Tethered to the Cross–A New Book on Spurgeon

Maybe you are like me and already own most every book about Charles Spurgeon that has been written. At least those that are well known and have stood the test of time. Perhaps you were also like me and thought all of the most important books about Spurgeon had already been written. As it turns out, we were wrong. Enter this new book by Thomas Breimaier that makes a distinct contribution and approaches the study of Spurgeon from a heretofore untried method. He allows the sermons of Spurgeon to tell his theological biography.

Since this book is advertised as a scholarly study of Spurgeon, you might fear that that would add some amount of boredom to a book about him. Though the scholarly approach often slows down the excitement of a book, this book is saved by the words of Spurgeon himself. Spurgeon couldn’t be dull if his life depended on it!

I have never seen the terms “crucicentric” and “conversionistic” used so often in a book, and though they are so rare that they could not even pass my spellcheck, they are accurate descriptions of the essence of Spurgeon even if no one but scholar would use them. To be sure, for Spurgeon everything, and I do mean everything, is about the Cross and the need of salvation.

The book works too. You might think a book that studied Spurgeon’s preaching in terms of both style and theology couldn’t possibly share his life’s story as well. But it does. I’m not saying we have a new David McCullough here, but since it’s a biography you may already know anyway the story of a man we love is here.

The introduction discusses past works about Spurgeon and his sermons as well as describing the published sermons. Being familiar with all of those works myself, I feel this number is well done. The six chapters that approach Spurgeon both chronologically and involves the role of the Bible, his use of the text in both Old and New Testaments, and his later ministry all hold attention.

The truth is that Spurgeon was not a master expositor like, say, his contemporary Alexander McLaren, but he was likely the greatest preacher of the gospel we have ever known. His sermons will always remind us to magnify Jesus and never fail to call on the hearer to receive Christ now. Every preacher in the world needs a dose of Spurgeon and every listener needs a dose of such preaching. Yes, Spurgeon was tethered to the Cross and that’s worth reading in a world unmoored from it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Legacy of Preaching–A Great Two-Volume Set!

book leg preach.jpg

Every preacher will want this set! Occasionally, a book about the history of preaching will come along and serve as a mighty motivating force for preachers. Dedication, zeal, power—all put on display in the lives of the best preachers of days gone by. It’s been at least 20 years since a book that blends biography and preaching counsel in a way that makes you want to grab a biblical text and get going has come along. This set, edited by Benjamin K. Forrest, Kevin L. King, Bill Curtis, and Dwayne Milioni, has filled that lacuna for our generation.

Improving on the works of previous decades, this book employs a winning design. First, specialists on the subject were secured to pen each entry. Second, each writer had to follow the same format: historical background (biography), theology of preaching, methodology for preaching, and contributions to preaching. There’s even a helpful bibliography for each entry. This format was particularly helpful. You got to know the preacher and his preaching. You could say that the approach maximized the impact you could glean from each one.

Volume One covered the Apostles to the Revivalists. You got to think of Paul and Peter as preachers before heading into some of the Church Fathers. Next, Medieval times were covered including Bernard of Clairvaux, John Huss, and Girolamo Savonarola. The Reformers including Luther, Tyndale, and Calvin as preachers were given a look next. Puritan greats Perkins, Baxter, Owen, Bunyan, and Henry were great selections in that group of preachers. Only four revivalists were covered including Edwards, Wesley, and Whitefield, but they were preaching giants.

Volume Two that covered the Enlightenment through modern times was even better. I love Nineteenth-Century British preaching and so was Part One here was my favorite in either volume. Alexander Maclaren and Charles Spurgeon are two of my favorite preaching heroes and real insights could be gained from their entries. I’ve read much on both of them, but I learned more here. The story of Gipsy Smith surprised me too.

Many more outstanding entries finished out the book. You might quibble over a few selections or omissions, (Where was G. Campbell Morgan?), but these volumes are pure gold. Mark them off as must-have books for the preacher! I’ll be consulting my set many times in the coming years I’m sure.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

An All-Round Ministry by Spurgeon–A Beautiful Reprint! (Books on Ministry #23)

book all round

What a beautiful reprint of a classic has Banner of Truth given us in this volume! What a wonderful book worthy of this first-rate presentation! This book has been reprinted repeatedly since it was put together after Spurgeon’s death from his passionate addresses to preachers and those training to be. This hardback, though, is the nicest I’ve ever seen. It’s the one you will want on your shelves—one that will last for years and can be passed on.

