Flowers from Spurgeon’s Garden

By / Mar 3

One calm and scenic Saturday afternoon in May of 1857, a young Charles Spurgeon found himself standing underneath a mulberry tree with a fellow minister. The weather was calm, not a leaf stirred. During their conversation a gentle breeze passed through, rustling the leaves above their heads. Spurgeon suddenly interrupted the minister and said with an excited hush, “Stop! keep quiet! don’t speak!—there! My sermon for to-morrow; ‘The sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.’” The next evening, he preached from 2 Samuel 5:24 at the New Park Street Chapel.[1] Under that sermon a man was saved, who would go on to serve as a deacon at the Tabernacle for many years.

Spurgeon was utterly fascinated by nature and often found his most potent illustrations from its bounty. He warned against neglecting God’s revelation in nature, saying, “It appears to me that those who would forbear the study of nature, or shun the observation of its beauties are conscious of the weakness of their own spirituality.”[2] And study Spurgeon did. One friend remarks that it was Spurgeon’s custom to spend countless hours in his personal garden at Westwood, lingering over each plant and flower “as over verses in a chapter of the Bible when commenting thereon.”[3] He would marvel, “is not that exquisite? Look at the veins and colours in these leaves; don’t you think God has put His own thoughts into them?….His autograph is on every leaf and in every flower.”[4]

Spurgeon’s sermons are adorned with illustrations from nature. He often would build whole sermons upon a single observation of a bird, star, flower, or season. To be clear, though Spurgeon was zealous for a robust recovery of natural revelation, he clearly affirmed that only by Scripture can the salvation of God be understood and received. He said, “We do not discover the secrets of Creation by mere reason, or the teachings of science; it is only by revelation that the marvellous story can reach us.”[5] At the same time, he saw no disconnect between God’s revelation in nature and his revelation in Scripture. Rather, the truths of Scripture permeated every centimeter of creation. Spurgeon said, “Moreover, rest assured brethren, that he who wrote the Bible, the second and clearest revelation of his divine mind, wrote also the first book, the book of nature; and who are we that we should derogate from the worth of the first because we esteem the second?”[6] He said, “as I am dwelling in my Father’s house, I ought to take delight in my Father’s works, and I must be a strange sort of child if I think it is a token of my affection for my Father not to care to look at the garden which He has laid out or the house which He has built.”[7]

In 1883, Spurgeon published a book entitled, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, where he listed his favorite figures and illustrations from the works of Thomas Manton. In similar fashion, I now wish to pull twelve figures and illustrations from Spurgeon’s Garden that might edify any believer who reads them:

  • “Surveying the midnight skies, I remember him who, while he calls the stars by their names, also bindeth up the broken in heart” (MTP 17:446–47).
  • “The works of creation are pictures to the children of God of the secret mysteries of grace. God’s truths are the apples of gold, and the visible creatures are the baskets of silver” (MTP 8:109).
  • “Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter are God’s four Evangelists, bringing each one a different version of the self-same gospel of divine love” (MTP 19:181).
  • “Storms make oaks take deeper root” (SC 2:173).
  • “A bird is known by his note, and a man by his talk” (SC 1:3).
  • “The daffodils are blooming in the meadows where no man planted them, and the bluebells in the dells where gardener’s spade has nearer come. Yea, and I know right well, that the dew of divine grace and the showers of regenerating love tarry not for man, nor wait for the sons of men” (MTP 19:186–87).
  • “Each blade of grass has its own drop of dew” (SC 1:145).
  • “Providence, like the sea, cannot be directed by man; it can only be controlled by God” (MTP 54:500).
  • “Look forward to your death, ye that are believers in Christ, with great joy. Expect it as your spring tide of life, the time when your real summer shall come, and your winter shall be over for ever” (MTP 8:120).
  • “What fruit would there be upon the trees, what pasture in the meadows, what harvest in the field, if it were not for the rain?” (MTP 13:510).
  • “if you will go like the swallows and the sparrows, and build your nests under the eaves of Christ, who is the temple of God, you shall never have your nest pulled down” (MTP 28:408).
  • “This Bible is the oldest of instructors, and yet it wears the dew of its youth: like the sea, it is ancient as the ages, but time has written no furrow on its brow” (MTP 29:98).

[1] See NPSP 3:317. https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-sound-in-the-mulberry-trees/#flipbook/.

[2] MTP 17:446.

[3] W. Williams, Personal Reminiscences of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1895), 68

[4] Ibid.

[5] MTP 45:381.

[6] MTP 17:446.

[7] MTP 58:373–74.



Highlights from the First Five Years, S&T 1865-1869

By / Feb 24

The Sword and the Trowel began in January of 1865. Over the next 30+ years, this monthly magazine would become an effective instrument for the organization and cooperation of like-minded Baptists and evangelicals. As we have made the first five years of this magazine available on Spurgeon.org, here are a few articles to get you started. As you read through these magazines, hit us up on Twitter (@SpurgeonMBTS) if you find anything interesting!

(To jump straight to the article, click on the link, then click the “View this Resource” button. Note: Some pages are getting cut off at the bottom and we are working to fix this!)

January 1865 – What Shall Be Done for Jesus? (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-sword-and-the-trowel-1865/#flipbook/11)

In this sermon, which is not found in the Pulpit set, Spurgeon uses King’s Xerxes command to honor Mordecai as an illustration of how God has exalted His Son, Jesus Christ. After an encouraging meditation on the supremacy of Christ, he moves to a reflection on how Christians may bring honor to Christ by serving him. Of particular note is a letter that Spurgeon shares, written to him by one of the elders of his church, recommending ten ideas for pursuing “a larger outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our Church and congregation.”

August 1865 – Dr. Campbell on Mr. Spurgeon’s Baptismal Regeneration Sermons (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-sword-and-the-trowel-1865/#flipbook/351)

Alexander Campbell is known for his role in the Campbellite movement in America among Baptists, which eventually broke off to become its own denomination, the Disciples of Christ. Among other things, Campbell taught a credobaptist form of baptismal regeneration, which required baptism for salvation. Therefore, it is no surprise that during the Baptismal Regeneration controversy of 1864, Campbell spoke against Spurgeon for his condemnation of baptismal regeneration. After the controversy had somewhat settled, however, Campbell published a series of letters, presenting a more thoughtful analysis and expressing his support of Spurgeon. Spurgeon appreciated Campbell’s letters and published the introduction in The Sword & the Trowel. Because of Spurgeon’s relationship with Campbell, some Campbellites have sought to show that the two of them were not that far apart in their understanding of baptism.

August 1866 – The Holy War of the Present Hour (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-sword-and-the-trowel-1866/#flipbook/348)

In this article, published in August of 1866, Spurgeon calls all evangelical Protestants to rally against the growing influence of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England. Though this movement did not identify with the Roman Catholic Church, Spurgeon believed that this embrace of Roman Catholic liturgy and theology in the COE would eventually lead Anglicans back to Rome. And so, Spurgeon called for evangelical leaders to speak and take action against this growing movement, even at a great cost to themselves.

All great movements need the entire self-sacrifice of some one man who, careless of consequences, will throw himself upon the spears of the enemy. Providence has usually raised up such a one just when he was, needed, and we may look for such a person to come suddenly to the front now. Meanwhile, is there not a man of the sort to be found in our churches?

