in the specific Pentecostal sense, and of angel tongues as one variety of these.’

Read the book for the rest of John Sherrill’s story! It’s an intriguing read!

Other books by John Sherrill include:
The Cross and the Switchblade (about David Wilkerson) – John and Elizabeth Sherrill
God’s Smuggler (about Brother Andrew) – John and Elizabeth Sherrill
The Hiding Place (about Corrie Ten Boom) – John and Elizabeth Sherrill
The Happiest People on Earth (about the ‘Full Gospel’s business fellowship) – John and Elizabeth Sherrill
My Friend the Bible – – John Sherrill

©2022 Lex Loizides / Church History Review


Alan Paton: Instrument of Thy Peace

Alan Paton’s 1968 devotional

As you can probably guess, this isn’t my normal type of read. But I was intrigued that Alan Paton, anti-apartheid agitator, and author of Cry, the Beloved Country, had written a devotional.

Published in the UK at the height of the apartheid years in the old South Africa, there is a kind of serenity in the midst of ever-tightening injustice, which comes through in his meditations.

The book is based on a famous soul-guiding prayer of Francis of Assisi. The prayer is better than the book, and is worth praying through, clause by clause.

The Prayer
‘Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is sadness, joy;
where there is darkness, light.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; not so much to be understood, as to understand; not so much to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying the we are born again to eternal life.’

Whatever your Christian background or tradition, and whatever else we may think of Francis and the traditions surrounding him, this is good prayer to pray; a good prayer to re-focus us on our character, and on our desire to serve those around us.

©2022 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

The Wit and Wisdom of Charles Spurgeon

One of the many remarkable things about CH Spurgeon was his quick wit. His lectures and sermons to preachers and leaders are full of ‘street smart’ wisdom. And his much loved alter-ego John Ploughman was created largely as a result of his early years spent learning from rural working people rather than in the cloister of a formal education (although as a self-taught man he made every effort to be very well-read). I hope you’ll enjoy some of these sanctified zingers!

Don’t criticise the Preacher!
‘If some men were sentenced to hear their own sermons, it would be a righteous judgement upon them; but they would soon cry out with Cain, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!”’1

‘I heard one say, the other day, that a certain preacher had no more gifts for the ministry than an oyster, and in my own judgement this was a slander on the oyster, for that worthy bivalve shows great discretion in his openings, and he also knows when to close.’2

‘Rest assured that there is nothing new in theology except that which is false.’3

Don’t criticise the Church!
‘Our daydreams are over: we shall neither convert the world to righteousness, not the church to orthodoxy. We refuse to bear responsibilities which do not belong to us, for our real responsibilities are more than enough. Certain wise brethren are out to reform their denomination. They ride out gallantly. Success be to the champions! They are generally wiser when they ride home again.’4

‘When we see the wonderful activity of the servants of Satan, and how much they accomplish, we may well be ashamed of ourselves that we do so little for our Redeemer, and that the little is often done so badly that it takes as long to set it right as we spent in the doing of it.’5

‘A religion that cannot stand a little laughter must be a very rotten one.’6

Don’t intrude on my Self-fulfilment!
‘A brain is a very hungry thing indeed, and he who possesses it must constantly feed it by reading, and thinking, or it will shrivel up or fall asleep.’7

‘I would not wish for any man a long time of sickness and pain; but a twist now and then one might almost ask for him…Trials drive us to the realities of religion.’8

‘Idle men tempt the devil to tempt them.’9

‘There’s Mrs Scamp as fine as a peacock, all the girls out at boarding-school, learning French and the piano, the boys swelling about in gloves, and GB Scamp Esq., driving a fast-trotting mare, and taking the chair at public meetings, while his poor creditors cannot get more than enough to live from hand to mouth. It is shameful beyond endurance to see how genteel swindling is winked at by many. If I had my way, I’d give them the county crop, and the prison garb for six months; gentlemen or not, I let them see that big rogues could dance on the treadmill to the same tune as little ones. I’d make the land too hot to hold such scamping gentry if I were a member of Parliament, or a prime minister.’10

‘The dog in the kennel barks at fleas; the hunting dog does not even know they are there.’11

‘Self-praise is no recommendation. A man’s praise smells sweet when it comes out of other men’s mouths…Good men know themselves too well to chant their own praises…Good cheese sells itself without puffery. when men are really excellent, people find it out.’12

In praise of good thinking and good theology
It cannot do any hurt to the most lively evangelist to be also a sound theologian, and it may often be the means of saving him from gross blunders.’13

‘I am sure that no preaching will last so long, or build up a church so well, as the expository.’14

‘Christian labours, disconnected from the church, are like sowing and reaping without having any barn in which to store the fruits of the harvest; they are useful, but incomplete.’15

‘To know Christ, is to understand the most excellent of all sciences.’16

‘There is power in a happy ministry.’17

‘Rash vows are much better broken than kept.’18

‘It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.’19

‘I would advise no one to attempt a thing which will cost more than it is worth.’20

‘Hard work is the grand secret of success.’21

‘He who respects his wife will find that she respects him. With what measure he metes it shall be measured to him again, good measure, pressed down, and running over. He who consults his wife will have a good counsellor.’22

One of the few photos of Spurgeon looking genuinely relaxed and happy. Here he is with his team.

Here – for the time being – endeth my underlined quotes from various CH Spurgeon books. I don’t think there’s been one of his books I haven’t gleaned some excellent insight from. And I would encourage you, if you have not yet discovered his rich expression of devotion and evangelistic passion, then go on the hunt until you have something by him. In the mean time, if you’re in a situation where buying his books is not possible, feel free to scroll down or search for Spurgeon on this site, as well as numerous others, and enjoy the feast.

For the first post in this extended series on Spurgeon click here

1 CHS, sermon, Forward
2 CHS, sermon, Forward
3 CHS, sermon, Faith
4 CHS, sermon, What we would be
5 CHS, sermon, Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love
6 CHS, sermon, John Mark; or Haste in Religion 
7 CHS, sermon, Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love
8 CHS, sermon, The Minister in these Times 
9 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk
10 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk 
11 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk 
12 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk 
13 CHS, sermon, Forward
14 CHS, sermon, Forward
15 CHS, sermon, How to Meet the Evils of the Age 16 CHS, sermon, Forward
17 CHS, sermon, Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love
18 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk
19 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk
20 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk
21 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk
22 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk

© 2022 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Review of Books 2021

What I read in 2021
All the way back in 2020 I thought it would be fun to make a record of what I was reading. I’d never done it before and was surprised by how much I read (although 2020 was lockdown year). When I came to putting the list here I merely added ‘Excellent’ by way of recommendation. Although I read less in 2021 (it was an even more crazy year), I thought this time I’d add a comment about some of the books. This could spark some interest in an author or topic that may be new to you. My hope is that perhaps one or two of these books will open up a new area of delight and discovery for you. I’ve tried to organise the books in each category chronologically, rather than in terms of recommendation.

Old Books (or books about old books)
New King James Version (Re-read)  – I generally move from translation to translation reading the whole Bible through. This is the second time I’ve read the NKJV and enjoyed it very much. What could be better than to be grounded in the Book of Books?

Plato – Gorgias (c.380 BC) in which Socrates debates with a couple of friends, and reaches as close to the gospel (from a moral point of view) as you could possibly get without actually knowing it.
Two quotes: ‘I make it my aim to present my soul to its judge in the soundest possible state.’
‘All the other theories put forward in our long conversation have been refuted and this conclusion alone stands firm, that one should avoid doing wrong with more care than being wronged, and that the supreme object of a man’s efforts, in public and in private life, must be the reality, rather than the appearance, of goodness.’
Ovid – Amores (16 BC) translated by Guy Lee. This should probably be in the Poetry section. And it was thoroughly enjoyable, and quite often funny. Over the years I’ve found myself wading dutifully through whole volumes of modern poetry only finding refreshment in one or two poems: Ovid was much more fun.
Procopius – The Anecdota, or Secret History (AD 550) Was this a behind-the-scenes exposé? a craftily written guarantee of allegiance to the next emperor? or a pack of lies written by a bitter servant? We don’t know, but fascinating 6th C memoir nonetheless.
Abelard and Heloise – Forbidden Fruit (Letters) (c.AD 1120) A tragic story of love, scandal, castration, and monasteries. Yes. You read that correctly.

Simon Sebag Montefiore – Titans of History comprising of brief biographical sketches of hundreds of key historical figures. Therefore, some of it engaging. But great if you just wanted to fill in the gaps.

Tom Holland – Dominion Not a church history, but a fascinating look at the parallel history of (mainly) the West and how the story of the church changed and then influenced so much of what we now assume is normal, decent, humane morality. Well worth reading although, if you’re a believer and haven’t read a decent overview of church history I’d begin elsewhere, and then come back to Dominion. A few years ago Sociologist Alvin Schmidt offered a direct ‘Christian’ exposition of the same type of material in his How Has Christianity Changed the World (Zondervan). Also worth reading.
Bruce Shelley – Church History On Audible, this is just under 22 hours of our story including those non-Protestant bits that are not always as interesting to read. I was slightly disappointed at the US focus towards the end, redeemed somewhat by the addition of material from Philip Jenkins and the mighty growth of Christianity through the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement in the global South in the second half of the 20th C.

Cecil M Robeck – The Azusa St Mission and Revival Fascinating and very helpful. I was unaware that ‘singing in the Spirit’ in church meetings was a feature of the Azusa St meetings.

The World of Samuel Pepys Being fascinating selections from his Diary. He was an unrepentant scallywag of epic proportions, and someone we would not allow into church membership without a thorough renunciation of the behaviour he describes. He was a lecherous, entitled opportunist in a puritan world. Having said that, his very detailed descriptions of life in London, the great fire, and many other aspects of 17th C life make addictive reading.

John Suchet – Beethoven Not brilliantly written, but not a bad introduction to the life of arguably the greatest music maker in history. The anger, the fire, the passion, the pathos. It all springs out of Beethoven’s inner turmoil.
Laura Tunbridge – Beethoven, a Life in Nine Pieces A better edited book, but start with the Suchet if you can get hold of it.
Robert Greenberg – The Life and Times of Beethoven I listened to this Great Courses series on Audible and was gripped. Greenberg is a fabulous communicator. Again, the anguish of Beethoven’s life gives additional depth (is that even possible?) to his incredible music. Beethoven represents the pinnacle of musical achievement (with the Beatles coming in a distant second – I’ve just noticed wordpress won’t let me put a laughing emoji here).

Theodore Vrettos – The Elgin Affair More of a biography of Elgin than a discussion on the Marbles. And there’s more than one affair, as the cover implies. Elgin’s life is tragic too. Like many of the statues of antiquity, he lost his nose (was it syphilis or something else?) and lived in physical and emotional pain for a significant part of his life. Regarding the Greek marbles, of course, the fact that it was the occupying Turks who gave Elgin permission to remove them from the Parthenon in Athens reinforces the ethical weight of Greece’s claim for their return. I can fully believe that Elgin did in fact save many of the works from being chopped up and sold off to wealthy tourists (many of the artefacts on the Acropolis already had been lost in that way), but – especially now with the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum completed – what serious argument remains to keep the Parthenon marbles separate from the rest of the structure from which they have been separated?
HG Wells – HG Wells in Love You may have suspected he was a scallywag. You were right.
Anthony Burgess – Flame into Being For those interested in DH Lawrence.
Dylan Thomas – Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog
Dylan Thomas – Adventures in the Skin Trade Thomas’s prose is outstanding, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading beyond his poetry. His sense of humour is irrepressible. These two books are autobiographical. Come and enjoy the English language, said a Welshman who outdid most of his English friends.

One of my most highly prized books

Eva Schloss – Eva’s Story Like all Holocaust survivor stories this is both haunting and inspiring. What makes the copy I have so special to me is that it is signed by the author. I was unaware of that when I bought it from a local charity shop. And that simple fact hit me very powerfully as I read it: that I have a first-hand testimony of one of the world’s worst atrocities actually signed by a survivor. That’s how close it all is to our own time.
Eva Mozes Kor – The Twins of Auschwitz A similarly powerful autobiography.
Spike Milligan – Where Have all the Bullets Gone? I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the earlier volumes of his autobiography, but Milligan is going deeper with each volume. I am currently reading the final one, but can’t get hold of the Mussolini. If you’re in Seffrica and you have it, drop me a line. The world needs Milligan.
Abigail Santamaria – Joy A lengthy biography of Joy Davidman, the love of CS Lewis’s life (Well, apart from Mrs Moore, if you believe that line of thought). Davidman was further to the Left than Lewis, having been a committed Communist in her earlier years. And part of her need to stay in England was to avoid the McCarthy trials in the US where she may well have fallen foul of the rampant anti-Communist fervour at the time. Lewis, himself very definitely on the Left, and having rejected a CBE because it was offered to him by a Conservative government, had political as well as aesthetic sympathies with her. I’ll post an article about this some time, but Lewis’s refusal of the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) was because he did not want to give the impression that Christianity was in favour of right wing politics. And he was nervous of misrepresenting the gospel.

