I have very much enjoyed this devotional this year, and fully intend to do it again in the coming year, this time with my wife. From First Things:
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a cigar-smoking Baptist pastor in Victorian London whose influence, even in his own lifetime, extended far beyond the bounds of his own nation and denomination. Known as “the boy wonder of the fens” for his notable preaching in the villages of Cambridgeshire, Spurgeon took London by storm when he was only nineteen years of age.
Though derided by some as an “Essex bumpkin” for his countrified ways and lack of university training, Spurgeon’s congregation soon numbered in the thousands. In fact, each week more than six-thousand persons thronged to his famous Metropolitan Tabernacle. Spurgeon was a megachurch pastor before megachurches were cool. On occasion, Prime Minister William Gladstone came to hear him preach, as did Her Majesty herself according to some reports. By all accounts, Spurgeon was a pulpit spellbinder, “dramatic to his fingertips,” as one observer put it.
Spurgeon was also a public theologian. He spoke out on the Irish question, opposed military adventures of imperial Britain, and cared deeply about the plight of the urban poor, especially neglected and mistreated children. His “all-round ministry” included many charitable works. One of these was an orphanage he organized to care for the many Oliver Twists who roamed the streets of London.
Many thousands of people who never heard or met Spurgeon in person were influenced by his vast literary output. Some four-thousand different Spurgeon sermons were published during his life, and the sixty-three-volume Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit includes many others as well. Today, websites, research centers, and entire libraries are devoted to Spurgeon, his theology, his social impact, and his place in the history of global Christianity. One of these is the recently founded Charles H. Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, which owns more than six-thousand books from Spurgeon’s personal library. (My son, Christian T. George, who directs this center, is currently editing a new cache of hitherto unpublished early Spurgeon sermons.) The recent documentary by Canadian filmmaker Stephen McCaskell, “Through the Eyes of Spurgeon,” explores Spurgeon’s role in nineteenth-century Victorian Britain, his evangelical Calvinism, and his continuing impact among Christians of all denominations around the world today.
Among Spurgeon’s many published works that remain in print today is the devotional classic Morning and Evening. Originally published in two volumes, Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening, Spurgeon’s daily meditations were brought together in a single volume in 1869 and has never been out of print since then. Some of Spurgeon’s exegesis will not please modern biblical scholars, for he often sounds more like Athanasius or Bernard of Clairvaux (especially on the Song of Songs) than he does Benjamin Jowett or David Friedrich Strauss. Deeply rooted in the Puritan tradition, Spurgeon read Bunyan’s famous allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, more than one hundred times. But he does not hesitate to offer figural readings of the Bible, drawing on patristic, medieval, and Reformational patterns of interpretation.
Morning and Evening was not meant as a substitute for common prayer and public worship but rather as an aid to personal spiritual reflection. The beginning and the ending of each day are important times for such meditations. “The morning is the gate of the day and should be well-guarded with prayer,” Spurgeon wrote. “It is one end of the thread on which the days’ actions are strung and should be well-knit with devotion. If we felt the majesty of life more, we would be more careful of its mornings. He who rushes from his bed to his business and does not wait to worship is as foolish as if he had not put on his clothes or washed his face. He is as unwise as one who dashes into battle without being armed.” Likewise, at the end of each day “it is dangerous to fall asleep till the head is leaned on Jesus’ bosom. . . . He surely never prays at all who does not end the day as all men wished to end their lives—in prayer. . . . To breakfast with Jesus and to sup with him also is to enjoy the days of heaven upon the earth.”
Here are Spurgeon’s meditations for the final day of the year:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”
Patience had her perfect work in the Lord Jesus, and until the last day of the feast he pleaded with the Jews, even as on this last day of the year he pleads with us, and waits to be gracious to us. Admirable indeed is the longsuffering of the Saviour in bearing with some of us year after year, notwithstanding our provocations, rebellions, and resistance of his Holy Spirit. Wonder of wonders that we are still in the land of mercy!
