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Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon [Hardcover]

Tom Nettles
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  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Christian Focus Publications Ltd (21 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781911223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781911228
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 19 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 357,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By JRG6141
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I think that Tom Nettles might have made life more simple for himself (as the author) and for his readers. The interest in CHS is as fresh as ever, but few of us have the time and perhaps the concentration necessary to read this great tome. It holds many little gems of information about CHS that would otherwise be overlooked or lost completely. So, with courtesy to Tom, thank you for an enormous piece of writing
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book to read about Spurgeon 16 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have read a great deal of Spurgeon and a great deal of what has been written about him. But this book is a wonderful record of his life and theology. If you like Spurgeon at all then read this and then plead with God that He might raise up more Spurgeon's in our day and age. We need them!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 21 April 2014
This is perhaps the greatest modern work on the life and ministry of the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. An absolute masterpiece.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OUTSTANDING!!!!!!!!!!! 8 Oct 2013
By parkerj - Published on Amazon.com
When I first received this book (Living By Revealed Truth) one of my initial thoughts was how easy of a review this would be to write. It didn't take long for that thought to change to 'How on earth do I write this review?' That question in no way reflects negatively on this book. Actually, the book is fantastic. It is a work fifteen years in the making and the amount of research and information that it contains is truly staggering. At just under 700 pages of double column text, Nettles has provided the church with a wonderful resource to peer into the life and theology of probably the best known preacher in Church history.

For anyone who may be unfamiliar with Charles Spurgeon (really?!?), Nettles provides one quote that provides a wonderful description of the type of preacher he was. Commenting on Spurgeon (who at the time had only been pastor at New Park Street for two weeks) to a college class on elocution, Sheridan Knowles said, "Go and hear him at once if you want to know how to preach. His name is Charles Spurgeon. He is only a boy, but he is the most wonderful preacher in the world. He is absolutely prefect in his oratory; and, besides that, a master in the art of acting. He has nothing to learn from me, or anyone else. He is simply perfect." Those of us who have read some of Spurgeon's sermons would simply reply, "YEP!" His passion and presence come through in his written words, one can only imagine what type of speaker he was.

This book is MASSIVE and there is no way to touch on everything that is contains, so I want to focus on just a few thoughts. The book contains 18 chapters that walk through Spurgeon's life. One of the first things to notice is how fast his ministry grew. Spurgeon felt that, "The pulpit is too much a repetition of creeds and theologies that are becoming extinct; and in the second place there is a deadweight in the pews which masters the pulpit and deadens its intellectual life." Spurgeon was clear that some of the Calvinistic pastors where very dry in their approach to sermons. They may have had sound doctrine, but it was presented in such a way that did not edify the church. Spurgeon's response, however, was not to water down the doctrine, but rather he engaged his audience with passion and clarity. If the doctrine we believe is true then once we come to understand it, it should change the way we live. Right doctrine should leads to right practice. Spurgeon knew God was sovereign over all things and this confidence in God shows through in his theology and his life.

Nettles is fair in providing the reader with both praise and criticism that was directed at Spurgeon. He takes the reader through the successes of Spurgeon's ministry as well as the hardships and difficulties. This is a very well rounded and informative book. Nettles research and efforts are visibly chapter after chapter.

Tom Nettles is one of the better Baptist historians and the knowledge, effort and care he has given to this work is evident on every page. This would be a wonderful book for every church or serious reader to add to their library. It is not a simple, quick read, but it is loaded with insight into the life of one of the greatest preachers that God has every blessed His Church with. If you have never read about Charles Spurgeon's life, ministry and theology then this is the book you need! I HIGHLY recommend this book.

I received a free copy of this book from Christian Focus Publications in exchange for an honest review. 
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sets a New Standard for Spurgeon Biographies 16 Oct 2013
By Dave J. Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
When it comes to heroes, none is greater than the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is everything to me, without Him I am nothing, and in and through His finished work my sin is addressed, forgiven and washed in the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. With that said, one of the greatest influences in my Christian life has been Charles Spurgeon. While Spurgeon does not come anywhere near the Lord Jesus Christ and I do not bow and worship Spurgeon, I do honor and greatly respect Spurgeon. His influence on my life and thought is massive. Moreover, the influence of Charles Spurgeon is felt more than ever today as he is the most published Christian author in church history.[i] Helmut Thielicke helpfully points out the widespread impact and influence of Spurgeon's ministry noting, "The fire Spurgeon kindled turned into a beacon that shone across the seas and down through generations, was no mere brush fire of sensationalism, but an inexhaustible blaze that glowed and burned on solid hearths and was fed by the wells of the eternal Word. Here was the miracle of a brush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed."[ii]

A new biography on Spurgeon called Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Spurgeon by Dr. Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky has recently hit the bookshelves. Dr. Nettles is considered by many to be one of the foremost Baptist historians in America and demonstrates in this biography an enormous amount of knowledge about Spurgeon. This book traces Spurgeon's life from birth, to conversion, to the great works God did in and through him in his ministry, to the downgrade controversy, and his conduct in his life and death.

