February 11 Book Reviews

Grace and Truth for Life: Charles H. Spurgeon’s Devotionals

Grace and Truth for Life: Charles H. Spurgeon’s Devotionals

Larry E. Wilson

Reviewed by: Daniel Kunkle

Grace and Truth for Life: Charles H. Spurgeon’s Devotionals from His 1865 Classic, Morning by Morning, Paraphrased, Updated, and Adapted for Following Jesus in the 21st Century, by Larry E. Wilson. Independently published, 2023. Paperback, 376 pages, $9.99. Reviewed by OP member Daniel Kunkle.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892) was an English Reformed Baptist preacher, pastor, and writer, fondly known as the “Prince of Preachers.” Spurgeon remains popular today, frequently quoted in sermons and Sunday school classes. Spurgeon wrote two very influential devotionals. One was Evening by Evening and the other Morning by Morning or Daily Readings for the Family or the Closet, published in 1865.

Larry Wilson is a retired OP pastor and church planter who just released Grace and Truth for Life, a “paraphrased, updated, and adapted” version of Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning. Wilson states in his introduction that Spurgeon’s “vocabulary and illustrations have become increasingly dated and unfamiliar,” yet his “Bible-based pastoral wisdom and insight are very relevant” today. These convictions serve as rationale for Wilson’s undertaking.

The first beneficial aspect of Wilson’s work is the formatting of the text. In the original, Spurgeon’s daily devotionals are often one long paragraph. Wilson breaks down each devotional into multiple paragraphs, facilitating the ability of the reader to distinguish Spurgeon’s points. Wilson also regularly enumerates the points, which further aid the reader in following the argument of the text.

The second welcome aspect of this work is that Wilson provides biblical, historical, and theological context for the daily devotions. He cites Scripture references for passages to which Spurgeon himself only alluded. Along the same line, Wilson provides names, titles, and authors of hymn verses that Spurgeon quotes without identifying the source. Wilson also identifies people and works for the contemporary reader that would have been familiar to Spurgeon’s original audience. One example is identifying characters from The Pilgrim’s Progress to which Spurgeon alludes. Wilson also defines theological terms like regeneration.

Examples of Wilson’s updating and paraphrasing include changing “Faith is like a telegraphic wire” to “Faith is like an internet connection”; “A Tartar . . . in Cheapside” to “a drifter . . . on Wall Street”; “psalm-singing professor” to “evangelical Christians”; and “passionate with servants” to “beside ourselves with those who try to help us.”

Wilson’s updating and paraphrasing remain mostly faithful to the original, and most readers would find them uncontroversial. A few paraphrases are jarring, however. Whereas Spurgeon addressed his readers as “Christian” or “Dear Reader,” Wilson often addresses his audience as “Christ-follower.” Wilson paraphrases “Mark the heathen devotees, what tortures they endure in the service of their idols!” as “Think as well of the devotees of Islam, how much they’ll give up to serve their idol!” It was also strange to find that Wilson changed the devotional for November 5 from a meditation on Isaiah 54:17 to one on Matthew 16:18. Comparing the two versions, one might understand why he chose to do so, but such changes go beyond the bounds of paraphrasing and updating.

Overall, however, I do recommend this work to both those unfamiliar with the original and to those who know the original or a later version of it.



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