All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. -- Proverbs 15:15
On December 25, 1852, the 18 year old Charles Spurgeon preached a Christmas sermon at Waterbeach Baptist Church that he titled, “The Merry Hearted Man.” We know this because he kept his notes in the fourth of what would become nine total notebooks from this era, and until recent years, these notebooks remained unpublished and tucked away in an archive in London.
Thanks to B&H Academic and a joint partnership between Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon’s College, London, these sermons are now appearing in a series of volumes entitled The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon. The first three volumes presented the contents, with notes and commentary, of Spurgeon’s first three notebooks. In the years ahead, volumes 4-9 are scheduled for publication.
Therefore, the notes of Spurgeon’s Christmas sermon of 1852 have not been read or seen by many since it was first preached. As a Christmas gift to our readers, The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Seminary would like to give a summary of that sermon in advance of its formal publication as a part of Volume 4 in 2021.
In his early months at Waterbeach, Spurgeon encountered a significant spiritual roadblock within the congregation: antinomianism. As he described, these were “people who held that, because they believed themselves to be elect, they might live as they liked” (Autobiography, 1:232). As a result, many of his sermons in Notebook 4 address topics related to the gospel of Jesus Christ and holiness in contrast to hypocrisy--including his Christmas sermon of 1852.
What did the young Spurgeon have to say to those seeking merriment at Christmastime?
Using Proverbs 15:15--a text he would never again use for a sermon throughout the remainder of his ministry--Spurgeon encourages biblical merriment during the Christmas season. He spends the first two sections of his outline, and the bulk of the sermon, warning against the emptiness and short life span of worldly mirth. He then concludes by expounding on the characteristics of those on earth who are able to be merry in truth, those centered on Christ.
Spurgeon’s list of “People that Can Be Merry,” include:
- The man whose life is insured in Jesus’s life
- The man who is out of debt to man or God
- The man who knows he has more than he deserves and lives content
- The man who has hope in the fulfilment of God’s promises
- The man who sees his life in election, redemption, adoption, and glory
The Christian’s merriment is, as Spurgeon notes, due to the Christian’s position before and relationship with God. In a later sermon, Spurgeon comments on Romans 8:30 “Whom he justified, them he also glorified,” saying, “They follow close together yous see. A little stream divides them, but the apostle says nothing about it, and you and I need not say much. It is a narrow stream called Death: there is no glory without passing through that, or through the great change when the Lord comes; but there is nothing said about it, and so we will not say anything. It is not worth thinking of, it is swallowed up in victory” (MTP 11:247).
Spurgeon’s Christmas sermon concludes with this prescription of the heart of a merry hearted man:
“Your heart must be bruised, then broken, then healed, then washed in blood, then in water, and then bound to Jesus Christ.”
During Spurgeon’s years at Waterbeach, the Baptist church grew and the infatuation with antinomianism dissipated; many from the town came to hear him preach and were converted. As he later related, “[I]t pleased God to turn the whole place upside down. In a short time, the little thatched chapel was crammed, the biggest vagabonds of the village were weeping floods of tears, and those who had been the curse of the parish became its blessing.” (Autobiography 1:228).
These conversions and life transformations caused Spurgeon’s heart to leap with joy and contributed to his own merriment. For as Spurgeon reminds, the merry hearted Christian at Christmastime rejoices in the remembrance of the coming of Christ whilst looking forward, with contentment, to his return. Should his own death come before the second Advent, the Christian can still live for and in Christ, with merriment, for glory and victory awaits.
Jason G. Duesing serves as Provost and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College. He is currently the General Editor of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon and is th author of Mere Hope: Life in an Age of Cynicism (B&H, 2018).
This article is adapted from the forthcoming volume 4 of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon (B&H Academic, 2021), 214-224.