The Dancing Puritan

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon



A Review by Ray Rhodes, Jr.

It is rare for a book to be aesthetically satisfying, profoundly academic, and yet eminently readable. The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon Vol. 1 is all of the above and more. Spurgeon scholar, Christian T. George is the editor of Lost Sermons, which can only be described as a masterpiece of prodigious proportion. Spurgeon enthusiasts, whether from a popular or scholarly perspective, have already welcomed this landmark work and all readers will be much enriched by it. Along with the opening of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the publication of Lost Sermons has reinvigorated Spurgeon scholarship with a vision that is certain to advance appreciation for the life and ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon for at least the next 100 years, likely much longer.

At a time when perhaps many teenagers in mid-1800’s England were trying to find their way in life, Charles Spurgeon, at age 16, was preaching his first sermon. By seventeen, he was pastoring the Waterbeach Chapel near Cambridge, and at nineteen he was called as pastor of the historic New Park Street Chapel. The church changed locations in March of 1861 and was then renamed The Metropolitan Tabernacle. Spurgeon remained as pastor of the Tabernacle until his death in 1892.

Christian George brings Spurgeon’s earliest (1851–1854) and previously unpublished sermons under the microscope of impeccable scholarship in the first volume of Lost Sermons. When the 12 volume set is complete, George will have examined, and provided critical analysis of all 400 of the sermons of Spurgeon’s youth. As George notes, “The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon constitutes the first critical edition of any of his works and adds approximately 10 percent more material to the total sum of his sermons.” Spurgeon, using a dip pen, first wrote down these 400 sermons in notebooks. In 1857, Spurgeon had planned to publish “his earliest sermons” but was hindered due to the demands of his busy London ministry.

Along with George’s expert analysis of Lost Sermons, I especially appreciated the 1800–1910 timeline that he provided, the front matter containing a foreword by David Bebbington and the “Editor’s Preface” and “Introduction” both by George.  Both Bebbington and George offer a compelling overview of Spurgeon’s life and ministry in the context of Victorian England. George offers Spurgeon’s literary habits in the “Sermon Analysis” section and includes such unexpected extras as a graph of the distance that Spurgeon travelled in his itinerant ministry, the percentage of sermons that Spurgeon preached from both the Old and New Testaments, and a “Word Cloud” displaying the frequency of words that Spurgeon prominently used in his sermons such as “God,” “Man,” “Jesus,” “Love,” and “Sin.” Following the analysis of all 77 sermons, the book provides further details about the sermons, the editor, and the project. Included are both Scripture and Subject indexes that any researcher will value.

It is difficult to find words sufficient to describe the sheer beauty of this project and the substantial contribution to the body of work by and about Spurgeon. Though Lost Sermons will be especially appealing to scholars, all lovers of Spurgeon will find that this is a “must have” volume (along with the eleven scheduled to follow) to add to their Spurgeon collection. It is the sort of work that anyone would want to pass down to their posterity.

George, Christian T. The Lost sermons of C.H. Spurgeon: His earliest outlines and sermons between 1851 and 1854. Vol. 1. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016.

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is a conference speaker, pastor, and author. He is presently writing a biography of Susannah Spurgeon. To schedule Ray to speak for your next event or to interview him, please email him at btnpub@gmail.com.