Ordinary Callings: Cultural Transformation or Loving Service ? M. Horton

ordinary-MHorton-2014The above is the heading of a section of Michael Horton’s book Or-di-nary (see details below), in which he contrasts the gospel’s call to “ordinary” Christian service in the church and in the world, based on Christ’s saving work for believers and the Holy Spirit’s work in them, with the popular idea of transforming society or culture.

Here are a few of his significant thoughts (He makes five of them):

First, the call to radical transformation of society can easily distract faith’s gaze from Christ and focus it on ourselves. Such people hold that the gospel has to be something more than the good news concerning Christ’s victory. It has to expand to include our good works rather than to create the faith that bears the fruit of good works. The church has to be something more than the place where God humbles himself, serving sinners with his redeeming grace. It has to be the home base for our activism, more than being the site of God’s activity from which we are sent and scattered like salt into the world.

…Far too many people hold that it’s not who we are that determines what we do, but what we do that determines who we are. Community service becomes something more than believers simply loving their neighbors through their ordinary callings in the world. It becomes part of the church’s missionary task. It’s not what we hear and receive, but what we are and do that gives us a sense of identity and purpose. We need something more than the gospel to trust in – or at least the gospel has to be something more than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sinners Apparently, Jesus got the ball rolling, but we are his partners in redeeming the world.

Instead of following the example of John the Baptist, who pointed away from himself to ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29), we offer our own lives and transformations as the good news. But this is to deny the gospel and therefore to cut off the power of true godliness and neighbor love at its root.

And in his next point he makes this solid point:

Second, radical views of cultural transformation actually harm our callings in this world. The most basic problem is that it reverses the direction of God’s gift giving.  According to Scripture, God gives us life, redeems us, justifies us, and renews us. He does this by his Spirit, through the gospel – not just in the beginning, but throughout our lives. Hearing this gospel, from Genesis to Revelation, is the means by which the Spirit creates faith in our hearts. United to Christ, our faith immediately begins to bear the fruit of evangelical repentance and good works. We offer these not to God for reimbursement, but to our neighbors for their good. If we reverse this flow of gifts, nobody wins. God is offended by our presumption that we could add something more to the perfect salvation he has won for us in his Son. We are therefore on the losing side of the bargain, and our neighbors are too, since our works are directed to God on our behalf rather than to our neighbor on God’s behalf.

Taken from chapter 8 of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I am currently making my way through. The chapter is strikingly titled “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” The paragraphs I have quoted are found on pp.155-57.

” In the night of gravest human treachery he gave the gift of himself. …This is grace.” – W. Wangerin, Jr.

…The love of Jesus is utterly unaccountable – except that he is God and God is love. It has no cause in us. It reacts to, or repays, or rewards just nothing in us. It is beyond human measure, beyond human comprehension. It takes my breath away.

For when did Jesus choose to give us the supernal, enduring gift of his presence, …his dear communing with us [he is referring to the Lord’s Supper]? When we were worthy of the gift, good people indeed? Hardly. It was precisely when we were most unworthy. When our wickedness was directed particularly at him.

Listen, children: it was to the insolent and the hateful that he gave his gift of personal love.

…With the apostle Paul the pastor repeats: ‘The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread.’ Oh, let that pastor murmur those words, ‘the same night,’ with awe. For who among us can hear them just before receiving the gift of Christ’s intimacy and not be overcome with wonder, stunned at such astonishing love? The context qualifies that love. The time defines it. And ever and ever again, these words remind us of the times: ‘The same night in which he was betrayed’

…Then! That same night! When absolutely nothing recommended us. When ‘we were enemies.’ Enemies! In the night when his people betrayed him – the night of intensest enmity – the dear Lord Jesus said, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many.’ Then! Can we comprehend the joining of two such extremes, the good and the evil together? In the night of gravest human treachery he gave the gift of himself. And the giving has never ceased.

…But in that same night he remembered our need. In that same night he provided the sacrament which would forever contain his grace and touch his comfort into us.

Oh, this is a love past human expectation. This is beyond all human deserving. This, therefore, is a love so celestial that it shall endure long and longer than we do.

This is grace.

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Drawn from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on Mark 14:22-25, pp.54-55.

John Newton’s Conversion by “Amazing Grace” – March 10, 1747

JNewtonPic&QuoteSince we missed out on our weekly church history/archives post on Thursday (busy last couple of days), we will do so today.

