Charles Spurgeon: Sacrificial Labour (Piper)

From John Piper’s sermonic biography of Charles Spurgeon:

I do not look to soft and leisurely men to instruct me how to endure adversity. If the main answer is, “Take it easy,” I look for another teacher. Take a glimpse of this man’s capacity for work:

“No one living knows the toil and care I have to bear … I have to look after the Orphanage, have charge of a church with four thousand members, sometimes there are marriages and burials to be undertaken, there is the weekly sermon to be revised, The Sword and the Trowel to be edited, and besides all that, a weekly average of five hundred letters to be answered. This, however, is only half my duty, for there are innumerable churches established by friends, with the affairs of which I am closely connected, to say nothing of the cases of difficulty which are constantly being referred to me” (see note 21).

At his 50th birthday a list of 66 organizations was read that he founded and conducted. Lord Shaftesbury was there and said, “This list of associations, instituted by his genius, and superintended by his care, were more than enough to occupy the minds and hearts of fifty ordinary men” (see note 22).

He typically read six substantial books a week and could remember what he read and where to find it (see note 23). He produced more than 140 books of his own—books like The Treasury of David, which was twenty years in the making, and Morning and Evening, and Commenting on Commentaries, and John Ploughman’s Talk, and Our Own Hymnbook (see note 24).

He often worked 18 hours in a day. The missionary David Livingstone, asked him once, “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day? Spurgeon replied, “You have forgotten there are two of us” (see note 25). I think he meant the presence of Christ’s energizing power that we read about in Colossians 1:29. Paul says, “I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” “There are two of us.”

Spurgeon’s attitude toward sacrificial labor would not be acceptable today where the primacy of “wellness” seems to hold sway. He said,

“If by excessive labour, we die before reaching the average age of man, worn out in the Master’s service, then glory be to God, we shall have so much less of earth and so much more of Heaven!” (see note 26). “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed” (see note 27).

Behind this radical viewpoint were some deep Biblical convictions that come through the apostle Paul’s teaching. One of these convictions Spurgeon expressed like this:

“We can only produce life in others by the wear and tear of our own being. This is a natural and spiritual law,—that fruit can only come to the seed by its spending and be spent even to self-exhaustion” (see note 28).

The apostle Paul said, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation” (2 Cor. 1:6). “Death works in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). And he said that his own sufferings were the completion of Christ’s sufferings for the sake of the church (Col. 1:24).  do not look to soft and leisurely men to instruct me how to endure adversity. If the main answer is, “Take it easy,” I look for another teacher. Take a glimpse of this man’s capacity for work:

“No one living knows the toil and care I have to bear … I have to look after the Orphanage, have charge of a church with four thousand members, sometimes there are marriages and burials to be undertaken, there is the weekly sermon to be revised, The Sword and the Trowel to be edited, and besides all that, a weekly average of five hundred letters to be answered. This, however, is only half my duty, for there are innumerable churches established by friends, with the affairs of which I am closely connected, to say nothing of the cases of difficulty which are constantly being referred to me” (see note 21).

At his 50th birthday a list of 66 organizations was read that he founded and conducted. Lord Shaftesbury was there and said, “This list of associations, instituted by his genius, and superintended by his care, were more than enough to occupy the minds and hearts of fifty ordinary men” (see note 22).

He typically read six substantial books a week and could remember what he read and where to find it (see note 23). He produced more than 140 books of his own—books like The Treasury of David, which was twenty years in the making, and Morning and Evening, and Commenting on Commentaries, and John Ploughman’s Talk, and Our Own Hymnbook (see note 24).

He often worked 18 hours in a day. The missionary David Livingstone, asked him once, “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day? Spurgeon replied, “You have forgotten there are two of us” (see note 25). I think he meant the presence of Christ’s energizing power that we read about in Colossians 1:29. Paul says, “I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” “There are two of us.”

Spurgeon’s attitude toward sacrificial labor would not be acceptable today where the primacy of “wellness” seems to hold sway. He said,

“If by excessive labour, we die before reaching the average age of man, worn out in the Master’s service, then glory be to God, we shall have so much less of earth and so much more of Heaven!” (see note 26). “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed” (see note 27).

Behind this radical viewpoint were some deep Biblical convictions that come through the apostle Paul’s teaching. One of these convictions Spurgeon expressed like this:

“We can only produce life in others by the wear and tear of our own being. This is a natural and spiritual law,—that fruit can only come to the seed by its spending and be spent even to self-exhaustion” (see note 28).

The apostle Paul said, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation” (2 Cor. 1:6). “Death works in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). And he said that his own sufferings were the completion of Christ’s sufferings for the sake of the church (Col. 1:24).

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