Study Baptist History with me this Summer

In light of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, we at Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College have now doubled the number of summer intensive courses available for our students and have sought to provide new online avenues for students to continue with their studies even during uncertain times.

As our President, Jason K. Allen, said well, “With these new offerings, students can still continue to access learning from our incredible faculty even in these most difficult times. We can think of no better way to be ‘for the church’ than by working to help students complete their degrees in new and innovative ways.”

To that end, I have joined with several of our faculty to offer a newly added class this summer. During June 1-4, 2020, I will teach a class that meets the requirements for “Baptist History” at the graduate level and “The Church” at the undergraduate level.

This is a special joy and providence for me as this is my favorite class to teach, and one I have taught regularly since 2005. However, due my need to teach other courses next year, I was not scheduled to teach it this coming fall–but now I get to offer it!

This course is our required historical theology course that gives me the opportunity to appeal to students that ecclesial tradition matters and that, in most cases, it is not what they think it is.

In fact, the history of the Baptist tradition is far more doctrinal, relevant to day to day church life, and helpful for the task of world evangelization than they’ve ever imagined. I have one course to convince them of this and I love that challenge.

Why is this the case?

For my expanded answer, you should enroll in the course!

But as a preview, you can read this short article I wrote, “For Other Churches, Baptists Assert a High View of a Low and Free Church.”

With that, here are a few final notes about this special Summer opportunity:

  • The class will meet during June 1-4, 2020.
  • The class will meet over live, interactive (synchronous) video for 2 or 3hr blocks of time, which will consist of my lectures and class discussion.
  • Students can enroll up until the day the class starts.
  • Students are encouraged to get the textbooks and start on the reading and writing assignments, but all assignments are not due until 3 weeks after the course meets.
  • Given that this is a Summer Intensive (or compressed/hybrid) course, there is no exam, but reading requirements, book review(s), a descriptive paper, and a final quiz (based on the in-class time).
  • If you’ve already taken this course for credit, we are offering this course also as a special elective HT 3140 Baptist Theology. The syllabus below has that information as well.

Are you interested in taking this class with me this Summer? You can learn more and enroll at mbts.edu/summer20 today!

On the third day He rose again — A Sonnet for Easter

In the mornings this year I’ve been re-reading a fourth century masterpiece. 

While Athanasius’s On the Incarnation is remarkable, it was C. S. Lewis who termed it a ‘masterpiece’ in his famous introduction to a new English translation of Athanasius’s work. 

As I read through the chapters of De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, I started summarizing each of the fifty-seven sections in my own words and soon realized the helpfulness of this exercise. 

Reading this old book has served to accomplish for me what C. S. Lewis hoped it would. Lewis advised, then in 1944, that in an era of modern controversies and division within Christianity “the only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.” 

In specific, Lewis had in mind books that put forth a “standard of plain, central Christianity which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.” Even though it is now 2020 and we are not facing the same controversies of 1944, Lewis’s commending the reading of On the Incarnation does, indeed, put our controversies in perspective.

My reflection led me to another thought: could I condense and conform my thoughts on Athanasius’s work into a poem to summarize what I had gained? As only a poetry-appreciator, not a poet, I set out to learn more about form and structure and settled on a simple sonnet.

The sonnet, I learned, allows for poems with musicality but also to be read in silence. The 14-line structure and rhyming patterns function “like a box” and since sonnets are often meant to focus on a person, I thought it a good form to follow for a poem on the incarnation of Christ.

The result of my reflections on this “old book” was, first, a sonnet for Advent, and now the following sonnet for Easter.** Thanks to C. S. Lewis, it has helped me to keep this remarkable year in proper perspective.

**Working from my summaries of Athanasius’s last five chapters, I sought to structure the three quatrains around each chapter, with the last focusing on the last three. I created a spreadsheet to aid in building each of the 14 lines in iambic pentameter and around a specific rhyming sequence and then edited to final form.

For further reading:

  • Athanasius, On the Incarnation: the treatise De incarnatione Verbi Dei, translated and edited by a religious of C.S.M.V. (Centenary Press, 1944).
  • C. S. Lewis, “Introduction,” in Athanasius, On the Incarnation (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996).
  • Peter Barnes, Athanasius of Alexandria: His Life & Impact (Christian Focus, 2019).
  • Rachel Richardson, “Learning the Sonnet,” Poetry Foundation, August 29, 2013.



For us, and our salvation, He came down—Starting 2020 with a Sonnet

For the last five weeks I’ve been re-reading a fourth century masterpiece.

While Athanasius’s On the Incarnation is remarkable, it was C. S. Lewis who termed it a ‘masterpiece’ in his famous introduction to a new English translation of Athanasius’s work.

As I read through the first three chapters of De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, I started summarizing each of the eighteen sections in my own words and soon realized the helpfulness of this exercise.

Reading this old book at the end of 2019 has served to accomplish for me what C. S. Lewis hoped it would. Lewis advised, then in 1944, that in an era of modern controversies and division within Christianity “the only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”

In specific, Lewis had in mind books that put forth a “standard of plain, central Christianity which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.” Even though it is now 2020 and we are not facing the same controversies of 1944, Lewis’s commending the reading of On the Incarnation does, indeed, put our controversies in perspective.

My reflection led me to another thought: could I condense and conform my thoughts on Athanasius’s work into a poem to summarize what I had gained? As only a poetry-appreciator, not a poet, I set out to learn more about form and structure and settled on a simple sonnet.

The sonnet, I learned, allows for poems with musicality but also to be read in silence. The 14-line structure and rhyming patterns function “like a box” and since sonnets are often meant to focus on a person, I thought it a good form to follow for a poem on the incarnation of Christ.**

The result of my reflections on this “old book” is the following sonnet. Thanks to C. S. Lewis, it has helped me to keep the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 in proper perspective.

——————————-

**Working from my summaries of Athanasius’s first three chapters, I sought to structure the three quatrains around each chapter. I created a spreadsheet to aid in building each of the 14 lines in iambic pentameter and around a specific rhyming sequence and then edited to final form.

