On October 21, 1928, the ghost of Charles Spurgeon was raised from the dead. Or so the clairvoyant claimed. In a series of séances supervised by Canadian surgeon and paranormal researcher Thomas Glen Hamilton, the “entity” of the late Victorian evangelist made his presence known several times to a group of hand-clasped gatherers. According to Hamilton’s published report, Spurgeon even requested a hymn to be sung.
Three years later, Spurgeon’s ghost “returned” to preach a sermon on revival. His text—preached from beyond the grave—was Isaiah 52:10: “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
In a pitch-dark room on April 26, 1931, the entranced medium closed her eyes and scribbled the words (allegedly spoken by Spurgeon): “The main instrumental cause of a great revival must be the bold, faithful, fearless preaching of the truth of the Divine Spirit from the Lord our God.”
Raising Spurgeon from the Grave
Spurgeon often suffered from “depression of spirit.” At times the preacher’s emotions peaked; at times they plummeted. “I am much tossed up and down,” Spurgeon said, “and although my joy is greater than the most of men, my depression of spirit is such as few can have an idea of.” The majority of his life was forged on the “anvil of affliction.”
Yet God raised Spurgeon from the grave on more than one occasion. Like in 1856, when seven people died at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall and Spurgeon almost quit the ministry. Or when Spurgeon came under attack in the media and fell into great anxiety.
In the late 1880s, Spurgeon couldn’t even open his hand because rheumatoid gout had frozen his fingers closed. Each of these dark seasons in his life prepared Spurgeon to say, “There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health.”
“Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.”
Suffering was the secret of Spurgeon’s ministry because it enabled him to emphathize with others whose spirits were low. In other words, God never let Spurgeon suffer from having never to suffer.
For the Christian, sinking spirits produce “perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). What is hope without suffering? How would we identify light without darkness? God often uses our own darkness to show others the Light of World. He uses our own weakness to make others strong. Hope must always be extracted from affliction, for, as the Puritans used to say, only in the valley do we receive the vision.
Spiritual Revival Cannot Be Conjured
Did the medium really raise Spurgeon’s spirit from the grave in 1928? Sorry for the Halloween mythbust, but no. As it turns out, she had memorized a few cherrypicked paragraphs from Spurgeon’s 1858 sermon “The Great Revival.”
Ironically, the point of Spurgeon’s sermon, spoken through the spiritualist, was that true revival cannot be conjured up by our clever tactics, innovative inventions, or even by preaching great sermons. “Do not imagine,” Spurgeon said, “when you hear of a sermon being made useful, that it was the sermon itself that did the work.”
“If men were not such idiots as to doubt God, they would never sink so low as to believe in spiritualism.”
Spiritual revival cannot be summoned; it must be sent. From first to last, spiritual awakening is the work of God—designed, manufactured, and delivered by the One who specializes in resurrection. Spurgeon said:
“Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and my down castings, and get the victory through it; and so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it. In your most depressed seasons you are to get joy and peace through believing.”
In 1887, the Downgrade Controversy plummetted Spurgeon into a stressful spiral that resulted in his betrayal, abandonment, depression, illness, and eventual death. His wife, Susannah, claimed that the controversy killed him prematurely at the age of 57. Yet even in that midnight moment, Spurgeon saw a light flickering in the future.
Spurgeon prophesied, “I am quite willing to be eaten by dogs for the next fifty years. But the more distant future shall vindicate me.”
Spurgeon’s Spirit Still Speaks
Did Spurgeon believe in ghosts? Yes and no. He acknowledged the strange return of Samuel’s spirit (1 Samuel 28). But Spurgeon also denounced the “pretended communion” of spiritualism gaining popularly in London. He believed séances capitalized on the suffering of the bereft and took advantage of those who lost loved ones.
The spookiest thing about the séances of the 1920s and 30s is that if the medium had kept quoting from Spurgeon’s sermon, she would have uttered the following words:
“My soul has been made exceedingly full of happiness, by the tidings of a great revival of religion throughout the United States.”
The clairvoyant was correct. Spurgeon’s spirit has returned through the legacies of the Spurgeon Library, Spurgeon’s College, and Spurgeons Children’s Charity, which celebrated their 150th anniversary this year and continues to offer light, love, and compassion to families throughout the United Kingdom.
Christians have always lived with the forward-looking hope that God will not leave his children in the dark. As John saw from his Patmos cave, one day God will “wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). True hope is not found through incantations or spiritual gimmicks. It’s not found in self-help remedies or sola bootsrapa doctrines. Instead, our hope derives from the triumphant Christ who stormed the gates of Hell, put the devil on the defensive, and declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
On this Halloween, keep in mind that the enemy is afraid of you! You are making noises beneath his bed. You are hiding in his closet.
Like Abel who “still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4), Spurgeon’s spirit still speaks. So treat yourself to one of his sermons and see how God raises your own spirit from the grave.
Volume 1 and 2 of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon can be purchased in Standard or Collector’s Editions.