This article would lead to the founding of the Colportage Association, which distributed evangelical tracts and sent gifted evangelists throughout England. It would also be in response to this article that Anne Hillyard would contact Spurgeon about starting an orphanage.

January 1867 – The Pastors’ Advocate: An Epistle to the Members of the Baptized Churches of Jesus Christ (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-sword-and-the-trowel-1867/#flipbook/25)

As one devoted to pastoral training, Spurgeon saw the poor conditions under which many of his graduates labored in Baptist churches. And so, he wrote an open letter to Baptist churches calling them to remove this reproach and to better support their ministers financially.

BELOVED BRETHREN As exceedingly great and bitter cry has gone up unto heaven concerning many of us. It is not a cry from the world which hates us, nor from our fellow-members whom we may have offended, but, (alas that it should be so!)it is wrung from hundreds of poor, but faithful ministers of Christ Jesus who labor in our midst in word and doctrine, and are daily oppressed by the niggardliness of churls among us.

July 1867 – Ourselves and the Annexationists (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-sword-and-the-trowel-1867/#flipbook/334)

Alongside the decline of theology, Spurgeon noticed a trend towards the minimization of ecclesiological differences. This trend was pictured in a movement in his day working towards the annexing of Baptist and Congregational churches. While these two denominations had a long history of cooperation, their differences in baptism precluded them in the past from being one church. But now as theological convictions were declining, many were pushing for union and accusing all opponents of being schismatic and bigoted. In this article, however, Spurgeon defends the importance of ecclesiological convictions and the need to maintain those boundaries.

November 1868 – Be Just and Fear Not: A Tract for the Elections (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-sword-and-the-trowel-1868/#flipbook/520)

Outside of the pulpit, Spurgeon did not hesitate to speak up on political issues, and this tract is one example of this. While the author is not explicitly stated, it is clearly connected with Spurgeon. As the vote for the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland approached, Spurgeon wanted to provide a response for the conservatives who opposed this disestablishment. Their argument was that an established church preserved Protestantism in Ireland. Spurgeon, on the other hand, believed that any form of established religion was a form of injustice. Protestants, rather than using the coercive tools of a state church, should work towards religious liberty and grant all people religious freedom, even Catholics.

Better far to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake than to do violence to other men’s consciences under the notion of upholding the truth. In the name of our reformed faith, let no Romanist suffer injustice at our hands, lest our good cause be defiled.

February 1869 – Discipline of the Church at the Metropolitan Tabernacle (https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-sword-and-the-trowel-1869/#flipbook/57)

This article, written by James Spurgeon, Charles’s brother and co-pastor, is the most complete description of the church polity of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Here, he discusses the offices of elders and deacons in the church, their membership practices, including receiving, removing, and disciplining members, and the organization of the ministries of the church. In his introduction, James makes clear that they do not present their practices as the perfect or only way to organize a church. At the same time, they observe a laxity among other evangelical churches in their discipline and have “limited confidence in letters of commendation from our churches.” Therefore, in presenting their methods, Spurgeon encourages other churches to examine their own polity. Apart from this kind of confidence in each other’s practices, any church cooperation would be ultimately ineffective.

We must have faith in each other’s intentions and integrity, or we shall loosen the pins of church action, and all will lapse into confusion and conflict.



Simeon, Spurgeon, and the Need for Preaching Models

By / Feb 17

Someone somewhere has said, “some things are better caught than taught.” Many would argue that this is true with preaching. It is one thing to learn about preaching in the abstract from books or classroom lectures. It is something else entirely to learn from the example of faithful preachers.

C. H. Spurgeon possessed a remarkable preaching genius that was as original as it was extraordinary. He began preaching at the age of sixteen without the benefit of any formal training, and within just a few years he secured one of London’s most prestigious nonconformist pulpits. There he would preach in the heart of London to thousands upon thousands for nearly four decades. Romantics would say he was born a preacher. Secular historians would say he was the product of external social and cultural forces that coalesced to make him what he was. Of course, believers in the power of the Holy Spirit would say that Spurgeon experienced an unusual anointing from God. The Puritans who Spurgeon so admired liked to call this anointing “unction.” Whatever one may call it, Spurgeon had it, and he had it before he was even old enough to shave.[1]

Though Spurgeon was something of a preaching prodigy who probably would have fared just fine without any teachers, he nonetheless “caught” good preaching from a number of important exemplars. He certainly learned a great deal about preaching from his father and grandfather; the former, an itinerant lay-preacher, and the latter, a nonconformist minister who preached regularly for over fifty years. Spurgeon also benefitted considerably from studying the ministries of George Whitefield and John Wesley.[2] Spurgeon identified Whitefield in particular as his model.[3]

A lesser known influence on Spurgeon was Charles Simeon (1759-1836), who Spurgeon dubbed “The famous English clergyman of Cambridge.”[4] In 1850, Spurgeon moved to Cambridge where Simeon had commanded the pulpit of Holy Trinity Church for more than half a century. Simeon was a crucial early influence on Spurgeon in his beginning days as a preacher. Spurgeon preached his first sermons in connection with the Cambridge Lay-Preachers’ Association, and did most of his early preaching in and around Cambridgeshire where the legacy of Simeon was still alive and well fifteen years after his death.

The primary means by which Spurgeon absorbed Simeon’s influence was through his massive multi-volume collection of skeleton outlines, titled Horae Homileticae.[5] In Spurgeon’s Commenting and Commentaries, he commends Simeon’s Horae Homileticae with this note: “Not commentaries, but we could not exclude them. They have been called ‘a valley of dry bones’: be a prophet and they will live.”[6]

The editors of the Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon have identified Simeon’s significant influence on Spurgeon’s earliest sermon outlines.[7] Many of them borrow heavily from Simeon’s sermons, and some even use his words verbatim.[8] It is fascinating to imagine the sixteen year old Spurgeon pouring over Simeon’s sermon outlines in preparation to preach in a nearby village just outside of Cambridge.

But who was Charles Simeon and how did he emerge as a figure of such great influence?

Charles Simeon spent almost his entire adult life in Cambridge.[9] Though his ministry was centered in one place, he nonetheless left an indelible stamp on the wider evangelical world. As a preacher, Simeon published twenty-one volumes of sermon outlines covering the entire Bible. As a college dean, he mentored a host of future ministers and missionaries. As one of the elder statesmen of the evangelical movement in Britain, he participated in various societies, forwarded the cause of missions, and enjoyed seasons of fruitful itinerant ministry. Further, he engaged in close correspondence with other prominent evangelicals such as John Newton, William Wilberforce, Thomas Chalmers, and Henry Venn.

Without question, the central work of Simeon’s life was his preaching ministry. For more than fifty years he expounded the Bible Sunday by Sunday in the pulpit of the historic Holy Trinity Church. When Simeon arrived in Cambridge in the late 1770s, the evangelical movement had barely grazed the Church of England. By his death in 1836, it is estimated that a third of Anglican pulpits were evangelical.[10] Such a massive shift in the established church would have been unthinkable apart from the sustained influence of Charles Simeon. Through his preaching, God was pleased to revitalize a church, raise up a new generation of preachers, and galvanize a movement.  

At the age of twenty-three, Simeon was appointed vicar of Holy Trinity, a church that enjoyed an extraordinary heritage of storied preachers such as Richard Sibbes and Thomas Goodwin. One might assume that the young Simeon was warmly received by his new congregation. This was not so. The circumstances of his appointment were controversial, resulting in the congregation’s bitter opposition toward Simeon for many years.[11] The parishioners deprecated Simeon’s evangelical convictions. Their dislike of their new vicar was such that they made every effort to impede his ability to preach. Regularly, the churchwardens would lock the building to prevent the hearing of Simeon’s sermons. Members of the church not only boycotted his preaching, but some of them even went as far as to lock their pews in the church to prevent others from going to hear the young minister.[12] Such ignoble antics were the norm for Simeon for the first several years of his ministry. Even when some of these more extreme measures subsided, many of his parishioners remained cold toward him and the gospel he preached. In such seasons, Simeon found comfort in Paul’s words to Timothy, “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil.” Though bruised by the opposition of his flock, Simeon emerged through these trials with a warmhearted commitment to the spiritual good of his congregation.

As a Fellow of King’s College, and later the Dean, Simeon made a steady habit of mentoring young men. These relationships were not primarily academic, but spiritual in nature. Simeon gave most of his time to men who aspired to ministerial service. The most famous of these men was Henry Martyn, who served as Simeon’s curate, and later as a missionary to India.  

Simeon made concerted efforts to mentor young men through various means. He hosted regular tea meetings for anyone interested in asking questions about the Bible.[13] These “conversation parties” normally took place on Friday nights with up to eighty students crammed into a sitting room. There they probed the mind of the veteran preacher regarding Scripture, theology, and pastoral ministry. At these meetings, Simeon made a point of personally acquainting himself with each of his guests. When a young man attended a conversation party for the first time, he seldom left without Simeon greeting him and recording his name in a journal.

Simeon also hosted sermon classes for men called to preach.[14] These smaller gatherings were by invite only. In each session, Simeon would offer a text for consideration. Men would then be charged to produce a sermon outline for the text. After presentations, feedback would follow. Thus, Simeon slowly transmitted his particular brand of evangelical preaching to an entire generation of Anglican ministers.

The pulpit of Holy Trinity was of course the primary means by which Simeon exerted his influence, and his preaching is what remains his most enduring legacy today. The twenty-one volumes of Horae Homileticae capture well Simeon’s method of expository preaching. These sermon skeletons have served preachers for generations, including a young Charles Spurgeon who read Simeon’s sermons as a teenager. Simeon was renowned for his regular verse by verse exposition of biblical texts. He said, “My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there.”[15] According to Simeon, true preaching must ultimately possess three chief aims: to humble the sinner, exalt the savior, and promote holiness.[16] For over five decades, Simeon gave himself to this kind of preaching in the pulpit of Holy Trinity. Over the years, thousands came to hear Simeon preach, including hundreds of future ministers who embraced Simeon’s evangelical faith. Even some fifteen years after his death, budding preachers like Charles Spurgeon were still taking in Simeon’s influence.

It should humble aspiring preachers today to know that even someone as uniquely gifted as Spurgeon still sought out preaching models. If preaching is better caught than taught, Spurgeon wanted to catch it from the very best preachers he could find. In Simeon’s sermons, Spurgeon discovered something of a mentor in preaching. Simeon provided the young Spurgeon with a model for how to faithfully preach Christ, and to do so with earnestness, simplicity, and power. Surely Spurgeon would encourage preachers today to rediscover Simeon’s sermons. Though they may once again be considered by some to be a valley of dry bones, Spurgeon assures us, “be a prophet and they will live.”


Alex DiPrima is the senior pastor of Emmanuel Church in Winston Salem, NC. He holds a Ph.D. from SEBTS and wrote his dissertation on the social ministry of C. H. Spurgeon.

Zack DiPrima is a pastoral assistant at Emmanuel Church in Winston Salem, NC. He is currently working on his Ph.D. from SBTS and is studying the ministry of Charles Simeon.


[1] Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:298.

[2] Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:176. Spurgeon said, “[I]f there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.’

[3] Spurgeon, Autobiography, 2:66; see also William Williams, Personal Reminiscences of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (London: Religious Tract Society, 1895), 180.

[4] Spurgeon, MTP, 30:179

[5] Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae: or Discourses (Principally in the Form of Skeletons) Now First Digested Into One Continued Series, and Forming a Commentary Upon Every Book of The Old and New Testament, etc. (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1832).

[6] Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries: Two Lectures Addressed to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Together with a Catalogue of Biblical Commentaries and Expositions (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1876), 42.

[7] Spurgeon, The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854, Edited with Introduction and Notes by Christian George, Vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016), 258.

[8] Spurgeon, The Lost Sermons, 295.

[9] The best available biographies on Charles Simeon are Hugh E. Hopkins, Charles Simeon of Cambridge (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1977); Handley C. G. Moule, Charles Simeon (London: Methuen & Co, 1892); and

Derek Prime, Charles Simeon: An Ordinary Pastor of Extraordinary Influence (Leominster, UK: Day One Publications, 2011).         

[10] Derek Prime Charles Simeon: An Ordinary Pastor of Extraordinary Influence, 239

[11] William Carus, Memoirs of the life of the Rev. Charles Simeon, M.A., Late Senior Fellow of King’s College and Minister of Trinity Church, Cambridge (London: J. Hatchard & Son, 1847), 40–3.

[12] Carus, 43–5.

[13] Abner W. Brown, Recollections of the conversation parties of the Rev. Charles Simeon, M.A., Senior Fellow of King’s College, and Perpetual Curate of Trinity Church, Cambridge (London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co, 1863), 51–3.

[14] Brown, 51–3

            [15] Moule, 97.

[16] Charles Simeon , Horae Homileticae Vol. I, (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1832), xxi.



Introducing: The Sword and the Trowel

By / Feb 10

By the middle of the 1860’s, the ministry of the Metropolitan Tabernacle was bustling. Church membership was approaching 3,000, with hundreds more joining the church each year. New elders were being appointed to provide spiritual care for the growing church. Spurgeon’s sermons were being published weekly and distributed around the world. Out of the Tabernacle, new charitable and evangelistic ministries were sprouting up as members looked for ways to serve the Lord and reach those around them. Graduates of The Pastors’ College were being sent out to Baptist churches through England and around the world. With so much going on around him, Spurgeon sought to bring a measure of organization to these various efforts. Thus, in January 1865, The Sword and the Trowel was born.

For the rest of his ministry, Spurgeon would serve as the editor of this monthly magazine. In the introduction of the very first issue, Spurgeon describes the armies of Israel gathering around the ark, each tribe with its distinctive banner. Similarly, this magazine was an effort for the Metropolitan Tabernacle to raise their banner:

Even so, in the Church of God, our Lord Jesus and the common salvation are the central point about which believers gather, but the standards of peculiar associations of Christians cannot well be dispensed with. We feel that we need to uplift a banner because of the truth, and with hopeful heart we do so this day. (S&T 1865:1)

But this was not just Spurgeon’s banner. Instead, the magazine reported on “the efforts of those churches and associations, which are more or less intimately connected with the Lord’s work at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and to advocate those views of doctrine and the Church order which are most certainly received among us.” Though Spurgeon would serve as the editor, this magazine would contain articles and sermons from “many ministers who were students in our College… and their flocks, we trust, will receive a blessing through their stirring words.” (S&T 1865:1-2)

In other words, this magazine represented a new wave of churches arising in England: churches that were firmly centered on the gospel and ordered by a robust Baptist vision of the church. Through The Sword and the Trowel, this distinct vision for ministry would spread throughout the English-speaking world.

