Too frequent an intrusion of self is another form of egotism to be avoided. I hope our sermons will never be of the same order as those which were set: up in a certain printing office, and the chief compositor had to request the manager to send for an extra supply of capital I’s. The letter “I” is a noble vowel, but it may be sounded too loudly. Great “I” is very apt to become prominent with us all; even those who labour after humility can barely escape. When self is killed in one form, it rises in another; and, alas! there is such a thing as being proud of being humble, and boasting of being now cleansed from everything like boasting.
May you also possess the grand moral characteristic of courage! By this, I do not mean impertinence, impudence, or self-conceit; but real courage to do and say calmly the right thing, and to go straight on at all hazards, though there should be none to give you a good word. I am astonished at the number of’ Christians who are afraid to speak the truth to their brethren. I thank God that I can say this,—there is no member of my church, no officer of the church, and no man in the world, to whom I am afraid to say before his face what I would say behind his back. Under God, I owe my position in my own church to the absence of all policy, and the habit of always saying what I mean. The plan of making things pleasant all round is a perilous as well as a wicked one. If you say one thing to one man, and another to another, they will one day compare notes, and find you out, and then you will be despised. The man of two faces will sooner or later be the object of contempt, and justly so. Now, above all things, avoid that. If you have anything that you feel you ought to say about a man, let the measure of what you say be this, “How much dare I say to his face?” We must not allow ourselves a word more than that in censure of any man living. If that be your rule, your courage will save you from a thousand difficulties, and win you lasting respect.
We too often flog the Church, when the whip should be laid on our own shoulders. We drag the Church, like a colossal culprit, to the altar; we bind her hands fast, and try to execute her at once; or, at least, we find fault with her where there is none, and magnify her little errors, while we too often forget our own imperfections. Let us, therefore, commence with our selves, remembering that we are a part of the Church, and that our own want of revival is in some measure the cause of that want in the Church at large. I directly charge the great majority of professing Christians in these days— and I take the charge to myself also, — with a need of revival of piety. I shall lay the charge very peremptorily, because I think I have abundant grounds to prove it. I believe that the mass of nominal Christians in this age need a revival; and my reasons are these.
–Spurgeon, “Spiritual Revival–The Want of the Church,” MTP 44:2598 (1856)
There are many expostulations and admonitions which do appeal to the wilful and wicked, to the indifferent and unbelieving, to those who err and are out of the way, but this is not one of them. Here we have a special charge to disciples of Jesus who know the time, and also know that their salvation draweth nigh. They are represented as being asleep and needing to awake from their present sluggishness; but they are not described as those who had ceased to be Christians, or whose salvation was in jeopardy. Though it is admitted that it is high time for them to awake out of sleep, their salvation is never questioned, but on the contrary they are reminded that now it is nearer than when they believed. The tone and tenor of this call to circumspection suggest to us that when we address the Lord’s people and find occasion to rebuke and reprove them we should never insinuate that they are likely to be banished from the household of faith, or to be cast away from the presence of God, or to be treated as reprobates. Even if we feel convinced that they are asleep, and that they must be aroused, we ought not to denounce them with railing accusations, or threaten them with the wailings of the lost and the doom of unquenchable fire. You would not be pleased if anyone should touch your child with a horsewhip; nor will the Lord allow us to strike his chosen with the rod of the wicked. Legal thunders are not intended for justified saints.
In 1857, Charles Spurgeon—the most popular preacher in the Victorian world—promised his readers that he would publish his earliest sermons. For almost 160 years, these sermons have been lost to history. In 2017, B&H Academic began releasing a multi-volume set that includes full-color facsimiles, transcriptions, contextual and biographical introductions, and editorial annotations. Written for scholars, pastors, and students alike, TheLost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon will add approximately 10 percent more material to Spurgeon’s body of literature.