According to the Church History Institute “daily story,” today, March 10, 1747 is the date of John Newton’s (1725-1807) conversion. This is their note about this:


John Newton, a sailor on a slave ship, is converted to Christianity during a huge storm at sea. He eventually becomes an Anglican clergyman, the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” and a zealous abolitionist. “That 10th of March is a day much to be remembered by me; and I have never allowed it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748. For on that day the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”


“Today in Christian History” (part of Christianity Today) also noted it in their daily email, posting this additional information:

March 10, 1748: John Newton, the captain of a slave ship, converts to Christianity during a huge storm at sea. He had been reading Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, and was struck by a line about the “uncertain continuance of life.” He eventually became an Anglican clergyman, the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace,” and a zealous abolitionist

You may find more on Newton at this Christian History link. Perhaps we know him most by his famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Belonging to the back ground of this classic song is this (taken from the above article):

After leaving the sea for an office job in 1755, Newton held Bible studies in his Liverpool home. Influenced by both the Wesleys and George Whitefield, he adopted mild Calvinist views and became increasingly disgusted with the slave trade and his role in it. He quit, was ordained into the Anglican ministry, and in 1764 took a parish in Olney in Buckinghamshire.

Three years after Newton arrived, poet William Cowper moved to Olney. Cowper, a skilled poet who experienced bouts of depression, became a lay helper in the small congregation.

In 1769, Newton began a Thursday evening prayer service. For almost every week’s service, he wrote a hymn to be sung to a familiar tune. Newton challenged Cowper also to write hymns for these meetings, which he did until falling seriously ill in 1773. Newton later combined 280 of his own hymns with 68 of Cowper’s in what was to become the popular Olney Hymns. Among the well-known hymns in it are “Amazing Grace,” “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” “O for a Closer Walk with God,” and “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”

While there are thousands of editions of the singing of this hymn, perhaps my favorite is this one by Wintley Phipps. He also includes a little background on Negro spirituals and why the minor key is so important to “Amazing Grace.” Enjoy this amazing performance.

Grace-PRC-extAs an aside, if you are looking for a wonderful night of music, tonight Grace PRC is hosting its “Night of Music” fundraiser for the young people – in her new sanctuary. This is the note you will find on her website about it:

GRACE NIGHT OF MUSIC will be held THIS Saturday at 7:00 PM in the new sanctuary. Please join/support our Young People at this annual night of praise and convention fundraiser. This year’s lineup features the Voices of Victory, Covenant Quartet, and much more. Refreshments will be served following the program.

Maybe we will see you there! 🙂

Word Wednesday: A Friendly One


Our featured word for our “Word Wednesday” post this month is a friendly one – amicus, friend, with a common base form of AMI.

In the Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classical Origins of English Words (Barnes & Noble, 2000 –  co-authored by Bob Moore and Maxine Moore) we find this entry (as given above), along with this description and explanation of the word:

We all know that an enemy is not a friend; what we may not know is that the literal meaning of the word is ‘not (a) friend’; en-, not + emy, friend.

…So it is with inimical, its literal meaning being ‘not friendly,’ hence harmful and unfavorable. …It also means hostile and unfriendly. ‘There was an inimical atmosphere about the castle, the source of which I could never pinpoint.’

At the other end of the field are the friendly folk. An AMIable chap is genial, warm, kind, and sociable. ‘Helen’s such a wonderful neighbor, so amiable and gracious.’ …That is generally true of AMIty as well, i.e, cooperation, friendship, good will, understanding, or brotherhood. ‘The Secretary General said he hoped the accord between the two governments would result in lasting amity.’

Some usage books also make the claim that in Spanish only a male friend is an AMIgo and a female is an AMIga, but recent studies reveal that the vast majority of senoritas have no objection to being called an amigo. The same is rumored to be true in France, although the rules state that it’s AMI for a male friend and AMIe for a female.

In court an AMIcus brief may be filed by a person or a party not involved in the case who wants to offer relevant advice; it is a called ‘Friend of the Court’ or, officially, amicus curiae.

You may remember this verse in Proverbs that relates to this Latin word: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Prov.18:24).