Jeremy Lewis – The Life and Times of Allen Lane I loved this. My copy is a big beautiful hardback and I loved every page. It’s the story of Penguin Books and the drive to put good literature into the hands of ‘the man in the street’. What Pygmalion toys with, and Howard’s End promotes, Allen Lane actually helped accomplish. What a character! And what a debt we owe this man.
Anthony Burgess – Little Wilson and Big God Roger Stott, a friend of mine from pre-Christian days used to speak highly of Burgess and, having read A Clockwork Orange in 2020, I thought I’d get to know this writer a bit better. Little Wilson is the first volume of his two-volume autobiography. 
Larry King – My Remarkable Journey I enjoy interviewing folk during our Sunday services and thought I’d pick up some tips from the most famous of all, but this is more of a life story.

Carol Wimber – John Wimber: The way it was For some reason I’d missed that Wimber had been a Quaker. At first he was very much a non-quaking Quaker, but, following his mighty baptism in the Spirit and the resultant controversy in his local Quaker church, he quickly became a quaking non-Quaker. Such is denominationalism. It’s not brilliantly written but gives some great insights into John and Carol’s early journey towards the Vineyard, and does reflect the breadth of Wimber’s generosity of spirit.
Khaya Dlanga – To Quote Myself Superb South African story of resilience and success. Full of good humour and hope.
Dom Joly – Here Comes the Clown Refreshing. Funny. Self-effacing. Better than any of the clips of Trigger Happy TV that I subsequently watched on youtube.
Eben Alexander – Proof of Heaven Well, yes, but…It started out OK and gradually pulled further and further away from anything biblical, like a resolutely squiffy supermarket trolley.

Trevor Noah – Born a Crime As with Khaya Dlanga, Trevor Noah’s story is a micro-history of South Africa as well as being a tough, passionate, joyous ride towards professional success.
Mortimer & Whitehouse – Gone Fishing Hilarious. I haven’t seen the print version of this but the Audible is heartwarming and full of what seem to be spontaneous moments of hilarity and silliness. Bob Mortimer is a humble wonder.

Hitchens and Amis look like total nerds, but Amis’s writing is utterly masterful.

Martin Amis – Inside Story Amis calls this a novel – perhaps the safest way to blend a brilliant novelist’s gift with memoir. Cover-to-cover enjoyable if you are interested in the literary world of the 20th C. As with his other autobiographical work, Experience, the presence of Kingsley pervades all.

Bob Mortimer – And Away Genuinely funny, sad, touching, inspiring – all in one. Back to back interesting stories. Had me laughing out loud on several occasions. The humility is refreshing.

Literature/Studies/Words etc.
CS Lewis – An Experiment in Criticism Excellent, as you would expect.
Harold Bloom – Hamlet: Poem Unlimited
Clive James – Latest Readings
Stephen King – On Writing I haven’t read anything by Stephen King except this. It was superb, and got me writing.

Christian Teaching
John Piper – Filling up the Afflictions of Christ (Tyndale/Paton/Judson)
John Piper – The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Augustine/Luther/Calvin)

Rebecca McLaughlin Confronting Christianity I somehow missed that I’d read this in 2021, but it was tremendous and I tweeted about it several times. I need to do a proper book review, but let me say I think it’s the best ‘apologetics’ style book I’ve read in years (and I’ve read quite a few). Absolutely stunning.
Rebecca McLaughlin – Is Christmas Unbelievable? She’s done it again! A brilliant, snappy, winsome explanation of the gospel and why we should give serious thought to its claims.

2.5 million sold, and counting!

John Sherrill – They Speak with Other Tongues (re-read) An absolute pleasure to revisit this brilliant little book. If you have questions about the New Testament gift of tongues – such a normal feature of New Testament Christianity and yet still so controversial in today’s conversation – get hold of this book. It’s the story of a sceptical journalist investigating this apparently ‘new’ feature of modern Christianity.
Billy Graham – Nearing Home Reflections on old age, retirement, weakness, and the inevitable approach of death. An encouraging volume to give to those in our congregations who are older.
Dane Ortlund – Gentle and Lowly Beautifully written, devotionally rich. The closest modern book to the great English Puritan writers. Definitely worth buying.
David Cross – Soul Ties Although I disagree with the essential premise, the prayers of renunciation at the end of the book are very good, and may prove very helpful to someone who feels stuck in the past.

Brandon J O’Brien/E Randolph Richards – Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes Written by modern American missionaries, but these guys are not like the caricature of American missionaries you’ve read about. A sensitive and helpful discussion, with many examples, making us aware of our blindspots and assumptions as we approach the text of Scripture itself.
John Lennox – Have No Fear A short and welcome exhortation to evangelism.
David Devenish – Succession or Multiplication? The story and thinking behind the expansion of Newfrontiers into different apostolic ‘spheres’ based on existing apostles working into the churches they’ve planted and overseen.
Francis Spufford – Unapologetic Hmmm. Beautifully written. Perhaps a little flamboyant in places, but why not? This would do if you wanted to know what a church-going Anglican believes, although I suspect most Anglicans don’t enjoy as much effing and blinding as Spufford does. Several points of difference but, as you’ve probably picked up, I think it’s good to read beyond one’s own preferences. If you’re a beginner don’t start here. Start with Keller’s Reason for God, or CS Lewis, or try John Piper.
Timothy Keller – The Prodigal God Starts slowly but every pastor should read, with trembling, the chapter on the Elder Brother. Chapter 4. Go and get your copy and read it!
Jonathan Leeman – Church Discipline Again, we’re not on the same page on some things but worth reading nevertheless.

Voltaire – Candide I expected fisticuffs, or something of a tussle at least, but I was genuinely delighted with how funny this short book is. In fact, I started noting down each time I either laughed or chuckled to myself. 32. It reminded me of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels because of the biting satire, as well as how modern the whole thing feels (it was published in 1759). Humour does carry us over the centuries.
James Weldon Johnson – The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man Gut wrenching and powerful. I assumed it was autobiography until I looked online, but the author is clearly drawing on his own and others’ experiences. 
Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Grey I assumed I’d read this before, as it’s such an iconic story. It’s good but, eish, the language is too flowery, and there’s was a whole unnecessary chapter. But, as with Jekyll and Hyde, A Christmas Carol, and others, it’s a powerful moral fable.
Franz Kafka – Metamorphosis Reminiscent of the Theatre of the Absurd, or a Monty Python, or Reeves and Mortimer, sketch. There is little doubt in my mind that Kafka intended this as a satirical poke at the expectations of family and society. You know the kind of thing: man wakes up to find he is now a loathsome bug, and is primarily concerned not with his bugginess but with what excuse he will make for being late for work, and how embarrassed his parents will be etc… Also, I thought I should read at least one Kafka before I die, and this was the one my daughter was studying at university. Her lecturers don’t seem to agree with my ‘hilarious absurd satire’ interpretation by the way, but load it with serious meaning about the modern condition.
George Orwell- A Clergyman’s Daughter Surprisingly bad (I mean properly bad and breaking half of Orwell’s Why I Write rules). It’s also weighed down with Orwell’s characteristic pessimism. Probably not worth reading unless, like me, you’ve decided to read everything by him.
George Orwell – 1984 (Re-read) A haunting triumph. As with Animal Farm, this is one of the all-time must-reads.

I have no idea who Natalie is…

Martin Amis – Time’s Arrow The idea of telling a story in reverse order is not new. But oh how brilliantly written, with the strangest haunting image of the air growing blacker, forming into clouds, funnelling down from the heavens into high chimneys and producing a persecuted, and then ultimately triumphant and gifted Jewish people. 
Francis Spufford – Golden Hill Well written. A bit naughty.
George Bernard Shaw – Pygmalion (re-read) What’s not to love?

The Love Songs of Sappho (b.630 BC) translated by Paul Roche – Sappho was apparently considered the world’s greatest poet for about a thousand years. Only fragments remain, and these just don’t give us enough. The mystery around her is largely due to the fact that so little of her work has been preserved. So I found this particular version frustrating.
William Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare – All’s Well that Ends Well
I read at least one Shakespeare play each year and have always found it invigorating. This is a play with a very modern feel, with some powerful themes touching on ‘Me too’, and on the stupidity of classism.
George Herbert – Selected Poems As with the Ovid, I enjoyed most of these poems. I have to be honest and acknowledge that so much modern poetry is practically indecipherable, or boring. Herbert had the sherbet. Try him.
John Donne – Love Poems
Libertine Lyrics
(Pauper Press, 1940) I emphasise the date there as the title (as with many of the more recent anthologies of love poetry) sounds more racy than it is.
George Orwell – The Complete Poetry Awful. Avoid.
Penguin Modern Poets 6 (Clemo/Lucie-Smith/Macbeth)
Penguin Modern Poets 7 (Murphy/Silkin/Tarn)
Penguin Modern Poets 8 (Brock/Hill/Smith)

Carol Ann Duffy (ed.) – Hand in Hand
Wendy Cope (ed.) – The Funny Side (101 poems)

Kate Tempest – Hold Your Own I genuinely enjoyed this. Pace, insight, cheek. I liked it.
Seamus Heaney – Beowulf  Probably 8th Century, so this is an ‘older’ work. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed some of Heaney’s poetry. But no. I just couldn’t get into it.

Culture etc.

George Orwell – Essays (Penguin:Great Orwell), incorporating: 
Inside the Whale/Decline of the English Murder/The Lion and the Unicorn  Like CS Lewis, some of Orwell’s best writing is in his essays. It’s so rare to read a single volume of essays and enjoy every one, but Orwell always rewards your attention. As with the end of Down and Out where he sharply, and I think unfairly, criticises the Salvation Army for its work among the homeless (he experienced them as being emotionally cold and sterile), he takes a few pot shots at Christianity, but that’s OK. He’s also great in terms of literary comment. His insights are still relevant.
David Baddiel – Jews Don’t Count Baddiel convincingly exposes the strange acceptability of, or acquiescence in, anti-semitism. And the callousness of the caricature, ‘it doesn’t matter because they’re rich’. Yes, Fagin in Oliver Twist; a nasty, insulting, Jew caricature right in front of our eyes. This is a necessary reminder.
Anthony Storr – Freud Helpful overview which will add to the impression you already have that Freud was a bit pervy, but that it’s good to listen to people and let them talk.
Nigel Warburton – Free Speech A concise and helpful introduction. It’s very useful for all communicators to read up on the thinking around free speech, wherever the legislation currently stands. We always want to be helpful in our communication (‘the goal of our instruction is love’, says Paul). There are inevitably moments of frustration in this book, of course. But good to read.
Margaret Walters – Feminism Again, very helpful. She honestly and fairly gives the Christian roots of feminism and traces its development through the first two ‘waves’. She doesn’t seem to acknowledge a third wave which Naomi Wolf and others certainly do (cf. The Beauty Myth). The Christian will likely be in agreement all the way up until abortion on demand.

Teaching/How to…etc
Odds and ends here, really…
David Quantick – How to Write Everything Nah. But I was looking for a jolt to get into the discipline of writing (I’m working on a memoir).
Brown & McNeil (ed.) – DADS Mostly humorous comments from celebs on fatherhood. I was able to use some of this for a sermon. 
Jonathan Perks – Inspiring Leadership Some good reminders here, particularly about motivating and serving our teams and staff.
John Maxwell – The Right to Lead I found it helpful to read a paragraph or two before leading meetings of various kinds. 
Michael Pollan – Caffeine I can’t remember why I read this. After a coffee it’ll come back to me.
Faith G Harper – Un**** Your Brain Not recommended, but I wanted to hear how ‘hard-ball’, tell it like it is secular psychologists help people. As the title implies, this is not an academic treatment of the subject.
Roy Lilly – Dealing with Difficult People Wait? What? I can be difficult too? Good to read.
Henry Cloud – Necessary Endings Some very helpful stuff here also. Cloud is the Boundaries guy.
Laura Mucha – We Need to Talk About Love Conversation-based reports of a wide variety of peoples’ views about relationships, from friendship to marriage. Again, not recommended necessarily, but a kind of check-in to see where the thinking is. 

Wow! You made it to here. Well done. My advice to you for 2022 is this: spend a bit more time reading. And, with all the books out there, don’t forget the Book of Books.