In addition to my notes, the wording of “Athanasian Advent” was influenced by two other sources: the Ancient Christian Doctrine commentary on the Athanasian influenced Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and my annual listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from the King’s College Chapel.

For further reading:

  • Athanasius, On the Incarnation: the treatise De incarnatione Verbi Dei, translated and edited by a religious of C.S.M.V. (Centenary Press, 1944).
  • C. S. Lewis, “Introduction,” in Athanasius, On the Incarnation (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996).
  • Peter Barnes, Athanasius of Alexandria: His Life & Impact (Christian Focus, 2019).
  • John Anthony McGuckin, ed. Ancient Christian Doctrine, Vol. 2. (IVP, 2009).
  • “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols,” King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, December 24, 2019.
  • Rachel Richardson, “Learning the Sonnet,” Poetry Foundation, August 29, 2013.

Who’s On First: Liele or Carey? A Symphonious Approach to Assessing the First Modern Missionary

Last week I was in San Diego, California for the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society where I presented a paper assessing the implications of identifying who was the first modern missionary. What follows is an excerpt from the first half of that paper. The entire paper will function as the first chapter in a new volume that chronicles the history of the International Mission Board from Kregel Academic, forthcoming in 2020.

Who’s On First?

When historians classify historical figures in terms of who was first to do something, even when the figures did not think of themselves by such classifications, sometimes the historical accounts can read like the famous Abbott and Costello skit, “Who’s on First?”[1]  This is very much the case with the ongoing scholarship surrounding who was the first modern missionary or who should be termed “the Father of Modern Missions.” Sometimes, when I read these, a skit like this comes to my mind:

Who was on the mission field first?

That’s what I am asking, who?

Exactly.

Exactly what?

What’s on second?

I thought Judson was second. 

No, what’s on second. I don’t know is on third.

Who’s on first?

Exactly.

Who is on first, Liele or Carey?[2]

Who’s on first. I don’t know Liele or Carey.

So you don’t know Liele, Carey, or who’s on third?

Who’s on first!

Ah!

But, this skit aside, what is taking place among historians is important for it reveals that the entire story has not been told of who all helped propel Protestants to contribute to the growing task of global evangelism in the late 18th century. The purpose of this paper is to answer the question, “Who’s on First?” and does it matter? 

That is, this paper will acknowledge that George Liele was the first modern missionary and that it is right to consider William Carey the father of modern missions, but I hope to do more than that.[3] Yes, some dates and who did what on which day are vital for understanding the historical task, but George Liele’s contribution is far greater than just that he was first. I’m afraid in our efforts to reclaim him, we’ve also limited him. And then there is the matter of how he or Carey considered themselves. What would they make of all these titles? [4]

A Suggested Methodology

Among Baptist historians, there has been an ongoing methodological discussion about how best one is to interpret the Baptist tradition. Some have argued for a single source or “monogenesis” of great authority that anchors the Baptist tradition, which I argue in another essay, is largely an unhelpful contribution especially as it finds expression in ultra-successionist forms.[5]  Most have, instead, acknowledged that there is a multi-source or “polygenesis” influence that comprises the Baptist tradition.[6]  Baptists are a product of the Reformation, yes, but their organization formation comes in England later, for example.

In addition, another historian, William Brackney, has argued that a better way is to think of the various epochs of the Baptist movement is a “genetic approach that attempts to make a historical connection between the various streams of Baptist thought, while allowing for diversity in evolved thinking.”[7] This idea of searching for shared DNA, if you will, has merit, but I am afraid it sometimes loses theological precision.  Timothy George also used a genetics metaphor when describing his methodology, “Historical theology is the genetic study of Christian faith and doctrine …. [that] investigates the nuances and modalities, the developments and deviations, of the efforts of all Christians.”[8] I like the specificity here best as it attempts to find common doctrinal commitments and seeks to leave no person left behind.

What does this have to do with an assessment of the modern missions movement?  What I am suggesting with this essay is that historians are thinking in an unhelpful way about modern missions leaders when thinking merely in terms of chronology our progeny. However, this is not to say it is unhelpful to identify who might be the first to do something or from whom a tradition developed. I affirm those clarifying efforts.  Rather, I am saying that when assessing the modern missions movement, we need to do more than that if we are going to capture with faithfulness the movement itself.

Thus instead of monogenesis, polygenesis, or a genetic approach, I’d like to present what I call a symphonious approach for assessing the modern missions movement. This era in history is, after all, a movement, and much like the musical use of that term, we see much more similar themes: there are many diverse and complementary components that make up a symphony.  For the symphony to achieve its desired sound, all must play their part. Symphonies usually are comprised of four movements that each tell part of the story at different speeds and intensity.  

For example, when considering the Protestant Reformation, historians and theologians do not speak often in terms of who was the first Reformer or who is the Father of the Reformation.  Rather, those events and people in church history comprised a symphonic movement. Like its musical counterpart it had a prelude in Wyclif and Hus, struck its opening notes with Luther, and saw its development and full deployment in Zwingli, Calvin, and Cranmer. Complementing these major sections were a host of other Reformers, social and cultural events, and advancements in technology and translation, that, in their contexts and specific convictions, added to the color and depth of the symphony that was the Reformation.

Likewise, I argue, it is with the modern missions movement. The Reformers themselves played some parts of the initial piece, but the Moravians and others open the overture in its beginning. George Liele, then, represents the first section with a unique and influential contribution that many have overlooked, yet he mobilized and impacted many. Carey, shaped by all who went before gives a full, well-organized presentation, the DNA of such serves a refrain for later movements that include Americans, Adoniram and Ann Judson, and many other missions societies, organizations, and work. 

What is more, there are other figures who contribute to this symphony who have yet to be acknowledged. Timothy George notes the underappreciated John Sutcliff.[9] There are many women who advanced the cause of global missions during 1800-2000 who have not yet received full study. In addition, there is need to research the churches who sacrificed, those sent by the churches to check on the missionaries and send reports, and the printers and distributors of letters and pamphlets from the field—and much more. Thus, as far as titles and assessing the right chronology of the movement, I am arguing that it is more helpful to think of the modern missions movement like other movements in church history and to minimize the emphasis on titles in favor of assessing all the component parts and their unique contributions that serve to make up the movement as a whole.