Now here it is in the Latin Vulgate: vir amicalis ad societatem magis amicus erit quam frater

Can you find the “friendly” words?:)

Published in: on March 7, 2018 at 10:30 PM  Leave a Comment  

What’s New for Review? (Books, That Is)

On this Tuesday, let’s take a few minutes to review a few books I have received recently for review – books I, in turn, make available to you – for you to review, if you are willing.

Life-theology-Paul-Waters-2017First, from Reformation Trust I received last week a copy of Guy P. Waters’ new title The Life and Theology of Paul (2017). Dr. Waters is professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS and has also authored The Acts of the Apostles, How Jesus Runs the Church, and Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul, among others.

The publisher gives this description:

Much of what we know about theology—about justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification—comes directly from the writings of the Apostle Paul. If we removed Paul’s writings from Scripture, our understanding of these truths would be greatly impoverished. Paul’s inspired writings and the story of his life continue to be a precious gift to the church. Dr. Guy Prentiss Waters leads us on a doctrinally enriching and spiritually edifying journey from Paul’s life, conversion, and call to key themes in his theology.

At the link above you will also find a video of a class taught by Dr. Waters on this subject. That will give you a taste of the contents of the book.

theology-made-practical-2017Second, I have also received a few new titles from Reformation Heritage Books. One is Theology Made Practical: New Studies on John Calvin and His Legacy, made up of fourteen essays by Joel R. Beeke, David W. Hall, and Michael A.G. Haykin (2017). The publsiher provides this information about the title and its contents:

In Theology Made Practical, Joel R. Beeke, David W. Hall, and Michael A. G. Haykin declare the significance of John Calvin’s life and ideas—particularly his contributions to systematic theology, pastoral theology, and political theology—as well as the influence he had on others through the centuries. With focused studies related to the Trinity, predestination, the Holy Spirit, justification, preaching, missions, principles of government, welfare, and marriage, this book demonstrates how Calvin’s thought has been, and still is, a dynamic wellspring of fruitfulness for numerous areas of the Christian life. More than 450 years since Calvin experienced the beatific vision, his thinking about God and His Word still possesses what our culture passionately longs for—true relevancy.




Part 1: Calvin’s Biography

1. The Young Calvin: Preparation for a Life of Ministry—Michael A. G. Haykin

2. Practical Lessons from the Life of Idelette Calvin—Joel R. Beeke


Part 2: Calvin’s Systematic Theology

3. “Uttering the Praises of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit”: John Calvin on the Divine Triunity —Michael A. G. Haykin

4. Calvin on Similarities and Differences on Election and Reprobation—Joel R. Beeke

5. Calvin on the Holy Spirit—Joel R. Beeke

6. Explicit and Implicit Appendixes to Calvin’s View of Justification by Faith —David W. Hall


Part 3: Calvin’s Pastoral and Political Theology

7. Calvin’s Experiential Preaching—Joel R. Beeke

8. John Calvin and the Missionary Endeavor of the Church—Michael A. G. Haykin

9. Calvin on Principles of Government—David W. Hall

10. Calvin on Welfare: Diaconal Ministry in Geneva—David W. Hall

11. Christian Marriage in the Twenty-First Century: Calvin on the Purpose of Marriage—Michael A. G. Haykin


Part 4: Calvin’s Legacy

12.  Calvin’s Circle of Friends: Propelling an Enduring Movement—David W. Hall

13. Calvin as a Calvinist—Joel R. Beeke

14. Calvinism and Revival—Michael A. G. Haykin



covenantal-life-ivill-2018Another title sent me from RHB recently is by Sarah Ivill (wife, mother, author, speaker and member of Christ Presbyterian Church [PCA] in Matthews, NC) and titled The Covenantal Life: Appreciating the Beauty of Theology and Community (2018). The publisher gives us this note about the book and its subjects:

Today, many of us have lost our appreciation of the beauty of covenant theology and covenant community, and this has had dire consequences for us, resulting in misunderstandings of theology and individualism and isolationism in the church. Author Sarah Ivill believes that a key solution to this problem is a robust understanding of covenant theology, which will deepen our knowledge of Scripture and enable us to truly serve our sisters by pointing them to Christ. In The Covenantal Life, the author clearly and concisely sets forth the beauty of covenant theology and covenant community and encourages us to learn sound doctrine so that we can think biblically about the circumstances in our lives—and then help our sisters in Christ to do so as well.