Some of us know what it is to be tempted with blasphemies we would not dare repeat, to be vexed with horrid temptations which we have grappled with and overcome, but which have almost cost us resistance unto blood. In such inward conflicts, saints must be alone. They cannot tell their feelings to others—they would not dare to do so. And if they did, their own brethren would despise or upbraid them, for the most of professors would not even know what they meant—and even those who have trodden other fiery ways would not be able to sympathize in all, but would answer them thus, “Those are points in which I cannot go with you.”
Christ alone was tempted in all points like as we are, though without sin. No one man is tempted in all points exactly like another man and each man has certain trials in which he must stand alone amid the rage of war, with not even a book to help him, or a biography to assist him—no man ever having gone that way before except that one Man whose trail reveals His nail-pierced feet. He alone knows all the devious paths of sorrow. Yet, even in such by-ways, the Father is with us, helping, sustaining, and giving us grace to conquer at the close.
And you Christian people, with your grand illusive projects, how they melt away! Some of you would have done a great deal that is useful by now if you had not dreamed of doing so much that is imposing. Oh, what wonderful plans for evangelizing London, for converting the whole Continent of Europe to Christ, float in the brain, or evaporate in a speech, and nothing is done! We are like a certain Czar of Russia, of olden times, who always wanted to take a second step before he took the first. We are always projecting some wonderful scheme that proves too wonderful ever to be carried out. So we dream of what ought to be, and should be; of what might be, and as we hope may be. Such “dreams are the children of an idle brain.” The dreamers grow listless, and nothing is done. In the name of the eternal God, I beseech you, if you love him, get to work for him. Better slay a single enemy than dream of slaughtering an army. Better that you sow a single grain of corn, or plant a single blade of grass, than dream about fertilizing the Sahara, or reclaiming from the mighty sea untold acres of fertile land. Do something, sirs, do something. It is high time to awake out of sleep, for “the time is short.”
— “The Time is Short,” MTP 49:2861 — published posthumously in 1903
It is all very well to take a passage of Scripture, isolate it from the context, and use it as the motto of a sermon; but it is evidently not the natural and fair way of treating the word of God. You may do so for the most part with tolerable safety, for God’s truth, even when it is broken up into little pieces, still retains its purity and perfection like certain crystals, which, however much they may be subdivided, always bear the same crystalline form. So true in every particle and detail is the revelation of God, that though you should take it up and dash it to pieces, yet every little fragment will bear the original impress. But this is no excuse for treating the Scriptures in an unjustifiable manner instead of expounding them according to the rules of common sense. Texts ought always to be handled with a reverential deference to the mind of the divine Spirit who indited them. When we attempt to rivet your attention on a verse or the fraction of a verse of the Bible we desire you also to be scrupulously attentive to the affinities in which it stands. If any of my published sermons should in any instance appear to violate this rule, you will bear me witness that it has been my constant habit throughout all my ministry among you to read and open up, as best I could, the whole chapter from which I have selected a few words as the motto of my discourse. I have honestly endeavoured to give you the special mind of the Spirit either in the exposition or in the sermon.
Faith in God enables many of you, I know right well, to bear much hardship, and exercise much self-denial, and yet to persevere in your ministry. My heart rejoices over the many brethren here whom God has made to be winners of souls; and I may add that I am firmly persuaded, concerning many here present, that the privations they have undergone, and the zeal they have shown in the service of their Lord, though unrewarded by any outward success, are a sweet savor unto God. True faith makes a man feel that it is sweet to be a living sacrifice unto God. Only faith could keep us in the ministry, for ours is not a vocation which brings with it golden pay; it is not a calling which men would follow who desire honor and rank. We have all kinds of evils to endure, evils as numerous as those which Paul included in his famous catalogue of trials; and, I may add, we have one peril which he does not mention, namely, the perils of church-meetings, which are probably worse than perils of robbers. Underpaid and undervalued, without books and without congenial associates, many a rural preacher of the gospel would die of a broken heart, did not his faith gird him with strength from on high.