©2022 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

CH Spurgeon on Building Missional Churches

The young Charles Spurgeon, in classic pose

Evangelistically Relevant Church Meetings
CH Spurgeon was one of the most evangelistically effective local church leaders. When he began preaching at New Park Street (later The Metropolitan Tabernacle) in Southwark, London, crowds gathered and many Londoners were converted. The congregation grew and an auditorium seating 5000 was built to accommodate those gathering. Some biographers credit the astonishing growth to Spurgeon’s oratorical skill, some to his ability to connect with the working classes, some to his faithfulness to ‘the old gospel’ and his love for George Whitefield, and a few mention that God was doing an amazing thing in the latter part of the 19th Century in England – something close to revival. But it is extremely rare to hear biographers and commentators highlight the biographical reason for Spurgeon’s evangelistic clarity. When he had come under conviction of sin and was desperately seeking forgiveness; desperate to get right with God, he visited church after church hoping for answers but didn’t find them! It wasn’t that the churches he visited were liberal. Not at all. He deliberately visited Bible-believing, Bible-preaching evangelical churches. But they were missing the mark without realising it. None of them were directly addressing the needs of the non-believer. None of them were evangelistically relevant. In the first volume of his autobiography he writes of his experience before finally hearing the gospel from ‘an uneducated’ man in a Primitive Methodist chapel:

‘While under concern of soul, I resolved that I would attend all the places of worship in the town where I lived, in order that I might find out the way of salvation. I was willing to do anything, and be anything, if God would only forgive my sin. I set off, determined to go round to all the chapels, and I did go to every place of worship, but for a long time I went in vain. I do not, however, blame the ministers. One man preached Divine Sovereignty. I could hear him with pleasure, but what was that sublime truth to a poor sinner who wished to know what he must do to be saved ? There was another admirable man who always preached about the law, but what was the use of ploughing up ground that needed to be sown? Another was a practical preacher. I heard him, but it was very much like a commanding officer teaching the manoeuvres of war to a set of men without feet … I went again, another day, and the text was something about the glories of the righteous: nothing for poor me! I was like a dog under the table, not allowed to eat of the children’s food. I went time after time, and I can honestly say that I do not know that I ever went without prayer to God, and I am sure there was not a more attentive hearer than myself in all the place, for I panted and longed to understand how I might be saved.’ (See his The Autobiography of Charles H Spurgeon, Vol 1. (1897 London: Passmore and Alabaster) p.104-105)
It was this experience – visiting Bible-believing churches that only preached ‘the gospel’ to the already convinced – that put a resolve in Spurgeon’s heart to never forget the non-believer. It gave him the necessary perspective – the experience of the outsider – which was so helpful to him, and which was a key to the growth of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Victorian London.

Our Main Business
OK, to some riveting quotes that gives us a clue as to how, throughout his preaching ministry, Spurgeon kept the evangelistic flame alive. I hope you enjoy them.

‘Our main business, brethren, is to win souls.’1

‘I love a religion which consists, in a great measure, of emotion.’2

To see Spurgeon lead sinners in a ‘sinners prayer’ (which is very definitely what he is doing), and then give assurance that ‘if that came from your heart you are as safe as the angels of heaven’, see his sermon ‘What Have I Done?’ (on Jer 8.6) vol4.271

‘Oh! Come, let us one and all approach the mercy-seat, and plead the blood. Let us each go and say, “Father, I have sinned; but have mercy upon me, through thy Son.” Come, drunkard, give me thy hand; we will go together. Harlot, give me thy hand too; and let us likewise approach the throne And you, professing Christians, come ye also, be not ashamed of your company. Let us come before his presence with many tears, none of us accusing our fellows, but each one accusing himself; and let us plead the blood of Jesus Christ, which speaketh peace and pardon to every troubled conscience.’3

‘Sinners are converted under the man whose eloquence is rough and homely.’4

‘You cannot preach Christ and not get a congregation.’5

Conversion on the Spot
‘The truest reward of our life-work is to bring dead souls to life. I long to see souls brought to Jesus every time I preach.’6

‘Men are passing into eternity so rapidly that we must have them saved at once…From all our congregations a bitter cry should go up unto God, unless conversions are continually seen.’7

‘Let us have a genuine faith in everything that God has revealed. Have faith, not only in its truth but in its power; faith in the absolute certainty that, if it be preached, it will produce glorious results.’8

‘The production of faith is the very centre of the target at which you aim.’9

‘I know some brethren who preach as if they were prize-fighters…All the way through the sermon they appear to be calling upon someone to come up and fight them.’10 (He’s not recommending this!)

‘Just when they reckon that you are sure to say something very precise and straight, say something awkward and crooked, because they will remember that, and you will have tied a gospel knot where it is likely to remain.’11

The Importance of the Gospel
‘Do try, dear brethren, to give your hearers something beside a string of pathetic anecdotes that will set them crying. Tell the people something: you are to teach them; to preach the gospel to your hearers.’12

‘Preach as you would plead if you were standing before a judge, and begging for the life of a friend…Use such a tone in pleading with sinners as you would use if a gibbet were erected in this room, and you were to be hanged on it unless you could persuade the person in authority to release you.’13

‘I have often felt just like this when I have been preaching: I have known what it is to use up all my ammunition, and then I have, as it were, rammed myself into the great gospel gun, and I have fired myself at my hearers.’14

‘Preach Jesus Christ, brethren, always and everywhere; and every time you preach be sure to have much of Jesus Christ in the sermon.’15

‘There ought to be enough of the gospel in every sermon to save a soul…Always take care that there is the real gospel in every sermon.’16

‘I command men in the name of Jesus to repent and believe the gospel, though I know they can do nothing of the kind apart from the grace of God.’17

‘Something of the shadow of the last tremendous day must fall upon our spirit to give the accent of conviction to our message of mercy…’18

‘Do not close a single sermon without addressing the ungodly.’19

‘Aim distinctly at immediate conversions’20

‘Great hearts are the main qualifications for great preachers.’21

‘Sinners are quick-witted people, and soon detect even the smallest effort to glorify self.’22

In conclusion then, if you are a pastor or preacher, and if you want to see the influence of the gospel increase in your town, don’t forget the example of Spurgeon. Being ‘faithful’ to the Bible is good – he doesn’t blame the ministers for that – but don’t forget the non-believer, the outsider. Make that person – the not-yet-converted – a key member of your expected audience as you prepare to preach, and in your delivery, and then trust God for conversions, for new birth to follow.

For the first in this series on CH Spurgeon click here

1 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Godward
2 CHS, sermon, The Tomb of Jesus
3 CHS, sermon, Confession and Absolution
4 CHS, sermon, The Necessity of the Spirit’s Work
5 CHS, sermon, An Excellent Enquiry
6 CHS, sermon, What we would be
7 CHS, sermon, What we would be
8 CHS, sermon, Power in Delivering Our Message
9 CHS, lecture, What is it to win a soul?
10 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Manward
11 CHS, lecture, Sermons Likely to Win Souls
12 CHS, lecture, Sermons Likely to Win Souls
13 CHS, lecture, Sermons Likely to Win Souls
14 CHS, lecture, Sermons Likely to Win Souls
15 CHS, lecture, Sermons Likely to Win Souls
16 CHS, lecture, Sermons Likely to Win Souls
17 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
18 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
19 CHS, Lectures to My Students
20 CHS, Lectures to My Students
21 CHS, Lectures to My Students
22 CHS, Lectures to My Students

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Charles Spurgeon on the power of the Holy Spirit

CH Spurgeon in the garden (with discarded hat!)

The Quotable CH Spurgeon
If you check in regularly at the Church History Review you’ll have seen that I’ve been trying to end a series of articles about the great Baptist leader CH Spurgeon. But I keep failing. Flailing and failing. I made the mistake of going through several volumes of his sermons and looking at what I’d underlined to see if there were any further additions I could make before moving on. Big mistake. Spurgeon is so distractingly quotable that I was absorbed for several hours, transported back to his study, and found myself reclining on a Victorian chaise-longe having my my mind enlivened, my soul enriched, and my zeal restored. What a delight it is to hear both his insights and his quips.

As I’ve mentioned before Spurgeon cannot be categorised as a ‘Pentecostal/charismatic’ in the modern sense. He was a man of his time, and while he respected the ministry of Edward Irving in London he would have had serious doubts about so-called predictive prophetic utterances (of which there were many during the 19th century).

But there’s absolutely no doubt that he was not only a man who, like his puritan heroes, knew what it was to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And from time to time he exercised gifts of the Spirit during his preaching, and was not at all nervous of what Paul calls ‘the variety of effects’ of the Spirit (1 Cor 12.6).

Here are a few characteristic Spurgeonic insights on the Holy Spirit from various sermons and lectures.
‘And I could tell you some singular instances of persons going to the house of God and having their characters described, limned out to perfection, so that they have said, “He is painting me, he is painting me.” Just as I might say to that young man here, who stole his master’s gloves yesterday, that Jesus calls him to repentance. It may be that there is such a person here; and when the call comes to a peculiar character, it generally comes with power.’1 [This word of knowledge proved true. Indeed the young man he had pointed to at that very moment, did have a stolen pair of gloves in his pocket. You can read the story here.]

‘Do not say, “So many preachers; so many sermons; so many souls saved.” Do not say, “So many Bibles; so many tracts; so much good done.” No so. Use these, but remember…it is so much Holy Spirit, so many souls ingathered.’2

‘Value above all things the Holy Spirit. Realise your entire dependence on him. Pray for fresh grace. Venture not into the world without a fresh store of his hallowed influence. Live in the Divine love. Seek to be filled with that blessed Spirit.’3

‘There is not, in the Church, such a belief in the Holy Ghost as there ought to be.’4

‘May the Lord answer us by fire, and may that fire fall first on the ministers, and then upon the people! We ask for the true Pentecostal flame, and not for sparks kindled by human passion.’5

‘In order to have great power in public, we must receive power in private.’6

Miracle Workers!
‘Do not speak as if the gospel might have some power, or might have none. God sends you to be a miracle-worker; therefore, say to the spiritually lame, “In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” and men will rise up and walk.’7

‘The whole business [of evangelism] on our part is the height of absurdity unless we regard ourselves as used by the Holy Ghost, and filled with His power. On the other hand, the marvels of regeneration which attend our ministry are the best seals and witnesses of our commission.’8

‘It is a grand thing to preach in an atmosphere full of the dew of the Spirit. I know what it is to preach with it; and, alas! I know what it is to preach without it.’9

‘Our object is to turn the world upside down; or in other words, that where sin abounded grace may much more abound. We are aiming at a miracle.’10

‘Ours is the miraculous method which comes of the endowment of the Spirit of God, who bids His ministers perform wonders in the name of the holy child Jesus. We are sent to say to blind eyes, “See,” to deaf ears, “Hear,” to dead hearts, “live,” and even to Lazarus rotting in that grave, wherein by this time, he stinketh, “Lazarus, come forth.”11

‘You are to be instruments in the hands of God; yourselves, of course, actively putting forth all your faculties and forces which the Lord has lent to you; but still never depending upon your personal power, but resting alone upon that sacred, mysterious, divine energy which worketh in us.’12

‘Try nothing new, but go on with preaching, and if we all preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, the results of preaching will astound us.’13

‘There is no end to the possibilities of divine truth spoken with the enthusiasm which is born of the Spirit of God.’14

We have known and perceived the power!
‘We have felt the Spirit of God operating upon our hearts, we have known and perceived the power which He wields over human spirits, and we know Him by frequent, conscious, personal contact.’15

‘If we have not the Spirit which Jesus promised, we cannot perform the commission which Jesus gave.’16

‘The lack of distinctly recognising the power of the Holy Ghost lies at the root of many useless ministries.’17 [Ouch!]

For the first post in this series on Spurgeon click here

1CHS, sermon, Christ Crucified
2CHS, sermon, The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
3CHS, sermon, John Mark; or, Haste in Religion
4CHS, sermon, Faith
5CHS, sermon, Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love
6 CHS, sermon, The Conditions of Obtaining the Power
7 CHS, sermon, Power in Delivering Our Message
8 CHS, lecture, What is it to win a soul?
9 CHS, lecture, How to Induce our People to Win Souls
10 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
11 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
12 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
13 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
14 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
15 CHS, Lectures to My Students
16 CHS, Lectures to My Students
17 CHS, Lectures to My Students

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Charles Spurgeon’s Advice for Leaders

A growing number of Tabernacle converts were keen to enter full-time ministry, indeed, felt called to the work. Spurgeon had not gone to college, and felt the advantage of being self-taught ‘on the job’, as it were, rather than in a classroom. And so, rather than recommend these young men to an existing school, he began an in-house ‘Pastor’s College’ in Southwark, just south of the River Thames. Spurgeon had diligently made up for his own lack of formal theological education by voraciously reading warm-hearted, passionate and fruitful writers of previous generations. In fact it is evident that his originality wasn’t suppressed or moulded into a traditional way of doing things. For example, if you applied to become a student of the Pastor’s College, one of the qualifications for entry was that people had actually been converted by your preaching. It was one thing to feel you had a call to ministry, but was there any actual evidence? Another excellent feature was his emphasis on who you are as a person, and as a leader, as well as your theological knowledge.

Around 900 pastors and evangelists were trained during Spurgeon’s lifetime, many of whom went on to plant 200 new churches in the UK[1], as well as others overseas, even as far away as Cape Town. Much of the evangelistic and church planting activity was recorded with characteristic Victorian precision in Spurgeon’s magazine, The Sword and the Trowel.

I have tried to organise these inspiring and dynamic quotes under relevant headings, and my hope is that readers will find both canny Proverbs-style advice, and that their own spiritual health will receive a mighty vitamin boost. Enjoy!