The Shortstop

When historians and theologians analyze the modern missions movement in the ways they quantify other movements in the history of Christianity, seeing these leaders and each playing unique parts in one grand symphony appears to allow their voices and legacies to have appropriate appreciation and ongoing influence. This is in distinction to attempts to summarize one missionary or the other as “the first” or “the father” while minimizing their much larger contribution.

David Bebbington posits that, “The most important development in which Baptists participated during their four centuries of existence was the foreign missionary movement.”[10]  My argument has been that a symphonious approach to assessing that movement allows current researchers to see the full value and beauty of what the movement’s leaders were able to do in their lifetimes, not to mention all the supporting figures and trends that helped to strengthen the movement that have yet to be studied and shared.

As Stratford Caldecott reminds, “For every great change, every rebirth or renaissance in human culture, has been triggered by the retrieval of something valuable out of the past, making new, creative developments possible.”[11] I hope this assessment serves to help foster new and creative assessments of the modern missions movement for the sake of those who do not yet have a missions history.

Candidly, here at the end, many historians might respond to my clarifications and say, “Enough already, I don’t care who is on first or how is the best way to put it all together, just as long as the missions movement and its overlooked figures are studied and shared.” With that bottom-line sentiment, I would agree, but then, also would point out that, “I don’t care,” well, he is the shortstop.


[1] “‘Who’s on First?’ by Abbott and Costello,” The Baseball Almanac,

[2] The name George Liele can be found spelled also as Leile or Lisle.

[3] For the purposes of this paper, I define missionary as “one who crosses cultures to share the gospel.”  See Jason G. Duesing, “The Pastor as Missionary,” in Jason K. Allen, ed. Portraits of a Pastor (Moody, 2017).

[4] The full version of this essay includes a historical overview of the start of Protestant missions as well as biographical introductions to the main figures under consideration in this presentation.

[5] Jason G. Duesing, “Baptist Contributions to the Christian Tradition,” in Baptists and the Christian Tradition, Matthew Y. Emerson, Christopher W. Morgan, and R. Lucas Stamps, eds. (B&H Academic, 2020).

[6] See James M. Stayer, Werner Packull, and Klaus Deppermann, “From Monogenesis to Polygenesis: The Historical Discussion of Anabaptist Origins,” MQR 49:2 (Apr 1975): 83-121, and Malcolm B. Yarnell, The Formation of Christian Doctrine (B&H Academic, 2007), 7.

[7] William H. Brackney, A Genetic History of Baptist Thought (Mercer, 2004), 2-3.

[8] Timothy George, “Dogma Beyond Anathema: Historical Theology in the Service of the Church,” in Review & Expositor 4 (Fall 1987), 691.

[9] Timothy George, “Let it Go: Lessons from the Life of William Carey,” in Expect Great Things, Attempt Great Things, Allen Yeh and Chris Chun, eds., (Wipf & Stock, 2013), 8

[10] David W. Bebbington, Baptists Through the Centuries (Baylor, 2010) , 215.

[11] Stratford Caldecott, Beauty for Truth’s Sake (Brazos, 2009), 12.



Packer’s Dusty Puritan Discovery Still Guides and Helps

During J. I. Packer’s second year of undergraduate studies at Oxford, he was invited to serve as the junior librarian at the Christian Union student organization. Having been converted only a year earlier, Packer was new to the Union but, as he would soon discover, so were a recent donation of books. An octogenarian clergyman had recently concluded that he could no longer make use of his library and thus gave them to the Union who, upon receipt, proceeded to pile them in the basement of their meeting space in North Gate Hall for an unknown future.[1] Thereafter, as is now famously told and retold, Packer discovered, as a nineteen year-old, the works of the Puritan John Owen—and the evangelical world has not been the same since.

At the time of this discovery, Packer would later relate his life “was all over the place” emotionally and thus “God used [Owen] to save my sanity.” More than just sorting out Packer, his literal “recovery” of the Puritans would start a movement that not only would bring great and good revived interest in these evangelical forebears, but also would help provide an anchor to the Word of God during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s in the United Kingdom and abroad.

From this discovery, Packer would later help recover a more faithful understanding of Puritanism. He summarizes “the Puritanism of history” well in A Grief Sanctified (2002), “It was, rather, a holistic renewal movement within English-speaking Protestantism, which aimed to bring all life—personal, ecclesiastical, political, social, commercial; family life, business life, professional life—under the didactic authority and the purging and regenerating power of God in the gospel to the fullest extent possible.” [2]

Even more, Packer would spend a lifetime underscoring how the Puritans of the past can help Evangelicals of the present. As one example, Packer explains how reading the Puritans can correct the hyper-individualism and anti-thinking perspective that pervades Evangelicalism. In A Quest for Godliness (1990), Packer offers that the Puritans have these seven points of wisdom for present day Evangelicals:

  1. The stress on God-centeredness as a divine requirement that is central to the discipline of self-denial.
  2. The insistence on the primacy of the mind, and on the impossibility of obeying biblical truth that one has not yet understood.
  3. The demand for humility, patience, and steadiness at all times, and for an acknowledgment that the Holy Spirit’s main ministry is not to give thrills but to create in us Christlike character.
  4. The recognition that feelings go up and down, and that God frequently tries us by leading us through wastes of emotional flatness.
  5. The singling out of worship as life’s primary activity.
  6. The stress on our need of regular self-examination by Scripture, in terms set by Psalm 139:23-24.
  7. The realisation that sanctified suffering bulks large in God’s plan for his children’s growth in grace. [3]

One could argue, that had not Packer discovered that box of books, his tremendously influential and life altering works, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958) and Knowing God (1973), may never have appeared—not to mention the republishing of the Works of John Owen themselves as well as many other volumes in the Puritan canon readily available today. [4]

Even more, Packer’s discovery in Oxford proved vital for helping Evangelicals strengthen their theological foundation, and still is helping. May a new generation continue to follow Packer to make new discoveries like his of their own.

