Spurgeon did not shrink back from criticisms, but persevered in doing his best, looking to God, not man, for blessing. And God did bless his preaching beyond what he could have imagined. Reflecting on what God accomplished during his short two years, Spurgeon writes, “In a short time, the little thatched chapel was crammed, the biggest vagabonds of the village were weeping floods of tears, and those who had been the curse of the parish became its blessing.”
Before he was the pastor of the largest of church in London, president of the Pastors’ College, founder of an orphanage and dozens of other charitable institutions, and a prolific author, C. H. Spurgeon pastored a small Baptist church in the village of Waterbeach, about five miles outside of Cambridge. At that time, few could have predicted what was to come. And yet, God used his faithful ministry to bring about transformation in that village during his short time there.
When Spurgeon arrived, Waterbeach was notorious for its connection with an illicit still, which resulted in rampant drunkenness.
Did you ever walk through a village notorious for its drunkenness and profanity? Did you ever see poor wretched beings, that once were men, standing, or rather leaning, against the posts of the ale-house, or staggering along the street? Have you ever looked into the houses of the people, and beheld them as dens of iniquity at which your soul stood aghast? Have you ever seen the poverty, and degradation, and misery of the inhabitants, and sighed over it?
Far from an idyllic country setting, Waterbeach placed Spurgeon in the trenches of pastoral ministry where he saw the reality of suffering and sin. What was Spurgeon’s approach to his early ministry?
Preaching the Gospel
From the very beginning, Spurgeon sought to make the gospel the central theme of his preaching ministry. His very first sermon as pastor at Waterbeach was from Matthew 1:21, “Thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” Every sermon, no matter what text he was preaching, Spurgeon sought to make saving work of Christ clear to his people, calling them to repentance and faith. Even though many in his congregation would have considered themselves Christians, Spurgeon was not content with a nominal faith, but desired to see genuine conversion in the hearts of his people. Nor was Spurgeon content simply to preach sermons which gratified his people. He wanted to be used by God supernaturally in the salvation of sinners.
When I began to preach in the little thatched chapel at Waterbeach, my first concern was, Would God save any souls through me? . . . After I had preached for some little time, I thought, “This gospel has saved me, but then somebody else preached it; will it save anybody else now that I preach it?” Some Sundays went over, and I used to say to the deacons, “Have you heard of anybody finding the Lord under my ministry? Do you know of anyone brought to Christ through my preaching?” My good old friend and deacon said, “I am sure somebody must have received the Savior; I am quite certain it is so.” “Oh!” I answered, “but I want to know it, I want to prove that it is so.”
It would not be until his 100th sermon that Spurgeon recorded his first convert.