Sometimes, the slightly morbid side of me wonders what would be said at my funeral. There’s a tendency to clean up people’s lives. I’ve been to, and known others who’ve had this experience as well, where you start to wonder if you wound up in the wrong memorial service. The person being spoken of doesn’t match your experience.
Then there are those people of whom what is said at their funeral is truly a celebration of that individual as they were. This is what I found myself considering today, which marks the anniversary of Charles Spurgeon’s death on this day in 1892.
Spurgeon was a celebrated man in his day—and indeed a celebrity of the sort that most of those desiring such things in our day could only dream. And yet, as impressive as all the statistics about him are, that which matters to me personally about him has less to do with any of it. For me, the most meaningful thing about him isn’t how many people he preached to, or how many of his books remain in print. For me, the most meaningful thing is what I’ve learned of the man’s character.
An imperfect man, to be sure, and one with a tongue as quick as his wit, Spurgeon was a man who loved his Lord, and loved the people to whom God had called him to minister. He was the “Prince of Preachers” to be sure, but he was a pastor above all else. This is what I’ve seen so consistently as I’ve read biographies of him, and what I hope shined through in Through The Eyes of Spurgeon,
Just consider the words spoken by Archibald Brown (his successor at Metropolitan Tabernacle) at his memorial:
“Beloved President, Faithful Pastor, Prince of Preachers, Brother Beloved, Dear Spurgeon,—We bid thee not ‘farewell,’ but only for a little while ‘good-night.’ Thou shalt rise soon, at the first dawn of the resurrection day of the redeemed. Yet is not the ‘good-night’ ours to bid, but thine. It is we who linger in the darkness; thou art in God’s own light. Our night, too, shall soon be past, and with it all our weeping. Then, with thine, our songs shall greet the morning of a day that knows no cloud nor close, for there is no night there.
“Hard Worker in the field, thy toil is ended! Straight has been the furrow thou hast ploughed. No looking back has marred thy course. Harvests have followed thy patient sowing, and Heaven is already rich with thine ingathered sheaves, and shall be still enriched through years yet lying in eternity.
“Champion of God, thy battle long and nobly fought is over! The sword, which clave to thine hand, has dropped at last; the palm branch takes its place. No longer does the helmet press thy brow, oft weary with its surging thoughts of battle; the victor’s wreath from the Great Commander’s hand has already proved thy full reward.
“Here, for a little while, shall rest thy precious dust. Then shall thy Well-beloved come, and at His voice thou shalt spring from thy couch of earth, fashioned like unto His glorious body. Then spirit, soul, and body shall magnify thy Lord’s redemption. Until then, beloved, sleep! We praise God for thee; and, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, we hope and expect to praise God with thee. Amen.”[1. C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1878–1892, vol. 4 (Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1900), 375–376.]
This is what I most admire about Spurgeon—and it is what I hope for myself. To be the sort of man of whom it could be said,”Hard Worker in the field, thy toil is ended! … We praise God for thee; and, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, we hope and expect to praise God with thee.” That is what I long for—not for the admiration of others, but to be a man whose life is celebrated by celebrating his Redeemer.
Photo: Freely Photos