Yours, Till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr. Moody Publishers. 224 pages. 2021
I was looking forward to reading this book as I had previously enjoyed the author’s 2018 book Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon; Wife of Charles Spurgeon. This new book will be enjoyed by those who love the ministry of Charles Spurgeon and the author’s previous book, as well as those who enjoy reading books about positive examples of marriages.
The title of the book comes from how Charles would sometimes end his letters to Susie “Yours, till Heaven, and then”. As you will read, their love for each other was truly a love “till Heaven, and then.” In this well-researched volume, the author tells how their love weathered the storms of tragedy, controversy, affliction, separation, and the death of family members and friends, and finally their own roads parting with Charles’s death preceding Susie’s.
Susie, who was raised in London, was not initially impressed by Charles, a young pastor, who was raised in country towns. Charles’ initial concern was for Susie’s salvation. But just months later, they were engaged.
By the time of their marriage, Charles was a very popular Baptist pastor in London. The newlyweds honeymooned in Paris. In their first year of marriage, the couple had twin boys, Charles Jr. and Thomas, their only children in their thirty-six-year marriage.
Their marriage revolved around Jesus. The Bible was the foundation upon which their marriage stood, and it was the wisdom from which their marriage prospered. Prayer was “a most precious thing” in the Spurgeons’ home. Charles and Susie prayed privately, together, and with others. Their faith was simple—they asked God for whatever they needed and trusted that He would supply. They enjoyed communion with God, and that led them to real communion with one another.
Charles welcomed Susie’s opinions and counsel. She labored to support and to extend her husband’s ministry in every way she could. She was Charles’s true partner in ministry, even assisting him in sermon preparation. As much as anything else, she shared his gospel mission by encouraging him.
The first ten years of their marriage provided the greatest opportunities for Charles and Susie to minister together. Their joint efforts were especially directed to society’s downtrodden—widows, orphans, and the families of poor pastors. They together shared in alleviating the pain, sorrow, poverty, and lack of opportunity that afflicted many people who crossed their paths, participating in most of the sixty-six benevolent ministries that were connected to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, where Charles served as pastor.
Under Susie’s guidance, the “Mrs. Spurgeon’s ‘Book Fund” ministry gave away almost two hundred thousand books, many of them authored by Charles, to poor pastors. Through the Book Fund, Susie found ways to minister, not only to pastors but also to their families through gifts of clothes, supplies, and occasionally even money. Amazingly, she accomplished all of her Book Fund work while an invalid.
Despite his affection toward his wife, Charles was so intensely focused on ministry that he was sometimes inattentive toward Susie. Ministry obligations resulted in Charles often being absent from his family. Charles and Susie’s sons had very limited engagement with their father during their childhood, though there was no lack of love between father and sons. In addition, to avoid the London winters, which damaged his fragile health, Charles would leave London to spend the winter months in Mentone on the French Rivera from 1872–1892. Susie’s own ailments were of such a nature that travel was impossible for her.
Charles and Susie maintained a happy marriage because they stood beside one another in the midst of hardships. Their marriage was bookended by two traumatic experiences: the Music Hall Disaster in the first year of their marriage and the Down-Grade Controversy near the end of Charles’s life. In between were depression, physical challenges, and other issues of great concern. From late 1867, Susie’s health deteriorated to the point where she rarely left home and she seldom attended church. Susie’s affliction weighed heavily on Charles’s heart. Charles was inflicted with Gout, and kidney ailments that developed into Bright’s disease. From the age of thirty-five in 1869, Charles was absent one-third of the time from his pulpit due to pain, illness, or recuperation. Charles and Susie agreed that sickness was worthwhile because it taught them greater dependence on God.
Charles would write letters or postcards to Susie daily. His communications were centered on God. Susie’s letters to Charles lifted his spirits. Their letters were like a renewal of their covenant with one another.
In the fall of 1891, Susie finally was able to join Charles in Mentone. The next three months was a wonderful time together, reminding them of their early days together. Unfortunately, Charles would die on January 31, 1892. Susie would die on October 22, 1903. She would experience improved health in her final years, allowing her to support the extension of Charles’ legacy, write several books, provide significant help in planting a church, manage the Book Fund, and serve as a contributor to and co-editor of C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography.
Through this well-written book, we can look to Charles and Susie’s marriage as a godly example for our own relationships.