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Majesty In Misery

Category Articles
Date June 13, 2006

The volume Majesty in Misery, vol 3, Calvary’s Mournful Mountain, by C H Spurgeon, has been published by the Banner of Truth Trust (hardback, 392 pages). It consists of 25 sermons dealing with the experience of our Lord from when Pilate delivered Him to be crucified until His burial. Preached by Spurgeon (1834-1892) between 1856 and 1890, at least 16 of them date from the 80s and 90s. They focus particularly upon the sufferings of Christ and conform to the preacher’s observation: “Holy Scripture, by its example, teaches us great reticence about the sufferings of Jesus” (p 29).

Spurgeon needs no introduction to Free Presbyterian readers. He was respected by the conservative element in the old Free Church, as was shown by John Kennedy having him preach at the opening of the new Free Church in Dingwall in 1870, after hearing him several times while convalescing in London. He was regarded as an ally in the battle against the theological “downgrade movement” in late-nineteenth-century Scotland as is demonstrated in the reproduction, in 1897, at the time of the Dods and Bruce controversy, in the Free Presbyterian Magazine (vol 2, p 197), of part of an article from The Sword and Trowel in which he wrote: “The question in debate at the Disruption was secondary compared with that now at issue. It is Bible or no Bible, Atonement or no Atonement, which we have now to settle”.

Not all his interpretations or expressions may be endorsed by us. As is true of his preaching generally, some of these sermons are more strictly expository of their texts than others. Some are topical, based on ideas suggested by their texts. In his Lectures to my Students, Spurgeon laid out his principle that the “matter must be congruous to the text. The discourse should spring out of the text as a rule, and the more evidently it does so the better; but at all times, to say the least, it should have a very close relationship thereto.” We found those sermons most powerful which are among the more expository – such as the two on Matthew 27:46.

Even in their written form, these sermons explain something of the natural impression made on their hearers. The language is clear and fresh. They popularise biblical doctrine without cheapening it, and distil the theology of Reformers and Puritans. They combine concern for the glory of God and concern for the souls of sinners. They linger over each facet of a subject long enough to let it sink into the hearer’s mind, yet move on rapidly so as to keep interest alive.

Spurgeon’s sermons conform to the apostolic pattern of determining to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In one of his early sermons (no 242) Spurgeon quoted approvingly the advice given by an old minister to a young man whose well prepared and presented sermon he described as poor because Christ was not in it. When the young preacher defended himself by saying that Christ was not in the text, the old minister told him that, as from every little hamlet in England there was a road to London, “so from every text in Scripture there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And, my dear brother, your business is, when you get to a text, to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon running along the road towards the great metropolis – Christ. And I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it I will make one.” Sermons truly expository of a text will lead to Christ along the road intended by the Holy Spirit without requiring artificial road-making such as the old minister, no doubt using poetic licence, suggested he would adopt.

Arnold Dallimore in his Spurgeon tells of a group of American ministers who visited London in the 1880s and set out to hear some of the celebrated preachers of England. One Sabbath morning they came away from Parker’s City Temple saying, “What a wonderful preacher is Joseph Parker!” In the evening they came out of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle – where the building was larger, the congregation twice as numerous and the preacher’s oratorical powers superior even to those of Parker – saying, “What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus Christ!” That would have pleased Spurgeon more than personal plaudits. And that will be the effect of these sermons on readers to whom they are blessed by the Spirit of God, though the preacher’s voice is heard no more.

Taken with permission from the June Free Presbyterian Magazine

Majesty in Misery Vol. 3 (ISBN 085151 9164) retails for $24.00 (US), £15.00 (UK and ROW) and can be purchased from the Banner of Truth book catalogue

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