Christian bookstore shelves are crowded with devotional books. Most are new. Many are faddish. Few have longevity. Among the few enduring devotional classics is C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. It was written to assist believers in their “private meditations” and to “aid the worship of families.”
Over 100 years after his death, people are still reading it and with great benefit. I am one of them. This past year it has been a regular source of encouragement and guidance in my own daily reading. Now, having finished it, I’d like to commend it to you.
Living long before the age of Twitter, Spurgeon, the Victorian preacher, who could be expansive with his words, (on average he preached 40 minute sermons at 140 words per minute with some 5,600 words per sermon), managed a marvel of compression. In 250 words or less he offered believers a series of devotional readings full of deep biblical insight, pastoral wisdom and encouragement.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1843-1892) was one of England’s most influential pastors and authors. Because of his amazing output and spiritual depth, he is church history’s most widely read preacher.
Spurgeon was the pastor of London’s New Park Street Chapel, later renamed the Metropolitan Tabernacle. He was an evangelical Calvinist and a Baptist. He ministered at this church for 38 years, with a congregation eventually numbering more than 6,000. His sermons were so popular that the New York Times used to have their London office telegraph Spurgeon’s Sunday morning sermons so that they could print them in America on Monday. They have since been collected into 63 volumes (some 20-25 million words). Not without good reason, he has been called—“the prince of preachers.”
Morning and Evening was originally two volumes—Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening. The two were combined into a single volume in 1869. It has been in print this way ever since.
The devotional practice of morning and evening prayers or readings is deeply embedded in Christian spirituality. It’s as ancient as the Scriptures themselves. The sons of Aaron would offer to the Lord every morning and evening burnt offerings and incense (2 Chronicles 13.11). “Evening and morning and at noon” the psalmist uttered his prayers to the Lord (Psalm 55.17). In this same pattern, early Christian monastics instituted a “daily office” which included morning, midday and evening prayers. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer simplified the monastic hours with Thomas Cranmer’s services of morning and evening prayers.”
Spurgeon also believed that the start and the finish of the day were important spiritual moments. The morning, he said, is the gate or threshold 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, Spurgeon said, 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.”
Morning and Evening always begins with a verse or phrase from Scripture which Spurgeon then reflects upon. He will say things such as, “this verse is a diamond” and then turn it for us to let God’s truth shine out in many directions. Some of his readings are influenced by the calendar day or season (i.e. the beginning of Spring, Harvest, Christmas, the end of the year). Spurgeon also touches on many relevant topics: i.e. God’s glory and sovereignty, the power of Scripture, the greatness of Christ, abiding in Christ, the cross, justification, union with Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. There is much on prayer, faith, trials, and perseverance. But also he writes on subjects such as spiritual barrenness, joy, battling sin, and the importance of resting in God’s promises.
Here are just a few of the nuggets that you will encounter as you read this book. Let it whet your appetite for more.
- “Let January open with joy in the Lord, and December close with gladness in Jesus.” (January 1, PM)
- “Let us sit at the feet of Jesus, and by earnest prayer call in His blessed aid that our dull wits may grow brighter, and our feeble understandings may receive heavenly things.” (January 19, PM)
- “Christian, meditate much on heaven, it will help thee to press on, and to forget the toil of the way.” (February 7, AM)
- “My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord. Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God. HE is my strong habitation whereunto I can continually resort. I am a pilgrim in the world but at home in my God. In the earth I wonder, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.” (February 27, AM)
- “You must grow downwards, that you may grow upwards.” (April 5, PM)
- “The Lord cannot deny His own declarations. Hold up the rod of promise (like Moses) and have what you will.” (April 16, PM)
- Christ is the great master-key of all the chambers of God; there is no treasure-house of God which will not open and yield up all its wealth to the soul that lives near to Jesus.”(April 25 PM)
- “The idea of strangeness in our trials must be banished at once and forever, for he who is head of all saints, knows by experience the grief which we think so peculiar….He was both the Lord’s Anointed and the Lord’s Afflicted.” (May 31 AM)
- “The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the holy child Jesus; unroll them and you find your Savior. The quintessence of the word of God is Christ.” (June 10 PM)
- “Every lawful trade may be sanctified by the gospel to noblest ends.” (June 27 PM)
- “Never try to live on the old manna or seek to find help in Egypt……Old anointings will not suffice to impart unction to thy spirit; thine head must have fresh oil poured upon it form the golden horn of the sanctuary, or it will cease from its glory.” (July 16 AM)