‘If there were only one prayer which I might pray before I died, it should be this: ‘Lord, send thy church men filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’[2]

‘When God means a creature to fly, He gives it wings. When He intends men to preach He gives them abilities.’[3]

‘If you see a stick that is crooked, and you want people to see how crooked it is, lay a straight rod down beside it; that will be quite enough. But if you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words.’[4]

‘What position is nobler than that of a spiritual father who claims no authority and yet is universally esteemed, whose word is given only as tender advice, but is allowed to operate with the force of law?…Lovingly firm and graciously gentle, he is the chief of all because he is the servant of all.’[5]

‘Play the man, and do not demean yourself by seeking compliments like little children when dressed in new clothes.’[6]

‘When grace abounds, learning will not puff you up, or injure your simplicity in the gospel.’[7]

‘When you preach, speak out straight, but be very tender about it; and if there is an unpleasant thing to be said, take care that you put it in the kindest possible form.’[8]

‘The sensible minister will be particularly gentle in argument.’[9]

Hard Work
‘We must have done with daydreams and get to work. I believe in eggs, but we must get chickens out of them…We want facts. Deeds done, souls saved.’[10]

After all, we shall be known by what we have done, more than by what we have said. Like the apostles, I hope our memorial will be our acts.’[11]

‘I pray you, be men of action all of you. Get to work, and quit yourselves like men…Our one aim is to save sinners, and this we are not merely to talk about, but to effect in the power of God.’[12]

‘Be yourself, dear brother, for, if you are not yourself, you cannot be anybody else.’[13]

‘Some ministers have not opinion till they have been to “the fraternal meeting”. They must hear the bell of the leading sheep before they know which way to go.’[14]

‘You must have a real desire for the good of the people if you are to have much influence over them.’[15]

Spiritual Depth
‘You will find men turn away from the husks when you set before them solid food.’[16]

‘I know some such ministers; you cannot come into contact with them without feeling the power of the spiritual life which is in them.’[17]

Making Disciples
‘O brethren, may you have spiritual children who shall win battles for the Lord, and may you live to see them doing it.’[18]

‘It may be otherwise, but you will be wise if you go into the ministry expecting not to find any very great assistance from the people in the work of soul-winning.’[19]

‘God help us so to live that we may be safe examples to our flocks!’[20]

‘If any man’s life at home is unworthy, he should go several miles away before he stands up to preach, and then, when he stands up, he should say nothing. They know us, brethren, they know far more about us than we imagine, and what they do not know they make up…Our walk and conversation should be the most powerful part of our ministry. This is being consistent, when lips and life agree.’[21]

‘It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organise societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself.’[22]

‘Of all the causes which create infidelity, ungodly ministers must be ranked among the first.’[23]

‘As actions, according to the proverb, speak louder than words, so an ill life will effectually drown the voice of the most eloquent ministry…our characters must be more persuasive than out speech.’[24]

‘If we are not masters of ourselves we are not fit to be leaders in the church. We must put aside all notion of self-importance.’[25]

‘He will never do much for God who has not integrity of spirit.’[26]

‘An overwhelming sense of weakness should not be regarded as an evil, but should be accepted as helpful to the true minister of Christ.’[27]

‘I hope you will always feel your responsibility before God; but do not carry the feeling too far. We may feel our responsibility so deeply that we may become unable to sustain it; it may cripple our joy, and make slaves of us. Do not take an exaggerated view of what the Lord expects of you.’[28]

‘Prepare yourselves, my younger brethren, to become weaker and weaker; prepare yourselves for sinking lower and lower in self-esteem; prepare yourselves for self-annihilation, and pray God to expedite the process.’[29]

‘The best man here, if he knows what he is, knows that he is out of his depth in his sacred calling.’[30]

Largess/Largeness of Heart
‘The man who grinds out theology at so much a yard has no power over men; the people need men who can feel – men of heart…’[31]

‘You ought to have a great big heart…Do you not notice that men succeed in ministry, and win souls for Christ, just in proportion as they are men with large hearts?…You must have large big hearts if you are to win men to Jesus.’[32]

‘You must love the people and mix with them if you are to be of service to them. There are some ministers who really are much better men than others, yet they do not accomplish so much good as those who are more human, those who go and sit down with the people…’[33]

‘A man who is to do much with men must love them, and feel at home with them…A man must have a great heart who would have a great congregation…When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven, and feel at peace.’[34]

‘Gather up the arrows which aforetime fell wide of the mark, not to break them…but to send them to the target with direct aim…Learn success from failure, wisdom from blundering.’[35]

‘He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach. He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit. My earnest desire is that all of us may really be Soul Winners.’[36]

‘I should recommend you not to go to work according to any set rule, for what would work at one time might not be wise at another, and that which would be best for one place would not be so good elsewhere.’[37]

‘We must work miracles by Divine Power, or else be total failures.’[38]

‘I like to burn churches rather than houses, because they do not burn down, they burn up, and keep on burning when the fire is of the right sort.’[39]

‘Keep up the prayer meeting, whatever else flags; it is the great business [meeting] of the week, the best service between the Sabbaths.’[40]

‘Self-display is death to power.’[41]

‘There must never be an eye to the glory of God and the fat sheep; it must never be God’s glory and your own honour and esteem among men.’[42]

‘The less you think of yourself, the more people will think of you; and the more you think of yourself, the less people will think of you. If you have any trace of selfishness about you, pray get rid of it at once…’[43]

Still to come: Spurgeon quotes on Evangelistically Relevant Church Meetings, The Supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, and more!

You can access some wonderful Spurgeon quotes at these links on: Thoroughness of Conversion, Personal Evangelism, Practical Calvinism, Caring for Others, Faith and Prayer, Little Sins and the Cross, Personal, Devotional Prayer.

More next time…

2 Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, 1992: Kregel, 26
3 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk
4 CHS, Lectures to My Students
5 CHS, Lectures to My Students
6 CHS, Lectures to My Students
7 CHS, sermon, Forward
8 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Manward
9 CHS, Lectures to My Students
10 CHS, sermon, Forward
11 CHS, sermon, Forward
12 CHS, sermon, Forward
13 CHS, sermon, Individuality, and its Opposite
14 CHS, sermon, The Minister in these Times
15 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Manward
16 CHS, sermon, How to Meet the Evils of the Age
17 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Godward
18 CHS, sermon, A New Departure
19 CHS, lecture, How to Induce our People to Win Souls
20 CHS, sermon, Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love
21 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
22 CHS, Lectures to My Students
23 CHS, Lectures to My Students
24 CHS, Lectures to My Students
25 CHS, Lectures to My Students
26 CHS, Lectures to My Students
27 CHS, sermon, Strength in Weakness
28 CHS, sermon, Strength in Weakness
29 CHS, sermon, Strength in Weakness
30 CHS, sermon, The Conditions of Obtaining the Power
31 CHS, sermon, Strength in Weakness
32 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Manward
33 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Manward
34 CHS, Lectures to My Students
35  CHS, sermon, What we would be
36 CHS, sermon, What we would be
37 CHS, lecture, How to Induce our People to Win Souls
38 CHS, sermon, The Conditions of Obtaining the Power
39 CHS, lecture, How to Induce our People to Win Souls
40 CHS, lecture, How to Induce our People to Win Souls
41 CHS, sermon, The Conditions of Obtaining the Power
42 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Godward
43 CHS, lecture, Qualifications for Soul-Winning – Manward

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Charles Spurgeon on Personal, Devotional Prayer

CH Spurgeon: large-hearted, mature, and in love with Jesus

Spurgeon’s life and ministry was not a story of uninterrupted success. From his arrival in London when some older minsters mocked him on account of his youth, to a devastating moment when some worshippers were crushed, to his own struggles with depression, and his wife’s lifelong illness, Spurgeon’s story is one of weakness and dependance on God.
He was a remarkable self-taught preacher, a passionately evangelistic pastor, and a major influence on the growth and popularity of the Baptist church movement in the 19th Century.
Many pictures of him in the pulpit emphasise the very large audiences who gathered to hear him preach, but there was a secret life of devotion to Jesus behind the public image.
Like so many of the puritan authors he loved, Spurgeon was an unashamed adorer of the saviour who first loved him. Spurgeon was a man in love with Jesus Christ, and unashamed to shout it from the rooftops. As a result of this private life with Christ he often exhorted others to personal, private prayer. Jesus Himself said, ‘As for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ Matt 6.6

A few gems from Spurgeon that are worth absorbing in our mad-dash days:

‘A few minutes silent openness of soul before the Lord, has brought us more treasures of truth than hours of learned research.’ 1

‘One word of God is like a piece of gold, and the Christian is the gold-beater, and he can hammer that promise out for weeks.’ 2

‘Be with God and God will be with you.’ 3

‘You cannot pray too long in private.’ 4

‘Let me speak of the deliciousness of prayer – the wondrous sweetness and divine felicity which come to the soul that lives in the atmosphere of prayer.’ 5

‘Nothing can maintain us in the freshness of our beginnings but the daily anointing of the Spirit.’ 6

‘Do not be afraid of being too full of the Holy Spirit.’ 7

For the first post in this series on Spurgeon click here

1 Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, 1992: Kregel, p572
2 CHS, sermon, Songs in the Night
3 CHS, sermon, The Conditions of Obtaining the Power
4 CHS, Lectures to My Students
5 CHS, Lectures to My Students
6 CHS, sermon, A New Departure
7 CHS, Lectures to My Students

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Charles Spurgeon on Little Sins, the Curse, and the Centrality of the Cross

Spurgeon with books and parchment…

Great quotes by Spurgeon, part 5
Throughout his preaching ministry CH Spurgeon never allowed the hill of Calvary, where Christ was crucified, to be too far off in the distance. He insisted on preaching Christ to both believer and unbeliever in the same message. In fact, he advised his students that, where they couldn’t see a direct connection between the verse they were preaching on and Christ, that they should ‘jump over the hedge’ and preach Christ anyway. His sermons were full of hope. But the hope wasn’t in the human will, or in the best intentions of his hearers but in the cross of Christ. Spurgeon preached that we have an answer for sin, and a full and sufficient forgiveness for all our sins in the cross. Without minimising the seriousness of sin he declared freedom for all who believe. Here are a few insights from his sermons:

Little Sins
‘Little sins often act as burglars do. Burglars sometimes take with them a little child; they put the little child into a window that is too small for them to enter, and then he goes and opens the door to let in the thieves. So do little sins act. They are but little ones, but they creep in and they open the door for great ones.’[1]
‘Is it a little [sin]? A little stone in the shoe will make a traveller limp.’[2]

On the Centrality of the Cross
‘The curse of God is not easily taken away; in fact, there was but one method whereby it could be removed. The lightnings were in God’s hand; they must be launched; he said they must. the sword was unsheathed; it must be satisfied; God vowed it must…The Son of God appears; and he says, “Father! launch thy thunderbolts at me; here is my breast – plunge that sword in here; here are my shoulders – let the lash of vengeance fall on them.” And Christ, the Substitute, came forth and stood for us, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.”’[3]
‘In no other place wilt thou ever know how desperately vile sin is. This is the spot where sin committed its direst crimes.’[4]
‘Thou art full of sin; the Saviour bids thee lift thine eyes to him. See there, his blood is flowing…And each drop seems to say as it falls, “It is finished!”[5]

For the first post in this series on Spurgeon click here

1 CHS, sermon, Little Sins
2 CHS, sermon, Little Sins
3 CHS, sermon, The Curse Removed
4 CHS, sermon, A Visit to Calvary
5 CHS, sermon, The Voice of the Blood of Christ

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Charles Spurgeon on Faith and Prayer

Spurgeon on Faith and Prayer (Great quotes by Spurgeon, part 5)

A lot of attention is given to Spurgeon’s preaching skill, and to the vast crowds who came to hear him. And justly. But he was so much more than a preacher. He was a passionate, self-taught scholar, a trainer of leaders, a catalyst for church-planting and for a variety of social ministries. And like so many Christian leaders of former generations that we look to, he seems to have had a prayer life, and a discipline and a confidence in prayer that makes our mouths water. Pastors who pray seem to be a rarity if their books on prayer are anything to go by. What I mean is that we all seem to be in agreement: we don’t pray anywhere near as much as we feel we ought to. With the fine exception of Terry Virgo I’m not sure I personally know another pastor who has such a disciplined prayer life. [1]

So here are a few – very few – inspiring quotes by CH Spurgeon on prayer and faith. May they spur us into action!

