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.

Catherine Booth one of the Army’s Best Men!

This is the day that … Catherine Booth died, in 1890.

Catherine Booth (nee Mumford), was born to a coachbuilder in Derbyshire, in 1829. She read the Bible eight times by the age of twelve, but was converted at the age of 15, when the words of a hymn led her to assurance of salvation.

At fourteen she developed spinal curvature and four years later, incipient tuberculosis. While ill in bed she began writing magazine articles against alcohol.

Catherine met William Booth, a Methodist minister in 1852. Catherine was impressed with both the sermon and the young preacher.

William believed ministers should be “loosing the chains of injustice, freeing the captive and oppressed, sharing food and home, clothing the naked, and carrying out family responsibilities.” While keen on social reform, Catherine, an avowed feminist, disagreed with William’s views on women. She objected to William describing women as the “weaker sex” and she argued that women should preach, while William opposed the idea. Despite their disagreements about the role of women in the church, the couple married on 16th June 1855.

Catherine first preached in1860 when a strange compulsion seized her and she felt she must rise and speak. The sermon so impressed William that he changed his mind about women preachers. Catherine Booth soon developed a reputation as an outstanding speaker but many Christians were outraged by the idea. Lord Shaftesbury regarded William as the antichrist for his promotion of women preachers. Booth later wrote, “some of the best men in my Army are women”!

When William created the Salvation Army she took her place as the beloved mother of the movement. She particularly inspired young ladies to preach and evangelise, including her own daughters. She journeyed to Paris to help her daughter Catherine and a handful of other young ladies set up the Salvation Army there.

Some said that Catherine’s sermons were as good as her husband’s. Certainly many were converted under her ministry.

For 30 years she and her husband waged war on sin and reached out a loving hand to England’s poor and needy.

She also took social action including the Food For A Million Shops, where poor could buy an inexpensive three-course meal. She was angered by the sweated labour that many women were subjected to, working 14 hours a day for a pittance. Bryant and May matches also used yellow phosphorous that poisoned the women working with it. She began a campaign that her husband completed after her death, to end the use of yellow phosphorous.

Eventually she found herself on the banks of ‘chilly Jordan’. She writes from her deathbed – to the 20,000 gathered in the Crystal Palace:

“My dear Children and Friends, My place is empty but my heart is with you. You are my joy and my crown. Your battles, sufferings and victories have been the chief interest of my life these 25 years. They are still. Go forward … live holy lives … love and seek the lost; bring them to the blood … I am dying under the Army flag; it is yours to live and fight under. God is my salvation and refuge in the storm. I send you my love and blessing. Catherine Booth.”

On Saturday, 4 October, 1890, the old General and his family gathered around Catherine’s bed. They prayed. They sang. Such grand old hymns as:
Calvary’s stream is flowing so free,
Flowing for you and for me.

“Go on,” Catherine said … and they sang some more –
Jesus, my Saviour, has died on the tree,
Died on the tree for me! Hallelujah!

Eventually, unable to speak, Catherine Booth pointed to the text hanging upon the wall, which read, “My Grace is sufficient for thee”. “That”, writes her biographer, “was her last testimony to God’s faithfulness.”

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.

Torial Joss Whitfield’s Associate Preacher

This is the day that … Torial Joss was born in Scotland, in 1731.

After his father’s death, young Joss ran away to sea and was captured, and imprisoned, by the French.

Back in Scotland – aged 15! – he was press-ganged on to a man-of-war – escaped, and at a place called “Robin Hood’s Bay” (on the north-east coast of England) he read Bunyan – and was converted.

John Wesley met and encouraged him in his preaching.

Again he went to sea and rose to the position of Captain of the “Hartley Trader”. Whitefield contacted him on his arrival in London and Joss was told that he would be preaching at (Whitefield’s) Tabernacle. He was then 34 years of age.

So impressed is the great revivalist that he made Joss one of his assistants “and great crowds waited upon his ministry full of converting power and ripe with chequered and tragic experience” (Whitefield – the Awakener, by Rev. A. Belden, page 195).

The records of the Tabernacle include: One of the several people who ministered to the Church was an evangelical sea-captain named Torial Joss. Captain Joss was not ordained but he administered Communion. The Methodist Synod of 1790 objected to this. However, the Church refused to dismiss Joss. One of its members bought up the mortgage and locked the doors of the building. It was then re-opened as a Congregational Church.

His itinerate ministry saw multitudes converted. He usually spent four or five months of each year itinerating in England and Wales. The Welsh delighted in his simple eloquence. Many came twenty miles on foot to hear him.

And because of his pulpit ministry at Tottenham Chapel he was dubbed “Whitfield’s Archdeacon of Tottenham”. And there he was buried, in 1797.

After preaching the Gospel more than thirty years he was smitten down by sudden disease. “Oh the preciousness of faith!” he exclaimed to the groups around his deathbed. “I have finished my course. My pilgrimage is ended. Oh, thou Friend of sinners take thy poor old friend home.”

