22 August 2006

Personal Memories of Spurgeon

posted by Phil Johnson

This is an exerpt from:
Recollections of a Long Life: An Autobiography
by Theodore Ledyard Cuyler

an anything new be said about Charles H. Spurgeon? Perhaps not, and yet I should be guilty of injustice to myself and to my readers if I failed to pay my love tribute to the most extraordinary preacher of the pure Gospel to all Christendom whom England produced in the last century.

I heard him when he was a youth of twenty-two years, in his Park Street Chapel; I heard him several times when he was at the zenith of his vigor; I spent many a happy hour with him in his charming home. On my last visit there I had a "good cry" when I saw his empty chair in its old place in the study.

Personal Glimpses

I did not form any personal acquaintance with him until the summer of 1872, and it soon ripened into a most warm and cordial friendship. On each of my visits to London since that time I have enjoyed an afternoon with him at his home. His first residence was Helensburg House in Nightingale Road, Clapham, a Southwest District of London. That beautiful home was his only luxury; but he spent none of his ample income on any sort of social enjoyment, and what did not go for household expenses went for the support of his many religious enterprises.

On my first visit to him he greeted me in his free and easy, open-handed way. I noticed that he was growing stouter than ever. "In me," he jocularly said, "that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing," We spent a joyous hour in his well filled library; he showed me fifteen stately volumes of his printed sermons which have since been more than doubled, besides several of his works translated into French, German, Swedish, Dutch and other languages.

The most interesting object in the library was a small file of his sermon notes, each one on a half sheet of note paper, or on the back of an ordinary letter envelope. When I asked him if he "wrote his sermons out," his answer was: "I would rather be hung." His usual method was to select the text of his Sunday morning sermon on Saturday about six or seven o'clock, and spend half an hour in arranging a skeleton and put it on paper; he left all the phraseology until he reached the pulpit.

During Sunday afternoon he repeated the same process in preparing his evening discourse. "If I had a month assigned me for preparing a sermon," said he to me, "I would spend thirty days and twenty-three hours on something else and in the last hour I would make the sermon, and if I could not do it then I could not do it in a month."

This sounds like a risky process, but it must be remembered that if Spurgeon occupied but a few minutes in arranging a discourse he spent five days of every week in thoroughly studying God's Word—in thorough thinking—and in the perusal of the richest old writers on theology and experimental religion.

He was all the time, and everywhere filling up his cask, so that he had only to turn the spigot and out flowed the pure Gospel in the most transparent language. A stenographer took down the sermon, and it was revised by Mr. Spurgeon on Monday morning. He told me that for many years he went to his pulpit under such nervous agitation that it often brought on violent attacks of vomiting and produced outbreaks of perspiration, and he slowly outgrew that remarkable sort of physical suffering.

Twenty years ago [in August of 1880] Mr. Spurgeon exchanged Helensburgh House for the still more elegant mansion called "Westwood" on Beulah Hill, near Crystal Palace, Sydenham. It is a rural paradise. At each of the visits I paid him there, he used to come out with his banged-up soft hat, which he wore indoors half of the time, and with a merry jest on his lips.

On my last visit, accompanied by my brother Hall, I found him suffering severely from his neuralgic malady, but it did not affect his buoyant humor. When I told him that my catarrhal deafness was worse than ever, he replied: "Well, brother, console yourself with the thought that in these days there is very little worth hearing."

He took my brother Hall and myself out into his garden and conservatory and down to a rustic arbor, where we sat down and told stories. There were twelve acres of land attached to "Westwood," and he had us into the meadow, where we laid down in the freshly mowed hay and inhaled its fragrance. Mrs. Spurgeon, a most gifted and charming lady, had a dozen cows and the profits of her dairy then supported a missionary in London; and the milk was sent around the neighborhood in a wagon labeled, "Charles H. Spurgeon, Milk Dealer."

After our return, the great preacher showed us a portfolio of caricatures of himself from Punch and other publications. At six o'clock we took supper and then came family worship—all the servants being present Mr. Spurgeon followed my prayer with the most wonderful prayer that perhaps I have ever heard from human lips, and I said afterwards to my friend Hall, "To-night we got into 'the hidings of his power,' for a man who can pray like that can outpreach the world." In the soft hour of the gloaming we took our leave, and he went off to prepare his sermon for the morrow.

What Qualities Made Spurgeon Great?

Spurgeon's power lay in a combination of half a dozen great qualities. He was the master of a vigorous Saxon English style, the style of Cobbett and Bunyan and the old English Bible.

He possessed a most marvelous memory—it held the whole Bible in solution; it retained all the valuable truth he had acquired during his immensely wide readings and it enabled him to recognize any person whom he ever met before. Once, however, he met for the second time a Mr. Patridge and called him "Partridge." Quick as a flash he said: "Pardon me, sir, I did not intend to make game of you."

