Announcing an Upcoming Series on Susannah Spurgeon and a Free Book Giveaway!

Pretty Susannah
Susannah Thompson Spurgeon (Born January 15, 1832. Died October 22, 1903.)

From Abraham and Sarah, to Martin and Katie Luther, Scripture and church history afford a broad spectrum of Kingdom couples. Holy matrimonies brought into union by Divine Providence for the express purpose of building the Church. In as many as have been gifted to the body of Christ, I do not know of a sweeter love story than that of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. In sickness and health, in good report and evil, Susannah faithfully loved and nurtured the man whose labors, generations later, still bless the church. I am convinced if the man himself were with us today he would not hesitate – not for one second, to tell us he was a better minister, a better man because of her. If you’ve ever read a sermon, consulted a commentary, or benefitted at all from his work, it’s not just him you should be acknowledging but his devoted helpmate, Susannah Thompson Spurgeon. Like many other pastors wives who quietly serve in the shadows of their husbands, we, the Church, owe a galaxy of thanks to Mrs. Spurgeon for her life of service, sacrifice, and suffering. Without her, the greatest preacher and evangelist of the nineteenth century could never accomplish all that he did.

On Tuesday, September 2nd, Heavenly Springs will commence a three-part series on Susannah Spurgeon. The series will cover, among other things, her courtship and marriage, her invaluable service to her husband and the ministry, her debilitating chronic illness and her faithful encouragement in her husband’s darkest hours. It is my hope that this brief presentation will help you appreciate this adorable saint. It’s safe to say that Charles Spurgeon was absolutely in love with his wife, and it’s not hard to see why. She has endeared herself to my heart, and I trust she will do the same for you, too.

FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY! At the end of the series, I will be giving away two copies of Susannah Spurgeon: Free Grace and Dying Love (Morning Devotions with the Life of Susannah Spurgeon).  I chose this book because it contains two works in one volume. Starting Tuesday, September 2nd, if you are interested in participating, leave a comment at the end of each presentation. You may increase your chances by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.  Just let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will add your name once for each share.

The schedule for the series is:

  • Tuesday, September 2nd – Part 1 (The Book Giveaway will open.)
  • Wednesday, September 3rd – Part 2
  • Thursday, September 4th – Part 3
  • Friday, September 5th – The Book Giveaway will close at 9pm EST.
  • Saturday, September 6th – Winners will be notified via email.

Have a beautiful Labor Day weekend!  Hope to see you back on Tuesday!

Singing in the Fire: An Excerpt from the Diary of Susannah Spurgeon

Mrs. C.H. Spurgeon“At the close of a very dark and gloomy day I lay resting on my couch as the deeper night drew on, and though all was bright within my cosy little room, some of the external darkness seemed to have entered into my soul and obscured its spiritual vision.  Vainly I tried to see the hand which I knew held mine and guided my fog-enveloped feet along a steep and slippery path of suffering.  In sorrow of heart I asked, ‘Why does my Lord thus deal with His child? Why does he so often send sharp and bitter pain to visit me?  Why does he permit lingering weakness to hinder the sweet service I long to render to His poor servants?’ These fretful questions were quickly answered, and though in a strange language, no interpreter was needed save the conscious whisper of my own heart.

“For a while silence reigned in the little room, broken only by the crackling of an oak log burning on the hearth.  Suddenly I heard a sweet, soft sound, a little clear, musical note, like the tender trill of a robin beneath my window.  ‘What can it be?’ I said to my companion, who was dozing in the firelight; ‘surely no bird can be singing out there at this time of year and night!’ We listened, and again heard the faint plaintive notes, so sweet, so melodious, yet mysterious enough to provoke for a moment our undistinguished wonder.  Presently my friend exclaimed, ‘It comes from the log on the fire!’ And we soon ascertained that her surprised assertion was correct. The fire was letting loose the imprisoned music from the old oaks’ inmost heart.  Perchance he had garnered up this song in the days when all went well with him, when birds twittered merrily on his branches, and the soft sunlight flecked his tender leaves with gold; but he had grown old since then and hardened; ring after ring of knotty growth had sealed up the long-forgotten melody until fierce tongues of the flames came to consume his callousness and the vehement heat of the fire wrung from him at once a song and a sacrifice.

“Oh! thought I, when the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then indeed we are purified and our God is glorified!  Perhaps some of us are like this old oak log – cold, hard and insensible; we should give forth no melodious sounds were it not for the fire which kindles round us, and releases tender notes of trust in Him, and cheerful compliance with His will.  As I mused the fire burned and my soul found sweet comfort in the parable so strangely set forth before me.  Singing in the fire!  Yes, God helping us if that is the only way to get harmouny out of these hard, apathetic hearts, let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than before.” 

Charles Ray, Mrs. C.H. Spurgeon (Essex:  Passmore & Alabaster, 1903), 81-82.

The Indefatigable Monica of Hippo: Hope for Weeping (and Praying) Mom’s

Augustine and Monica
Augustine and Monica

Augustine is considered one of the greatest theologians of all time.  Christian History magazine writes, “After Jesus and Paul, Augustine of Hippo is the most influential figure in the history of Christianity.” [1]  If the familiar adage is true, “Behind every great man is a great woman” there can be no greater example than Augustine and his mother, Monica. But don’t take my word for it. Take his.

“It is to my mother that I owe all.”

