After going on a nearly two-and-a-half-year hiatus and transitioning to a new editor and research team, The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon are back with Volume IV. Courtesy of Broadman and Holman Publishers, I’m glad to bring you up to speed on the latest addition to this series.
First, a little background on Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was one of the most influential preachers of the 19th century. He regularly preached before crowds of more than 5,000 in his church in London (once to a crowd of over 23,000 people). He also founded a college, an orphanage, and was a strong advocate for foreign missions. He was personally acquainted with D. L. Moody and Hudson Taylor. Famous Americans like Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, and James Garfield visited his church to hear him preach. He left more published words than any other Christian in history, before or since. He eventually made so much money from his printed works that he did not accept a salary from his church and instead gave away the vast majority of what he made, amounting to millions of dollars at a time when Laura Ingalls Wilder was amazed to find a penny in her stocking.
Despite his popularity, or perhaps because of it, Spurgeon received a lot of criticism during his lifetime. His opposition to the new theory from fellow Englishman Charles Darwin earned him mockery from cartoonists and newspapers. His condemnation of so-called Christian slaveholders in America resulted in threats and book burnings throughout the Southern United States, especially from members of the relatively new Southern Baptist denomination. Yet times have changed, and Southern Baptists are now not only among his greatest admirers as the publication of this book series shows.
Now, on to the present volume. Broadman and Holman graciously provided me a review copy of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume IV, and I read it cover to cover. Volume IV contains the 45 sermons Spurgeon recorded in the fourth of nine notebooks that correspond to the volumes in this series. It contains all-new front matter, including a foreword from Jared C. Wilson and an introduction adapted from “Who Is Charles Haddon Spurgeon?” an article available on www.spurgeon.org.
With a change in editors and a dedicated research team, the project has also changed. My wallet is thankful that it will end up being 9 volumes instead of the initially planned 12. That may come at the cost of expansive endnotes, which aid in reading and make the experience much more enjoyable. However, the previous volumes’ endnotes gave more attention to aspects of the journals that I didn’t care for and interrupted my reading: comments about smudges, page discolorations, and other minutiae. Mercifully (except, perhaps, to a doctoral student or two), these types of endnotes have been left out.
The endnotes in Volume IV include the best of previous volumes:
- Excerpts from the sources Spurgeon used in preparing his sermons (frequently John Gill).
- Explanations for historical or cultural references.
- Excerpts from later sermons published in The New Park Street Pulpit and The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit that provide additional insight on statements or phrases used in these early sermons.
- Definitions of unfamiliar words (Spurgeon had an expansive vocabulary).
Compared to the previous three volumes, Volume IV seems to have more notes on historical and cultural references Spurgeon makes in his sermons. It may be due to the change in the editor, or it could be because Spurgeon’s outlines are more detailed than his first “skeletons.” For instance, one of his sermons has a cryptic reference to “an eye for a pin.” The notes contain the source and full story of a boy who lost an eye while fighting with another boy over some pins. There are many more references like this with similar explanations provided.
Much to my chagrin, a few sermons have very limited endnotes, and I suspect that is because of the different people involved. For instance, Spurgeon once makes reference to “Siamese twins” and the notes only clarify that this means conjoined twins. They provide no information about Chang and Eng Bunker, the original “Siamese twins,” apparently well-known in England by the time Spurgeon preached this sermon.
Volume IV contains many sermons on passages that Spurgeon never preached from again in the over 3,500 sermons in his previously published works. I enjoyed reading the two sermons he preached on Christmas day, 1852. Another fact I found interesting was his sermon on Exodus 23:29, “I Will Not Drive Them out in One Year,” which, the editor notes, came near the one-year anniversary of his coming to the Waterbeach Baptist church.
Regarding the presentation of the material, the book is available in standard and collector’s editions. My copy of Volume IV is the collector’s edition, with a cover designed to look like the cover of Spurgeon’s fourth notebook. Comparing it to the Volume II collector’s edition, it’s easy to see its uniqueness.
The standard edition has cloth-over-board covers; sewn binding; thick, glossy pages; and full-color facsimiles of each page of the notebook. Besides having a better cover, the collector’s edition also contains photographs of Spurgeon and his family, volumes from his library, his pipe, and other pictures not included in previous volumes. The collector’s edition also has gilded pages and a box cover. Although both are beautiful, I plan on purchasing the collector’s edition of each of the remaining volumes as they come out.
For an excerpt including the front matter and the first sermon in this volume, click here. If you’re interested in snagging a copy for yourself, you can find The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume IV online at LifeWay.com and other retail stores. Volume V is slated for release in April 2021. I can’t wait!