by Ray Rhodes, Jr.
Friday afternoons at the Pastor’s College brimmed with excitement as students anticipated Charles Spurgeon’s weekly lectures. Spurgeon dearly loved the college, referring to it as “my life’s work.”1 He was the most popular preacher in England and thousands pressed to hear him. However, his weekly lectures to a comparatively small number of students were nearer to his heart than when he was addressing massive crowds.
Spurgeon’s lectures were eclectic in the themes that he expounded. He did not hesitate to speak about poetry, the Puritans, methods in preaching, and a pastor’s mannerisms. Anything that he imagined relevant to ministry was addressed. However, Spurgeon was most transparent when he appealed to his students to pursue godliness in their families. From his personal experience, Spurgeon understood the direct correlation between a pastor’s family and his public ministry. One Friday afternoon Spurgeon challenged the men:
We ought to be such husbands that every husband in the parish may safely be such as we are. Is it so? We ought to be the best of fathers. Alas! Some ministers, to my knowledge, are far from this, for as to their families, they have kept the vineyards of others, but their own vineyards they have not kept. Their children are neglected, and do not grow up as a godly seed. Is it so with yours?2
No doubt, as Spurgeon spoke to his students about spirituality in the family, he recalled childhood influences of his godly parents and grandparents. Perhaps he remembered his saintly mother praying for his salvation. Throughout his life he spoke of the impact of her prayers: “How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, ‘Oh, that my son might live before thee!’”3
Spurgeon applied the principles learned from the godly examples of his early experiences to his own relationship with Susannah. Charles and Susannah’s marriage deepened in love through their thirty-six years together. Biographer J. C. Carlile described the Spurgeons’ love story as losing “nothing of its romance in the passing of the years.” Far from their love diminishing, “it rather grew in its intensity.”4 Carlile’s assessment of the Spurgeons’ love for one another is evident in a letter that Charles wrote to Susannah from Mentone, France, in February of 1891: “My love to you grows, and yet I do not know how at any time it could have been greater.”5
Charles and Susannah’s joyful marriage was built upon Scripture reading and prayer. Susannah remembered how thoroughly devoted Charles was to family worship. Whether they “lodged in some rough inn on the mountains or in the luxurious rooms of a palatial hotel in a city,” they did not neglect reading the Bible and praying together.6
Jesse Page recorded a moving illustration of Spurgeon’s commitment to family worship that also powerfully illustrates his love for Susannah:
It was after a committee meeting held in his house. Business was over, we had risen from tea and walked through the beautiful grounds, and were once again in the house. He opened the Bible, read and expounded as only he could, opening up the very heart of the Scriptures. Dear Mrs. Spurgeon, slowly recovering from a long and wearisome sickness was lying on the couch, sharing our joyful communion. Reading finished the dear one said, ‘We are part of the family of God: shall we draw near to talk to Him?’ As we turned to kneel, he moved towards the couch, and with one arm around the loved form [Susannah] he poured out his very soul in a passion of importunate prayer. Never can we forget that hour. It was as if heaven’s gates had been more widely opened, and some lustrous beam, alight with our Father’s smile, had strayed into the room.7
From his childhood examples, to his reading of Scripture, and his relationship with Susannah, Spurgeon had a deep well of biblical spirituality from which to draw as he stood before his students and discussed marriage and family. It was essential for his students to learn about preaching, theology, and church history, but Spurgeon believed that the effectiveness of their ministry to others was directly connected to the spiritual health of their homes. Spurgeon’s message is as relevant today as it was on that Friday afternoon in London at the Pastor’s College.
Ray Rhodes, Jr. is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries, pastor of Grace Community Church of North Georgia, author of Family Worship for the Christmas Season, Family Worship for the Thanksgiving Season, Family Worship for the Reformation Season, The Marriage Bed, and The Visionary Marriage, and he has edited two other booklets. Rhodes is the author of numerous articles, especially related to marriage and family. He is also a regular contributor to The Dancing Puritan. He is a doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is writing a thesis: “The Role of Bible Intake and Prayer in the Marriage of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon.” He plans to continue his research in hopes of writing a book about Spurgeon’s marriage. Ray is married to Lori and they are blessed with six daughters, one son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Lori blogs at www.nitw4ladies.blogspot.com. You can visit Ray on Facebook, and Nourished in the Word.
The views expressed by guest writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Academic, Lifeway Christian Resources, or any employee thereof.
- W. Y. Fullerton, C. H. Spurgeon: A Biography (Williams and Norgate, 1920), 227. Spurgeon referred to the College as “his first-born and best beloved” (227). The college had its roots in the conversion and subsequent preaching of Thomas Medhurst. Medhurst met with Spurgeon for several hours each week, beginning in 1855 (229). Spurgeon’s students grew in number through the years. Fullerton notes, “It was clearly understood that the College did not exist to make ministers, but to train them” (231). Initially the College met at the Tabernacle and in 1873 moved to a more permanent location (232). Fullerton notes: “In the College the great event of the week was the Friday afternoon lecture by the President” (233).
- C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (1875-1894; repr., Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 2008), 237.
- 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), 1:69.
- J. C. Carlile, C. H. Spurgeon: An Interpretative Biography (London: The Religious Tract Society and The Kingsgate Press, 1933), 190
- C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 4:348.
- C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:103.
- Jesse Page, C. H. Spurgeon: His Life and Ministry (London: S. W. Partridge and Company, 1892), 96-97.