“If I am thy child, O my God, it is because Thou gavest me such a mother.”

“If I prefer the truth to all other things, it is the fruit of my mother’s teaching.”

“If I did not long ago perish in sin and misery, it is because of the long faithful tears with which she pleaded for me.”

That’s a powerful witness to a mother’s influence, don’t you think? But don’t be fooled. It didn’t come easy. Monica’s short 56 years on earth were marked by travail and tears – largely for a wayward son who, more often than not, gave her reason to despair and not hope. From her life story, I’ve gleaned a few lessons to encourage parents – especially mothers – to persevere in prayer for wayward children.

GOD’S PURPOSES WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED REGARDLESS OF AN IMPERFECT UPBRINGING: Even though Monica came from a devout Christian home, her parents (oddly enough) arranged her marriage to a pagan. He was a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered man, who subjected his wife to the pain of multiple adulteries. Though Monica rejoiced to see his conversion to Christianity one year before he died, his influence on Augustine was considerably bad and seemingly irreversible.  But God’s grace is greater. Too many Christian parents, especially those who came to Christ later in life, live with the guilt of the “damage” they’ve done to their children.  But God overrules our mistakes!

SEXUAL IMMORALITY WILL NOT HAVE THE FINAL WORD: As Augustine grew into manhood he struggled with sexuality. By the time he was 16 years old, he admits, “the frenzy gripped me and I surrendered myself entirely to lust.” Having learned his father’s promiscuous ways, he admits to “floundering in the broiling sea of … fornication. ” He lived with a woman out-of-wedlock for over 13 years and fathered a son with her. As God began to work in Augustine’s heart, his prayer reveals an inner turmoil. “Give me chastity … but not yet.”  Though Augustine describes his break-up in extremely painful terms (it was clear there was a deep emotional bond between the two) the relationship was nonetheless permanently severed. Maybe you despair over a sexually immoral relationship your child is involved in.  As time goes on the unholy partnership gets deeper, more attached, and more complex.  But with God, none of that matters! When He says, “It’s over!” It’s over. Period.

THE TRUE GOSPEL PREVAILS OVER A COUNTERFEIT GOSPEL: At age 17, Augustine left home to attend school in Carthage. There he became a member of a Christian-gnostic group called Manichaeism. The particular sect he was involved with “saw themselves as the sole possessors of true Christian knowledge and interpretation of the Bible. Other Christians, they maintained, believed absurdities about God and accepted falsified versions of the Scriptures.” [2] Augustine was not just an adherent, he was an ardent defender who employed his strong oratory skills to lead others into this error. At Rome, Monica pleaded earnestly with Bishop Ambrose.  “Talk to my son!” she begged.  But the Bishop wisely refrained. He knew Augustine was not ready to listen. Instead he told Monica, “Go your way; as sure as you live, it is impossible that the son of these tears should perish.” [3] God, in His time, shook the foundations of Manichaeism and led Augustine to the saving knowledge of Christ. Maybe your child has been seduced by a false gospel. Remember, no matter what lie has taken up residence in your child’s life, God can tear it down and bring it to naught.

DON’T MAKE JUDGMENTS BASED UPON WHAT YOU SEE: For years it seemed like Augustine grew worse. His journey was a long one. “He had periods of skepticism and doubt; there was a gradual detachment from past errors, fits of starts and stops.” [4] But after 32 years of vain and worldly pursuits, the tears and prayers of his mother caught up. Augustine recounts the day the Word came alive: “Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in chambering and shamelessness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh” [Rom. 13:13–14]. I neither wanted nor needed to read further. Immediately with the end of that sentence, a light, as it were, of certainty poured in my heart and put all my shadowy doubts to flight.”  If, at any point, Monica would have settled on what her eyes saw, she would have missed out on the great work that God brought about! Remember, this is a walk of faith!

The 4th-Century pagan philosopher, Libanius, once exclaimed, “What women these Christians have!” [5] Well, if Monica is any example, I can certainly see how he can say that. Maybe you are a hurting mom.  You’ve wept, you’ve agonized, you’ve prayed and still, your wayward child grows worse. Pray on, sister!  It’s true, not every child is destined to be an Augustine but God will be glorified in all your tears and prayers. Or, maybe you know a Monica. Churches are full of them. I have a few in my life. I know that behind their smile is a broken, hemorrhaging heart. Pray for her. Encourage her when she grows weary. And tell her about Monica, whose twenty-five years of weeping and praying ended in a torrent of triumph!

Recommended Reading:  Augustine: A Mother’s Son by Dolina MacCuish

[1] Christian History Magazine-Issue 15: St. Augustine of Hippo (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1987).
[2] Stephen Cooper, Augustine for Armchair Theologians, Armchair Theologians Series (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 8.
[3] Christian History Magazine-Issue 67: St. Augustine: Sinner, Bishop, Saint (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2000).
[4] Stephen Cooper, Augustine for Armchair Theologians, Armchair Theologians Series (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 9.
[5] Christian History Magazine-Issue 17: Women in the Early Church (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1988).

Whatever Became Of Sin?

At three I had a feeling of
Ambivalence toward my brothers.
And so it follows naturally
I poisoned all my lovers.
But now I’m happy; I have learned
The lesson this has taught:
That everything I do that’s wrong
Is someone else’s fault.

Written by Anna Russell, Psychiatric Folksong

Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin?  (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1973), 181 (Google Digitized Version).