“Take courage, my beloved, the sun has not ceased to shine, nor has our God forgotten to be gracious.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
A Cloud of Witnesses
In Hebrews 12, the Holy Spirit through the human author encourages us with these words: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Few witnesses outside of the Biblical narrative have been so influential as Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His preaching ministry has touched the souls of many, and not just in the span of his short fifty-seven years on earth. When we look beyond the man to see what aids him in such great successes, we find the faithfulness of a God who loves his steadfast servants. But we also find the love and encouragement of a faithful wife.
Few people today know about the truly incredible life of Susannah Spurgeon. Our eyes are often so transfixed by the ever-present and imposing form of her husband that we do not look to see what his wife was like. In doing so, we find comfort in our common affliction and joy in a common Savior. Her life in an inspiration and exhortation to all Believers that a life lived for the Lord is a life well-lived.
Set Apart Unto Suffering
In this biography of Susannah Spurgeon, Ray Rhodes Jr. attempts to shed light on her productive and saintly life. While little is known about what occurred in her early childhood, we are given a few choice looks at what her Victorian Era life was like. For instance, as was common in that time, Susie grew up attending church most Sundays. She also spent a few years in France under the benevolent care of a pastor’s family. Although we are unsure of where her parents’ decisions in regards to salvation lie, we are sure of Susie’s justification before Christ at some point in her youth.
After the salvation of her soul, the sweetest part of Susie’s life was her romance with Charles. It’s not risque or suggestive, as the word “romance” or “romantic” has come to mean, but rather is one of the most pure, most God-glorifying examples of love and intimacy. Rhodes leads us through Charles and Susie’s courtship, and we smell the sweet aroma of a couple that has put Christ first in their relationship. It is one of the most beautiful love stories that can be read and it is encouraging to see the work of God in the time leading up to their marriage.
Once Charles and Susie are married, things begin to speed up. They travel often, and Charles’ career as a preacher is taking off quickly. Susie gives birth to twins and subsequently sacrifices many things to be at home teaching her young flock. Sooner than any could desire though, hardship comes. Charles bears heavy burdens for his congregants and the lost, and must traverse many a difficult and even dangerous situation. Susie also is overtaken by great suffering and physical pain. But in all these things they are more than conquerors through Christ.
As Charles and Susie settle into a rather busy and even tumultuous style of living, God grants them strength to bear each other’s burdens and to be an encouragement to one another in their everyday life. With her often debilitating bouts of pain and sickness, Susie is often confined to home, while Charles travels both domestically and abroad to preach. However, she is not an idle woman and eventually begins the Book Fund for poor pastors with few resources. In fact, this Book Fund takes up much of her time for many years and continues after Charles’ death and even her own.
In a life torn by difficulty, yet upheld by the grace of God, we see the mountain of sorrow loom drearily ahead. Charles dies in 1892 and Susie is left in mourning. But once again, the faithfulness of God triumphs over any difficulties that Susie encounters. Not only does she refuse to wallow in her sorrow, but she lifts up her eyes to see the need of those around her. And so she planted a church.
Hers was a life that pleased the Lord, until her death in 1903 when He called her to her eternal life in Christ.
Greater Love Hath No One Than This
If I had to sum up Susannah Spurgeon in one word, it would be this: faithfulness. Never have I read of a woman so dedicated to her husband, children, family, friends, fellow Believers, the lost, the poor, and the hurting. She lived a life of open eyes with an open heart and open ears. There was not a cry for aid that she did not hear, whether it came from her husband, her children, or the poor pastors spread thither and yon across a wide European landscape. What an example!
I have been so greatly encouraged by this inspiring woman of the faith. I cannot help but walk closer to my Lord after reading this account of her life. I have no doubt that you will also find great comfort and exhortation if you take the time to read this biography.
Quite naturally, there are no content issues here! Praise the Lord!
However . . . I ran into several grammar hiccups and complicated sentences. That’s not an entirely bad thing, as most people don’t notice, but I don’t like it when editors miss things. 😉 I did feel that Rhodes was unnecessarily repetitive, and this is a genuine problem when you write a book. There were many instances, sometimes several times in a chapter, when a specific fact was repeated and restated for 2-3 paragraphs. There was also another set of paragraphs with one particular quote about Susie that was repeated in similar contexts over the course of three chapters. Had these repetitions been taken care of properly, I believe the book would have been much shorter. It seemed as though Rhodes was trying very hard to be academic and write a best-seller. I don’t think he succeeded.
To Read or Not To Read
This is another “when” not “if” read. You do not need to ask if it is worth reading. Believe it to be worthy of your time and put it on your shelf to be read in the near future. Although I mentioned there are some circular, repetitive issues, this autobiography is not very big and is not hard to read. There are so many great facts about Susie, as well as quotes from her writing, Charles’ writing, and other writing about the Spurgeon pair.
I hope you have a happy Monday! Until the next carriage ride. 🙂
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