06 February 2006

Once more from Spurgeon on the new perspectives of his era

posted by Phil Johnson

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

The following is excerpted from an excellent sermon titled "The Old, Old Story," preached on Sunday Evening, March 30th, 1862 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

The sermon includes a simple, straightforward explanation of the atonement, highlighting the principle of penal substitution.

Then, responding to the new thinkers of his day who were intent on reimagining the gospel from a fresh perspective in order to make it more compatible with "modern thought" and more appealing to people in that generation, Spurgeon said:

There are some things to be said for the gospel which proclaims the atonement as its fundamental principle. And the first thing to be said of it is, that in comparison with all modern schemes how simple it is! Brethren, this is why our great gentlemen do not like it, it is too plain.

If you will go and purchase certain books which teach you how sermons ought to be made, you will find that the English of it is this,—pick all the hard words you can out of all the books you read in the week, and then pour them out on your people on Sunday; and there is a certain set of people who always applaud the man they cannot understand.

They are like the old woman who was asked when she came home from Church, "Did you understand the sermon?"

"No;" she answered, "I would not have the presumption;" she thought it would be presumption to attempt to understand the minister.

But the Word of God is understood with the heart, and makes no strange demands on the intellect. Now, our first commendation on the doctrine of the atonement is, that it commends itself to the understanding. The way-faring man, though his intellect be but one grade beyond an idiot, may get a hold on the truth of substitution without any difficulty.

Oh, these modern theologians, they will do anything to spirit away the cross! They hang over it the gaudy trappings of their elocution, or they introduce it with the dark mysterious incantations of their logic, and then the poor troubled heart looks up to see the cross and sees nothing there but human wisdom. Now I say it again, there is not one of you here but can understand this truth, that Christ died in the stead of his people.

C. H. Spurgeon

The whole sermon is well worth reading. One thing seems perfectly clear: Spurgeon had no time for modernists who wanted to retool the gospel to suit the tastes of Victorian society. He likewise would have little sympathy with "postmodern Christians" who think the gospel needs an overhaul to make it relevant today. Spurgeon was singularly unimpressed with the arrogance of new perspectives and emerging paradigms that demanded wholesale revision of the gospel message, the atonement, or the doctrine of justification by faith, or other fundamental doctrines of Christianity.

I think he was right.

Phil's signature

21 comments:

Reformed Centurion said...

Really good post. For some reason this line sticks out to me.

"The way-faring man, though his intellect be but one grade beyond an idiot, may get a hold on the truth of substitution without any difficulty."

I absolutely love it:-)

marc said...

Ahhh... the ancient art of thinking deeply about new ways of thinking while misunderstanding what was meant to be easily understood.

Carla said...

"I think he was right."

I couldn't agree more. Good post today.

SDG,
Carla

Jeremy Weaver said...

Phil,
Amen.

Marc,
Huh?

mjbeasley said...

"...all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new" Acts 17:21.

It is mankind's nature to love novelty more than truth; however, that is one philosophical beast that should not be fed.

Matthew said...

"Once more from Spurgeon on the new perspectives of his era"

Oooh... that's a good title for this piece. :)

David B. Hewitt said...

I enjoyed reading that.

You know, I think I'll have to add Pyro's to my blogroll on my blog. I got here from Carla's site, and I've heard of this site, though haven't really done much looking into it.

I see now that I've made a mistake. :)

Thanks, Phil, for the post.

SDG,
David Hewitt

momseemia said...

ooo - trying to access some older posts - and the old link to pyros sends me to the new site. How can we get older archives?

Darel said...

CHS always had a way with words.

Phil Johnson said...

momseemia: I've put everything at the old blog back to the way it was, so that now a click on the header at that blog takes you back to its front page. You can access the archives by the links in the right-hand sidebar on the front page of that blog.

Steve said...

Spurgeon said, "They hang over it the gaudy trappings of their elocution, or they introduce it with the dark mysterious incantations of their logic...."

Dark mysterious incantations of their logic...that's a pretty succinct definition of the writings of emerging church proponents, isn't it?

The Clinging Vine said...

Wonderful post, Phil! Thanks so much.

Now I say it again, there is not one of you here but can understand this truth, that Christ died in the stead of his people.

Perfect.

Gordon Cloud said...

Good post. I think the desire of each generation to distinguish itself ideologically from the previous generation often perpetuates the mistakes of the previous generation as well as producing new errors.

Jim Crigler said...

Two bits stood out in my mind:

"there is a certain set of people who always applaud the man they cannot understand."

and

"But the Word of God is understood with the heart, and makes no strange demands on the intellect."

Of course, CHS didn't mean there's no demand on the intellect at all, as pointed out in the bit farther down that reformed centurion quoted. But the modern mystics seem to want to leave the mind (not to mention the entire book of Proverbs) behind. [If I were feeling like myself, I'd ping Phil about Gothard and Blackaby. But today I feel like someone else. Kermit the Frog, maybe.]

donsands said...

The prince of preachers! Can't wait to see him. What a wonderful brother he is!

Sven said...

Does this have to mean that because something is new it's autmoatically wrong?

centuri0n said...

sven:

When you say "something", I think you are asking too broad a question. For example, I'm pretty sure neither Spurgeon nor Phil would advocate thatthe automobile is inherently bad because, in the history of mankind, it is fairly new.

However, if someone is reading the Scriptures, and suddenly they have a "new" way of reading John 1:1, I'd be more than a little suspicious. How about you?

Garet Pahl said...

"then the poor troubled heart looks up to see the cross and sees nothing there but human wisdom"

This speaks to my exact condemnation of the seeker sensitive and emergent church "philosophies". People get attracted to a place because it is merely attractive. If the Bible is not preached in clarity, what is the point of getting people in the building? Instead people hear about self-esteem and druid worship and remain enslaved as their sin is never routed by the sword of the Spirit.

Walking_In_His_Steps said...

Go Mr. Spurgeon! The world is so badly in need of more men like you today!

momseemia said...

Thank you!!!!

LeeC said...

http://www.shepherdsministries.org/childofmyheart/


Anyone who thinks many words enhamce the Gospel should read "Child of My Heart" from Shepherds ministries.

http://www.shepherdsministries.org/childofmyheart/

I've met people with Downs Syndrome that have memorized books of the Bible, and love the Lord so deeply it makes you long to be with Him just seeing them glow with it.