A friend of mine recently sent me Craig Skinner’s Spurgeon & Son: The Forgotten Story of Thomas Spurgeon and His Famous Father Charles Haddon Spurgeon. This is an old book, for it was published on June 16, 1999 (I was 14 at the time). Nevertheless, because it was about Spurgeon in some way, I wanted to give it a read. Furthermore, I needed to floss my brain after reading the blasphemous nonsense that was Tony Evans’ book Kingdom Encounters.
It’s important to understand that this book, per the back cover, is a biography of Tom Spurgeon’s life in the South Pacific area. When reading this book, I started to realize how little I read biography books. Typically, I torture myself by reading doctrinally deficient books by such folk as Bob Goff, Tony Evans, Craig Groeschel, Erwin McManus and the like. If I’m not reading doctrinally deficient books, I’m reading doctrinally rich books by such folk as David Cloud, Conrad Mbewe, Alexander Strauch or (in the case of history books) Nick Needham/Nathan Busenitz. I occasionally read books with an autobiographical tone (Tim Tebow and, to a point, Tony Dungy fit the mold here). Skinner’s book might be the first biography I have reviewed (at least lately).
This book only has six chapters. However, the chapters are rather long (22-36 pages, using rather small print). The book’s story does work chronologically. After the book is an author’s foreword. two appendices, 20 pages of notes and an 8-page bibliography. I counted over 98 different general publications, 22 volumes on Australia and New Zealand, 53 newspapers/periodicals and 18 different unpublished materials that were used as sources for this book. That is an incredible amount of resources to use for one’s biography.
I must admit that I should read more biographies of people, for that might make me a better reviewer of these types of books. I don’t recall much about what I read. Thankfully, I still notated some interesting things I found in this book.
The first interesting thing I noticed in this book was the book’s literary qualities. This book has no less than two of them. One of them is alliteration. The second (and definitely the more useful one) is Skinner’s usage of dense words. I found myself going to my dictionary seemingly on every page. Some of the words I had to look up include but are not limited to:
- portmanteau (p. 18)
- chiffonier (p. 33)
- supercilious (p. 49)
- iridescent (p. 52)
- contumely (p. 81)
- balustrade (p. 90)
- bier (p. 101)
- maelstrom (p. 105)
- incredulity (p. 159)
- flue (p. 161)
- colporteur (p. 193)
- apposite (p. 203)
I don’t ever remember having to notate so many definitions of (to me) new words in a book. While I’m not sure how much staying power the definitions of these words will have (creeping decrepitude has crept upon me), I did appreciate having to think a bit more about some of these new words.
While Skinner’s biography had a focus on Tom Spurgeon, that does not mean the book is void of information on Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon appeared to be quite the intellect (p. 45):
Many factors enter into Spurgeon’s greatness. Although a typical nonconformist of the lower middle class in society, C. H. Spurgeon undoubtedly possessed a keen intellect. He supported this by very wide reading, and a mastery of the works of the great Puritan divines. His own personal library totaled 12,000 volumes. He mastered Latin, Greek, and French, and carried off prizes in most subjects while in Maidstone and Newmarket schools. Spurgeon’s extensive literary knowledge is reflected again and again in his sermons, and matched only by his extraordinary illustrative skill. His style reflected an independence of thought, an outspokenness, and a refreshing humor. In an age of flowery pulpit eloquence, when many preachers read dry-as-dust theological essays in the pulpit, Spurgeon dared to speak to the common man in a common tongue. He reached all classes and conditions of men because his approach was concrete, colloquial, and biblically simple. He worked extraordinarily hard, often putting in an eighteen-hour day. Conscious of the rhetorical abstractions so common to Victorian preaching, he openly attacked “tame phrases, hackneyed expressions, and dreary monotones.”
Skinner goes on to state that Spurgeon worked on his vocal projection to the point he could be heard “by many thousands without amplification” (p. 45). Moreover, his Thursday sermons were as memorable and thorough as his Sunday sermons (p. 45). The fact Spurgeon put in 18-hour days gives me a bit of a reasonable goal to shoot for when I am trying to put in work. Clearly, Spurgeon was a smart and hard-working man.