‘The best way to repay God, and the way he loves best, is to take and ask him ten times as much each time. Nothing pleases God so much as when a sinner comes again very soon with twice as large a petition – “Lord, thou didst hear me last time, and now I am come again.”[2]

‘Success in the Lord’s service is very generally in proportion to faith.’[3]

‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, and if we are pleasing God, it is not by our talent, but by our faith.’[4]

‘I make bold to assert that, in the service of God, nothing is impossible, and nothing is improbable. Go in for great things, brethren, in the name of God; risk everything on His promise, and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.’[5]

‘Let each man find out what God wants him to do, and then let him do it, or die in the attempt.’[6]

‘I trust we are all of us already aware that the man who lives in the region of faith dwells in the realm of miracles.’[7]

‘Faith trades in marvels, and her merchandise is with wonders.’[8]

‘I believe that when Paul plants and Apollos waters, God gives the increase.’[9]

For the first post in this series on CH Spurgeon click here

1. Some may, of course, have committed to NOT talking about their regular prayer ministry.
2. CHS, sermon, A View of God’s Glory
3. CHS, sermon, Faith
4. CHS, sermon, Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love
5. CHS, sermon, Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love
6. CHS, sermon, What we would be
7. CHS, sermon, How to Raise the Dead
8. CHS, sermon, How to Raise the Dead
9. CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Quotes About Caring by CH Spurgeon

Great Quotes by Spurgeon (part 4)
The English Baptist preacher CH Spurgeon was a man who suffered. John Piper, in his article, Preaching Through Adversity, writes, ‘He knew the whole range of adversity that most preachers suffer—and a lot more.’
Suffering can make a person bitter, or it can soften the heart and enable us to empathise with others. We can comfort others with the comfort we received from God (2 Cor 1.4).
This short collection of quotes highlights, through Spurgeon’s own experience, the importance of caring for others. No one is perfect, and Spurgeon, who was often celebrated for his biting wit, had his fair share of critics both from outsiders and from believers. His own battle with depression, with handling his precious wife’s lifelong disability, and with his own physical frailty, meant he had to find encouragement from the Scriptures, and from the presence of God, in order to continue caring for others in the life of the Metropolitan Tabernacle church.

‘You may be strong and vigorous in your physical constitution, strangers to nervousness and depression of spirits. Be thankful, then, but do not be presumptuous. Despise not those who suffer from infirmities that have never come upon you.’ 1

‘Jehovah is our Shepherd, and he is very tender of his little lambs and his weak sheep: and if we are not tender of them too we shall soon be made to smart for our hard-heartedness.’ 2

‘Be kind. Let every tone of your voice, every gesture of your limbs, every look of your face show the kindness of your heart.’ 3

‘In the divine economy the more care you require the more care you shall have.’ 4

‘It is a sign of great weakness when persons are full of contempt for others.’ 5

‘I am sorry to say that I am made of such ill stuff that my Lord has to chasten me often and sorely. I am like a quill pen that will not write unless it be often nibbed, and therefore I have felt the sharp knife many times.’ 6

‘Some persons cannot learn the balance of virtues; they cannot kill a mouse except by burning down the barn.’ 7

‘Earn all you can, save all you can, and then give all you can.’ 8

To read the first post in this series on the preacher CH Spurgeon click here

1-4 CHS, sermon, Lame Sheep
5 CHS, sermon, Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love
6 CHS, sermon, A New Departure
7 CHS, sermon, Stewards
8 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

CH Spurgeon’s Practical Calvinism

Great Quotes by Spurgeon (part 3)
We’ve been enjoying some wonderful quotes by the 19th Century Baptist preacher CH Spurgeon. This third selection demonstrates how his love for Reformed theology in no way hindered his passion to preach the gospel to those outside the Christian faith. As many missionaries had discovered before him, and many since, the great doctrines of grace are a spur towards evangelistic activity, as well as to persevering under seasons of apparent unfruitfulness. Enjoy!

Unashamed Practical Calvinism
‘I have been charged with being a mere echo of the Puritans, but I had rather be the echo of truth, than the voice of falsehood.’ 1

‘He thought of [you] before [you had] a being. When as yet the sun and the moon were not – when the sun, the moon, and the stars slept in the mind of God like unborn forests in an acorn cup.’ 2

‘Do you think that Christ will let the devil beat him? that he will let the devil have more in hell than there will be in heaven? No: it is impossible. For then Satan would laugh at Christ. There will be more in heaven than there are among the lost. God says that there will be a number that no man can number who will be saved.’ 3

‘It has been recently declared by some ministers that certain ages are more likely to be converted than other ages. We have heard persons state that should a man outlive thirty years of life, if he has heard the gospel, he is not at all likely to be saved; but we believe a more palpable, bare-faced lie was never uttered in the pulpit; for we have ourselves known multitudes who have been saved at forty, fifty, sixty, and even bordering on the grave at eighty. We find some promises in the Bible made to some particular conditions; but the main, the great, and the grand promises, are made to sinners as sinners; they are made to the elect, to the chosen ones, irrespective of their age or condition. We behold, that the man who is old can be justified in the same way as the man who is young; that the robe of Christ is broad enough to cover the strong, full-grown man, as well as the little child. We believe the blood of Christ avails to wash out seventy years as well as seventy days of sin; that “with God there is no respect of persons. “ that all ages are alike to him, and that “whosoever cometh unto Christ, he will in nowise cast out”…’ 4

‘We can say concerning his love that it has never been diminished by all the sins we have ever committed since we believed. We have been verily guilty, and we blush to say it. We have often revolted, but we have never found him unwilling to forgive. We have gone to him laden with guilt, but we have come away with our burden removed. Oh! if God could ever cast away his people, he would have cast away me. I am sure God never turns his children out of doors, or this had been my lot long ago.’ 5

‘Unfaithful I have been; he has forgiven that, and will forgive; but unfaithful to me he never has been.’ 6

More next time…

1 CHS, sermon, Faith
2 CHS, sermon, Love
3 CHS, sermon, Heaven and Hell
4 CHS, sermon, The God of the Aged
5 CHS, sermon, A Psalm of Remembrance
6 CHS, sermon, A Psalm of Remembrance

To read the first post in this series on the preacher CH Spurgeon click here
©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

CH Spurgeon on Personal Evangelism

In 1886, in his later years, CH Spurgeon, writing in 1886 to a younger leader, said, ‘Go on to win souls. It is the only thing worth living for. God is much glorified in by conversions, and therefore this should be the great object of life.’ 1

Ans way back, when he was just aged fifteen, he wrote to his mother, ‘I have 70 people whom I regularly visit on Saturday. I do not give a tract, and go away; but I sit down, and endeavour to draw their attention to spiritual realities.’ 2

On the attractiveness of the gospel: ‘I challenge any man to hold his heart back when Jesus comes for it: when he displays himself, when he takes the veil off our eyes and lets us look at his lovely face, shows us his wounded hands and his bleeding side, methinks there is no heart but must be drawn forth to him.’ 3

‘The gospel invitation is not for tomorrow, but for today.’ 4

‘Behave yourselves, Christian brethren, for you bear a great Name.’ 5

‘Our mission is to perpetuate on earth the love of the Saviour’ 6

‘I do not trust in the dead sinner’s power to live, but in the power of the gospel to make him live.’ 7

‘Soul-winning is the chief business of the Christian minister; indeed, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer.’ 8

‘When preaching and private talk are not available, you have a tract ready, and this is often an effectual method. Some tracts would not convert a beetle: there is not enough in them to interest a fly. Get good striking tracts, or none at all. But a telling, touching gospel tract may often be the seed of eternal life; therefore, do not go out without your tracts.’ 9

‘It is far more pleasant to remember that there is a reward for bringing men to mercy, and that it is of a higher order than the premium for bringing men to justice.’ 10

‘Even if I were utterly selfish, and had no care for anything but my own happiness, I would choose, if I might, under God, to be a soul-winner, for never did I know perfect, overflowing, unutterable happiness of the purest and most ennobling order, till I first heard of one who had sought and found a Saviour through my means. I recollect the thrill of joy which went through me!’ 11

‘Don’t be all sugar, or the world will draw you down; but do not be all vinegar, or the world will spit you out.’ 12

More next time…

For the first part of this series on the life of CH Spurgeon click here

1 Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Banner of Truth:1992, p136
2 Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Banner of Truth:1992, p27
3  CHS, sermon, The Gracious Lips of Jesus
4 CHS, sermon, John Mark; or, Haste in Religion
5 CHS, sermon, The Minister in these Times
6 CHS, sermon, The Minister in these Times
7 CHS, sermon, The Minister in these Times
8 CHS, lecture, What is it to win a soul?
9 CHS, sermon, How to Win Souls for Christ
10 CHS, sermon, The Soul-Winner’s Reward
11 CHS, sermon, Soul-Winning Explained
12 CHS, John Ploughman’s Talk

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Great Quotes by CH Spurgeon

Great Quotes by CH Spurgeon #1

With a stunning gift for short, punchy illustrations, there are few preachers as quotable as Spurgeon. And, although I’ve tried to tear myself away from him and move on to other leaders and church movements in the 19th Century, I just can’t leave without a post of quotes. In fact, as I paged through the sermons I’ve read, as well as several of his books, I realised this cannot be a single post, but several, and broken into different themes.

So I hope this won’t feel like I’m throwing a whole box of chocolates at you at once, and I hope you will be able to savour each quote and let it’s particular sweetness give you pleasure. The next few posts will be my own selection box of delicacies from the Prince of Preachers. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Thoroughness of Conversion

Spurgeon, like the vast majority of Victorian leaders, definitely had an eye on numbers (the Sword and the Trowel is full of numbers and the results of evangelistic missions), but he disliked the ease with which some counted converts without checking for genuine repentance. In planting and leading a local church he was to a great degree spared the temptation of the itinerant preacher, and also shared the joy of seeing those converted (at one time he mentions over one thousand in a year) growing in their faith. Below are some gems reflecting his desire for thoroughness when it comes to the nature and power of conversion.

‘God the Holy Spirit, in a supernatural manner – mark, by the word supernatural I mean just what it strictly means; supernatural, more than natural – works upon the hearts of men, and they by the operations of the divine Spirit become regenerate men; but without the Spirit they never can be regenerated … “What!” says one, “do you mean to say that God absolutely interposes in the salvation of every man to make him regenerate?” I do indeed. In the salvation of every person there is an actual putting forth of the divine power.’ [1]

‘I want to make a man feel his sins before I dare tell him anything about Christ. I want to probe into his soul and make him feel that he is lost before I tell him anything about the purchased blessing. It is the ruin of many to tell them, “Now just believe on Christ, and that is all you have to do.”’[2]

‘Repentance, to be true, to be evangelical, must be a repentance which really affects our outward conduct.’[3]

‘The way Christians get their peace is not by seeing their sins shrivelled and shrinking until they seem small to them. But on the contrary, they first of all see their sins expanding, and then after that, they obtain their peace by seeing those sins entirely swept away – as far as the east is from the west.’[4]

‘Christ requires of every man who would be saved, that he shall yield to his government and his rule…If your sins are pardoned they must be abhorred.’[5]

‘We do continually affirm that an error, with regard to the divinity of Christ, is absolutely fatal, and that a man cannot be right in his judgement upon any part of the gospel unless he think rightly of him who is personally the very centre of all the purposes of heaven, and the foundation of all the hopes of earth.’[6]

‘But let me now describe a Christian as he is after his conversion. Trouble comes, storms of trouble, and he looks the tempest in the face and says, “I know that all things work together for my good…It is good for me that I have been afflicted, for before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy Word.”’[7]

‘It is a shameful thing for a man to profess discipleship and yet refuse to learn his Lord’s will upon certain points, or even dare to decline obedience when that will is known. How can a man be a disciple of Christ when he openly lives in disobedience to Him?’[8]

For the first post in this exciting series on Spurgeon click here

More next time…

1 CHS, sermon, Regeneration

2 CHS, sermon, The Comforter

3 CHS, sermon, Turn or Burn

4 CHS, sermon, The Evil and its Remedy

5 CHS, sermon, An Earnest Invitation

6 CHS, sermon, His Name – The Mighty God

7 CHS, sermon, The Necessity of the Spirit’s Work

8 CHS, lecture, What is it to win a soul?

© 2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Spurgeon the ‘greasy abolitionist’!

CH Spurgeon, the ‘beef-eating, puffed-up, vain, English blab-mouth’.

[In this post I am quoting extensively from an article by Christian George which you can read in full here.]

Breakfast in America?
In 1859 an American pastor visited Spurgeon in London. Spurgeon was busy working on the building of the impressive London Metropolitan Tabernacle at the Elephant and Castle and was open to lucrative invitations that would help complete the work. A trip to America? Possibly, but what about his anti-slavery stance. Don’t bother coming, advised the American.
Another offer (of some $10,000) was made and was already known in the US.

The Notorious English Abolitionist
‘News of Spurgeon’s visit,’ writes Christian George, ‘was met with anticipation in the North and hostility in the South. According to an Alabama newspaper, Spurgeon would receive a beating “so bad as to make him ashamed.” On February 17, 1860, citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, publicly protested the “notorious English abolitionist” by gathering in the jail yard to burn his “dangerous books”:

“Last Saturday, we devoted to the flames a large number of copies of Spurgeon’s sermons. . . . We trust that the works of the greasy cockney vociferator may receive the same treatment throughout the South. And if the pharisaical author should ever show himself in these parts, we trust that a stout cord may speedily find its way around his eloquent throat.”

