Steal Away Home – Book Review

Writing about stories out of history can be a challenge. Some authors choose to focus on events that everyone is very familiar with or choose subjects who were the most well known in the time that they lived in. These events and people tend to be fixed in people’s minds as we build a picture from the shadow of our collective memory. Little bits and pieces that we pick up or hear from a variety of sources that impact our understanding of history. Others choose the more obscure events and individuals and start with more of a blank slate for most of their readers. This is easier, but often greatly limits the reach of the work for most writers.

My favorite works of historical fiction are books like this one, which blend the two styles by taking someone who everyone knows and weaving it together with another story that intertwines with the life of that famous person. Charles Spurgeon is one of the most well-known preachers and theologians to ever live and the sheer number of his own writings could fill a reader’s slate for years. What he is less known for are his writings against slavery and his personal struggles with self-doubt and his personal and family’s physical sufferings.

Steal Away Home tells the remarkable story of a slave, Thomas Johnson, who first heard of Mr. Spurgeon when he was forced by his master to throw Mr. Spurgeon’s anti-slavery writings into a raging bonfire, created entirely of Spurgeon’s writings. The authors properly treat the lives of both Mr. Spurgeon and Mr. Johnson with weight and dignity as they recount their remarkable lives both up to the point of their meeting and the friendship they would have until Mr. Spurgeon’s passing.

In the time that we live in currently, where the emphasis is often on what divides us as individuals and groups, this story is a very timely telling of the fellowship Christians can find in Christ, even when they are drawn from such divergent backgrounds. Thomas Johnson, with his own background of personal suffering was able to recognize Charles Spurgeon’s own suffering from the time of their first meeting and see him not as one of the most famous people in the world, but a fellow brother in Christ, who needed ministering too.

This story is beautiful example for all believers as we seek to move forward in the challenging world that we live in. It is important that we open ourselves up to other believers, both for their benefit and our own. Spurgeon was known for his brilliant mind and booming voice in the pulpit, but his ministry as a pastor was also enhanced by his vulnerability and willingness to learn from others. 33 years of Mr. Spurgeon’s life were spent sick or depressed. Mr. Johnson spent the first 28 years of his life, living as a slave and experienced the loss of his dear wife early on in his ministry. Both of these men did not live easy lives, and yet they tell of how the Lord refined them through their suffering.

Especially touching is the story of Mr. Johnson’s testimony. Even though he would be 28 before he was physically freed from bondage, he experienced the release from spiritual bondage at an earlier age through Jesus Christ. The title of the book comes from the name of a hymn that was especially meaningful to Mr. Johnson during his life, both in his time as a slave and afterward and which would become meaningful to Mr. Spurgeon as well through their fellowship with one another. It is a reminder of the life to come, when our suffering and tears will finally come to an end and we will all find peace and rest with Jesus.

This book is the best one I’ve read this year and I highly recommend you read it for yourselves. You can purchase it here. I listened to the audiobook version through my subscription to Scribd. Scribd provides access to thousands of books and audiobooks for a low monthly fee. You should check it out. Below you will find the text for the hymn:


Steal away, steal away,

steal away to Jesus!

Steal away, steal away home,

I ain’t got long to stay here.

1 My Lord, He calls me,

He calls me by the thunder;

The trumpet sounds within my soul;

I ain’t got long to stay here. [Refrain]

2 Green trees are bending,

Poor sinners stand a trembling;

The trumpet sounds within my soul;

I ain’t got long to stay here. [Refrain]

3 My Lord, He calls me,

He calls me by the lightning;

The trumpet sounds within my soul;

I ain’t got long to stay here. [Refrain]

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