The Peculiar Preparation of the Prince of Preachers
Charles Haddon Spurgeon is often called, The Prince of Preachers. But the first time I heard his name, I wasn't thinking sermons ... I was thinking sardines. His name made me think of three kinds of fish:
- Charles = Charlie, the Tuna (of StarKist Tuna fame)
- Haddon = Haddock (a fish similar to a perch)
- Spurgeon = Sturgeon (another fish)
But since that time, Spurgeon's words (especially his book, Lectures to My Students) and life have influenced me in profound ways. More than once, his words have hooked my soul. Here are staggering data points on his life:
- He read The Pilgrim's Progress as a six-year-old and over 100x during his life.
- He preached 600+ sermons before reaching the age of 20.
- He typically read 6 books per week and had a near photographic memory.
- He had a 12,000 volume library, which he'd read.
- For a typical sermon, he usually had just one page of notes.
- He was an intimate friend of Hudson Taylor and George Mueller.
- He once said, "I take my text and make a beeline to the Cross."
- Once chastised by a church member for injecting too much humor into a sermon, Spurgeon responded, "Madam, if you knew how much I restrained myself, you would commend me."
- The theme for his Sunday morning sermons was usually chosen on Saturday night, and the theme for Sunday evening sermons was selected on Sunday afternoon.
Wow. And he could preach. Someone once said, whimsically, that ...
"... preaching is the art of speaking in someone else's sleep."
That's funny. But, believe it or not, Spurgeon once had an experience where he was literally preaching in his own sleep!
One Saturday night, apparently from exhaustion, Spurgeon fell asleep before preparing his sermon for the next morning. However, he began talking in his sleep. Taking up pen and paper, his wife Susannah wrote down the things Spurgeon said in his sleep, handing her notes to him in the morning. He used those notes to preach the sermon to his 6,000 member congregation!
Wow. As a communicator, I don't recommend that method of preparation! Too risky!
However ... years ago, I was asked to give a Sunday evening sermon at a wonderful church in El Dorado, AR. As I stood to deliver my sermon, I related the story above, of how Spurgeon's sleep-talking became his sermon notes. I continued:
"Just like Charles Spurgeon, I fell asleep this afternoon before preparing my sermon notes for this evening. I took a long nap, but fortunately, my dear wife Paula was right there to record my mumblings on paper. I've brought that piece of paper with me tonight, and I'd like to read it for you. It reads as follows:
Zzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzz. (just the sound of snoring).
I laughed so hard telling that story that the congregation joined in a good guffaw, at my expense. Then I proceeded with my actual sermon notes, which I'd prepared well in advance. I'm no Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Shoot, I'm hardly Charlie the Tuna! But Christ deserves my best efforts whenever I speak publicly.
Now, where is my NyQuil? I've got a sermon to prep.