On March 22, a “Vigilance Committee” in Montgomery followed suit and burned Spurgeon’s sermons in the public square. A week later Mr. B. B. Davis, a bookstore owner, prepared “a good ore of pine sticks” before reducing about 60 volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons “to smoke and ashes.”'[1]

George’s article continues: ‘Anti-Spurgeon bonfires illuminated jail yards, plantations, bookstores, and courthouses throughout the Southern states. In Virginia, Mr. Humphrey H. Kuber, a Baptist preacher…burned seven calf-skinned volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons “on the head of a flour barrel.” …’

A puffed-up, fat, hell-deserving, overgrown boy
‘His life was threatened, his books burned, his sermons censured, and below the Mason-Dixon Line, the media catalyzed character assassinations. In Florida, Spurgeon was a “beef-eating, puffed-up, vain, over-righteous pharisaical, English blab-mouth.” In Virginia, he was a “fat, overgrown boy”; in Louisiana, a “hell-deserving Englishman”; and in South Carolina, a “vulgar young man” with “(soiled) sleek hair, prominent teeth, and a self-satisfied air.” Georgians were encouraged to “pay no attention to him.” North Carolinians “would like a good opportunity at this hypocritical preacher” and resented his “endish sentiments, against our Constitution and citizens.”’ [1]

Thankfully, that’s not how history has remembered good Mr Spurgeon, nor how he is considered by Christians in the USA today. But the strength of feeling is a sobering illustration of how racist hatred can suddenly erupt if not restrained, rebuked, and repented of because of the gospel of Christ. Spurgeon faced unreasonable vindictiveness but only his books were burned. How much more ought we to tame the fire of unreasonable hatred when there are those who are still wounded by it today.

[1] See the full article here:

For the first post in this series on CH Spurgeon click here

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

A Match Made in Heaven – Charles and Susannah Spurgeon

Charles and Susannah Spurgeon

In 1856 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the radical young preacher who was taking London by storm, married Susannah Thompson. Theirs was a loving and mutually supportive partnership in which they both endured their share of physical and mental struggles. They had twin sons in 1857, Charles and Thomas. Following a difficult delivery Susannah was left house-bound for much of her life despite seeing the best consultants and surgeons. She remained active in ministry, publishing several of her own books and overseeing a vast book distribution ministry that was a huge blessing to many pastors.

Susannah Spurgeon’s A Cluster of Camphire

In his early thirties Charles began to suffer from gout, and depression, which was initially triggered by the death of audience members at one of his overcrowded early meetings, began to regularly afflict him. In the midst of many successes and much suffering both Charles and Susannah expressed their affection for each other throughout their 36 years of marriage. They were a source of great happiness for each other.
Here are a couple of examples:

Charles on Susannah

CH Spurgeon’s inscription in his Calvin Commentaries

When she bought him a set of Calvin’s commentaries Charles wrote in the first volume:
‘The volumes making up a complete set of Calvin were a gift to me from my own most dear and tender wife. Blessed may she be among women. How much of comfort and strength she has ministered unto me it is not in my power to estimate. She has been to me God’s best earthly gift, and not a little even of heavenly treasure has come to me by her means. She has often been as an angel of God unto me.’[1]

Susannah on Charles
As she continued the work of compiling his autobiography she recalls her feelings after he had proposed to her, all those years before:
‘I left my beloved, and hastening to the house, and to an upper room, I knelt before God, and paused and thanked Him, with happy tears, for His great mercy in giving me the love of so good a man. If I had known then, how good he was, and how great he was to become, I should have been overwhelmed, not so much with the happiness of being his, as with the responsibility which such a position would entail.  But, thank God, throughout all my blessed married life, the perfect love which drew us together never slackened or faltered, and though I can now see how undeserving I was to be the life companion of so eminent a servant of God, I know he did not think this, but looked upon his wife as God’s best earthly gift to him.’[2]

In contrast to other ministers disastrous marriages, Charles and Susannah loved each other steadfastly to the end, a great example for us today.

For the first post in a series on CH Spurgeon click here

[1] The Autobiography of Charles H Spurgeon, Vol 2. (1897) London: Passmore and Alabaster, p.11
[2] ibid, p.9

© 2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Our need of the Spirit, with help from CH Spurgeon

CH Spurgeon
CH Spurgeon

When so much has been removed, what remains?
I’ve just logged out of Zoom after an early morning prayer meeting. As pastors we were praying that people would watch the video prepared for Sunday, that they’d not drift; that rather than becoming dull, God would sharpen them and help them communicate their faith to others: that they would be bearers of good news, bearers of light.

The Spirit-Filled Spurgeon
Our desire is not only that Christians are doctrinally correct in their view of God, but that they are in relationship with Him, and are then able to be a blessing to others. In a lecture to pastoral candidates called ‘The Holy Spirit in Connection with our Ministry’[1], CH Spurgeon strongly advocated that the young people who felt a call to ministry actively seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
He said, ’If we have not the Spirit which Jesus promised, we cannot perform the commission which Jesus gave.’[2]. 

Direct Experience
It was vital to Spurgeon that church leaders, pastors, preachers, have direct and regular experiences of the Holy Spirit, and are not merely doctrinally correct. Just as feeling the the influence of the companionship of our friends moves us beyond ‘believing’ we have friends but ‘knowing’ we do, ‘Even so,’ he says, ‘we have felt the Spirit of God operating upon our human spirits, and we know Him by frequent, conscious, personal contact.’ And he’s not even nervous of the fact that sometimes people are physically affected by the presence of the Spirit, in a way that would seem contentious to a run-of-the-mill anti-charismatic: ‘Did you notice in the prayer-meeting just now, in two of our suppliant brethren, how their tones were tremulous, and their bodily frames were quivering?’
Like so many influential Christian leaders of the 19th century, the power of the Spirit was to be desired rather than cynically assessed. On the contrary, Spurgeon was nervous of grieving the Spirit and eager to be led by Him. In this regard he counselled, ‘We should be delicately sensitive to His faintest movement, and then we may expect His abiding presence.’

Spurgeon and Edward Irving

Bust of Edward Irving by Hamilton MacCarthy 1867

The much neglected Scottish church-planter Edward Irving, a contemporary of Spurgeon’s, gathered a congregation of thousands in London. After Spurgeon’s, Irving’s church was the most famous among evangelicals at the time, and certainly the most famous ‘charismatic’ church. Irving encouraged believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to exercise spiritual gifts. While modern sceptics have dismissed him as an entirely unhinged charismatic.[3] Spurgeon had a more mature approach, even though there were differences of opinion. Far from warning his students about Irving he commended him as a preacher who had successfully adapted his style from a strict Scottish Presbyterian to his more progressive London audience. ‘Edward Irving was a striking instance of a man’s power to improve himself in this respect. At first his manner was awkward, constrained, and unnatural; but by diligent culture his attitude and action were made to be striking aids to his eloquence.’

Filling and Flexibility
As we enter Year Two of the pandemic let’s pray that both we and our people will be gloriously and repeatedly filled with Spirit. Rather than settle and submit to the restrictions imposed on us[4], let’s resolve to find every means possible to share the good news of Christ with those who don’t know Him, and to make every effort to personally connect with those believers we no longer see on Sundays.

[1] Here’s an online version (which I trust hasn’t been edited)
[2] All these quotes taken from CH Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, (1986 edition, Basingstoke: Marshall Morgan and Scott)
[3] eg, Arnold Dallimore’s one-sided biography. It’s true, though, that Irving became embroiled in end-times predictions and, by various calculations, predicted the return of Christ in 1864.
[4] We are currently not gathering on Sundays, and even when we were running smaller meetings many, understandably, stayed away for health reasons.

To read other articles about Spurgeon’s charismatic tendencies click here
To read the first article in this series on CH Spurgeon click here

©2021 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

The time I met William Booth, by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling and William Booth

Rudyard Kipling on deck, notices a large crowd on the quay
About to sail from New Zealand to Australia, at the port of Invercargill, Rudyard Kipling, the author of The Jungle Book, Just So Stories etc, was surprised to see a large crowd bidding farewell to what must have been a VIP or celebrity.[1]

He writes, ‘General Booth of the Salvation Army came on board. I saw him walking backwards in the dusk over the uneven wharf, his cloak blown upwards, tulip-fashion, over his grey head, while he beat a tambourine in the face of the singing, weeping, praying crowd who had come to see him off.’

Report in The War Cry, 1891

Rough seas and a sick General
‘We stood out, and at once took the South Pacific. For the better part of a week we were swept from end to end, our poop was split, and a foot of two of water smashed through the tiny saloon. I remember no set meals. The General’s cabin was near mine, and in the intervals between crashes overhead and cataracts down below he sounded like a wounded elephant; for he was in every way a big man.’ 

How do you tell a woman you can see up her skirt while you’re preaching?
‘I saw no more of him till I had picked up my P&O [ship] which also happened to be his, for Colombo at Adelaide. Here all the world came out in paddle-boats and small craft to speed him on his road to India.
He spoke to them from our upper deck, and one of his gestures – an imperative, repeated, downward sweep of the arm – puzzled me, till I saw that a woman crouching on the paddle-box of a crowded boat had rucked her petticoats well up to her knees. In those days righteous woman ended at the neck and instep. Presently, she saw what was troubling the General. Her skirts were adjusted and all was peace and piety.’

Kipling tries to correct Booth on a number of issues
‘I talked much with General Booth during that voyage. Like the young ass I was, I expressed my distaste at his appearance on the Invercargill wharf. ‘Young feller,’ he replied, bending great brows at me, ‘if I thought I could win one more soul to the Lord by walking on my head and playing the tambourine with my toes, I’d – I’d learn how.’
He had the right of it (‘if by any means I can save some’) and I had decency enough to apologize. He told me about the beginnings of his mission, and how…his work must be a one-man despotism with only the Lord for supervisor.
‘Then why,’ I asked, ‘can’t you stop your Salvation lasses from going out to India and living alone native-fashion among natives?’ I told him something of village conditions in India. The despot’s defence was very human. ‘But what am I to do?’ he demanded. ‘The girls will go, and one can’t stop ‘em.’

‘Young feller! How’s your soul?’
‘I conceived great respect and admiration for this man with the head of Isaiah … but rather at sea among women. The next time I met him was at Oxford when Degrees were being conferred. He strode across to me in his Doctor’s robes, which magnificently became him, and, ‘Young feller,’ said he, ‘how’s your soul?’ I have always liked the Salvation Army…’ [2]

For more on Booth and the Salvation Army click here

[1] If you’re unfamiliar with Kipling, he was probably the most famous of the now nostalgic ‘Empire’ authors. George Orwell writes of him, ‘Kipling is a jingo imperialist, he is morally insensitive…He was the prophet of British imperialism in its expansionist phase.’ etc (Orwell, Essay: Rudyard Kipling)
[2] Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself p.78f (first published 1937 by Macmillan. Quotes from Penguin Classics edition 1977)

©2020 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Books in the year of COVID

Christmas Tree of Books

Following the bold examples of Andrew Wilson and John Hosier (reposted by Nigel Ring), here’s my crazy ‘COVID year’s reading list’. When I saw Andrew’s list at the end of 2019 I realised I’d never kept track of my own reading year by year. I knew I read a fair deal but I was surprised. But then, this was 2020.

The Apology
I’m not a fast reader. I can’t skim read. But without exception I read every night (in bed) and usually for an extended period of time. I hadn’t realised I was covering so much ground. My work also involves reading (or should do), so I also read during the day, though not usually as much as this year.
It was thirty-five years ago the great Welsh pastor and Newfrontiers veteran Ben Davies strongly exhorted me as a young minister (‘strong exhortation’ was his forte) to ‘use your half-hours wisely’. I’ve tried to do that this year too.

The Further Apology
Another thing: a couple of years ago I signed up to Audible and have thoroughly enjoyed listening as well as reading. It is a different kind of discipline and requires concentration but you’d be surprised how much you can listen to while doing mundane things. I used to be legalistic about finishing every book I started but I have finally begun to abandon books I don’t connect with (although I definitely read some not-very-good books this year, as you’ll see).

The Final Apology
You have more time than you realise. Disengaging from TV/phone/computer and getting into the delight of reading good books is good for you. And fun. Good reading will help you connect with more people and at a greater depth than you perhaps thought you could. CS Lewis, one of the most well-read people in history, compared reading well to a person who has travelled widely, and can then spot the weaknesses or peculiarities of his own village. We benefit by reading more. The books I’ve marked as ‘Excellent’ are warmly recommended. And I’ve suggested categories.

