At the age of seven years, Charles Spurgeon was sent to school at Colchester, where his parents were then living. There he acquired some knowledge of Latin, Greek, and French, and always headed the list at every examination. His vacations were passed in the manse at Stambourne, his time being principally spent in studying the religious books and the Puritan writings which adorned his grandfather’s library. But Spurgeon was a born genius, and in a very few years had far outridden the intelligence of his would he teachers.
Perhaps lack of riches was the best thing that could surround a youth with such a spirit, from the very fact that it most likely compelled him to call into action latent powers, which otherwise might have lain dormant in his mind.
Whilst making such rapid progress in his school life, the home teaching was not neglected, and there is no doubt this had an important bearing upon his future. Every day some Scripture lesson would be instilled into his memory, and some Scriptural truth implanted upon his mind. Thus we can understand how, even from the cradle, he was enlightened with spiritual teaching, which would be of invaluable benefit to him in after years.
At the age of fourteen Charles had to leave his home in Colchester; and having spent part of 1848 in an agricultural college at Maidstone he, in 1849, became a teacher at Newmarket, in a school kept by a Mr. Swindell.
It was doubtless during his sojourn at New-market that a circumstance transpired, which was to revolutionize the whole tenor of his life. We suppose he would be paying a visit to Colchester, for it was in this town that the remarkable event took place. We refer to his conversion, which could not be better given than in his own words. He says: — “The secret of my distress was this: I did not know the Gospel. For five years I had been in the most fearful distress of mind. I was in a Christian land; I had Christian parents; but I did not fully understand the freeness and simplicity of the Gospel.” Spurgeon’s state of mind at this time was pitiable in the extreme. Tortured by doubts, surrounded by fears, beset by unbelief, he might well say, “Who will deliver me from the fear of death?” Evidently one task had been accomplished. One lesson had been learned. He had learned to know himself. How marvelously strange! Quick and apt to learn in other matters, he had yet to learn the nature and operation of simple, childlike faith. But he was not far from the kingdom. God would not leave such a soul long in darkness. The deliverance came from a very unexpected source. Not from the lips of the learned or the eloquent was the message delivered that was to give freedom to this sin-bound soul. No; but from a very poor man; one of the humblest disciples, and the weakest of instruments, was the chosen of God to bring words of peace to that tempest-tossed soul. How true it is, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.” “God sent the snowstorm,” says Spurgeon, “when I was going to a meeting room. When I could go no further, I came to a little chapel, containing a dozen or fifteen people.” The preacher announced his text, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” After preaching for ten minutes, says Spurgeon, “he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. He then said, ‘Young man, you look very miserable!’ Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued, ‘And you will always be miserable — miserable in life and miserable in death — if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment you will be saved.’ “Then he shouted, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ; look now.’ He made me start in my seat, but I did look to Jesus Christ there and then. The cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that moment and sang with the most enthusiastic of them of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. O that somebody had told me that before. Trust Christ and you shall be saved. It was, no doubt, wisely ordered, and I must ever say — “E’er since by faith I saw the stream Thy wounds supplied for me, Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall for ever be.” And yet, the manifestations of Divine grace on this never-to-be-forgotten day in the life of C. H. Spurgeon, were not yet complete. No, truly there was more to follow. From glory unto glory were dim leadings of his soul on that memorable Sabbath. In the morning, at the humble Primitive Methodist chapel, he found salvation to the joy of his soul. He possessed the assurance that was realized by a knowledge that there is “life in a look at the Crucified One.” But the joy was not yet complete. The experience of full liberty and perfect freedom had yet to be known to be enjoyed. Says Spurgeon, “In the text, ‘Look, look, look,’ I found salvation in the morning. In the text, ‘Accepted in the Beloved,’ preached at the Baptist church in the evening, I found peace and freedom.” Yes, ‘Tis done. the mighty deed is done, And from the Father’s glorious throne, The silver trumpet now proclaims, In sweet, melodious. heavenly strains, A pardon free, Through Christ the Savior’s bleeding veins.” Thus it was that the soul of him was set at liberty who was in his turn to tell the unsearchable riches of Christ, not only by his silver tongue, but by the wielding of his pen, to hundreds of thousands of his fellow-men, a vast multitude of whom are already the crown of his rejoicing.
Oh! blessed change! glorious realization! unspeakable joy! Now, Lord, the change is wrought; the work is accomplished; the burden removed; the scales have fallen from the eyes; the emancipation from the bondage of the law has taken place. This is the assurance of salvation. This is the joy that springs from faith. This is the pardon enjoyed, and the peace obtained through believing. Go forth thou chosen of the Lord, baptized with this mighty faith, enriched with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost! And thousands obeying the call of your great Master’s voice shall yet rise up to call you blessed.
It was just prior to his conversion that he was tempted to embrace skepticism. Speaking at Exeter Hall in 1855, he thus refers to that sad period of doubt and mistrust: — “There was an evil hour when once I slipped the anchor of my faith. I cut the cable of my belief; I no longer moored myself by the coasts of revelation; I allowed my vessel to drift before the wind! I said to reason, ‘Be thou my captain;’ I said to my own brain, ‘Be thou my rudder!’ And I started on my voyage. Thank God, it is all over now! It was one hurried sailing over the tempestuous ocean of free thought.”
How many as they read these words will devoutly re-echo the “Thank God” that in this time of conflict he was so miraculously and wondrously delivered from the snare of the tempter.
We have referred at greater length than our space warrants to this interesting conversion and early experience with the “powers of darkness,” simply because to our mind they are the most important epochs in this wonderful life. Had not the matchless grace of God been thus displayed in the delivery of His David from the Goliath of skepticism, this brief sketch would never have been penned. We feel sure that, could he speak, he would wish that the story of his conversion should be placed in the forefront, setting forth as it does the wonderful grace and amazing love of the Christ he loved so ardently and served so faithfully.
We cannot close this chapter without a word of explanation. A great deal of conjecture is displayed as to who was the actual preacher on that particular Sunday morning. Some writers assert that it was Robert Eaglan.
One writer says, “It was no more Mr. Eaglan than Mr. Eaglan is Mr.
Spurgeon.” We have been at some considerable pains to ascertain the right version of this matter. From what we can gather, whoever the preacher was his name has never been disclosed, at least not publicly. After all this is only a small detail, and of little moment perhaps. Of one thing we feel confident we may be assured, that ere this the father and his spiritual child have met and exchanged their greetings on that “blood be-sprinkled shore.”
Even now, whilst we are penning these words, they are engaged in “looking” upon that face that was “scarred more than any man’s;” and in unison singing the “song of Moses and the Lamb.” “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name be all the glory.”