I hope you like stories! Because that's what this week's "thought" is -- the conversion story of Charles H. Spurgeon. As a Spurgeon fan I was familiar with it, but I went online to find it again since I wanted to share it in a class I am presently teaching on Sunday mornings called, "Controversial Topics." Due to Spurgeon's prominence as England’s (some would say the world's) most famous, most gifted, most quoted, and most popular preacher, his life has been the topic of much study. In fact, his conversion story, along with those of St. Augustine and Martin Luther, are said to be the three most famous in all Church history. And since it's been an inspiration to so many, I thought I would share it with you!
Spurgeon's conversion to Christ took place on January 6, 1850, in Colchester, England. He was 15 years old, and for a couple of years leading up to this occasion he had come to be under great conviction for his sin as a result of reading,‘God’s 10 words’(the Ten Commandments). Knowing he was not right with God, and being unable to find any relief for the guilt of his sin, he had become miserable, depressed, and despondent, convinced he would be in hell (and even having dreams about it) if he was unable to find the way of salvation. It is an amazing story. Enjoy.
Look to Jesus
Of the message he heard on that cold January day he writes: “The good news that I was, as a sinner, to look away from myself and to Christ instead... came as fresh to me as any news I had ever heard in my life. Had I never read my Bible? Yes, and I read it earnestly. Had I never been taught by Christian people? Yes, I had, by mother, and father [who was a minister], and others. Had I not heard the gospel? Yes, I think I had. And yet, somehow, it was like a new revelation to me that I was to ''believe and live.'' I confess that I was tutored in piety, put into my cradle by prayerful hands, and lulled to sleep by songs concerning Jesus; having heard the gospel continually, with line upon line and precept upon precept, here much and there much. Yet, when the Word of the Lord came to me with power, it was as new as if I had lived among the unvisited tribes of Central Africa, and had never heard the tidings of the cleansing fountain filed with blood, drawn from the Savior's veins..."
The following is his own personal account of the events of that day:
"I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning while I was going to a certain place of worship. Unable to go any further, I turned down a side street and came to a little Primitive Methodist Church. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved...
The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now it is well that preachers be instructed, but this man was extremely uneducated. He was obliged to stick to his text for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was—"LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL YE ENDS OF THE EARTH" (Isaiah 45:22). He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimmer of hope for me in that text.
The preacher began this way: "This is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it’s just ‘Look.’ A man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But the text says, ‘Look unto ME.’ Ay!" he said in broad Essex, "many of ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some say look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some o’ ye say, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me!’ " Then the good man followed up his text in this way: "Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me, I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!"
When he had managed to spin out about ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his rope. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say that with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, "Young man, you look very miserable." Well, I did, but I was not accustomed to have remarks on my personal appearance made from the pulpit. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, "And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved." Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, "Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!"
I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, "Look!" what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away! There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun... I can testify that the joy of that day was utterly indescribable. I could have leaped. I could have danced! There was no expression, however fanatical, which would have been out of keeping with the joy of that hour. Many days of Christian experience have passed since then, but there has never been one which has had the full exhilaration, or the sparkling delight, which that first day had. I thought I could have sprung from the seat in which I sat, and have called out with the wildest of those Methodist brethren, "I am forgiven! I am forgiven! A monument of grace! A sinner saved by the blood!"
My spirit saw its chains broken to pieces, I felt that I was an emancipated soul, an heir of heaven, a forgiven one, accepted in Jesus Christ, plucked out of the miry clay and out of the horrible pit, with my feet set upon a rock and my future established... Between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back again at home, what a change had taken place in me! Simply by looking to Jesus I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind, it was immediately noticed by my family.
Spurgeon described his walk home from church like this: I was perfectly at rest in Christ, satisfied with him, and my heart was glad… I thought I could dance all the way home. I could understand what John Bunyan meant when he declared he wanted to tell the crows on the ploughed land all about his conversion. He was too full to hold; he felt he must tell somebody.”
Later that day he says: ‘I remember standing before the fire, leaning on the mantelshelf, after I got home, and my mother had spoken to me. I heard her say outside the door, “There is a change come over Charles.” She had not had half-a-dozen words with me; but she saw that I was not what I had been. I had been dull, melancholic, sorrowful, depressed; and when I had looked to Christ, the appearance of my face changed. I had a smile, a cheerful, happy, contented look at once, and she could see it.”
That night Spurgeon waited for the other children to go to bed before he told his father what had happened, and by the middle of February (six weeks later) he was going door to door, once a week, with Gospel tracts to 33 different homes! By 19 years old he was the lead pastor at the New Park Street Church in London, where he was preaching to crowds in the thousands. He ministered to a grand total of 10 million people during his lifetime, and by the end of end of the 19th century, more than 100 million sermons of Spurgeon’s sermons had been sold in 23 languages, an unmatched figure before and since. Today, this number has surpassed 300 million copies. He is history’s most widely read preacher, with over 3,800 messages and about 135 of his books still in print.
In the Service of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff