Editor’s Note: This week marks the release of Volume 4 of the Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon, an ongoing research project from Midwestern Seminary’s Spurgeon Library, published by B&H Academic. The Lost Sermons volumes include transcriptions of Charles Spurgeon’s earliest sermons along with substantial introductory comments and annotations. The volumes are compiled by the staff and research team at the Spurgeon Library, located on the campus of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. For the latest release, we interviewed the editor of Volume 4, MBTS Provost Dr. Jason G. Duesing and Dr. Geoff Chang, curator of the Spurgeon Library.
This is Volume 4 of the Lost Sermons project. How does the ongoing project continue to inform and shape the overall perception and understanding of Charles Spurgeon within academia and the church?
Part of the romance of Spurgeon’s story is how a relatively unknown “boy preacher” showed up in London, the greatest city of the 19th century, and was used by God to bring about a tremendous revival. However, the Lost Sermons present a more nuanced perspective. Though he may have been relatively unknown, this boy preacher was not inexperienced or immature. Rather, by the time he showed up London, he had preached over 600 sermons. Even more, he was an established pastor of a growing Baptist church, seeing great fruit from his ministry.
With volumes 1-3, we see the beginnings of Spurgeon’s preaching and pastoral ministry. Even as he’s learning to preach from theologians like John Gill and Charles Simeon, he is preaching to great effect and people are being converted. Now, with volumes 4-6, we get a window into Spurgeon’s maturation as a preacher and pastor. Far from simply being an itinerant village preacher, these sermons reveal young Spurgeon as a pastor concerned about his people’s theological questions, suffering, temptations, and more. Eyewitness accounts of Spurgeon’s early ministry also reveal that these sermons were used by God to bring about a great revival in Waterbeach. In other words, before Spurgeon ever made the London headlines, he was laboring faithfully and fruitfully in a Cambridge village. These sermons tell that story.
What unique contribution does Volume 4 make in terms of Spurgeon’s life and ministry?
Written during the early 1850s, these sermons are more than the early “trial-runs” of a young preacher. Yes, Spurgeon was a teenager at the time, but even then, his God-given gifts of genius and zeal were on display. So much so, that as I’ve read them, I’ve come to know how Keats’s felt when reading Homer–it is like discovering a new planet.
Spurgeon was preaching these sermons in Volume 4 to the rural community of Waterbeach, which he described as “a village notorious for its drunkenness and profanity.” As a result, many of the sermons address topics related to sanctification, perseverance, holiness, and hypocrisy—and point his hearers to the Gospel of Christ and the greatness of God. In response to this preaching the Baptist church grew and many from the town came to hear Spurgeon and were converted.
Who would benefit from owning this and other Lost Sermons volumes?
One group that would benefit from the Lost Sermons volumes are pastors and other preachers of God’s Word. Because these sermons are outlines of what Spurgeon actually brought with him into the pulpit, the facsimiles along with the critical footnotes provide a unique insight into Spurgeon’s preparation and preaching. Historians who are interested in Spurgeon’s life will also appreciate seeing his development as a preacher and pastor.
However, the largest group that will benefit from these sermons would simply be the Christian reader. When thinking how best to assess and categorize the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a phrase used by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3 comes to mind. For the totality of his life as a Christian, Spurgeon had “a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” His sight was set on Jesus Christ from the moment he “looked” to him in his conversion and remained there throughout his ministry. What makes the Lost Sermons project so special is the fact that these sermons have the Gospel and the pursuit of godliness at their core, and they arrive in a day, much like Spurgeon’s own, of theological downgrade. Thus, it is our hope that The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon will further Spurgeon’s pointing and direct the gaze of all readers to Jesus Christ.
Can you update us on the status of the project overall? What’s in store for the future?
The publication of Volume 4 of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon marks a change in the General Editor as well as a refocusing of the editorial task and method for the remaining volumes. The Introduction to Volume 1 of the Lost Sermons projected the series to run to twelve total volumes. However, as that was a reflection of a large endeavor just embarking, the work and reception of the first three volumes has allowed the Project Research Team to refine the total scope to a new total of seven volumes. Within that space the entirety of Spurgeon’s earliest unpublished sermons, totaling 400, will still appear. To that end, the remaining volumes of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon are still committed to finishing what Spurgeon left unfinished. As Susannah shared in the Autobiography:
“Mr. Spurgeon had himself intended, long ago, to publish a selection from [his first outlines]; in the Preface to The New Park Street Pulpit for 1857, he announced that he hoped shortly to issue a volume of his earliest Sermons, while Pastor at Waterbeach, but this was prevented by the pressure of his rapidly-increasing work.”
To the end of continuing what Spurgeon started, Volumes 4-7 follow the same research method and consultation of sources as Volumes 1-3 with a few adaptations. The overall aim is still to offer the reader “a critical work that can be accessed by academics and laity alike.” As The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon finally see their publication, we join Susannah Spurgeon in her assessment that these earliest sermons “are valuable, not only because of their intrinsic merits, but also as the first products of the mind and heart which afterwards yielded so many discourses to the Church and the world, for the glory of God and the good of men.”
What opportunities await students who are interested in studying Spurgeon specifically at MBTS?
Since its founding at Midwestern Seminary, the Spurgeon Library has housed the pastoral and theological library of the Prince of Preachers. For all those wanting to study Spurgeon’s ministry, theology, and preaching, this library is an unmatched resource for Spurgeon scholarship. More recently, we have acquired a new collection that contains virtually everything that Spurgeon ever published and everything that has ever been published about Spurgeon and his ministry. Together with the Lost Sermons, these collections make Midwestern the best place in the world for studying Spurgeon and uncovering all the riches that he has to offer the church today.
For more information and to purchase the volume, visit the B&H Academic landing page.
Learn more about the Spurgeon Library and plan your visit.
Interested in Spurgeon and PhD studies? Learn more about the programs offered at MBTS.