Pity expressed herself most plainly, for Jesus cried, which implies not only the loudness of his voice, but the tenderness of his tones. He entreats us to be reconciled. “We pray you,” says the Apostle, “as though God did beseech you by us.” What earnest, pathetic terms are these! How deep must be the love which makes the Lord weep over sinners, and like a mother woo his children to his bosom! Surely at the call of such a cry our willing hearts will come.
Provision is made most plenteously; all is provided that man can need to quench his soul’s thirst. To his conscience the atonement brings peace; to his understanding the gospel brings the richest instruction; to his heart the person of Jesus is the noblest object of affection; to the whole man the truth as it is in Jesus supplies the purest nutriment. Thirst is terrible, but Jesus can remove it. Though the soul were utterly famished, Jesus could restore it.
Proclamation is made most freely, that every thirsty one is welcome. No other distinction is made but that of thirst. Whether it be the thirst of avarice, ambition, pleasure, knowledge, or rest, he who suffers from it is invited. The thirst may be bad in itself, and be no sign of grace, but rather a mark of inordinate sin longing to be gratified with deeper draughts of lust; but it is not goodness in the creature which brings him the invitation, the Lord Jesus sends it freely, and without respect of persons.
Personality is declared most fully. The sinner must come to Jesus, not to works, ordinances, or doctrines, but to a personal Redeemer, who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree. The bleeding, dying, rising Saviour, is the only star of hope to a sinner. Oh for grace to come now and drink, ere the sun sets upon the year’s last day!
No waiting or preparation is so much as hinted at. Drinking represents a reception for which no fitness is required. A fool, a thief, a harlot can drink; and so sinfulness of character is no bar to the invitation to believe in Jesus. We want no golden cup, no bejewelled chalice, in which to convey the water to the thirsty; the mouth of poverty is welcome to stoop down and quaff the flowing flood. Blistered, leprous, filthy lips may touch the stream of divine love; they cannot pollute it, but shall themselves be purified. Jesus is the fount of hope. Dear reader, hear the dear Redeemer’s loving voice as he cries to each of us,
“IF ANY MAN THIRST,
COME UNTO ME
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Not saved! Dear reader, is this your mournful plight? Warned of the judgment to come, bidden to escape for your life, and yet at this moment not saved! You know the way of salvation, you read it in the Bible, you hear it from the pulpit, it is explained to you by friends, and yet you neglect it, and therefore you are not saved. You will be without excuse when the Lord shall judge the quick and dead. The Holy Spirit has given more or less of blessing upon the word which has been preached in your hearing, and times of refreshing have come from the divine presence, and yet you are without Christ. All these hopeful seasons have come and gone–your summer and your harvest have past–and yet you are not saved. Years have followed one another into eternity, and your last year will soon be here: youth has gone, manhood is going, and yet you are not saved. Let me ask you–will you ever be saved? Is there any likelihood of it? Already the most propitious seasons have left you unsaved; will other occasions alter your condition? Means have failed with you–the best of means, used perseveringly and with the utmost affection–what more can be done for you? Affliction and prosperity have alike failed to impress you; tears and prayers and sermons have been wasted on your barren heart. Are not the probabilities dead against your ever being saved? Is it not more than likely that you will abide as you are till death forever bars the door of hope? Do you recoil from the supposition? Yet it is a most reasonable one: he who is not washed in so many waters will in all probability go filthy to his end. The convenient time never has come, why should it ever come? It is logical to fear that it never will arrive, and that Felix like, you will find no convenient season till you are in hell. O bethink you of what that hell is, and of the dread probability that you will soon be cast into it!
Reader, suppose you should die unsaved, your doom no words can picture. Write out your dread estate in tears and blood, talk of it with groans and gnashing of teeth: you will be punished with everlasting destruction from the glory of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. A brother’s voice would fain startle you into earnestness. O be wise, be wise in time, and ere another year begins, believe in Jesus, who is able to save to the uttermost. Consecrate these last hours to lonely thought, and if deep repentance be bred in you, it will be well; and if it lead to a humble faith in Jesus, it will be best of all. O see to it that this year pass not away, and you an unforgiven spirit. Let not the new year’s midnight peals sound upon a joyless spirit! Now, now, NOW believe, and live.