Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: Spurgeon: A New Biography

Title:  Spurgeon: A New Biography

Author:  Arnold Dallimore

Publisher:  The Banner of Truth Trust

First Copyright:  1985

Type of Book:  Paperback

General Subject Matter:  A biography of the life and ministry of Charles H Spurgeon that goes beyond the surfaced to reveal he heart and soul of Spurgeon,

Price:  $16.00

ISBN:  0-85151-451-0 Reviews

The purpose for writing this book is given in Dallimore’s preface. Dallimore felt that even with all the information already published about Spurgeon few people fully understand the man and his ministry. Dallimore desired to reveal Spurgeon’s ability as a theologian and the methods he used in leading souls to Christ. Dallimore also purposed to reveal what he called, “the rugged, unbending strength” of Spurgeon’s character. Dallimore purposed to present the inner man of Charles Spurgeon, which would include his praying, sufferings, depressions, weaknesses and his strengths. Dallimore’s purpose in writing this biography was to give a deeper and more thorough glimpse in what he called “one of the greatest preachers of all Christian history.”

Dallimore strove to provide information that was accurate and yet revealed the real or essential Spurgeon. Dallimore writes for a very broad and general audience. Dallimore writes with a very informal and personal manner. Dallimore writes with great coherence, clarity, and honesty.

Dallimore’s book made a major impact upon me as I read it through twice completely. Dallimore gave me the opportunity to see Spurgeon more intimately. Dallimore solidified my opinion of Spurgeon as a great yet humble man of God called at the right time for the right purpose. It seems that Dallimore achieved his ultimate purpose in painting an intimate and revealing portrait of this great man of God. It is my opinion that Dallimore achieved his goal. I would heartily and with no reservations recommend this book to every believer in the body of Christ. Dallimore’s biography will challenge every believer to, forgive me, and “be all you can be” for Christ with whatever talents, gifts and abilities that God has given you.

Theme:  The essential Spurgeon

Thesis:  Spurgeon was a mighty man of God and one of the greatest preachers of all Christian history who was fully human.

Dallimore used both description and narration to develop his thesis. Dallimore provided great descriptions of the times, the environment, and the experiences that surrounded Spurgeon which made him who he was. Dallimore was quite gifted in presenting great detail about various subjects; such as the surrounding countryside, individuals who influenced Spurgeon, the theological trends of the day, and Spurgeon’s own personality.

Dallimore also used narration to tell Spurgeon’s story chronologically. Dallimore told us the story of the development of Spurgeon the man, the husband, the father, and the pastor.

This book was extremely interesting. I love learning about the inner workings of this dear man of God. It was hard to put this book down. Each new paragraph brought new details that I just had to devour.

It seems that Dallimore was extremely accurate in his presentation. This book is filled with footnotes documenting each point, each example, and illustration. Dallimore was, I would say, very objective. It is very easy to slip into subjectivity when writing about such a spiritual giant.

Dallimore seems to build his biography with four powerful but simplistic arguments. First, God prepared Spurgeon during the first 19 years of his life to be able to take on his greatest opportunities. Second, the first nine years in London continued to prepare and develop this man into what he would become through the coming to New Park Street, his marriage, the conflict which ensued, and the revival that visited London. Third, God continued to develop this man with a long period of mature ministry for some twenty-five (25) years of great harvest. Fourth, the preparation by God for the removal of this great man from both his ministry and this earth in the last five (5) years of his life.

Dallimore was accurate, objective, and insightful as he presented these various arguments. For example, Spurgeon lived with his grandfather for a short time when he was young. This was very beneficial in his development.

“Little Charles had the privilege of spending much time with his grandfather. Even when parishioners called to have their pastor advise and pray with them in their problems he often kept the lad at this side and when the gathered with a company of ministers to discuss theological questions the boy remained, listening and doing his best to understand. Charles introduction to the consideration of theological questions thus began very early”. [1]

“In February 1854, at the age of nineteen, Spurgeon entered his ministry in London. He came on three months trial, but his labor there was to last till his death nearly forty years later.

As the people had expected the New Park Street attendance jumped immediately. Within a month the chapel was crowded, with the seats filled, the aisles packed, and people sitting in the windows and standing shoulder to shoulder in the Sunday school area. All manner of reports about this ministry spread across London.” [2]

I agree with Dallimore whole-heartedly. He develops true or accurate arguments that substantiate each point he makes.

Dallimore’s book raises several issues. First, he raises the issue of how a mere youth of seventeen can be called to a pastorate and enjoys so much success from God?  He also shows how unique Spurgeon was by his call to New Park Street at nineteen when seasoned veteran pastors wanted this pulpit. Second, he raises the issue of the effectiveness of this man who sought to be holy, honor God in all things, and depended upon prayer rather than human ingenuity or innovation. He raised the issue of cooperation of believers in various denominations and within their own denomination. He raised the issue of doctrinal purity.

I don’t think Dallimore omitted anything. I don’t think Dallimore raised any problems that he didn’t solve or questions that he didn’t answer. This was a very convincing and objective biography of a very unusual man. Due to the facts being the same and the “story” very similar this book is similar to Iain Murray’s biography on Spurgeon. I wouldn’t consider this a re-working of Murray’s book. Dallimore is quite unique in his presentation of historical facts.

Arnold Dallimore was the pastor of the Cottam Baptist Church in Cottam Ontario, Canada for twenty four (24) years.  Dallimore also wrote a two volume biography on George Whitfield and a biography of Jonathan Edwards.

This book contains an annotated bibliography and a general subject index in the rear. There are extensive footnotes throughout this book documenting the utilized sources. The footnotes clarify and extend the points made in the main body.

My general conclusions are that this is a sound book. It will help anyone wanting to know more about Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I found this book to be interesting and informative. It challenged me to want to have the same testimony of Spurgeon. Dallimore’s summary of the life and times of Spurgeon are moving and convincing.

“Thus, while the soul of Charles Surgeon was in the presence of the Lord, his body was placed within its tomb, there to await, as Archibald Brown has so beautifully stated, the dawn of the resurrection morning.

And the people returned to London, to take up their duties in the Tabernacle, the college, the almshouses, the orphanage, and the numerous missions and schools, to labor with fervor and patience as they had one for years, but yet to feel a sad difference, for the leader, the pastor they had loved, was no longer there.

How rich his life had been. He had walked with God and lived in prayer…His one purpose had been to “preach Jesus Christ and him crucified,” and in this determination he had devoted all his talents-the extraordinary memory, the great powers of public speech – and his joy had been found in bringing glory to the savior and in leading souls to know Him.” [3]

Spurgeon was a mighty man of God and one of the greatest preachers of all Christian history who was fully human.

[1] Arnold Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, (Carlisle: Banner of Trust, 1985), p. 5
[2] Ibid., p. 47
[3] Ibid., p. 238

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, I certainly want to read this book now! I have been a Spurgeon fan for many years, and would be so interested in learning more of his walk with Jesus.

Thanks for sharing this~ ♥