|Foreword by Dr. John MacArthur|
I've always loved Charles Spurgeon for his plainspokenness, his courage, his enthusiasm for the Word of God, his love of the truth, his command of the English language, and his ability to use simple, vivid language to make difficult truths inescapably clear. Those are all characteristics every preacher should seek to emulate, and there is no better model than Spurgeon.
A number of other notable characteristics also distinguished Spurgeon’s ministry: He was indomitably optimistic, even in the midst of severe pain. He had a tender shepherd’s heart. He loved people. He had a lifelong passion to see souls converted to Christ. He remained steadfast and firm in defense of the truth, even when his views became unpopular. He was a diligent worker, who knew how to redeem the time. For all those reasons and not just for his extraordinary preaching skill Spurgeon is a worthy hero for every preacher to emulate.
It is nonetheless true that Spurgeon’s preaching is the main thing that makes him stand out as one of the most remarkable and beloved men God has ever raised up to lead the church. He is truly the prince of preachers. I often recommend that young preachers study his sermons, learn from his bright and colorful use of language and by all means borrow and make use of the best of his preaching.
Spurgeon was the master of the pithy quote. In fact, no author I have ever read is as quotable as Spurgeon. His published sermons as well as his books are a fertile source for ideas, expressions, illustrations, and axioms that help make biblical truth clear.
I have on my shelves several anthologies of Spurgeon quotations. But none is as exhaustive, as carefully assembled, or as useful as this massive collection by Kerry James Allen. Pastor Allen is one of those few intrepid souls who has managed to read through all sixty-three volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons (a lifelong undertaking for most of us). Along the way, Pastor Allen has collected and catalogued the best of Spurgeon’s wit, wisdom, and ingenuity.
This collection makes such great reading that it’s easy to get drawn in and lose oneself, and you may find it hard to put the book down. But it’s also a great resource and reference tool, whether you’re looking for insight on a specific biblical topic, an illustration for a difficult biblical truth, or help understanding a complex biblical doctrine.
This is a wonderfully rich new collection. Unless you have already read all of Spurgeon’s works, you’ll most likely find scores of excellent quotations here that will be new to you. We are all deeply indebted to Pastor Allen for the hard work he has done to assemble such a full and fine collection. John MacArthur
|Introduction by Pastor Kerry James Allen |
Spurgeon. A rather odd name, but instantly recognizable to most Christian laypeople and almost all Christian ministers. Thanks to modern technology, his writings are still distributed and read extensively more than one hundred years after his death. In the production of this book, I initially had not planned to include much of biographical material about the man, since so much has already been said. At one point I owned no less than twenty-five biographies of Spurgeon. Some were less than one hundred pages, while others went beyond one thousand. What more could be said that has not already been said? The thought struck me, however, that the key to appreciating his writings is to understand the greatness of the man and the greatness of the God who made the man. David ascribed his greatness to God (2 Samuel 22:36, Psalm 18:35), as we must with Spurgeon. Allow me to quote extensively from a small paperback which contains some of the best biographical material on Spurgeon that I have seen. The writer begins with six major reasons why Spurgeon’s preaching and writing were so effective.
“The unique combination of six major factors pertaining to the publication, circulation, and influence of the sermons of Charles H. Spurgeon makes this body of sermonic material the most significant phenomenon of such type of publication to proceed from any one man in the history of the Christian church. The six factors are: his early age when his sermons began to appear in print—continuing with uninterrupted regularity down to the time of his death, and for some years thereafter (twenty-five, until 1917); the enormous audiences which heard these sermons when originally preached; the sheer bulk of Mr. Spurgeon’s output of sermonic and religious literature; the astonishing circulation which these printed sermons attained, and still continue to enjoy; the world-wide influence which the sermons exercised; and, finally, the variety and richness of their contents.”1
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born June 19, 1834 and died at the age of fifty-seven. By age eighteen, and without any formal training, he had already preached over four hundred times. By age twenty, he saw his sermons being published weekly which then continued for the remainder of his life. He later said,
“Before I ever entered a pulpit, the thought had occurred to me that I should one day preach sermons which would be printed.”2
His churches never did have adequate seating capacity due to the eager crowds which sought to hear him. The Metropolitan Tabernacle would seat 5,500; could hold 6,500; and was continually full. A.T. Pierson, who succeeded Spurgeon for a short time after his death, once estimated that Spurgeon preached to not less than 10,000,000 people in his lifetime.
