In the city of Boston, among the many historical sites and monuments is a marble bust of America’s first President George Washington inside the famous “Old North Church”. This image of our beloved American hero is interesting because it’s likeness is not the same popular image of George Washington printed upon our one-dollar bills. The custodian of the Old North Church of Boston will happily inform you that this bust is the truest likeness in all of America. Is the likeness printed upon our dollar bills, postage stamps, and coinage very different? No, not really. The likeness is what we might call “close enough”, but the bust of the founding father is simply less attractive. This book “The Forgotten Spurgeon” is like that old bust that sits in the Old North Church.
There are many modern images of the Prince of Preachers, C.H. Spurgeon, but Iain H. Murray’s book is written to lead our minds back to the truest image of our beloved British pastor. The image is carved from the three major controversies in which Spurgeon’s ministry was engaged in. Murray guides his reader through the life of Spurgeon not to make him more palatable to modern readers but to try and reveal that old preacher in his original context. The three controversies of Spurgeon’s life used by the author to bring to light the “real” image of Spurgeon are as follows; (1) his Calvinism, (2) his Baptismal Regeneration debate, and (3) his Downgrade Controversy.
We might ask, why is controversy the best way to discover the most realistic image of Spurgeon? The Prince of Preachers was not a man who sought controversy. He was not a man who was marked by a combative spirit but he was a man marked by God’s Spirit. Controversy found Mr. Spurgeon telling the truth and could not silence the man. One passage in the book taken from an article from “the Sword and the Trowel” written by Spurgeon may help to shed light upon his view of controversy better than any other passage.
“Failure at a crucial moment may mar the entire outcome of a life. A man who has enjoyed special light is made bold to follow in the way of the Lord, and is anointed to guide others therein. He rises into a place of live and steam among the godly, and this promotes his advancement among men. What then? The temptation comes to be careful of the position he has gained, and to do nothing to endanger it. The man, so lately a faithful man of God compromises with worldliness, and to quite his own conscience invents a theory by which such compromises are justified and even commended. He recieves the praises of ‘the judicious’; he has, in truth, gone over to the enemy. The whole force of his former life now tells upon the wrong side… To avoid such an end it becomes us ever to stand fast.”
The last chapter of this book titled, “The Aftermath of the Metropolitan Tabernacle” reveals an interesting context and history of Spurgeon’s old church following the Pastor’s death. A small excerpt from one of Spurgeon’s sermons foreshadowed the slow decline of the church. Like a wise prophet, he said; “I sometimes think if I were in heaven I should almost wish to visit my work at the Tabernacle, to see whether it will abide the test of time and prosper when I am gone. Will you keep to the truth? Will you hold to the grand old doctrines of the gospel? Or will this church, like so man others, go astray from the simplicity of its faith, and set up gaudy services and false doctrines? Methinks I should turn over in my grave if such a thing could be. God forbid it!” Thankfully the Tabernacle pulpit is still preaching the gospel to the glory of God from the earliest days of loosing their pastor to today, but never again would the Metropolitan Tabernacle have the same influence as it did when C.H. Spurgeon mounted that pulpit with a small army of praying soldiers for his support.
I highly recommend this book to all who would like to familiarize themselves with Charles Spurgeon and better know the context and content of his ministry. The length of the book is short and the content is engaging. I think you’ll find yourself enjoying this treatment from start to finish and in the end, you’ll be helped by Iain Murray’s portrait of the Prince of Preachers.
Follow this link to purchase this book at Banner of Truth. https://banneroftruth.org/us/store/history-biography/forgotten-spurgeon/