At Midwestern Seminary, we currently have several PhD students reading and writing on the Puritans and Puritan influence. From John Owen, Richard Baxter, and Jeremiah Burroughs, to the Puritan influence on the English Baptists, Jonathan Edwards and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and then also, of course, the influence of the Puritans on Charles Spurgeon, explored uniquely through his Puritan collection in The Spurgeon Library.

In brief, if you are interested in the Puritans and their legacy, continue the discovery work of J. I. Packer by coming to study them with us at Midwestern.

[1] The location where this took place is North Gate Hall, St Michael’s St, Oxford OX1 2DU, UK

[2] J. I. Packer, A Grief Sanctified (Crossway, 2002), 19.

[3] J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Crossway, 1990, 2010), 31.

[4] Leland Ryken, J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life (Crossway, 2015), 265-267. This key event in Packer’s life is also told in Alister McGrath, J. I. Packer: A Biography (Baker, 1998).

The Theological Educator as Sherpa

In 1943, C. S. Lewis gave three lectures in Durham later published in one volume as The Abolition of Man. [1] The first of these lectures he titled “Men Without Chests,” aimed as a critique of a recent volume that argued for the subjective nature of meaning in a book for school children. [2] The authors of that book, Lewis summarized, likely were attempting to “fortify the minds of young people against emotion.” [3]

However, Lewis countered, the challenge of the day for young people is not restraining or starving them of emotion, but rather awakening it and directing it toward what is just and true. The authors of the children’s book, Lewis concludes, are trying to build the intellect, but carve out the heart. In the end, what they create are men with minds but no heart. Men with intellect, but without chests, and yet we “expect of them virtue and enterprise.” Herein Lewis posits his corrective, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.” [4]

For the theological educator, the task is no different. In the twenty-first century there are jungles of competing worldviews, arguments, and approaches to theological education. In as much as the theological educator attempts only to cut these down as an intellectual exercise apart from understanding how theological instruction is a matter of the heart, he is only cutting that which will grow back. The question to ask, rather, is how should the theological educator irrigate the dry hearts of his students and stir their affections to that which is just and true?

In a recent article published in Permanent Things, I give a long-form presentation on the two ways I think theological educators can answer this question: that is by serving as shepherds and sherpas. What follows is the second half of that essay.

The Theological Educator as Sherpa

In Kathmandu, Kami Rita owns the record for scaling Mt. Everest at 22 times.[5] Rita is a climbing Sherpa employed by elite mountain climbers to aid them in their ascent of the world’s most treacherous peaks. Growing up in a village near the base of Mt. Everest, Rita and his siblings learned early the trade of guiding and surviving the feats that many often start but do not complete. The task of the theological educator in caring for and leading students to survive the feat of their educational goals mirrors the task of a climbing Sherpa in several ways.

The Invisible Sherpa Who Serves and Points

The theological educator cares best for his students when he adopts the lowly posture of a Sherpa. With this identity in mind, the educator can serve without conceding any ounce of experience or rank. The Sherpa, as the result of his years of experience, is the best one fit to serve. Just as the Sherpa comes alongside his clients and helps organize, direct, assemble, and lead, the theological educator does the same for students. The Sherpa is not a drill instructor or dictator leading by bravado or instilling fear in his clients, rather he educates and serves (Mark 10:45).

One of the prime ways the theological educator, in and out of the classroom, has the opportunity to serve students as a Sherpa is by taking time with them and by making time for them. Often this is as simple as modeling patience and understanding with any question asked in class or in public. When students see that even the most mundane of questions are taken with seriousness and without smirk in public, they are more willing to ask their vital questions in private. The theological educator serves students well when the student feels and knows they have an audience and a sincere ear in their professor and are not a burden or waste of time.

In my classes, I make a point early in the term to let students know that their questions and interests are not only a high priority for me, but also something I enjoy and value. As many are aware I have a full schedule of meetings and faculty concerns, sometimes they shy away from approaching me. I work to preclude this conclusion by telling them that time with students for me is like an intravenous reviving of my calling and outlook in the midst of several other tasks and meetings. I try to convey that I need them to approach me and ask me questions as a help for balance in my life.

Related to this, the theological educator can serve and assist his students well by working hard to ensure he is communicating often and with clarity to them. Just as clear communication from the Sherpa to those he is assisting is vital for a successful ascent, the theological educator must not assume he is connecting with his students. To put it another way, while relying upon “It says it in the syllabus” might be enough to deflect claims of professorial malpractice, it is not enough if the professor desires to serve and lead students toward growth and development. The theological educator as Sherpa assists students best when he strives to communicate in multiple ways, many venues, and with repetition to ensure that even that one student, who seems to care the least, comes to appreciate the course and subject matter.

In addition to serving, the Sherpa also accomplishes his task with excellence when he does so in a decreasing fashion (John 3:30). When a climbing Sherpa leads his client up the path to take his final few steps to the summit, the climber, in one sense, should be celebrating to the degree that he forgets the Sherpa is even there. He has mastered the mountain, followed the instructions, implemented his training, and accomplished something rare and significant. In the end, yes, the Sherpa assisted him up the mountain, but the climber did the climbing. Perhaps this is most evident in the moment when the climber poses for a photo at the summit. The Sherpa often is the one, as his job, to take the photo, not to be in the photo. For the Sherpa has done this many times before and will soon again lead others to this very point on another trip. For now, it is the climber’s moment and accomplishment.

Such it is for the theological educator who cares for students as a Sherpa. The educator’s posture is that of one who is gladly decreasing in presence and influence with time. As Jim Hunt counsels, the theological educator should think of himself like instructional gravity. “If you think of the qualities of gravity, then you have a fairly good image of what you should do in your position. You help hold things in place so that they do not escape the institutional orbit and you are invisible.” [6] The theological educator serves, assists, prepares, and instructs the students—i.e. holds them together, but it is the students who do the work and who fulfill the requirements for graduating with their degree.

