The German theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote an appreciation of Charles Haddon Spurgeon in Encounter With Spurgeon (English translation1964). I have made a habit of reading one of Spurgeon’s sermons every Saturday night to inspire me as I prepare for my own preaching on Sundays. The following are a few quotations from
“In the midst of a theologically discredited nineteenth century there was a preacher who had at least six thousand people in his congregation every Sunday, whose sermons for many years were cabled to New York every Monday and reprinted in the leading newspapers of the country, and who occupied the same pulpit for forty years without any diminishment in the flowing abundance of his preaching and without every repeating himself or preaching himself dry. The fire he thus kindled, and turned into a beacon that shone across the seas and down through the generations, was no mere brush of sensationalism, but an inexhaustible blaze that glowed and burned on solid hearths and was fed by the wells of the eternal Word. Here was the miracle of a bush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed (Exodus 3:2).”
Spurgeon (1834-1892) began preaching at the age of seventeen. He was a self-taught man. He did not exhaust himself in an indiscriminate, chaotic, book-devouring hunger for education, but rather gave evidence even at that time of a disciplined and purposeful system of study, which, undergirded by intellectual power and determination and an astonishing memory, also disclosed itself later in his ability to organize his literary work on a large and well planned scale.
“When Spurgeon speaks, it is as if the figures of the patriarchs and prophets and apostles were in the auditorium – sitting upon a raised tribune! – looking down upon the listeners. You hear the rush of the Jordan and the murmuring of the brooks of Siloam; you see the cedars of Lebanon swaying in the wind, hear the clash and tumult of battle between the children of Israel and the Philistines, sense the safety and security of Noah’s ark, suffer the agonies of soul endured by Job and Jeremiah, hear the creak of oars as the disciples strain against the contrary winds, and feel the dread of the terrors of the apocalypse. The Bible is so close to you not only to hear its messages but breathe its very atmosphere. The heart is so full of Scripture, that it leavens the consciousness, peoples the imagination with its images, and determines the landscape of the soul by its climate. And because it has what might be called a total presence. The Bible as the Word of God is really concentrated life that enters every pore and teaches us not only to see and hear but also to taste and smell the wealth of reality that is spread out before us here.”
His instructions to preachers are based upon the faith “that the arm of the Lord is stretched out over the earth without any help on our part, and therefore that it is not we activists who have to take him by the hand and drag him over the continents and the farthest islands of the sea. God is Lord even apart from the instrumentality that we put at his disposal with our talents. His kingdom comes even without our efforts.
Therefore the disciple can take the long view and persevere. He who is coordinated with eternity dare not allow himself to be harassed and hounded by time…..Nervousness is sinful. It is, so to speak, the psychopathological form of unbelief, which takes over too much responsibility itself and to the same degree loses its confidence that God reigns and is looking after his cause.”
There is much here for us to ponder in our hearts.