Recently, B&H Academic published the first volume of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon. This multi-volume work is edited by Christian George, curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Theological Seminary and the man who rediscovered the original notebooks containing Spurgeon’s earliest sermon outlines.
There have already been a number of helpful reviews on this new book, and I don’t want to merely echo the information from other blog posts.
So in order to cover some new ground, I’ll actually be making use of an old review – 120 years old, to be exact.
C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography was published in 1897 and was compiled from the preacher’s diary, letters, and records after his death by his wife and his private secretary.
The first volume of the autobiography contains a chapter titled “First Outlines of Sermons, 1851- 1852” which provides details about the very notebooks and sermon outlines later discovered by Dr. George and that are now made available in Volume 1 of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon.
About Spurgeon’s Early Sermon Outlines
In Spurgeon’s autobiography, we read this about these sermon outlines:
“Mr. Spurgeon had himself intended, long ago, to publish a selection from them; in the Preface to The New Park Street Pulpit for 1857, he announced that he hoped shortly to issue a volume, of his earliest Sermons, while Pastor at Waterbeach, but this was prevented by the pressure of his rapidly increasing work.”
160 years later, these very sermons are now made available publically for the first time.
Once the multi-volume set from B&H Academic is complete, The Lost Sermons will add about 10 percent more material to Spurgeon’s already massive body of work. That means that we will have even more opportunity to learn from his explanation of Scripture and be able to check out Spurgeon’s outlines for particular passages of Scripture to benefit from his sharp analysis of the text. Volume 1 contains 78 of the Prince of Preacher’s earliest sermon outlines.
“The first volume of Outlines must have been commenced very soon after Mr. Spurgeon began to preach, for the second written in it was only the fourth discourse delivered by the youthful evangelist. The text was Revelation 21:27, and it was preached at Barton, near Cambridge, on February 9th, 1851. This fact fixes, approximately, the date of the commencement of that wonderful world-wide ministry which the Lord so long and so greatly blessed, and which He still continues most graciously to own and use.”
The Value of these Outlines
For those familiar with other sets of Spurgeon’s sermons, such as the New Park Street Pulpit or Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit collections, it is important to note that these are not full manuscripts. As the volume goes on the outlines become fuller, but none are so detailed that they can stand alone as a complete sermon that you might read devotionally.
Later volumes of The Lost Sermons will contain full manuscripts, but Volume 1 contains only outlines or “skeletons” that Spurgeon used at the time he preached his earliest sermons.
Does that mean that they are only of academic interest? Not at all!
They are valuable as any other commentary or Bible study tool would be. Looking at how Spurgeon divided up a passage, brought out the main points, and applied the truth of Scripture to everyday life will be valuable to any who read this book.
Of course, these particular sermon outlines are uniquely valuable because of their author.
“The Outlines are valuable, not only because of their intrinsic merits, but also as the first products of the mind and heart which afterwards yielded so many thousands of discourses to the Church and the world, for the glory of God and the good of men.”
Anyone who is interested in the life and work of Charles Spurgeon will find this an incredibly interesting book. Spurgeon is among the greatest preachers in the English language, and his body of work has withstood the test of time. Having his earliest preaching outlines provides a great deal of insight into his formation into becoming the “Prince of Preachers.” It is all the more remarkable that these sermons “were made by a youth of sixteen; literally, ‘the boy-preacher.’”
About The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon
Of course, while Susannah Spurgeon could heartily endorse these early outlines she wouldn’t have anything to say about The Lost Sermons in particular. So here we depart briefly from passages found in the Spurgeon’s autobiography.
Beyond the practical appeal of the outlines, a quick look at this book will quickly show how much time and effort went into the beautiful presentation of The Lost Sermons. The work is nothing short of artistic – particularly the collector’s edition, which features gilded edges and contains dozens of photographs not found in the standard edition. The covers are done in a custom marbled paper to match the original notebooks that Spurgeon used, and the included sermons are shown in high-quality scans.
The content is far from being merely a typed-out version of the original notes. The scans of the original notebook pages are accompanied by the printed text of each outline (for those of us who have a hard time reading Victorian cursive) and are fully footnoted. The footnotes provide insight into Spurgeon’s shorthand, cross-references to other sermons, and explanations for contemporary references that would otherwise escape the modern reader.
This being the first of 12 planned volumes, there are several excellent introductory articles about the life and times of C.H. Spurgeon and an overview of the undertaking to analyze and publish these sermons outlines. There is also a detailed analysis of the outlines in volume 1 complete with charts, graphs, and visuals of the most-used words (God, followed closely by Jesus). The 17-page timeline of 1800 – 1910, with Spurgeon-related events and milestones marked in red, is especially interesting.
C.H. Spurgeon has become a larger-than-life figure for many. The Lost Sermons provides us with a unique opportunity to get a closer look at this man of God by looking into the pages of his personal notebooks. Here you’ll find the occasional doodle, thumbprint, misspelling, and illegible pen stroke.
While he was a man used greatly by God, Spurgeon was still a man. And at the time he wrote these sermon outlines he was but a youth. These notebooks give us a more personal glimpse of the great preacher than we’ve had before.
An Unexpected Endorsement from 1897
As mentioned earlier, Spurgeon himself said in the preface of the New Park Street Pulpit that “I will soon issue a volume of my earliest productions, while Pastor of Waterbeach.” Sadly, these plans never materialized in his lifetime. I believe that Spurgeon would be pleased that these “earliest productions” have finally been made available.
The above passages from the first volume of C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography (published in 1897) indicate that his wife and his personal secretary would also have happily endorsed the publication of The Lost Sermons.
After all, they wrote that “the Autobiography would be incomplete unless it included at least a few specimens of the beloved preacher’s first homiletic efforts” and they share three facsimiles of the earliest ones (The Lost Sermons, however, contains 78 outlines).
I enthusiastically recommend this book to all who are interested in C.H. Spurgeon as well as those who would like to benefit from his insight into the Word of God.
The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon provides a more intimate look at Spurgeon, that “happy preacher, who commenced – as he continued, and concluded – the ministry he received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
Purchase The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon
The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon are available in both a Hardcover Edition and a Collector’s Edition.
|Hardcover Edition||Collector’s Edition|
 Quotations throughout this post are taken from chapter 20 of the first volume of C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography.
I received a free copy of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.