What sets this biography apart is that it is more than just a biography. It is a training manual for how the Gospel penetrated into the thought of Spurgeon and how it can do the same in our lives. Spurgeon's gifts were many, but his skills were all for not without the Gospel. Spurgeon is famous for saying that in his sermons he explained the text and then made a beeline to the Cross. Overall, this biography by Nettles reflects not only the spirit of Spurgeon but also the character of Spurgeon the man. Many people have been deeply blessed by Spurgeon and I count myself as one of those men. To read Spurgeon is to be brought into a world where the Gospel is supreme, where the Word is held in high esteem and preached faithfully, and where by the grace of God and ministry of the Holy Spirit the reader will be challenged and convicted. I echo the prayers of many who have prayed that God would raise up a mighty army of Spurgeons and yet, it is not duplicates of Spurgeon we need. What we need is Christians the world over who are captivated by the Truth of the Word of God and bow in amazement at the God of all grace. Oh for that to happen once again as it would turn the world upside down. This is why I rejoice for this biography/training manual that gives a portrait of how the Gospel penetrated the heart and life of Spurgeon and pulsated through the pulpit of Metropolitan Tabernacle and even now continues to do so through the many articles, books, and sermons Spurgeon wrote and preached.

Allow me to tell you why this biography/training manual is so important. First, this biography is a masterful telling of Spurgeon's life. Rather than just conveying facts about Spurgeon which it does extremely well, this book reveals as few have done how driven Spurgeon was by the Gospel. This is particular instructive for the Church today given many are unduly driven by the latest fads and programs. Spurgeon was a man who saturated his life and ministry in the Word of God. He was a man who was a giant of the faith for reasons that went well beyond his extraordinary gifts. If ever this statement applied to any man it was Spurgeon, for he was an ordinary man whom God saved and used in an extraordinary way for the glory of God and the advancement of the Gospel. Spurgeon was the rare man who used his knowledge not for himself or to display how intelligent he was but rather he used his theology to further fuel His passion for God and His glory. This is displayed in chapter five where Dr. Nettles looks at Spurgeon's theological method and content noting how Spurgeon grounded his life and thinking in Scripture.

The final reason why this book is important is the fact that many in our day have a low view of the Word of God. Spurgeon sought to preach the Word of God faithfully to God's people, week in and week out. Spurgeon, in addressing verbal plenary inspiration, stated it was a fact and not a hypothesis.[iii] He believed the Bible is inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient, and stated concerning the Word of God, "I am the Book of God: Read me. I am God's writing: Open my pages, for I was penned by God; read it, for He is my Author."[iv] Spurgeon, preaching on Matthew 4:4, taught that in one's search for truth, "It is not found in an infallible Church or infallible Apostles or any infallible man, for this is not where infallibility rests, but rather Christians have a more sure word of testimony, a rock of truth upon which they rest, for our infallible standard lies in `It is written'."[v]Spurgeon believed the Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, but that it is the Word of God."[vi] Spurgeon reinforced his view that the Scriptures were the unique, infallible, and inerrant[vii] Word of God by stating, "It [The Bible] is also a book pure in the sense of truth, being without admixture of error. I do not hesitate to say that I believe that there is no mistake whatever in the original Holy Scriptures from beginning to end there is not an error of any sort in the whole compass of them."[viii] To Spurgeon, a preacher's chief aim must be to communicate the Word of God to the people of God. He affirmed this belief by declaring, "The Word of God is not committed to God's ministers to amuse men with its glitter, nor to charm them with the jewels in its hilt, but to conquer their souls for Jesus."[ix] Spurgeon firmly believed the Bible was the very Word of God which would break the heart and bring the soul before the throne of God, thus bringing them to a redemptive knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.[x] The Word of God was the foundation for Spurgeon's entire theological perspective and ministry. To read Dr. Nettles book Living By Revealed Truth is to be confronted by a man in Spurgeon who was absorbed in the Word of God so much so that his vocabulary and language was derived from that Word, with his life reflecting that reality.

In a day where the authority of the Bible is once again being challenged, what is needed is Christians across the world to herald the unchanging and timeless message of the Word of God. Spurgeon's influence endures in evangelicalism today not because he was a perfect man. Like all of us, Spurgeon was a saint and sinner, yet his legacy remains because of his faithfulness to the Word of God and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. You and I may never ever have the influence of a Spurgeon, but that does not mean we cannot make a difference in the lives of others. We can and will make a difference in the lives of others only if we rely on the Word of God. If one were to look across church history at the great men and women of God, men and women God has used powerfully in the life of the Church, a consistent pattern emerges, namely that of faithfulness to the Word of God and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a day when the Word of God and even the Gospel is being dismissed as outdated and irrelevant, the Church has a Word that is unchanging and behind that message is a God who is faithful, true, just, merciful, loving and yet whose wrath burns against sinners and is only appeased or satisfied through the bloody death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. What is needed in the Church today is a vision of ministry as Spurgeon's was--thoroughly grounded in the Word of God, captivated by the Gospel, for the purpose of building up the Church and loving the bride of Christ whom Jesus redeemed through His shed blood and who now empowers His people through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to testify of Himself for His praise.

