I’ve found that anything from the pen of Charles Spurgeon is like my favorite armchair; it is homely, comforting, familiar, reliable, not overly cozy, but after a spell in it…always refreshed & rested. He has the ability to be poignant, humorous, sensible, reverent, simple, practical, devotional, profound, lucid, jovial, biblical, and faithful with an almost unrivaled balance in all these areas.
Lectures to My Students is a book I’ve visited numerous times, and pogo-sticked around in for the last several years; however, I recently did a fresh breeze through again of its entirety, and it was just fabulous. These lectures to pastoral students (a category I currently fall into) are vital insights for men pursuing and in the pastoral ministry. He highlights the common folly’s and temptations and the need to resist them. He offers practical, no-nonsense advice on a preacher’s lifestyle, presentation, mindset, and approach. He never takes himself or his listeners too seriously, but this never detracts from the grave seriousness of the topic of preaching the word of God. He is hilarious, but never in a flippant way. He is pithy in his insights. He is tweet-able, 200 years before social media was in existence.
The first collection of lectures focuses on a minister’s personal life and holiness; it is vital to never undertake to be a minister unless you are both inwardly called of God and outwardly called of God by the church. He confronts despair and depression in the ministers life, in my favorite chapter (The Minister’s Fainting Fits). The second collection deals with preparation and study. The third on deliver and illustration. All of it is good ol’ fashioned sense. Very practical. Very helpful.
A Collection of Quotes
SEEKING LOST SOULSSportsmen must not stop at home and wait for the birds to come and be shot at, neither must fishermen throw their nets inside their boats and hope to take many fist. Traders go to the markets, they follow their customers and go out after business if it will not come to them; and so must we. Some of our brethren are prosing on and on, to empty pews and musty hassocks, while they might be conferring lasting benefit upon hundreds by quitting the old walls for awhile, and seeking living stones for Jesus.ARGUERS WHEN STREET PREACHINGCertain characters, if they and that preaching is going on, will interrupt by hook or by crook. They go on purpose, and if answered Once and again they still persevere. One constant rule is to be always courteous and good tempered, for if you become cross or angry it is all over with you. Another rule is to keep to your subject, and never be drawn into side issues. Preach Christ or nothing: don’t dispute or discuss except with your eye on the cross. If driven off for a moment always be on the watch to get back to your sole topic. Tell them the old, old story, and if they will not hear that, move on. Yet be adroit, and take them with guile.Seek the one object by many roads. A little mother-wit is often the best resource and will work wonders with a crowd. Bonhommie is the next best thing to grace on such occasions. A brother of my acquaintance silenced a violent Romanist by offering him his stand and requesting him to preach.ON EARNESTNESSHear how Whitefield preached, and never dare to be lethargic again. Winter says of him that “sometimes he exceedingly wept, and was frequently so overcome, that for a few seconds you would suspect he never would recover; and when he did, nature required some little time to compose herself. I hardly ever knew him go through a sermon without weeping more or less. His voice was often interrupted by his affections; and I have heard him say in tile pulpit,’ You blame me for weeping; but how can I help it, when you will not weep for yourselves, although your own immortal souls are on the verge of destruction, and, for aught I know, you are, hearing your last sermon, and may never more have an opportunity to have Christ, offered to you?” Earnestness in the pulpit must be real. It is not to be mimicked. We have seen it counterfeited, but every person with a grain of sense .could detect the imposition. To stamp the foot, to smite the desk, to perspire, to shout, to bawl, to quote the pathetic portions of other people’s sermons, or to pour out voluntary tears from a watery eye will never make up for true agony of soul and real tenderness of spirit. The best piece of acting is but acting; those who only look at appearances may be pleased by it, bat lovers of reality will be disgusted. What presumption! — what hypocrisy it is by skillful management of the voice to mimic the passion which is the genuine work of the Holy Ghost. Let mere actors beware, lest they be found sinning against the Holy Spirit by their theatrical performances. We must be earnest in the pulpit because we are earnest everywhere; we must blaze in our discourses because we are continually on fire. Zeal which is stored up to be let off only on grand occasions is a gas which will one day destroy its proprietor. Nothing but truth may appear in the house of the Lord; all affectation is strange fire, and excites the indignation of the God of truth. Be earnest, and you will seem to be earnest. A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue.ON CHEERFULNESS VS. FRIVOLITYCheerfulness is one thing, and frivolity is another; he is a wise man who by a serious happiness of conversation steers between the dark rocks of moroseness, and the quicksands of levity.ON REFUSING DISTRACTING ILLUSTRATIONSIt may be well to note that illustrations should not be too prominent or, to pursue our figure, they should not be painted windows, attracting attention to themselves rather than letting in the clear light of day. I am not pronouncing any judgment upon windows adorned with “glass of various colours which shine like meadows decked in the flowers of spring”; I am looking only to my illustration. Our figures are meant not so much to be seen as to be seen through. If you take the hearer’s mind away from the subject by exciting his admiration of your own skill in imagery, you are doing evil rather than good. I saw in one of our exhibitions a portrait of a king; but the artist had surrounded his majesty with a bower of flowers so exquisitely painted that everyone’s eye was taken away from the royal figure. All the resources of the painter’s art had been lavished upon the accessories, and the result was that the portrait, which should have been all in all, had fallen into a secondary place. This was surely an error in portrait-painting, even though it might be a success in art. We have to set forth Christ before the people, “evidently crucified among them,” and the loveliest emblem or the most charming image which calls the mind away from our divine subject is to be conscientiously foresworn. Jesus must be all in all: His gospel must be the beginning and end of all our discoursing; parable and poesy must be under His feet, and eloquence must wait upon Him as His servant. Never by any possibility must the minister’s speech become a rival to his subject; that were to dishonour Christ, and not to glorify Him. Hence the caution that the illustrations be not too conspicuous.