Shortly after turning sixteen, Charles Spurgeon preached his first sermon. Little did theworld know what was afoot: the forty years of ministry that followed produced some of the most remarkable sermons and treatises that will ever be preached.
The appeal of Spurgeon’s sermons was and is far-reaching, spanning the deafening gaps of both time and geography. The audiences held attentive to Spurgeon’s words have beenbroader still — the migrant in his most meager state, the tycoon awash in all his riches —both have found themselves equally attuned to the words billowing forth from England’s best-known preacher. Charles attracted millions in his day, and he still reaches millions today. The indelible influence of Spurgeon’s sermons has impacted much of modern preaching andmany are left wondering what it was, exactly, that made this preacher, “The Prince.”
What is it that grips his hearers? Is it some slight of hand, or just a play on the emotions? In some great ode to a prior western awakening, did Spurgeon seek to stir only the unruly passions of his listeners?
Go and hear the gospel; do not go where there is fine preaching, and clever preaching, unless it is true gospel preaching.
Far from it, it seems. Whatever undoing of the emotional state of his hearers was Spirit-wrought through and through. Quite aware of this fact, Spurgeon was content to drive his homiletical stake in the ground on a single, guiding principle: the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The true teacher should not seek to soar on the gaudy wings of brilliant oratory, pouring forth sonorous polished sentences in rhythmic harmony; but should endeavor to speak pointed truths—things that will strike and stick—thoughts that will be remembered and recalled, again and again, when the hearer is far away from the place of worship where he listened to the preacher’s words.
The dance of preaching, for Spurgeon, was not in the eloquence of his words, though he was quite eloquent. It was in the piercing truths found uniquely in Scripture, the kind thatmake hearts flutter on one hand and condemn them where they stand on the other.
This is the power of gospel-centered preaching: The message of Christ’s cross bears peculiar gravitas in and of itself. It is made to withstand undue pressures from within and outside the church.
We have too much of fine language, too much of florid eloquence, and too little full and plain gospel preaching.
By Spurgeon’s estimation, there is no need to go elsewhere for powerful and compelling preaching; it is all there in the text! So what’s the preacher to do, then, for lack of a method and want of a device?
Be like Charles Spurgeon — preach the truth, preacher. Say the things that strike and stick. Preach the Gospel, not empty eloquence. Its power will draw as many men to God as are meant to come.
Mike Brooks serves as an Editorial Assistant at For The Church. He is currently an M.Div student at MBTS and a Pastoral Resident at Emmaus Church. He enjoys writing, watching most sports, and loves all things theology and church planting. Mike and his wife, Paige, reside in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter.