Blog Entries

Introducing Spurgeon’s Private Devotional Poems

Geoff Chang May 15, 2024

For over 130 years, an unassuming notebook of poems has resided among Spurgeon’s books. As his library made its way from his Westwood study in London to William Jewell College in Liberty, MO in 1906, and then to Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, MO in 2006, this little notebook has gone with it. Among Spurgeon’s books are many great works of poetry. First editions and collected works of famous poets like Byron, Tennyson, and Herbert fill the shelves.

But among all those works, this little volume is unique. It has no title page. Rather, on the spine, are just two words:

Poems

Spurgeon

Inside are 186 handwritten poems. The handwriting does not belong to Spurgeon. Likely, these poems were collected and copied into the notebook by one of his secretaries (perhaps for future publication?). But the theological content and biographical details (along with the ascription on the spine) make it crystal clear that these were penned originally by the Prince of Preachers himself.

Those who knew Spurgeon well also knew of his love of poetry. Throughout his ministry, he published many of his own poems and hymns in The Sword and the Trowel and Our Own Hymn-Book. He frequently quoted hymns in his sermons. He sometimes wrote poems for his friends. But for the past century, the existence of these poems, and the poetic side of Spurgeon, has been largely forgotten… until now.

Encountering Spurgeon in Private Prayer

Today marks the release date of Christ Our All: Poems for the Christian Pilgrim, the first-ever publication of Spurgeon’s 186 unpublished poems, along with his other poems. In reading and transcribing these poems, it quickly became clear to me that they were his private, devotional reflections and prayers. Spurgeon often spoke to his students on the importance of the minister’s private prayer. He once said to them,

Of course the preacher is above all others distinguished as a man of prayer. He prays as an ordinary Christian, else he were a hypocrite. He prays more than ordinary Christians, else he were disqualified for the office which he has undertaken… Over all his other relationships the pre-eminence of the pastor’s responsibility casts a halo, and if true to his Master, he becomes distinguished for his prayerfulness in them all.[1]

But among all the Spurgeon published, he gave very little evidence of his own private prayer life. This is understandable… after all, this was meant to be private.

But now, with these poems, we have evidence that he lived what he preached. In these poems, we encounter Spurgeon in his prayer chamber, confessing sin, pleading for help, meditating on Scripture, delighting in Christ, and hoping in heaven. As I transcribed these poems last summer, I found myself marveling at the beauty and spirituality of these prayers.

The Prayers behind the Prince of Preachers

The publication of these poems would not be the first time Spurgeon’s private life was made public. When Susie Spurgeon compiled her husband’s autobiography, she included entries from his diary that he had given her. He had once charged her to keep it a secret. But now that he had died, Susie believed these diary entries could reveal the heart behind her husband’s famous ministry.

I feel that I am justified in at last revealing the long-kept secret of the book, for a perusal of its soul-confessions and holy resolutions can only redound to the glory of God, and show how He was leading His young servant by a way which he knew not. And I believe God would have me do this. The words of the dear boy of sixteen are very touching when read in the light of his subsequent marvelous career. As the trunk and branches of the future tree may, in some cases, be seen faintly outlined in the fruit it bears, so we can here discern something of the form and beauty of the fair character which the Lord was preparing for a glorious service.[2]

In other words, Susie believed that these early diary entries, in their “soul-confessions and holy resolutions,” could encourage readers and reveal the spiritual roots of the “subsequent marvelous career” to come.

Similarly, this has been my prayer in publishing these poems. Though these were once private devotional prayers, they are now available for the edification of the church, to encourage us in our own prayer and meditation. Alongside other devotional classics like The Valley of Vision and Morning and Evening, my hope is that these poems would be a companion to strengthen believers on the road to the Celestial City.

And for all those who know something of Spurgeon’s life, ministry, suffering, and faithfulness, these poems are all the richer and full of meaning. If you haven’t already, pick up a biography of Spurgeon and read about how God used him in remarkable ways. Then read and reflect on these poems to hear the prayers behind all that God did. Behind all that powerful preaching fruitfulness was his humble confession of sin. Behind those amazing accomplishments was a deep sense of his dependence on God. Behind the painful controversies was an abiding view of heaven. For discouraged and weary ministers, Spurgeon’s prayer life can be a help to us, modeling hope and joy amid the struggles of life and ministry.

In all this, Christians today can follow Spurgeon, not mainly in writing poems, but in his theologically rich vision for the Christian life, which informed his private prayers and devotion to God. May these poems “redound to the glory of God!”


Christ Our All: Poems for the Christian Pilgrim by C. H. Spurgeon is available for purchase at Lifeway or other online bookstores.


[1] Lectures to My Students 1:40.

[2] Autobiography 1:127