Charles Spurgeon is know today as the prince of preachers. His celebrated ministry at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle literally touched the lives of thousands of people. It was as good an example of the exposition and exhibition of God’s grace as is to be found in all of English history. Still, the story of Spurgeon’s own discovery of grace is little know.
As a sensitive lad, the young Spurgeon found himself in the throes of unbearable guilt over his sin against God. From this pitiful personal purgatory, he soon slipped down under a black cloud of debilitating doubt, under which he staggered about not only questioning God’s existence, but the reality of his own existence as well. Out of utter despair, Spurgeon resolved to search out every church in his vicinity in hopes of finding a message of hope for his tormented soul.
In one church after another, he heard the messages of polished preachers. He heard about divine sovereignty, the demands of God’s law and even how to practically apply biblical principles to daily living. Yet, as Spurgeon would later write himself, of what use were such messages “to a poor sinner who wished to know what he must do to be saved?” All I wanted to know, Spurgeon later recalled, “Was how I could get my sins forgiven?”
On January 6, 1850, Spurgeon set out to walk to a church in the center of the city of Colchester. A Sunday morning snowstorm, however, impeded his progress. Unable to proceed any further, he turned aside to attend a little Primitive Methodist Chapel on Artillery Street, not far from Hythe Hill. Once inside, Spurgeon discovered that the snowstorm had prevented the congregation’s minister from getting to the chapel. Consequently, a layman was asked to lead the service and take the minister’s place in the pulpit.
At first, Spurgeon was most unimpressed, describing the layman as “a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort.” Being uneducated, the poor fellow could do little more in the pulpit than repeat his text: “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 45:22). According to Spurgeon, the layman just kept hammering away with his text. “Look unto me; I am sweatin′ great drops of blood. Look unto me; I am hangin′ on a cross.”
In conclusion, the layman waxed no more eloquent than he had in the body of his message. He simply explained, “Now lookin′ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin′ your foot or your finger; it is just ‛Look’” Suddenly and unexpectedly, in the midst of this poor layman’s crude exposition, a beam of hope shot through Spurgeon’s deep and dark despair.
Light suddenly dawned on Spurgeon’s tormented soul. The salvation for which he had so desperately sought was not to be found as he had suspected. It was not to be found by looking to himself; that is, in anything that he could do. Instead, it was to be found in looking to Christ; that is, in what Christ had done for him that he could have never done for himself!
On that snowy Sunday morning in 1850 the prince of preachers was born (born again) by simply looking to Christ in faith for salvation. “I could have leaped,” Spurgeon exclaimed, “I could have danced; there was no expression, however fanatical, which would been out of keeping with the joy of my spirit at that hour!”
Today, the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon is known throughout the world. It stands as one of the greatest names in all of Christian history. Yet, the name of the lowly layman used by divine providence to lead the great preacher of grace to the amazing grace of God is lost in time. I’m assured, however, that though forgotten on earth, it is known in Heaven. After all, without the faithfulness of this lowly layman on a snowy Sunday long ago the world may have never know the likes of a Charles Haddon Spurgeon.