eople frequently point out to me that Spurgeon did not normally do expository preaching. Usually the point is made with the tone of a challenge, and with a clear subtext: How can you criticize the seeker-sensitive stye of topical and relational preaching? Your own historical hero wasn't an expositor, either. He was the Rick Warren of his day.
It's true that Spurgeon was not an expository preacher. In fact, he regarded biblical exposition as something distinct from "preaching." His approach to "exposition" was simply to read a phrase and comment on it. Some of his printed sermons include an "Exposition" section, but the "exposition" was a whole different part of the worship service, distinct from the preaching.
Here's an unusually stark example of Spurgeon's departure from the expository style in his sermons. In his sermon "Things That Accompany Salvation", Spurgeon began by acknowledging that his sermon didn't quite reflect the meaning of the text from which he borrowed his title. His very first words were:
I AM not quite certain that my text will warrant all I shall say upon it this day if read and understood in its connection. But I have taken the words rather by accommodation than otherwise, and shall make use of them as a kind of heading to the discourse which I hope to be enabled to deliver.
Now, don't misunderstand: That wasn't his normal approach, either. In that sermon, he was just borrowing a phrase from Scripture to use as a title, and he formally acknowledged that. Normally, he at least took time to explain both the context and the meaning of his text, even if he then departed from the text and its context into a more topical kind of message.
So what does this prove? It certainly doesn't invalidate Spurgeon's whole preaching ministry. Do I recommend the approach he used? No. But fortunately, in Spurgeon's case, his mind and heart were so saturated with Scripture that (to borrow his words) his very blood was bibline. Cut him, and he would bleed Bible verses. His topical approach to preaching also did usually include some elements of exposition. (Before I preach on a given passage, I always read Spurgeon to see how he dealt with it. I find he often gives great help with the exposition of the passage, even though that was not his main focus in his sermons.) And if he ever spoke anywhere on any topic (even when he was just delivering a "lecture" to an academic audience), there was enough Scripture in the message that practically any talk he ever gave anywhere would likely exceed even some of today's "expository" sermons for sheer biblical content.
Nevertheless, the topical approach to preaching is certainly not one I would commend to young men who fill their spare hours with "American Idol" and Jack Bauer, rather than with Puritan literature and Bible commentaries, the way Spurgeon did.
By the way, Spurgeon lived in an era when almost no one did expository preaching. He was, in that sense, a product of his times.
Moreover, the so-called "topical sermons" the typical contemporary preacher delivers are something entirely different. My chief objection to the average seeker-sensitive homily is not merely that it's is not exposition, but that it sometimes deliberately makes no connection to Scripture whatsoever, or at least makes the "biblical" connection as wispy and tenuous as possible. One of the leading gurus of the seeker-sensitive movement advises preachers it is unwise to begin their sermons with Scripture. Spurgeon would rightly have abominated such advice.
In other words, whatever else you say about Spurgeon's approach to Scripture, you can't accuse him of not being biblical, and you cannot summon him for support of the seeker-sensitive methodology. I don't think anyone could honestly argue that someone who needs to hire Hulk Hogan as a shill is very concerned about being biblical in any sense. Some preachers nowadays even seem to pride themselves on the way they relegate Scripture to a footnote in their message.
That approach certainly can't be legitimately defended by any comparison with Spurgeon.