Prince of Preachers
When, for the first time, I received the gospel to my soul’s salvation, I thought that I had never really heard it before, and I began to think that the preachers to whom I had listened had not truly preached it. But, on looking back, I am inclined to believe that I had heard the gospel fully preached many hundreds of times before, and that this was the difference, — that I then heard it as though I heard it not; and when I did hear it, the message may not have been any more clear in itself than it had been at former times, but the power of the Holy Spirit was present to open my ear, and to guide the message to my heart...
I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed; but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was, —
‘LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.’ He did not even pronounce the word rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: — ‘My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, “Look.” Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pains. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, “Look.” Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, Look unto Me.” Ay! said he, in broad essex, ‘many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, “Look unto Me.” Some says, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.” You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, “Look unto Me.”’
Then the good man followed up his text in this way: — ‘Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!’
When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, ‘Young man, you look very miserable.’ Well, I did,; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right at home. He continued, ‘and you always will be miserable — miserable in life, and miserable in death, — if you don’t obey my text; But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.’ Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live.’
I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said, - I did not take notice of it, - I was so possessed with that one thought. Like when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, ‘Look!’ what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood or Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, ‘Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.’...
It is not everyone who can remember the very day and hour of his deliverance; but, as Richard Knill said, ‘At such a time of day, clang went every harp in Heaven, for Richard Knill was born again,’ it was e’en so with me. The clock of mercy struck in Heaven the hour and moment of my emancipation, for the time had come. Between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back home again, what a change had taken place in me! I had passed from darkness into marvelous light, from death to life. Simply by looking to Jesus, I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, ‘Something wonderful has happened to you;’ and I was eager to tell them all about it...
I have always considered, with Luther and Calvin, that the sum and substance of the gospel lies in that word substitution, - Christ standing in the stead of man. If I understand the gospel, it is this: I deserve to be lost for ever; the only reason why I should not be damned is, that Christ was punished in my stead, and there is no need to execute a sentence twice for sin. On the other hand, I know I cannot enter Heaven unless I have a perfect righteousness; I am absolutely certain I shall never have one of my own, for I find I sin every day; but then Christ had a perfect righteousness, and He said, ‘There, poor sinner, take My garment, and put it on; you shall stand before God as if you were Christ, and I will stand before God as if I had been the sinner; I will suffer in the sinner’s stead, and you shall be rewarded for works which you did not do, but which I did for you.’ I find it very convenient every day to come to Christ as a sinner, as I came at the first. ‘You are no saint,’ says the devil. Well, if I am not, I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Sink or swim, I go to Him; other hope I have none. By looking to Him, I received all the faith which inspired me with confidence in His grace; and the word that first drew my soul — ‘Look unto Me,’ — still rings its clarion note in my ears. There I once found conversion, and there I shall ever find refreshing renewal.
Charles H. Spurgeon (1834 - 1892). It would be impossible to calculate his impact on his day or future generations. This pulpit phenomenon was forced to occupy ever-larger lecture halls to accommodate the thousands who crowded to hear him preach.
Independent and aggressive, his emphasis fell on preaching and conversion, rather than on liturgy and sacraments. He stuck to the great Old Testament narratives and the simple Gospel of Jesus. An eloquent orator, Spurgeon expounded endlessly on the degradation of sin and the glory of salvation.
Before the time of amplification, Spurgeon spoke twice a week to a house of 6,000 in London.