Surprising Spurgeon #2 – Duration

October 15, 2008

Did you know that Charles Spurgeon faced the same cauldron of pressures we do in terms of congregations demanding shorter and shorter sermons? This was my second surprise in reading about Charles Spurgeon’s preaching context.

One contemporary complained:

“[If the] sermon cannot be altogether got rid of it can of course be shortened…the standard length being reduced from half an hour to a quarter.” (Eswine, p12)

Many others applauded the fact that 19th century sermons were largely being cut down from the traditional hour to such a brevity, some arguing that…

“an average person can only handle fifteen minutes of bare argument.” (Eswine, p 13)

And all this in the pre-television age!



  1. That IS suprising! I always thought CHS was a bit of a maverick (for his times) for insisting that his men should not preach longer than 40 minutes – but I didn’t know others called for such sermonettes!

  2. And then, there’s John Newton in his pre-parish-ministry days. While in London,

    he would typically rise well before dawn on Sundays to hear Thomas Adams or one of George Whitefield’s other assistants at the Tabernacle in Moorfields; after breakfast he would attend the Independent meeting at Stepney to hear [Samuel] Brewer; in the afternoon he would venture out again to hear David Jennings at the Independent meeting in Wapping where he grew up; and then in the evening he would listen to one of the preachers at the Presbyterian meeting in Shakespeare’s Walk in Upper Shadwell. … During the week he attended the Pinner’s Hall lecture in Old Broad Street on Tuesdays where … Dissenting worthies expounded on themes such as the covenant of grace; [he had already been on Monday evening to a religious society which met under Brewer’s oversight]; on Wednesdays he went to the casuitical lecture on cases of conscience at the Presbyterian meeeting in Little St Helen’s, Bishopsgate…; and on Fridays he would often venture out to hear John Guyse or David Jennings again at Little St Helen’s…. Newton would later look back on these heady days in London, when he walked in a cloud of wonder from sermon to sermon, from Church to Chapel to religious society, as the turning point in the settlement of his religious principles.

    D. Bruce Hindmarsh, John Newton and the Evangelical Tradition (OUP, 1996 = Eerdmans, 2001), p. 70.

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