The Unforgettable Spurgeon: Reflections on His Life and Writings

By Eric Hayden
Greenville, SC : Emerald House/Ambassador (1997). 239 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
9.1 (Spring 1998) : 109-110

The author, a former pastor of Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle during the 1940’s and 50’s, has made a life study of the famous "Prince of Preachers" and has written several other works related to Spurgeon and his life. This latest effort is the author's distillation of excerpts from The Sword and Trowel when Spurgeon was its editor (1865-1892), excerpts that reflect Spurgeon's views on various issues of theology and ministry.

The Sword and Trowel, as Hayden points out, is almost "autobiographical" (8), for this is where Spurgeon dealt with the great issues (both religious and secular), printed his book reviews, and gave occasional information on his own personal and family life and the varied ministries connected with the Tabernacle. It is a vast wealth of information on the man and the era which unfortunately most biographers have tended to ignore (7). Part of the reason is perhaps that the volumes are not easily obtained, especially in the United States. Pilgrim Publishing of Pasadena, Texas, has reprinted some of them, but they have only seen fit to condense the material actually written by Spurgeon, and they have not yet completed even that part of the project.

Anyone who is interested in Spurgeon will profit from this work. All the chapters have something of both profit and interest. The chapters on "Calvinism and Arminianism" (115-22), "Inspiration and Translation" (103-14), "Revival and Renewal" (159-68), "Anglicanism and Romanism" (51-62), and "Suffering and Healing" (183-92) will make the reader wonder whether Spurgeon was writing in our own era. The final chapter, "Odds and Ends" (199-239), is something of an anthology giving Spurgeon's observations on various issues and displaying his wellknown humor and occasional sharp wit. One such observation was Spurgeon’s review of a particular book: "Many of our modern theological treatises are so devoid of real substance that we are reminded of the chicken-broth which the sick husband returned to his wife, with the urgent request that she would coax the chicken to wade through it once more" (229).

The parallels between evangelicalism in Spurgeon's Victorian England and the present have been noted by many (most recently, see John F. MacArthur, Jr., Ashamed of the Gospel [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1993]). The observations of Spurgeon on the condition of the church in his day and his warnings to the church are for the most part ignored. The author has provided a service to this generation, bringing those observations and warnings to the modern reader.