While much, much more can be said not only about Revealed by Truth but also about Spurgeon the man, the one thing that stands apart from Spurgeon outside of his view of Scripture is that his ministry was one that displayed a high view of God, of Jesus, and that had deep roots in a proper understanding of the Holy Spirit. Spurgeon's spirituality emerged from the Word of God. As Raymond Brown rightly notes regarding Spurgeon, "His spirituality was essentially a Biblical spirituality."[xi] [19] Spurgeon was a man deeply influenced by the Puritans and as such believed that the Gospel was for all of life. He "believed in a disciplined spirituality which to him meant diligent, meditative study of the Scriptures."[xii]

Reading Dr. Nettles Living by Revealed Truth has reminded me once again of how God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways for the glory of His name. While Spurgeon was a man of deep intellect and who had a passion for the Word of God and the Gospel of God, all his considerable gifts bowed before the sovereignty of God and were used in the service of His Kingdom. That is a legacy all Christians can leave by the grace of God if we are faithful to the Word of God and the Gospel.

I highly recommend this biography by Dr. Nettles because it is grounded as Spurgeon would have wanted in the Word of God, with a firm discussion of how Spurgeon worked out what he thought about a variety of topics from Scripture. Second, this biography is biblical theology on fire. By that I mean Nettles displays how the Word of God fueled Spurgeon's passion for reading while keeping Scripture supreme in his thoughts and affections. The Puritans were men and women who understood that doctrine was for all of life. In this book, Nettles does a brilliant job of demonstrating the influence of the Puritans on Spurgeon's own life and thinking. Finally, this biography is important because it gives a vision of ministry grounded in God's Word and in prayer, fueled by the Holy Spirit. If we desire to be used powerfully as Spurgeon was in his day, we must be lovers of Jesus who were grounded in the Word of God, prayer and fueled by the Holy Spirit. May God make that a reality in our lives and may He renew in us a love for His Word, His Gospel, by His Spirit for the glory of God.

Go pick up Living By Revealed Truth: The Life And Pastoral Theology of Charles Spurgeon for to do so is to be swept away into a world where the Word of God is central, where the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed and where you will be confronted with a vision of ministry that honors God and brings Him all the glory. In my opinion, when one combines the scope of this biography with its intention to instruct its readers in a vision of ministry that glorifies God, it will not only break fresh ground on the life of Spurgeon, it will also set a new standard for how to write biographies. This approach does not just tell the story of a great man of God, it also demonstrates what drove that man to do the things he did for God. When one combines these factors, it results in one of the finest, if not the best biography I've read on Spurgeon as well as one of the best biographies I've ever read period. Nettles' effort will become the new standard for biographies on Spurgeon and will encourage, educate and bless its readers. I pray it gains a wide readership among the people of God, from layman to scholars to everywhere in between. May God use this biography in powerful ways to flame a passion for the Word of God and the gospel of the Lord Jesus in our generation for the praise of His name.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EPIC SPURGEON 12 Oct 2013
By Dr. David Steele - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Tom Nettles is a magnum opus if I ever saw one. The subtitle nicely summarizes the path that is set before readers as they study the rich biography of the Prince of Preachers and gain insight into the theological landscape that dominated his ministry for almost 40 years.

The introduction leaves no room for ambiguity. Spurgeon was a Bible man, an uncompromising pastor who loved to proclaim the truth of Scripture. One man captures the essence of the British pulpiteer, when someone inquired about the secret of Spurgeon's effectiveness after his death: "Two things; first, he had one single object before him always, 'to win souls for God by preaching Christ, and Him crucified and risen'; second, his own personal faith in Christ was always feeding on Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture."

Eighteen marvelous chapters are packed into this book of nearly 700 pages. Over the next several days, I intend to present the high points, noting the strengths of the book and any criticisms that may arise. One thing is sure: Spurgeon was a towering figure in 19th century England and he continues to wield a mighty influence on preachers in the 21st century. His influence on this preacher has been inestimable. His integrity, passion for truth, love of evangelism, and heart for people is a mighty boon for the soul. I'm looking forward to the journey!

Chapter 1: Birth to New Birth

Living By Revealed Truth Begins where any biography ought to begin - at the beginning. Spurgeon was born on June 19, 1834 and was influenced at an early age by dead writers: "The old writers, who are, by far, the most sensible - for you will notice that the books that were written about 200 years ago by the old Puritans have more sense in one line than there is in a page of our new books - and more in a page than there is in a whole volume of our modern divinity!" Spurgeon was influenced by the likes of John Owen, Stephen Charnock, and John Bunyan - men who would inform his theological mind for the duration of his ministry.

The author unfolds the fascinating story of Spurgeon's conversion and rise to pulpit ministry. Spurgeon reports, "Ah me, how I seemed offended against the justice of God; I was impure and polluted, and I used to say, 'If God does not send me to hell, He ought to do it.' I sat in judgment upon myself, and pronounced the sentence that I felt would be just." He continues, "Then I was brought down to see my corruption, my wickedness, my filthiness, for God always humbled the sinner whom He means to save."