A Note from Sarah



Part One: Appreciating the Beauty of Covenant Theology

1. I Can Think Straight

2. The Best Book Ever

3. All of Grace

4. The Heart of the Matter

5. But God

Part Two: Appreciating the Beauty of Covenant Community

6. A Different Kind of Community

7. From Life Taker to Life Giver

8. Speaking the Truth in Love

9. A Mandate and a Mission

10. The City That Is to Come

As I began to browse this new title briefly, I found the author’s definition of covenant interesting and instructive: “A thorough yet concise definition of covenant is God’s sovereign initiation to have a binding relationship with His people, grounded in His grace and promises, and secured by His own blood (p.5).

If any of these books interest you and you are willing to write a short review for the Standard Bearer, the book is yours. Contact me here or by email. Tolle lege – take up and read!

Praying Christ’s Prayers in the Psalms – D. Bonhoeffer

How is it possible for a man and Jesus Christ to pray the Psalter [That is, the book of Psalms] together? It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God and who stands in our place and prays for us. He has known torment and pain, guilt and death more deeply than we. Therefore it is the prayer of the human nature assumed by him which comes here before God. It is really our prayer, but since he knows us better than we know ourselves and since he himself was true man for our sakes, it is also really his prayer, and it can become our prayer only because it was his prayer.

Who prays the Psalms? David (Solomon, Asaph, etc.) prays, Christ prays, we pray. We – that is, first of all the entire community in which alone the vast richness of the Psalter can be prayed, but also finally every individual insofar as he participates in Christ and his community and prays their prayer. David, Christ, the church, I myself, and wherever we consider all of this together we recognize the wonderful way in which God teaches us to pray.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the second section, “Who Prays the Psalms?” (pp.20-21)

Help and Hope for the Bullys and the Bullied – The March 2018 “Beacon Lights”

Anti-Bully BL-ad-2018

As we pointed out in a post a few weeks ago, the March 2018 issue of the Beacon Lights (the Protestant Reformed youth magazine) is devoted to the subject of bullying. Now that it is out and available, we can encourage you to get it and read it so as to benefit from its timely theme.

This is not an easy subject to treat. Not least of all, because it convicts all of us of the sins of bullying that we have committed. And that exposes us in the sins of hating our neighbor and of hating the God who made our neighbor, as the editor and other writers for this special issue point out.

But is there hope for us? And is there hope for those who have experienced the painful reality of this sin? Yes, indeed there is. And, as we might know, it is found alone in our Savior, Jesus Christ and in His sin-crushing, peace-making, love-producing cross.

The editorial by new editor Dewey Engelsma, “Delivering the Helpless,” is as significant as his story that precedes it, “Murder on a School Bus.” Read the latter first and weep, for yourself and for those we have hurt in such a way. And then read this from Engelsma’s editorial:

Where then for relief, for the bullied, the bully, and bystander alike? For that we must look to the one of which Job was merely a type. And it is that someone greater that not only provides a perfect example of a holy life, but himself gives courage to the redeemed bystander, so that they no longer stand idly by, but jump up to the defense of the bullied person, and show “mercy and compassion every man to his brother” (Zech 7:9).

Where else for relief but the cross that stands at Calvary? At the foot of that cross three parties come together in peace at last, the bullied, the humbled oppressor, and the repentant bystander, all clinging to the One crucified. For it is the bullied child herself, the reed that was not broken, and the flax that was not extinguished, who finally by the grace of their Savior experienced “judgment unto victory” (Matt. 12:20). It is the bully himself who is transformed by God into a blessed peacemaker, and who now is at peace with his God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

And for you, the young person who doubts they have the strength to stand up for the bullied person? You are right. When God’s people rely on their own strength, “even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (Isa. 40:30). You don’t have the strength. You will fail time and time again. Until you finally find your strength in the Son of God, the Son who not only stood up for you, but gave himself for you (Gal. 2:20). This is the one who empowers you courageously to defend the weak and powerless, so that when you have against all odds delivered “him that had none to help him,” your victory cry will be, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

In that light we can weep for joy, even as we seek the joy of those wounded spirits among us.

Shall we fight the sin and find the joy in Christ alone?


If you are not yet a subscriber, visit the Beacon Light’s subscription page where you will find information on how to become one. Now would be a good time to join the ranks of young (and old) Reformed readers.

