THE most remarkable fact of all in connection with the publication of C. H.
Spurgeon’s sermons is their sustained popularity since his death. Sermons, either separately or in volumes, are not looked upon as the most saleable of literature, and a visit to the second-hand bookstalls of any large town will show what a large proportion of the books upon the penny and two-penny barrows are homiletical in character. Yet, even now, more than a dozen years after the preacher has passed away, his sermons come out regularly every week, have an enormous sale, and are looked forward to eagerly by men and women in all parts of the English-speaking world. Not only do the new sermons still sell in large quantities, but there is a constant demand for the older discourses, and from time to time, comes an order from some part of Great Britain or from abroad for a complete set of the volumes to be forwarded to the writer. Applications are received from every continent and almost every country from persons of all denominations, from Bishops and other dignitaries of the Established Church, from high church and low church clergymen, from Roman Catholics and Plymouth Brethren, from noblemen and officers of the army and navy, from lawyers and doctors, from merchants and tradesmen, from artisans and laborers, from men and women, old and young, and even from children.
I have had the opportunity of looking through a memorandum book which the publishers keep for recording an interesting incident that may arise in connection with the sale of the sermons, and a few of the brief records may be selected at random and given in these pages.
A lady, about to make a tour in Scotland, purchased a considerable number of the sermons to give away during her holiday. She declared that she found they were always accepted by those to whom she offered them.
A gentleman, who had traveled much, was purchasing some sermons, when he mentioned that he had found them in all parts of the world. He had seen them in Egypt and Syria, and quite recently at the Blue Mountains in Jamaica.
A clergyman stated that he was dining with the Bishop of Huron, who, in reply to the questions of three young men at table, who asked his lordship what were the most useful books to read, said “Saturate yourself with Spurgeon, but do not forget Spurgeon’s teacher, the Holy Spirit.”
A minister mentioned that he was dining with two officers at an outlying station in the hills of India. One of these, in the absence of the chaplain, had to conduct a service in the church, and he used to read one of C. H.
Another minister said that Dean Vaughan used often to be seen reading Spurgeon’s sermons in the train as he traveled.
A man who is stone deaf visits the publishing office nearly every week for a sermon. He often remarks, “I am a poor man who cannot hear the Gospel preached, but Spurgeon is my pastor. The sermons are next to the Bible, my greatest comfort.”
A missionary to seamen at Malta, purchasing a number of sermons, said he found them most useful. Quite recently, one given to a sailor had been the means of the conversion of himself and his wife. Even Roman Catholics and people who will not look at other Protestant religious literature, will read Spurgeon’s sermons.
A lady missionary told the publishers that she found the sermons most useful to her in her work, and she had been in the habit of ordering them to be sent out to the Holy Land to her.
A customer bought several sermons, and in the course of conversation said, “I attend Church and the sermons delivered there are so wretched that I find it quite impossible to follow them. I therefore take a Spurgeon’s sermon with me, place it in my prayer-book and read it while the clergyman is delivering his discourse.
These instances; are all culled from the entries for the past three years.
Almost every morning mail brings letters from the four quarters of the globe. On one particular day recently there were orders from several places in the United States, from Chili, Canada, New Zealand, India and the Gold Coast.
A reference was made above to the accumulation of sermon-volumes on the second-hand bookstalls, and almost any published discourses may be picked up there at some time or other for a penny or twopence. But there is one exception. You never find Spurgeon’s sermons on the barrows. The present writer is a constant visitor to the London stalls, and a persistent book-buyer, but he has never once in twenty years seen a volume of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit for sale, second-hand, on a barrow.
To quote all the recent opinions of prominent men upon C. H. Spurgeon’s discourses would occupy a vast deal of space, but a selection may be given as examples, all but the first two having been occasioned by the recent publication of the fiftieth volume.
