On June 7, 1891, Charles Spurgeon stood before the congregation gathered at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle and began his Sunday message with these words: “Those who associate themselves with a leader must share his fortunes . . .”
Spurgeon’s brilliant message equated the spoils shared by David’s men with the spoils we share through our affiliation with Christ. But to those associated with the Metropolitan Tabernacle, this message would go on to hold special significance. Unbeknownst to anyone one at the time, this would be Spurgeon’s last sermon.
Spurgeon preached his first sermon in December 1853 to London’s largest Baptist congregation at New Park Street. It wasn’t too long before his powerful messages caused the church to outgrow its 1,200-seat auditorium. The church moved a couple times before the 1861 dedication of the current Metropolitan Tabernacle at the intersection of Elephant & Castle. Spurgeon spoke to 6,000 attendees every Sunday for 30 years, preaching to more than 10,000,000 in his lifetime.
It’s hard for modern readers to grasp how popular and controversial Spurgeon’s preaching was for nineteenth-century listeners, many of whom wrote Spurgeon off as overly dramatic and sacrilegious. Spurgeon never feared causing contention when he felt the topic deserved it. In a sermon titled “Baptismal Regeneration” (June 5, 1861), he challenged the validity of child baptism. This sermon sold more than 350,000 copies and created such a public uproar that Spurgeon withdrew from the ecumenical Evangelical Alliance.
The “Prince of Preachers” struggled with illness for most of 1891. Some time after preaching his last sermon, he went to the French Riviera to rest and recover, but he died the following January. More than 60,000 people attended his funeral on February 9, 1892.
Spurgeon’s last sermon, delivered 121 years ago today, ended with these words:
“Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains.
“There never was his like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. These 40 years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! and I have had nothing but love from him. I would be glad to continue yet another 40 years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Amen.”