If you are not already familiar with this book, you should understand that it differs from his famous Lectures To My Students. That fine book is more practical about ministry and is something of a handbook. An All-Round Ministry is all feeling and fire. Spurgeon became more isolated among English Christian academia as liberal headwinds began shifting and strengthening in his day. For him, it was Christ, the Gospel, and souls! The Gospel had not lost its power and he gives one impassioned plea after another in this book for preachers to not become unmoored from what we were called to do by Christ.

Be sure to read the fine introduction by Iain Murray. He excels in this kind of writing and enriches what you are about to read from Spurgeon.

All twelve addresses strike at the preacher’s heart. All call for loyalty to Christ and zeal. A few of the later ones reflect the battles he endured regarding the Downgrade Movement, but all speak to our passing opportunities. This book contains the exact encouragement we all need from time to time! It’s an essential book for preachers.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: Volume 3

bppl spur 3.jpg

I love these lost sermons of Spurgeon more as every new volume is released. Here we are blessed to receive volume 3 of what will be an incredible 10-volume set for both Spurgeon fans and any who love gospel preaching. The design and setup match the previous two volumes, but I notice the sermon notes are becoming fuller as Spurgeon must’ve started keeping more careful notes.

With this volume, I became even more impressed with the editor, Christian T. George. It’s almost as if he went through these notebooks with a magnifying glass and nothing escaped his eye. He made sure we had everything he observed. Be sure to glance through the notes that follow each sermon. I even noticed that he traced down some of the sermon illustrations to volumes in Spurgeon’s library! I guess our beloved Metropolitan Tabernacle sermons will seem somewhat inferior after this set is finished. I, for one, appreciate the attention to detail that Mr. George brings to this project. B & H gave this production worthy packaging to make something truly beautiful.

Another observation: Spurgeon started hitting his stride in producing sermons that we would expect from him in this volume. As was his custom throughout his ministry, he is all over the Bible. It would be hard to argue that anyone was Spurgeon’s equal when it comes to textual preaching. The man could wring the Gospel out of almost any text! This book needs no recommendation from me – obviously its pure gold!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

G. Campbell Morgan (Great Preachers Series)

(Here’s part of a series that has already included Charles Spurgeon and Alexander MacLaren ).

He was the envy of the preachers of his day. The great F.B. Meyer once confessed as much! Morgan joins Moody and Spurgeon in never having any Bible college training. He was discovered by Moody and many feel the Lord sent him to teach the Bible to the massive amount of converts that came from the great revivals of that time period.

You might have had your doubts about him earlier on as after preaching a trial sermon to enter the ministry as an ordained Methodist preacher, he bombed out. A dejected Morgan wired his Dad to tell of his failure. His wise father wired back: “Rejected on earth–accepted in Heaven.” That was a close call to losing a mighty preacher that over time just became something hard for the Methodists to live down! He rose to fame just after Spurgeon and others of that golden age of preaching passed off the scene. Still, he was of their ilk.

Though he didn’t have formal training, he decided that to be the preacher he should be he should master the English Bible. Of course in his studies he referred to language works, but the task that lay heavy on his heart was opening up the Bible in the English language. His laser focus reaped huge dividends as he opened up God’s Word for the masses. Like the other great masters his work ethic in the Word would shock most of us who preach the Word today. He didn’t just look for a sermon to fill his given slots, he was compelled to get at what the Lord was saying. Likely, this is the exact point where his success and our failure meet.

His great strength was synthesis–how the thing before us fits the larger context of God’s Revelation to us. Frankly, he would see obvious things that everyone else would miss. I don’t mean forced points designed to make the speaker appear exceptionally intellectual and brilliant, but things that upon reading we can’t imagine why we hadn’t already noticed it.

He was a man on the go. Some have criticized him for a “nomad ministry.” Perhaps he won’t go down as one of the greatest pastors ever, but the harshest critic would be hard pressed to deny his amazing and God-blessed preaching skills.  He could literally mesmerize an audience with nothing but the Bible. Strangely, he almost never used an illustration. We don’t have to ditch illustrations like him, but that might suggest that the Bible carries more punch on its own than most think. He was at his best in the Gospels, preached less on doctrine and more on Bible stories and passages. He, like a few others, shows us the latent power of expository preaching. If only we could catch a little of what he had.

There’s a few biographies on him like the one by Harries. Jill Morgan’s “A Man of the Word” gives us the best impressions of his method. Don Wagner’s “The Expository Method of G. Campbell Morgan” teaches well as does Morgan’s own “Preaching”. He is at his best in the volumes on each Gospel, Acts, the Corinthian letters, and Jeremiah. The best of his sermons to read are in the 5 combined volumes, or 10 volume set called “The Westminister Pulpit.” Any of his books are worth having. In a word, I’d call G. Campbell Morgan spellbinding!

