Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was one of the most influential preachers of the 19th century. At a time before automobiles, airplanes, and electricity, he regularly preached before crowds of more than 5,000 in his church in London (he once even preached before crowd of over 23,000 people). He founded a college, an orphanage, and was a strong advocate for foreign missions. He was personally acquainted with D. L. Moody and Hudson Taylor. Famous Americans like Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, and James Garfield (before he became the 20th president of the United States) visited his church to hear him preach. He left more published words than any other Christian in history, before or since. He has often been called the "Prince of Preachers," and rightly so.

Despite his popularity, or perhaps because of it, Spurgeon received a lot of criticism during his lifetime. His opposition to the new theory from fellow Englishman Charles Darwin earned him mockery from cartoonists and newspapers. His condemnation of so-called Christian slaveholders in America resulted in threats and book burnings throughout the Southern United States, especially from members of the relatively new Southern Baptist denomination. Yet times have changed, and now Southern Baptists are not only among his greatest admirers, but they have begun publishing a planned twelve-volume set of his earliest sermons, never before seen in print.

LifeWay graciously provided me a review copy of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume I. Over a few weeks I read it cover to cover. Volume I contains the 76 sermons Spurgeon recorded in the first of nine notebooks that will serve as the bases for the rest of the volumes in this series. I was immediately impressed by the aesthetic beauty of the book in my hands. The cloth over board covers, sewn binding, thick and glossy pages, and full color facsimiles of each page of the notebook showed a commitment to producing a high-quality work, and this is only the standard edition (there's a special edition with more photographs, gilded pages, and even a slip cover, too!).

The introductory materials drew me in immediately. A 17-page timeline from 1800-1910 highlights important events from the life of Spurgeon in red and significant moments (both secular and religious) from the 19th century in black. Events of interest to Southern Baptists are included as well. The book also includes chapters looking at Spurgeon's place in history, his relationship to Southern Baptists, and the background of this book series. Excepts are available online, which I encourage you to check out (from the Foreword, Editor's Preface, Introduction, pdf sampler).

Each sermon includes a color facsimile, transcription, and notes. Even as a teenager, Spurgeon's sermons were impressive for his insight and ability to connect with his listeners. He largely used outlines (he called them "skeletons") and relied on his memory to preach extemporaneously. Because this is a critical work, the notes identify sources Spurgeon used (he was particularly fond of John Gill and John Bunyan), references to events of his day, and quotations from elsewhere in his body of work where he treated the same topics or Scriptures in more detail. The notes also discuss ink marks, corrections, and spelling, but I largely ignored these.

I wish my early sermons were as good as Spurgeon's. By the time he was 20 he had already preached more than 700 times. If they had only published the text of his notebook, it would have been worth reading. The addition of introductory materials placing Spurgeon in his historical context and scholarly research of the notes placing his sermons in the context of his sources and later writings make the volume even more valuable.

If you're interested in snagging a copy for yourself, you can find The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume I online and in LifeWay stores. Volume II is slated for release in September 2017.

Whether you're interested in Spurgeon's lost sermons or not, you can get access to a digital library of over 3,500 of his sermons by signing up for the Broadman & Holman Academic eNewsletter here. It's free and you can cancel your email subscription anytime.






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