Book Review: The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon
Author: Steven J. Lawson
Reviewed by: Henry Lim
The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven J. Lawson profiles one of the greatest preachers of all time, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Lawson gives us insight into what made Spurgeon, who is often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers”, such an impressive and dominating figure in Christian history. It has been estimated that Spurgeon preached to over 10 million people, a number incomparable to anyone else in the nineteenth century. To date, over 300 million copies of Spurgeon’s sermons have been printed. Along with his 135 books, he has exerted unprecedented influence on Christian history. What set Spurgeon apart from many preachers was his resolve to maintain the balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, two truths Spurgeon held to with much zeal. For nearly four decades in London, England, Spurgeon upheld the doctrines of grace while calling sinners to repent and to believe in Jesus Christ. He was staunchly Calvinistic and passionately evangelistic, a conundrum many preachers of his day found impossible to reconcile. After reading this book, I realized it serves two purposes. First of all, it highlights the life and legacy of a popular nineteenth century preacher. And secondly, it encourages us to examine our own Calvinistic views in light of our responsibility to fervently evangelize the lost.
Lawson, who has also written other biographies on other Christian figures such as Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin, strategically divides this book into six chapters. Lawson sets the stage by walking us through Spurgeon’s early conversion and call to be the minister of the New Park Street Chapel, a position he would hold for 38 years until his death. Lawson discusses Spurgeon’s early pastoral success including the expansive revival that swept through London and saw thousands converted. His church often outgrew itself and was unable to accommodate the thousands of people who filled the sanctuary multiple times every Sunday. His ministry was the largest in the country at the time. Much of this success was not without trials and adversities. Spurgeon was often attacked by the media and the wider church of England over doctrinal issues.
Despite many ordeals, Spurgeon preached the Gospel with a passion unmatched by anyone during his time. Lawson explains that Spurgeon had unshakable foundations deeply rooted in the Word. He was grounded in biblical truth that empowered him to persuade men to come to the Lord. In chapter 3 and 4, the author explains the two truths Spurgeon masterfully balanced: divine sovereignty in salvation and human responsibility to evangelize. It is in these chapters that one can get a clear picture of how these two truths work together. Spurgeon once said regarding reconciling the two truths, “I never have to reconcile friends. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility never had a falling out with each other. I do not have to reconcile what God has joined together.”
In the final two chapters, the author presents to us the singular focus of Spurgeon’s ministry and the power behind his preaching. Spurgeon was consumed with preaching the person of Jesus Christ, His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His exaltation to the right hand of God. Christ was the central theme in Spurgeon’s ministry. To him, Christ is the Gospel. Spurgeon tirelessly preached the message every week to thousands and saw thousands come to the Savoir. Spurgeon recognized that the power behind his ministry was not himself, but the Holy Spirit. He saw the work of the Holy Spirit in every facet of his ministry including in his studies, his discernment of spiritual things, his compelling delivery of his sermons, and his passion in preaching.
Lawson concludes the book by encouraging us to closely examine our own lives by looking at Spurgeon, a man who was deeply committed to proclaiming the truths of sovereign grace and inflamed with a passion to preach to the lost. I found this book to be extremely beneficial in helping me uphold two truths in the Bible that we often think are opposing each other. Spurgeon’s legacy should inspire us to boldly declare the Gospel message with the love of Christ. This book was refreshing to read even though it highlights a man who died over a hundred years ago, but yet still has a powerful impact on Christians today. I hope you find the time to read this book, as I am certain you will be tremendously blessed and inspired.