This past Saturday night we got a little skiff of snow that created some slick roads and icy parking lots early Sunday morning. Consequently, like some other churches in our area, we cancelled Sunday School and 11:00 p.m. worship service Sunday morning and opted instead for a 2:00 p.m. worship service Sunday afternoon. All things considered, the attendance at the service was pretty good and we had a blessed time in the Lord.
The service brought to my mind the story of the conversion of Charles Spurgeon, the most legendary preacher England ever produced. To make the story even more relevant, it occurred on today’s date (January 6) way back in 1850. Spurgeon himself loved to recount the tale, telling it hundreds of times over the course of the years, enough to make it probably the most famous conversion story in England’s history.
As a backdrop for the story, you need to know that Spurgeon was born into what we would call a Christian home. He was christened as an infant and became a member of the Congregational church. As he got older, he read the Bible and prayed daily. Still, though, despite all his religion, he continued to be feel spiritually lost. He had no joy or happiness about him. He walked around with a gloomy look upon his face all the time. In his sleep, he often dreamed of hell.
Everything changed, however, on that fateful day of Sunday, January 6, 1850. Young Spurgeon was 15 years old at the time, and that morning he was walking in a snowstorm to get to a church in his hometown of Colchester, in southeast England. His route took him up Hythe Hill, but as he ascended that hill he realized that the storm wasn’t going to allow him to proceed much further. He needed to seek shelter somewhere down a local street, and happily he found that the nearby Primitive Methodist Church of Artillery Street was having service that morning. He didn’t hesitate to join them despite the fact that all he knew about the Methodists was that they “sang so loudly that they made peoples’ heads ache.”
The snowstorm had severely affected church attendance that day as there were only 15 or so people there. The minister hadn’t even arrived. As Spurgeon used to tell it, “Snowed up, I suppose.” In the minister’s stead, a layman filled the pulpit. Spurgeon described him as “a very thin-looking man, a poor man, a shoemaker, a tailor, or something of that sort.”
The text the fellow read that morning was Isaiah 45:22:
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (K.J.V.)
As Spurgeon listened to that text, he was immediately struck by the potential hope he heard in it. With his interest piqued, he sat there intently listening as the layman proceeded to explain that looking didn’t take much effort, education, or income, but the looking had to be done unto the Lord. Looking unto one’s self would provide no help.
Finally, the layman ended his short talk by saying for Jesus, “Look unto Me; I am sweating great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hanging on a cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend: I am sitting at My Father’s right hand. O, look to Me! Look to Me!”
It was then that the layman looked squarely at the visiting Spurgeon and said, “Young man, you look very miserable. And you will always be miserable — miserable in life and miserable in death — if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then the man shouted at Spurgeon, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ!”
And did young Spurgeon look to Jesus? You bet he did! As the close to this post, I’ll let Spurgeon tell it in his own words. He said:
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. 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 was 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. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, “Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.”