I wonder of how many preachers it can sadly be said, ‘He’s not the man that he was,’ and it’s not because he’s gone grey, put on weight, or lost ground physically or mentally. It’s because his convictions have changed – and not for the better. Or it’s because he’s not the godly man that he was in his earlier days.
The subject of this title is the great English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. In all the things that matter in a Christian minister, Spurgeon was the opposite of the one just described. He continued to be the man that he was; his early convictions he retained to the end. And through all his successes and sufferings – and both were always great – he remained a faithful, humble, zealous servant of Christ and his people.
It is this beautiful constancy that is Tom Nettles’s theme. The Child is the Father of the Man is not a biography of Spurgeon (Nettles has already written a major one, Living by Revealed Truth). In this book – as he puts it himself – his aim is to trace out ‘ten key convictions that appeared before or immediately after Spurgeon’s conversion, matured in power and clarity throughout his ministry, and consistently disciplined him for an “All-Round Ministry” as an all-round preacher’ (p.14).
So what are the ten? The first was his life-long commitment to historic Calvinism. At the age of 21 Spurgeon could say, ‘I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines which are called by nickname, Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.’ That love never waned.
Other chapters deal with his commitment to believers’ baptism, his convictions about preaching, his passion for soul-winning, his determination to contend for the faith, his readiness to endure men’s hostility, and his unwavering belief in an inspired Bible. There is also a very moving chapter on his experience of depression and how throughout his ministry his personal sufferings enabled him to be a comfort to others.
One of the great strengths – indeed delights – of the book is the way in which it allows Spurgeon to speak for himself. Every chapter is copiously illustrated by things Spurgeon said, especially from his sermons.
Like everything good that has been written about Spurgeon, this book will be helpful to preachers. No serious-minded Christian, however, will fail to profit from it.