16 February 2008

Wachet auf!

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Righteous Hatred," a sermon delivered 8 August 1858 in the Sunday Morning Service at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.


he bishops of God's church, the professed leaders of the Lord's hosts, the pretended followers of the Redeemer, have done more damage to the church than all the church's enemies. If the church were not a divine thing, protected by God, she must have ceased to exist, merely through the failure and iniquity of her own professed friends. I do not wonder that the church of God survived martyrdom and death; but I do marvel that she has survived the unfaithfulness of her own children, and the cruel backsliding of her own members.
C. H. Spurgeon


18 comments:

YnottonY said...

I think I get Spurgeon's point, but this part is confusing:

"...the pretended followers of the Redeemer, have done more damage to the church than all the church's enemies."

If one is a "pretend follower of the Redeemer," then isn't one also a part of the "church's enemies"? Is he making a distinction without a difference?

I wonder if he is just using the "church's enemies" expression to stand for those who do not even profess to be Christians? But, if that's the case, then he seems to be using the term "church" to stand for all professing Christians, such that even "pretend followers of the Redeemer" are included in it, which seems contrary to Spurgeon's baptistic ecclesiology.

Judah said...

"which seems contrary to Spurgeon's baptistic ecclesiology."

That is because baptistic ecclesiology is contrary.

If you are going to baptize only those whom you know for certain are regenerate, then you cannot baptize anyone. Only God knows the heart.

DJP said...

CHS hits the target dead-on yet again. Excellent choice, Phil.

Strong Tower said...

"I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church."

So says John. And Jesus and all the apostles warned of the "pretenders" within. Spurgeon held to the confession: The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name. Which is a reflection upon Revelation 2:9 and 3:9.

Spurgeon is right on and well within his understanding of the church, which includes the true church, and the pretender, the true minister and the pretender. But, those who cannot discern that there was one assembly in the wilderness, yet not discern that there were at once, two assemblies in the wilderness, won't be able to discern that there is one church, yet two churches in the world. Just as likely they will confuse the fact that Calvin taught a particular limited atonement and at the same time used generalist language to discribe it.

YnottonY said...

Spurgeon said:
"The bishops of God's church, the professed leaders of the Lord's hosts, the pretended followers of the Redeemer,"

From the start, Spurgeon is describing those he thinks are pretenders and mere professors. That sounds to me like he's talking about those that he supposes to be unregenerate false teachers.

Spurgeon said:
"have done more damage to the church than all the church's enemies."

These "pretenders" or false bishops are damaging the church, even more than the "church's enemies." Who are the "church's enemies" here? It sounds like Spurgeon is already describing these "bishops" as the "church's enemies," so why the distinction?

Spurgeon said:
"If the church were not a divine thing, protected by God, she must have ceased to exist, merely through the failure and iniquity of her own professed friends."

Spurgeon's ecclesiology surfaces here. He calls the church a "divine thing" that is "protected by God," and distinguishes the "church" from "her own professed friends." Are the "professed friends" a part of the church, or not? If they are known to be mere pretenders, then is it baptistically correct to consider them as a part of the church?

Spurgeon said:
"I do not wonder that the church of God survived martyrdom and death; but I do marvel that she has survived the unfaithfulness of her own children, and the cruel backsliding of her own members."

Again, Spurgeon seems to be describing "the church" in terms of genuine believers in the above portion, hence they have survived "martyrdom and death..." But then, he seems to go back to describing these "pretended followers" as "members" and offspring of the church.

It's one thing for congregations to be "mixed," but quite another thing to call KNOWN pretenders "members" of the church. I can see how a Reformed paedobaptist could use such language, but Spurgeon's equivocal language, at least as expressed here, confuses me.

Judah said:
"If you are going to baptize only those whom you know for certain are regenerate, then you cannot baptize anyone. Only God knows the heart."

This is actually a straw man of their position. Baptists don't claim to have apodictic certainty about who are regenerate and who are not. They only claim to have good reasons for thinking that some have credible professions of faith, and that these alone should be baptized, according to scripture. That's all one can have when considering marriage as well. We are commanded to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers in the marriage covenant, and that presupposes that we can have good reasons for thinking that a potential spouse is actually regenerate (even if we don't have infallibalist knowledge). How would the "only God knows the heart" apply to the command to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers? I could easily go out and marry a loose woman who doesn't have a credible profession of faith and justify it by saying, "well, only God knows the heart."

