Selections From Spurgeon’s Autobiography (childhood years)

I’ve been reading from Charles Spurgeon’s autobiography and have recorded some thought provoking, challenging, and amusing quotes from his early years that I wanted to share with you. There are not many in our day who have the depth and insight of Spurgeon. Enjoy!

[on children in church]

Let us get the apples into the bottle while they are little: which, being translated, signifies, let us bring the young ones into the house of God by means of the Sabbath-school, in the hope that, in after days, they will love the place where His honour dwelleth, and there seek and find eternal life. By our making the Sabbath dreary, many young minds may be prejudiced against religion: we would do the reverse. Sermons should not be so long and dull as to weary the young folk, or mischief will come of them, but with interesting preaching to secure attention, and loving teachers to press home the truth upon the youthful heart, we shall not have to complain of the next generation that they have “forgotten their resting-places.”

 [inquiring mind as a child]

When I was a very small boy, I was allowed to read the Scriptures at family prayer. Once upon a time, when reading the passage in Revelation which mentions the bottomless pit, I paused, and said, “Grandpa, what can this mean?” The answer was kind, but unsatisfactory, “Pooh, pooh, child, go on.” The child, however, intended to have an explanation, and therefore selected the same chapter morning after morning, and always halted at the same verse to repeat the enquiry,  hoping that by repetition he would importune the good old gentleman into a reply. The process was successful, for it is by no means the most edifying thing in the world to hear the history of the Mother of Harlots, and the beast with seven heads, every morning in the week, Sunday included, with no sort of alternation either of Psalm or Gospel. . .

 [a story related by his Aunt Ann when Charles was a youth]

One of the members of the church at Stambourne, named Roads, was in the habit of frequenting the public-house to have his “drop of beer”, and smoke his pipe, greatly to the grief of his godly pastor [Charles’s grandfather], who often heaved a sigh at the thought of his unhappy member’s inconsistent conduct. Little Charles had doubtless noticed his grandfather’s grief on this account, and laid it to heart. One day he suddenly exclaimed, in the hearing of the good old gentleman, “I’ll kill old Roads, that I will!” “Hush, hush! my dear,” said the good pastor, “you mustn’t talk so; it’s very wrong, you know, and you’ll get taken up by the police, if you do anything wrong.” “I shall not do anything bad; but I’ll kill him though, that I will.” Well, the good grandfather was puzzled, but yet perfectly sure that the child would not do anything which he knew to be wrong, so he let it pass with some half-mental remark about “that strange child.”

Shortly after, however, the above conversation was brought to his mind by the child coming in and saying, “I’ve killed old Roads; he’ll never grieve my dear grandpa any more.” “My dear child,” said the good man, “what have you done? Where have you been?” “I haven’t been doing any harm, grandpa,” said the child; “I’ve been about the Lord’s work, that’s all.”

Nothing more could be elicited from little Charles, but, before long, the mystery was cleared up. “Old Roads” called to see his pastor, and, with downcast looks and evident sorrow of heart, narrated the story of how he had been killed, somewhat in this fashion: “I’m very sorry indeed, my dear pastor, to have caused you such grief and trouble. It was very wrong, I know; but I always loved you, and wouldn’t have done it if I’d only thought.” Encouraged by the good pastor’s kindly Christian words, he went on with his story. “I was a-sitting in the public just having my pipe and mug of beer, when that child comes in—to think an old man like me should be took to task, and reproved by a bit of a child like that! Well he points at me with his finder, just so, and says, ‘What doest thou here, Elijah? sitting with the ungodly; and you a member of a church, and breaking your pastor’s heart. I’m ashamed of you! I wouldn’t break my pastor’s heart, I’m sure.’ And then he walks away. Well I did feel angry, but I knew it was all true, and I was guilty; so I put down my pipe, and did not touch my beer, but hurried away to a lonely spot, and cast myself down before the Lord, confessing my sin and begging for forgiveness. And I do know and believe the Lord in mercy pardoned me; and now I’ve come to ask you to forgive me, and I’ll never grieve you any more, my dear pastor.” It need not be said that the penitent was freely forgiven, and owned a brother in the Lord, and the Lord was praised for the wonderful way in which it had all come about.

