By Elizabeth Prata
In Spurgeon’s Evening devotional for September 30, he writes:
A living, loving, gospel sermon, however unlearned in matter and uncouth in style, is better than the finest discourse devoid of unction and power.Evening Devotional, Spurgeon
I can imagine that Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher of the 1800s, was thinking of his own conversion as he wrote this devotional. It was a snowy January day in 1850. The young lad had been raised by a loving father who preached the Gospel rightly. His mother had given him loving instruction at her knee since Charles was a babe. Charles was sent to live with his Grandfather for a period, and his grandfather was also a preacher, with many coming to conversion under him. His grandfather also had inherited a fabulous library as preacher, and Charles read theological books voraciously. As a teen Charles himself attended a Congregational church, and he read the Bible diligently.
Charles had a good education and access to eloquent teachers and preachers. Yet he was miserable and disturbed in his soul that he was not saved. He made a vow to himself that he would visit every Congregational Church in his area until he found someone who would tell him the way to heaven and how to be released from the condemnation of the Law. He felt the Law’s condemnation acutely, painfully, almost physically.
Then one day in January, it snowed. It snowed hard. It sleeted. Charles slogged through the storm on his way to his next Congregational church to visit, but could not make it. He turned down an alley and wound up in front of a Primitive Methodist Church. The church’s own minister had not arrived, likely due to the storm, too. Less than a dozen were in attendance. When it was obvious the preacher wasn’t coming, an unlearned man uncouth in style who was in attendance eventually got up to the pulpit and opened his Bible. Surgeon said,
“At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. . . . He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth [Isaiah 45:22].”
He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.
“But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me’. . . . Many of ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. Ye will never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the father. No, look to him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some of ye say, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.'”
Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ and great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!”
When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “and you always will be miserable—miserable in life, and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.”
Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a primitive Methodists could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live.” I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” What a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could have almost looked my eyes away.
There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to him.
The scales fell from Saul/Paul’s eyes. (Acts 9:18). Blind Bartimaeus was given sight instantly. (Mark 10:52). And so Spurgeon, blind to the things of heaven, was given sight to LOOK unto Him and SEE. And Charles was given this gift from a man who was unlearned in style and uncouth in appearance, but who had the words of God to speak, and it was enough.
Sisters, we never know which of the words we speak will do God’s best for the soul within earshot. The more we know His actual words, His scriptures to speak, the more He uses them for His glory. We should learn, but we don’t have to be a learned Paul of Tarsus or Apollos. The man on that snowy January day didn’t have much else to say, nothing theologically articulate. He was not at all like the well-known eloquent Apollos (Acts 18:24). The man was a simply a workman without great learning, but He knew the Bible verse of the day and He loved the Lord and the Lord’s people. And it was enough.