The present Bishop of Durham, Dr. Handley Moule, in his volume, “To Sly Younger Brethren,” says, “For average individuals. I know no style more perfectly answering my idea than that of Mr. Spurgeon in his printed sermons of recent years; I happen to know that Mr. Spurgeon has always taken great and systematic pains with his English. His sentences, never thin or weak in matter, are always straight.” Dr. Robertson Nicoll, addressing the delegates at the session of the Baptist Union, said: “Read, above all things your Bible; and whatever books you add to your Bible, add some volumes of your great apostle Charles Spurgeon, — not to preach out of them, for you might almost as well talk of plagiarizing from the Epistle to the Romans as of plagiarizing from Spurgeon. Read him because he is the unrivaled interpreter of the mysteries of the New Covenant. I take him up constantly and find myself repeating Browning’s words, — “A turn and we stand in the heart of things:
The woods are round us heaped and dim.’” The present Primate of All England, who, by the way, pronounced the benediction at the funeral of C. H. Spurgeon, wrote through his chaplain that he had found “both profit and interest in reading such volumes of sermons.”
Archdeacon Sinclair said, “There is much in Mr. Spurgeon’s teaching that will do everybody good. It is specially suitable to the vast God-fearing mass of the people who hold simply to the Puritan view of the verbal inspiration of Scripture. There is no preacher whose influence is to be compared with that of Mr. Spurgeon, through the almost illimitable circulation of the printed sermons.” “I have read carefully,” wrote Dean Lefroy, “the sermon number ‘God hath spoken.’ There is not a sentence in the discourse I would omit or revise.
The utterance is true; experimental and worthy of all acceptation. Such sermons must do immeasurable good, especially in districts where the Gospel of the Grace is marred by superstition or by skepticism. May Goct accompany the 50th volume.”
This is Prebendary Webb Peploe’s opinion: “Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons are outside the inspired volume of God’s Word, I should say, an absolutely unique production. No man ever preached so many with such variation of style and thought, and yet always bringing his hearers (and readers) to the one Central Personality for whom he lived and labored, viz., Jesus Christ our Lord. This I have ever found, when reading Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons, to be the key-thought or central idea of everything that he produced. The man lived and labored as an exhibitor of Christ Jesus. To him the Gospel meant a Person, that Person, God manifest in the flesh. This, ‘the mystery of Godliness,’ was with him the explanation of the fertility and power of his productions and the key to all his marvelous success. All who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth must be thankful for what Mr.
Spurgeon was permitted to do as a messenger of the Lord of Hosts, and though there may be points in which members of ether denominations could not, of course, see eve to eye with the great preacher of the nineteenth century, yet no one can honor and worship the blessed Savior of mankind without thanking God for having raised up in our day such a wonderful preacher as C. H. Spurgeon.” “It is my humble judgment,” says Dr. John Watson (Ian Maclaren), and I rejoice to express it, that Mr. Spurgeon was God’s chief preacher to the English-speaking race of our day, and I rejoice also to know that there are so many sermons of his yet to be published. For every sermon I have ever read of Mr. Spurgeon’s, and I have read many from boyhood unto this day, has been charged with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dr. J. H. Jowett considers “the widespread distribution of these sermons as an invaluable ministry in the cause of Christ.” “I have for many years,” he says, “sought and found nutriment for my own pulpit in his marvelous expositions.” “To my mind,” writes the Rev. Dinsdale T. Young, “Spurgeon is the greatest of all preachers the world has known during the last century, if not during any century. None can measure the good those matchless discourses have accomplished and will accomplish. Spurgeon’s Gospel was never needed more than it is today.”