“…Love instinctively sees the truth. Love enhances and names in truth.” ~ W. Wangerin, Jr. (on the woman who anointed Jesus’ head)

What is your name that I might address my praise to you? I don’t know. Were you someone’s mother? …Were you old, bent by years of experience? Were you a prostitute? Or praiseworthy for purity and virtue? …I don’t know. Mark never says. I know nothing about you save this: that you anointed the head of my Lord.

Ah, but that’s enough to know! That deed alone is your identity, your entire being: your self. It memorializes you forever. …I marvel at you. I pray God that I might do – and therefore be – the same.

For what was your gesture? An act of pure love for Jesus particularly. It was an act so completely focused upon the Christ that not a dram of worldly benefit was gained thereby. Nothing could justify this spillage of some three hundred days’ wages, except love alone. The rulers who sought to kill Jesus were motivated by a certain reasonable logic; but your prodigality appears altogether unreasonable – except for reasons of love. The disciples, in fact, were offended by an act that produced nothing, accomplished nothing, fed no poor, served no need. They reproached you as a wastrel.

They were offended by the absurd, an act devoted absolutely to love, to love alone.

But Jesus called it ‘beautiful.’

Who else anointed our High Priest, as priests should surely be anointed in office? Who else anointed our King, the son of David? Who else anointed the body of our Savior for burial? No one but you. I don’t know that you consciously recognized these offices of the Lord; but love instinctively sees the truth. Love enhances and names in truth. No one else anointed him and by that gesture declared him Messiah, the Christ. The act, therefore, was more than beautiful. It was rare and rich with meaning.

And since the act is all there is of you, since humility has reduced you to this single thing alone and now you are no more nor less than your love for the Lord, you yourself are beautiful and rare and rich with meaning.

You are the beauty of faithful loving.

To those who do not truly love, you will ever be ephemeral or else an offense, either a shadow or an idiot. To me you are a model. You gave up all; you became nothing at all save love for the Lord; and exactly so you are remembered. Here, ‘wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world,’ is love’s monument!

You, nameless, anonymous, lovely indeed: thank you.

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Drawn from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on Mark 14:1-9, pp.43-44.

Published in: on March 3, 2018 at 9:38 PM  Leave a Comment  

Friday Fun, Catton Style: Playing the Benzonia Orchestra with a Bad Pompadour

For our Friday fun post today we take you back to Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train (Wayne State University Press, 1987), the multifaceted story of his life growing up in northern Michigan, specifically, Benzonia.

retro-mens-1950s-hairstyles-short-pompadourThe chapter I just finished last night, “Interlude with Music” (chapter 8), includes a humorous section in which Catton describes how, as a mediocre violin player in the local orchestra, he sorely wanted to at least look like a dashing, debonair young man – complete with a pompadour. If you look that up in the dictionary, you will learn that a “pompadour” is a hairstyle “in which the hair is brushed up high from the forehead.”

Now listen to Catton describe his sorry experience as the Benzonia violinist with an uncooperative head of hair:

Probably I ought to have taken heart from something John the barber had said to me a few years before this obsession took hold of me. John was a dedicated socialist, and while he trimmed my hair he used to give long lectures on socialism. …Anyhow, one day John was working on my hair when he discovered that I had a double crown, which he said was a great rarity and something to be proud of, because it meant that I could part my hair on either the right side or the left side, at my choice.

‘I tell you,’ he said, gesturing with his scissors, ‘Rockefeller with all his millions couldn’t buy that.’

What Rockefeller with all his millions actually did was buy a wig, but I did not know that at the time and could not speak of it. But John had given fair warning: I could part my hair on either side, and if I left it alone it would part itself down the middle, but some sort of part it was going to have no matter what my intent might be. The smooth, sleek, sophisticated pompadour I could not have.

I came to my senses, at last, after one of our orchestra concerts. We had gone to Frankfort to play, and my problem was at its worst. Frankfort was more like a city than Benzonia was – not much more, actually, because it was also a small town, but compared to Benzonia it was a metropolis – and here if anywhere I ought to look like a debonair youth who had risen far above his country-bumpkin origins. But circumstance was against me. As an earnest violinist of moderate capacity I was something of a head-jerker, and when I  fiddled my way through my assignments I used much body English; and the constant head-wagging, of course, destroyed any chance that my sleek, slicked-down hair-do would stay in place. Things were especially bad that night. Luckily, as it then seemed, there were quite a few brief rests indicated in my score, and whenever one of these came, I would lay my bow down and run my hand desperately over that triply accursed crop of hair. All in all, I had a busy evening.

