Ask anyone if they have ever heard of Charles Spurgeon and you will likely find the name is familiar to more than a few. He is considered to be the finest and most influential preacher of the nineteenth century. He was an English Baptist pastor born in 1834 whose words, books, and influence extended far beyond the Baptist part of the Christian family tree and his written legacy is still sought today by many around the world.
Not everyone knows his wife, Susannah, or the significance she played in his life or had as a person in her own right, but reading a biography by Ray Rhodes Jr. on her life opened my eyes into the life of this delightful and significant woman. The book is Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon and it not only introduced me to her but gave precious glimpses of the Spurgeon love story.
Susannah Thompson was born January 15, 1832, on Old Kent Road in London and with her parents often visited relatives in Southwark. While there they attended New Park Street Chapel which was where she met Charles H. Spurgeon on a December Sunday evening in 1853.
Not long after their initial meeting, Charles would accept the pastorate at that same Chapel and as Susannah sat under his preaching she felt convicted of her cold spiritual condition. After confiding in her cousin about this, it seems Charles may have heard about it and sent her a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress and inscribed it with a message that he desired her to make progress in her spiritual life as well.
Their deep love of God, reading and nature drew them close and in January 1856 they were married, and she became a true helpmate as they set out on their marital and spiritual journey together.
The preaching of Charles soon packed out the New Park Street Chapel and expansion was needed and would be built to see over 5,000 people. That still was not enough for those who wanted to hear the great preacher and Surrey Garden Music Hall was set for a service on a Sunday evening in October of 1856. That night would be a defining moment in the life of Charles and Susannah.
Twelve thousand people filled the Hall and 10,000 more spilled out into the gardens and street, but someone who was tempted to stir up trouble yelled, “Fire!” and “The galleries are giving away!” Even though there was no fire, the troublemaker caused panic resulting in death and injury as people pushed to get out of the Hall.
The author notes of this event: “Susie’s godly character is one important reason why Charles survived what was both a life-and-ministry-threatening tragedy.”
This early trial before they celebrated their first wedding anniversary would anchor Susie’s faith for times of suffering that would come in the years ahead. And she would play a key role in helping her husband with challenges despite her own and these would be what developed her greater dependence on God.
Susie would often write encouraging notes to her husband that would appear in some of the five books she would author. Here is one example:
“No darkness, no distance, no dividing distress of any kind can separate thee from His constant care. Do remember, dear friend, that the God you love, the Master you serve, is never indifferent to your grief, or unwilling to hear your cry.”
Susie and Charles loved to travel together taking in the beauty of the Alps or along a favorite beach in France. It would be Susie who most delighted in hiking in these areas since she had traveled and done so prior to her marriage.
In September of 1856, their life together was blessed with the birth of twin sons . Both parents were delighted with these gifts from God, but it would be the last opportunity to give birth as Susie’s health would decline over time and appeared to be related to some condition that could not be fully resolved medically.
In every way Charles invited Susie into his thoughts and ministry preparations and she would often be invited into his study to review his sermons. She would describe those times as “gracious hours” and “unspeakably precious” to her. Here is a bit more of how she expresses her value of these times together:
“I listen to the dear voice of my beloved husband as he explains what I cannot understand, or unfolds meanings which I should fail to see, often condensing into a few clear, choice sentences whose pages of those discursive old divines in whom he delights, and pressing from the gathered thoughts all the richest nectar of their hidden sweetness.”
Susie’s passion to be of service would result in her establishing The Book Fund where she would collect monies to provide books and materials to poor pastors and congregations who did not have the benefit of the massive library she and Charles had amassed. This outreach would send hundreds of thousands of books around the world to struggling pastors and it was an outreach that would continue to extend the legacy after the death of Charles in 1892 until her own death in 1903.
Beyond the many details this book shares, you may also want to sample her heart for the Lord in one of her devotionals.
Susie describes her adoration for the Lord in these beautiful words in A Basket of Summer Fruit:
“Does it make your heart leap to know that your Lord takes pleasure in your praise? In His ears are ever sounding the eternal symphonies of the universe – that majestic chorus which began “when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy,” but He turns from these to you, and with infinite tenderness and love, bends to listen to the grateful songs of His redeemed ones, as they bless Him for all His benefits.”
The impact of this author’s book is best described by Susie Spurgeon Cochrane, great-great-granddaughter of Susie Spurgeon:
“Having read Susie, I find myself surprised again by another of my ancestors. It has shown me of the depths of Susie’s faith. I find myself wanting to have a good chat with her about her walk with God.”
I couldn’t agree more!
Many of you enjoyed the wonderful book Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. Today you get a special addition to this post about an exciting new book by Patti Callahan.
Here it is! I am so excited to share the cover for Surviving Savannah by New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan, on sale March 9, 2021. It’s inspired by the true and forgotten story of the sinking of the “Titanic of the South” #survivingsavannah #patticallahan Pre-order it here: https://bit.ly/3i9VQ4Y Visit Patti online: https://www.patticallahanhenry.com/surviving-savannah
About the book
New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan delivers a breathtaking novel based on true events.
It was called “The Titanic of the South”—the luxury steamship that sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board. Through time, their fates were forgotten—until the wreck was found.
Now their story is finally being told.
When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.
Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who, along with her child, was never found. The women were part of Savannah society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.
Perfect for fans of Before We Were Yours, Sold on a Monday, and Orphan Train, Callahan’s highly anticipated novel tells the story of a little known chapter of history that has long deserved a spotlight. This transformative tale told from alternating past and present perspectives will sweep readers away and move them to their core.
For Bloggers and Bookstagrammers: You may enter to win an advance digital copy using this sweepstakes link: https://sweeps.penguinrandomhouse.com/enter/surviving-savannah-cover-reveal-sweeps