Surprising Spurgeon # 5 – ‘Forced’ To Preach

October 22, 2008

In reading Spurgeon biographies previously I had heard the story of deacon Vinter’s ‘scheme’ to first have Spurgeon preach a sermon. Apparently, however, this was not the first time Charles had felt (quite literally!) ‘compelled’ to preach.

Spurgeon reflects on his first Sabbath-school opportunity (and then his first sermon?):

“Before I thought of going to a Sabbath-school to teach, someone called – asked me – begged me – prayed me to take his class. I could not refuse to go; and there I was, held hand and foot by the superintendent, and was compelled to go. Then I was asked to address the children; I thought I could not, but I stood up, and stammered out a few words. It was the same on the first occassion when I attempted to preach to the people – I am sure I had no wish to do it – but there was no one else who could, and the little congregation must have gone away without a single word of warning or invitation. How could I suffer it? I felt forced to address them, and so it has been whatever I have laid my hand to.”

(Eswine, p 26)



  1. I wouldn’t say that it is beyond the realms of possibility that this comment relates to the same event?

  2. Jonathan, on re-reading it you may be right. I’d need to check the quote in its context…I’ve altered the post a little to reflect my ambiguity!

    His comments about his first sermon (which he talked about on several occasions), however, tend to sound quite similar. Compulsion; stammering; the need to give a small congregation an invitation and warning etc.

  3. They are two different incidents. Spurgeon describes his “Sabbath School” experience (this precise quote, in fact), in his Autobiography, vol. 1, p. 159.

    The “first sermon” ruse (!) (to which this quote alludes) is recounted on pp. 182-3. It’s hard enough to imagine Spurgeon ever stammered from his infancy.

    For all Spurgeon himself mentions “stammering” here, he was by the time of his first “preach” a bit of a veteran. And given that on completion, “an aged voice cried out, ‘Bless your dear heart, how old are you?'”, the implication is that it was a fairly accomplished performance! (As was Spurgeon’s reply: “I am under sixty.” “Yes, and under sixteen,” was the old lady’s rejoinder!)

    (You can find the full story in the first of the four volumes of the original format autobiography here, choose “Flip Book”, and head for pages 200-201.)

    I like Spurgeon’s reflection on p. 157: “He who teaches a class in a Sabbath-school has earned a good degree. I had rather receive the title of S.S.T.* than M.A., B.A., or any other honour that ever was conferred by men.”

    * Sabbath School Teacher 🙂


    (Sorry for going on a bit … it’s hard to stop once you’ve started!)

    David Reimer

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