A second thing I observed as it pertained to Charles Spurgeon is a sermon he gave on January 15, 1859 (pp. 84-86). It was a sermon on Romans 9:13. Here is the verse:
13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”Romans 9:13 (NKJV)
Skinner cites the New Park Street Pulpit (1860: 113ff) for this sermon Spurgeon gave. I believe this is the same sermon in which Spurgeon famously states, “I never reconcile two friends, never” as it pertains to how God saves man by grace, “and if men perish they perish justly by their own fault” (p. 86). In this same sermon, Spurgeon has quite an insightful exegesis of the parable of the sheep and the goats (pp. 85-86; Matthew 25:31-46). As it pertains to Romans 9:13, Spurgeon does refer to Romans 9:11 to explain how God’s love for Jacob was unmerited and unearned (p. 84). Here’s an insightful paragraph on why God hates Esau (p. 85):
Now the next question is a different one: Why did God hate Esau? I am not going to mix this question up with the other, they are entirely distinct, and I intend to keep them so, one answer will not do for two questions, they must be taken separately, and then can be answered satisfactorily. Why does God hate any man? I defy anyone to give any answer about this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly — it is the same thing — created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. You are quite right when you say the reason why God loves a man, is because God does do so; there is no reason in the man. But do not give the same answer as to why God hates a man. If God deals with any man severely, it is because that man deserves all he gets. In hell there will not be a solitary soul that will say to God, Lord, thou hast treated me worse than I deserve! But every lost spirit will be made to feel that he has got his deserts, that his destruction lies at his own door and not at the door of God; that God had nothing to do with his condemnation, except as the Judge condemns the criminal, but that he himself brought damnation upon his own head, as the result of his own evil works. Justice is that which damns a man; it is mercy, it is free grace, that saves; sovereignty holds the scale of love; it is justice holds the other scale. Who can put that into the hand of sovereignty? That were to libel God and to dishonour him.
It does not appear (at least from this snippet of the sermon) that Spurgeon was an affirmer of the doctrine known as double predestination. I’m certainly not an affirmer of it. God is most definitely merciful. Consider the fact that by default, we are all born dead in trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-10 explains:
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).
If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9). Revelation 21:1-8 states the following (NASB):
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost. 7 The one who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 But for the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sexually immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
The Bible is clear that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. No adulterer, no murderer, no idolater, no unbeliever (among others) will inherit the kingdom of God (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Sin has a very serious consequence.
Thankfully, Jesus Christ came to solve the sin problem over 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
This book review would absolutely fail if I did not mention anything about Thomas Spurgeon. After all, he is in the title. The book gives good information about his entire life (which concluded at the age of 61, four years more than his dad Charles; p. 215). Tom seemed to be both a poet and a preacher (pp. 69-71). One of Tom’s writings (or sermons) would refute some “All is well” nonsense Joel Osteen (16:20) said about seven years ago. Another writing (or sermon) offered insight on the best chapter in the Bible (p. 70):
I wonder which you think the best chapter in the Bible? My own mind is not made up yet. If I may have a choice it would light on any chapter that tells me about the sufferings of Christ. A joyful sorrow fills our hearts whenever we read the old, old story of Jesus and his love. But putting those chapters aside, and giving them pre-eminence, I think — well, there is the 14th of John, and the 3rd of John, and 23rd Psalm, and the 53rd of Isaiah — but I must not think of any more, yet I cannot forget the 11th of Hebrews, that wondrous record of the deeds of faithful men and women. I like to read that chapter as if I were walking through some grand cathedral with painted windows of the saints on every hand, and with the tattered banners of brave regiments hanging down the nave, while the organ peals out some martial melody as if it told the story of never-to-be forgotten-heroisms. Throughout the chapter we see the portraits of the saints; there hang the flags of faith that braved the battle and the breeze, while the heavenly music proclaims, “these all died in faith.”
American evangelicalism could use some more preaching on the sufferings of Christ. Sadly, it’s filled with much narcissism, irreverence, heresies and cluelessness. I suppose if I had to answer Tom Spurgeon’s question, I (for the sake of adding to the variety Tom had) would choose 2 Timothy 3. We’re certainly living in the days described. While the chapter does not really focus on Christ’s sufferings, it is rather rich in content (like all of Scripture; see also 2 Peter 1:16-21, John 17:17, John 10:35, Psalm 12:6).
Here is 2 Timothy 3:1-17 (NKJV)
3 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
If you don’t believe we’re living in the last days, that is fine. I would ask you consider the hyperlinks in the paragraph preceding the above Bible chapter.
Others might find more out of Skinner’s book than I did. That’s no fault of Skinner’s; I’m simply raw on reading biographies. Skinner’s book is a dense resource that gives good information on both Charles and Thomas Spurgeon. It’s a nice resource for the Christian to have.