As if rapt in visions of the celestial world he at last uttered the word, “Archangels!” and expired.

His biographer describes him as a good man, mighty in the Scriptures and faithful to the end.

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.

Henry Moorhouse Teaches Moody How to Preach

This is the day that … Henry Moorhouse was born in 1840, in Manchester, England.

For the first 20 years of his life he was constantly in trouble and in prison more than once. But at the age of 21 “in the engine room of a warehouse,” a young Christian pointed him to Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

The biographer tells of the outcome. Henry Moorhouse “saw, he believed, he rejoiced, he confessed, and he was ready from that hour to bear witness for Christ…” Before long he was preaching the gospel, on street corners and in packed halls.

And he is best remembered as the “man who moved the man who moved millions.” In ‘Life of D.L. Moody’ by his son, a whole chapter is devoted to the influence of Henry Moorhouse: “Moorhouse taught Moody to draw his sword (of the Spirit) full length, to fling the scabbard away and enter the battle with a naked blade” (page 140).

Henry had become a preacher with the Plymouth Brethren and had learned the importance of expository preaching. When Moody visited Dublin in 1867, he was told of the preaching of a zealous young Brethren evangelist named Harry Moorhouse. By this time, Moorhouse had established the reputation of being one of the leading evangelists in England. Initially, Moody was not very impressed with young Moorhouse. To Moody, Moorhouse appeared to be so young and frail. Moody, however, did invite Moorhouse to visit him in Chicago, not expecting him to come.

Moody’s wife, Emma, upon hearing Moorhouse, told her husband, “I like Moorhouse’s preaching very, very much. He is very different from you. He backs up everything he says by the Bible.”

On one occasion, young Moorhouse challenged Moody, “You are sailing on the wrong tack. If you will change your course, and learn to preach God’s words instead of your own, He will make you a great power.”

When Moorhouse first arrived in Chicago, Moody was unexpectedly called out of town and asked Moorhouse to preach for him at Farwell Hall. Moorhouse preached nightly for one solid week on the love of God using the text of John 3:16. When Moody returned, he was greatly surprised to find Moorhouse still preaching. As he listened he discovered Moorhouse was still on the same text, and that souls were being wonderfully saved. Moody confided to a friend, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out; I could not keep back the tears. I just drank it in. So did the crowded congregation. I tell you there is one thing that draws above everything else in the world and that is love.”

Not only was there an emphasis on more use of Scripture in Moody’s sermons (“Stop preaching your own words and preach God’s Word,” Moorhouse had said to him), there was also a new emphasis on God’s love for the sinner. “Moody’s evangelistic preaching was to take on a different tenor than that of so much previous revivalistic preaching in the American tradition.”

Henry Moorhouse died on 28 December, 1880, at the age of 40. Among his dying words were these: “If it were the Lord’s will to raise me up again, I should like to preach more on the text, ‘God so loved the world’.”

He seemed to pass away, but means employed by the attending physician revived him.

“Why have you brought me back to such dreadful suffering?” he asked of those at his bedside, “I was in heaven …”

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.

William Holmes McGuffey Teaches Morals to a Nation

This is the day that …William Holmes McGuffey was born in Pennsylvania, USA, in 1800.

Much of his early schooling came from his mother – he “irregularly attended rural schools” – but eventually he was to become president of Ohio University (1839-1843). His mother prayed that he would become a preacher, which he most certainly did, although the fact pales against his greater claim to fame.

An intelligent lad, keen to be well educated, he was taught Latin by a minister and entered a life of academics. Professors were expected to preach and McGuffey prided himself in not needing notes to achieve that end. He had actually been licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church (1829), but never accepted a pastorate.

“He took pride in the fact that he spoke extemporaneously, later declaring he had preached more than 3000 sermons without a single note…” (Dictionary of Christianity in America, page 688).

McGuffey always told his students that country preaching was the best of training. It was in the country churches that he improved extemporaneous speaking and learned to put his ideas into simple words that even the illiterate could understand.

On one occasion a committee told him they liked his preaching but they thought he was too stylish. He drove a horse and carriage, they said, and wore a silk coat. The suave professor showed them that his “silk coat” was made of cheap shiny bombazine. He further explained that he needed his horse and carriage so his wife could attend church with him. The committee retired ashamed.

At Oxford he met and married the beautiful Harriet Spining (April 3, 1827). She gave birth to two sons and two daughters, but both sons died early. When she died in 1850, McGuffy married again, to Laura Howard, who bore him one son who died at the age of four.

His fame lies in the famous “Readers” he published (from 1836-1857) “which sold an astronomical 122 million copies (!!), and helped shape the 19th century American Mind.”

These “Readers” were used in public schools and majored on “industry, honesty and loyalty; as well as warning against strong drink.” This extemporaneous preacher taught Christian morals to a whole nation through his written works.

McGuffey died at Charlottesville, May 4, 1873, and is buried there.

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.