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Spurgeon, too, Stood on Shoulders

April 5, 2008

Fascination with a historical figure inevitably breeds interest in the movements and thinkers that influenced this figure.  Such was the case with my interest in Charles Spurgeon.  When I read Spurgeon’s sensate, intellectual, and emotive prose, I wondered what factors contributed to such gifted preaching. 


As an undergraduate, I conducted a two-year research project, which focused on Spurgeon’s influence on evangelicalism.  However, throughout the project, and afterwards, his own influences, rather than how he influenced others, intrigued me.


I pursued this interest in one way by studying literary influences on Spurgeon.  Specifically, I tracked what sources Spurgeon used in, what often has been called, his magnum opus, The Treasury of David (TToD), a multi-volume commentary on the book of Psalms. 


For each Psalm—and each of the twenty-two sections of Psalm 119—Spurgeon included his commentary, enlightening quotes from other authors (“Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings”), and suggested points for preaching (“Hints to Preachers”).  I tallied whom Spurgeon quoted throughout the work and how often he quoted these authors.


The most quoted sources are listed below. 


John Trapp – 231

Joseph Caryl – 198

David Dickson – 186

Matthew Henry – 177

Thomas Manton – 177

John Calvin – 171

John Gill – 122

William Cowper – 121

Adam Clarke – 116

John Mason Neale – 108

William Gurnall – 105

Joseph Addison Alexander – 102

Albert Barnes – 99

J. J. Stewart Perowne – 97

Thomas Adams – 96

Thomas Watson – 94

Thomas Le Blanc – 93

Richard Baker – 90

Hermann Venema – 88

George Horne – 85

William S. Plumer – 85

Wolfgang Musculus – 77

Augustine – 73

Thomas Goodwin – 73

A. R. Faussett – 68

Christopher Wordsworth – 67

E. W. Hengstenberg – 62

Andrew A. Bonar – 60

Martin Luther – 60

Stephen Charnock – 59

Barton Bouchier – 56

William Wilson – 55

Franz Delitzsch – 52


I have made general conclusions of this data elsewhere (print edition; online version).  At this point, though, I would like to make a few disclaimers.


Obviously, numbers of citations do not conclusively measure influence.  Although Cowper is relied upon more than Luther in TToD, such reliance does not mean Cowper more pervasively impacted Spurgeon than Luther.  This disclaimer is true for a number of reasons.  First, some figures that influenced Spurgeon did not write much, nor systematically, on the book of Psalms (e.g. Andrew Fuller or George Whitefield).  Second, Spurgeon used some TToD sources heavily for specific portions of Psalms.  For instance, 71 of Copwer’s 121 citations are in Spurgeon’s coverage of Psalm 119, while 86 of Thomas Manton’s 177 citations are drawn from his lengthy commentary on Psalm 119.  Thus, Cowper and Manton may have not influenced Spurgeon’s understanding of the entirety of the Psalms as much as Thomas Watson, who appears throughout TToD. 


From time to time, I will post analyses of Spurgeon’s TToD sources and conclusions we may reasonably draw from the prince of preacher’s use of scholarship.  For now, though, this data may be useful to some.  Feel free to inquire (via comments) about the appearance of your favorite church history figures in TToD.  I have this data available and am more than willing to share.


Until then, ad majorem Dei gloriam.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2008 11:13 pm

    Very impressive work, Jason! And a very appropriate post for this site. Spurgeon exbodies the kind of spirit we should all seek to imitate in our appreciation of the saints who have labored before us.

    This is such a great site! Maybe one day I’ll be able to contribute as well!

  2. Matthew Crawford permalink
    April 5, 2008 11:56 pm

    Jason, this is fascinating research. There are several names in the list that I know nothing about. Who was John Trapp, and why do you think Spurgeon relied on him the most?

    And Adam, your first post better be an outstanding one, since we’ve been waiting on it for several weeks now. We also hope that you can contribute some day.

  3. April 6, 2008 7:42 am


    Here’s what I know about Trapp, which is not much. He was a 1600s Anglican, but for whatever reason, he was not a “divine” present at the Westminster Assembly. (Note: several of Spurgeon’s favorites were Westminster Divines, e.g. Caryl.)

    Trapp was later chided by George Whitefield for his views on righteousness and perfectionism. Whitefield claimed, “…if you have a mind to know what the devil has to say against us, read Dr. Trapp’s sermons.” Honestly, I don’t remember what side Whitefield or Trapp took. It is interesting, though, that Spurgeon admired both men deeply.

    In Commenting and Commentaries, Spurgeon mentions that Trapp was a pastor, head of a school, and witty. I think therein lies Spurgeon’s affinity with Trapp: Spurgeon also was a pastor, principal (Spurgeon’s College), and frequently used wit to impact his audience.

    Somewhere down the road I think that a book of short biographical sketches organized around TToD sources would be a great resource. There are lots of unfamiliar names I ran across in TToD.

  4. April 6, 2008 7:51 am

    Flavel not in the most referenced? Spurgeon isn’t that impressive! Just kidding. Adam – how come all the married men who have no time on their hands have posts? Jason – I imagine most of the authors are listed in the Oxford National Dictionary of Biography.

  5. April 6, 2008 6:50 pm


    Flavel has 15 citations. Not too bad.

    If you need any consolation, according to Ernest Bacon, Spurgeon was reading The Mystery of Providence Opened while he was a schoolboy.

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