But more than a grand vision of church ministry, this magazine also offers a unique perspective into Spurgeon’s pastoral theology. In the preface to his book, Living by Revealed Truth, Tom Nettles provides this summary of the magazine:

While mounds of valuable sermons and addresses from Spurgeon and others appear as the main body of the monthly fascicle, the sections of book reviews and monthly “notes” provide rich sources for understanding Spurgeon’s life, opinions, theology, and view of pastoral ministry. It provides an ongoing commentary on the literature of the day, his views on the life of the church, reports on the multitudinous benevolences that he sponsored and supported directly as well as many others which he had sympathy and sought to encourage others to support. Much of his personal life – joys, conflicts, and suffering – shows up in the notes included in a section noted as “personal.” (Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth, 9)

For many decades now, pastors have benefited from Spurgeon’s sermons for their own spiritual growth and encouragement. However, few have been able to benefit from his “view of pastoral ministry” and “his views on the life of the church.” Many people know that Spurgeon preached to thousands. But few know that he also sought to pastor those thousands. As a local church pastor, Spurgeon dealt with many of the same challenges and questions that we face in our day. As pastors look to church history for mentors in the ministry, The Sword and the Trowel provides valuable insights into the pastoral theology of one faithful pastor.

Up to this point, access to The Sword and the Trowel has been limited. Pilgrim Publications has helpfully provided a re-publication of the magazines, though this set is abridged, incomplete (only from 1865 to 1886), and increasingly more difficult to find. For those wanting to access the originals, very few libraries in the world possess a complete set of The Sword and the Trowel.

So it is with excitement that The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Seminary is announcing that we are in the process of making our complete collection of The Sword and the Trowel (1865-1902) available digitally through Spurgeon.org. These will not only be unabridged facsimiles, but they will also be the very set that Spurgeon owned in his personal library. You never know what marginalia you might find in one of them!

In making these magazines available once again, our prayer is that Spurgeon’s vision would once again be realized, “urging the claims of Christ’s cause, of advocating the revival of godliness, of denouncing error, of bearing witness for truth, and of encouraging the labourers in the Lord’s vineyard.” (S&T 1865:2)

You can access the first five years of The Sword and Trowel Collection (1865-1869) here.

Coming up next: Highlights from the 1st 5 years of The Sword and the Trowel.



Praying for a Golden Age of Gospel Preachers

By / Feb 1

We often hear in the media of the blunders of false preachers spinning tales of over-spiritualized ecstasy and practices that have no reference in the Bible. We hear tele-evangelists begging for money to be given to them so they may impart some blessing to the watcher. Many dare to teach without even using the Word of God. While such teachers are growing in popularity and number day-by-day, many churches find themselves looking for a faithful preacher of the Gospel to shepherd them during these uneasy times. How many churches have been without a pastor for months, even years, and are still waiting for a faithful preacher of God’s Word? For all these people, Spurgeon offers a word of hope.

Preaching in the fall of 1874 on, ‘the Power of the Risen Saviour,’ he longs for another golden age of preachers by the power of the Holy Spirit. And to all those longing with him, Spurgeon calls them to pray:

Often do I pray, and I doubt not the prayer has come from you too, that God would raise up leaders in the church, men full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, standard-bearers in the day of battle. The preachers of the gospel who preach with any power are few; still might John say, ‘Ye have not many fathers.’ More precious than the gold of Ophir are men who stand out as pillars of the Lord’s house, bulwarks of the truth, champions in the camp of Israel. How few are our apostolic men! We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitfields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. (MTP 20:751)

Prayer for a faithful preacher is the key. Of all the things that Christians ought to pray for, this should be at the top of the list. Rather than taking faithful preachers for granted, Christians should pray that God would “raise up leaders in the church.” What do these leaders look like? We need pastors committed to a steady diet of preaching and rightly dividing the Word of God as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15. If we are to see an age of “standard-bearers” come about again, these “bulwarks of the truth” should be full of faith and the Holy Ghost, powerful preachers of the Gospel, men who stand out as pillars of the Lord’s church, and men of integrity.

Now, Spurgeon was known in his day as a powerful preacher of God’s Word. For him to call his people to pray for a resurgence of faithful preachers must have seemed strange. Many in his congregation experienced the saving work of Christ as they listened to their pastor preach. Yet, Spurgeon understood that he was the exception and not the norm. Many churches either limped along with dry and gospel-less preaching or were taken in by innovations and distractions from the Word of God. Like our day, the spiritual landscape of London, England, and the world was marked by a lack of faithful preaching. And so, Spurgeon called on his people to pray.

But for all those who longed for God’s Word to flourish, Spurgeon believed that we could pray with great hope. Why? Because it is the Lord Jesus Christ who gives gifts of preachers to his church. He is not dependent on us, but is able to bring back again “a golden age of preachers.”

They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, a time as fertile of great divines and mighty ministers as was the Puritan age, which many of us account to have been the golden age of theology. He can send again the men of studious heart to search the word and bring forth its treasures, the men of wisdom and experience rightly to divide it, the golden-mouthed speakers who, either as sons of thunder or sons of consolation, shall deliver the message of the Lord with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. When the Redeemer ascended on high he received gifts for men, and those gifts were men fitted to accomplish the edification of the church, such as evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These he is still able to bestow upon his people, and it is their duty to pray for them, and when they come, to receive them with gratitude. Let us believe in the power of Jesus to give us valiant men and men of renown, and we little know how soon he will supply them. (MTP 20:751)

If your church is marked by faithful pastors who are committed to God’s Word, then give thanks to Christ for his good gifts. And pray for other churches, even as you continue the work of raising up those who are able to teach. If your church is looking for a pastor, then heed Spurgeon’s words. Pray as a church for Christ to give the gift of a faithful preacher. Do not relegate this matter to the pastoral search committee. Come together as a church to pray and ask God to bring you a powerful, faithful, Spirit-filled man. And then pray that you would be ready to follow that preacher as he preaches God’s Word. May our churches be marked by another golden age of faithful preachers.



“The Additions of Superstition”: Spurgeon’s Critique of the Mass

By / Jan 26

Sounding like the start of a bad joke, Spurgeon once said, “Imagine Paul or Peter attending mass.” After observing the movements and rituals of the priests, “Paul would pluck Peter by the sleeve, and say, ‘Our Master did nothing like this when he took bread and gave thanks and brake it.’ Peter would reply, ‘Very different this from the guest-chamber at Jerusalem!’”[1] A lion for the truth and a guard dog of right doctrine, Spurgeon continually defended the Lord’s Supper from Roman Catholic distortions, as well as calling fellow Protestants back to obeying the simple and plain commands of Christ. But his concern was not merely liturgical. Rather, Spurgeon understood that our teaching and practice of the Lord’s Supper connects with our understanding of the gospel. This was no less true for the Roman Catholic mass. Spurgeon pointed out three errors in particular:

First, the Mass turns the table of our Lord into an altar. Spurgeon said, “That which was only a table, they have made into an altar, and that which was a supper and nothing more, they have changed into a celebration.”[2] Rather than picturing a simple supper, the Roman Mass is an elaborate ceremony. In this ceremony, the sacrifice is re-enacted and Christ is offered to God once more for sins.[3] As a result, at the center of this ceremony is not a table, but an altar. Protestants, however, reject this understanding of the Mass. Of his sacrifice, “there is no continuation wanted.”[4] One of the ways to guard against such teaching is simply to recognize that in the Lord’s Supper, we come to a table, not an altar. Spurgeon said, “Use it as a table of fellowship and communion, but never dream of it as an altar. The one altar which sanctifieth the gift is the person and merit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and nothing else.”[5] It is around this table where believers can gather around and enjoy their fellowship in the finished work of Christ.

