More Than a Pastor’s Bedridden Wife

27 May 2024 by Wes Bredenhof

Susannah Spurgeon: Lessons for a Life of Joyful Eagerness in Christ, Mary K. Mohler.  Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2023.  Hardcover, 159 pages.

Almost everyone knows the name of Charles Spurgeon.  He was probably the most well-known Baptist preacher in history.  He preached thousands of sermons, wrote dozens of books, and his quotes live on in Internet memestry.  But far fewer people know of his wife, Susannah.  She’s often been reduced to a footnote in Spurgeon’s biography, usually remarking how she spent most of their marriage in bed with chronic illnesses.

Mary Mohler will not have you be left with that lopsided impression.  Charles was impressive, but Susannah was a remarkable woman in her own right too, despite her serious health challenges.  Not only as this famous pastor’s wife, but also later, as his widow.

Mohler tells the story of Susannah’s life before, during, and after her marriage to Charles.  She draws attention to her accomplishments.  For example, Susannah was responsible for getting 200,000 books sent for free to pastors in need.  The legacy of this Book Fund project lives on to this day, carried on by publishers like Banner of Truth Trust. They credit Susannah Spurgeon with inspiring them to provide free books to needy pastors around the world.

Susannah Spurgeon was also herself an author.  She wrote a couple of books about her work for the Book Fund and also edited and compiled her husband’s autobiography.  She also wrote three devotional books and chapter 7 presents excerpts from these writings.  Not unlike Charles Spurgeon’s famous Morning and Evening, “Susie’s trio of devotional books brim with sound biblical encouragement” (p.135).

Mary Mohler brings a unique perspective to this biography.  Other biographies of Susannah Spurgeon have been written, but this is the first by a woman.  Like Charles Spurgeon, Mary Mohler’s husband is also a well-known Baptist, Dr. Albert Mohler.  While currently the president of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, Albert Mohler has also served as a pastor in several Baptist churches.  Thus the author is a sort of kindred spirit with her subject and she frequently weaves her own experiences into the narrative.

As one might expect in a book about a Baptist by a Baptist, the issue of infant baptism does come up a couple of times.  For example, Susannah wrote about the dedication of their twin infant sons, an event involving prayer and praise.  However:  “No ceremony was observed, no drops of ‘holy water’ fell on the children’s brows.”  Mohler comments, “Susie made this last comment, ever vigilant of her Baptist theology.  I had to smile as I read this quote since I too, a devout Baptist, would want all readers to know that this was not infant baptism” (p.47).

Mohler intended this book “primarily for women married to men in ministry, but also to Christian women in general…” (p.13).  This would be a great book to read and discuss at a book club.  Each chapter has a brief section of Reflection with questions that would serve a group setting well.  While Mary Mohler intended her book for women, I’d also recommend it for men as a good way to understand and appreciate your pastor’s wife and the burdens she may be carrying.  Finally, it’s worth noting that Mohler has also written an illustrated children’s book about Susannah Spurgeon – I’m sure it’s worth checking out too if you have little ones.

Originally published in Clarion 73.7 (May 17, 2024)