The theological educator, in this sense, should, at some point in the student’s life and career, be forgotten, even while what was taught and given to the student remains. The theological educator’s legacy is not that he is remembered, but that the students have adopted what was taught and are changed by it for the service of others. At graduation, the theological educator should be the one taking the photo for he has done this before and will soon again lead others to that point after another semester.

Yet, though striving for invisibility, the theological educator also cares well as a Sherpa by his pointing. The climbing Sherpa cannot do his job with success if he does not point his client up and down the mountain. Sometimes this pointing involves directing the climber away from danger or leading them to pause with patience while a storm clears. Sometimes this pointing is designed to motivate the climber to persevere or renew his perspective so as not to drift from the task in action or thought. Sometimes the Sherpa points at himself so the climber can see how to climb or what he should do next.

The theological educator who seeks to care for students as a Sherpa should also take care to point in these ways. However, the danger for the instructor is that he can spend too much time pointing at himself. This can be inadvertent, but without care, the theological educator can easily view himself as Auteur and the students as a fan club. Instead, like the Sherpa, the theological educator should point outward most and for a purpose. The theological educator, in this sense, is like a poet, about who C. S. Lewis reminds, “The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him.” [7]

The Value of an Experienced Sherpa

The theological educator is able to carry out the task of caring for students as a Sherpa only through the knowledge and wisdom that comes from experience. The climbing Sherpa spends a lifetime learning his trade from others more experienced. He ventures on climbs several times a year throughout his life and, only thereby, does he build up stamina and experience. This discipline, and investment in his craft is what allows him to come to see the most challenging things as routine. The climbing Sherpa is an expert in his field, and this status is something he has earned over time.

Such it should be with the theological educator. Rare should it be that a brilliance alone equals readiness. For even the sharpest of climbing Sherpas are not ready to bear the weight and responsibility of leading a climb without tested and proven experience. The theological educator should welcome mentorship in teaching, writing, serving, and caring for students. His posture should be that of deference to those who have been “climbing” for years. The theological educator is an expert in his field only when he has mastered the content and also spent time teaching, writing, and putting that content into practice.

Further, the climbing Sherpa is seen as a professional only when he matures to the point of no longer seeking the praise of his clients or is enamored by the allure or fame or status. The theological educator as Sherpa, likewise, should not live for the approval of students even while he seeks to serve and assist them. The students need to be led and guided by a professional, not simply a friend who decided to join them for a “climb.” The theological educator as a professional is not impressed by knowledge alone or the fame of another scholar. Rather, over time, he has gained the virtue of discernment that comes only after seeing many other professors and scholars come and go.

The best of climbing Sherpas are marked by their wisdom that comes with creativity and longevity. Sherpas who climb year after year gain knowledge, but also experience. The experience of serving many different clients in a variety of conditions builds a storehouse of wisdom that cannot be taught or purchased. Further, many of the technological advancements that aid mountain climbers today are the direct result of Sherpas providing insight and ideas due to what they have seen and endured. For the experienced Sherpa has endured much, including sometimes, the tragedy of people falling.

The theological educator as Sherpa, too, is rewarded with wisdom that only comes with creativity and longevity. Years of serving and caring for students yields an opportunity for theological educators to grow and improve if they are willing to learn. The longer they serve, the theological educator can help shape the future of his field by sharing what he has learned and how he has adapted over the years to improve his craft. Innovation in instruction, educational delivery methods, and the use of technology, can all benefit from the influence of wisdom from seasoned theological educators. Further, the theological educator with earned wisdom can care for students the most, simply because of what they have seen and heeded. For longevity in serving brings wisdom to aid their students from falling (Jn 16:1).

Read the full article in the latest issue of Permanent Things.

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[1] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Harper Collins, 1944).

[2] Lewis referred to the volume anonymously as The Green Book, but the volume was Alec King and Martin Ketley, The Control of Language: A Critical Approach to Reading and Writing (New York: Longmans, Green, 1939). See Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol 2 (Harper Collins, 2004), 561n59.

[3] Lewis, The Abolition of Man, 13.

[4] Ibid., 13-14.

[5] “Sherpa guide Kami Rita climbs Everest for record 22nd time” The Guardian, May 16, 2018.

[6] Jim Hunt, “10 Years as a Provost,” Inside Higher Education, August 24, 2009.

[7] C. S. Lewis, “The Personal Heresy in Criticism,” in The Personal Heresy: A Controversy (Oxford University Press, 1939), 11.

The Poetry of Earth is Never Dead — Fall 2019 Chapel Message

In my house, my children have started calling me The Lorax as I like nature, the outdoors, trees, and often lead my children in their direction.

The Lorax, of course, is a famous Dr. Seuss character that speaks in defense of nature (in anapestic tetrameter no less), saying:

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues” [1].

But, the funny thing is, in our world, in so much as trees represent all that God has created, they do have “tongues” or at least they can speak and do speak for themselves. As one example, Psalm 19:1 explains that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

The English poet, John Keats, another Lorax-type, said in a poem reflecting on noise made daily by grasshoppers and crickets in summer and winter, said, “The poetry of earth is never dead” [2].

Indeed, God’s poem of creation speaks, but there is a limit to what creation can say. Yet, if what God created speaks to the world something about God, to what end does it speak, or why? And, most importantly, why does this revelation matter?

In a recent chapel message it was my aim to answer that question, for the answer is more important to living the Christian life than we might think. Using the Apostle Paul’s explanation in Romans 1:18-21, I examined the special value of General Revelation.

Basil of Caesarea (330-379), known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers or “Basil the Great,” said that God has given humanity two books to read. The Bible and “the whole world is as it were a book that proclaims the glory of God” [3].

As Christians have studied the Bible and developed theological terminology over the centuries, these two “books” have been classified as general and special revelation.

  • General Revelation is what God has revealed generally in creation about himself, his attributes, and his moral law.
  • Special Revelation is what God has revealed specifically in words about himself, his attributes, the gospel, the way of salvation, and much more in the Bible.

