posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "A Fragment Upon the Down-Grade Controversy," an article published in the November 1887 issue of The Sword and the Trowel, at the height of the "Down-Grade" controversy.
o pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus. If we are prepared to enter into solemn league and covenant for the defense of the crown-rights of King Jesus, we cannot give up the crown-jewels of his gospel for the sake of a larger charity. He is our Master and Lord, and we will keep his words: to tamper with his doctrine would be to be traitors to himself.
Yet, almost unconsciously, good men and true may drift into compromises which they would not at first propose, but which they seem forced to justify. Yielding to be the creatures of circumstances, they allow another to gird them, and lead them whither they would not; and when they wake up, and find themselves in an undesirable condition, they have not always the resolution to break away from it. Especially in the company of their equally-erring brethren, they are not inclined to consider their ways, and are not anxious to have them remarked upon; and, therefore, in this brief paper we venture to make an earnest appeal from brethren assembled, to brethren at home in their studies quietly turning over the matter.
As much as possible we beg them to forget the obnoxious reprover, and to look the state of affairs carefully in the face, and see if it strikes them as it does us. We will put it plainly, not to provoke, but to be understood.
As a matter of fact, believers in Christ's atonement are now in declared religions union with those who make light of it; believers in Holy Scripture are in confederacy with those who deny plenary inspiration; those who hold evangelical doctrine are in open alliance with those who call the fall a fable, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, who call justification by faith immoral, and hold that there is another probation after death, and a future restitution for the lost.
Yes, we have before us the wretched spectacle of professedly orthodox Christians publicly avowing their union with those who deny the faith, and scarcely concealing their contempt for those who cannot be guilty of such gross disloyalty to Christ. To be very plain, we are unable to call these things Christian Unions, they begin to look like Confederacies in Evil. Before the face of God we fear that they wear no other aspect. To our inmost heart, this is a sad truth from which we cannot break away.
It is lawful to unite with all sorts of men for good and benevolent and necessary purposes, even as at a fire, Pagan and Papist and Protestant may each one hand on the buckets and in a sinking ship, heathen and Christian alike are bound to take turns at the pumps. For useful, philanthropical, and political purposes, united action is allowable among men of the most diverse views in religion. But the case before us is that of a distinctly religious communion, a professed fellowship in Christ. Is this to be made so wide that those who contradict each other on vital points may yet pretend to be at one?
Furthermore, we should greatly object to the shifting about for heresy which some speak of; but in this case the heresy is avowed, and is thrust forward in no diffident style. No words could be more explicit had they been selected as a challenge. We have not to deal with those tares which were like the wheat, but with thorns and thistles which declare themselves openly. Whether the Down-Grade evil has operated on few or many is a question which may be waived: it has operated manifestly enough upon some, and they glory in it. Yet professedly sound believers are in full accord with these outspokenly heterodox men, and are linked with them in set and formal union. Is this according to the mind of the God of truth?
The largest charity towards those who are loyal to the Lord Jesus, and yet do not see with us on secondary matters, is the duty of all true Christians. But how are we to act towards those who deny his vicarious sacrifice, and ridicule the great truth of justification by his righteousness? These are not mistaken friends, but enemies of the cross of Christ. There is no use in employing circumlocutions and polite terms of expression:where Christ is not received as to the cleansing power of his blood and the justifying merit of his righteousness, he is not received at all.