29 January 2010

New Spurgeon Sermons

by Phil Johnson

For friends of TeamPyro in the UK:
I'll be in London next week, preaching at Trinity Road Chapel, Wandsworth Common, Upper Tooting, both morning and evening services on February 7. I would love to meet some of you there.
—Phil

ayOne publishers have released an excellent supplement to the New Park Street Pulpit and Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series. C H Spurgeon's Sermons Beyond Volume 63: An Authentic Supplement to the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit is a quality hardcover volume with 45 "forgotten" sermons—messages that weren't included in the major collections. If you own the Met Tab series, this book will fit nicely on the shelf with them.

This excellent collection was compiled by Dr. Terence Crosby (who attends and frequently teaches at Trinity Road Chapel—see above) and published by DayOne. They kindly asked me to write the foreword to the book. Here it is:

Foreword
by Phil Johnson

Charles Spurgeon's published sermons undoubtedly constitute the largest body of significant literature from the mind of a single author in the history of publishing. It is a legacy that will almost surely never be surpassed. Comprising an estimated 25 million words, the 3,563 sermons of the New Park Street Pulpit and Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit volumes contain more content than the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The New Park Street and Met Tab collections were originally published between 1855 (when Spurgeon was just 20 years old) and 1917 (when paper shortages caused by World War I made printing sermons prohibitively expensive). Individual messages were produced and printed at the rate of one per week without fail for all those years. Known as "Penny Pulpit" sermons, they were collected each December 31 and bound into annual volumes. All but the final book contained at least fifty-two messages. Some years there were more, depending on the number of Sundays on the calendar, with bonus messages here and there for special occasions.

Spurgeon was such a prolific preacher that when he died in 1892, existing transcripts of his unpublished sermons roughly equaled the 2,241 sermons then in print. So Passmore & Alabaster (Spurgeon's primary publishers from the start of his ministry) announced their intention to continue the weekly production of his messages indefinitely-for as long as readers demanded them. The company stayed at that task until forced by difficult economic circumstances to interrupt the process some 25 years later.

The complete set (sixty-three volumes in all) has heretofore been the definitive collection of Spurgeon sermons. Every other significant compilation of Spurgeon's preaching was drawn and adapted from those Penny Pulpit sermons that were painstakingly prepared and produced each week for all those years. The full set is a vast treasure-more sermons than the average person could possibly read and digest thoughtfully in a lifetime. They are consistently meaty, eloquent, thought-provoking, heartfelt, evangelistic, and very convicting. The complete collection is also remarkable for its amazing breadth and depth-especially considering the busy schedule Charles Spurgeon kept. He rarely reused his outlines or preached the same sermon twice, even on those fairly rare occasions where he dealt with the same text more than once. It is simply amazing to realize that those sixty-three volumes have maintained readers' keen interest for all these years. Complete sets are still being produced in America, and they are selling steadily more than a century since Spurgeon's death. Most of Spurgeon's sermons are also available freely in various forms on the Internet, and online users are constantly demanding more.

All of that sets Spurgeon's importance as a preacher in perspective. By any measure, his published sermons stand virtually uncontested as not only one of the greatest achievements in the history of publishing, but also the most important and influential anthology of sermons in the history of preaching.

Nevertheless, those sixty-three thickset volumes are by no means an exhaustive record of Spurgeon's amazing preaching ministry. By most accounts, he delivered seven or eight sermons each week throughout most of his ministry. Only half to two thirds of those messages were even recorded with an eye toward publication.

Simply recording Spurgeon's messages was a labor-intensive process in those days before electronic sound-capture was commonplace. Spurgeon spoke extemporaneously, without the use of a manuscript. (He normally took only half a used envelope or a similar scrap of paper into the pulpit with him, containing just a handwritten, bare-bones outline.) Two or three stenographers would record his words as he spoke. Their transcriptions would be compared and combined, insuring that very few words were missed. Then either Spurgeon himself (usually), his trusted secretary (especially in later years), or another qualified editor (beginning around the turn of the century) would edit the transcript for publication. I own several pages of edited transcripts with emendations scrawled into the margins by Spurgeon's own distinctive hand, and he was a meticulous editor. (It is some consolation to me as a rather halting preacher to see that some of the stunning eloquence of the published sermons was added during the editorial process. All that genius wasn't straight off the top of Spurgeon's head when he preached-though much of it was.) The task of editing and proofreading sermons was a massive one, and the stress of so many relentless deadlines no doubt complicated Spurgeon's frequent health problems. It may well have hastened his death.

Yet he persevered, firmly believing that the sermons would live and bear fruit long after the preacher himself was gone. He was certainly right about that, but he most likely did not imagine the half of it. He could hardly have envisioned that the influence of his preaching would be as profound and as far-reaching as it still is today, so many years after his audible voice was silenced.

When the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series was abruptly halted by the Great War, supplies of unpublished sermons were diminishing but not yet completely depleted. That final volume was a short one, containing only 17 sermons, fewer than half the standard number. More than enough sermons to complete that volume were nearly ready for publication, and (I'm told) dozens of others exist which have still not yet seen the light of day. But after the war, publishers never seemed to regain the vision for such thick books of sermons. Twentieth-century preachers were already leaning toward a lighter preaching style, with more illustrations and less doctrinal content.

