When Spurgeon was Invited to Preach at Barnum & Bailey Circus

I searched Phil Johnson’s old Spurgeon Archive, and the new version run by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and didn’t come up with any mention. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it sounds fishy … As you say, it sounds like something a traveling evangelist would say, or something out of the book 7000 Illustrations.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

The very earliest mention of this anecdote I can find is in the Lee Roberson book The Gold Mine (publication date: 2000) mentioned in the OP article (see pages 25-26, under “Contents”):


Note that Roberson cites no source for this story (but then he doesn’t for a variety of other stories & anecdotes in the same chapter either).

I can find the story mentioned in other Christian books, articles, and blog posts published or dated after Roberson’s book, but I can find no earlier evidence of it.

I’m going to file it under “Creative License.”

Addendum: Some of the online articles & blog posts claim that Spurgeon cited Acts 8:20 in his response, rather that Acts 13:10, a discrepancy which further weakens the story’s credibility as far as I’m concerned.

…there’s a sucker born every minute. (another thing commonly attributed to P.T. Barnum that can’t be proven) Or in this case, a sucker reborn every minute?

Seriously, Spurgeon would have been one of the few preachers to be able to preach under the big top and be heard, but I’m skeptical for a very simple reason. You can find B& B’s routes here, and the only thing I can find is that in 1889, they did visit London—but at the Olympia, a venue where, had Spurgeon desired, I reckon he could have preached with no invitation from Barnum. So an invitation from Barnum makes little sense in that regard.

Nor does an invitation on the other side of the Atlantic, as it wasn’t an easy thing to do then, nor do I think it likely that Spurgeon would have left his ailing wife at home while he participated in what can only be charitably described as a diversion.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.