Brother, lay Spurgeon aside and quote Whittier…

I get, brethren and sistren, that my day has passed. No one preaches sermons with three points and a poem anymore but literature and poetry are a pretty good source of material for sermons.

Way back in the day, I had a set of Spurgeon’s sermons and would occasionally sally forth into them and, um, borrow some material. I started preaching 89 years after the great man died. The texts remained the same but language and styles had changed. It makes me cringe to run across some of the vocabulary I lifted from those books of sermons. Nothing wrong with old Chuck and our Midwestern seminary puts a lot of space, money, and marketing into The Spurgeon Center. Fine by me and if life takes me to Kansas City, MO, I don’t know why it would, I’d drop in to visit. I like a good museum.

You can find a lot of good material in Spurgeon who is more popular in America than he ever was in England. But may I toss out a good quote by a famous  American poet who, like Spurgeon, died in 1892. That would be John Greenleaf Whittier. Whittier, a Quaker abolitionist, has cities named after him. He is a notable name in American literature.

Here a single, pithy line from his 1856 work, “Maud Muller.” The poem has a story but I’ve never heard any sermon that used the backstory, just this quote:

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

For having been penned 163 years ago it is as current and applicable today as it was then.

I despair over hearing that great instrument, an authentic pipe organ, played in worship again and sometimes get nostalgic for the use of great authors and literature in sermons. Nothing personal but Cardi B, J Lo and, tats don’t get it for me.

But if you’re stuck on Charles Haddon Spurgeon, you could do a lot worse. I gave my books away 25 years ago. The recipient was a pastor who thought they carried some Calvinistic cachet. He was happy. I was happy. Everyone’s happy.

And, if you go to the Spurgeon Center, see if they are selling cigars, would you? I’d like to give a few celebratory cigars to some of my more intense Spurgeonite friends.

…but give Whittier a shot at it every now and then also.


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