The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Victorian Marriage

Susannah Thompson first saw Charles Spurgeon when he preached in London at the New Park Street Church (NPSC), December of 1853. She was not impressed. She did not care for his appearance or his style of preaching. He came across as an overly dramatic country preacher and she was a more refined city girl. Her estimation of Charles would change.

Charles became the pastor of NPSC and he later discovered that Susannah was concerned about her spiritual life. He sent her a copy of The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. This book had profoundly influenced him (he would read it some 100 times before he died) and he saw it as an appropriate gift to give to a struggling soul. He inscribed the book: "Miss Thompson, with desires for her progress in the blessed pilgrimage. From C.H. Spurgeon." At that point his only interest in Susannah was pastoral. She wrote, "He gently led me by his preaching and by his conversation, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to the cross of Christ for the peace and pardon that my soul was longing for."

Their friendship deepened and on June 10, 1854, at the opening of the Crystal Palace, Charles and Susannah sat together. Until this point he had given her no indication of his feelings about her. However, that night everything changed. He pointed out to Susannah a poem, in a book by Martin Tupper, on praying for one's spouse. Charles asked Susannah if she prayed for her future husband. Spurgeon's intentions were now clear. The left their seats and took a walk around the Palace. Susannah wrote: "During that walk on that memorable day in June, I believe God Himself united our hearts in indissoluble bonds of true affection, and though we knew it not, gave us to each other forever."  Just two months later (August, 2, 1854), Charles asked Susannah to marry him. She was overcome with thanksgiving and retreated to an upper room at her grandfather's home. She wrote, "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." It was obvious by their "loving looks, and tender tones, and clasping hands" that they were in love.

In Susannah's diary she recorded: "August 2, 1854: It is impossible to write down all that occurred this morning. I can only adore in silence the mercy of my God, and praise Him for all His benefits." Charles and Susannah Spurgeon were married at NPSC on January 8, 1856.

Though Susannah had some early challenges, related to her husband's popularity and the demands of his calling, she determined never to be an obstacle to him in his work. She writes: "It was ever the settled purpose of my married life that I should never hinder him from fulfilling his engagements, never plead my own ill-health as a reason why he should remain at home with me." Charles wrote to her, "I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship." Susannah was a true helper for Charles and brought great encouragement to him when he struggled with doubt and depression. Often on Sunday evenings she would minister to him by reading the poems of George Herbert. She was a true helper and friend to Charles.

Though Susannah had originally been unimpressed with Charles, the Lord would knit their hearts together. Their love story is one rich in affection, deepened by affliction, and faithful to the end. It was their commitment to Scripture, faith in God, and devotion to prayer that cemented their bond together. Their letters to one another reveal the depth of their love. Charles wrote to Susannah, "I beseech you, blend your hearty prayer with mine, that two of us may be agreed and thus will you promote the usefulness and holiness and happiness of one whom you love." Charles carried many burdens and yet he had the prayers of a godly wife and her shoulder to weep upon.

In our culture where marriage has been redefined, sexual deviation is celebrated at the theatre, and people rush to the courthouse to file for divorce, the marriage of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon is an example, worthy of imitation.

Quotes above are from:

C.H. Spurgeon, Susannah Spurgeon, and Joseph Harraod, C.H. Spurgeon's Augtobiography: Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, 4 vols, (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899-1900).