The Dancing Puritan

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Honoring Your Spouse: The Example of Susannah Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon's library at his last home

Do you want the best for your spouse?  Love means that you are willing to joyfully sacrifice your own self-interests for the well being of your spouse. There is no other person that is to be as dear to your heart, as the person that you are bound to in covenant love.

Working for the best of your spouse is evident in small and large things. Susannah Spurgeon is a great example for us as we consider what this looks like. Following her honeymoon with Charles they moved into their first home together. As she thought of how to arrange the house, Charles was first on her mind. She believed that “the best room was always felt to belong by right to the one who labored much in the Lord. Never have I regretted this early decision; it is a wise arrangement for a minister’s house, if not for any other.”

Early in their marriage, after moving to their second home, and after the birth of their twins, Susannah writes:
Our children grew apace in the sweet country air, and my whole time and strength was given to advance my dear husband’s welfare and happiness. I deemed it my joy and privilege to be ever at his side, accompanying him on many of his preaching journeys, nursing him in his occasional illnesses, his delighted companion during his holiday trips, always watching over and tending him with the enthusiasm and sympathy which my great love for him inspired. I mention this not to suggest any sort of merit on my part, but simply that I may here record by heartfelt gratitude to God that, for a period of ten blessed years, I was permitted to encircle him with all the comforting care and tender affection which it was in a wife’s power to bestow. Afterwards God ordered it otherwise. He saw fit to reverse our position to each other; and for a long season, suffering instead of service became my daily portion, and the care of comforting a sick wife fell upon my beloved.
Charles Spurgeon also increasingly suffered affliction. He was often away from his wife, to seek healing for his own ailments. She was willing, though it was painful, to give her husband up for his preaching responsibilities or for extended times of separation due to his health issues. She wrote late in life:
 I thank God, that he enabled me to carry out this determination and rejoice that I have no cause to reproach myself with being a drag on the swift wheels of his consecrated life. I do not take any credit to myself for this; it was the Lord’s will concerning me, and he saw to it that I received the necessary training whereby in after years I could cheerfully surrender his chosen servant to the incessant demands of his ministry, his literary work, and the multiplied labors of his exceptionally busy life.
Charles Spurgeon was grateful to God for providing him such a wonderful wife. He wrote a letter of appreciation to Susannah in 1871:
None know how grateful I am to God for you, In all I have ever done for him you have a large share, for in making me so happy you have fitted me for service. Not an ounce of power has ever been lost to the good cause through you. I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship.
Quotes above are from The Life of Susannah Spurgeon by Charles Ray

Saturday, September 6, 2014

People, Places, and Beauty: Thoughts on Friendship

I admit it; I am a bit enamored with tables, sofas, coffee, conversation, and beauty, especially when they are all connected. 

I am writing from the Legacy Hotel and Conference Center, located on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Like many hotel lobbies, there are multiple sitting areas—tables, sofas, and chairs. Most of them are arranged in such a way as to invite community. I am sitting on a small sofa, a round table is in front of me, and there are two other sofas facing the table and in close proximity. They are empty. It is as if they are waiting patiently for several people to ease over and start a conversation. Most people are checking out of the hotel this morning. No one seems to be hearing the call to “come and sit for a while.” And I am feeling the pressure to pack my goods, load my car, and head down the highway. Community awaits me, seven hours away.

Yes, I am drinking a cup of coffee; in fact it is my third or fourth cup. I have spent a couple of hours now reading the Bible, working on tomorrow’s sermon, and writing a book review. Soon I must leave. My week has been a mix of isolation and community. I have always thought myself to be a loner. However, occasionally there is a connection made that stirs up within me a longing for more—more conversation, more interaction, more community.

Last evening a friend and I walked together to the home of mutual friends. I enjoyed the conversation that flowed from our ten-minute walk together. It was good. We are united in various ways but there is one major common denominator—our friends. We walked to their home, together. 

Arriving at their home, we were greeted, as always, with a warm welcome, hugs, and food. The conversation was lively, the laughter robust, the joy obvious, and the experience— savory.

I am not sure exactly what connects the wires in a friendship. But when they do, it is natural—never forced. My friends here are from a different culture—from a world that I am unfamiliar with. How did we become friends? I simply needed to print a paper for my class. A fellow classmate said, “Come over to our house and print the paper.” I was relieved. I needed help that day. I could tell by the warmness of the invitation that the offer of help was sincere. I drove to his home. His wife had coffee and cookies waiting. Soon we were talking, laughing, and enjoying one-another’s-company. It was as if one moment we were just acquaintances and the next we were friends. I can't explain it except to point to the providence of God and the kindness of his people. That was nine months ago. Now, it seems that we have known one another for a lifetime. And with their friendship came another—the gentleman that I walked with last evening.

