Magnifying God in Music: A Lesson from the Life of Spurgeon

by Grace Pike May 19, 2021

Charles Spurgeon’s theology of music enriched his relationship with God and strengthened his ministry to God’s people. Though his own life was a complex mixture of blissful harmony and piercing dissonance, Spurgeon faithfully heralded the hope of “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” with a heart attuned to the Lord.[1] I hope that we, the Church, will benefit from listening to such a voice meditate on the importance of musical worship.

The Chorus of The Universe

Known as the “Prince of Preachers” for his faithful performance in the pulpit, Surgeon’s own verbal and written communication had a mellifluous quality. With “poetry in every feature and every movement, as well as music in the voice,” the prolific pastor was quite literally an instrument of the Lord.[2] Drinking in General and Special Revelation of God caused beauty to pour from Spurgeon’s mouth and flow from his pen.

In one sermon, Spurgeon described a moment of joy as when “all the world was full of music through the music that was in your heart. And, after all, what is man but the great musician of the world?”[3] He knew God’s gift of song to this earth was meant to be given back to Him. From the rustling of falling leaves, to the dripping of the rain, to the whistling of the wind, to the silence of the mountains—all things gladly extol the King who commanded them. His focus then became: How much more should the vocal cords of the adopted sons and daughters of that Creator sing His praise?

Let Us Exalt His Name Together

Spurgeon believed the Church is commanded to sing. He regularly cited Ephesians 5:19, which implores believers to “address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” and be “singing and making melody to the Lord with [their] heart.” While Spurgeon believed each believer in Christ should bring the fragrant offering of their voices to God, his emphasis was on the Church collectively worshipping the Lord.

Two of the clearest examples of how the Prince of Preachers sought to encourage excellence in congregational worship were his composition of the Treasury of David and his compilation of hymns in Our Own Hymn Book. In both cases, Spurgeon saw a need in the Church for a right understanding of musical worship grounded in the Scriptures and tried to meet it through extensive personal study as well as thoughtful collaboration with other saints.

Praising God with Our Mouths and Minds

Spurgeon knew the song of the Church should rightly magnify the Lord. While preaching to his congregation, he implored them to “mark how the music of the church is set to the same tune as that of heaven and earth — ‘Great God, thou art to be magnified.’”[4] Their pastor understood God should not be magnified mindlessly. For who loves God without first knowing Him? Who truly praises God without first knowing whom they praise?

Spurgeon once stated that “Fine music without devotion is but a splendid garment upon a corpse.”[5] With this mindset, the modern puritan used music as a means not only of proclamation but also as enjoyment of the God of the universe.

For those who lacked thoughtfulness in relating to God, Spurgeon said: “Take every note in the music of your behavior and seek to make each note in harmony with its fellow, lest, after all, the psalm of your life may prove to be a hideous discord.”[6] Oh, how the compassionate pastor’s heart longed to see those under his care live in harmony with the Holy Spirit!

A Foretaste of Our Eternal Song

Charles Spurgeon looked to Christ. And, with his bellowing baritone voice, he beckoned others to do the same. During one of his sermons, he told his congregation:

“When we sing, is not this the sole burden of our hosannahs and hallelujahs? — ‘Unto him that liveth and sitteth upon the throne, unto him be glory, world without end.’ Now, my text is one note of the song. May God help me to understand, and to make you to understand it also.”[7]

The one note which sustained Spurgeon’s life is the one note sustaining his legacy. It is the same note which, by God’s grace, others will hear echo through Spurgeon’s life and be so captivated they desire to make it their own. It is the same note which binds the Bride of Christ—with her many timbres, colors, pitches, and tongues—together in a chorus bursting forth in everlasting song at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb: to God alone be the glory! May this be the song of the Church now and forever.

*This was originally submitted as a portion of a paper for a Baptist History class at MBTS

[2] Charles Spurgeon, Sermons of Rev. C.H. Spurgeon of London, (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1883), x.

[3] Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 4 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1886), 305.

[4] Charles Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1964), 209.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 4 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1875), 272.

 [6] Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 4 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1886), 85.

 [7] Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 4 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1886), 85.