- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: B&H Books (August 1, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1433690659
- ISBN-13: 978-1433690655
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 120 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC
"I’ve long been a great fan of Charles Spurgeon. I wasn’t familiar with Thomas Johnson, and enjoyed reading about his part in the drama. As a fiction writer I appreciated the creative storytelling elements of this account. Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey have done a great job selecting historical realities and weaving them together into a compelling story. I really enjoyed Steal Away Home."
Randy Alcorn, author of Deception, Safely Home and We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Devotional Thoughts on Heaven
"We live in a time and a culture when many people feel their stories are worth telling. It is certainly not for me to judge the worthiness of every story out there, even the one you hold in your hands. However, I will offer this—I cannot imagine having not been given the opportunity to know this story.
Charles Spurgeon is, of course, a giant of both Christian history and lore. But where his story intersects that of the faithful, enduring man,
Thomas Johnson, it creates for us an almost cinematic tale.
Matt and Aaron have worked tirelessly to accurately and fairly capture the history in which this story is set. The evil of slavery and of those who perpetuated it. The indomitable spirit of the African-American people, acutely seen through the life of Johnson. The sacredness of true friendship, and the beauty of the gospel are all at the fore, and I cannot more strongly encourage you to read this powerful work."
Pastor Léonce B. Crump Jr., Senior Pastor of Renovation Church and author of Renovate: Changing Who You Are By Loving Where You Are
"Gripping and creatively presented, Steal Away Home explores the unexpected friendship between Charles Spurgeon and the Virginia slave-turned-missionary Thomas Johnson. It is a remarkable story of courage and redemption—one that captures the spirit of both brave men."
Dr. Christian T. George, Curator of the Spurgeon Library, assistant professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and editor of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon (B&H Academic)
"A fresh and artful treatment of two remarkable, gospel-shaped men. I’ve read lots of books on Charles Spurgeon. I’ve never read one like this one. Once you start it, you won’t put it down."
J.D. Greear, Ph.D., Pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, NC
"Steal Away Home is the collaborative work of a pastor who specializes in truth, and an artist who specializes in beauty. Their subjects are a titan of truth and beauty in his own right, the great "Prince of Preachers," Charles Hadden Spurgeon, and his lesser known yet no less significant friend, missionary and abolitionist Thomas Johnson. While claiming to write historical fiction versus pure biography, Matt and Aaron have done a great job honoring two men whose profound impact shares a common thread: neither outgrew his need for Jesus and the gospel. As a preacher and aspiring abolitionist myself, I am moved by this volume not only to be a better minister, but to remain thirsty for our freedom-fighting, truth-telling, and beautiful God."
Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee and author of Jesus Outside the Lines, Befriend, and From Weakness to Strength
"We are all craving God-fearing, humble, bridge-building examples of faith and friendship. Charles and Thomas are just that. I found myself relating and yet craving more for my own life. Prepare to be moved and changed by these men's lives.
The two men writing this book, Aaron and Matt, share a unique friendship on mission too, and I'm blessed to sit under their leadership weekly in our local church. They are humble seekers of God's glory, who desperately desire the same things today Charles and Thomas desired... men to be saved and know the love of God."
Jennie Allen, Visionary Leader of IF:Gathering, Author of Nothing To Prove
About the Author
Matt Carter serves as the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, which has grown from a core team of fifteen to more than eight-thousand attending each Sunday since he planted it in 2002. Matt has co-authored multiple books including a commentary on the Gospel of John in The Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series and two group studies, Creation Unraveled and Creation Restored, which traced the gospel message through the book of Genesis. He holds an M.Div. from Southwestern Seminary and a Doctorate in Expositional Preaching from Southeastern Seminary. He and his wife Jennifer have been married for more than twenty years, and they have three children, John Daniel, Annie, and Samuel.
Aaron Ivey is the Pastor of Worship at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, where he pastors a team of three hundred worship leaders, artists, storytellers, and musicians. Aaron has written and produced ten worship albums, and has written hundreds of congregational worship songs that are sung all over the world. His songwriting includes works represented in Worship Together, Jesus Culture, Capital Music Group, Doxology & Theology, and Austin Stone Worship. Passionate about mentoring and developing young leaders and world changers, Aaron spends much of his time communicating on topics of leadership, theology, art, and culture. He and his wife Jamie have been married for fifteen years, and have four children, Cayden, Amos, Deacon, and Story.
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Steal Away Home by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey is a tale that will be new to many readers, however. It was certainly new for me! The story involves two men from backgrounds that have very little in common. C.H. Spurgeon was the Prince of Preachers, a refined man with a rich theological heritage who occupied the pulpit in Victorian England. He was well-known around the world. He was a best-selling author and recognized by thousands. Thomas Johnson was a simple slave boy who was unjustly shackled in colonial America. He was known by few and treated like an animal. His slave master worked him to the bone on the Virginia tobacco fields.
Jesus Christ liberated Thomas Johnson. He freed him from the power and the penalty of sin. President Abraham Lincoln rescued Thomas Johnson from the sin of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation, which Lincoln regarded as the crowning achievement of his presidency, liberated Thomas from his slave master. Jesus Christ liberated Thomas from the slave master of sin.
