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Charles Haddon Spurgeon

1834-1892. Baptist preacher. He was born in Kelvedon, Essex, with Dutch and Dissenting ancestry. His father and grandfather were Independent pastors. Early in 1850 he was converted in Artillery-street Primitive Methodist Chapel, Colchester, Essex, into which he came because of snowy weather. After baptism he became pastor of Waterbeach Baptist Chapel in 1851. In 1854 he was called to New Park Street Baptist Chapel, Southwark, London, which was soon filled to overflowing, necessitating the building of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1859.

In 1856 he married Susanna Thompson and also began the “Pastor's College” for training men “evidently called to preach the Gospel,” which continues today as “Spurgeon's College.” For fifteen years he bore the whole cost, after which the Tabernacle shared the burden. In 1865 he was one of the founders of the London Baptist Association, and in 1869 he established an orphanage at Stockwell, known now as “Spurgeon's Homes.” Other charitable and religious organizations he founded and supported included Temperance and Clothing societies, a Pioneer Mission, and a Colportage Association.

He suffered periodic bouts of illness which sometimes kept him out of the pulpit. He preached at the Tabernacle for the last time on 7 June 1891 and died the following January at Mentone, S France. During his thirty-eight-year London ministry he had built up a congregation of 6,000 and added 14,692 members to the church.

During his early ministry he fought battles on two fronts, against hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism.* In 1864 he preached a sermon attacking the baptismal doctrine and practice of the Church of England, thus initiating the “Baptismal Regeneration Controversy.” He accused the evangelical Anglicans of perjury in using the Prayer Book when they did not believe in baptismal regeneration. In the resulting furor he felt compelled to resign from the Evangelical Alliance for a time. In 1874 he was involved in a dispute on smoking. The “Downgrade Controversy” of 1887-89 arose out of his concern at the growth of radical teaching among Baptists. Several, including the Baptist Union secretary, pleaded with him to try to stop the trend. He made his protest, but was disregarded, so in October 1887 he withdrew with others from the Union. His resignation was accepted, and a motion of censure, never rescinded, was passed. The affair deeply grieved him and may have shortened his life, but he refused to form a new denomination.

Spurgeon was an evangelical Calvinist. He read widely and especially loved the seventeenth-century Puritans. A diverse author, he wrote biblical expositions, lectures to students, hymns, and the homely philosophy of “John Ploughman,” among other works. Preeminently he was a preacher. His clear voice, his mastery of Anglo-Saxon, and his keen sense of humor, allied to a sure grasp of Scripture and a deep love for Christ, produced some of the noblest preaching of any age. His sermons have been printed and distributed throughout the world. Two popular works still widely used today are Treasury of David and Morning and Evening, the latter a compilation of devotional readings.

G.J. Stevenson, Pastor C.H. Spurgeon: His Life and Work to His Forty-Third Birthday (1877); G.H. Pike, The Life and Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1892-93); C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography (4 vols., compiled by Mrs. Spurgeon and J.W. Harrald, 1897-1900, vols. I and II republished in 1962 as C.H. Spurgeon, the Early Years); W.Y. Fullerton, C.H. Spurgeon (1920); J.C. Carlile, C.H. Spurgeon: An Interpretative Biography (1933); H. Thielicke, Encounter with Spurgeon (1964); I.H. Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (1966); E.W. Bacon, Spurgeon, Heir of the Puritans (1967).