Spurgeon's Practical Wisdom: Plain Advice for Plain People
It has sometimes been said that Christians are ‘too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use’. While that may apply to some, it could never be said of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Spurgeon combined heavenly mindedness with zeal to improve the lot of ordinary people. At the height of his ministry there were dozens of enterprises associated with his Metropolitan Tabernacle that served the spiritual and practical needs of men and women, boys and girls.
Although Spurgeon is best remembered as a gospel preacher, he was also a gifted writer. Under the not so well disguised pseudonym of ‘john Ploughman’, a wise old country farm worker, Spurgeon penned a number of humorous articles on topical subjects for his monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel. ‘I have somewhat indulged the mirthful vein, but ever with so serious a purpose that I ask no forgiveness’, he wrote. In these articles he ‘aimed blows at the vices of the many’ and tried to inculcate ‘those moral virtues without which men are degraded.’ His efforts met with great success. When later published, John Ploughman’s Talk and John Ploughman’s Pictures were an instant hit with sales of these two volumes exceeding 600,000 in the author’s own lifetime. In homes throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain Spurgeon’s practical wisdom on subjects such as alcohol, debt, anger, temptation, cruelty, and the family home, were heeded and cherished. In the preface to John Ploughman’s Pictures, he was able to write: ‘John Ploughman’s Talk has not only obtained an immense circulation, but it has exercised an influence for good. Although its tone is rather moral than religious, it has led many to take the first steps by which men climb to better things.’
This fine edition of Spurgeon’s Practical Wisdom, which also includes all of the illustrations from the original two volumes, will surely enrich many a Christian home and be treasured by a new generation of readers.
About the Author
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. After a childhood in Essex, when he owed much to Christian parents and grandparents, he was converted in 1850 at the age of ﬁfteen. He was then assisting at a school in Cambridge and it was in these Cambridge years that he came to Baptist principles and was called to the Baptist pastorate in the near-by village of Waterbeach. From there he moved to New Park Street, London in 1854 at the age of nineteen.
Roughly speaking, Spurgeon’s public work can be divided up into four decades. Through the 1850s he was ‘The Youthful Prodigy’ who seemed to have stepped full-grown into the pulpit. At the age of twenty the largest halls in London were ﬁlled to hear him; at twenty-one the newspapers spoke of him as ‘incomparably the most popular preacher of the day’; when he was twenty-three, 23,654 people heard him at a service in the Crystal Palace.
In the next decade, the 1860s, his work might best be described in terms of ‘The Advancement of Gospel Agencies’. The institutions which he founded, and for which he remained responsible, included a College to train pastors; a publications enterprise (with a weekly published sermon and a monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel); an Orphanage; a Colportage Association to spread Christian literature; and above all the Metropolitan Tabernacle itself, opened for the church he served in 1861 and capable of holding about 6,000. The congregation which he pastored grew from 314 in 1854 to 5,311 in 1892.
Onlookers often supposed that so many enterprises could never be maintained at the high level of usefulness with which they began, but they were, and the 1870s might well be described in terms of ‘Holding the Ground’. On every front the work was being blessed.
Then came the 1880s and by far the most difﬁcult period in Spurgeon’s life. In this last decade he was faced with increasing controversy and a title for his last years could well be his own words, ‘In Opposition to So Many’.
By the time Spurgeon was ﬁfty-seven in 1891 his health was utterly broken. When he left Herne Hill station, London, on 26 October 1891, for the south of France, he said to the friends who came to say good-bye, ‘The ﬁght is killing me’. He died at Menton three months later.
[Iain H. Murray in Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, Banner of Truth, 1995. See also Spurgeon’s 2-volume Autobiograph, Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore, and The Life and Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by G. Holden Pike, all published by the Trust.]