For over a decade, I’ve never seen the value of reading Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. Everywhere I turned, a new edition of this daily devotional popped up. Beautiful leather bound renditions, soft leatherettes, large, small, gilded, with built in bookmarks, etc. and then were the myriads of electronic versions. Yet, from what I had read over the years, I was not impressed. In fact, I was very much persuaded that he was an awful exegete and that Spurgeon truly misrepresented what the text taught. Mind you, I have read hundreds of Spurgeon sermons and have been blessed greatly by them. In short, I am a staunch Spurgeon fan! But his Morning and Evening did nothing for me.
Then something happened in 2009 when I was reading a theological blog I frequent to keep up with what is going on in modern Reformed theology. One of the bloggers (a pastor of some repute) simply quoted a large selection from one of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening entries. The words melted my heart and struck me as wise, pertinent, grave, and deeply spiritual. In a paragraph or two, I saw a depth of insight and wisdom in Spurgeon which I had proudly thought escaped him. The blogger said it had been his regular practice to read Morning and Evening on a daily basis. This piqued my interest since I have often been drawn to other people’s long term devotional practices. Though I maintain my own devotional practices, I have always been challenged by and interested in the godly habits of eminent saints.
After reading the particular selection from Spurgeon, I determined before God to read him for my own spiritual nourishment. I am now about finished reading through his entire Morning and Evening since my practice has been to read him before or after reading Scripture (preferably after) each day. On the days I have not been able to read him, I kept an accurate record of the days I missed to catch up in the near future. Though it is designed to be read in the morning and in the evening, I read both in the morning. I would like to offer a few observations that have helped me to overcome my misconceived bias.
Spurgeon does not always interpret passages according to the context. He often takes the general thought of the verse or a portion of a verse to plumb the suggestions imparted by the words. What he has to say is not wrong, though it may not be entirely found in that text (though his thoughts are scriptural through and through). That has always been my biggest complaint, but having read most of his weighty reflections, I for one have been humbled. He seizes all the phrases and words of Scripture to meditate deeply on spiritual issues. His thoughts are more topical than exegetical. Once I recognized that, my prejudice fell away.
There are times when he is actually quite immersed in the context of the verse and draws out those wonderful truths. But his aim is to address the heart and conscience — he takes profound biblical thoughts and doctrines and applies them directly to the reader. His writings have impacted me immensely at times and woke me from my sluggishness or lifted me out of my depression.
There is only one area from which I have not culled much benefit. His spiritual or allegorical interpretation of Song of Solomon has often left me confused. What he has to say is well and good but I simply have had a difficult time connecting it to the text. On these reflections, the problem is entirely mine because I am still working through how a believer ought to interpret Song of Solomon. Apart from that, I cannot commend Morning and Evening enough.