C. H. Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit, 6 vols. (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1855-1860; reprinted edition, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1990).
C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 56 vols. (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1861-1917; reprinted edition, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1969-1990).
“Sell all you have … and buy Spurgeon.” Thus instructed Helmut Thielicke, himself one of the most influential preachers of the twentieth century. “Let him be a Socrates who helps you to find your own way.”
The instruction to “buy Spurgeon” has been heeded by generations of preachers around the globe since the first installment of The New Park Street Pulpit in 1855. Millions of his sermons have sold as individual “Penny Pulpit” editions and as the multi-volume sets which comprise the Spurgeon library.
Many preachers are introduced to Spurgeon through Morning and Evening, his popular devotional guide and A Treasury of David, his monumental seven-volume commentary on the Psalms.
But the heart of Spurgeon’s ministry and contribution is to be found in The New Park Street Pulpit and The Metropolitan Pulpit sets. Together, these 63 volumes represent the largest collection of books by a single author in the history of the Christian church. The number of words included in the sets is roughly equivalent to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The set offers an unprecedented opportunity to review the ministry of one of the church’s most famous preachers — and to do so by tracing sermons covering over forty years.
By the time Spurgeon began his preaching ministry, the “Penny Pulpit” was already an established part of the British church scene. The sermons of well-known preachers would be quickly transcribed and printed in inexpensive tract editions, usually published weekly, which made their sermons available in print at a very low cost.
Spurgeon had observed the effectiveness of these printed editions as released by Joseph Irons. “Before I ever entered the pulpit,” Spurgeon was later to relate, “the thought had occurred to me that I should one day preach sermons which would be printed.”
Spurgeon had published a small essay as Waterbeach Tracts, No. 1 in 1853, but his first installment in the “Penny Pulpit” series came after his arrival at New Park Street Church. His 1854 debut was an instant success, and the public demand for a more regular series grew. After establishing a relationship with the London firm of Passmore and Alabaster, Spurgeon inaugurated the series as The New Park Street Pulpit in 1855.
Some shops and regular “Penny Pulpit” outlets had refused to carry the sermons released by the young upstart. But, as Spurgeon’s biographer and contemporary Charles Ray noted: “Of course, when it was seen that the sale of the sermons would be a financial success, the booksellers rapidly overcame their scruples and lost their prejudices.”
Overcame, indeed. Within just a few months, The New Park Street Pulpit was a remarkable success. Soon, Spurgeon’s sermons were translated into languages ranging from Gaelic to Urdu.
The publication of these sermons was, in essence, the radical extension of Spurgeon’s London ministry. Crowds were often turned away from even the largest halls where Spurgeon preached [even the 6,000 seat Metropolitan Tabernacle], and the printed editions reached many who could not even attempt to reach the meetinghouses. Spurgeon’s sermons also created a sensation in the United States, especially in urban areas of the North and throughout the South.
The process whereby the spoken sermon reached the printed page is itself worthy of note. A short-hand stenographer was present for every Sunday service. By late Sunday night or early Monday morning, a rough hand-written draft was ready for Spurgeon’s review. He gave generous energy to the editing of his sermons for print, and gave the printer strict instructions for preparing the galley proofs. Those proofs were to be in Spurgeon’s hand by late Monday, and his final revision was submitted to the printer by early Tuesday morning. The printed editions were ready for distribution by Thursday morning.
Taken together, the sets constitute an unparalleled resource for the preaching minister.
First, the sermons reveal the genius and simplicity of Spurgeon’s exegesis of Holy Scripture. Included in the over 3,500 sermons are messages covering almost every familiar text — and hundreds of rarely-preached passages. Interestingly, the reader can often trace Spurgeon’s handling of a specific text through several sermons over the course of his London ministry. Such a review verifies Spurgeon’s description of a biblical text as a diamond with multiple facets of meaning.
The sermons are thus a running commentary on Scripture, illustrating Spurgeon’s natural and trustworthy style of exegesis, as well as revealing rare insights from the texts.
Secondly, the sermons also present the reader with a substantial “body of divinity.” Spurgeon’s discussions of doctrinal themes are themselves worth the price of the volumes. The great preacher did not leave his doctrinal convictions under cover, and the sermons represent a high-water mark of theological preaching. Virtually every doctrine of the Christian faith receives thorough treatment with Spurgeon’s characteristic insight and conviction.
Thirdly, the sermons provide the best platform for learning the art and science of preaching from the “Prince of the Pulpit.” No other preacher in the history of the church has left such a substantial record of a fruitful preaching ministry.
Here, Thielicke’s suggestion that the preacher allow Spurgeon to be a “Socrates” applies. The goal should not be to preach like Spurgeon, per se, much less to preach Spurgeon’s sermons. The issue is not so much style as substance.
Spurgeon’s sermons prompt the preacher to review every aspect and dimension of the preaching task. Though the late-twentieth century addresses the church with unique challenges, Spurgeon should be read as a genuinely modern preacher.