Dr. Pearson McAdam Muir, Minister of Glasgow Cathedral, declares, “It is needless to commend sermons which have had a circulation altogether unparalleled. But I can bear witness that they exercise a profound influence on persons with whom I am acquainted, and that they are waited for, week by week, by some as eagerly as the most sensational periodicals are waited for by others.” “You may well print the Jubilee number of Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons in gold! Gold befits gold!” says the Revelation F. B. Meyer. “I can never tell my indebtedness to them. As I read them week by week in my young manhood, they gave me a grip of the Gospel that I can never lose, and gave an ideal of its presentation in nervous, transparent and forcible language which has colored my entire ministry. It is marvelous to notice, also, that the last volume, just published, seems to lack nothing in comparison with those that have gone before. What a blessed ministry this has been to myriads!” “‘I know nothing like his sermons for lasting interest,” is the opinion of the Revelation Archibald Brown. “As a boy I was charmed with his preaching, though I knew nothing of the things of God. As a student and preacher of the Word of God for fifty years, I prize his teaching more than ever. There is a perpetual freshness about all his utterances. Thank God he lives and preaches today as much as ever.”
The Revelation Marshall Hartley is equally emphatic as to their value. “I have for many years,” he says, “reveled in Mr. Spurgeon’s writing’s, and owe much to his fervent evangelism, racy wit and deep spirituality as therein expressed.” “The Christian Church,” writes the Rev. J. Wilson, “might well say that one of the ‘miracles’ of the 19th century has been the circulation of Spurgeon’s sermons, and I am believing that it will be the miracle of the 20th century. They ought to be scattered throughout the world like autumn leaves.” “The publication of Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons for fifty years,” says the Revelation J. Morgan Gibbon, “seems to me to illustrate in a striking manner the inexhaustible fullness of the Bible, Mr. Spurgeon’s own versatility, and the soundness of the popular taste.,” Pastor W. Cuff declares that “for forty years out of the fifty, I have been a close reader and student of Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons, and today they are as fresh as a frosty morning to my heart and mind. They appeal to me and help me as no other sermons ever did, or do now. I still turn to them with mental hunger and I am never disappointed. If I ask for bread they never give me a stone. If I ask for water they never offer me mud.” “The sermons are models of a type of preaching we need to reach the people of our own day.” So writes the Rev. John F. Wakerley. “They are saturated with Gospel teaching put in homely and withal attractive garb, and never failing by the Spirit’s power, ‘to wound and heal,’ to ‘kill and make alive.’ How my heart thanks God for the ministry of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, by which many another ministry has been enriched! This great modern Puritan could afford from his treasury to throw off at random material that would have been a wealthy possession for many an ordinary man.”
Lord Kinnaird expresses his pleasure at knowing that for years to come the sermons will be issued weekly. “I know from personal experience,” he says, “God has blessed Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons and they have reached and helped many saints and sinners; and in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland they have been and are valued.”
Many other prominent ministers and laymen write in the same strain. The Revelation R. J. Campbell says, the more of Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons that are published, “the better for the world,” and Dr. Horton expresses his intense appreciation of the discourses and for Mr. Spurgeon’s splendid work. But it is impossible to repeat all the opinions that have been given of the value of the printed sermons. They come from men of widely different schools, and of almost all denominations, and the Press — religious and secular — is equally emphatic in its praise. “I never heard him, but I know some of his sermons;” writes Viator in The Church Times, “the discourse on the words, And Kissed Him, from the parable of the Prodigal, is one of the most magnificent pieces of reported oratory that I ever read.”
Similarly, the Low Church Rock says of the latest volume of sermons, “It is truly refreshing to turn from the emasculated discourses (by courtesy sermons) of the Higher Critics or the second-hand science dished up in some pulpit utterances in the place of revealed truth, to such sterling gold of the Gospel as we find here, where the old, old story of the cross is emphatically told with charming freshness and unflinching truth.”
Shortly after C. H. Spurgeon’s death the Spurgeon Memorial Sermon Society was started, having for its object the systematic lending of copies of the discourses free of charge, and is the years went by the society greatly increased, and it now operates in all parts of the world. It was for this organization, by the generosity of a wealthy gentleman, that the largest order ever given for any sermons, was received by Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster. The order was for a million copies, and these were duly delivered and circulated by the society. A quarter of a million sermons change hands every week under the auspices of this institution.
