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The Christ-Centeredness of C. H. Spurgeon

One of my heroes is Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous Baptist pastor of nineteenth century London. In reading Spurgeon, I am convinced that one of the secrets behind the extraordinary fruitfulness of his ministry and the enduring legacy of his sermons was his relentless focus on the person and work of Christ.


Spurgeon’s Christ-centered focus is evident in the first words he spoke in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which was built to accommodate the multitudes of people who came to hear him preach. Setting the tone of the thirty years of ministry which would follow, he said:


“I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, shall be the Person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. But if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”[1]


Christ-Centered Preaching and Teaching

Spurgeon was Christ-centered in his preaching and taught his students to be the same.


“From every town, village, and little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London… and so from every text in Scripture there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. Your business is, when you get to a text, to say, ‘Now, what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ.”[2]


Spurgeon did occasionally err in his exegesis, seeing allegories to Christ where better hermeneutics would take the reader to Jesus by a different (and perhaps more lengthy) route. But the aim of his counsel is certainly correct. He certainly felt that his preaching was in sync with the words of the Apostle Paul who determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2) and boasted in nothing except the cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14). As Spurgeon said of Paul,

“Paul’s harp had only one string, but he brought such music out of it as never came from any other. He found such infinite variety in Christ that he never exhausted his theme; with him, it was Christ first, Christ last, Christ midst, Christ everywhere; so he could never have his pen in his hand without writing something in praise of his glorious Lord and Savior.”[3]

Christ-Centered and Spirit-Blessed

Furthermore, Spurgeon felt that his emphasis on Christ would be blessed by the Holy Spirit who is given to the church to glorify Christ (John 16:14). In fact, he believed the lack of anointing in preaching was due to a lack of Christ-centeredness. He once said,


“Where there is nothing of Christ, brethren, there is nothing of unction, nothing of savour. . . . Leave Christ out of your preaching, and you have taken milk from the children, you have taken the strong meat from the men. But if your object as a teacher or preacher is to glorify Christ and to lead men to love him and trust him, that is the very work on which the heart of God himself is set. The Lord and you are pulling together, and God the Holy Ghost can set his seal to a work like that.”[4]


Christ-Centered Theology 

It is a well-known and indisputable fact that Spurgeon was Calvinistic in his theology. But this never lessened his passion for Christ and never produced indolence in evangelism. He rather saw the doctrines of grace as important only in their relation to Christ. He said:


“What is doctrine after all but the throne whereon Christ sitteth, and when the throne is vacant what is the throne to us? Doctrines are the shovel and tongs of the altar, while Christ is the sacrifice smoking thereon. Doctrines are Christ’s garments; verily they smell of myrrh, and cassia, and aloes out of the ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad, but it is not the garments we care for as much as the person, the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[5]


This emphasis, however, did not lead Spurgeon away from doctrinal teaching. It simply kept doctrine subservient to Christ, as the following passage reveals:

“If I preach Christ I must preach him as the covenant head of his people, and how far am I then from the doctrine of election? If I preach Christ I must preach the efficacy of his blood, and how far am I removed then from the great doctrine of an effectual atonement? If I preach Christ I must preach the love of his heart, and how can I deny the final perseverance of the saints? If I preach the Lord Jesus as the great Head and King, how far am I removed from divine Sovereignty? Must I not, if I preach Christ personally, preach his doctrines? I believe they are nothing but the natural outgrowth of that great root thought, or root substance rather, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who will preach Christ fully will never lax in doctrine.”[6]


Christ-Centered Evangelism

Spurgeon’s Christ-centeredness also impacted the way he evangelized and taught people to seek salvation.


“Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument – it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down . . . . Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect deliverance from self, from ministers, or from any means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His agonies, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look for Him; when thou liest down at night look for Him.”[7]



The Roots of Christ-Centeredness: Love for Christ Himself

Spurgeon’s Christ-centeredness sprung from a deep and personal relationship with the Lord. He loved Christ deeply and passionately and his sermons are filled with rapturous exaltation of Christ. He eloquently said,


“If you leave out Christ, you have left the sun out of the day, and the moon out of the night, you have left the waters out of the sea, and the floods out of the river, you have left the harvest out of the year, the soul out of the body, you have left joy out of heaven, you robbed all of it's all. There is no gospel worth thinking of, much less worth proclaiming, if Jesus be forgotten. We must have Jesus as Alpha and Omega in all our ministries.”[8]


Perhaps Spurgeon never put it more succinctly than when he said, “If you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead.”[9]


Christ-Centered to the End

Near the end of his ministry, Spurgeon said,


“If I had only one more sermon to preach before I died, it would be about my Lord Jesus Christ. And I think that when we get to the end of our ministry, one of our regrets will be that we did not preach more of him. I am sure no minister will ever repent of having preached him too much.”[10]


Notes

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “The First Sermon in the Tabernacle” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 7 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint) p. 169.

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “Christ Precious to Believers” in The New Park Street Pulpit, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994 reprint).

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “Great Forgiveness for Great Sin” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 49 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint), p. 613. I’m grateful to have discovered several of these quotations in an article by Mark Minnick entitled “First Partaker” available online at: http://www.f-b-f.org/WebMan/Article.asp?ID=4079&Count=true.

[4] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “A Great Sermon by the Greatest Preacher” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 41 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint) p. 187.

[5] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “The Love of Jesus, What It Is None but His Loved Ones Know” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 8 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint) p. 339. Quoted in Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1995), p. 122.

[6]C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “The First Sermon in the Tabernacle” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 7 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint) p. 169. Quoted in Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1992) p. 291.

[7] C. H. Spurgeon in a sermon entitled “The Comer’s Conflict with Satan” in The New Park Street Pulpit, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994 reprint).

[8] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “Alpha and Omega” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 9 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint) p. 720.

[9] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “Our Manifesto,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 37 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint).

[10] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled “An Exciting Inquiry” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 54 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint) p. 149.

3 comments:

以諾的家 said...

May I translate this article into Chinese and print it on our newsletter?

Enoch Pan
akowcm@gmail.com
A Kernel of Wheat Christian Ministries
www.akow.org

Brian G. Hedges said...

Hi Enoch, Of course you may translate into Chinese! Thanks for asking. Grace and peace, Brian

J Roe said...

Awsome Brian, thank you for the post.Love you my Pastor.
Sincerely Jonathan Roe.

PS Looking forward very much getting to know you, & your church family on this journey we call life. Looking forward to being a part of your Church family at Fulkerson.