Spurgeon once said of John Gill, who wrote ten thousand pages of theology, that it was difficult to see when he slept. The same could be said about Spurgeon.
“The sheer bulk of the literary productions of Charles Spurgeon are equal to twenty-seven volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. We should remember that all this was done not by some recluse hidden away on a beautiful estate (though he did have a lovely estate), but by a man who sometimes spoke ten times a week, who read hundreds of books every year, who saw thousands of candidates for baptism, often spending days at interviewing them (in one ten-year period, Mr. Spurgeon interviewed and baptized 3,569 people), who organized, and saw to the support of several large orphanages, of the well-known Colportage Association, the Pastor’s College, and of many other institutions.”3
One man estimated that Spurgeon did the work of fifty men.This may not have been an exaggeration.
“Innumerable smaller volumes also issued from his pen, so that Mrs. Spurgeon at one time said she thought that, apart from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, one could list perhaps one hundred and fifty titles of Mr. Spurgeon’s writings. In his excellent life of Spurgeon, Dr. W. Y. Fullerton more accurately analyzes this: ‘The whole Spurgeon Library, taking no count of tractates, consists of no less than one hundred and thirty-five volumes, of which he was the author, and twenty-eight which he edited, one hundred and sixty-three volumes in all, or including the reprints, one hundred and seventy-six! If we add the albums and the pamphlets, we get an output of two hundred books!’”4
B. H. Carroll, one of the early luminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, stated that the sermons of Spurgeon, if topically arranged, would constitute a complete body of systematic theology. As I was researching this book, I wondered if Spurgeon did indeed preach from every book of the Bible. There were three books he barely touched: Ezra, Obadiah, and Third John; but he did preach from each of these books at least once. He hit all sixty-six!
“His sermons moved through the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation, and a classification of his texts will reveal the proclamation of the gospel of the grace of God from almost every page of the Holy Scriptures, especially the Book of Psalms, from which 389 sermons were drawn; Isaiah, 233; the Gospel of Luke, 213; the Gospel of John, 274; the Epistle to the Romans, 128; the Epistle to the Hebrews, 127; the Book of Revelation, 71; the Song of Solomon, 58, the brief First Epistle of John, 50; and from the one-chapter Book of Jude, 10 sermons.”5
Spurgeon’s books are perennial best sellers due to the thoroughly Biblical content, exceptional literary style, and fidelity to truth. In this age of electronic dissemination and storage, it can be safely assumed that the writings of Spurgeon will never die.
“On one occasion Joseph Parker (one of Spurgeon’s contemporaries in London) went so far as to say that Spurgeon was ‘the only pulpit name of the nineteenth century that will be remembered.’ ‘It is my humble judgment,’ said Dr. John Watson, ‘and I rejoice to express it, that Mr. Spurgeon was God’s chief preacher to the English-speaking race of our day.’”6
This is but a very brief thumbnail sketch of the man known as the Prince of Preachers. All Christians should read Spurgeon. Preachers must!
Years ago, like most preachers, when asked if they like Spurgeon, I would have said “yes” in spite of having read very little of him. Down through the years I had read a few of the “Twelve Sermons” series on various topics, but that was about it. In 1997, I bought one of the entire volumes of sermons published by Pilgrim Publications and was absolutely in awe. I devoured it quickly and immediately bought another, and then another. Soon I found myself in possession of the entire set and began a systematic process of reading the entire set over the next seven or so years. My only regret is not having started sooner.
While reading the set, I had been highlighting material I wanted to reference later. This made it somewhat easier to put this volume together. This volume is the distillation of what is the equivalent of reading Spurgeon forty hours per week for over one year straight! I had a few ideas about what I would have liked to see in a book of illustrations by Spurgeon, but the magnitude of the task was daunting. One statement by Spurgeon, however, became my spur for this project and has proved to be life changing. It is...