The fiftieth volume has now been published, and already nearly 2,950 discourses have appeared. These are upon texts from every book in the Bible save the second Epistle of St. John, and it may be interesting to give the list of books with the number of sermons from each: Genesis, 80; Exodus, 51; Leviticus, 15; Numbers, 25; Deuteronomy, 40; Joshua, 12; Judges, 15; Ruth, 6: 1 Samuel, 303; 2 Samuel, 273; 1 Kings, 25; 2 Kings, 23; I Chronicles, 12; 2 Chronicles, 21; Ezra, 2; Nehemiah, 93; Esther, 2; Job, 78; Psalms, 389; Proverbs, 36; Ecclesiastes, 8; Song of Solomon,58; Isaiah, 233; Jeremiah, 90; Lamentations, 10; Ezekiel, 47; Daniel, Hosea, 45, Joel, 5; Amos, 11; Obadiah, 1; Jonah, 9; Micah, 14; Nahum, 4; Habbakuk, 8; Zephaniah, 4; Haggai, 2; Zechariah, 30; Malachi, 10; Matthew, 211; Mark, 78; Luke, 213; John, 274; Acts, 84; Romans 128; Corinthians, 72; 2 Corinthians, 50; Galatians, 38; Ephesians, 64; Philippians, 34; Colossians, 27; 1 Thessalonians, 13; 2 Thessalonians, 9; Timothy, 17; 2 Timothy, 20; Titus, 7; Philemon, 10; Hebrews 127; James, 20; 1 Peter, 38; 2 Peter, 12; 1 John, 50; 3 John, 1; Jude, 10, Revelation, 71. The actual number of copies of the sermons issued from the beginning is not known. So vast is it that all count has been lost, but it is estimated that about a hundred and fifty millions have been disposed of in this form.
Add to these the immense number issued abroad in various languages, and those that have been printed in newspapers, and probably more than three hundred millions of Spurgeon’s sermons have gone out on their evangelistic mission. The human mind quite fails to grasp what these numbers mean. Take the regular weekly sermons only. If all that have been issued were to be placed side by side they would stretch a distance of 13,889 miles, or more than half way round the globe. If the pages were torn out and placed end to end they would reach nearly from the earth to the moon. And figures of this kind might be multiplied without limit. There has never been anything like it in the history of printing. The Scriptures have circulated enormously, but nothing to compare with Spurgeon’s sermons, and it is pretty safe to say there never will be another publication that can be called a rival. As to the future, the publishers have enough unpublished sermons to last for some years yet. Those that are appearing now are not quite so long as the older ones, as they were delivered not on Sundays but on Thursday evenings. But this is no disadvantage, as it enables the publishers to give each week in addition to the sermon, the reading and exposition which preceded it. In conclusion it must be stated that the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit by no means exhausts the list of Spurgeon’s published sermons, for there are many scattered about in odd volumes and magazines, which have never been embraced in the great series.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was indeed a wonderful man, but of all the wonders connected with his life and work, none can for originality and vastness, compare with the circulation of his sermons. In fact, he raised printed sermons to a place they had never hitherto occupied in the great world of books, and the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit will always form a “body of divinity” such as is not to be found anywhere else in the world.
As Dr. Robertson Nicoll wrote, in 1898: “The continued life and power of his printed sermons show that his oratory, noble as it was, was not the first thing. Our firm belief is that these sermons will continue to be studied with growing interest and wonder, that they will ultimately be accepted as incomparably the greatest contribution to the literature of experimental Christianity that has been made in this century, and that their message will go on transforming and quickening lives after all other sermons of the period are forgotten,” and, still more recently: “The sermons preached fifty years ago are a living message today, and ones dares to prophesy, will not be out of date when this twentieth century is drawing to its close.”