As I walked through Romans 1, the text makes clear that General Revelation has limits and Special Revelation is needed. From what God has revealed in creation, the peoples of the world can know that God exists, that he is holy and mighty, and that they’ve broken his moral law.

But without Special Revelation, they cannot know that he has provided a way for reconciliation, for forgiveness, for the transfer of his own righteousness to them through the substitutionary sacrifice of his own Son, Jesus, through his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Therefore, the special value of General Revelation is that it calls the believer simultaneously to praise God and proclaim God.

To put it another way, we as believers in Christ Jesus are like the Lorax. We are commissioned to go to the ends of the earth and “speak for the trees”—adding to the knowledge revealed to the world in creation by proclaiming the glory of God and the good news of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, until Jesus returns, the poetry of earth is never dead. Yet, the peoples of the earth won’t know Jesus without a preacher (Rom 10:14).

To hear the entire message you can watch this video:

————

[1] Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (Random House, 1971).

[2] John Keats, “On the Grasshopper and Cricket,” (1884).

[3] Hexaemeron, 11.4. See also Stephen M. Hildebrand, Basil of Caesarea (Baker, 2014), 37.

Thankfulness Always: Reflections on Five Years as Provost

August 1, 2019 marked my 5th anniversary of service at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College. At our annual faculty workshop, President Jason K. Allen asked me to take a few minutes to offer reflections on my time of service, which I’ve reproduced here as a brief essay.

To begin my time of reflection on five years as Provost at Midwestern Seminary, I’d like to start with a brief meditation on thankfulness as I think, as one old liturgy states, “It is right to give him thanks and praise.” I’ve organized my thoughts on thankfulness around three simple headings.

First, it is God’s will to be thankful, always.

As the Apostle Paul instructs, believers are to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:16–18).

Today you may find yourself wrestling with contentedness, discerning God’s will, or your present circumstances. You may be limping into the start of the semester. Or, you may be overjoyed with the blessings of God and so enthused that you cannot wait until Monday.

Regardless of where you find yourself today, it is God’s will to be thankful always.

Second, there is a reason to be thankful, always.

Listen to the 17th century Puritan Thomas Watson from his extended work on Romans 8:28:

“See what cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving. In this Christians are defective; though they are much in supplication, yet little in gratulation. The apostle says, ‘In everything give thanks’ (1 Thess 5:18). Why so? Because God makes everything work for our good.

“We thank the physician, though he gives us bitter medicine which makes us sick, because it is to make us well; we thank any man that does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God, who makes everything work for good to us? God loves a thankful Christian.

“Job thanked God when He took all away: ‘The Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21). Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He takes away, because he knew God would work good out of it.

“We read of saints with harps in their hands (Rev. 14:2), an emblem of praise. We meet many Christians who have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths; but there are few with their harps in their hands, who praise God in affliction. To be thankful in affliction is a work peculiar to a saint.

“Every bird can sing in spring, but some birds will sing in the dead of winter. Everyone, almost, can be thankful in prosperity, but a true saint can be thankful in adversity. A good Christian will bless God, not only at sun-rise, but at sun-set.” [1]

Because God is good and he does not change, there is a reason to be thankful, to God, for God, always.

Third, thankfulness is key to walking in the Spirit and defeating the evil one, always.

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Tolkien shares how the names of weapons the heroes used were so named because they described how they defeated evil. [2] Biblo Baggins names his sword “Sting” after defeating the spiders in Mirkwood. Thorin Oakenshield’s sword is named Orchrist, meaning Goblin-cleaver, and Gandalf’s sword is named Glamdring, meaning Foe-Hammer.

God has given us a similar weapon named Thankfulness that functions with the armor of God to extinguish the flames of the evil one and aids us in putting sin to death.

For example, Paul ends his beautiful teaching of what the believer should “put off” and “put on” in Colossians 3, with the phrase “and be thankful.” He then concludes in verse 17 with the summary admonition, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Therefore, when facing temptation, the believer should go on the offensive and “Set your minds on things that are above” and be thankful. When blessings come, the believer should “give thanks to God” rather than think highly of himself. Or, as is my task today, when thinking back on 5 years, we should start with thankfulness.

My Reflections of Thankfulness

Therefore, it is good and right to give thanks, always. And when thinking about serving five years as Provost, I have a few reflections. But this is more than mere nostalgia. It is a time of intentional thanksgiving and “setting our minds on things above” for offensive warfare against the one that would steal our joy or cloud our minds or distract our hearts. Giving thanks today is a way of taking captive thoughts at the start of the school year for good and God’s glory.

Thus, for five years, I have five general categories for which I am thankful. And as I work through these categories, I invite you to think through the last year or five years or 20 years and think of things for which you are thankful as well. For, in one major sense, I am merely a representative of all of us who have the privilege of serving here at this great school.

  1. People – I am thankful for the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the people who make up those churches. I am thankful for our President, Jason K. Allen, from whom I have learned much in five years. I am thankful for our faculty, colleagues, students, and staff. On the horizontal plane of service here on earth, people are more important than anything. I like systems, I like improvements, I like winning, but none of those are made in the image of God. None of those are eternal beings. None of those can love and be loved. I am thankful most for the people I have encountered over the last five years.
  2. Progress – I am thankful for the revitalization, growth, advancement, and goal achievement we have seen here. Those who care to read of the history of institutions will enjoy reading about God’s work at this school in recent years. But more important than that is what the progress represents in terms of Kingdom advancement. I am thankful for the progress and enjoy celebrating wins with the people.
  3. Provision / Providence – I am thankful that through the challenges that have come, God has been faithful to work all things for good. God gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
  4. Protection – I am thankful that God has protected us from catastrophic errors, from foolishness, from sin, from conflict, from the unseen and unknown. Midwestern Seminary is a happy place. It is a human place, to be sure, but I am thankful for how God has protected us.
  5. Pointing – C. S. Lewis said, “The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him.”[3] I am thankful that Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College are places that point for the church and for the kingdom. How refreshing and joyful it is to serve at a place that does not ask the world to “look at us” but rather is consistently saying, “look at that” and the more people follow our pointing the more they love the gospel, love the church, love the kingdom, love the nations and most of all, love God.

