Disaster, poor health, and theological controversy were all contributors to Spurgeon’s death. However, in the midst of his multiplied challenges, Charles Haddon Spurgeon faithfully preached the gospel.
What are some of the reasons why Charles Haddon Spurgeon died on January 31, 1892, at age 57? Spurgeon believed that all things, birth, health, and circumstances operate according to God’s sovereign design. Consistent with Spurgeon’s theology, we can rightly say that Spurgeon didn’t die one moment before God had determined and we can also assert that his death was the culmination of various causes. Below are three causes of Spurgeon’s death.
1. The Surrey Gardens Music Hall disaster.
Before their first wedding anniversary, Susie and Charles faced a challenge that threatened to undo them. On the evening of October 19, 1856 with their one-month old twins at home with Susie, Charles made the short trek over to the Surrey Gardens Music Hall where he was to preach for the first time. The massive auditorium was packed with 10,000 people.
It was one of the temporary homes of The New Park Street Chapel while it was being transitioned to the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Soon after the service began, mischief makers cried “Fire, Fire,” provoking panic. Seven people were trampled to death and almost 30 more were seriously injured. When Spurgeon realized what had happened, he passed out. At least one newspaper reported that he died.
He didn’t die, but he did consider quitting the ministry. His friends remembered that he never got over the tragic events of that night. It’s likely that Spurgeon suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for the rest of his life. Church historian Mark Hopkins writes that the music hall tragedy was “an episode whose importance in Spurgeon’s spiritual experience was second only to his conversion.”
Spurgeon’s friend, William Williams surmised that his “comparatively early death might be in some measure due to the furnace of mental suffering he endured on and after that fearful night.”
2. Poor health.
By the mid-1860’s, Spurgeon suffered with painful gout that sometimes sidelined him. Through the years, his gout intensified and it was accompanied by kidney disease and rheumatism. Along with his physical challenges, he was weighed down with crippling depression that left him weeping with no explanation as to why. Declining health, emotional stress, and overwork, were accompanied by weight gain. Though Spurgeon set Wednesdays as a day off, he often skipped his day of rest and worked; such contributed to his diminished health.
“I am sometimes lifted to the very heavens, and then I go down to the deep: I am at one time bright with joy and confidence and at another time dark as midnight with doubts and fears.” Spurgeon
3. The Down-Grade Controversy.
Towards the end of his life, Spurgeon fought for truth against encroaching error in the Baptist Union. It must not be surmised that Spurgeon’s fight was over secondary theological matters. The Down-Grade Controversy was a battle over fundamental doctrines such as the authority of Scripture, the atonement of Christ, post-mortem salvation, and even justification by faith.
Few in the Union recognized the seriousness of the danger and, in an effort to protect denominational unity, they did not take Spurgeon’s concerns seriously. Spurgeon withdrew from the Union and eventually was censured (April, 1888, City Temple, London). Only seven men in attendance voted against the censure. Some of Spurgeon’s own men (alumni of his college) abandoned him. Spurgeon declared that the battle was killing him. Susie concurred and said “this fight for the faith cost him his life.”