On the first day we met to begin our summer men’s Bible Study, reading together Spurgeon’s The Soul Winner, we ran into an interesting textual issue. One of the brothers had an edition of Spurgeon’s book from Whitaker House (WH), while I had read the first chapter on my phone online from spurgeon.org. When my friend read the opening paragraph from his edition, I noted some differences. The WH edition begins as follows:
I purpose, dear ones, if God will enable me, to give you a short course under the general head of "The Soulwinner." Soulwinning is the chief business of the Christian; indeed, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer. We should each say with Simon Peter, "I go fishing” (John 21:3), and our aim should be, along with Paul, "That I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). We will begin our messages on this subject by considering the question: What is it to win a soul?
While my version read:
I purpose, dear brethren, if God shall enable me, to give you a short course of lectures under the general head of "THE SOUL-WINNER." Soulwinning is the chief business of the Christian minister; indeed, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer. We should each say with Simon Peter, "I go a fishing," and with Paul our aim should be, "That I might by all means save some."
We shall commence our
discourses upon this subject by considering the question— WHAT IS IT TO WIN A
When we examined the WH edition we noted the brief “publisher’s note” in the book’s front matter which read, “This new edition from Whitaker House has been edited for the modern reader. Words, expressions, and sentence structure have been updated for clarity and readability.”
The line that struck me by its difference was the one in WH that reads, “Soulwinning is the chief business of the Christian…,” versus the original which reads, “Soulwinning is the chief business of the Christian Minister….” The original reflects Spurgeon’s high view of office and the preaching duty of the Minister, though the continuation of the line clearly shows that Spurgeon also saw evangelism as a duty for all believers. The WH edition reflects a more modern, egalitarian, Brethren, “every member minister,” type approach.
The caution here is that when one gets such a reprint he should always check the front matter to determine whether he is reading the original in an unabridged form or in an abridged and modernized form. I am not against abridgements. I have, after all, done one myself. Still, it is usually a good idea to compare the original with the abridgement to track theological influences in the interpretation.
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