Old Christian books, or books about old Christian books.
An introduction to the Greek New Testament – Dirk Jongkind (Excellent)
Can We Trust the Gospels?Peter J Williams (Excellent)
The Early Christians – Ed. Eberhard Arnold (more boring than I expected)
How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind – Thomas C Oden (Excellent)
On the Incarnation – Athanasius (Excellent)
Confessions – Augustine (the description of his conversion was superb)
Know the Creeds and Councils – Justin S Holcomb (felt like homework)
The Book of Common Prayer (basically a how-to for vicars, but with beautiful prose, and curious-sounding reinforcements of the English social hierarchy of former centuries)

65 Years of Friendship – George Bizos (about his friendship with Mandela) (Excellent)
Anthony Blunt. His Lives – Miranda Carter (I have found books about Philby, Blunt, and the others absolutely fascinating)
Albert Luthuli – Robert Trent Vinson
Plato – Julia Annas
Jony Ive – Leander Kahney (about the great Apple designer)
Socrates – Paul Johnson
John Piper – Contending for Our All (Athanasius, John Owen, J Greshem Machen)
Experience – Martin Amis (Excellent)
A Severe Mercy – Sheldon Vanauken (Awful!)
World Within World – Stephen Spender (very good)
A Sort of Life – Graham Greene
Spike Milligan – Adolf Hitler, My Part in His Downfall (re-read – oh, so that’s where I first read swear words, but gave them different meanings)
Spike Milligan – Rommel, Gunner Who? (re-read)
Spike Milligan – Monty, His Part in My Victory
My Early Life – Winston Churchill (both interesting and surprisingly funny)
Humble Pie – Gordon Ramsay (fascinating)
CS Lewis – James Como (warm intro to CSL)
Living a Life of Fire – Reinhard Bonnke (Audible, and read by Bonnke) (Excellent)
The Road to Wigan Pier – George Orwell (Excellent)
Govan Mbeki – Colin Bundy
A Card from Angela Carter – Susannah Clapp
John Piper – Tested By Fire (John Bunyan, William Cowper, David Brainerd)
Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell (Excellent)
George Orwell: A Sage for All Time – Michael Sheldon (Audible) (Excellent)
Catch Me if you Can – Frank Abagnale (Excellent)
Rudyard Kipling – Something of Myself. (A fascinating memoir incl. when he bumped into William Booth)

The Other Side of History – Robert Garland (Audible) (Excellent)
Landscapes in the Metropolis of Death – Otto Dov Kulka (Excellent)
Famous Greeks – J Rufus Fears (Audible)
Tacitus – On Britain and Germany

Literature/Studies/Words etc
The Hebrew Bible as Literature – Tod Linafelt
Aspects of the Novel – EM Forster
The Literature Book (Audible)
The Making of a Poem – Stephen Spender (Excellent)
Writing Creative Nonfiction – Tilar JJ Mazzeo (Audible)
The Art of Creative Thinking – Rod Junkins
The History of English poetry – Peter Whitfield (Audible)
Rhetoric – Richard Toye
Winning Minds – Simon Lancaster
12 Books that Changed the World – Melvyn Bragg (Excellent)
Have you Eaten Grandma? – Gyles Brandreth (His and Susie Dent’s podcast is the only one I regularly listen to)
Casanova was a Book Lover – John Maxwell Hamilton (very good, on all things bookish)
Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon (boring)
CS Lewis – Studies in Words (Excellent)
Ex Libris – Anne Fadiman (Light and thoroughly enjoyable about all things bookish. Not a single chapter that I didn’t enjoy.)* (Excellent)

Christian Teaching
CS Lewis – Present Concerns (disappointing)
CS Lewis – Letters to an American Lady (Excellent)
CS Lewis – Broadcast Talks (Excellent)
CS Lewis – Christian Behaviour (Excellent)
CS Lewis – Beyond Personality
How to Reach the West Again – Tim Keller
Dealing with Difficult People – Max Lucado
Water in the Wilderness – TD Jakes (I was hoping for more, but need to find another of his books)
Who Does He Think He is? – John Marsh (re-read)
Mark Comer – The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry – John Mark Comer (Excellent, on the need to slow down and reconnect with Christ)

Christmas Tree of Books
A Wild Sheep Chase – Haruki Murakami (surreal, but a bit slow)
Live and Let Die – Ian Fleming (Awful! I mean, really, really awful.)
White Man’s Numbers – Sunil Shah (Sunil is a personal friend and has written a novel that really moves forward at a pace)
The Pregnant Widow – Martin Amis (disappointing after reading his excellent memoir)
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe (more positive about the gospel than I had expected)
Animal Farm – George Orwell (A re-read. Excellent)
Daphnis and Chloe – Longus (Excellent, and, arguably, the very first novel in all history)
Strait is the Gate – Andre Gide
The Uncommon Reader – Arnold Bennett
Coming Up for Air – George Orwell
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (horribly violent opening chapters, but brilliantly written)

The Essential Dylan Thomas (you can’t really go wrong here)
Pablo Neruda – twenty love poems (dare I say boring?)
Billy Collins – Nine Horses
DH Lawrence – Love Poems (a few great poems in this old Penguin collection)
Stephen Spender – Dolphins
Penguin Modern Poets 3
Sylvia Plath – Selected Verse (ed. Ted Hughes)
Penguin Modern Poets 4
Vikram Seth – Three Chinese Poets
Dylan Thomas’ New York – Tryntje van Ness Seymour
Faber English Love Poems (a selection by Betjeman. Some lovely pieces)
Craig Raine – The Electrification of the Soviet Union
Dylan Thomas – The Beach at Falesa (surprisingly good prose, written for a movie that was not made)
Roger McGough – Gig
William Shakespeare – Measure for Measure (Excellent, and unnervingly relevant in the Me Too era. Or every era.)
Imagist Poetry (some quirky pieces in this Penguin anthology) 

Culture etc
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl (Excellent)
The Caged Virgin – Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The Rules do not apply – Ariel Levy
How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World – Francis Wheen (boring)
Fragments – Binjamin Wilkomirski (a discredited/disputed memoir)
Confabulations – John Berger (I love Berger’s slow contemplative style, but I found this a bit pretentious)
Manning Up – Kay Hymowitz (missing in her treatment is the Christian Man)
Motivating People – Harvard Business Press (very uneven, but with some good chapters)
HG Wells – The Happy Turning (Awful!)

*I’m still currently reading Fadiman, and eagerly looking for more from her.

Pic: FamilySponge (I think)

Required Reading on Early Christianity

Peter J Williams, and Thomas C Oden: Books worth reading

Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter J Williams, and How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind (Rediscovering the African seedbed of Western Christianity) by Thomas C Oden. A two-minute review.

These two books should be part of every leadership training course our churches run. They are both significantly important. Firstly, Peter J Williams who, along with Dirk Jongkind, is blazing a trail of relevant and dynamic content from one of Britain’s most important centres for Christian studies, Tyndale House at Cambridge University. Peter’s book is simply the best defence of the reliability of the four gospel accounts of the life of Jesus to appear in recent years – at the level of readability which will benefit most Christians (and I think, would also be of real help to a questioning non-believer). Williams not only gives examples of contemporary non-Christian confirmations of content in the gospels (that’s not unusual), but gives dazzling internal details of the gospel writers’ local knowledge, names, geographical details etc. all of which convincingly demonstrate that rather than being later, foreign productions, the gospels are indeed as they seem: genuine, local, contemporary, historical accounts of the life of Jesus. So much more could be said: even his treatment of the manuscripts throws new light on a very familiar subject. Get this book. As with all the very best works of Christian apologetics, the result will be joy, a hunger to plunge back in to the New Testament text, and adoration of the One who called to us, ‘Follow Me.’

How Africa Shaped Christianity
Secondly, Thomas C Oden’s masterpiece, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind. Where to begin? Essentially Oden is re-stating or re-asserting that the intellectual and theological core of early Christianity was not a European project, even though it’s language was primarily Greek (and Latin). In fact, as he says, ‘Africa played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture,’ not a marginal, or minimal one. It’s not only that Augustine is sometimes assumed to be European, but Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Athanasius as well as many other less well-known African intellectuals. And it’s not just the names but the schools, the theological clarity, the culture that affected the whole of Christendom. ‘Some scholars of African culture have regrettably acquired a persistent habit of assuming that Christianity began in Africa only a couple of centuries ago, strictly imported from ‘the West’ or ‘the North’…This is a narrow, modern view of history, ignoring Christianity’s first millennium, when African thought shaped and conditioned virtually every diocese in Christianity worldwide.’ Indeed, the movement was South to North and not the other way round. The importance of this historical rediscovery is obvious to anyone living in Africa and who has been trying to untangle the mash-up of colonialism and missions v. ancient African faith, or those who presume that it is European intellectuals who framed orthodoxy. Oden captures the historical landscape beautifully, restoring the central role played by African Christian intellectuals during at least the first thousand years of the church’s history. 

Both of these books are outstanding and, if you need a prod about required reading, this is your prod: these are required reading! Enjoy.

©2020 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Out of the Ordinary CS Lewis

Some CS Lewis

‘Peripheral’ CS Lewis
One of the unexpected blessings of this year has been the extra time to read. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed dipping into some more ‘peripheral’ CS Lewis. An easy, and pleasant starter, is the Letters to an American Lady (published by Eerdmans, or Hodder) a compilation of letters to Mary Willis Shelburne, a widow who wrote to Lewis about a variety of troubles in her own life. As part of his own commitment to Christian humility Lewis decided he would not only use his writing skill to publish, but to privately respond to every letter he received from readers. This became an almost impossible workload as his popularity increased, but Lewis felt that a hidden ministry of service like this was valuable both to those writing to him and as an act of ministry before God. The letters to Mary Shelburne are full of Lewis’s characteristic wit, humour, and, as ever, his ability to illustrate. He talks of how he was bullied at school, of his resistance to reading newspapers, on the fact that if you can’t change a circumstance you can at least change your own response to it, of his inability with maths, taxes, and ‘business’ in general, of how black American soldiers were more popular in England after the war than their white comrades, and his praise of the National Health Service in Britain. The letters span thirteen years and also include the loss of his wife, Joy, to cancer.

Studies in Words
Much more difficult, but highly recommended if you feel you need some mental exercise over the Christmas break, is his wonderful Studies in Words (Cambridge). In one sense this is a book that didn’t need to be written apart from the sheer joy of tracing word origins and their changing meanings, and branches of meaning, over time. There are also some very funny moments. Some of the words CSL examines (and with breathtaking ease, cites references to across the centuries – reminiscent of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary) are: WIT, FREE, SENSE, CONSCIENCE and CONSCIOUS, WORLD, and LIFE. And he masterfully weaves in scriptural usage too. It’s not an easy read, and requires concentration but is probably closest to what it must have been like to sit in his study and enjoy the sheer breadth of his literary knowledge. 

Not particularly worth bothering with is Present Concerns which is a collection of columns for the papers that Lewis didn’t like to read (OK, I’m pushing it a bit), but not up to his usual standard, although there is the occasional flash of brilliance.

The war-time talks of CS Lewis
And then I also enjoyed the three books which later were re-worked into Mere Christianity, but which are fun to read in their more original form of short BBC war-time talks, and which don’t appear to have been edited much before publication. They are stunning, and certainly more mainstream Lewis. Broadcast Talks (1942), Christian Behaviour (1943), and Beyond Personality (1944). So, for the easy-read go for the Letters, and for solid, decent, brain-exercise go for Studies.

©2020 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Spurgeon and the Stolen Gloves

The Banner edition of Spurgeon’s autobiography (Vol. 2)

‘Young man! Those gloves were stolen from your employer!’
During a prayer meeting in the mid-1800’s the popular Baptist preacher CH Spurgeon mentioned an astonishing word of knowledge that came to him as he preached. After his death, his wife Susannah completed his autobiography which is still in print today by the Banner of Truth Trust. She mentions the extraordinary moment during the sermon, preached in Exeter Hall (in Feb or March 1855), where ‘he suddenly broke off from his subject, and, pointing in a certain direction, said, “Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for; you have stolen them from your employer.”’ 

Understandably, this phrase does not appear in the published version of the Exeter Hall sermons.[1] Although Spurgeon’s sermons read much better than George Whitefield’s, he might have been tempted to ‘include the thunder and lightning’ in the record of the sermon. Whitefield was referring to real thunder and lightning at an open-air meeting which had a powerful effect on his hearers. Spurgeon, however, carefully edited each of his sermons for publication so he chose to omit the phrase.

‘He placed a pair of gloves on the table.’
Susannah continues, ‘At the close of the service, a young man, looking very pale and greatly agitated, came to the room which was used as a vestry, and begged for a private interview with Mr Spurgeon. On being admitted, he placed a pair of gloves upon the table, and tearfully said, “It’s the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won’t expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief.” The preacher had drawn the bow at a venture, but the arrow struck the target for which God intended it, and the startled hearer was, in that singular way, probably saved from committing a greater crime.’[2]

The Romance of Preaching
Those who preach can know the vague sense of doubt as to whether we have hit the mark, and the curious power of revealing something that someone in the congregation feels was exclusively for them. The key is always that God is at work in preaching, and that He knows how to speak today, in life-changing ways. As our congregations regather after the pandemic let’s seek His presence both in worship and word.

