1832 – 1903
While Susannah Spurgeon will always be remembered as the faithful wife and encourager of the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, she deserves recognition in her own right by the Christian Church in connection with her fund for supplying theological books to clergymen and ministers too poor to buy them. The importance of this Christian work should not be overlooked or underestimated. At the time in which Mrs. Spurgeon lived, many ministers living in England were given such a poor wage that they could barely feed their families, let alone buy books to help them grow spiritually and improve their ministries. In fact, when the Book Fund was started it was discovered that many ministers had not been able to buy a new book for ten years!
Mrs. Spurgeon was born Susannah Thompson on January 15, 1832 to Mr. and Mrs. R.B. Thompson in the Southern suburbs of the City of London. She was raised in a godly home and had earnest Christian friends as she grew up and she herself became a Christian as a young girl. But since, in those days, there were not many organizations or churches that encouraged young believers to pursue Christian service and or further their knowledge of God, there was a coldness and indifference common to the youth of that day, Susannah included.
In 1852, Susannah saw for the first time the man that was to become her beloved husband. He was a mere youth of 19 and had been asked to preach in the famous Park Street Chapel in London and at the insistence of her friends she attended the service. At this point in her life, Susannah had grown so spiritually cold that she didn’t understand the clear Gospel preaching of this young man and she was not impressed with his preaching.
When C.H. Spurgeon finally accepted the pastorate of New Park Street Chapel, Miss Thompson often saw him at the home of her dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Olney who were members of the church. Though they saw each other often, neither Mr. or Mrs. Spurgeon remembers their first introduction. It appears that it didn’t take long for Susannah to get over her prejudices regarding Charles as a preacher and she soon realized her Christian life was far from what it should be. Mr. Spurgeon soon heard of Susannah’s desire to improve her Christian walk and gave her and illustrated copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” to help her along that path. She was very impressed by his concern for her and from that time on their friendship grew and it wasn’t long that it blossomed into love. Charles and Susannah were married on January 8, 1856.
On September 20, 1856, Susannah gave birth to a set of twin boys in her New Kent Road home. She remained weak for some time after the birth of her sons and, though she eventually recovered, she never again gained full and robust health. Much of Susannah’s life was spent suffering from physically ailments that kept her bedridden for long periods of time.
Although weak and ailing much of her adult life, Susannah was a faithful trainer of her two sons in Christian doctrine and she had the joy of seeing them both become Christians at an early age. When they became grown men, both of her boys publicly recognized how much the influence of their mother’s example and teaching played a part in their conversion.
Charles Spurgeon was a prolific writer and had most of his sermons published. In the summer of 1875 he completed the first volume of “Lectures to my Students” and he gave his wife a proof copy of the book, asking for her opinion. She told her husband that she wished she could place that volume in the hands of every minister in England. To that her husband replied, “Then why not do so: how much will you give?”
Susannah was not prepared for his question, but it challenged her to see if she could spare the money from her housekeeping or personal account to fulfill her wish. At that time she remembered some money that she had put away whenever she had some extra. She went to her room and got the money and when it was counted she realized that she had enough money to pay for one hundred copies of the work. It was in that instant that the Book Fund was born.
The next issue of “The Sword and the Trowel”, a magazine which was a magazine put out by her husband, contained an announcement of Mrs. Spurgeon’s intention of giving out the books and inviting poor Baptist ministers to apply for the book. The applications proved more numerous than she anticipated and in that first distribution she gave out two hundred copies instead of the one hundred she originally proposed. In the following issue of his publication, Charles told of the many ministers desiring new books to increase their knowledge and improve their ministries and of the Book Fund that Susannah created to fulfill these needs. Money began to come in to finance the Book Fund so that books could be provided to needy ministers.
Susannah continued the work of the Book Fund for the rest of her life. Her last thoughts before her death were for the Book Fund, and for the poor ministers who were benefited by its aid. In her will she left a sum of money for the assistance of the work.
Besides the support she gave her husband in his ministry, the time she spent raising and training her boys, and the work she did with the Book Fund, Susannah Spurgeon gave a good deal of time to literary work. Her most treasured work was “C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, compiled from his Diary, Letters, and Records”. As a writer, Susannah had a rare literary gift. She wrote several books in her lifetime including “Ten Years of My Life in the Service of the Book Fund”, “Ten Years After”, and several devotional books.
If greatness is determined by the amount of good a person does in the world, if it is only another name for unselfish devotion in the service of others, then Susannah Spurgeon go down in history as one of the greatest women of her time.