Second, the Mass diminishes Christ’s person and work. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. The pseudo-sacrifice of Christ in the Mass ignores the once-for-all nature of the sacrifice accomplished on Golgotha. For, Christ “never said, ‘Do this as the perpetual repetition of my death.”[6] Rather, the Catholic Mass is a sacrifice devoid of blood. No less, it is devoid of the blood of the Savior, the only man that can cleanse us from our sin. Spurgeon said, “Take the blood away, and the communion of the Lord’s Supper has gone; there remains nothing but the Popish mass which is so blasphemously called an unbloody sacrifice for the quick and dead.”[7] For, “They blaspheme the sacrifice of Christ who imagine that any man, call him priest or not, can continue, repeat, or complete that sacrifice for sin. It is finished, and our Lord has gone into his glory. Sin is put away by his bearing it in his own body on the tree.”[8]

Finally, the Mass neglects the role of faith in the Lord’s Supper. Roman Catholics believe that grace is communicated to people in the mere act of consuming the consecrated bread and wine. Spurgeon thought it was absurd to believe grace would be communicated merely through the physical act of eating and drinking. Rather, this took away from the sufficiency of Christ’s death and made those partaking of the Supper faithless, not faithful. He asked, “Does grace operate through the stomach, and save us through our bowels?” No, but instead, “I receive the body and blood of Christ when my soul believes in his incarnation, when my heart relies upon the merit of his death, when the bread and wine so refresh my memory that thoughts of Jesus Christ and his agonies melt me to penitence, cheer me to confidence, and purify me from sin.”[9]

Spurgeon did not hold back criticism when he perceived that the gospel was at stake. Like a shepherd fending away wolves from the sheep, so Spurgeon guarded the doctrine and piety of his flock. This was true especially when it came to the ordinances of the church. Spurgeon said, “A church ceases to be a church of Christ in proportion also as she alters the ordinances of God.”[10] Why? Because the ordinances communicate the gospel.

Therefore, Spurgeon not only warned against the Roman Catholic mass but against any church tradition that would distort the Lord’s Table. In every denomination, whether Protestant or otherwise, there is a temptation to add to Christ’s commandments. But when it comes to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, our calling is not innovation, but faithfulness. May churches today proclaim the gospel powerfully from their pulpits and display the gospel clearly through the ordinances.

“Clear away all the additions of superstition, they are but the dust and the rust which have accumulated during the ages, and they spoil and mar the purity of Christ’s own ordinance. Our great concern must be, to observe it exactly as he has delivered it unto us, in accordance with his own injunction, ‘This do in remembrance of me;’—not something else in its place.”[11]


[1] MTP 34:445.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See session 22 of the Council of Trent that defines the dogma of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

[4] MTP 24:461

[5] MTP 14:520.

[6] MTP 34:446.

[7] MTP 30:174.

[8] MTP 34:446.

[9] MTP 11:555.

[10] MTP 24:551, italics original.

[11] MTP 45:423–24.



Spurgeon on the Lord’s Supper

By / Jan 21

An instance occurred in Spurgeon’s church that made him blush with embarrassment. Certain members were not partaking of the Lord’s Supper because, in their judgment, inconsistent and unworthy persons were coming to the table. Never lacking in wit, Spurgeon responded, “That is highly probable; and he may be wearing your coat, and looking out of your eyes.”[1] He continued, “Is the Lord’s table to be a judgment-seat, whereat we are to revise the verdict of the church?…it is idle for you to be looking out for perfection.”[2] Instead, he encouraged his members, “if you have the faintest, feeblest faith in Jesus, come and welcome.”[3]

Spurgeon loved the Lord’s Supper because he loved Christ. Partaking of the bread and wine brought to his memory Jesus as his “covenant head and surety.”[4] In Spurgeon’s day, many Christians in England were drifting towards Roman Catholicism and thus wrong practices of the Lord’s Supper. Seeking to protect his congregants from error, Spurgeon often reminded them the true meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

First, the main object of the Lord’s Supper is that we should commune with Christ. Spurgeon emphasized that the principal purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remember Christ’s person. The Lord said, “This do in remembrance of me,” (1 Cor 11:24, emphasis added). Spurgeon called this remembrance the “pith and essence of your business at his table.”[5] In remembering Christ, we are not to dream of Him as “a mere idea” for “The Christ of our dreams is but a dream; we need a real, living, personal Christ.”[6] Spurgeon said, “I would have the image of the Lord printed on the palms of my hands, that I might do nothing without him; and I would have it painted on my eye-balls, that I might see nothing except through him.”[7]

Second, the Lord designed the Supper to remind us of our salvation. Coming to the table necessitates humility, for “it is a very humbling thing that we should need anything to help us to remember Christ.”[8] There is “no better evidence of the fact that we are not yet perfectly sanctified, for, if we were, we should need nothing to help us to remember him.”[9] The bread is set forth as “the suffering of his body” and the wine “typifies the blood of the atonement whereby we are cleansed.”[10] The two “form a most suggestive symbol of the matchless death whereby we are made to live.”[11] The memorial of the Lord’s Supper is “better than if there had been a statue erected, or than if a document had been written….to keep alive in the memory of men the great fact that Jesus died.”[12]

Third, the Lord’s Supper should be observed often. Spurgeon knew that “our treacherous memories require” regularly observing the Lord’s Supper.[13] For, “we more easily forget than remember.”[14]He did not think taking the Lord’s Supper weekly was commanded in Scripture, but did believe it was an apostolic precedent and it was his own practice. Commenting on the words of Paul and Jesus, Spurgeon said, “I will not say that their words absolutely teach that we should frequently come to the table of communion; but I do think they give us a hint that, if we act rightly, we shall often observe this supper of the Lord….let it be often; do not, dear friends, absent yourselves long from the table.”[15] Surely, “Once or twice in the year can hardly be thought to be a sufficiently frequent memorial of one so dear.”[16]

Fourth, the Lord’s Supper is a meal for God’s people.[17] Spurgeon said, “The persons who come to the table must be, according to Christ’s rule, believers in him.”[18] The reason being that when people partake of the cup, they “own and accept joyfully our interest in that covenant which was made with Christ.”[19] Spurgeon warned, “If you are trusting in your own merits, go to your own table.”[20]

Lastly, the Lord’s Supper not only looks backward, but forward. Eschatology energizes the table. Spurgeon said, “this supper is a window, a window of agate, and the outlook of this supper is the Second Coming of the Lord from heaven. This supper is also a gate of carbuncle, and through this gate we are to watch for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ from the throne of his glory to this earth. The Lord shall come.”[21] Indeed, “We must keep on gathering at his table, giving thanks, breaking bread, and proclaiming his death, till the trump of the archangel shall startle us…at the last.”[22]

Come, Lord Jesus.


[1] MTP 34:455.

[2] Ibid.

