The author places the spot light on the most prominent feature of Spurgeon’s ministry, namely, the proclamation of the gospel. While Spurgeon attracted thousands of admirers over the course of his ministry, he was also plagued with critics and naysayers. Nettles notes, “Spurgeon quickly learned that a preacher bent on pleasing all his critics would speedily leave the ranks of the ministry.” But Spurgeon would not be distracted. He faithfully forged a gospel path for his hearers – a path that led to eternal life for everyone who believes.
Spurgeon’s gospel focus was narrow and focussed and serves as a necessary reminder for preachers today. “Preach all you know about Christ … To conceal the plain truth of salvation beneath a cloud of words, when God’s honor and eternal human destiny are at stake, is treason to men’s souls and diabolical cruelty.” The cross was the centerpiece of Spurgeon’s ministry. He never compromised his primary calling – the preaching of Christ crucified.
Spurgeon was an accomplished theologian. Nettles weighs in: “The Christian theologian must be clearly Christian and no less clear a theologian.” Spurgeon’s example is a rebuke to many modern preachers who glory in their aversion to theology. The notion of a pastor who preaches messages void of theology would have repulsed the prince of preachers.
Spurgeon was an unashamed admirer of the Puritans and Reformers. Nettles remarks, “Spurgeon advocated a pure Biblicism for theological construction. He loved the historic confessions and the pious and helpful writings of the Reformers and Puritans …” Spurgeon taught the importance of reading dead readers – theologians with a backbone and the courage to proclaim the unchanging Word of God.
Spurgeon unapologetically embraced the doctrines of grace and proudly proclaimed the five points of Calvinism, including the doctrine of particular redemption. He lamented that “most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace.”
The author makes it clear that Spurgeon’s sermons were chock full of theology: “Spurgeon’s sermons were virtually an overflowing stream of systematic theology …” Again, the contrast between Spurgeon’s doctrinally rich sermons and the weak content in many American sermons is alarming.
Spurgeon was not bashful about confronting his Arminian brothers. Nettles notes, “He loved Arminians as sincere persons and loved the emphasis on Christ that they shared in common with him, but he truly abominated the distinctive elements of their doctrine … The Arminian attempt to tame God, in Spurgeon’s view, created an idol unworthy of respect and adoration.” Spurgeon counted his Arminian friends as brothers and sisters but did not hesitate to remind them of their theological error.
Spurgeon did not equivocate when it came to controversial doctrines. He preached about a fiery hell and the almighty wrath of God. He preached about election and predestination. And he preached about a Christ who paid for the sins of everyone who would ever believe. He opined, “I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it.”
Biblical authority, theological depth, and doctrinal precision marked the life and ministry of C.H. Spurgeon. Compromise was not a part of his makeup. Fidelity to the truth was at the core of his pastoral identity.