Thankfulness always is the way out.

In one of my favorite television shows, an older character tells a younger character, who has been struggling and stumbling, this story to encourage him and remind him he is not alone. He says:

“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.

“A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

“Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

“Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole.

Our guy says, ‘Are you crazy? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'” [4]

Or to summarize in another way from 1 Corinthians: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

When in doubt or whatever your circumstances, pursue thankfulness, for thankfulness is always God’s will, there is always a reason to be thankful, and it is an effective weapon against the schemes of the evil one. Whether you’ve served here for 5 years, 1 year, 20 years, or one day, remember this:

You can always trust Him and give thanks to Him, for he’s been down here before and He knows the way out.

——-

[1] Thomas Watson, All Things for Good [1653] (Banner of Truth, 2013), 62-63.

[2] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Chapter VIII, “Flies and Spiders.”

[3] C. S. Lewis, “The Personal Heresy in Literary Criticism” (1939).

[4] The West Wing, “Noel.”

The Christian, Art, and Rediscovering John the Baptist

One of the more memorable experiences I have had in an art museum occurred seven years ago. My doctoral supervisor, and then colleague, invited me and one of his soon-to-graduate PhD students [1] to the Kimbell Art Museum to view Caravaggio’s “Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness” (1604).

As a part of a study abroad program, the three of us had toured museums in England where our mentor had shown us the merits and benefits of how to enjoy art, and the relationship of Christianity and the arts. Thus, when the invitation came to go to the Kimbell, I was glad to accept though I had not seen before anything by Caravaggio.

My professor explained that this was a painting he could spend an extended amount of time just appreciating its magnificence. While I appreciated art, I had not built up the stamina or skills to spend much more than an instructional time in observation, so I was not sure what to expect.

When we arrived at the Kimbell, my professor led us to the painting. There was a large crowd milling about as Caravaggio’s work was there on loan as a part of a larger exhibit. My professor made some helpful instructional remarks and I read the accompanied description. We positioned ourselves to observe the painting from a short distance as the crowd lilted around, before, and behind us.

And then as if trapped in a time-lapse video, we, in silence, just gazed.

The more I looked and fought off distraction and a shortening attention span, the more I began to see things I had not before seen. The more I settled in and helped my mind to realize there was “nothing next” and that I wasn’t soon leaving, the more I saw the brilliance of what was painted. I noticed choice of color, positioning of the figure, background detail, and, of course, the wonderful use of light and shadow.

This was not a mystical experience nor was there anything mysterious about the painting that revealed itself only to those who could stare the longest. No, the reward came, like in any discipline, in giving one’s mind and heart uninterrupted time to reflect and appreciate.

Through this experience and others, as a Christian viewing works of art, whether art specifically designed to illuminate truth revealed in the special revelation of the Bible or truth revealed generally in creation, I’ve come to develop a few questions to guide my reflection and observation.

  • How does this work glorify God? Whether through the gifts given to the artist or to the works or attributes of God depicted in the art itself, this is a helpful question to search for the answer. For not all art glorifies God nor is edifying to review or contemplate. And often, God-glorifying art is created by flawed artists–the artist need not always have pure motives or an impeccable life to produce God-glorifying art.
  • What is good, true, and beautiful about this work? [2] And how does this work point to truth revealed in general revelation and special revelation? Paul Munson and Joshua Farris Drake remind that God made things beautiful, and reveals beautiful things, “to reflect his own beauty. And if God is beautiful, and if his creation is beautiful, then there is an objective measure for beauty, and we can think critically about it” [3]. To be sure, there is a subjective element to the evaluation and appreciation of art, and what one calls good, another may disagree. However, the Christian knows there is an objective standard to goodness, truth, and beauty and thus should evaluate all art by that basic standard.
  • What can I appreciate about the talents and techniques used by my fellow human being, the artist? Philip Ryken expounds on God’s giving skill and gifts in “all kinds of crafts” in Exodus 31 as evidence that God loves art and artists [4]. Just as we appreciate the skill of a spectacular soloist, or an elite athlete, or simply a brilliant coworker, we can appreciate the work of an artist.

When these questions are applied to Caravaggio’s “Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness,” there is much to observe and much to learn.

  • Caravaggio’s work glorifies God in his portrayal of the humanity of John the Baptist, and thus his faithfulness to the biblical account. This is not iconography or an attempt at a image designed to replace the reading of the Bible. It is an instructive piece.
  • Caravaggio’s specific depiction of John the Baptist evokes thoughts of what is good, true, and beautiful about John’s life and ministry. Here one sees John as contemplative, as one living among the discomforts of the desert and his camel’s hair clothing, “crying in the wilderness” (Mt 3:3-4), and fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah. One sees the depiction of a man bearing a cross-shaped reed, as one who is like a reed not shaken by the wind (Mt 11:7). This is a painting of a man who knows he is not worthy of untying the sandals of the Messiah (Jn 1:27). This is a “holy and righteous man” (Mk 6:20) of whom Jesus said there is “no one greater” (Mt 11:11), yet he is one who would prefer the shadow to Christ’s light. The arrival of John marked the end of the Law and the Prophets (Lk 16:16). He, filled with the Holy Spirit, came “to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Lk 1:17). The Baptist was one who aimed to decrease, not increase (Jn 3:30). This painting shows a man who will lose his head for proclaiming truth (Jn 6:27).
  • Caravaggio’s use of light and shadow is captivating as, though it is easy to forget in our digital age, this was painted long before the invention of the photograph. Further, his choice of color, his positioning of his figure, and the life-like size of the painting are all aspects of Caravaggio’s genius that make this painting “worth seeing” in person.