His context of ministry in industrial England saw the first stages of secularization take root in British society. Already, the church was being displaced by other social institutions. Spurgeon understood the challenge such a situation represents — and he understood the temptation to tame the message of the pulpit in order to meet modern secular expectations.
But Spurgeon took another course: he confronted Victorian culture with the knowledge of its own fallenness, and he held out the gospel of God as the only answer to human problems, whether individual or social.
The very fact that this entire series is again in print is one unmistakeable indication of the power of Spurgeon’s sermons in printed form.
This would not surprise Spurgeon’s contemporary William Robertson Nicoll, who wrote just six years after Spurgeon’s death that: “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 experiental 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.”
Nicoll offered further that “one dares to profesy [that Spurgeon’s sermons] will not be out of date when this twentieth century is drawing to its close.” Little did he know.
Pilgrim Publications, a Texas-based publisher devoted chiefly to Spurgeon reprints, began releasing the sermon volumes in the 1960s. All 63 volumes are now available, along with other Spurgeon materials.
The Pilgrim editions are exact copies of the original Passmore and Alabaster series. The quality of reproduction is outstanding, and the bindings are worthy of the contents. Taken as a set or as individual volumes, The New Park Street Pulpit and The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series present the preacher with an unrivaled homiletical, theological, and exegetical resource.
The young boy in Stambourne who once had an idea that his sermon might be printed, had but the barest notion of what that thought would eventually produce.
C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography: His Diary, Letters, and Records 4 vols. (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1897-1900; reprint edition, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1992).
Preachers are avid readers of biographies — especially biographies of other preachers. A stellar autobiography is a genuine find, and practitioners of the preaching art can find much to celebrate in the reprinting of C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography.
Spurgeon was an unusually reflective preacher. Even as a boy he committed his autobiographical thoughts and memories to print, but much of the material in the autobiography came from pages Spurgeon penned during rest periods at Mentone.
The four-volume autobiography was actually compiled by Spurgeon’s widow, Susannah, and his personal secretary, J. W. Harrald. But the volumes contain far more than Spurgeon’s reflective essays. Also included are selections from his personal diary, public and private records, materials from the New Park Street and Metropolitan Tabernacle ministries, press accounts, and letters.
Spurgeon was fortunate that his wife and personal secretary survived him and collaborated in producing this substantial project. Likewise, readers are fortunate that Mrs. Spurgeon shared so generously from her personal materials and released others for use in the autobiography. Without her active cooperation and participation, it is unlikely that the project would have been so generously filled with personal materials.
Pilgrim Publications has released a reprint of the original Passmore and Alabaster set, with the complete four-volume set published in two bindings. As usual, the production quality and bindings are outstanding. These volumes belong on every preacher’s bookshelf.
Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1992), 874 pp., available in both paper and cloth editions.
Biographies of Charles Haddon Spurgeon abound — ranging from superficial treatments of Spurgeon as a Victorian personality to major surveys of his life and legacy. Popular biographies have numbered works by Russell Conwell (1892) and W. Y. Fullerton (1920). More substantial works included the six-volume work of Godfrey Holden Pike (1890s — recently reprinted by Banner of Truth Trust) and George Carter Needham (1883).
A pleasant and insightful volume was offered by Arnold Dallimore (1984), and Iain Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon (1964/1973) is a necessary corrective to superficial renderings of Spurgeon’s ministry.
Nevertheless, no genuine majesterial biographical analysis of Spurgeon has appeared in recent decades. That was true, at least, until the release of Lewis Drummond’s Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, released in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Spurgeon’s death.
Drummond, who taught at Spurgeon’s College in London for several years, was drawn to Spurgeon as a model of evangelistic ministry. Currently Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, Drummond served in a similar post at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville before his election as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1987.
The author’s love and respect for his subject is apparent throughout the volume, yet the result is not hagiography but an appreciative analysis which does not dodge difficult issues.
Drummond placed Spurgeon’s story within the construct of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress — an interesting and particularly appropriate literary device, given Spurgeon’s lifelong fascination with Bunyan’s allegory.
The volume has a notable narrative flow for a book of over 800 pages, and the material is well organized. Drummond includes chapters on every phase of Spurgeon’s ministerial career, and provides a wealth of documentation within the narrative.
Those who are building libraries will find this volume a worthy addition. If preachers can have but one volume on Spurgeon, this should be the choice.
Charles H. Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981).
These volumes, first released in 1884, were Spurgeon’s attempt to provide needy preachers with basic fodder for sermon construction. They represented his basic approach to sermon design, with an outline emerging from the biblical text, and the sermon expressing the honest meaning of the passage. The volumes (two on the Old Testament and two on the New Testament are of enduring value.
Charles H. Spurgeon, Christ’s Words from the Cross (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992).
The Best of Charles H. Spurgeon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977).
Charles H. Spurgeon, Twelve Sermons on Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990).
These volumes, all selected reprints of Spurgeon’s sermons and writings, are helpful introductions to Spurgeon’s preaching. The Best of C. H. Spurgeon was originally published by Revell as The Treasury of C. H. Spurgeon. It includes materials from a wide range of Spurgeon’s writings, including his shorter and more popular works.

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