Charles Haddon Spurgeon The Star Preacher

This is the day that Charles Haddon Spurgeon resigned from the Baptist Union of Great Britain!! It was 1887.

History refers to it as the ‘Downgrade Controversy’, a sorry spectacle of modern theology creeping into the denomination he loved.

He wrote in The Sword and the Trowel his reason for his withdrawal:
“Believers in Christ’s atonement are now in declared union with those who make light of it; believers in Holy Scripture are in confederacy with those who deny plenary inspiration; those who hold evangelical doctrine are in open alliance with those who call the fall (of Adam) a fable, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, who call justification by faith immoral, and hold that there is another probation after death … yes, we have before us the wretched spectacle of professedly orthodox Christians publicly avowing their union with those who deny the faith…”

Spurgeon came from a lineage of independent ministers (his father and grandfather) and was converted in a primitive Methodist chapel. In 1850 he was baptised as a Baptist, due to the influence of his employer, and formerly joined a Baptist congregation.

That same year he gained a place at Cambridge, joined a Baptist congregation there and preached his first sermon at age 16. His gift for oratory was immediately recognised, and by 1852 he was a Baptist pastor.

In April 1854 he was ‘called’ to the pulpit of the Baptist congregation at New Park Street, Southwark. Within a few months of his call his powers as a preacher made him famous. The chapel had been empty yet within a year the crowds that gathered to hear this country lad of twenty forced the enlargement of the building. At twenty-two Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of the day.

The Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington Causeway was opened for service in 1861, accommodating six thousand people. There Spurgeon ministered until his death, and, fully maintained his popularity and power as a preacher until illness disabled him.

Spurgeon found increasing distance with fellow Baptists, due to his strenuous and unbending faith in Calvinism. He saw their indifference to orthodoxy. He thought they laid too little stress on Christ’s divine nature, and that the Arminian views which were spreading among them tended to Arianism. He keenly resented the ‘down grade’ of modern biblical criticism. Conviction grew in him that faith was decaying in all Christian churches. Consequently he announced his withdrawal from the Baptist Union, which declined to adopt his serious view of the situation.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

A.T. Pierson, Spurgeon’s Choice

This is the day that … Dr A.T. Pierson was almost drowned. It was on Vineyard Lake, 1877.

Arthur Tappan Pierson was born on 6 March, 1837, reared in a godly home, and converted during “special revival meetings in the Methodist church”.

At the age of 23 he was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry, and married Sarah Benedict the same year.

It was during his second pastorate that the boating accident occurred. As the boat in which they’d been fishing sank, Pierson and his three small children found themselves in a desperate situation. He could swim … the children could not, at least, not the distance to the shore. For half an hour they clung to the upturned boat, crying to any who might hear them – and committing themselves to God’s keeping. “Finally a woman heard their calls for help and came to the rescue. She had never handled oars and Mr Pierson, with his head just above water, had to direct her how to use them” (Speakers’Bible, “Judges”, page 392).

Safe home Dr Pierson wrote a “Promise to God”, thanking Him for the deliverance and promising to serve Him henceforth. The three children signed it.

In the years that followed Dr A.T. Pierson became a well-known Bible teacher on both sides of the Atlantic.

When Spurgeon took ill in 1891, it was Dr Pierson he requested to fill the Metropolitan Tabernacle pulpit. This he did … and continued to do so for a time after Spurgeon’s death.

This ministry came to a rather bitter conclusion as the congregation was divided as to whether Pierson should continue as pastor (he had submitted to believer’s baptism in the meantime), or whether Spurgeon’s son, Thomas, should come and minister. “The rift in the ranks of the membership went deep,” writes W.Y. Fullerton, “even to the severing of family relationships and sundering lifelong ties” (Thomas Spurgeon, page 155). Dr Pierson was outvoted, three to one.

Back in USA, Dr Pierson lectured at Moody Bible Institute, was a contributor to the notes in the Scofield Reference Bible, editor of the Missionary Review, author of numerous books (including the famous biography of George Mueller), and in demand as a convention speaker.

He was one of the few Americans invited to speak at the Keswick Convention in England.

The story is told of Dr Pierson collecting funds for a special object … and a wealthy man said to him, “If I had to preach your funeral sermon I would take as my text: “And the beggar died,” to which Dr Pierson replied, “I would not object to that … as long as you finish the verse, ‘And he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom’” (Luke 16:22).

On 3 June, 1911, the angels did just that!

For more detailed information about Dr Pierson go to: http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/pierson/mrphiladelphia.htm

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Samuel Crowther as God’s Slave

This is the day that … Samuel Crowther was consecrated as a bishop, in 1864.

Adijah was 13 years of age, a black boy living inland near the west coast of Africa, when the slave traders attacked. He never saw his father again, and it would be 25 years before he was to again meet his mother … and lead her to Christ. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

At the age of 14 he was crammed into a Portuguese slave ship, chains around his neck, with 186 others, bound for South America.

But 14 years previously, in 1807, Britain had abolished the slave trade and the British Navy was out to enforce the law. The Portuguese trading vessel was captured by a British man-of-war – and young Adijah was free again. In Liberia he was cared for in a Church Missionary Society home, and was truly converted. At his baptism he was given a new name – Samuel Crowther, the name of a C.M.S. pioneer. And it was here he met Asano, also a freed slave, whose name was changed to Susanna, who later became his wife.

Eventually Samuel Crowther was ordained in the Church of England (1843), and on this day, in 1864, he was consecrated as bishop of the new African diocese. This red-letter day took place in Canterbury Cathedral, and among those present was Admiral Leeke of the British Navy, who had rescued him from the Portuguese slave ship 42 years previously.

Back in Africa Bishop Crowther reached many inland tribes with the gospel, and there he found his mother. “Crowther’s mother was one of the first people in Abeokuta to be baptised a follower of Jesus Christ. The new name chosen for her by her son Samuel was Hannah …” (Saints Without Haloes, by L. Dox, page 95).

This “African St Paul”, as some have called him, evangelised and translated the Scriptures. His son, Dandeson Crowther, shared in the ministry. Dr A.T. Pierson, Spurgeon’s successor at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, wrote: “Wherever he went he brought and left a blessing, and no man perhaps did more than he for the elevation and salvation of his fellow countrymen” (Great Missionaries, by C. Creegan, page 140).

In his final years racism reared its ugly head among the C.M.S. leaders in England. They insisted that the Niger Mission was to be under “white supervision”. The pressure upon Crowther led to a “stroke and made him into a sick man”. He was in the midst of the conflict with the C.M.S. committee when he died on 31 December, 1891.

Of the half-a-dozen books dealing with Samuel Crowther scattered around me, only one mentions the sadness of his final years, The Missionaries, by G. Moorhouse, pages 284-286. Even Jesse Page in his 190-page biography of Samuel Crowther does not mention it.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.