(One’s level of piety, whether devotional or practical, depends much on knowledge being either learned or misconceived. In these analyses we have made mention, occasionally, of books that either help or hinder the grand object of piety. It seems natural, consequently, to supplement the analyses, now and again, with correlating book reports.)
GABOURY'S CRITICAL BOOK REPORT
C. H. Spurgeon, Revival Year Sermons (1859;
: The Banner of Truth Trust,
2002), 96 pp. Carlisle, Pennsylvania
What strikes me right away is the Calvinism of Spurgeon’s preaching, very conspicuous in these five sermons, and in the Publisher’s Introduction. His emphasis on that System he justifies by an appeal to the meaning of Scripture. Concerning ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ he forcibly expounds, “When the body is dead it is powerless; it is unable to do anything for itself; and when the soul of a man is dead, in a spiritual sense, it must be, if there is any meaning in the figure, utterly and entirely powerless, and unable to do anything of itself or for itself” (p. 52.) There is total inability in that point, total depravity. And this one point is sufficient to direct us to the other four. I think that is what Spurgeon is getting at when he says, “But once get the correct view, that man is utterly fallen, powerless, guilty, defiled, lost, condemned, and you must be sound on all points of the great gospel of Jesus Christ” (pp. 53, 54.) That System is of the gospel. Spurgeon would say, and did, “Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else” (p. 16.) The Holy Spirit is not shy to use such inflexibility to cause revival.
How does a young preacher preach, sometimes as much as ten times in a week, and put together sermons of this caliber for the preaching? One thing, he was loyal to a theological scheme that he believed with all his heart to be correct: “The faithful minister must be plain, simple, pointed, with regard to these doctrines. There must be no dispute about whether he believes them or not” (p. 83.) The foundation and framework he never had to adjust; he worked on a solid floor enclosed in partitions already erected. That saves a lot of time. “After revising his early sermons for publication many years later, he wrote, ‘I was happy to find I had no occasion to alter any of the doctrines’” (p. 17.) Even on limited atonement, the most inflammatory point of all, he is shamelessly direct: “Nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross” (p. 16.) But still, as the case should always be, Spurgeon’s call to sinners was universal: “Oh, sinner, thy life is short, and death is hastening. Thy sins are many…Turn, turn, turn, I beseech thee” (p. 96.) Not surprisingly, he adds, “May the Holy Spirit turn thee.” A preacher confirmed in the doctrine of total depravity cannot help but accent a need for the Spirit.
Revival Year Sermons is full of meaningful content. There is doctrine and uncompromising evangelism here, but also a good bit of history and experience. More particularly, there is an instructive speech on sovereignty and responsibility, those two ‘apparently contradictory’ terms; advice on how to preach sin; encouragement for the called; fiery entreaties for those who might be called; and everything lit up by the ‘five great lights which radiate from the cross of Christ’ (pp. 12, 13.)
Content: A (First rate sermons.)
Style: A (First rate illustrations.)
Tone: A (First rate communication.)
Grading Table: A: a keeper: reread it; promote it; share it.
B: an average book: let it go.
C: read only if you have to.