1. If you can find a reference, let me know.
2. The Autobiography of Charles H Spurgeon, Vol 3. (1899) London: Passmore and Alabaster, p.88-89. Also found in CHS, The Full Harvest (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth) p.60

To read other articles about Spurgeon’s charismatic tendencies click here
To read the first article in this series on CH Spurgeon click here

©2020 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

‘You have sold your soul to Satan for fourpence!’

CH Spurgeon preaching at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, Newington

The superiority of live preaching, as opposed to watching a video, is illustrated powerfully when it comes to charismatic gifts. CH Spurgeon, although he declared himself to be a cessationist, powerfully exercised what many pastors believe Paul describes as a ‘word of knowledge’ (see 1 Cor 12). In Spurgeon’s experience these seemed to happen without any forethought, but were sudden declarations of knowledge during his preaching. Most preachers will know something of this though not usually to the degree of accuracy we’re about to consider. Frankly, you’d expect this story to appear in a history of early Pentecostalism. Spurgeon writes, 

‘There were many instances of remarkable conversions at the Music Hall. One especially was so singular that I have often related it as a proof that God sometimes guides His servants to say what they would themselves never have thought of uttering, in order that He may bless the hearer for whom the message is personally intended. 

‘You have sold your soul to Satan for fourpence!’
‘While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, “There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker ; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!”’

The shoe seller tells the story from his side
Spurgeon continues, ‘A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, “Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?” 
“Yes,” replied the man, “I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? 
I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place. Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays. And I did, sir.”

Stunning accuracy
“I should not have minded that, but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit. But how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me, but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul.”’ [i]

As we gradually return to live preaching after the COVID lockdown, may we aspire to the heights of Spurgeon’s charismatic cessationism! 

More next time…
[i] CHS, The Early Years (1985 edition Edinburgh:Banner), p531-2
To read other articles about Spurgeon’s charismatic tendencies click here
To read the first article in this series on CH Spurgeon click here

©2020 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

George Orwell on Communism, Fascism, and the plight of the poor

George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier

George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier (Book Review)
I should have read this book years ago but, in the current climate where clear thinking is so needed, this 1937 semi-autobiographical, semi-sociological work seems uncannily relevant. Spoiler Alert: Orwell very strongly criticises (and mocks) the language and the alienating aspects of strident left-wing activism while supporting the values of justice and liberty. 

He opens with superb but harrowing descriptions of life as a lodger in shared housing in the depressed North of England between the wars, and then of several trips into the coal mines to get a sense of working conditions. These high definition descriptions are utterly compelling and shocking. Our empathy and humanity is aroused and fortified. It’s impossible not to think of so many of our current workers who work and live in such similar conditions, nearly one hundred years after Orwell wrote.

There are some excellent insights into class identity, because Orwell, a plummy-accented Etonian, finds it difficult to remove himself from the target of socialist critique of ‘bourgeois ideology, manners etc’. This even though he (as a ‘sinking lower middle-class man who has never worked with his hands’) supports the cause of the working man. He continually finds his humane impulse towards the poor, and his desire to help a coherent movement emerge to address their needs, frustrated by the hackneyed slogans of Marxist propaganda.

Yet fascism must be resisted – gaining ground as it was with terrifying ease across Europe in the 1930s – and, he argues, socialism must become less repellant in order to attract people whose sympathies and sense of decency would point in that direction, whatever their background: ‘Throughout left-wing thought and writing…there runs an anti-genteel tradition, a persistent and often very stupid gibing at genteel mannerisms and genteel loyalties (or, in Communist jargon, ‘bourgeois values’). It is largely humbug…but it does major harm, because it allows a minor issue to block a major one. It directs attention away from the central fact that poverty is poverty, whether the tool you work with is a pick-axe or a fountain pen…For what I am worth it would be better to get me in on the Socialist side than to turn me into a Fascist. But if you are constantly bullying me about my ‘bourgeois ideology’…you will only succeed in antagonizing me. For you are telling me either that I am inherently useless or that I ought to alter myself in some way that is beyond my power. 201

On Dignity and Indignity. One miner he go to know suffered a debilitating injury as a result of a mining accident (‘Health and Safety’? What ‘Health and Safety’?). This man received a small allowance from the company but, Orwell notes, the man had to spend half a day each week, waiting at the company office to receive his pittance in cash: ‘This business of petty inconvenience and indignity, of being kept waiting about, of having to do everything at other people’s convenience, is inherent in working-class life. A thousand influences constantly press a working man down into a passive role.’ 43
By contrast: ‘A person of bourgeois origin goes through life with some expectation of getting what he wants, within reasonable limits. Hence the fact that in times of stress ‘educated’ people tend to come to the front; they are no more gifted than the others and their ‘education’ is generally quite useless in itself, but they are accustomed to a certain amount of deference and consequently have the cheek necessary to a commander.’ 44

Good sense in the midst of poverty: In England, at least, there was no political assault on the working-class family: ‘A working man does not disintegrate under the strain of poverty as a middle-class person does. Take, for instance, the fact that the working class think nothing of getting married on the dole [receiving state benefits]. It annoys the old ladies in Brighton, but it is a proof of their essential good sense; they realize that losing your job does not mean that you cease to be a human being…Families are impoverished, but the family-system has not broken up. 78 

Humour: ‘In a Lancashire cotton-town you could probably go for months on end without once hearing an ‘educated’ accent, whereas there can hardly be a town in the South of England where you could throw a brick without hitting the niece of a bishop.’ 102

On the instant gentrification of lower middle-class Europeans emigres: ‘It was this that explained the attraction of India (more recently Kenya, Nigeria etc) for the lower-upper-middle class. The people…went there because in India, with cheap horses, free shooting, and hordes of black servants, it was so easy to play at being a gentleman.’ 108

On the servility and intimidation of the poor: ‘During the past dozen years the English working class have grown servile with a rather horrifying rapidity. It was bound to happen, for the frightful weapon of unemployment has cowed them. ‘Before the war [WW1] their economic position was comparatively strong, for though there was no dole [state benefits] to fall back upon, there was not much unemployment…A man did not see ruin staring him in the face every time he cheeked a ‘toff’, and naturally he did cheek a ‘toff’.’ 111

George Orwell at the BBC. Pic credit: BBC

On Empire, Imperialism, and oppression: ‘I was in the Indian [Burmese, now Malaysia] Police five years, and by the end of that time I hated the imperialism I was serving with a bitterness which I probably cannot make clear…It is not possible to be a part of such a system without recognizing it as an unjustifiable tyranny. Even the thickest-skinned Anglo-Indian [by which I think he means a white Brit born there] is aware of this. Every ‘native’ face he sees in the street brings home to him his monstrous intrusion…The truth is that no modern man, in his heart of hearts, believes that it is right to invade a foreign country and hold the population down by force. Foreign oppression is a much more obvious, understandable evil that economic oppression…All over India there are Englishmen who secretly loathe the system of which they are a part; and just occasionally, when they are quite certain of being in the right company, their hidden bitterness overflows. … Not only were we [the Burmese Police, judicial system] hanging people and putting them in jail and so forth; we were doing it in the capacity of unwanted foreign invaders. The Burmese themselves never really recognized our jurisdiction…For five years I had been part of an oppressive system, and it had left me with a bad conscience…I was conscious of an immense weight of guilt that I had got to expiate…I [therefore] had reduced everything to the simple theory that the oppressed are always right and the oppressors are always wrong: a mistaken theory, but the natural result of being one of the oppressors yourself.’ 126-130

On the alarmingly sudden rise of tyrants: ‘Just how soon the pinch will come it is difficult to say; it depends, probably, upon events in Europe; but it may be that within two years, or even a year we shall have reached the decisive moment [He was writing in 1937. WW2 did indeed break in 1939]. That will also be the moment when every person with any brains or any decency will know in his bones that he ought to be on the Socialist side…It is doubtful whether a…heavy dragoon of Mosley’s stamp [Mosley, a British fascist and supporter of Hitler] would ever be much more than a joke to the majority of English people; though even Mosley will bear watching, for experience shows (eg. the careers of Hitler, Napoleon III) that to a political climber it is sometimes an advantage not to be taken too seriously at the beginning of his career…’ 186 Chilling stuff.

On how fascism rose so swiftly in the ‘30s: Fascism draws its strength from the good as well as the bad varieties of conservatism. To anyone with a feeling or tradition and for discipline it comes with its appeal ready-made. Probably it is very easy, when you have had a bellyful of the more tactless kind of Socialist propaganda, to see Fascism as the last line of defence of all that is good in European civilization…[It is] partly due to the mistaken Communist tactic of sabotaging democracy, i.e. sawing off the branch you are sitting on…As a result Fascism…has been able to pose as the upholder of the European tradition, and to appeal to Christian belief, to patriotism, and to the military virtues. It is far worse than useless to write Fascism off as ‘mass sadism’, or some easy phrase of that kind. If you pretend that it is merely an aberration which will presently pass off of its own accord, you are dreaming a dream from which you will awake when somebody coshes you with a rubber truncheon.’ 188

Orwell’s conclusion: ‘Justice and liberty! Those are the words that have got to ring like a bugle across the world.’ 190

You can see, as I did, the relevance of much of this surprising book. Not one chapter is wasted or irrelevant. Not all are equally relevant of course – all chapters are equal, but some chapters are more equal than others – but as a stimulant to clear thinking, it’s well worth reading, even if you land in a different place to Orwell.

©2020 Lex Loizides

Spurgeon Preaches in his Sleep

Thinks: ‘Yoh! What would I have done without my wife?’ The young CH Spurgeon

After CH Spurgeon’s death his wife Susannah completed his autobiography. Her perspective adds to the already fulsome account Charles had written. In the following passage she relates what can only be described as supernatural phenomena. It’s a one-off to be sure and, according to her, completely authentic. 

Text Perplexed
She writes: An extraordinary incident occurred in this early period of our history. One Saturday evening, my dear husband was deeply perplexed by the difficulties presented by a text on which he desired to preach the next morning. It was in Psalm cx. 3 ; “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning Thou hast the dew of thy youth” and, with his usual painstaking preparation, he consulted all the commentaries he then possessed, seeking light from the Holy Spirit upon their words and his own thoughts but, as it seemed, in vain. 

I was as much distressed as he was, but I could not help him in such an emergency. At least, I thought I could not, but the Lord had a great favour in store for me, and used me to deliver His servant out of his serious embarrassment. He sat up very late, and was utterly worn out and dispirited, for all his efforts to get at the heart of the text were unavailing. I advised him to retire to rest, and soothed him by suggesting that, if he would try to sleep then, he would probably in the morning feel quite refreshed, and able to study to better purpose. “If I go to sleep now, wifey, will you wake me very early, so that I may have plenty of time to prepare?” With my loving assurance that I would watch the time for him, and call him soon enough, he was satisfied and, like a trusting, tired child, he laid his head upon the pillow, and slept soundly and sweetly at once. 

Young Men Shall Dream Dreams
By-and-by, a wonderful thing happened. During the first dawning hours of the Sabbath, I heard him talking in his sleep, and roused myself to listen attentively. Soon, I realised that he was going over the subject of the verse which had been so obscure to him, and was giving a clear and distinct exposition of its meaning, with much force and freshness. I set myself, with almost trembling joy, to understand and follow all that he was saying, for I knew that, if I could but seize and remember the salient points of the discourse, he would have no difficulty in developing and enlarging upon them.
Never preacher had a more eager and anxious hearer! What if I should let the precious words slip? I had no means at hand of “taking notes,” so, like Nehemiah, “I prayed to the God of Heaven,” and asked that I might receive and retain the thoughts which He had given to His servant in his sleep, and which were so singularly entrusted to my keeping. 

I overslept!
As I lay, repeating over and over again the chief points I wished to remember, my happiness was very great in anticipation of his surprise and delight on awaking; but I had kept vigil so long, cherishing my joy, that I must have been overcome with slumber just when the usual time for rising came, for he awoke with a frightened start, and seeing the tell-tale clock, said, “Oh, wifey, you said you would wake me very early, and now see the time! Oh, why did you let me sleep? What shall I do? What shall I do?”
“Listen, beloved,” I answered; and I told him all I had heard. “Why! that’s just what I wanted,” he exclaimed, “that is the true explanation of the whole verse! And you say I preached it in my sleep!” “It is wonderful,” he repeated again and again, and we both praised the Lord for so remarkable a manifestation of His power and love. 

Joyfully my dear one went down to his study, and prepared this God-given sermon, and it was delivered that same morning, April 13, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel. It can be found and read in Vol. II. of the sermons (No. 74), and its opening paragraph gives the dear preacher’s own account of the difficulty he experienced in dealing with the text. Naturally, he refrained from telling the congregation the  special details which I have here recorded.[i]
[You can read that very sermon here]

To read Spurgeon the Charismatic #1 click here
To read the first article in the series on CH Spurgeon click here

[i] CHS, The Early Years (1985 edition Edinburgh:Banner), p419
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