Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Passion for Preaching, Page 3
- Thursday, September 23, 2004
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a man of many gifts and multiple responsibilities, but he was first and foremost a preacher. He was virtually without peer in his own generation, and today's evangelical preachers still look to him as a model. Why?
Spurgeon's homiletical method--revolutionary and effective though it was--was not the foundation of his ministry nor the source of his power. Preaching was for Spurgeon first and foremost a matter of conviction, even before it blossomed into communication.
While the Victorians often minimalized doctrine and the Tractarians taught their theory of doctrinal "reserve," Spurgeon preached a full-bodied gospel with substantive content and unashamed conviction. In this he was regarded as something of an exception, but he held fast to his biblical faith, Calvinist convictions, and evangelistic appeal.
A Bee-line to the Cross
"I take my text and make a bee-line to the cross," explained Spurgeon, and that brief statement is Spurgeon's preaching method in sum. He would often preach as many as five to seven sermons a week, but Sunday sermons at the Metropolitan Tabernacle consumed most of his energies in preparation. Spurgeon would seek texts for his Sunday sermons throughout the week, seeking through prayer, Bible reading, and conversation with friends (especially his devoted wife, Susannah) to find the most appropriate text for Sunday's sermons.
On Saturday night, he would sequester himself away from family and friends by six o'clock and remain in his study until the morning message was in outline form. From that outline, Spurgeon would preach an extemporaneous message lasting forty-five minutes to an hour, on average.
Spurgeon found the identification of the text his most vexing challenge, and it consumed much of his energies during the week. "A man who goes up and down from Monday morning until Saturday night, and indolently dreams that he is to have his text sent down by an angelic messenger in that last hour or two of the week, tempts God, and deserves to stand speechless on the Sabbath," he charged.
His own struggle is made clear in this reflective passage: "I have often said that my greatest difficulty is to fix my mind upon the particular texts which are to be the subjects of discourse on the following day. . . . As soon as any passage of Scripture really grips my heart and soul I concentrate my whole attention upon it, look at the precise meaning of the original, closely examine the context so as to see the special aspect of the text in its surroundings, and roughly jot down all the thoughts that occur to me concerning the subject, leaving to a later period the orderly marshalling of them for presentation to my hearers."
But whatever the text--Old Testament or New Testament--Spurgeon would find his way to the gospel of the Savior on the cross. And that gospel was put forth with the full force of substitutionary atonement and with warnings of eternal punishment but for the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Offensive to Some
That uncompromising message was offensive to some even in Victorian England. Some chose to admire Spurgeon's preaching ministry while ignoring or minimalizing his theology. This Spurgeon will not allow. As Iain Murray states: "The only way to deal with Spurgeon's theology is to accept it or forget it: the latter is what I believe has largely happened in the twentieth century. And Spurgeon without his theology is about as distorted as the cheap china figures of Spurgeon which were offered for sale by charlatans more than a century ago."
The famous preacher found himself engaged in several heated theological disputes, ranging from debates over baptismal regeneration to the infamous "Downgrade Controversy" of his final years. In each of these, he attempted to maintain clear evangelical conviction, while keeping the focus on the gospel.
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