Spurgeon's testimony is remarkable, especially given the postmodern aversion to proclaiming the sinfulness of sin and the efficacy of the substitutionary atonement. For example, Tony Crank, Senior pastor of the One Love Church recently opined, "Some churches have become the kind of place where you point the finger, and you condemn and rebuke and you're really quick to do it, and so I think that is definitely lending itself to people not wanting anything to do with church and thinking church sucks!" Evidently the kind of approach that Crank opposes is precisely the kind of ministry that was instrumental in Spurgeon's entry into the kingdom of God.

The Puritan writer, Samuel Bolton agrees with Spurgeon's approach and opposes Pastor Crank: "When you see that men have been wounded by the law, then it is time to pour in the balm of Gospel oil. It is the sharp needle of the law that makes way for the scarlet thread of the gospel."

Spurgeon's conversion is instructive and his subsequent ministry informs the conscience of anyone who seeks to reach lost people. He remarked, "To preach in this great building the self-same gospel in the same simple tones. Sinners, look to Christ and be saved." Spurgeon taught a simple lesson that every pastor must heed. Sinners must be confronted with their sin. They must understand how they have violated God's holy law. And they must be exhorted to look to Christ, to believe in Christ, to embrace his salvific benefits that he purchased on the cross.

Chapter 2: Made for Gospel Ministry

Dr. Nettles continues to guide readers on a fascinating account of Spurgeon's ministry by beginning with his first sermon and first pastorate. Spurgeon himself admitted, "I felt my own inability to preach." Yet the rookie preacher acknowledged from the beginning that God had his number. Spurgeon affirmed the irresistible sovereign grace that God wielded upon his life, the One who "had plucked me as a brand from the burning, and set me upon a rock, and put a new song in my mouth, and established my goings."

Spurgeon affirmed the doctrines of grace at the beginning of his ministry and finished strong as a five point Calvinist. He proclaimed, "I am a Calvinist ... It is Calvinism they want in London, and any Arminian preaching will not be endured." My how times have changed. These days, a tepid Arminianism dominates many pulpits, especially in America. And when the doctrines of grace wane, the church diminishes in power and gospel effectiveness. But most of all, the glory of God is obscured.

One notable feature is the power that was manifest in Spurgeon's pulpit from the onset of his ministry. He remarked, "The pulpit is no place for weak, stunted, deformed, wretched-looking men." He maintained his commitment to Calvinism with bold resolve while at the same time fleeing from the erroneous doctrine of hyper-Calvinism. Indeed, this man was made for gospel ministry.

Chapter 3: The Metropolitan Tabernacle

The construction of the Metropolitan Tabernacle was a watershed moment in Spurgeon's ministry. Nettles remarks, "He believed that the completion of the Tabernacle signaled an advance for the gospel in the whole city." Spurgeon's new pulpit became the sounding board for the doctrines of grace which began in London but echoed around the globe as his sermons were being printed by the thousands.

Spurgeon articulated and proclaimed a strong Calvinistic message, never compromising the core planks that were formulated at the Synod of Dort. He preached with a style that was narrative driven but doctrinally rich.

Chapter 4: Preaching the Whole Counsel

The author highlights Spurgeon's passion to preach Scripture in its entirety. Dr. Nettles beautifully summarizes the essence of Spurgeon's ministry: "This is the main glory of ministry, to preach Christ - his substitution, that he became a curse for us, dying the just for the unjust in the stead of his people. Christ must be preached in a lively, earnest, spiritual manner in order for him to be set forth plainly as crucified, even as Paul did before the Galatians."

Spurgeon's bold style is emphasized: "We must preach Christ courageously ... Pray the message in before you preach it out."

While Spurgeon did not necessarily preach verse by verse, he was an expository preacher. The author notes, "For Spurgeon, true exposition meant, in Puritan fashion, using the whole Bible and all its doctrines in the unfolding of any one portion of Scripture." And preaching expository message, for Spurgeon meant doctrine must be the backbone of every sermon: "Full submission to the authority of Scripture demanded that one be ready to embrace every doctrine of the Word of God." For Spurgeon, watering down the message was tantamount to compromise.

At the end of the day, faithfulness in the pulpit meant proclaiming the power of the cross. This is gospel preaching. Spurgeon declared, "I believe that the best, surest, and most permanent way to fill a place of worship is to preach the gospel, and to preach it in a natural, simple interesting, earnest way." Powerful words for pastors to heed in the 21st century - preachers who all too often capitulate to the demands of culture and marginalize the message to appease carnal listeners.

Chapter 5 : Theological Method and Content

The author places the spot light on the most prominent feature of Spurgeon's ministry, namely, the proclamation of the gospel. While Spurgeon attracted thousands of admirers over the course of his ministry, he was also plagued with critics and naysayers. Nettles notes, "Spurgeon quickly learned that a preacher bent on pleasing all his critics would speedily leave the ranks of the ministry." But Spurgeon would not be distracted. He faithfully forged a gospel path for his hearers - a path that led to eternal life for everyone who believes.

Spurgeon's gospel focus was narrow and focussed and serves as a necessary reminder for preachers today. "Preach all you know about Christ ... To conceal the plain truth of salvation beneath a cloud of words, when God's honor and eternal human destiny are at stake, is treason to men's souls and diabolical cruelty." The cross was the centerpiece of Spurgeon's ministry. He never compromised his primary calling - the preaching of Christ crucified.

Spurgeon was an accomplished theologian. Nettles weighs in: "The Christian theologian must be clearly Christian and no less clear a theologian." Spurgeon's example is a rebuke to many modern preachers who glory in their aversion to theology. The notion of a pastor who preaches messages void of theology would have repulsed the prince of preachers.

Spurgeon was an unashamed admirer of the Puritans and Reformers. Nettles remarks, "Spurgeon advocated a pure Biblicism for theological construction. He loved the historic confessions and the pious and helpful writings of the Reformers and Puritans ..." Spurgeon taught the importance of reading dead readers - theologians with a backbone and the courage to proclaim the unchanging Word of God.

Spurgeon unapologetically embraced the doctrines of grace and proudly proclaimed the five points of Calvinism, including the doctrine of particular redemption. He lamented that "most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace."

The author makes it clear that Spurgeon's sermons were chock full of theology: "Spurgeon's sermons were virtually an overflowing stream of systematic theology ..." Again, the contrast between Spurgeon's doctrinally rich sermons and the weak content in many American sermons is alarming.

Spurgeon was not bashful about confronting his Arminian brothers. Nettles notes, "He loved Arminians as sincere persons and loved the emphasis on Christ that they shared in common with him, but he truly abominated the distinctive elements of their doctrine ... The Arminian attempt to tame God, in Spurgeon's view, created an idol unworthy of respect and adoration." Spurgeon counted his Arminian friends as brothers and sisters but did not hesitate to remind them of their theological error.

Spurgeon did not equivocate when it came to controversial doctrines. He preached about a fiery hell and the almighty wrath of God. He preached about election and predestination. And he preached about a Christ who paid for the sins of everyone who would ever believe. He opined, "I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it."

Biblical authority, theological depth, and doctrinal precision marked the life and ministry of C.H. Spurgeon. Compromise was not a part of his makeup. Fidelity to the truth was at the core of his pastoral identity.

Chapter 6: Spurgeon's Message of Christ's Atoning Sacrifice

"The Lord Jesus Christ on his cross of redemption was the center, circumference, and summation of the preaching ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon," writes Nettles. This is the theme that readers are drawn to again and again in this excellent biography. A few direct citations from Spurgeon will drive this truth home:

"Redemption is the heart of the gospel and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary atonement of Christ."

" ... The death of Christ was the hinge of the world's history."

"Christ's people shall be made willing in the day of his power, and the great attraction by which they will be drawn to him will be his death on the cross."

"The cross is the mighty battering ram wherewith to break in pieces the brazen gates of human prejudices and the iron bars of obstinacy."

Chapter 7: The Challenge of Church Life and the Governance of Worship

The burden of shepherding the flock was often times overwhelming for Spurgeon: "Sometimes I become so perplexed that I sink in heart, and dream that it were better for me never to have been born than to have been called to bear all this multitude upon my heart." The Metropolitan Tabernacle made a crucial error in electing deacons for life - a polity policy that will often times prove to be detrimental to the health of the church.

Chapter 8: The Gospel is Evangelism

Anyone familiar with Spurgeon's ministry understands the importance of evangelism as a normal part of church life. He shared the gospel personally and also preached the gospel passionately. Nettles adds, "Preaching to convert souls, for Spurgeon, meant laying out the full counsel of God to the sinner." Spurgeon's Reformed soteriology demanded a strong message that warned sinners: "Men must be told that they are dead ... and that only the Holy Spirit can quicken them." He resisted the Arminian approach to evangelism with holy fervor.

Chapter 9: Use of Evangelists

Chapter 9 is an extension of Spurgeon's approach to evangelism. Nettles highlights Spurgeon's Calvinistic zeal: "To keep back any part of the gospel is neither right nor 'the true method for saving men.' All doctrine is saving truth. 'If you hold Calvinistic doctrine, as I hope you do, do not stutter about it, nor stammer over it, but speak it out.' The lack of a full-orbed gospel is behind the evanescence of many so-called revivals."

Chapter 10: Theological Foundations for a Benevolent Ministry

Spurgeon placed the highest priority on the Word of God and proclaimed the truth of Scripture with blood-earnest faithfulness. But he also had a burden for practical ministry: "We want more Christian ministries of the practical sort." He was the primary visionary behind the Orphanage for Boys. Nettles summarizes Spurgeon's heart who "saw the needs of childhood not only in terms of food, shelter, and clothing, but in terms of family relationships, maternal care, and pure childish delight."

Chapter 11: Personal Theory and Preferences in the Production of Godly Literature

Both Spurgeon and his wife were lovers of books. Mrs. Spurgeon began a Book Fund which was a deep encouragement to pastors in western Europe. Spurgeon's writing ministry flourished for most of his ministry. Soon his sermons were being sent all around the globe

Chapter 12: Literature About Right, Wrong, and Truth

One of the most enduring qualities of this chapter was the discussion that focused on Spurgeon's love for Jonathan Edwards. Nettles writes, "Spurgeon's spirituality savored of an Edwardsean aroma ... Spurgeon had a personal appreciation for careful scholarship and its usefulness to the church. He always longed, however, that scholarship and orthodoxy be suffused with the pulsation of spiritual life."

Chapter 13: Theology and Controversy

"We do not wish to fight; but if we do, we hope that the pity will be needed by those with whom we contend." Spurgeon was not one to pick a fight but when truth was on the line, he didn't back down either. He bravely battled Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists. Unlike many modern pastors, refused to pretend a cordial relationship when truth was sacrificed at the altar of relevance: "He would not pretend fellowship with those with whom he disagreed upon vital points of truth."

The author presents several notable theological controversies that Spurgeon confronted including the Rivulet controversy, his battle with atheistic evolution, and his skirmishes with Plymouth Brethrenism.

Chapter 14: Destroy or Be Destroyed

The author continues the discussion and reveals Spurgeon's passionate defense of the truth as he stepped into the fray against the Roman Catholic Church. Spurgeon once remarked, "Showing charity to priests is like showing charity to tigers and rattlesnakes."

Nettles recounts Spurgeon's run-in's with the Church of England. For instance, he called baptismal regeneration, "a wretched and rotten foundation" and a "deceitful invention of antichrist." His repudiation of infant baptism was clear. He referred to the font as a "mockery."

Chapter 15: The Downgrade Conflict

The author carefully describes the downgrade conflict, the theological slide which Spurgeon confronted directly and ultimately led him out of the Baptist Union. Spurgeon painfully notes, "I have cut myself clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them."

Little room was left for the imagination to wander when one considered Spurgeon's position on controversial matters. He was a man who would not be swayed by theological error. He was a bastion of truth in an age of compromise.

Chapter 16: Spurgeon and Baptists in America

Of course, Spurgeon's influence was felt around the world but his influence in America was especially profound. George Truett pays the Prince of Preachers a wonderful compliment: "[He] had no sort of fellowship with the nerveless, hazy, intellectual libertinism that plays fast and loose with the eternal verities of Christ's gospel ... [He taught] the great themes of divine revelation: the sovereignty of God; the holiness of God; the love of God; the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; the solemn wonders of the cross; the divine forgiveness of sins; the fellowship of Christ's sufferings; the fellowships of Christ's sufferings; the power of his resurrection."

Chapter 17: Sickness, Suffering, Depression

It is common knowledge that Spurgeon suffered greatly throughout his life. He was tormented from all sides, had numerous physical ailments and battled depression for most of his adult life (as is chronicled especially in Iain Murray's terrific book, The Forgotten Spurgeon. His godly example is also known well: "Our happiness does not depend upon our understanding the providence of God." Nettles remarks, "Spurgeon never doubted that his exquisite pain, frequent sickness, and even despondency were given to him by God for his sanctification in a wise and holy purpose."

So Spurgeon developed a theology of suffering that grew out of his own painful crucible. His response was nothing less than God-centered and serves as an inspiration for anyone who endures a dark night of the soul.

Chapter 18: Conduct in the Face of Death

Spurgeon was not a perfect man. He struggled with indwelling sin and battled the flesh all the way to the Celestial City. But Nettles makes the point abundantly clear. Spurgeon finished well. The British pastor said, "Should you even lie in all the despair and desolation which I described, I would persuade you to believe in Jesus. Trust him, and you shall find him all that you want."


Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon is a sweeping epic that beautifully illustrates the life and legacy of one of the most prolific pastors ever. Tom Nettles has done a great service for the church by researching and writing with the depth of a seasoned theologian and the heart of a caring pastor.

Highly recommended
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An actual recording of Spurgeon preaching? You decide. 1 Nov 2013
By Able Baker - Published on Amazon.com
From the time that I first heard of C.H. Spurgeon and read him I have wondered what he must have sounded like. Listen to this account from a reporter who experienced his preaching first hand...

"Soon as he commences to speak, tones of richest melody are heard. A voice, full, sweet, and musical, falls on every ear, and awakens agreeable emotions in every soul in which there is a sympathy for sounds. That most excellent of voices is under perfect control, and can whisper or thunder at the wish of its possessor. And there is poetry in every feature and every movement, as well as music in the voice. The countenance speaks,-- the entire form sympathizes. The action is in complete unison with the sentiments, and the eye listens scarcely less than the ear to the sweetly-flowing oratory."

What kind of person, husband, and pastor was he? Why did so many flock to hear him? Tom Nettles, like a master, paints a picture so detailed of Spurgeon that the prolific preacher's clarion voice almost jumps off the page at you. If you are a pastor hammered by conflict, petty problems, big problems, physical problems and even denominational tensions you will find this 704 page biography to be more like an indispensable tome. This will be the first book I hand a person thinking about going into pastoral ministry. If you are expecting a simple biography you will be surprised and perhaps this is one of the issues I have with the book. It could easily be purchased as a simple biography but it's actually a work of practical theology with Spurgeon's life as a case study. I read the book on my kindle and I will absolutely purchase the paper copy because it will be one I go back to again and again for referencing, quotes etc.

Below, I have listed all of the book's 18 chapters with a quote from each to give you a sample.

1. Birth to New Birth:

"I can bear witness that children can understand the Scriptures," Spurgeon insisted, "for I am sure that when but a child I could have discussed many a knotty point of controversial theology, having heard both sides of the question freely stated among my father's circle of friends."

2. Made for Gospel Ministry:

"Spurgeon entered enthusiastically into every opportunity for service to Christ that he could. He distributed tracts joyfully and consistently while still at Newmarket. He had seventy people that he regularly visited, taking his Saturdays for this visitation as well as tract distribution. He explained to his mother, "I do not give a tract, and go away; but I sit down, and endeavour to draw their attention to spiritual realities."

3. The Metropolitan Tabernacle:

"My venerable predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity, admirable and excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me, is not his system of divinity or any other human treatise, but Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel; who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life."

4. Preaching the Whole Counsel:

"According to his later descriptions, Spurgeon did not entirely lay down the pen when getting his sermon ready, but produced brief cryptic notes. Often his only written help was on the front of an ordinary envelope; later in life, needing to write in a bolder hand, whether because of his eyes or his hand he did not say, he used the half of a sheet of note paper. "I sometimes wish that I had never used even this," he wrote, "for the memory loves to be trusted, and the more fully it is relied upon the more does it respond to our confidence."

5. Theological Method and Content:

"Whatever else he was, Spurgeon was a Christian theologian, and, preeminently as a "Pastor/Theologian," he must covet the rightness of both the head and the heart of his people."

6. Spurgeon's Message of Christ's Atoning Sacrifice:

"There are a few men who scoff at the statement and reject the thought of sacrifice," Spurgeon acknowledged in 1859, but these "never will be more than a few; they can never be many." The system which "denies the doctrine of atonement by the blood of Jesus ... can never succeed [and] they will never convince the masses." One should not argue against this tendency but rather destroy it "by our own personal determination to preach more earnestly and more consistently `Jesus Christ, and Him crucified'."

7. The Challenge of Church Life and the Governance of Worship:

"Spurgeon's great usefulness and inimitable gifts brought his early death. He could not have survived as well as he did without a sufficient number of devoted and efficient church officers and personal assistants."

8. The Gospel is Evangelism:

"Searching for souls was not easy, especially in London, for the native depravity of man had been further degraded in hardness by the vicious life so easily followed and so oppressively dominant."

9. Use of Evangelists:

" To call in another brother every now and then to take the lead in evangelistic services will be found very wise and useful; for there are some fish that never will be taken in your net, but will surely fall to the lot of another fisherman"

10. Theological Foundations for a Benevolent Ministry:

"Spurgeon stated strongly that God was concerned about the temporal well-being of his creatures. Readers of The Sword and the Trowel complained when Spurgeon spoke strongly for the benefit of agricultural laborers. He did not apologize nor seek to diminish the urgency of seeking justice in these matters, but affirmed, "We shall, however, always have a tongue for the oppressed as long as we are able to speak."

11. Personal Theory and Preferences in the Production of Godly Literature:

"Spurgeon wanted his literary productions to provide "entertainment and edification." 7 He looked at nature and saw that the first was normally bound to the second, for God had joined them together. Note the beauty and usefulness of fruit, the flight of a painted butterfly among herbs of the garden, and how the "cerulean blue of the cornflower smiles forth from amid the stalks of the wheat."

12. Literature about Right, Wrong, and Truth:

"In his notice of Cruel Wrong, Spurgeon blasted the double standard often involved in the devastation left in the wake of fornication. "Where the sins of young `gentlemen' are winked at, and poor women alone are made to suffer the shame of sin, incalculable misery must follow." Amusement at the sowing of "wild oats" on the part of men, as if fornication were a natural and pardonable folly necessary to developing maturity, must be stopped, and the "age must be made to see unchastity on the part of men in the fair, truthful light, as being in every way as evil, and in some respects more evil, than the same offence in women."

13. Theology and Controversy:

"Spurgeon's controversies fall into three major types. Controversy at the first level came at the point of immediate conflict over scriptural teaching. This involved a clash of messages and a clash of confessions. Spurgeon had much to say in this area and spread his remarks over a wide field including persons, denominations, and movements. The second level of conflict emerged with those that held a confessional position ostensibly, but felt themselves justified in functioning in opposition to it. Sometimes this was because their theology was better than the confession, and led Spurgeon to admonish them to leave their church and place themselves at the behest of divine provision. Others ministered outside the parameters of, or in opposition to, their confessions because they believed less and worse that the confession proclaimed. For these he felt special alarm and was particularly disdainful of their hypocrisy. A third type of controversy focused on the theological differences that he had with other publications, including periodicals and books. For the most part this type involved a single interaction but on occasions resulted in prolonged, and sometimes bitter, insulting exchanges. "

14. Destroyed or be Destroyed:

"He often employed such amusing metaphors and felt no inclination to be less aggressive in his ridicule. He felt sure that "the powers of sarcasm, ridicule, and contempt are never more fittingly exercised than upon the fallacies and blasphemies of idolatry."

