Sunday 18th December 1853 marked the day in which the young Spurgeon (19) preached for the first time at New Park Street Chapel. Susannah did not venture out to church that morning, but after the praise in which Mr and Mrs Olney (close friends of Susannah) had for the preacher, she found herself at the evening service.
Her initial thoughts of young Spurgeon were less than admirable. Charles Ray records for us: "Miss Thompson was shocked. This was quite contrary to her ideas of what a preacher should be. Young Charles Haddon Spurgeon was evidently from the country; she could have told that in a moment even if she had not known....What business had such a youth in the pulpit of Dr Gill and Dr Rippon? And with that thought in her prejudiced mind Susannah Thompson settled down to hear what he had to say."
Some years later Susannah wrote:
Ah! How little I then thought that my eyes looked on him who was to be my life's beloved; how little I dreamed of the honour God was preparing for me in the near future! It is a mercy that our lives are not left for us to plan, but that our Father chooses for us; else might we sometimes turn away from our best blessings, and put from us the choicest and loveliest gifts of his providence. For, if all truth be told, I was not fascinated by the young orator's eloquence, while his countrified manner and speech excited more regret than reverence. Alas, for my vain and foolish heart! I was not spiritually minded enough to understand his earnest presentation of the gospel and his powerful pleading with sinners - but the huge black satin stock, the long baldy-trimmed hair, and the blue pocket handkerchief with white spots...these attracted most of my attention and I fear awakened some feelings of amusement.After accepting the pastorate at New Park Street Chapel, Susannah and Charles would often meet at the home of Mr and Mrs Olney and as such, Susannah soon got over her earlier prejudices. His "earnest pleadings soon aroused her" and Susannah "realized that her life of indifference and non-service was far front being what it should be." She writes:
Gradually I became alarmed at my back-sliding state and then, by a great effort, I sought spiritual help and guidance...One day I was greatly surprised to receive from Mr Spurgeon an illustrated copy of 'Pilgrim's Progress', in which he had written the inscription "Miss Thompson, with desires for her progress in the blessed pilgrimage, from C.H. Spurgeon, April 20th 1854."She continues:
I do not think that my beloved had at that time any other thought concerning me than to help a struggling soul heavenward; but I was greatly impressed by his concern for me...By degrees, though with much trembling, I told him of my state before God; and he gently led me, by his preaching, and by his conversations, through the power of the Holy Spirit to the cross of Christ for the peace and pardon my weary soul was longing for.Two things struck me today about the beginnings of the relationship between Mr and Mrs Spurgeon. Firstly, whether we are married or not, God puts before us his best. Sometimes we look upon that which will become dear to us with prejudice and disdain because, like Susannah, we are not spiritually minded enough. It's only when our minds and hearts have that Godward orientation that our Father in heaven reveals to us his choicest and loveliest gifts in which he has mercifully prepared for us.
Secondly, I was also reminded of what truly is foundational in any relationship, particularly a marriage: Charles had Susannah's desire for progress in the blessed pilgrimage. As one who is blessed being married to a committed Christian and preacher, I can only concur that to have one's spouse committed to your spiritual welfare is by far the most important part to married life. This is something that husbands and wives must surely work harder at, and singles must put at the top of their list in seeking a prospective spouse.
Next week we'll look at the "Dawning of Love" and the courtship of Susannah Thompson and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
All references are taken from Charles Ray's The Life of Susannah Spurgeon