— Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born into an age of upgrade and downgrade.
So begins the first installment of Christian T. George’s newly released The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Vol. 1 from B&H Academic. As George explains, with scholarly care, Spurgeon was a man of his time during the upgrades of long nineteenth, or what church historian K. S. Latourette called, “the great century.” Yet, he was also a man “behind his time,” often standing convictionally alone in an era of theological downgrade.
Spurgeon’s journey as a public prophet began as a sixteen-year-old preacher and for the next three years, he would hone his craft and record his sermons in nine notebooks. Most of those familiar with Spurgeon usually start with his arrival at London’s New Park Street Chapel, and not with this earlier teenage preacher, and understandably so for, until now, the Spurgeon sermonic corpus consisted of 63 volumes starting in 1855.
Enter Christian George who, while completing a PhD from the University of St. Andrews in the last decade, encountered Spurgeon’s early notebooks in the archives of Spurgeon’s College in London. As he explains, these “sermons were never actually ‘lost’ to history. But they were lost to publishing history. Until now the only attempt at publication was undertaken by Spurgeon himself in 1857, an attempt he abandoned” due to the pace of his work. Thus, for the last 160 years, the notebooks have remained hidden, accessed only by a few scholars.
With the arrival of The Lost Sermons, Vol 1. comes the inauguration of a new era of Spurgeon scholarship–a journey that will travel toward the publication of twelve volumes total. As George explains:
The volumes will follow in regular installments over the next several years. By then end of the expedition, a total of 400 sermons filling 1,127 pages, and also additional material, will be offered for scholarship. A prequel to The New Park Street Pulpit, The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon constitutes the first critical edition of any of his works and adds approximately 10 percent more material to the total sum of his sermons.
Genuine projects of historical ressourcement of this size and significance are rare, and even the most significant often remain unread or underappreciated. What makes The Lost Sermons project so special is the fact that these sermons have the Gospel and the pursuit of godliness at their core, and they arrive in a day, much like Spurgeon’s own, of upgrade and downgrade.
Moreover, much of the value for future readers and beneficiaries of this treasury is only as great as what the particular historian, into whose hands Providence has given the sources, allows readers to see and know. In short, the piety of the editor matters as much as that which he edits.
These reasons are just a sample of why I am doubly proud and grateful that God has seen fit, in our day, to allow Christian George to serve, as what his father once rightly called, “the Lord’s remembrancer”–a steward of precious historical items who wields them, as George himself says, to “guide readers not just to Spurgeon but through Spurgeon to Jesus Christ.”
Indeed, may The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon once again point many to the Christ who came to seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10).
Christian T. George, editor.
B&H Academic, 2017.