Alexander MacLaren (Great Preachers Series)

Everyone has his or her favorite, and here is mine–Alexander MacLaren. He is another of the great Victorian Age preachers. He pastored for many years, most notably in Manchester, England and died in 1910. He was no where near the pastor Spurgeon was, and perhaps Spurgeon outranked him in a simple Gospel message, but otherwise he is without peer. When it comes to preaching what the Bible actually says, which I hope you would agree is the actual job of the preacher, MacLaren stands at the head of the class among preachers in the English language.
Alexander Maclaren
Looking at his awesome sermons you will find them pretty evenly divided between textual and expository and always with faithfulness to the text. The text never suggests some subject to him where he feels the need to imbibe us with his soapbox opinions. It’s just the Bible. You always feel a “Thus saith the Lord” when reading him. That is not to say they lack creativity. In fact, they overflow with imagination. His artistry, though, always stayed within the confines of what the text said. You might say his preaching was the perfect marriage of the science of exegeting the passage and the art of preaching it.
His colleagues readily admitted that he was a master craftsman. W. Robertson Nicoll, a prolific editor of his day, said: “A man who reads one of MacLaren’s sermons must either take his outline or take another text”. He further said, “MacLaren touched every text with a silver hammer and it broke up into three natural and memorable divisions.”
We might learn from MacLaren. When asked the secret of his success, he would reply in a word: work. Not that he denied the divine enabling by the Holy Spirit, he just admitted that it is work to dig out sermons. A lack of hard work in preparing a message likely means you don’t have much of a sermon. He so believed this that he always wore work boots to his study. To read his sermons is to believe he lived what he advised. He never followed fads in preaching, or concerned himself with a message for the times, as he felt the Bible carried a message for the ages. When speaking of power in preaching he said personal godliness was the first and greatest criteria. He put preaching at the top of his ministry. He saw it as the answer to every conceivable issue we might face in the ministry. You might say that is taking it too far, but could you admit our emphasis on the power of preaching is lacking today? As one writer described it, MacLaren’s motto of ministry could be summed as “This one thing I do.” This could be a powerful corrective to  the trends of our day of pastors often working on the most trivial things while the greatest thing lies languishing under the weight of their busy schedules.
He shared a trait with most of those I would put in my greatest preacher category–an unusual personality. I don’t know why but they all have the most distinct peculiarities. Those who would try to interview him would be bewildered by its end and would likely learn nothing. He leaned heavily on his wife and would agonize over his sermons and often think them pitiful failures even when others were greatly blessed by them. Still, his sermons were phenomenal. David Larsen in his delightful The Company of the Preachers tells of one of his most memorable sermons. It was entitled “Mahanaim: Two Camps” on Genesis 32. Here’s the outline:
I. The angels of God meet us on the dusty road of common life
II. The angels of God meet us punctually at the hour of need
III. The angels of God come in the shape we need.
Look at the text–it’s there. I don’t know about you, but I call that an outline.
His messages collected in a set called Expositions of Holy Scripture (in either 11 or 17 volumes) contain the full set of his sermons. His sermons were originally given in various volumes, but this collection conveniently gathers them all in scriptural order. He also wrote great commentaries on Psalms and Colossians printed in The Expositor’s Bible and the helpful The Life of David Reflected in the Psalms. His sermons are as moving in print as they must have been when he delivered them.
For further study you could look for Life of Alexander MacLaren by David Williamson and Dr. McLaren of Manchester by E. T. McLaren (there is debate about the spelling of his last name). Warren Wiersbe’s Walking With The Giants, Ernest Jeffs’ Princes Of The Modern Pulpit, and W. Robertson Nicoll’s Princes of The Church all contain a great chapter on MacLaren.
To let you know how much I admire this man. Three years ago (2009) when my wife became paralyzed while carrying a child and we realized he would be our last one, I talked her into letting me name him. His first name would be Elisha for one of my favorite Bible characters. His middle name? You guessed it. MacLaren. Here’s a namesake for the man who in my opinion is the greatest preacher you could ever read.
Jimmy and Elisha Reagan

Charles Spurgeon (Great Preachers Series)

That Charles Haddon Spurgeon is a legend is beyond dispute. Any pastor would have to be amazed by his pastorate and overall ministry. The crowds, the conversions, the influence stagger the imagination. Were we to know the depths of his suffering both physically and at the hands of other religious leaders, we might not want his ministry after all.

Perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that after 120 years his books and written sermons are as fresh as ever. There’s some phrasing peculiar to his day, but his sermons still grab the heart. His sermons come in 2 sets. There’s the 6 volume set called New Park Street Pulpit that were from the first years of his pastorate and are available reasonably priced used. Then there’s the 57 volume set published by Pilgrim Publications called Metropolitan Tabernacle Sermons that retails for $2000 (occasionally used sets come up for $1000-$1200). I was blessed to finally get an almost complete set! There’s some older used volumes, but these Pilgrim volumes have nice bindings that will last for generations. There are several other sets with various names (I have a few myself), but remember they are all taken from these 2 sets.

His sermons are often textual, sometimes expository, and rarely topical. Their greatest strengths include vividness, imagination, and most of all, gospel. No one can lift up Jesus Christ quite like he can. I’ve heard that Spurgeon’s sermons comprise the largest collection of writings by one person in the English language. Though Spurgeon was a Calvinist, only a handful of sermons really have much Calvinism in them. The truth is Spurgeon was much maligned by more ardent calvinists than himself. Read Iain Murray’s “Spurgeon Vs. Hyper-Calvinism” to learn this history. The truth is that Spurgeon constantly called on men to turn to Jesus for salvation, and he never spoke of being worried if you are elect–no, just flee to Christ. Personally, I think he is at his best in the parables and miracles. Wow, he makes them come alive!

He wrote other things as well. “Lectures To My Students” and “An All-Around Ministry” are still read by those in the ministry. Articles he wrote appreared in several small volumes. His last volume was a commentary on Matthew that I find very useful. His 3 large volumes on the Psalms are my very favorite on the Psalms. I would hate to be without them. He wrote several other volumes like Advice To Seekersetc.

Be sure to read “Commenting and Commentaries” either for book suggestions or laughs. I’ve worked hard to obtain several of his recommendations. He favors the Puritans, and though I’ve read them some, I wish they were better at coming to the point. Spurgeon took good things they offered (especially application), but he in no way reads like them. Listen to some of his comments in this book:

65.”Too small to be of any use. You cannot put the sea into a tea cup.”
100. Thomas Pyle “A pile of paper, valuable to housemaids for lighting fires.”
435. “The author confounds rather than expounds.”
766. “We have frequently characterized this author’s writings. They are clear, cold, and dry, like a fine moonlight night in the middle of winter. A man needs a peculiar mind to enjoy Hengstenberg, but all educated students can profit by him.”

And there are many, many more zingers.

If you come to enjoy and appreciate Spurgeon as I do you will want to secure some of his biographies. I have Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers by Drummond (Kregel), The Life and Works of C. H. Spurgeon in 2 volumes by G. Holden Pike (Banner of Truth), Life of Charles Spurgeon by Russell Conwell (old, written shortly after his death), The Life and Works of C. H. Spurgeon by Henry Northrop (Sword), C. H. Autobiography in 2 volumes (Banner of Truth), From The Pulpit To The Palm-Branch (Solid Ground), The Unforgettable Spurgeon by Eric Hayden (Emerald), and The Shadow of the Broad Brim by Richard Day (Crown Publications). There are a few other small ones I have as well. He has been a popular subject for biographers.

The main thing about Spurgeon is the depth of his love for the Lord. As a preacher, his sermons challenge me. As a Christian, they move me.

Favorite Preachers To Read

great preachers
“Who’s your favorite authors to read ?” came the question across the table from Pastor Scott Hooks. That question took me off guard, strangely enough, for as much as I love to read, to think about all the books I have read or used, it was hard to reduce that to 2 or 3 names. After an awkward pause, I started naming 5 or 6 names. Guess who they all were? Preachers. Men who had not set out to be authors, but whose sermons made it into print.
Books of sermons should be part of every good family or ministry library. For any Christian they have great devotional value. The only downside to it is that you may decide that some of us pastors really don’t know how to preach. For we pastors, reading the best sermons challenges us, shows us what preaching ought to be, and encourages us to work harder. The only downside for us would be that instead of being inspired, we would  just steal them. To present another’s work as our own is an incredible dishonesty shocking to find in someone speaking for Jesus Christ.
Think of the impact the sermons of Jesus had. Even though the Bible likely only records parts of His sermons (We know this because at times He would spend the whole day teaching and preaching), they are so powerful. The parts of Paul’s preaching that we have also make sermon series for us. It wasn’t, however, till after the invention of the printing press that lots of sermons made it into print. Not all of them were great, but some are treasures for all time. It was in the 1800s, in my opinion, that we had the golden age of preaching. Praise the Lord, we can read them today.
I want to blog about them individually. I want to tell of Spurgeon, MacLaren, and a few others that you perhaps haven’t heard as much about. I may do other book reviews and still have guest blogs coming, but I want to start a series of blogs about preachers and their written sermons that have enriched my life and ministry and makes me want to reach to greater heights in the grand work the Lord has called me to do.
Preachers in the series so far:
More to come…