When an author is able to make you weep as he describes the life and death of a man you never knew, he is a gifted writer.
I have long known the name, Charles Spurgeon.
I have heard stories about his ministry from more than one pulpit.
Read and repeated countless quotes that fell from his lips.
Read sermons and books penned by his own hand.
But never have I read about him.
His beginnings. His family life. His salvation story. His call to preach. His courtship and marriage. His struggles, his joys, his successes, and his sorrows.
This man accomplished more in one year than I have accomplished in my lifetime, and he did so with passion.
He preached with passion.
He prayed with passion.
He counseled and taught and served and wrote - with passion.
One of the best lines in this book is discovered after the author describes Spurgeon's death, his funeral, and the testimonies of the men who spoke in honor of their beloved friend and brother in the Lord.
"He had walked with God and lived in prayer."
Nine words that convey the reality of this man's extraordinary life.
One of the things I love about biographies of people who lived pre 20th-century is that most of the material comes from their own personal writings. Hundreds and thousands of letters were written and received in a lifetime because there were no other means of communication. Diaries and journals were kept. Not only of private thoughts but of everyday life, interactions with others, records of answered prayer, and God's dealings with His people. Their writings allow us to see multiple views of their character. Their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, successes, mistakes, likes, dislikes, and so on. Writing is a lost art. And one that will be sorely missed for generations to come.
But the Lord, in His providence, preserved the writings, sermons, and letters of this amazing servant. Accounts written by others about Spurgeon offer an even broader perspective that allows us to see him as he was. As I read Dallimore's account of this Prince of Preachers, I felt like I was walking beside Spurgeon as he grew up, when he accepted Christ, when he answered his first call as a pastor at the age of 17, when he married Susannah, had children, was beloved by his people, began dozens of ministries that served the poor and neglected people of London, was criticized harshly, felt like he was drowning in depression, suffered in physical agony through decades of illness, and preached every sermon with a passion to bring glory to God and lost souls to the Savior.
I never met Charles Spurgeon, but after reading about his life, after reading his own words recorded on paper, I feel like he was one of my closest friends.
And genuine tears of sorrow rolled down my cheeks when I read that "on the evening of Sunday, January 31, 1892, his earthly journey came to its close, and he 'departed to be with Christ.'"
It will take some time for me to work through the thoughts and emotions rolling within me after reading about this godly man who preached as though the choice of heaven or hell would be decided by the time he uttered his last word and prayed as though he was shaking the very gates of heaven until he received a response from God. My desire for godliness, for holiness, does not even cast a shadow on the reality of Spurgeon's daily hunger and thirst for God. His passion, his discipline, his immovable stance on the validity and inerrancy of Scripture, and his unquenchable desire to serve "the least of these" makes me take pause and consider ...
What am I doing for the Kingdom?
Am I about my Father's business?
Do I redeem the time given to me? Daily? Weekly? Year by year?
Am I faithful in the smallest of tasks as well as the important?
Do I know my calling? And if so, am I living it - in faithful obedience?
Do I know my God? Intimately ... wholly ... personally ... because I seek Him more than anything or anyone else?
Can others see Christ in me? Even if they do not know me well, can they see Him?
Scripture says, It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2
That is the effect this biography, the life of this man, had on me.
Spurgeon's life was a life well-lived. And while he was admired as a spectacular orator, a gifted leader, a superb writer, and a man of great intellect, he was respected and beloved because -
"He had walked with God and lived in prayer."
And it makes me wonder ...
how will I be remembered?
Because how I live now is the legacy I will leave behind when the Lord calls me home - to glory.
Lord, You promise that You who began a good work in us on the day of salvation will never stop working until we join You in eternity. Thank You, for this promise, Father, because there is so much left to work in and through and out of me! I praise You that I am not the same woman I was five, ten, twenty years ago, and I implore You, please do not let me remain as I am now. Grow me. Mature me. Search me, O God, know my heart, see if there is any hurtful way in me - and remove it - so I might look less like me and more like You. I read of men like Spurgeon, Müller, Taylor, Edwards, and fall into the enemy's game of "compare and despair" because my life looks nothing like theirs. But You have not called me to be a Jonathan Edwards, a Hudson Taylor, or a George Müller, Lord. You have called me to be Michelle Renee Eastman, with all of my foibles, and You expect me to follow where You lead, obediently and with joy, doing the work You give me, day by day, year by year until I have accomplished Your will for my life. Fix my eyes on You, continually turning my face back to Yours when I choose to look away - because I want my own way. Smooth my rough edges, prune my dead branches, and fill me with a passion for Your word and prayer so that the fruit of Your Spirit spills over and affects everything I do, everything I say, and how I live. A holy life lived by a man like Spurgeon can inspire, challenge, convict, and encourage me, but it cannot be my own. You made him for one purpose, You made me for another. Use me as You will, Lord, for as long as You will, and may I walk obediently, fearing no man, and praising You day after day for all You have done. As Scripture says of Mary when she anointed Your feet with oil, may it be said of me, "She has done what she could ..." And she did it faithfully.