“The way to do a great deal, is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all, is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.” 2549.618
Let me commend that last statement to you. You will be surprised what you can accomplish when you put it into practice.
Every attempt has been made to retain strict adherence to the original words of Spurgeon, without alteration. Many editors and publishers “conveniently” sanitize Spurgeon without any reference to this fact. For example, an examination of a reprint of Spurgeon’s devotional classic Morning and Evening revealed that a negative comment Spurgeon had made about Catholicism had been excised, without any mention of the fact. In preparation for this volume, I was reading John Ploughman’s Talk, reprinted by a publisher other than Pilgrim Publications. In reading it, I had a feeling I was reading an altered version, and so I obtained an original reprint. Sure enough, there were not only deletions from what Spurgeon had originally said, but actual additions, even complete sentences that had crept in! Another reprint of Words of Advice for Seekers was missing entire chapters revealed by a comparison to a Passmore original.
The New Park Street and Metropolitan Tabernacle Volumes
The bulk of the extracts contained in this volume have been gleaned from the complete sixty-three volume set of Spurgeon’s sermons, originally printed by Passmore and Alabaster and more currently reprinted by Pilgrim Publications. In the event the reader desires to locate a particular quote, I am attempting to make it as easy as possible to find it. The problem is that now that the sermons are available in digital formats via the Internet and CD’s, the page numbers are usually different in these media than the original volumes. One Spurgeon illustration book lists the quotes by volume number and page number making it difficult to locate quotations using anything other than the original volumes. The easiest reference point is the sermon number, which will assist the reader in finding the quote no matter what format he reads. For example, if a quote is referenced as 1669.395, that quote will be found in sermon number 1669, page 395 of the original volume. The volume numbers can be referenced by looking at the chronology on pages ix and x.
Spurgeon’s ministry was broadly extended both geographically and chronologically by the fact that in the providence of God, his spoken words were transcribed almost from the very start. The first sermon in Volume One of the New Park Street Pulpit, “The Immutability of God” (delivered at age twenty), is a classic and is still well worth reading. Thus began decades of speaking and transcription yielding what is probably the largest collection of written sermons in Christian history. Spurgeon did not stop there however. By most estimates he wrote over one hundred and fifty additional books during his lifetime. Most of these have passed into antiquity, but several dozen titles remain in print today as a testimony to his enduring popularity. We have selected thirty of these which have yielded some very specific material for this book. The table on page vii will list these, as well as the code, so that the reader can locate these quotations if desired.
In my years of collecting and reading anything and everything I could find by and about Spurgeon, several things are obvious. First, there have not been many attempts at producing a reference quality book of extracts by Spurgeon. Second, most of those produced were deficient in a number of areas. These facts are not without good reason. The sixty-three volume sermon set occupies nearly nine feet of shelf space, and Spurgeon wrote one hundred and fifty more books in addition to all the transcribed preaching. Passmore and Alabaster, his lifelong printer, was busy day and night for decades producing millions of copies of books, booklets, and tracts; all written by one man! The result is that it takes nearly a lifetime just to read his writings, let alone catalog them. Most of the books produced until now have been either one and two line anecdotes or extended passages such as Passmore produced. One notable, recent exception is Spurgeon At His Best by Tom Carter. I have used this book since it came out in 1988. It does, however, contain edited quotes and references the sermon set but mentions no ancillary writings.
Passmore and Alabaster Illustration Books
Spurgeon’s lifelong printer, Passmore and Alabaster, produced several volumes of illustrations and anecdotes. I have all of these original Passmore and Alabaster releases including Flashes of Thought (1894), Feathers for Arrows (1895), and Barbed Arrows (1896). Flashes of Thought, compiled by his publisher, contains 1,000 extracts from Spurgeon’s original sermons. Feathers for Arrows is the contents of a notebook that Spurgeon carried with him to jot down thoughts and illustrations. It appears these did not all go into the sermon set. Finally, Barbed Arrows is a compilation of extracts taken from the sermon set, and interestingly, was selected by Spurgeon’s son Charles while he was laid up from an illness. All of these contain topical indexes of all the anecdotes and illustrations, but unfortunately none yield the sermon and page numbers from which they were taken. Much care has been taken to avoid duplication as I extracted material from these three books.