The fact that so many of Spurgeon's messages have remained unpublished long after any paper shortage hindered the work is a decades-long travesty, and I'm thrilled Terence Crosby and DayOne are beginning to remedy it. The volume you hold in your hands is the first full-length supplement to The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit since my great grandfather's era, and I am delighted to have it finally for my shelves.

I first met Terence Crosby years ago when he was Secretary of the Evangelical Library in London. I renewed my acquaintance with him about two years ago during some meetings at Trinity Road Chapel in Upper Tooting, within a short walk of where Spurgeon once lived. Dr. Crosby told me then that he was working on this volume, and I could not have been more elated at the news-especially when he described the nature of the task and the care with which he was handling it. He is a precise and conscientious scholar; he is a gifted writer and skilled editor; and I have little doubt that Spurgeon himself would be overjoyed with the way these sermons have been prepared for publication.

Years ago a student just entering seminary visited my office and noticed that two large shelves behind my desk are filled with the New Park Street Pulpit collection, which he had never before seen in its entirety. He was fascinated by the set. Thumbing through a random volume, he observed out loud what almost everyone nowadays would notice first of all: By today's standards the books are very thick, the type quite small, and the paragraphs surprisingly long. (Judging a book by its cover, a casual first-time observer frankly might not find Spurgeon very inviting.) The student looked up from the book he was holding and asked whether I had read every sermon in all sixty-three volumes. I told him I had not (still haven't) and that reading Spurgeon is pleasure I expect to savor with care and patience, sermon by sermon, for the rest of my life.

"Why do you have all the volumes, then?" he asked. "Why not read the chapters one at a time and wait to purchase a new book until you reach the end of the previous one?"

I explained that I don't read Spurgeon chronologically. I select sermons to read based on whatever passage of Scripture I am studying at any given time. (I wouldn't think of preaching on a passage until I've seen what Spurgeon had to say about it.) I find Spurgeon best feeds my soul that way; when I'm already immersed in a passage of Scripture, his messages on that particular text are most meaningful. He almost never fails to shine a bright light into some dark corner of the text, showing me things I would not have seen otherwise.

That's why I'm so thrilled to have this complete new volume of never-before published material from the Prince of Preachers, and I'm eagerly looking forward to future volumes, too.

These books will surely take their place right alongside the earlier works. The "definitive collection" is no longer complete or truly definitive without them. My prayer is that they'll help awaken new appetites for Spurgeon's preaching. May they influence the current generation of preachers to be more bold and more biblical in their content. May the next generation of preachers gain from them a better vision of what makes preaching truly "relevant." And may our grandchildren and all subsequent generations continue to benefit from them as so many of us have.

Phil's signature

25 comments:

coxapaua said...

Looks like a good addition to the book collection. Hopefully "Spurgeon was such a prolific preacher that when he died in 1992" has been corrected for the foreword in the printed copies.

Kevin Sorensen said...

I "served" at Trinity Road Chapel for eight weeks during the summer of 1984, while on a summer missions trip from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I've preached from that pulpit (it's terribly awe-inspiring to have to ascend to the pulpit, then make sure you don't lean too far forward since, due to age, the pulpit was just a bit wobbly). I still remember some of the dear saints from there. Great memories. Have a wonderfully blessed trip.

Boerseuntjie said...

Dear Pastor Phil,

If you would like to preach to a 1689 London Baptist Confessing and Practicing Church of 2 [No this is not a typo], with one 3 year old "preacher" in his own right.

Let me know; you would be more than welcome to Mercy Reformed Baptist Congregation in SWINDON - we are looking for an Elder...
And seen as you are a brother in FIRE - all the better!
;0{)

Any other 1689 LBCF volunteers?

Your fellow bondslave by the merciful gift of our LORD's free grace and love to worms like us,
W

Fred Butler said...

It seems lots of evangelical Christians were this prolific. John Owen, John Gill, Certainly Calvin, a number of the Puritans.

Any liberals, progressives, atheists that prolific in writing (as well as still in print) that any one can think of?

Brad Williams said...

I need you guys to pray for me.

I could not get past the fact that there is a place called "Upper Tooting." I'm ridiculous.

steve said...

Phil wrote: I own several pages of edited transcripts with emendations scrawled into the margins by Spurgeon's own distinctive hand, and he was a meticulous editor.

I wholeheartedly agree, Phil. I've had opportunity to review a good number of Spurgeon's handwritten edits. As a longtime editor myself, I can say Spurgeon's editing abilities were truly exceptional.

I've been wanting to pick up this new Spurgeon volume, but it's too high priced. Will probably get my copy at the upcoming Shepherds' Conference with the hope that Day One discounts it.

Bob said...

"Upper Tooting" indeed. Gotta love the British

Shanti said...

