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If you heard that someone read six books every week and owned a personal library of 12,000 volumes, you might conclude that they’d have little time to do anything else but read. If you’re anything like me, you might also wish that was your life. But in addition to this voracious reading schedule, Charles Spurgeon preached several times a week, cared for his congregation, loved his wife and two sons, wrote (many!) books, and ran an orphanage, theological college, and other ministries.
Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) was a Baptist preacher in London whose influence looms large over evangelicalism. He has much to teach not only pastors but every Christian today through his passion for the gospel, love for the lost, and warm zeal for right doctrine. Here’s a reader’s guide for getting started with the many works about and by Spurgeon.
If you’d like to start with an overview of Spurgeon’s life before jumping into his writings, there are several excellent biographies you can choose from. These are just a sampling.
Spurgeon: A Biography (Arnold A. Dallimore)
Dallimore’s biography was my favourite book that I read about Spurgeon. I read two thirds of it in one sitting because it was so fascinating! While Spurgeon’s achievements were immense, what really stuck out to me from this biography were his humility and prayer life. Dallimore writes of the Prince of Preachers: “Throughout his entire ministry many hearers remarked that, moved as they were by his preaching, they were still more affected by his praying” (79). Prayer was what truly made Spurgeon extraordinary. There were also a couple of chapters focused on Spurgeon’s wife, Susannah, which got me all the more eager to read the biography Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.
The Child is the Father of the Man (Tom Nettles)
Rather than writing a straightforward biography, Nettles traces ten themes or convictions that reoccurred throughout Spurgeon’s life—from around or before his conversion to the full bloom of his faith in adulthood. If you’re looking for an overview of what Spurgeon was all about rather than a chronological biography, this book is a great place to start.
The Forgotten Spurgeon (Iain H. Murray)
Charles Spurgeon tends to be remembered chiefly as a preacher or evangelist, but his firm belief in the importance of right doctrine is often neglected. In The Forgotten Spurgeon, Iain Murray retrieves Spurgeon’s identity as a theologian by exploring the three major controversies of his ministry. Despite being published decades ago, this book is insightful and relevant for today—Spurgeon provides a compelling example of taking a costly stand when the gospel and the glory of God are at stake, while bearing gently with those who differed in less central doctrines.
Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Iain H. Murray, ed.)
Iain Murray also compiled a volume of Spurgeon’s letters. It’s clearly a small selection, because Spurgeon wrote around 500 letters each week! These extracts help us get to know Spurgeon more personally. They are encouraging, humbling, and even funny at times. It’s an inexpensive volume that makes a great accompaniment to a biography.
For kids: Charles Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Christian Timothy George) [Trailblazers series]
It does children good to learn about Christians from throughout history at young age, as examples for them to learn from and aspire to. The Trailblazers series presents partly fictionalised biographies aimed at kids aged 8–12. This short and compelling book on Spurgeon will inspire kids with how he preached the gospel to all kinds of people.
But perhaps the best way to get to know Spurgeon is by reading his works for yourself. Here are a few recommendations for where to start.
Spurgeon’s classic devotional often lives on my table alongside my Bible and journal. It makes a great supplement to your daily Bible reading, or you can dip into it whenever you want to spend a few minutes with the Lord. Full of biblical insight and earnest praise for our Lord, Morning and Evening will feed your soul.
All the biographies I recommended earlier talk about how Spurgeon struggled with the darkness of depression throughout his life. Christians who have similarly suffered will find great comfort in Spurgeon’s classic sermon, reprinted in this little volume. It also includes a lecture called “The Minister’s Fainting Fits” which expounds on a similar theme with application for pastors. A world of comfort for those who feel weak and despondent.
Among his exhaustive schedule of preaching, pastoral care, and overseeing ministries and charities, Spurgeon also found time to start a college for men wanting to train for the ministry. You can read many of his addresses to that group in Lectures to My Students. Spurgeon covers everything from prayer, sermon illustrations, and the importance of a minister’s personal holiness. Pastors and Bible college students will particularly benefit from reading this book.
A passion for prayer was one of Spurgeon’s defining characteristics. This shines through in Only a Prayer Meeting, which collects together various addresses and sermons Spurgeon gave on the topic of prayer—many of them given at his church’s prayer meeting. Each of these chapters will show you the supreme importance of prayer and encourage you to prioritise it. This book is part of series (published by Christian Heritage) which gathers together Spurgeon’s teaching on various topics like evangelism and joy.
Spurgeon loved nothing more than to preach the gospel. In this volume, he clearly and passionately sets out the truths of the gospel to those who seek salvation, covering questions like “How can God justify the ungodly?”, “How can we escape from sin?”, and “What does repentance look like?”. While this book is aimed at unbelievers and those who doubt, every Christian would benefit greatly from reading (and re-reading it). We never move beyond our need for the gospel.