Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 – 1892) is often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers.” He served at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and he was also the founder and president of the Pastor’s College in London. During his early teenage years, he came to faith in Christ and even a century following his death, his many works still remain relevant. Many scholars agree Lecture To My Students to be his greatest work because of the timeless principles taught within its pages. Spurgeon offered his students and readers: practical advice, sound wisdom, and personal insights, all of which still have application today. It is estimated during his lifetime, he published over 1900 original sermons, each being original and thought provoking. God divinely inspired Spurgeon’s sermons, as he sought to bring honor and glory to Christ alone. The teachings done by Spurgeon in these twenty-eight lectures are perhaps some of the greatest tools to becoming great pastors.
Spurgeon emphasized, “The minister must take care that his personal character agrees in all respects with is ministry.” This was an area that did not win Spurgeon much support, especially when it came to his opposition to slavery and Dispensationalism, but nonetheless, Spurgeon remained un-wavered despite what his critics said. Spurgeon regularly spoke on the call to ministry saying, “There must be an intense, all-absorbing desire for work, they must possess an aptness to teach and some measure of the other qualities for the office of pastor, they must see a measure of conversion-work going on under his efforts, and his preaching should be acceptable to the people of God.” Spurgeon sought to produce genuine pastors who had a sincere calling to ministry and a heart for sharing the gospel. As Gordon Franz illustrates, his conversion profoundly impacted how he seized every opportunity to advance the gospel.
As a teenager he wanted to know God. He went to a local church on a cold, snowy, wintry day. When he got to the meeting, there was only the preacher and one other person at the service. The preacher could have called off the service because there were only two people in the audience, but he didn’t. He preached on John 3, the serpent in the wilderness, and said “Look and live.” That morning, Charles Spurgeon looked to the Lord Jesus and trusted Him as his personal Savior and received the free gift of eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, and a home in heaven. One wonders if the preacher realized the impact this young lad would have on the world on that snowy morning.
Spurgeon also emphasized the importance of enduring trials for those who are called to ministry by demonstrating, “The devil is abroad, and with him are many. Prove your own selves, and may the Lord prepare you for the crucible which assuredly awaits you.” To endure these seasons, Spurgeon stresses the importance of consistent prayer saying, “Nothing can gloriously fit you to preach as descending fresh from the mount of communion with God.” Prayer is vital to maintaining intimacy with God and this is why Spurgeon emphasizes the importance of a private and public prayer life. Both of them are matters of the heart and they keep the believer connected to the vine. Spurgeon was also very open with his own personal health and emotional issues that he faced in ministry, which was refreshing to see how he explained, “Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression.” Ministry can be extremely lonely, as most pastors isolate themselves to prevent any potential hurt that may result from allowing anyone to become close. As pastors, Spurgeon continues to stress the importance of knowing that people are always watching. Regardless of what season of life a pastor may find himself or herself in, people are always watching to see how he or she will respond.
There is no denying this is one of Spurgeon’s greatest works. By providing application and real life examples, which shows pastors how they should conduct themselves, he establishes, “Wherever [and whenever] is, he is a minister, and he is always on duty.” By injecting personal stories and illustrations into his lectures, it makes practical application much easier to employ. This is an area that is often difficult to navigate, since being a minister often encompasses all areas of pastor’s lives. Additionally, it can be very difficult to delineate the public and private life of the pastor, to which Spurgeon encourages pastor to be open about. This is a great model for today’s congregations because if the congregation knows that pastors struggle with the same issues, it can be easier to talk and preach on them. Over the years, too many topics in the church have become taboo. This mistake has caused major issues facing the church today to be rarely talked on from the pulpit, leaving the people to turn to each other and the world for answers.
While Spurgeon encourages pastors to be in a constant state of ministerial progress, he also challenges those in ministry to go to the remote places where the cross of Christ is still unknown. This is fundamental is his teaching as he emphasizes sermons must have relevant and sound teaching in them and that doctrine must be clear and unmistakable. Charles Swindoll says, “If there’s a mist in the pulpit, there’s a fog in the pew!” Without a clear purpose and a destination for the message, Spurgeon displays how easy it is to lose the sheep that are already lost. Spurgeon says the pastor must also, “Avoid speaking the Word when the Word is still unclear to [him or her. Instead, he urges the pastor to] endeavor to keep the matter of your sermonizing as fresh as you can, by letting your teachings grow and advance.” He goes on to explain “sermon” means to thrust and “We are not called to proclaim philosophy and metaphysics, but the simple gospel.” Since the inception of the early church, there has been a widening gap in the multidenominational faiths that exist. The world has come to know more what the church is against than what it is for and Spurgeon could not be more correct in his assertion that, “Justification by faith should be far more than it is the daily testimony of Protestant pulpits… If with the zeal of Methodists we can preach the doctrine of Puritans a great future is before us: the fire of Wesley and the fuel of Whitfield will cause a burning which shall set the forests of error on fire, and warm the very soul of this cold earth.”
One of the primary drawbacks to a classic book like this is the language can be difficult to understand, which can lead to some of his illustrations being lost in translation. Overall, the principles Spurgeon teaches are timeless, but just as the gospel never changes, sometimes the way it is presented must be adapted. This is also a rather large volume of work, which makes all the principles present invaluable, but without a step-by-step approach, it could potentially lose some of its significance if not employed correctly. Other areas that could be contested deal with Spurgeon’s view on spiritualizing and the use of liturgy. Despite any of these views, it does not take away from the greater work and Spurgeon’s goal of producing genuine and sincere pastors.
While some may view this great work to be outdated, nothing could be further than the truth. By illustrating the positive and negative principles in a pastor’s life, Spurgeon offers anyone considering ministry one of the best road maps to long-term success and ways to avoid burnout or moral failure. Anyone reading this work, will find multiple areas of conviction and his emphasis on prayer and continually reading God’s Word shows the importance on maintaining intimacy with God, which is the key to serving in any form of pastoral ministry. Without God as the sustaining force and source of strength, anyone who holds the office of pastor is simply a man or woman. However, when God is added to the equation, He becomes the catalyst that equips and empowers the pastor to accomplish the vision and mission that God has set before him or her and the church.
Spurgeon, Charles. Lectures To My Students: Complete and Unabridged. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1979, 453 pp. $19.99 (Paperback).
 Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, 26-32.
 Gordon Franz, “A Tribute To Dr. David Livingston,” – Bible and Spade 22, no. 3 (Summer), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 91.
 Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, 40.
 Ibid., 45.
 Ibid., 156.
 Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, 167.
 Ibid., 205-218.
 Ibid., 70 & 77.
 Ibid., 78.
 Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, 79.
 Ibid., 79.