The wonders of my experience seeing Caravaggio’s “John the Baptist” for the first time returned to me, in a surprise rediscovery, this week. As I was making some notes for a family trip to the Nelson-Atkins museum in Kansas City, I found that the permanent home of Caravaggio’s painting was, in fact, the Nelson-Atkins. The painting that my professor led me to as a special event to see in person several years ago, resides here in my town.

Thus, I can now venture out to see that “reed in the wilderness” and share with others what my professor shared with me.

———

For my visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, I made these quick notes that I am happy to share with any interested in seeing some of the collection. There is much more to see than this list.

[1] My doctoral supervisor was Malcolm B. Yarnell III. Our friend and colleague who joined us was W. Madison Grace II.

[2] Roger Scruton, Beauty: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011), explains that the triad classification of the true, the good, and the beautiful originated with Plato and Plotinus. Yet, Christian thinkers recognized this formula as consistent with biblical truth as well. Scruton states that Aquinas regarded these as “‘trancendentals’ — features of reality possesed by all things, since they are aspects of being, ways in which the supreme gift of being is made manifest to the understanding.” See also, John Levi Martin, “The Birth of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful: Toward and Investigation of the Structures of Social Thought,” in Reconstructing Social Theory, History, and Practice 35 (2017): 3-56; and Harry L. Poe, “The Good, the True, and the Beautiful,” in See No Evil: The Existence of Sin in an Age of Relativism (Kregel, 2004).

[3] Paul Munson & Joshua Farris Drake, Art and Music: A Student’s Guide (Crossway, 2014).

[4] Philip Graham Ryken, Art for God’s Sake (P&R, 2006). See also Jerram Barrs, “How Do We Judge the Arts?,” in Echoes of Eden (Crossway, 2013), and Clyde S. Kilby, The Arts and the Christian Imagination (Mount Tabor, 2016).

On First Looking into Spurgeon’s Sermons

In 1816, poet John Keats wrote a sonnet to describe the delight and awe he experienced when reading the works of Homer in English for the first time. While Keats knew Latin, he did not know Greek and thus had no access to Homer until a friend introduced him one night to a translation by the Elizabethan author, George Chapman.

Keats and friend spent the evening reading Homer aloud and by morning, Keats had written, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” to capture the wonder he felt with what he had read. [1] Keats wrote, in part:

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;

Rare is the work that causes the reader to feel like an astronomer who discovers a new planet, but that was Keats’s experience reading Homer.

As one who reads a variety of books, papers, and articles, I, too, have had this experience from time to time while reading. Of course, it goes without saying that reading the divine, living, and active Word of God (Heb 4:12) allows the believer in Christ, filled by the Holy Spirit, to experience this awe and illumination on a supernatural level. Yet, rarely, have I experienced what Keats’s describes when reading a human author. But, when I have, it is life changing.

Over the last year, I have had such an experience whilst reading the earliest sermons of Charles Spurgeon. Written during 1851-1854 during the time of his first pastorate in Waterbeach, near Cambridge, these sermons are more than the early “trial-runs” of a young preacher. Yes, Spurgeon was 16-19 years old at the time, but even then his God-given gifts of genius and zeal were on display.

The sermons I have been reading are those he recorded in notebooks that are only recently seeing publication. Spurgeon had desired to publish these sermons himself as early as 1857, but the “pressure of rapidly-increasing work” kept them from wider reading.[2]

In 2017, B&H Academic started what will become a nine volume series to publish all 400 of Spurgeon’s “lost sermons.” I’ve been asked to edit the fourth volume of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon (due out from B&H Academic in November 2020) and through this process I’ve come to know again how Keats’s felt when reading Homer.

Waterbeach was a rural community that Spurgeon described as “a village notorious for its drunkenness and profanity.”[3] As Spurgeon continued to preach his sermons and record them in his notebooks, he discerned a significant spiritual roadblock within the congregation, Antinomianism.

He relates, “In my first pastorate, I had often to battle with Antinomians,–that is, people who held that, because they believed themselves to be elect, they might live as they liked. I hope that heresy has to a great extent died out, but it was sadly prevalent in my early ministerial days.”[4]

As a result, many of the sermons in this volume address topics related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and sanctification, perseverance, holiness, and hypocrisy. As one example, in his 210th sermon, Spurgeon declares:

“This will touch those who are the most moral. Religion is attended to because it is respectable and helps business. But we ought to have a single eye to God’s glory. Business, the world, are followed so hotly and religion too cooly. Surely this is God and Baal. But no. God must be our aim. His service, our delight. When we are too anxious or too elevated by our affairs, there is much danger. Hands too full make a heart too dull. May God make us wholly his.”[5]

He then continues, showing that the path to sincere and pure devotion to God is through Scripture alone:

“We must not have a creed partly founded on Scripture and part on Man. It must be wholly what the Bible says and not at all what John Calvin, John Wesley, John Gill, or any mortal man says. Not the Bible and the Prayer-book, nor the Hymn Book.

“No arguments must be allowed from tradition for infant sprinkling or believer’s immersion either. No pope, no canons, no synods, decrees, Nicene creed, or Athanasian creeds. If experience, so called, opposes Scripture, throw it away. We must not aim so much at consistency with ourselves as with the Word of God.”[6]

During his years at Waterbeach, the Baptist Church grew and many from the town came to hear Spurgeon and were converted.  As Spurgeon’s Autobiography relates, “it pleased God to turn the whole place upside down. In a short time, the little thatched chapel was crammed, the biggest vagabonds of the village were weeping floods of tears, and those who had been the curse of the parish became its blessing.”[7]

As I have wrapped up my editorial work of these sermons, I can only join Susannah Spurgeon in her assessment that these earliest sermons “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 discourses to the Church and the world, for the glory of God and the good of men.”[8]

Indeed, like Keats, on first looking into Spurgeon’s sermons, I have found joy and awe in the work of Spurgeon, the man, but also in the work of Spurgeon’s God to whom Spurgeon’s sermons point on every page.


To learn more about The Lost Sermons project or Charles Spurgeon, see the home of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Seminary, which houses 6,000 volumes from Spurgeon’s personal library in Kansas City, Missouri.