Spurgeon’s Quest for Clarity in Preaching

Of the many gifts God gave Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), one was a conviction as to the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. As such, his forty years of pastoral ministry was marked by a quest for clarity in proclaiming that authority and sufficiency.

“Thou book of vast authority! thou art a proclamation from the Emperor of Heaven; far be it from me to exercise my reason in contradicting thee. Reason, thy place is to stand and find out what this volume means, not to tell what this book ought to say. Come thou, my reason, my intellect, sit thou down and listen, for these words are the words of God.“[1]

He did not take total umbrage in understanding the times (for he was quite adept at the practice), but he did this to help the church understand how to apply the gospel.

“Be much with the silly novels of the day, and the foolish trifles of the hour, and you will degenerate into vapid wasters of your time; but be much with the solid teaching of God’s word, and you will become solid and substantial men and women; drink them in, and feed upon them, and they shall produce in you a Christ-likeness, at which the world shall stand astonished.”[2]

This quest differentiated him from other preachers of the day who seemed more concerned with impressing listeners with rhetorical and oratorical expertise, fueled by a desire to be seen as one with intellectual and academic dexterity.  The critique often levied toward the practice of academic writing and speaking is that it’s “confusing and dense, that it suffers from a lack of clarity and concision.”[3] Spurgeon sought to communicate the lofty aspects of theological thought in a way that the one of average or below average intellect could comprehend. Spurgeon not only taught but exemplified a pastoral passion to provide the Scriptures clearly! Spurgeon practiced and equipped young pastors to preach clearly and persuasively.

To read the rest, go to the Spurgeon Library website at Midwestern Seminary here.

He Either Rises or Falls on the Hearing of the Gospel

Never does a man hear the gospel but he either rises or falls under that hearing. There is never a proclamation of Jesus Christ (and this is the spiritual coming forth of Christ himself) which leaves men precisely where they were; the gospel is sure to have some effect upon those who hear it. Moreover, the text informs us that mankind, when they understand the message and work of Christ, do not regard them with indifference; but when they hear the truth as it is in Jesus, they either take it joyfully in their arms with Simeon, or else it becomes to them a sign that shall be spoken against. He that is not with Christ is against him, and he that gathereth not with him scattereth abroad. Where Christ is no man remains a neutral; he decides either for Christ or against him.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Christ—The Rise and Fall of Many,” MTP 15:907 (1869).

Some Have Forgotten This Grand Object

Do you above all things aim at saving souls? I am afraid that some have forgotten this grand object; but, dear friends, anything short of this is unworthy to be the great end of a Christian’s life. I fear there are some who preach with the view of amusing men, and as long as people can be gathered in crowds, and their ears can be tickled, and they can retire pleased with what they have heard, the orator is content, and folds his hands, and goes back self-satisfied. But Paul did not lay himself out to please the public and collect the crowd. If he did not save them he felt that it was of no avail to interest them.

Spurgeon, “Soul Saving is our One Business,” MTP 25:1507

The Thankful Eye Sees Far and Deep

The thankful eye sees far and deep. The man healed of leprosy, before he went on glorifying God, gave thanks to Jesus. If he had thanked Jesus and stopped there, I should have said that his eyes were not well open; but when he saw God in Christ, and therefore glorified God for what Christ had done, he showed a deep insight into spiritual truth. He had begun to discover the mysteries of the divine and human person of the blessed Lord. We learn much by prayer. Did not Luther say, “To have prayed well is to have studied well”? I venture to add a rider to what Luther has so ably said: To have praised well is to have studied better. Praise is a great instructor. Prayer and praise are the oars by which a man may row his boat into the deep waters of the knowledge of Christ.

–Spurgeon, “Where Are the Nine? or, Praise Neglected,” MTP 32:1935-1937 (1886).

To read the entirety of this beautiful sermon on thankfulness based on Luke 17:15-19, go here.

This Book is God’s Handwriting

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This is no common book. It is not the sayings of the sages of Greece; here are not the utterances of philosophers of past ages. If these words were written by man, we might reject them; but oh, let me think the solemn thought — that this book is God’s handwriting, that these words are God’s. Let me look at its date; it is dated from the hills of heaven. Let me look at its letters: they flash glory on my eye. Let me read the chapters: they are big with meaning and mysteries unknown. Let me turn over the prophecies: they are pregnant with unthought-of wonders. Oh, book of books! And wast thou written by my God? Then will I bow before thee. Thou book of vast authority, thou art a proclamation from the Emperor of Heaven; far be it from me to exercise my reason in contradicting thee. Reason! thy place is to stand and find out what this volume means, not to tell what this book ought to say. Come thou my reason, my intellect, sit thou down and listen, for these words are the words of God. I do not know how to enlarge on this thought. Oh! if you could ever remember that this Bible was actually and really written by God! Oh! if ye had been let into the secret chambers of heaven, if ye had beheld God grasping his pen and writing down these letters, then surely ye would respect them. But they are just as much God’s hand-writing as if you had seen God write them. This Bible is a book of authority; it is an authorized book, for God has written it. Oh, tremble, tremble, lest any of you despise it; mark its authority, for it is the Word of God.

— Spurgeon, “The Bible,” MTP 1:15 (1855)

An Extra Supply of Capital I’s

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.

An All-Around Ministry

The Grand Moral Characteristic of Courage!

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.

Spurgeon, An All-Around Ministry

We Too Often Flog the Church

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)

Legal Thunders are Not Intended for the Justified Saints

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.

–Spurgeon, Wake Up! Wake Up! MTP 24 (1878).

New Release on November 15: The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon, Vol 4

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, The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon will add approximately 10 percent more material to Spurgeon’s body of literature.

Go here for more information.