He was a man of one Book, and had the most implicit faith in every jot and tittle of God's Word. He preached it without defalcation or discount, and this prodigious faith made his preaching immensely tonic. His sympathies with all mankind were unbounded, and the juices of his nature were enough to float an ark full of living creatures.

Joined to these gifts was a marvelous voice of great sweetness, and a homely mother-wit that bubbled out in all his talk and often in his sermons. Mightiest of all was his power of prayer, and his inner life was hid with Christ in God.

As an organizer he had great executive abilities. His Orphanage, dozen missionary schools and theological training school will be among his enduring monuments. The last sermon I ever heard him deliver was in Dr. Newman Hall's church on a week evening. He came hobbling into the study, his face the picture of suffering. He said to me, "Brother Cuyler, if I break down, won't you take up the service and go on with it?" I told him that he would forget his pains the moment he got under way, and so it was, for he delivered a most nutritious discourse to us. When the service was over, he limped off to his carriage, wrapped himself in the huge cushions, and drove away seven miles to his home at Upper Norwood. That was the last time I ever saw my beloved friend.

A Sample Taste of the Pure Spurgeonic

It seems strange that I shall never behold that homely, honest countenance again; and since that time, London has hardly seemed to be London without him. It is a cause for congratulation that his son, the Reverend Thomas Spurgeon, is so successfully carrying forward the great work of his sainted father.

If my readers would like a sample taste of the pure Spurgeonic it is to be found in this passage which he delivered to his theological students:

Some modern divines whittle away the Gospel to the small end of nothing; they make our Divine Lord to be a sort of blessed nobody; they bring down salvation to mere possibility; they make certainties into probabilities and treat verities as mere opinions. When you see a preacher making the Gospel smaller by degrees, and miserably less, till there is not enough of it left to make soup for a sick grasshopper, get you gone with him! As for me, I believe in an infinite God, an infinite atonement, infinite love and mercy, an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure, and of which the substance and reality is an Infinite Christ.

Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, 1902


Steve said...

That was a most glorious and endearing read! Almost felt as though I were being transported back in time to meet Spurgeon himself. If only more teachers today did as Spurgeon did, and fill their casks all week long by "thoroughly studying God's Word—in thorough thinking—and in the perusal of the richest old writers on theology and experimental religion."

And the closing quote so perfectly describes the epidemic that has struck so many of today's pulpits, in which the gospel is being whittled down to nothing, and without shame or apology.

It was great to see reference to Newman Hall in Culyer's excerpt. I've been much blessed by his writings, too.

Gordon said...

This was fascinating. I loved the part about being full and then only having to "turn on the spigot".

Thanks for sharing this.

Malchymist said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us! I cannot help but believe any who have stood in the pulpit will have been lifted by it.

DJP said...

Absolutely delightful, and very touching. Great find, thanks for sharing it.

(But boy oh boy, none of us pulpit ants today had better try on the Saul's armor of CHS' sermon prep methods!)

Michael Herrmann said...

Thank you Phil for today's gift of Spurgeon. The "filling his cask" comment and "turning on the spigot" was wonderful and convicting. At times my spigot delivers only dust, to my shame.

Dan, wise advice! If I tried his method, the vomit would be the "best" that I delivered that day.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

"When you see a preacher making the Gospel smaller by degrees, and miserably less, till there is not enough of it left to make soup for a sick grasshopper, get you gone with him!"

Oh, that's classic.

Taliesin said...

This is a great testimony to one of God's gifts to His church.

candy said...

A marvelous read.

R.S. Ladwig said...

It's been wonderful the last month as I have been reading "The
Forgotten Spurgeon" by Iain Murray and now Spurgeon's "Lectures to My Students". Spurgeon has been a wonderful guide to me, a budding preacher.

Suziannr said...

Thank you for that amazing read. "Filling the cask" is convicting and inspiring.

Patagonia Mike said...

One of the truly great articles about CHS that I have read recently. In this day and age when someone opens the "spigot" there is no telling what might come out! Thanks Phil

Doug McMasters said...


Excellent. Such a window allows us opportunity to realize the gifts God gave CH, obviously beyond ours. What encourages me is the account of his heart for Jesus and the strength of His prayers. The article calls me to draw near...


Unknown said...

At the beach on vacation...picked up on wireless connection... what a delightful summer read.


Bradford Smith said...

This was great, a personal account of Spurgeon that really shows how credible and genuine his sermons are.

Cartoon Characters said...

Actually, it is interesting that he mentioned Helensbourgh House..that it was Spurgeon's "one luxury" when in fact the house was a donation by Spurgeon's wealthier friends, since Spurgeon's money mostly went to "worthy causes" of their heart - they had no savings to speak of. I guess there are some things you don't tell your "friends"....