[3] MTP 45:430. Spurgeon did not downplay cases of open sin, whereby partaking of the Lord’s Supper might bring judgment instead of blessing. In such cases, he encouraged his congregation to “let the elders of the church be informed, and it will be dealt with tenderly and firmly” (MTP 34:455).

[4] MTP 34:453.

[5] MTP 34:448.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 449 (emphasis original).

[8] MTP 45:426.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 427.

[11] Ibid.

[12] MTP 39:218.

[13] MTP 34:450.

[14] Ibid.

[15] MTP 51:313.

[16] Ibid.

[17] For how Spurgeon dealt with fencing the table when visitors were present, see Dr. Geoffrey Chang, “How Did Spurgeon Fence the Lord’s Table?,” Historical Theology, March 4, 2019, https://www.historicaltheology.org/articles/2019/3/4/how-did-spurgeon-fence-the-lords-table.

[18] MTP 39:224 (emphasis original).

[19] MTP 34:453.

[20] MTP 45:430.

[21] MTP 39:225 (emphasis original).

[22] MTP 45:426.



The Pastors’ College: Spurgeon’s Vision for Church-Based Training

By / Jan 12

Since the early days of his pastorate, C.H. Spurgeon tutored and trained up gifted young men for the ministry. Over the first seven years of his ministry, Spurgeon would send out seven ministers, and yet more men were approaching him for training. By the spring of 1861, with sixteen men under his care, the financial cost of training these men was becoming too much. So at a special meeting on May 19, 1861, Spurgeon shared with his congregation his vision for pastoral training and took up a special offering to support the work. But the congregation would do more than just give an offering. On July 1, 1861, the congregation passed the following motion:

Our Pastor having told the Church of his Institution for educating young ministers, and having informed them that several were now settled in country charges and laboring with great success, it was unanimously agreed, – That this Church rejoices very greatly in the labours of our Pastor in training young men for the ministry and desires that a record of his successful & laborious efforts should be entered in the church-books – Hitherto, this good work has been rather a private effort than one in which the Church has had a share, but the Church hereby adopts it as part of its own system of evangelical labours, promises its pecuniary aid, and its constant and earnest prayers.

The Pastors’ College was born. No longer would the training of future ministers be the private effort of their pastor, but now it would be an official ministry of the church, supported by the giving and prayers of the members. This college would share many of the characteristics of the pastor, his robustly evangelical and Calvinistic doctrine, the focus on producing preachers of the gospel, the warm and personal form of instruction, and more. But more important than the college’s connection to Spurgeon was its union with a vibrant local church. This set it apart from all the other academic institutions of the time. Spurgeon writes,

The relation of the College to a large and active Church, by which it is principally sustained, and which takes a lively interest in its welfare, is one special means of its prosperity. The intercourse of the Students with the Members of the Church contributes much to their social and their spiritual welfare. The officers of the Church cheer them by their kindness and aid them by their counsel. A familiarity with Church discipline is acquired, and with all the appliances by which a flourishing Church is sustained and enlarged, which is treasured up for future use, and supplies what has hitherto often proved to be a serious deficiency in a College education for the pastoral office.

More than simply financing the ministry of the Pastors’ College, the congregation played an active part in the training, showing students what a healthy church looked like. Rather than allowing the college to substitute for the church, students were immersed in the life of a vibrant church. Most students either joined the church or were already members of the church. This involvement in the church meant not only discipleship but also accountability. The tutors of the college were often not only scholars but also recognized elders in the church. They not only taught the students doctrine but also modeled godliness and leadership in the church. Many of the students lived with approved families in the church, where they would see a well-ordered Christian home. The support of the members allowed the students to graduate without any debts. And as they participated in the worship, ministry, and discipline of a healthy church, the students gained a solid understanding of Baptist ecclesiology and a vision for pastoral ministry, “treasured up for future use.” By this tight association between the Metropolitan Tabernacle and the Pastors’ College, Spurgeon sought to address an ecclesiological deficiency in pastoral training in his day.

Today, many churches have outsourced pastoral training to para-church institutions. Certainly, seminaries and Bible schools still play a vitally important role in theological training. But there is a great loss when pastoral training is entirely separated from the local church.

As theological training becomes more flexible with online and modular formats, there is a growing opportunity for local churches to partner with seminaries in pastoral training. If you’re a local church pastor, even if you don’t have the resources to start a formal training program, consider how you might intentionally invest in men who are interested in the ministry. The seminary should do a good job of providing instruction in theology, hermeneutics, biblical languages, church history, and other academic areas. Your job is to bring it all together, showing how these disciplines are deployed in pastoral ministry and how they serve a congregation.

One way to do this is simply by letting others see the behind-the-scenes work of the church. Open elders’ meetings to these students and let them hear you discuss difficult pastoral and theological issues. Allow them to walk through a discipline process with you or sit in on a membership interview. Bring them in on service planning and service review meetings. Read through good books on pastoral ministry and ecclesiology. And make sure they are steeped in healthy relationships in the church. Give them a vision for leadership and love for the local church, shaped by the gospel.

Pastors have a critically important role to play in pastoral training. This is not something that can be outsourced. Paul’s command in 2 Timothy 2:2 is part of the pastor’s job description. But this is not something they can fulfill by themselves. They require the support of their congregations in this task. May God give churches and pastors a vision for training up the next generation to proclaim the gospel.


The Timothy Track at Midwestern Seminary combines theological training with local church mentorship. Learn more here.



“More Pilgrims Are Come To Town!”: Learning to Grieve with Hope

By / Jan 5

For many churches, 2020 has proved to be a year of funerals. Pastors have walked alongside their people through the valley of the shadow of death and have buried many beloved church members. Yet, even as one who grieves with his people, the pastor must also model what it looks like to have hope amid death. This was the challenge that Spurgeon faced in January 1883.

Earlier in the month, one of Spurgeon’s beloved deacons, Mr. W. Higgs,[1] was called home. Nine days later, he learned that another one of his deacons, Mr. W. Mills, had also passed away. This was a heavy blow for Spurgeon and the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The deacons were pillars in the church. They served lifetime terms and gave administrative oversight to this church of over 5,000 members. Not only that, but they were models of godliness and service, all with fruitful ministries of discipling and evangelism. The loss of any deacon was terrible, but now, the church faced a double loss.

On January 16th, 1883, at the funeral of Mr. Mills, Spurgeon spoke to a gathering of family and church members. Though he recognized the unique sorrow of the family in their loss, Spurgeon also identified the particular sadness of fellow church members in the loss of their brother and co-worker in the gospel.

I conceive that, in the departure of this dear brother, I am as great a loser as anyone alive. You lose much of domestic comfort, but I lose a true yokefellow. And let me say of my dear friends at the Tabernacle, associated with me in church work, that our communion is not one of a common kind. Our brethren are at the house of prayer most days of the week; and, in the case of some of them, the service of God there occupies much of their time as their own business receives; and, in the case of others of them, even more… Though we have not lost a father, we feel that we have lost a brother; and even his own dear wife, — whom may God most graciously sustain! — can scarcely feel more the loss than some of us will do who have been with her dear husband from day to day for so many years.[2]

In the face of loss, Spurgeon knew that his task was to remind them of their hope. For so many in the church, the hope of the resurrection was a matter of intellectual assent, but not of living faith. Amid their griefs, here was an opportunity for each Christian to test their creed and see if they truly placed their hope in the resurrection. Spurgeon’s job was to model what this living faith looked like.

