posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Need of Decision for the Truth," a message Spurgeon preached at his pastors' college a few years before the Down Grade Controversy erupted. This message was originally published in the March 1874 issue of The sword and the Trowel.
here are gentlemen alive who imagine that there are no fixed principles to go upon. "Perhaps a few doctrines," said one to me, "perhaps a few doctrines may be considered as established. It is, perhaps, ascertained that there is a God; but one ought not to dogmatise upon His personality: a great deal may be said for pantheism."
Such men creep into the ministry, but they are generally cunning enough to conceal the breadth of their minds beneath Christian phraseology, thus acting in consistency with their principles, for their fundamental rule is that truth is of no consequence.
As for usas for me, at any rateI am certain that there is a God, and I mean to preach it as a man does who is absolutely sure. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the Master of providence, and the Lord of grace: let his name be blessed for ever and ever! We will have no questions and debates as to him.
We are equally certain that the book which is called "the Bible" is his word, and is inspired; not inspired in the sense in which Shakespeare, and Milton, and Dryden may be inspired, but in an infinitely higher sense; so that, provided we have the exact text, we regard the words themselves as infallible. We believe that everything stated in the book that comes to us from God is to be accepted by us as his sure testimony, and nothing less than that. God forbid we should be ensnared by those various interpretations of the modus of inspiration, which amount to little more than frittering it away. The book is a divine production; it is perfect, and is the last court of appeal" the judge which ends the strife." I would as soon dream of blaspheming my Maker as of questioning the infallibility of his word.
We are also sure concerning the doctrine of the blessed Trinity. We cannot explain how the Father, Son, and Spirit can be each one distinct and perfect in himself, and yet that these three are one, so that there is but one God; yet we do verily believe it, and mean to preach it, notwithstanding Unitarian, Socinian, Sabellian, or any other error. We shall hold that fast evermore, by the grace of God.
And, brethren, there will be no uncertain sound from us as to the doctrine of atonement. We cannot leave the blood out of our ministry, or the life of it will be gone; for we may say of our ministry, "The blood is the life thereof." The proper substitution of Christ, the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, on the behalf of his people, that they might live through him. This we must publish till we die.
Neither can we waver in our mind for a moment concerning the great and glorious Spirit of Godthe fact of his existence, his personality, and the power of his workings; the necessity of his influences, the certainty that no man is regenerated except by him; that we are born again by the Spirit of God, and that the Spirit dwells in believers, and is the author of all good in them, their sanctifier and preserver, without whom they can do no good thing whatsoever. We shall not at all hesitate as to preaching that truth.
The absolute necessity of the new birth is also a certainty. We come down with demonstration when we touch that point. We shall never poison our people with the notion that a moral reformation will suffice, but we will over and over again say to them, "Ye must be born again." We have not got into the condition of the Scotch minister, who when old John Macdonald preached to his congregation a sermon to sinners remarked, "Well, Mr. Macdonald, that was a very good sermon which you have preached, but it is very much out of place, for I do not know one single unregenerate person in my congregation." Poor soul, he was in all probability unregenerated himself. No, we dare not flatter our hearers, but we must continue to tell them that they are born sinners, and must be born saints, or they will never see the face of God with acceptance.
The tremendous evil of sinwe shall not hesitate about that. We shall speak on that matter both sorrowfully and positively; and, though some very wise men raise difficult questions about hell, we shall not furl to declare the terrors of the Lord, and the fact that the Lord has said, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."
Neither will we ever give an uncertain sound as to the glorious truth that salvation is all of grace. If ever we ourselves are saved, we know that sovereign grace alone has done it, and we feel it must be the same with others. We will publish "Grace! grace! grace!" with all our might, living and dying.
We shall be very decided, also, as to justification by faith, for salvation is "Not of works, lest any man should boast." "Life in a look at the Crucified One" will be our message. Trust in the Redeemer will be that saving grace which we will pray the Lord to implant in all our hearers' hearts.
And everything else which we believe to be true in the Scriptures we shall preach with decision. If there be questions which may be regarded as moot, or comparatively unimportant, we shall speak with such a measure of decision about them as may be comely. But points which cannot be moot, which are essential and fundamental, will be declared by us without any stammering, without any inquiring of the people, "What would you wish us to say?"
Yes, and without the apology, "Those are my views, but other people's views may be correct." We ought to preach the gospel, not as our views at all, but as the mind of Godthe testimony of Jehovah concerning his own Son, and in reference to salvation for lost men. If we had been entrusted with the making of the gospel, we might have altered it to suit the taste of this modest century, but never having been employed to originate the good news, but merely to repeat it, we dare not stir beyond the record. What we have been taught of God we teach. If we do not do this, we are not fit for our position.
If I have a servant in my house, and I send a message by her to the door, and she amends it, on her own authority, she may take away the very soul of the message by so doing, and she will be responsible for what she has done. She will not long remain in my employ, for I need a servant who will repeat what I say, as nearly as possible, word for word; and if she does so, I am responsible for the message, she is not. If any one should be angry with her on account of what she said, they would be very unjust; their quarrel lies with me, and not with the person whom I employ to act as mouth for me. He that hath God's Word, let him speak it faithfully, and he will have no need to answer gainsayers, except with a "Thus saith the Lord."