Fierce loves fixed on unworthy objects mold Christians into cowards. If we have begun to love the music of our own name, manage our brand, or consider our popularity as necessary to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, we have begun building our own kingdoms. May we say with Spurgeon, “I count my own character, popularity, and usefulness to be as the small dust of the balance compared with fidelity to the Lord Jesus” (219). It is Christ we proclaim, not ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:5).
It may appear, at first glance, to be an odd text to hang in your bedroom:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12 KJV)
Whereas others might draw from a thousand wells before this one, Susannah Spurgeon framed Jesus’s words to remind her husband, Charles, of Jesus’s upside-down perspective. When his disciples face bitter opposition for his name’s sake, the proper response should be joy.
When we consider this Baptist giant, when we read his stirring sermons, when we remember that his life’s work rivaled that of one hundred men, when we read of the revival and the winning of countless souls to Christ, we can imagine the Prince of Preachers encountering little but unbroken success. Compared with so many of our ministries, his seemed to soar high in the clouds. We rarely consider, as Iain Murray contends, The Forgotten Spurgeon — the Spurgeon who needed Matthew 5:11–12 hanging on his wall.
The forgotten Spurgeon stood among the tornadoes of several great controversies in his day. His protestation against Arminianism, his disgust at baptismal regeneration, and his resistance to an evangelical unity founded upon fragments of Christian doctrine (known as the Downgrade Controversy) made him the target for many arrows.
This Spurgeon, especially at the beginning and end of his ministry, had reason to reckon himself as “the scum of the earth” (24–25). The name Spurgeon, which we regard fondly, was, by estimation of its owner, “kicked about the street like a football” (28). He had occasion to remark in a sermon, “Scarce a day rolls over my head in which the most villainous abuse, the most fearful slander is not uttered against me both privately and by the public press; every engine is employed to put down God’s minister — every lie that man can invent is hurled at me” (63).
This Spurgeon was slandered in the newspapers, ridiculed by his opponents, and censured by many evangelical ministers who he anticipated would be his allies. This Spurgeon was a living example of the happy — but often hated — man of God to whom Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount.
What can we learn from this forgotten Spurgeon?
This Spurgeon can teach us to handle controversy manfully and without compromising.