Judah said...

Baptists don't claim to have apodictic certainty about who are regenerate and who are not. They only claim to have good reasons for thinking that some have credible professions of faith, and that these alone should be baptized, according to scripture.

it's the "according to Scripture" part that doesn't make sense. Where does it say to baptize those who have credible professions of faith? What does "credible" mean? Who decides?

Strong Tower said...

Well, Tony, we're all members of the same family, but were not members of the same family, are we? Just as all Israel is not Israel. And, as I said, if you cannot discern the nuances of similar terms connoting distinctions, you'll not be able to discern the differences between wolves in sheeps clothing and sheep. Perhaps it would just be easier to let the Lord explain to you the parable of the tares. Same thing. Yep, one field, two kinds, both having similar appearance, both called grass. So the analogy parabolically speaking is that it is the Lord's field, his church, and the church is composed of several churches (Revelations), some true, some false, just as any one church may be composed of true and false believers. But, that doesn't make sense to many, they believe that since there is one body, that all who belong to the body are of the one body. We can draw this out: the body of Christ, is not the church, but it is the church, and each one of us is individually the temple which is the body. But, not all who call upon his name belong to the body, not all of us are members of one another. We are all the same family, the family of Adam, but the true son, was Abel not Cain. Get it yet?

So, no it is not "quite another thing" to call pretenders members. But, if you want to sequester the terms making them safe from nuancing as having only one application, then I suppose that when Jesus says he and the Father are one, that we should all be unitarian. Why stop there, since Jesus said that we were to be one with he and the Father, then maybe we're all God and the Hindu of Brahman correct.

Phil Johnson said...

ynottony:

This is simple: Spurgeon recognized the distinction between the visible and invisible church. Classic Baptist confessions have always acknowledged that idea. So does Scripture. Read Jude if you have a problem seeing it.

That's not really what this thread is about, though. Please don't de-rail the combox with an argument about offbeat ecclesiologies. Save that for when it's really the issue under discussion.

Thanks.

centuri0n said...

Judah:

I guess we should baptize everyone, then, in the hope that God will save some. That will make baptism a whole lot more meaningful, I an sure.
__________

ynottony:

Spurgeon is plainly talking about the "bishops of God's church" who are all the other things he is decrying. Spurgeon draws a clear context, and we'd do well to read it.

donsands said...

Loved this post. I always love Pastor Spurgeon. I thank the Lord for this man, and for Pyro posting his God-given wisdom.

I feel the heavy heart of the prince of preachers here. "I do not wonder ... martyrdom and death; but ... unfaithfulness of her own children".

However, the Word of God is magnified above His name. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Bride of Christ.

YnottonY said...

Hi Phil,

Thanks for the reply. I am aware of the valid distinction between the visible and invisible church. I suppose what Spurgeon is implying is something like this:

"...the pretended followers of the Redeemer [i.e., mere visible church members], have done more damage to the [true] church than all the church's [open] enemies."

I really was seeking to ask sincere questions in order to think analytically about Spurgeon's theological terminology in the quote (as well as their implications). I guess that came across as nit-picky to some, hence the condescension in some of the replies.

As I said in my initial comments, I think I do get Spurgeon's point, which seems to be this: The church has suffered more harm from her professing friends and those later discovered to be false teachers than from those who are her open or manifest enemies. I just think he might have expressed that point in a better way, perhaps?

Stong Tower:

Thanks for several condescending replies. I can tell that you have been thoroughly abased by the doctrines of grace. Your remarkable kindness, humility and patience shows it. [/sarcasm] However, it seems to me that your Matthew 13 interpretation concerning the wheat and the tares amounts to nothing more than ancient Augustinian eisegesis. After all, the field, as Jesus says, is the "world" (Matt. 13:38) and not the church.

Anyway, enough on that issue, since we're off topic.

Sorry Phil,
Tony

Strong Tower said...

Tony,

One kind of condescension deserves another,eh? Those of us that are not as intelligent as you understood the quote from Spurgeon wrongly, I suppose. Thanks for straightening us out.

So I quote in full: He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

It is his field, part of his household. The world is never mentioned. Mixing and matching parables is like not being able to nuance words for their context, yes?

Bzzzzt. An anti-Augustinian eisogetical answer is still wrong, when its wrong. And feigned kindness is not erased by feigned victimhood.

YnottonY said...

Strong Tower said:

"The world is never mentioned."

