Those who are familiar with the life and ministry of C.H. Spurgeon have likely heard the anecdote that he would ascend to his pulpit saying quietly to himself at each step “I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit.” So great was the task at hand the Prince of Preachers recognized that, apart from the Spirit’s work in and through him, he could do nothing.
Spurgeon’s reliance on the work of the Spirit was not reserved for the moments before he addressed his congregation of several thousand on a Sunday morning. His entire life was marked by a conscious dependence on the Spirit, and we can say without hesitation that this dependence was a hallmark of Spurgeon’s success in ministry.
This truth was not lost on Spurgeon, who stated that “without the Spirit of God we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind or chariots without steeds. Like branches without sap, we are withered. Like coals without fire, we are useless. As an offering without the sacrificial flame, we are unaccepted.”
It is because of the Spirit’s work through Spurgeon that he was able to reach untold thousands with his preaching, teaching, and writing. While there are none alive today who had the privilege of hearing Spurgeon preach, there are many who have nevertheless been ministered to by him through the many volumes of sermons and nearly 150 books he left behind.
I am one of those who count this Victorian-era preacher as having had a tremendous impact on my own life and ministry. His singular focus on the Gospel of Christ, his ability to present deep theological truths in easy-to-understand terms, and his affection for those he ministered to have been strong examples for me personally. Although I am far removed both in time and geography from Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, there are few areas of ministry where his written works do not continue to provide helpful and relevant guidance.
Charles Spurgeon’s ministry was so impactful because he sought first and foremost to make much of Jesus Christ through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. He wrote, “We, my brethren, who are preachers of the Word, have but a short time to live; let us dedicate all that time to the glorious work of magnifying Christ.” How can someone accomplish such a task? He continues, “If we alone had the task of glorifying Christ, we might be beaten; but as the Holy Spirit is the Glorifier of Christ, His glory is in very safe hands.”
Every Christian is to be about the same business as Spurgeon was, seeking to magnify Christ and minister to others in a way that relies on the Spirit of God to operate in the souls of men. This is why Spurgeon has proven himself to be so worthy a guide towards a deeper understanding of the work and person of the Holy Spirit. He not only accomplished great things for the Kingdom of God, but he humbly recognized that any work of his hands – no matter how remarkable – would have been meaningless were it not for the Spirit’s work in and through him.
In our day a Biblical understanding of the Spirit’s work is sorely needed. Confusion about who He is and what He does abounds, and too often we proceed through life relying on our power rather than His. Many contemporary works about the Holy Spirit are focused solely on either promoting or refuting the excesses of the extreme charismatic movement, and so there is a need to examine what Scripture has to say on the subject from a different vantage point. Spurgeon’s sermons provide just such a vantage point. They are at once timeless expositions of the truth of God’s Word and timely exhortations for the church to give proper, biblical focus on the person of the Holy Spirit.
As you read sermons from Spurgeon focused on the Holy Spirit, you will gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the Spirit’s work in your own life and ministry. As believers we should rejoice to know that it is He who convinces you of sin and gives power to your prayers of repentance; it is He who illuminates Scripture to your mind and enables you to glorify Christ with the work of your hands.
May each us go about our lives with a conscious and joyous dependence on the Spirit’s work, saying with each step, “I believe in the Holy Spirit…I believe in the Holy Spirit…I believe in the Holy Spirit.”
The above post was originally written as the forward for Knowing the Holy Spirit: Ten Classic Sermons from CH Spurgeon, available from Cross-Points Publishing.