Spurgeon and the Pastor’s Need of Books

Lately I have been thumbing through Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students. This book is essentially a collection of lectures given by Spurgeon to the men of The Pastor’s College in 1856 concerning the nature of pastoral ministry, with an emphasis on preaching. The lectures are often quite profound, and also quite humorous.

A few days ago I came across this amazing passage on the pastor’s need for books:

“A good library should be looked upon as an indispensible part of church furniture; and the deacons, whose business it is ‘to serve tables,’ will be wise if, without neglecting the table of the Lord, or of the poor, and without diminishing the supplies of the minister’s dinner table, they give an eye to his study table, and keep it supplied with new works and standard books in fair abundance. It would be money well laid out, and would be productive far beyond expectation. Instead of waxing eloquent upon the declining power of the pulpit, leading men in the church should use the legitimate means for improving its power, by supplying the preacher with food for thought.” (180)

Spurgeon continues,

“If some little annual income could be secured to poor ministers, to be sacredly spent in books, it would be a godsend to them, and an incalculable blessing to the community. Sensible persons do not expect a garden to yield them herbs from year to year unless they enrich the soil; they do not expect a locomotive to work without fuel, or even an ox or an ass to labor without food; let them, therefore, give over expecting to receive instructive sermons from men who are shut out of the storehouse of knowledge by their inability to purchase books.” (181)

Spurgeon’s point, of course, is that pastors need to be intentional about thinking deeply and thinking clearly—and that reading books (specifically good books) is one of the finest avenues through which to expose oneself to ideas for thinking.

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