Am I really a loner? I am not sure anymore. There is something about the table, coffee, and the sofa. They offer promise— hope—that maybe someone will come over and talk for a while. They call the traveller to rest.  They remind me that the world will keep turning even if I sit for a minute, or an hour. And if two or three people stop by, you never know, a surprising friendship might ensue. When it does there is the delightful mixture of a table, several sofas, coffee, friendship, and beauty. I think that now I better understand what C.S. Lewis meant when he wrote in The Four Loves: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that I was the only one.”

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Thankful Wife and a Godly Husband

Spurgeon's Funeral Procession

When you die will your wife be able to thank God for giving to her a good husband?

On January 31, 1892 at 11:05 P.M., Charles Spurgeon died. By his bed a small group of family and friends gathered. Susannah Spurgeon, his wife of 36 years, led in praise to God. She thanked God for “the precious treasure so long lent to her.” 

That was not the first time that Susannah had thanked God for Charles. On April 2, 1854, in her grandfather’s garden, Charles asked Susannah to marry him. She writes: “To me it was a time as solemn as it was sweet; and with a great awe in my heart, I left my beloved and, hastening to the house and to an upper room, I knelt before God and praised and thanked Him with happy tears for His great mercy in giving me the love of so good a man."

From their engagement to the death of her beloved husband, Susannah never failed to give thanks to God for the gift of Charles.

Thanksgiving to God, for her husband, was as natural as breathing to Susannah. There is no evidence that she ever doubted his love, questioned his character, or failed to see him as anything less than a “precious treasure.” Though their marriage faced many trials, including sickness, there is no record of Susannah ever wavering in her opinion about Charles. 

Is it the most natural thing for your wife to thank God for giving her the “love of so good a man?” Will her natural reaction at your death be to thank God for “the precious treasure so long lent to her?”

Live in such a way, in the grace of God, that you give your wife every reason to think of you as a godly man and a precious treasure. You will need to take a fresh look, every day, at the gospel of Christ. After all, the gospel teaches and empowers you to love your wife.  The reason that Spurgeon was such a precious treasure to Susannah is because he was first and foremost a man fully saturated in the gospel.
Quotes above from the Autobiography of C.H. Spurgeon.

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries. Contact him here: NITW

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Charles Spurgeon: A Life of Reading and Writing Part Two

What did Spurgeon read? He read everything. He read all sorts of things. He read the Bible, the newspaper, Christian classics, history, biography, and fiction. He averaged reading six substantive books each week. Most of those books were weighty Puritan works. John Piper writes:
I think one of the reasons Spurgeon was so rich in language and full in doctrinal substance and strong in the spirit, in spite of his despondency and his physical oppression and his embattlements, is that he was always immersed in a great book—six a week. We cannot match that number. But we can always be walking with some great "see-er" of God. I walked with Owen most of the year on and off little by little and felt myself strengthened by a great grasp of God's reality. Piper Quote
A primary reason that Spurgeon was such a great writer was due to his reading habits. W.Y. Fullerton in C.H. Spurgeon: A Biography writes:
The whole Spurgeon Library, therefore, taking no count of tractates, consists of no less than 135 volumes in all, or, including the reprints, 176! If we add the albums and the pamphlets, we get an output of 200 books!
Fullerton writes of Spurgeon's personal library: "At the time of his death there were 12,000 volumes in Mr. Spurgeon's library, in addition to those that he had sent to furnish the well-filled shelves of the library at the College."  

12,000 volumes provided the foundation of his library but, as Fullerton indicates, Spurgeon had even more books.

Spurgeon wrote, read, reviewed, distributed, and treasured books. Fullerton writes, "To listen to his talk on books one would think that he had done nothing but read in the library all his life, and to mark his publications would fancy that he had done nothing but write" (Fullerton, 270).

Yet we know that Spurgeon did much more than read and write. He was a pastor, he was an itinerant preacher, he lead numerous institutions, and his services were constantly in demand.

We can distill down from Spurgeon several helps for reading and writing.

1.  Find Good Books. In Spurgeon's library there were many used books that he found in the catalogues of second-hand-bookstores. Whether used or new, find good books. Especially find hardback books that will last through the years and can be passed on to your children.

2.  Read Good Books. Books look beautiful lined across oak shelves. However, books are meant to be read and reading is essential to living. Spurgeon wrote: "Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own."

3. Read a Variety of Books.  It is assumed that you will regularly feast on the Bible. Beyond that read history, biography, hymns, classics, and good fiction. 
We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, 'Bring the books' — join in the cry. Spurgeon
4. Read as Much as You Can. Spurgeon was a uniquely gifted man. You are not Spurgeon but it is likely the case that you can read more books than you are presently reading. Start somewhere. If you are not presently reading, attempt just two pages per day. In a month you will have read 60 pages and in three months you will finish your book. Perhaps you train yourself to read one book per week? 

Ray Rhodes is President of Nourished in the Word Ministries where he is a conference speaker and author. Visit Nourished in the Word Here: NITW