On the contrary, Jesus said the following in his explanation of the parable just a few verses later:

NKJ Matthew 13:38 "The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.

Also, I never said or implied that those who read Spurgeon differently than me are less intelligent than I am. I just said that Spurgeon's terminology was confusing to me, and suggested that he might have better [or more precisely] communicated his valid point.

I think we all understand that wolves in sheep's clothing are more dangerous than wolves without such deceptive attire. The former are just as much the "church's enemies" as the latter, and wolves in sheep's clothing [once they are seen to be what they really are] should not be called "members" of "the church." They should be put out and never considered to be truly a part of us.

NKJ 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Part of the solution to the problem that Spurgeon brings up is to get rid of any theology and terminology that causes mixture or confusion between the church and the world. If the devil is not trying to cause "martyrdom and death," he is most certainly trying to cause unholy alliances and mixture between God's people and her enemies. Roman and Anglican theology has brought about such "damage" and hellish mixture.

Strong Tower said...

Thanks, Tony, I should have looked a little further, my apologies and please forgive me. Now, I am abased, and look, the Lord has done it through you...

Let me ask you, and I am just asking for clarification. In the parable it is the the kingdom of heaven spoken of, correct? This is his field, correct? It is only the children of the kingdom of heaven that bear fruit, correct? Meaning that they are his disciples among whom the enemy sows his seed, correct? Satan has no need of planting seed in the world which is his field, it is already his so what benefit is there to him to plant seed there? Wouldn't it make more sense then, that the "world" in the interpretation of the passage does not apply to the world at large, but the church thoughout the world? Just asking, now that I have made a fool of myself by excluding the word world from the parable, when indeed it was by way of interpretation, where field does not mean field but something else... What say you, then, when the word world is used, does it always mean the world in general, or does it have specific contextual meaning that may limit its scope and application? Such as, "Look, the world has gone after him" in context excludes those who were saying so. And in like manner, the word world, can be and in other cases is, defined only as those who are the elect; “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" "I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world...that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (this contrary juxtaposition shows that the believing world, is not the same world as the hating one). “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (In the parable of the weeds, the kingdom is in the world. Interestingly the evident enemies on the night Jesus was betrayed are visible ones, both Jews and Gentiles, but the hidden one, was a seed planted within the field, becoming evident in due season, Judas). "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God...that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." In this juxtaposition, the word world cannot mean the world in general in both cases, otherwise we have univeralism. There are other such places where the word world cannot mean the entirety. But, as you know we have been through these exercises over and over, and still, for some the word world must mean universality, when infact, as in the parable of the weeds the world is a field and that field is the church (For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.) The field is God's church, his building, and that church is throughout the world. IMnowsoHO, the field in the parable is the church wherever it is found in the world. Be that Augustinian or not, it is me.

To your last paragraph, I agree, somewhat, we need to do a better job of teaching God's children how to wield the sword in the fine art of hair splittin so that they know the different uses of similar words. However, we cannot relinquish the "apparent" confusion and simply opt to use clearer terms when Scripture itself uses such means. Or, we would then have to concede that the Book of Revelation is conducive to confusion rather than clearity. It is obvious, that the Spirit says to the Churches, and the mixture is there, whether we want to admit that or not. John was well aware of "members" of congregations, and some "leaders" who called themselves by the name, and did not go out. We could say of many who are within the folds of the name Christian, that in doctrine, they have gone out, even though they yet abide in membership within the church. Such were those whom Paul dealt with by turning them over to Satan. Some might be members taken captive, some false converts, having a form of godliness, others may be Judases, never deciples in truth, but manifesting all the attributes of a apostles. It is just the way it is, and Scripture confirms that it is so.

Again, my apologies Tony, I have read your materials, and your scholarship towers above mine. I'm just one of those mindless dweebs that inhabit the ethernet...

Judah said...

I guess we should baptize everyone, then, in the hope that God will save some. That will make baptism a whole lot more meaningful, I an sure.

Great thoughts Frank.

centuri0n said...

They are about on-par with you own, Judah.

Judah said...

Again, Frank, great thoughts.

You can continue being patronizing and/or sarcastic, but that does not make the questions I raised just go away.

farmboy said...

"... but that does not make the questions I raised just go away."

In the spirit of trees falling in forests, making noise and such. If a troll asks a "question" and no one acknowledges it, was a question really asked? Let's save the leading questions for Perry Mason, Hamilton Burger and such.