 [on being taught to stand for his beliefs]

The notion had somehow entered my little head that the last line of the hymn must always be repeated [as was the custom in his grandfather’s church], and grandfather had instilled into me as a safe rule that I must never be afraid to do what I believed to be right; so, when I went to the chapel where my parents attended, I repeated the last line whether the congregation did so or not. It required a great deal of punishment to convince me that a little boy must do what his parents think to be right; and though my grandfather made a mistake in that particular instance, I have always been grateful to him for teaching me to act according to my belief whatever the consequences might be.

 [a prophetic word about his future ministry]

The story of Richard Knill’s prophesying that I should preach the gospel in Rowland Hill’s Chapel, and to the largest congregations in the world, has been regarded by many as a legend, but it was strictly true. . . he prayed that I might know the Lord and serve Him. . . Then, in the presence of them all, Mr. Knill took me on his knee, and said, “This child will one day preach the gospel, and he will preach it to great multitudes. I am persuaded that he will preach in the chapel of Rowland Hill, where (I think he said) I am now the minister.” He spoke to us very solemnly, and called upon all present to witness what he said.

 [on his godly heritage]

Fathers and mothers are the most natural agents for God to use in the salvation of their children. I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother; neither can I conceive that, to any child, there can be one who will have such influence over the young heart as the mother who has so tenderly cared for her offspring. A man with a soul so dead as not to be moved by the sacred name of “mother” is creation’s blot. Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother.

  [On becoming a Baptist, his mother’s feelings]

My mother said to me, one day, “Ah, Charles! I often prayed the Lord to make you a Christian, but I never asked that you might become a Baptist.” I could not resist the temptation to reply, “Ah, mother! The Lord has answered your prayer with His usual bounty, and given you exceeding abundantly above what you asked or thought.”

 [on teaching children]

It is said by some that children cannot understand the great mysteries of religion. We even know some Sunday-school teachers who cautiously avoid mentioning the great doctrines of the gospel because they think the children are not prepared to receive them. Alas! The same mistake has crept into the pulpit; for it is currently believed, among a certain class of preachers, that many of the doctrines of the Word of God, although true, are not fit to be taught to the people, since they would pervert them to their own destruction. Away with such priestcraft! Whatever God has revealed ought to be preached. Whatever HE has revealed, if I am not capable of understanding it, I will still believe and preach it. I do hold that there is no doctrine of the Word of God which a child, if he be capable of salvation, is not capable of receiving. I would have children taught all the great doctrines of truth without a solitary exception, that they may in their after days hold fast by them.

 [on poor preaching]

What a pity that a man who from his heart delivered doctrines of undoubted value, in language the most appropriate, should commit ministerial suicide by harping on one string, when the Lord had given him an instrument of many strings to play upon!  Alas! alas! for that dreary voice, it hummed and hummed, like a mill-wheel, to the same unmusical tune, whether its owner spake of Heaven or hell, eternal life or everlasting wrath. It might be, by accident, a little louder or softer, according to the length of the sentence ; but its tone was still the same, a dreary waste of sound, a howling wilderness of speech in which there was no possible relief, no variety, no music, nothing but horrible sameness. When the wind blows through the Aeolian harp, it swells through all the chords ; but the Heavenly wind, passing through some men, spends itself upon one string, and that, for the most part, the most out of tune of the whole. Grace alone could enable hearers to edify under the drum—drum—drum   of some divines. I think an impartial jury would bring in a verdict of justifiable slumbering in many cases where the sound emanating from the preacher lulls to sleep by its reiterated note.


About Neil Burleson

I serve as a missionary in the country of Papua New Guinea.
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One Response to Selections From Spurgeon’s Autobiography (childhood years)

  1. Kurtis says:

    Wow! Thanks for posting this. It is an amazing challenge to see the boldness and confidence of a boy standing on what he knows to be the truth. I also really like the way it is written. Each sentence says precisely what it is intended to say in the perfect manner. We have lost something along the way.

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