Did Spurgeon need a psychiatrist, or a Savior?

The great British preacher of a century ago, Charles Spurgeon, went through five years as a child feeling intense guilt before he was saved. He goes on for a whole chapter in his autobiography describing the agony of those years. Here is a brief excerpt:

When but young in years, I felt with much sorrow the evil of sin. My bones waxed old with my roaring all the day long. Day and night God’s hand was heavy upon me. I hungered for deliverance, for my soul fainted within me. I feared lest the very skies should fall upon me, and crush my guilty soul. God’s law had laid hold upon me, and was showing me my sins. If I slept at night, I dreamed of the bottomless pit, and when I awoke, I seemed to feel the misery I had dreamed. Up to God’s house I went; my song was but a sigh. To my chamber I retired, and there, with tears and groans, I offered up my prayer, without a hope and without a refuge, for God’s law was flogging me with its ten-thonged whip, and then rubbing me with brine afterwards, so that I did shake and quiver with pain and anguish, and my soul chose strangling rather than life, for I was exceeding sorrowful. (C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography [Banner of Truth], 1:58.).

In our modern world if a child spoke like this, many people would be trying to get him to go to a psychiatrist to find out what was wrong with him. School counselors would likely schedule an appointment with the parents to discuss his low self-esteem. Social workers may be employed to intervene in a potentially dangerous situation.

But Spurgeon didn’t need a psychiatrist, or any other mental health professional. What he needed most desperately was a Savior from his sin–and praise God that He sought him, saved him, and gifted him to be the champion of the faith that he was.

Spurgeon truly and profoundly knew the weight and the guilt of sin. Until we truly feel our burden of guilt before God, we will never be able to truly experience salvation from sin. It is this burden and guilt that drives us to seek a way to be delivered from our sinfulness. When we never seek and find the salvation that is offered through Jesus Christ alone, we often live our entire lives under this burden (although some simply harden their conscience toward God and suppress the truth in unrighteousness — Romans 1:18-23). But when we seek and find “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” that is Christ Himself (His saving grace), then we will be set free from sin’s slavery and experience “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

Here is how another sinner expressed them both:

Psalm 32 —  A Psalm of David

1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!

2 How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.Selah.

5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.Selah.

6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.

7 You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance.Selah.

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.

11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.


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