When the concert ended I started out of the building, violin case under my arm, and I came up behind a couple of local people who were exchanging greetings. One of them asked the other how he had enjoyed the concert, and the man replied that he had hardly noticed it – ‘I was so fascinated watching that young violinist trying to get his hair straightened out that I didn’t pay much attention to the music.’

I was crushed, of course, and for the first time I realized that I was in a fix. There I was, the young musician who was on public display every time the orchestra performed, building up my ego by the fact that I was undoubtedly the center of admiring glances; and it had not entered my monkey’s head that those same glances took in every detail of my frantic attempts to keep my hair in order. I gave up, with a regular Fort Donelson surrender, and next morning I combed my hair with a nice part on the left side and forgot about being a young man about town. It was a relief to me and unquestionably to many other people [pp.161-62].

waiting-train-catton-1987This was another section of the book that had me laughing out loud several times. I continue to enjoy this “good read” very much. Perhaps this little story will bring a chuckle to your soul and mouth too. 🙂

Published in: on March 2, 2018 at 10:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

10 Things You Should Know about Charles Spurgeon | Crossway Articles

As part of its “Ten Things You Should Know” series (usually on an aspect of church history or a key figure in her history), Crossway Publishing featured last month an article on the great Calvinist-Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), known as the “Prince of Preachers.” Many of us are familiar with Spurgeon’s powerful sermons (in a multitude of collections), his rich Treasury of David on the Psalms, and the devotional classic Evening and Morning based on his writings.

For our history feature this week we select a few choice items from this Crossway list of ten (compiled by Michael Reeves), encouraging you to read the rest (cf. link below). You knew Spurgeon was a giant in the pulpit and an incredible worker, but did you also know he had his bouts with melancholy and depression? Read on and learn more about this significant servant of Christ’s church in the 19th century.

3. He was self-consciously a theological and doctrinal preacher.

While Spurgeon is not known as a theologian as such, he was nevertheless a deeply theological thinker and his sermons were rich in doctrine, and dripping with knowledge of historical theology – especially the Puritans.

Some preachers seem to be afraid lest their sermons should be too rich in doctrine, and so injure the spiritual digestions of their hearers. The fear is superfluous. . . . This is not a theological age, and therefore it rails at sound doctrinal teaching, on the principle that ignorance despises wisdom. The glorious giants of the Puritan age fed on something better than the whipped creams and pastries which are now so much in vogue.3

9. He suffered with depression.

Spurgeon was full of life and joy, but also suffered deeply with depression as a result of personal tragedies, illness, and stress. Today he would almost certainly be diagnosed as clinically depressed and treated with medication and therapy. His wife, Susannah, wrote, “My beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent, that reason seemed to totter in her throne, and we sometimes feared that he would never preach again.”10

Spurgeon believed that Christian ministers should expect a special degree of suffering to be given to them as a way of forming them for Christlike, compassionate ministry. Christ himself was made like his weak and tempted brothers in order that he might help those who are tempted (Heb. 2:16–18), and in the same manner, it is weak and suffering people that God has chosen to minister to the weak and suffering.

10. He was emphatically Christ-centered.

Spurgeon saw theology much like astronomy: as the solar system makes sense only when the sun is central, so systems of theological thought are coherent only when Christ is central. Every doctrine must find its place and meaning in its proper relation to Christ. “Be assured that we cannot be right in the rest, unless we think rightly of HIM. . . . Where is Christ in your theological system?”11

Spurgeon’s view of the Bible, his Calvinism, and his view of the Christian life are all deeply Christocentric–and even that astronomical analogy may be too weak to capture quite how Christ-centered Spurgeon was in his thinking.

For him, Christ is not merely one component—however pivotal—in the bigger machinery of the gospel. Christ himself is the truth we know, the object and reward of our faith, and the light that illumines every part of a true theological system. He wrote, ‘He himself is Doctor and Doctrine, Revealer and Revelation, the Illuminator and the Light of Men. He is exalted in every word of truth, because he is its sum and substance. He sits above the gospel, like a prince on his own throne. Doctrine is most precious when we see it distilling from his lips and embodied in his person. Sermons are valuable in proportion as they speak of him and point to him.’12

Source: 10 Things You Should Know about Charles Spurgeon | Crossway Articles