How could Spurgeon give his people a vision for the hope of life beyond death? He would turn not to a systematic treatment of the resurrection, but once again to his favorite allegory, Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. In the story, Bunyan describes the process of crossing over the Jordan river into the Celestial City. In the funeral sermon, Spurgeon used Bunyan’s story as a lens to help his hearers see their hope amid death. For all those who are struggling in their sadness, Spurgeon offers us three perspectives to encourage us in our hope.

God’s Kindness in Preparing His Saints for Death

So often, death does not come suddenly but is preceded by a severe illness or accident. This is a kindness of God, an arrow “sharpened with love,” used by God to prepare his saints for death.

A little while before Christiana crossed over the water, a letter came to her from the celestial city, saying, “Hail, good woman! I bring thee tidings that the Master calleth for thee, and expecteth that thou shouldest stand in His presence, in clothes of immortality, within these ten days.” When the heavenly postman had read this letter to her, “he gave her therewith a sure token that he was a true messenger, and was come to bid her make haste to be gone. The token was an arrow with a point sharpened with love, let easily into her heart, which by degrees wrought so effectually with her, that at the time appointed she must be gone.”

Well, so it was with our brother Higgs; he had his “arrow, with a point sharpened with love,” a year or more before, and there it lay until the time appointed for him to be gone. And our dear brother Mills had his loving token sent him some months ago, just to give him notice that the Master expected him soon; and of late he had great quietude from the cares of business, and he ripened, and mellowed in spirit very sweetly. The Lord was evidently getting His servant ready to cross over the stream. Christiana did not look upon her departure with any regret; she took loving adieux of her children and all her friends and fellow-pilgrims. Neither did our dear brother Mills look forward to death with any kind of apprehension. When I sat and talked with him, about his past life, and about the world to come, our conversation was that of two men who were glad to have known each other and would rejoice when either of the two entered into rest and would be happy to meet each other again on the other side of the river.

On these occasions, fellow Christians should not only grieve, but also rejoice at the prospect of their loved ones soon being in the presence of their Well-Beloved.

As soon as Christiana received her token, she did what most Christian people do, she sent for her minister, whose name was Mr. Great-heart, for he had helped her and her family on pilgrimage till they had come to the river; and what, think you, did Mr. Great-heart say, when she told him that an arrow had entered into her heart? Did he sit down and cry with her? No, “he told her he was heartily glad of the news and could have been glad had the post come for him.” And, though I am not Mr. Great-heart, I can truly say the same. You and I should not dread this message, but may even long for it, envying those who precede us into the presence of the Well-Beloved, and get the first chance of leaning their heads upon that bosom whence they shall never wish to lift them again, for therein they find joy and bliss forever.

The Joy of the Saints in the Face of Death

Over the years, Spurgeon witnessed many of his people approaching death. And yet, by God’s grace, these were often moments when their faith shined the brightest.

Remember how, when the pilgrims crossed over the water, poor Mr. Ready-to-halt left his crutches behind him. Are you not glad of that, dear friend, you who have been ready-to-halt for years? There was dear old Mr. Feeble-mind, who said to Valiant-for-truth, “As for my feeble mind, that I will leave behind me, for that, I have no need of it in the place whither I go. Nor is it worth bestowing upon the poorest pilgrim; wherefore, when I am gone, I desire that you, Mr. Valiant, would bury it in a dunghill.” And then there was poor Mr. Despondency, with his daughter Much-afraid, who crossed the stream together. The last words of Mr. Despondency were, “Farewell night, welcome day.“ As for Miss Much-afraid, she went through the river singing, but nobody could make out quite what the words were, she seemed to be beyond the power of expressing her delight.

Oh, it is wonderful how these pilgrims do when they come to die! They may tremble while they live, but they do not tremble when they die. The weakest of them become the strongest then. I have helped many pilgrims on the way, and among them some Mr. Feeble-minds and Mr. Fearings, and a very great worry have they been to me while on the road; but, at the last, either the river has been empty, and they have gone over dry-shod, or else, when they have come to the very depths of it, they have played the man so well, that I have been astounded, I never imagined they could have been so brave. They have stumbled at a straw before, but in death, they have climbed mountains. They have been the most weak, timid, sparrow-like people that you could meet with; and now they take to themselves eagle’s wings wherewith to fly away. Brothers and sisters, if you are in Christ, do not be afraid to die, for dying grace shall be given to you for your dying moments.

Spurgeon did not approach these moments stoically. He knew well the discouragement and sorrow that came with the deaths of his people. Yet, even then, Spurgeon charged himself and his fellow ministers not to lose heart but to continue caring for those who remained.

Come, then, dear brother-ministers, as we see that our people are soon going to die, we must not begin to dispirit them, but we must keep up our own courage. For we have to help other pilgrims on the road a little longer, and we have to fight Giant Grim for a few more of the women and children, and we must be faithful in this our duty till our work is done. Let us not be cast down at our friend’s departure; but let all of us who love the Lord say, “We could have wished the post had come to us.”

The Celebration of Heaven at the Arrival of the Saints

As Paul reminds the Philippians, to depart from the body is to be with Christ. Even as Christians grieve the loss of their brothers and sisters, we do not lose sight of their joy in the presence of Christ.

What does he think of it? Oh! what a glorious thing it must be to get out of the body, — I mean, a body that has grown to be sixty years of age, and that has been stricken with paralysis, and that has been upon the verge of death for many a month, — what a joy it must be to be quite clear of it! We do not know what it is to be undressed of this body; but there must be a wonderful freshness to the unclothed spirit! And what must it be to be free from all doubts and fears, and all tendencies to sin of every sort, and to be absolutely perfect? And then, what must it be, in the midst of ten thousand times ten thousand kindred spirits, all joying and rejoicing in one common, glorious God, and in the Christ whose life shall be the light that shineth over all? I warrant you that five minutes in heaven is better than Methuselah’s life on earth, even if spent in the highest happiness that life here below can afford. Oh, how our brother Mills would chide us if he could look back, and see us weeping! How he would reprove us, and tell us that the best thing that could have happened to him had happened, and ask us wherefore we deplored it.

But the hope of heaven is no individualistic joy. It is a cosmic celebration for the angels, the saints who have gone before us, and even for God Himself. Even though it is right for us to grieve at our temporary partings, we should not lose sight of the celebration that goes on in heaven at the arrival of each saint.

Last of all, it has cheered me most to imagine what the people up in heaven would think about this subject. As we are going to be up there, too, we may as well begin to learn their fashions and their ways. What do you think they say in heaven about our dear ones who fall asleep in Jesus? Why, the angels shall come to meet them! Lazarus died and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom, and that is what happens to all the saints. Bunyan says, “Now the day drew on, that Christiana must be gone. So the road was full of people to see her take her journey. But, behold, all the banks beyond the river were full of horses and chariots,” for the angels of God came to meet her as she “entered in at the gate with all the ceremonies of joy that her husband Christian had done before her.” Yes, the angels will come to meet the saints. They did come to meet our brother Higgs, and they had not long been back with him before they had to come and meet this other brother, to escort him up to the eternal seats. The angels do not come to mourn. I warrant you that there was not a hatband among them and that there was not one of them who wept. They stretched out their glittering hands, and said, “Welcome, brother; welcome, brother! You have long been a pilgrim; now you shall rest forever. Welcome to your eternal home!”

