For anyone who has visited this website for even a short period of time will recognize that we have a tremendous love and respect for a great 19th century Baptist Leader by the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Known as the Prince of Preachers, Spurgeon left us with a treasure of writings from sermons to commentaries. While he was well known for his ability to preach and expound the beauty of the word of God, Spurgeon was also recognizable for his works of benevolence, his life as a pastor and a man who stood for the truths that are found in scripture.
I have had the pleasure of reading many biographies on great Christian brethren from the past and I surely benefit from them as these men influence my understanding on how to live out the faith that was left for us in scripture. Thomas Nettles, who is a professor of historical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville KY, has given us a goldmine in a new biography on the life of Spurgeon. The book is titled “Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon”. The book was published by Christian Focus Publications in 2013 and is approximately 680 pages in length.
The book stands out as a standard on the life of the great Baptist preacher. Nettles takes us through some details of Spurgeon’s early life in the first two chapters focusing on his upbringing, his conversion to Christ and several life events that led him to becoming one of the greatest preachers in Britain. Nettles spends some time delving into his first pastorate at Waterbeach which eventually led Spurgeon to the New Park Street Chapel and then to the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
Nettles gave us some extensive details of the church life that existed at the tabernacle. I felt that Nettles was able to really capture the true essence of what made it so grand. His focus was not only on Spurgeon but all those who were instrumental at making the church work. This included everyone from the elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, evangelists and those who supported the work. Nettles also gave us a true picture of what worship was like at the tabernacle under the care of Mr. Spurgeon. I could almost see myself sitting there while hymns were sung and Spurgeon would make his way to the pulpit to preach from the word of God. The book truly goes into some detail about what Spurgeon true love was mainly to see lost sinners come to Christ in repentance and faith. Nettles demonstrated that Spurgeon’s entire theology was focused upon the cross of His Saviour. He truly loved telling others about his Saviour and spared no opportunity on the pulpit and off telling others about Christ.
There are two entire chapters devoted to the importance of Godly literature and to warn about literature that would be harmful to his readers. Spurgeon constantly reviewed books, tracts and articles to make sure people were reading materials that were beneficial for the soul. Spurgeon was involved in producing literature on a regular basis through the printing of his sermons and his magazine the Sword and the Trowel.
Nettles devoted three chapters to various controversies that were preeminent in Spurgeon’s lifetime. He goes to great lengths to show that Spurgeon was not a man who enjoyed controversy and refused to involve himself in it unless there were no other options. While Spurgeon never once acknowledged any repute towards Arminianism or even hyper-Calvinism, he disagreed with their conclusions forcefully however he made certain that no controversy should arise since he saw many things from these camps as profitable. Nettles spent an entire chapter working through Spurgeon’s view of Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism to which he held no sympathies. Finally, the infamous downgrade controversy is addressed with many details and in an almost chronological format. I appreciated how Nettles demonstrated the toll that this controversy took on Spurgeon’s life and health.
Finally, Nettles addresses the life of sickness, suffering and depression that left Spurgeon oftentimes laid up. This chapter alone is worth the book since I’m sure many Christians today would see benefit in reading on how his faith kept him going even through terrible sickness both physically, mentally and spiritually. Nettles ended the book with events leading to Spurgeon’s untimely death and his funeral.
I feel that Nettles has written one of the best biographies on the life of Mr. Spurgeon if not one of the better biographies that I’ve read period. I appreciated the extensive quotations from the Sword and the Trowel as well as quotations from Spurgeon’s sermons and other biographies on the late preacher. Nettles attention to detail and explanation of events is what brought me to appreciate the life of Spurgeon even more.
The only critique that I could give the book has really nothing to do with the content. I felt that the fonts were a little small to read and the book was written in a double column format which I’m not a fan of. I can honestly say that this should not divert anyone from reading this book.
Living By Revealed Truth is a book that Christians need to read and appreciate. We live in a time when the churches have become apathetic and have very little effect on their communities. This book demonstrates that God can take one man and change an entire city through the preaching of the gospel, sound theology, works of benevolence and a care for glory of God that is missing in our day.