I took a drive over to Pasadena, Texas, this morning. (I am in Houston for three days.) My purpose in going to Pasadena was to see Bob L. Ross, the man who began Pilgrim Publications back in the 1960s for the explicit purpose of getting the sixty-three volumes of the sermons of Charles H. Spurgeon in print for a new generation. I have known Bob for many years and always enjoy seeing him and catching up. This was my first visit, however, to Pasadena.

When Bob published his first volume of Spurgeon’s famous sermons in 1969 most were highly skeptical that he could ever complete this project without losing his shirt in the process. No one would buy sermons, they told him, and even fewer would read them. Now these volumes are sold all over the world and the Internet has only made Spurgeon even more accessible. Bob did not loose his shirt and the legacy he has given is substantial. Only heaven will really and truly reveal the fruit of Bob’s faithful efforts.

The first volume of this reprint edition came into my possession while I was in seminary. I was hooked. An older pastor I respected was reading these sermons week-by-week and urged me to read them for myself. I eventuallly talked my mother into giving me a Pilgrim Publications volume each month until I had all of them over the course of five years. I haven’t read them all, and doubt I ever will. I have used them in every way possible, going to the index often and finding out what Mr. Spurgeon had to say about this text or that subject. When I am sometimes asked what person had the greatest impact upon the development of my theology as a young minister the answer is, without doubt, "Spurgeon!"

The most important thing Spurgeon taught me was to "Preach Christ!" Spurgeon opened the new Metropolitan Tabarnacle in March of 1861. In his first words at the new sanctuary he said:

I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow mysealf a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply "It is Jesus Christ." My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity, admirable and excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself for ever, God helping me, is not his system, or any other human treatise; but Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel, who is himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.

You can’t beat that! Spurgeon wrote on many subjects covering almost every imaginable theme a minister should address in his lifetime. But his theological marrow and constant personal theme was always Jesus Christ! This is precisley why Spurgeon, the Calvinist, appeals to all Christians right down to the present day. I wish I had not wavered from this emphasis but I did here and there. I am back there now and by God’s grace wish to stay there until my journey is done. What the church needs now is Christ Jesus, the sweet Savior of all who come to him, and the sovereign Lord over heaven and earth.

I expressed my thanks to Bob again today. I, and countless others I am sure, owe Bob a debt of love for making the work of this amazing man known to us. I am glad I got to know Spurgeon in 1971 and that he has had such positive impact upon my life since.

A famous leader in the church today tells audiences that he will never quote C. H. Spurgeon as long as he lives. I think he means he will not quote anyone from any era in the past that does not speak the language of today. I understand his concern and have a modicum of respect for why he says it. But he is missing something very important at the same time. (The conclusion seems a bit arrogant to my mind.) You can learn so much from the great CHS. He is not perfect for sure. And his style is very dated. I do not always agree with him myself but I believe he got the most important things right time and time again. You can do far worse, and you might not do much better.

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  1. Bob L. Ross July 12, 2005 at 9:49 pm

    Dear John:
    I am not a regular on the bloging circuit, but for some reason I was on one today and I just happened to see a link to your name, and I punched on. While scrolling your latest blogs, I came upon the one about your visit to Pasadena. I don’t recall, but did I let you touch Spurgeon’ silver Lord’s Supper plate? If so, you’ll never be the same. You’ll have more power than Benny Hinn after he spread himself on Kat Kuhlman’s grave.
    But I did commit one great crime. I failed to get you to sign my Guest book. You got left out of the book of life! I’ll just have to forge your name and initial it. I blame that on “Garner Ted” Garner who was with you — he always gets my mind off of the really important subjects.
    Anyway, it surely was flattering to have you visit me. I don’t have a lot of superstars come by here, and anybody who lives in the Chicago area is a superstar. That’s where I found Spurgeon’s sermon set in 1955 at the old Blessing Book Store (Alex Allenson’s later on, in Naperville). Chicago will always have a sweet spot in my heart because of that. To think that God put a set of Spurgeon’s sermons there in that old bookstore and reserved them for me till I would one day show up and buy them — how could I ever not believe in the Providence and Sovereignty of God?
    You are doing a great work. Don’t let the gnatstrainers and nitpickers bother you. They come and they go. I know, for I’ve had a few of them myself, and I have even forgotten most of their names. They do serve a useful purpose — they just fan the flames.
    Thanks for all the nice words. But really, my only “claim to fame” is having enough presumption to buy Spurgeon’s books and think I could reprint them. An Erdmans’ sales rep said we would not get past the 2nd volume. That was 1969; we are still going, just like that battery (?). –Bob

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