- “Public usefulness must not injure private piety; church work must not push family worship into a corner. It is ill to offer God one duty stained with the blood of another.” (July 18 PM)
- “He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God.” (July 19 AM)
- “Your piety is worthless unless it leads you to wish that the same mercy which has been extended to you may bless the whole world.” (August 6 PM)
- “Jesus is a greater Savior than you think Him to be when your thoughts are at the greatest.” (August 22 PM)
- “What is my barrenness? It is the platform for his fruit-creating power. What is my desolation? It is the black setting for the sapphire of His everlasting love.” (August 28 PM)
- “The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at best.” (August 29 AM on William Carey)
- “Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone!” (August 31 AM)
- “A Christian man should so shine in his life, that a person could not live without him a week without knowing the gospel” (September 6 AM)
- “Some are spared to a long evening of green old age; if such be my case, let me use such talents as I still retain, and to the last hour serve my blessed and faithful Lord. By His grace I will die in harness, and lay down my charge only when I lay down my body.” (September 20 PM)
- “We are all like trees marked for the axe, and the fall of one should remind us that for every one, whether great as the cedar, or humble as the fir, the appointed hour is stealing on apace. I trust we do not, by often hearing of death, become callous to it.” (September 26 PM)
- “Meditate on the exceeding greatness and faithfulness of divine love this evening, and so go to thy bed in peace.” (October 2, PM)
- “The heart is as insatiable as the grave till Jesus enters it, and then it is a cup full to overflowing.” (October 6 AM)
- “Do not be afraid to dwell upon this high doctrine of election. When your mind is most heavy and depressed, you will find it to be a bottle of the richest cordial. Those who doubt the doctrines of grace, or those who cast them into the shade, miss the richest clusters of Eschol; they lose the wines on the lees well refined, the fat things full of marrow. There is no balm in Gilead comparable to it.” (October 28 AM)
- “A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness.” (November 8)
- “The more you know about Christ, the less will you be satisfied with superficial views of Him; and the more deeply you study His transactions in the eternal covenant, His engagements on your behalf as the eternal Surety, and the fullness of His grace which shines in all His offices, the more truly will you see the King in his beauty.” (November 16 PM)
- “Let nothing ever set your heart beating so mightily as love to Him. Let this ambition fire your soul; be this the foundation of every enterprise upon which you enter, and this your sustaining motive whenever your zeal would grow chill; make God your only object.” (November 17 AM)
- “A holy anointing is the soul and life of piety, its absence the most grievous of all calamities….May we never venture upon hallowed exercises without sacred anointings.” (November 29 PM)
- “The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lams of heaven, has promised to supply thee with daily strength.” (December 22 AM)
- “What a satisfaction will it be in that day to have had a share in the fight, to have helped to break the arrow of the bow, and to have abided in winning the victory for our Lord. Happy are they who trust themselves with this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with Him, doing their little in His name and by His strength.” (December 24 PM)
How could Spurgeon write so much good stuff and come up with gem after gem? For two reasons, I think: first, because he was so saturated in the Scriptures, and second, because he was uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit. That is why Spurgeon still speaks.
Although, never forget that, like every believer, he is both a man of his age, and deeply flawed man at that. He was the first to admit that he needed a savior!
As you read Morning and Evening you will discern Spurgeon is a Victorian, influenced by the currents of his time. You may even wince, as I did, when he occasionally expounds on a verse while ignoring its context and original meaning. And you will also see a few time-bound references, such as remarks on the battles of his own day (April 20) or the men who beg for bread in Peru and California (April 21). But overlooking these, you will most usually find Spurgeon’s words rich and life-giving for your faith.
If you skip a reading or fall behind, catch up on Sunday, or just jump forward to the current day’s reading.
You can find online editions of Morning and Evening. There are also Morning and Evening apps! But if you like to mark up your book for future reference, as I do, you will want your own hardback copy. You might consider Crossway’s new edition of Morning and Evening edited by Alistair Begg and keyed to the ESV. Or you might find the pocket sized, leather-bound edition by Christian Focus Publications more suitable to stuff in a backpack or a briefcase.
It should not surprise you that Morning and Evening ends on an evangelistic note, holding forth Jesus Christ as “the fount of hope.” The entries for December 31 are, in fact, the only two readings in the whole book where Spurgeon goes over his word limit by a half a page each; but he does so for good reason.
The morning reading ends with Jesus’ appeal: “if any many thirsts, let Him come unto me and drink.” The evening reading is more somber, warning us of the “dread possibility” of everlasting destruction in hell. Writes Spurgeon, “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.”