The following is a guest post by Ray Rhodes, Jr., president of Nourished in the Word Ministries and pastor of Grace Community Church of North Georgia. The letters considered below are from 1855. Charles and Susannah were married January 8, 1856.
When did you last write a love letter to your spouse? If you’re having trouble remembering that far back, perhaps you will find Charles Spurgeon’s example encouraging. Spurgeon was a prolific author, writing nearly 150 books (plus numerous volumes of sermons and, from 1865 until the time of his death in 1892, he was the editor of a monthly magazine: The Sword and the Trowel). Arguably, more impressive than his publications were the 500 letters that he penned each week.1 The voluminous output from Spurgeon, coupled with his crystal clarity in writing, is worthy of consideration. His son Charles reflected: “In early days it [Spurgeon’s penmanship] was like copper-plate, and to the end of his life, unless deformed by pain, it was always singularly chaste and clear.”
Spurgeon’s favorite ink color was violet, and he preferred dipping his pen rather that “writing with a patent pen which carries its own ink.”2 Charles, commenting on his father’s letters, asserted: “The climax of the art of letter-writing is reached when the penmanship is from the heart.”3 Spurgeon’s heart-felt writing was especially evident in his letters to Susannah. Those letters contain romantic expressions, humor, ministry reports, prayer requests, and accounts of Spurgeon’s sufferings. On July 17, 1855 Spurgeon sweetly responded to Susannah: “My precious love, Your dearly-prized note came safely to hand, and verily it did excel all I have ever read, even from your own loving pen.”4 Later in that letter, he was intently personal:
Now to return to you again, I have had daydreams of you while driving along, I thought you were very near me. It is not long, dearest, before I shall again enjoy your sweet society, if the providence of God permits. I knew I loved you very much before, but now I feel how necessary you are to me; and you will not lose much by my absence, if you find me, on my return, more attentive to your feelings, as well as equally affectionate.5
Susannah was often concerned about the expenditure of his energy in the numerous “precious treasures” that he wrote to her. Knowing of her concern Spurgeon comforted Susannah:
Think not that I weary myself by writing; for, dearest, it is my delight to please you, and solace an absence which must be even more dreary to you than to me, since travelling and preaching lead me to forget it. My eyes ache for sleep, but they shall keep open till I have invoked the blessings from above—mercies temporal and eternal,—to rest on the head of one whose name is sweet to me, and who equally loves the name of her own, her much-loved, C.H.S.6
Spurgeon’s fame swept through England, and with it the brunt of stinging criticism fell on him. Such assaults, especially from the press, took their toll. In May of 1855, he wrote to Susannah, “I am down in the valley.” His valley experience was partly a result of “two desperate attacks” from Newspapers. Feeling also the pangs of separation from his fiancée, he noted: “My love, were you here, how you would comfort me; but since you are not I shall do what is better still, go upstairs alone and pour out my grief into my Savior’s ear.”7
An uncritical admirer might imagine that Spurgeon escaped significant spiritual struggles. However, his letters provide a more honest perspective. In July of 1855 he penned a letter that Susannah said unveiled his “inmost heart.” Spurgeon requested: “I shall feel deeply indebted to you, if you will pray very earnestly for me. I fear I am not so full of love to God as I used to be. I lament my sad decline in spiritual things.” The great preacher, who so loved his Savior, nevertheless felt that the fires of his spirituality burned low. During those times he valued Susannah’s prayers: “Blend your hearty prayers with mine, that two of us may be agreed, and thus will you promote the usefulness and holiness and happiness of one whom you love.”8
A few weeks prior to their marriage, he corresponded with Susannah:
May your virtues be perfected, your prospects realized, your zeal continued, your love to Him increased, and your knowledge of Him rendered deeper, higher, broader,—in fact may more than even my heart can wish, or my hope anticipate, be yours forever. May we be mutual blessings;—wherein I shall err, you will pardon; and wherein you may mistake, I will more than overlook. Yours, till Heaven, and then,—C.H.S.9
In our digital age, letter writing may seem archaic. However, writing to your fiancée or spouse is an exercise that could strengthen your relationship. Spurgeon’s love letters were heartfelt, romantic, intimate, spiritually minded, and sweet. What lady would not delightfully receive letters with greetings such as: “My Dearest,” “My precious Love,” and “Sweet One, How I love you! I long to see you.” No wonder, then, that Susannah reflected in her widow years: “Ah! My husband, the blessed earthly ties which we welcomed so rapturously are dissolved now, and death has hidden thee from my mortal eyes; but not even death can divide thee from me, or sever the love which united our hearts so closely.”10
1 C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography: Volume 2, The Full Harvest (Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, revised, 1995), 192.
2 C. H. Spurgeon, The Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (London: Marshall Brothers, 1923, and Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software 2009) 7.
3 C. H. Spurgeon, Letters, 7.
4 C. H. Spurgeon, Letters, 72.
5 C. H. Spurgeon, Letters, 72.
6 C. H. Spurgeon, Letters, 72–73.
7 Charles Ray, The Life of Susannah Spurgeon in Morning Devotions by Susannah Spurgeon: Free Grace and Dying Love (Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 149.
8 C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography: Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records by His Wife, and His Private Secretary (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1897-99; reprint, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1992), 2:26.
9 C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:11.
10 C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:27.