Spurgeon lived a life filled to the brim with good works of benevolence and charity. However, too few today are familiar with this vital aspect of his life and ministry nor the theological convictions that undergirded it. I have written this book because I find in Spurgeon a most compelling example of the proper wedding of faithful gospel preaching with earnest social concern. Evangelicals have frequently failed in correctly understanding the relationship between these two biblical burdens. I am convinced that Spurgeon can help us.
The following excerpt is from the Preface of Spurgeon and the Poor by Alex DiPrima. Learn more about this important new work here.
The American temperance activist John B. Gough stepped off the train in London. He had come to visit England’s greatest preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The year was 1879, and the preacher was at the height of his powers. Gough himself had described Spurgeon’s ministry as “a career thus far unparalleled in the history of ministers.” Indeed, there had never been a preacher like him. In his teenage years, he gained a reputation as the famous “boy preacher of the Fens.” He arrived in London at the age of nineteen to command the pulpit of the city’s most historic Baptist church in the heart of the metropolis, just south of the Thames. He preached for nearly forty years from that pulpit to thousands upon thousands, winning souls, planting churches, and ministering to the poor.
During Gough’s visit, Spurgeon provided him with a tour of the Stockwell Orphanage. Ten years prior, Spurgeon began this ministry to orphaned boys with the help of an elderly widow who will appear later in these pages. While the two men were visiting the orphanage, Spurgeon received a call to the bedside of a boy who was terminally ill. As he sat with the dying boy, Spurgeon placed the child’s hand in his and told him, “Jesus loves you. He bought you with His precious blood, and He knows what is best for you. It seems hard for you to lie here and listen to the shouts of the healthy boys outside at play. But soon Jesus will take you home, and then He will tell you the reason, and you will be so glad.” Spurgeon then inched forward in his chair, laid his hand on the boy’s head, and quietly prayed aloud, “O Jesus, Master, this dear child is reaching out his thin hand to find thine. Touch him, dear Saviour, with thy loving, warm clasp. Lift him as he passes the cold river, that his feet be not chilled by the water of death; take him home in thine own good time. Comfort and cherish him till that good time comes. Show him thyself as he lies here, and let him see thee and know thee more and more as his loving Saviour.” After a moment’s pause, he said with a warm smile, “Now, dear, is there anything you would like? Would you like a little canary in a cage to hear him sing in the morning? Nurse, see that he has a canary tomorrow morning. Goodbye, my dear; you will see the Saviour perhaps before I shall.” Gough, who had quietly witnessed the scene, recorded his recollections in his autobiography, writing, “I had seen Mr. Spurgeon holding by his power sixty-five hundred persons in a breathless interest; I knew him as a great man universally esteemed and beloved; but as he sat by the bedside of a dying pauper child, whom his beneficence had rescued, he was to me a greater and grander man than when swaying the mighty multitude at his will.”