Other Illustration Books
I have several other books of Spurgeonic quotes, including one of the oldest (and still in print) by Edmond Hez Swem, called Spurgeon’s Gold; another by David Otis Fuller, called Spurgeon’s Sermon Illustrations; and, as I mentioned previously, a more recent offering by Tom Carter, called Spurgeon At His Best. One of the newest is Nuggets of Gold compiled by George Burch. They are all valuable; however, two of these have editorial changes, two lack references for further research, and one exclusively references the sixty-three volume set. I have attempted to improve on them all with this volume.
Note the following features that this book contains:
- Over 5,000 illustrations (more than double any previous effort of which we are aware.)
- Quotes drawn from Spurgeon’s written works as well as his spoken words.
- Over 1,000 headings and sub-topics.
- A synonym grouping appendix with forty-four main headings making searching for related synonymous illustrations easier.
- Two books in one, with Section One containing material of general interest and Section Two containing material of special interest to preachers, teachers, and ministry leaders.
- A blend of one-liners, longer anecdotes, and extended illustrations. Most other books of
quotes were only one of these formats.
- An extensive system of referencing the source materials for additional reading and study from the original writings.
How to use this book
The book is a compilation of quotes from the sixty-three volume set of sermons as well as thirty additional books by Spurgeon. Each quote contains a code number to locate its source. As mentioned earlier, numbers only (e.g. 3511.473) indicate the quote came from the sermon set. The first number is the sermon number, and the second number is the page number corresponding with the original volume from which it was drawn. Therefore, 3511.473 is sermon number 3511, page 473. Letters and numbers (e.g. ME27) indicate that the quote came from one of the additional books. That book can be found by looking at the key on page xi. Hence, ME27 is Morning and Evening, page 27. There are three sections in the book. Section One contains general interest quotes, Section Two is primarily geared to preachers, missionaries, Bible teachers, and people in leadership positions in ministry. Section Three is a brief selection of quotes applicable to evangelism and the unbelievers. There are two Tables of Content. The first, in the beginning of the book, lists all topics chronologically as they appear by page number. The second Table of Contents appears in the back of the book beginning on page 567 and lists all topics alphabetically with the topics from the ministry section shown in italics. There is also a synonym grouping directory which corresponds with the number next to each topic. As you read the book, you may want to consult synonymous topics. This can be done by looking at the number next to the topic and then turning to the back of the book beginning on page 581 to see what other topics may be related. The synonym directory only corresponds to Section One. There are some topics that are found in both Sections One and Two, although they will be viewed in a slightly different perspective. These are marked with an asterisk (*). When you see an asterisk (*) next to a topic in Section One, that topic also appears in Section Two, and vice versa.
I have made no attempt to avoid Spurgeon’s “quirks” or occasional inconsistencies. He believed in the Gap Theory, extraterrestrials and at one point stated that he believed Christ’s blood was left on earth and in another place claimed it was in Heaven. Early in his life he saw nothing wrong with wine drinking, but later moved to total abstinence. He detested war, but felt that if it stopped slavery, the deaths were worth it. In some places he seems to favor the death penalty and in others he is more pacifistic. In his defense I would say how would any of us enjoy having everything we said publicly for forty years to go into print? Case closed!
Every attempt has been made to quote Spurgeon precisely from his original source materials, including all archaic spelling, italicized emphasis, and punctuation. We have corrected verified misspellings, of which there were very few; but unfortunately, some of our own have undoubtedly crept into this book. Feel free to direct any comments to the numbers in the front of the book for any corrections needed in subsequent editions.
I hope you enjoy this book and find it a helpful tool for many years to come. There is something for everyone in this book. From wise counsel to heart-warming devotional reading; from pungent illustrations to piercing rebukes; from maxims to live by to warnings to heed. Find a comfortable spot, get your highlighter out and begin Exploring the Mind and Heart of the Prince of Preachers.
Kerry James Allen
1The Best of C.H. Spurgeon, Baker, 1945, page 9.
2Ibid, page 9.
3Ibid, Page 12.
4Ibid, Page 14.
5Ibid, Page 15.
6Ibid, Page 16.