Lloyd-Jones Monday – The Doctor, Spurgeon, and Plagiarism

In today’s Lloyd-Jones Monday, the Doctor discusses the issue of “preaching other people’s sermons,” which he states is “a not uncommon practice.”
“I have but one comment to make about this—it is utterly dishonest unless you acknowledge what you are doing. I never have understood how a man can live with himself, who preaches other men’s sermons without acknowledgment. He receives the praise and the thanks of people, and yet knows that this is not due to him. He is a thief and a robber; he is a great sinner. But, as I say, the amazing thing to me is that he can possibly live with himself.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1971, p. 293.

In saying that, however, MLJ admits that “there are some odd aspects to this matter,” and he illustrates the point with two stories concerning C. H. Spurgeon. In the first story, Lloyd-Jones describes the case of a young man, a student in Spurgeon’s college, whose preaching was drawing praises from some, but a criticism from others that he “was repeatedly preaching a sermon of Mr. Spurgeon’s.” When this was brought to the attention of the school principal, it was decided to take the young man to Spurgeon himself. After considerable questioning, Spurgeon became somewhat impatient. Lloyd-Jones describes the conversation between CHS and the student. Spurgeon asks:

‘Well, are you saying, then, that it is your sermon?’ ‘Oh, no, sir,’ said the young man. ‘Well, then whose sermon is it?’ ‘It is a sermon of William Jay of Bath, sir,’ said the student . . . ‘Wait a minute,’ said Spurgeon, and turning to his library, he pulled out one of . . . two volumes [Jay’s sermons had been printed in two volumes] and there was the sermon, the exact sermon—the same text, the same headings, the same everything! What had happened? The fact was that Mr. Spurgeon had also preached William Jay’s sermon and had actually put it into print with other sermons of his [own]. Mr. Spurgeon’s only explanation was that it was many years since he had read the two volumes of Jay’s sermons and that he had forgotten all about it. He could say quite honestly that he was not aware of the fact that when he had preached that sermon he was preaching one of the sermons of William Jay.”

Ibid., p. 294

In another story about Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones attempts to comfort “any preacher in need, or any man in a state of desperation—lay preachers particularly.” The Doctor relates this story about the prince of preachers, who, as is well known, suffered from gout, which is often accompanied by fits of depression:

“During one of these attacks, Spurgeon was so depressed that he felt he could not preach, indeed that he was not fit to preach. So he refused to preach in the Tabernacle the following Sunday and went off to the country to his old home in Essex. On the Sunday morning he slipped into a seat at the back of the little chapel where he had attended as a boy. A lay-preacher was preaching that morning, and the poor man proceeded to preach one of Mr. Spurgeon’s printed sermons. The moment the good man had finished, Spurgeon rushed on to him with tears streaming down his face, and thanked him profusely. The poor man said, ‘Mr. Spurgeon, I don’t know how to face you, I have just been preaching one of your sermons.’ ‘I don’t care whose sermon it is,’ said Mr. Spurgeon, ‘all I know is that your preaching this morning has convinced me that I am a child of God, that I am saved by grace, and that my sins are forgiven, that I am called to the ministry; and I am ready to go back to preach again.’ His own sermon through the lips and the mouth and the tongue of the lay-preacher had done that for him. That is, I think, about the only justification for this sort of thing.”

Ibid., pp. 294-295.


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