Thank you for making me aware of this additional volume of Spurgeon's sermons! I admit to only hearing quotes of his from the pulpit, but your review has really whetted my appetite to get ahold of a volume of his sermons!

Ebeth said...

I'll have to get that book for Garry when it is available

Boerseuntjie said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tooting

"Tooting has been settled since pre-Saxon times, and its name, of Anglo-Saxon derivation, means "the people of the look-out post or possibly the people of Tota" (Tota may have been a local Anglo-Saxon chieftain). "

I submit that the problem with us British is an extensive (And largely fogotten and ignored) history and heritage; which has been influenced by many peoples from many nations; many languages and dialects - existent prior to Britian (As a Self Governing entity) and English (Standard language).

I know that even in my native South Africa - the same rich heritage poses the same strange and awkward use of languages.

I am just glad my brothers can have a laugh ;0)

Mercifully a citzen upon a pilgrimage through a barren wilderness - an ambassador looking forward to the Eternal City,
W

Fred Butler said...

I met a guy from England once with the last name of "Marshtit"

I still giggle like a 5th grader upon thinking about it.

Doug McMasters said...

Phil,

We cannot wait to see you.

Hope you all enjoy the laugh. Phil chuckles the whole time he's here.

While you laugh, do remember to pray for us who are seeking to see Christ magnified in the SW London area of Upper Tooting/Wandsworth Common.

Here's a synopsis of the people living here:

http://www.upmystreet.com/local/neighbours-in-sw17-7hw.html

Rereading this has reminded me what Jesus said about a camel and the eye of a needle.

Brad Williams said...

Brother Doug,

I will pray for you! Seriously.

But, I have to know....is there a "Lower Tooting" as well?

Doug McMasters said...

Brad,

The Wiki article is a great intro. There was a lower Tooting, but now, there is just Tooting and Upper Tooting. We are on the edge of Upper Tooting and more accurately in the Wandsworth Common area.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tooting

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wandsworth_Common

Phil Johnson said...

And the nearby Tube station is called "Tooting Bec." Wikipedia 'splains it all.

Brad Williams said...

Wow, Tooting made the domesday book.

It is a dream of mine to one day go to London, and especially to visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Thanks for the geopgraphy/history lesson. Perhaps, by God's grace, we will someday meet!

Doug McMasters said...

Brad,

If you come, do please join us at Trinity Road Chapel. After the service, I'll walk you over to the house Spurgeon lived in for several years. And I can drive you to see his burial site.

Brad Williams said...

That would be wonderful!

Wendy said...

I think some churches over here in Southern California need to take a hint from TRC and have the earliest Sunday morning service start at 11am :)

Bobby Grow said...

Quite the honor, congrats, Phil!

If there is anything I agree with the Pyros on it's the fact that Spurgeon was a great preaching/teaching pastor/evangelist; and that he deserves the weekly play he gets here.

Boerseuntjie said...

Sister Wendy,

I am grateful for the 11:00 AM start that our most "local" likeminded Fellowship has at Whitley Wood ( http://www.wwrbc.org.uk/services.htm ); in READING, England. [This very loving Church meets an hour's drive away from our 2 person Congregation].

The best thing of all is that the Expositions are not shortened for to please "the audiance". Services can run into an hour and a half up to two hours (For our LORD's Table).

I love Churchs where we enjoy being together longer and do not find it burdensome to hear from His Oracles...or to serve others with His powerful Gospel of grace.

My beloved wife and I both suffer with Chronic Pain and Fatigue conditions (And some other medical symptoms); and we have a 3 year old son who is the size of a 6-7 year old...

Let's just say we struggle with making it to likeminded Fellowship and service - hence our starting a 1689 LBCF Home Church this year.

We covet your prayers for our work here in our Community where even Evangelicals are postmodern and pragmatic in their desperation for numbers.

We seek Christ glorified by His Spirit in our Justification and Sanctification according with His Word - through willing obedience to His Lordship; from the heart.
Having our Deliverer take us out from the love of our sins and the appeals of the flesh and the world.

(Pastor MacArthur hit the spot this week on GTY).

Your fellow bondsalve bought by the free gift of merciful love - originating from our Triune YAHWEH Alone,
W

Justin Maute said...

Also check out "The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon" by Daniel Partner.
Spurgeons impact upon the church is still felt today, especially among pastors. In my opinion his greatest impact is that he pointed to Christ and did not boast in himself. That is a lesson that many pastors today need to learn.

Grace and Peace,
Justin (www.wanderersandbeggars.blogspot.com)

~Mark said...

Sounds like a wonderful set to have in one's library! Still, on my income I am very grateful for the "suggested donation" options. :)

Anthony said...

Phil,

Are you going down to see your MLJ Trust buddies in Ashford?

I pastor in Ashford and we'd love to have you speak at a midweek meeting if you are around. Or else just take you out for a meal and natter 'bout stuff for a while.

Any chance?

Anthony

Matt Gumm said...

Speaking of Spurgeon's sermons on the internet (well, you were in passing at least), are you still soliciting assistance with transcription? I have interest, but not sure how to begin (particularly with so many volumes out there, etc.).