Hailed as the greatest preacher of nineteenth-century England, Charles Haddon Spurgeon is arguably the preeminent preacher of any century. Regarded as the most widely successful expositor of modern times, Spurgeon heads virtually every list of renowned preachers. If John Calvin was the greatest theologian of the church, Jonathan Edwards the greatest philosopher, and George Whitefield the greatest evangelist, Spurgeon surely ranks as its greatest preacher. Never has one man stood in one pulpit, week after week, year after year, for almost four decades, and preached the gospel with greater worldwide success and lasting impact than Spurgeon. To this day, he remains “the Prince of Preachers.”
Through the centuries, expositors such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Calvin, and countless others have committed themselves to preaching in a verse-by-verse style through entire books of the Bible. But this was not Spurgeon’s approach. Though he was “an expository preacher par excellence,” Spurgeon drew his message each week from a different book in the Bible. This free style distinguished Spurgeon from these other great preachers, positioning him, first and foremost, as an evangelistic expositor.
Throughout his prolific ministry, Spurgeon was consumed with a gospel zeal. He made it his practice to isolate one or a few verses as a springboard to proclaim the gospel. He asserted, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” Every time Spurgeon stepped into the pulpit, he set his gaze intently on the salvation of sinners through the proclamation of the saving message of Jesus Christ. As Hughes Oliphant Old notes, Spurgeon was sent “at a particular time to a particular place to preach the eternal gospel for the salvation of souls and God’s everlasting glory.” Perhaps none can compare with Spurgeon as an evangelistic pastor.
Though he deeply loved theology, Spurgeon stated, “I would sooner bring one sinner to Jesus Christ than unpick all the mysteries of the divine Word.” He reveled in seeking the salvation of the lost. Here is how Spurgeon described the central importance of evangelism in his ministry:
I would rather be the means of saving a soul from death than be the greatest orator on earth. I would rather bring the poorest woman in the world to the feet of Jesus than I would be made Archbishop of Canterbury. I would sooner pluck one single brand from the burning than explain all mysteries. To win a soul from going down into the pit, is a more glorious achievement than to be crowned in the arena of theological controversy . . . to have faithfully unveiled the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ will be, in the final judgment, accounted worthier service than to have solved the problems of the religious Sphinx, or to have cut the Gordian knot of Apocalyptic difficulty. One of my happiest thoughts is that, when I die, it shall be my privilege to enter into rest in the bosom of Christ, and I know that I shall not enjoy my Heaven alone. Thousands have already entered there, who have been drawn to Christ under my ministry. Oh! what bliss it will be to fly to Heaven, and to have a multitude of converts before and behind.
To understand this gospel focus is to feel the very pulse of Spurgeon’s heart. To grasp this evangelistic zeal is to touch the live nerve of his soul. Simply put, he was compelled to preach the gospel and gather in the lost. As an expositor, Spurgeon truly possessed the heart of a soul-winner.