Through a series of Providential events, Thomas Johnson found himself at the front door of C.H. Spurgeon in London. After his training was complete, he and his wife made their way to Cameroon, West Africa in 1879.
Steal Away Home is a work of historical fiction. It becomes clear at the outset, however, that the authors spent many hours researching the details of this intriguing story. My hope is that a few personal takeaways will prompt many people to enter rich world of the 19th century and absorb some life-altering lessons.
1. The Humanization of C.H. Spurgeon
I have been reading Spurgeon and books about the Prince of Preachers for almost thirty years. This book brilliantly captures the essence of Spurgeon and is not afraid of revealing his warts, weaknesses, and worries. It is a breath of fresh air for anyone who is under the false notion that the famous preacher from London lived a life of ease. Spurgeon’s doubt and lifelong battle with depression is highlighted and his fears are revealed.
2. The Horror of Slavery
Most Americans recognize that slavery is a perpetual “black eye” on our nations’ history. But few understand the gravity of what these innocent African Americans endured. Carter and Ivey masterfully reveal the pitiful nature of slavery through the eyes of Thomas Johnson. Sympathetic readers will feel genuine grief as they walk with Johnson and experience the horror of his chains.
3. The Hallowed Ground of Friendship
Steal Away Home reminds readers of the importance and value of friendship. The friendship fostered by Spurgeon and Thomas is grounded in grace and nurtured by honest communication, genuine fun, rich encouragement, and biblical accountability. Like David and Jonathan, these two men are examples of friendship that glorifies God. Indeed, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Indeed, friendship is hallowed ground that too few men tread upon.
4. The Hope of the Gospel
Finally, this story shows how the gospel operates in the real world. Apart from grace, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson were dead in trespasses and sins, without hope and without God. Indeed, apart from grace, Spurgeon and Johnson were both spiritual slaves. Both men, however, were set free as they cast their hope on the Lord Jesus Christ. In the course of their very different earthly paths, they wound up on the same spiritual path, which ultimately led them both to the Celestial City!
Steal Away Home encouraged me personally and moved my soul in ways that most books only hope to do. Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey stepped up to the plate and hit the ball out of the park. Their work will no doubt be a contender for book of the year. I commend their work wholeheartedly!
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.
I have read a lot of books by and about Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But I can truthfully say I've never encountered anything like this book, both in its scope and style.
The book's authors, Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey, are two of the elders at The Austin Stone Community Church, a church whose ministry has often encouraged and inspired me. While visiting the Stone last May for what they call a Worship Pastor Intensive, Aaron shared with us about how co-writing this book had been such a blessing in his life; I pre-ordered it on the spot.
While the book is somewhat biographical, its genre is difficult to identify due to its unique nature. In the introduction, Carter states that the book's style was inspired by Michael Shaara's excellent book The Killer Angels, a novelized story of the Civil War focusing on the lives of several historical figures. Steal Away Home is written as a novel in which the main characters are the 19th century preachers Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson.
If you're like me, you're reading that second name and saying, "Who?"
The fact that Johnson's name is relatively unknown is a real tragedy! His story is truly fascinating, and the impact he had on the Kingdom of God is immense, both as a missionary to Cameroon and as a much-needed encourager and friend to the "prince of preachers."
Thomas Johnson had been a slave for 28 years in Virginia when the end of the Civil War brought about his emancipation. Though he had heard the name "Charles Haddon Spurgeon" (when he was forced to accompany his master and a Baptist preacher to a book burning in which the works of Spurgeon—an outspoken abolitionist who openly challenged slave-holding "Christians" in the American South—were read to slaves before being thrown into the fire), he never dreamed he would have the opportunity to meet with him, much less become his friend.
Providentially, God allowed Johnson to be sponsored to attend Spurgeon's Pastor's College in London, to be trained and commissioned as a missionary to Africa. During his time in London, and for decades later, Johnson became one of Spurgeon's closest friends and confidants. Spurgeon's lifelong struggle with depression and physical ailments are well known. But the way Johnson spoke truth into Spurgeon's life, teaching him about true freedom in Christ, has remained mostly obscured from history until now. I'm so grateful to Carter & Ivey for telling his story!
While the narrative and much of the dialogue for this book required some "artistic license" from the authors, as often as possible the words and "voice" of the characters come from their own writing, primarily their frequent correspondence (Spurgeon kept all of Johnson's letters in the desk in his study), and from Johnson's own autobiography, Twenty-Eight Years a Slave or the Story of My Life in Three Continents (Classic Reprint). The book was thoroughly researched at the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the fact that so many prominent Spurgeon scholars have endorsed the book lends a lot of credibility to the historicity of the story.
I can't imagine more capable hands for the telling of this story than Carter and Ivey. I know of no other ministry so invested in story-telling as Austin Stone (learning more about their Story Team is one of the main reasons I attended the Intensive in the Spring). The story is beautifully told, and I wholeheartedly commend it to you.