And what do you think the other saints up there thought of our brethren’s death? Why, doubtless, they welcomed them with gladsome acclamations; and all through the golden streets they ran, and cried, “More pilgrims are come to town! More pilgrims are come to town! More redeemed ones have come home!” And the Lord Jesus Christ smiled, and said, “Father, I thank Thee because those whom Thou hast given Me are with Me where I am.” He welcomed them. And God the Father, too, was glad to greet them in glory. Are you not all glad when your children come home? Lives there a man among you who does not rejoice to see his boys and girls come back to him even for the brief holidays? We like to hear their sweet voices, though they do trouble us sometimes; but then they are our own children, our own offspring, and somehow, to our ears, there is no voice so sweet as theirs; and to God, there is no music like the voices of His children. He is glad to get them home to Himself, to go no more out forever. And the Blessed Spirit, too, let us not forget Him, — He delights to see the holy souls He formed anew, those with whom He strove, with whom He wrought so many years. As a workman rejoices over his perfected workmanship, so does the Spirit of God rejoice over those whom He has made to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

Conclusion

Though we live under the curse of death, yet we know that through faith in Christ, death has lost its sting. Dear pastors, dear Christians, “encourage each other with these words.” (1 Th. 4:18)

Wherefore, I counsel you, go to the grave with songs of gladness. Stand there, and if you drop a tear, let the smile of your gratitude to God light it up, and turn it to a gem; and then go home, each one of you, and wait until your own change comes.


[1] For the sermon Spurgeon preached on the occasion of Mr. Higgs’ death, see: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-monument-for-the-dead-and-a-voice-to-the-living/#flipbook/

[2] Mr. Mill’s funeral sermon can be found in S&T 1894:109-114.



Five Exhortations for the New Year from Spurgeon

By / Dec 30

Charles Spurgeon preached a plethora of New Year’s sermons during his pastorate at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. For Spurgeon, the arrival of a new year was a time that brought forth thinking on the Lord’s faithfulness and the Christian’s right response to the Lord in the new year.

Five sermons preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle highlight Spurgeon’s understanding of what the Christian was to do with the new year: Humbly approach the Lord in prayer. Find security in God Himself. Wait expectantly for God’s mercy. Proclaim the gospel to yourself and others. Worship the living God now and forever.

Humbly Approach the Lord in Prayer

Spurgeon’s first evening sermon of 1871 was on Psalm 10:17, declaring, “Lord, thou hast hear the desire of the humble; thou will prepare their heart, thou wilt so use thine ear to hear.” For the Prince of Preachers, this text laid bare “a very blessed fact” that the Lord hears the desires of the humble. For the New Year, Spurgeon exhorted his parishioners at the Metropolitan Tabernacle to not forget their need of God. Spurgeon found great hope in holding a posture of humility in prayer before the Lord because “…it will be a fact all through this year that God will hear the desire of the humble.” But, what is a humble desire? “A humble desire,” Charles stated, “is one which leaves everything in God’s hands.” But, the deeper reality experienced by the humble, whom the Lord hears, is that the Lord “will prepare the heart of the humble to receive Christ [and to]…receive more of Christ.” Charles understood in prayer, “God will prepare our hearts for [the Christian’s  service in the New Year].” In the New Year, approach the Lord in humility, and he will hear you and prepare your heart for the days to come.

Find Security in God Himself

On January 6th 1867, Spurgeon preached addressing the Lord’s ever-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful care for his people from Moses’s statement in Deuteronomy, “The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” Spurgeon preached this text that the people of the Tabernacle would know that God is not merely aware of them; deeper still, he knows and cares for his people in all things. According to Charles, “[1866] was, perhaps the most gloomy of our lives,” even describing the newspaper headlines as prophetic scrolls of lamentation. And looking to the New Year, Spurgeon reminded his congregation that no one could know what 1867 was to bring with it. But the Prince of Preachers could find solace in trusting that “[t]he eyes of the Lord are upon the [his people], not to merely see them but to view them with complacency and delight; not to barely observe them, but to observe them with affectionate care and interest.” Deeper still in Christ, Spurgeon declared there was a “blessed meeting of eyes,” in which, “the Lord declares, ‘I love thee,’ and [Christians] answer, ‘We also love thee, O our God.’” In this text, Spurgeon saw not merely the Lord’s omniscience but the saving and sustaining power with which he holds his people, even after the worst of years. Christian, in 2021 find your security in God.

Wait Expectantly for God’s Mercy

From a sick-bed, Spurgeon wrote an exhortation from Jesus’s parable of the barren fig tree in Luke, particularly the planter’s intercession to the vinedresser on behalf of the fruitless tree. The Prince of Preachers distilled that the Christian ought to have an expectant heart for the work and mercy of God in the New Year. Spurgeon explained that the “also” in “This year also” is a retrospective statement of the owner of the fig tree acknowledging, “there had been former years of grace,” in which the vinedresser did not cut the tree down. “This year also,” according to Spurgeon, “makes some of us remember years of great mercy, sparkling and flashing with delight…[and] some of us our years of sharp affliction.” But Spurgeon recognized, “God was doing great things for us…Did we rise from the bed more patient and gentle, weaned from the world, and welded for Christ?” As Spurgeon urged, look to the mercy of God demonstrated to you in all circumstances that you may live from that mercy in the New Year.

Proclaim the Gospel to Yourself and Others

On New Year’s day 1885, the Prince of Preachers brought forth a message from the declaration in Revelation 21:5, “And he that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Spurgeon highlighted that the newness of the year ought to bring excitement, but, “we ought not, as [those] in Christ Jesus, to be carried away by a childish love for novelty, for we worship a God who is ever the same…” But, as the New Year is the commencement of another “year of grace,” so the Christian ought to, “think about the great and needful change of conversion…[and] press forward into the center of his new creation, that we may feel to the full all the power of his grace.” Spurgeon prompted his congregation to behold their conversion as the Heavenly Father looking at his people and declaring, “Son, thou art ever with me and all that I have is thine.” But the Prince of Preachers also noted that the newness Christians experience daily through the gospel must be proclaimed to those lost in their old, dead selves for, “the Lord can convert those dear friends about whose souls you have been so anxious.” Let the New Year prompt you to declare the once-for-all and daily newness of life in Christ for those who believe.

Worship the Living God

In a sermon intended for January 1st 1893, Charles Spurgeon wrote on Psalm 115:8’s declaration, “But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord,” as the springboard of doxology which the Christian is to jump into the New Year. In the verse’s context, Spurgeon recognized, “during the past year some have been numbered with the dead,” and the pain death brings with it. But, in worshipping the Lord, Christians “take a blessed revenge on death,” and “as God helps us…each of us [is able] to become double what we formerly were in the service of our Master[!]” Despite the pain brought by the former year, Spurgeon declared, “We will bless the Lord.” Spurgeon also saw that Christian worship is both present and eternal. “When is the time to begin to praise God? Now, brethren, now,” declared the Prince of Preachers; he explains further, “…the expression, ‘We will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore,’ means that our praise shall have no end to it.” In the New Year, believer, join the right now and forever song of worship to the Lord.

Conclusion

Dear reader, may you be encouraged and edified by the words of Spurgeon in the New Year that you humbly pursue the Lord in prayer, find true security in God, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to yourself and others, and praise God