15. The Downgrade Conflict:

"Every day affords more and more evidence that while many are true to their Lord, unbelief has sadly eaten into Congregational and Baptist churches." & "The Downgrade controversy became a classic display of the dynamics of controversy. Alternate pressures play upon the conscience and reveal the location of the most potent affections. Love of truth, fear of disapproval, care to maintain existing relationships, awareness of public impression--all of these converge, clash, amalgamate, and synthesize to form a complex variety of responses when a clear cause of division moves from the horizon toward the center of our being. This conflict showed that many ministers were either unwilling to come to a full understanding of issues at stake or were willing to compromise truth for the sake of unity. "

16. Spurgeon and Baptists in America:

"The Texas Baptist in January of 1857 carried a vivid description of this peculiarly Spurgeonic preaching when Spurgeon was twenty-three years old and in the flower of his New Park Street years. The writer said Spurgeon was "of the middle size -- thick set in figure, with a deep, capacious chest, and a throat, and tongue, and lip, all formed for vehement oratory." & "R.H.S. referred to and expressed his doubts about an accusation that Spurgeon's pupils were said to "copy him with ludicrous exactness." Gambrell had heard the same reports and knowing that "the imitative faculty is very strong in the human make-up" gave an amusing spin to the stories about imitation. Gambrell not only loved stories about Spurgeon, he was one of the greatest spin doctors Southern Baptists have ever produced. Introducing an article on "Theology and clothes" he wrote: It is said that Spurgeon once went out with one of his students to preach for him. A very sincere sister said to the great preacher, "Brother Spurgeon, I liked your sermon, except one thing: I did not like your imitating our pastor so much."

17. Sickness, Suffering, Depression:

"Such is the stubbornness of our flesh, that the Lord uses for fuel in His furnace sharp and heavy trials of different kinds," Spurgeon emphasized, with no change of perception over the quarter of a century. "Adversity assumes many forms and in each and all of its shapes the Lord knows how to use it for His people's benefit."

18. Conduct in the Face of Death:

"Unlike the outbreak of the plague early in Spurgeon's ministry from which he was spared, providence did not by pass him this time. Whether this outbreak of "influenza" was named properly or not, the ravaging effects of it found a weakened host in Spurgeon. He had just returned from three months in Mentone. While there, struggling with the debilitating illnesses that had tightened their hold on him increasingly for some years, he wrote of his hope that "the afflictions of the Editor" would be not only for his profit but for theirs. He recommended to other sufferers a viewpoint that filled his painful days with confident hope: "Let all the sons and daughters of sorrow know assuredly that the bitters of their portion are weighed and measured by covenant love; and not a drop of wormwood will be wasted if there be grace given to receive it with believing resignation." 5 Suffering happened according to the will of God in accordance with God's specific design for each person. He believed that for others, he accepted it for himself." & "After a prayer by Newman Hall, the orphan boys choir sang as the coffin was slowly taken down the aisle. The open hearse had, on both sides, the words, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

If you are involved in local church pastoral ministry this book is not a chicken wing appetizer. It is not full of fancy encouragements and platitudes. It is more like a full course meal of theological engagement. I will be honest, as a pastor, this book presented some raw and real howitzer like moments of conviction for me. Do not get the ebook. Purchase the paper copy it will be much easier to reference. The back of the book has a Scripture and subject reference that you will find very useful. What that man accomplished in his lifetime is almost unbelievable. Perhaps J.P. Boyce's (baptist theologian) encounter with him sums it up well...

"In the summer of 1888, Boyce, for the sake of his health, managed a trip to Europe. His daughter, Lizzie, accompanied him and narrated the events of the trip. One Sunday they were able to attend the Metropolitan Tabernacle in order to hear Spurgeon. He was suffering one of his frequent gout attacks, a malady held in common with Boyce, and preached while seated. Boyce and his daughter noticed the great physical likeness between the two men and Boyce commented, "I wish I were as much like him in preaching power." Afterwards in Spurgeon's greeting room Boyce and Spurgeon spoke about the Pastors' College and gout remedies and doctors. Boyce's emotions began to create physical difficulties for him. His daughter remarks, "Father was so much excited by this interview with the great preacher that he became pale and exhausted, and began to pant for breath; so we had to cut short our stay, and leave for the hotel." As he went away, Boyce's eyes filled with tears as he observed, `How little I have accomplished, compared with that man! If I can only get well and live a few years longer, I'll make greater efforts.' "

My Rating: I enjoy books that are (1) theologically astute (AMEN!), (2) pastorally useful (Amen!) as well as (3) referenceable (Amen!). I want to be able to come back to it again and again. As a small church solo pastor I have no use for books that will waste my time and my money. When I request a book from a publisher to review I have the busy small church pastor in mind.

Living by Revealed Truth is worthy of my three fold amen! It is theologically astute, pastorally useful and referenceable. I walked away from the book feeling as if I had spent some time with Spurgeon and listened to him speak. Give it a read and tell me what you think.

*Christian Focus Publications' Mentor imprint was gracious enough to provide me with a review copy of this book upon my request.

Able Baker ThinkTheology.org
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 5 Dec 2013
By Victor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Must read! This is an amazing rare book that has so much insight in the life of this amazing man
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