21 February 2009

l'Optimisme

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 chapter 8, "What We Would Be" in the book An All-round Ministry. Spurgeon appended a note to this chapter, remarking that "This address was delivered in great pain." He also said the book-chapter was later edited "under much the same conditions."

     When Spurgeon gave this message, Modernism—the Emerging fad of his day—was beginning to suffer some of its earliest setbacks. Some Christian leaders who had previously been overly-tolerant of Modernism were beginning to see that the movement's drift was fatal to the health and vibrancy of their churches. Spurgeon was convinced the tide was beginning to turn, and that Modernism would eventually recede and finally drown under the weight of its own skepticism. (He was right about that, though he surely would have been distressed had he known how long modernism would survive even in its death-throes.)
     Still, this is hardly an upbeat message. Spurgeon clearly doubted whether the visible church and her institutions could ever fully recover from the killing effects of modernism. He spoke of denominational reform as a Quixotic hope. He must have sounded very pessimistic at the time. But again it turns out that he was quite right.
     He was right on all counts. The tide did change; and it has changed yet again. As we frequently point out here at PyroManiacs, we are now right back where Spurgeon was in his day—seeing the first inklings of ebb-tide for the post-modern trends,—but clouded with an uneasy feeling that the obvious lessons have been neither learned nor even observed by those who ought to see them most clearly.
     At the end of this excerpt, Spurgeon sounds a little like Voltaire's Candide: "We must cultivate our garden."
     I think he was right about that, too.


      mourn the terrible defections from the truth which are now too numerous to be thought of in detail; nevertheless, I am not disquieted, much less dispirited. That cloud will blow over, as many another has done.

I think the outlook is better than it was. I do not think the devil is any better: I never expected he would be; but he is older. Brethren, whether that is for the better or for the worse, I do not know; but, assuredly, the arch-enemy is not quite such a novelty among us as he was. We are not quite so much afraid of that particular form of devilry which is raging now, because we begin to perceive its shape.

The unknown appeared to be terrible; but familiarity has removed alarm. At the first, this "modern thought" looked very like a lion; the roaring thereof was terrible, though to some ears there was always a suspicion of braying about it. On closer inspection, the huge king of beasts looked more like a fox, and now we should honor it if we likened it to a wild cat.

We were to have been devoured of lions, but the monsters are not to be seen. Scientific religion is empty talk without either science or religion in it. The mountain has brought forth its mouse, or, at any rate, the grand event is near. Very soon, "advanced thought" will only be mentioned by servant girls and young Independent ministers. It has gradually declined till it may now be carried off with the slops. There is nothing in the whole bag of tricks.

At this hour, I see the tide turning;—not that I care much for that, for the rock on which I build is unaffected by ebb, or flood of human philosophy. Still, it is interesting to remark that the current is not setting in quite the same direction as heretofore. Young men who have tried modern doubt have seen their congregations dwindle away beneath its withering power; and they are, therefore, not quite so enamoured of it as they were.

It is time they should make a change; for Christian people have observed that these advanced men have not been remarkable for abundant grace, and they have even been led to think that their loose views on doctrine were all of a piece with looseness as to religion in general. Want of soundness in the faith is usually occasioned by want of conversion. Had certain men felt the power of the gospel in their own souls, they would not so readily have forsaken it to run after fables.

Lovers of the eternal truth, you have nothing to fear! God is with those who are with Him. He reveals Himself to those who believe His revelation. Our march is not to and fro, but onward unto victory. "The Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever." Other enemies will arise, even as Amalekites, Hivites, Jebusites, Perizzites, and all the rest of them, rose up against Israel; but, in the Name of the Lord, we shall pass on to possess the promised heritage.

Meanwhile, it is for us quietly to labor on. Our daydreams are over: we shall neither convert the world to righteousness, nor the church to orthodoxy. We refuse to bear responsibilities which do not belong to us, for our real responsibilities are more than enough. Certain wise brethren are hot to reform their denomination. They ride out gallantly. Success be to the champions! They are generally wiser when they ride home again.

I confess great admiration for my Quixotic brethren, but I wish they had more to show for their valor. I fear that both church and world are beyond us; we must be content with smaller spheres. Even our own denomination must go its own way. We: are only responsible so far as our power goes, and it will be wise to use that power for some object well within reach. For the rest, let us not worry and weary about things beyond our line. What if we cannot destroy all the thorns and thistles which curse the earth; we can, perhaps, cleanse our own little plot. If we cannot transform the desert into a pasture, we may at least make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before; and that will be something.

Brethren, let us look well to our own steadfastness in the faith, our own holy walking with God. Some say that such advice is selfish; but I believe that, in truth, it is not selfishness, but a sane and practical love of others which leads us to be mindful of our own spiritual state. Desiring to do its level best, and to use its own self in the highest degree to God's glory, the true heart seeks to be in all things right with God. He who has learned to swim has fostered a proper selfishness, for he has thereby acquired the power of helping the drowning. With the view of blessing others, let us covet earnestly the best blessings for ourselves.

C. H. Spurgeon


9 comments:

Johnny Dialectic said...

Yes, a number of us predicted years ago that the "emergent church movement" would soon downgrade to a "conversation" and then eventually break apart. It was inevitable. And, qua Spurgeon, we ought to be tending now our own gardens, our local churches, and bring them back to the essential gospel, where the power is, and forget mass movements. The soil is right for a return, because people are hungry for solid food after so much fluff.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Reads like what is happening world-wide today. the demise of para-church institutions and the re-establishing of the church with its biblical pattern of operation.

DJP said...

Want of soundness in the faith is usually occasioned by want of conversion. Had certain men felt the power of the gospel in their own souls, they would not so readily have forsaken it to run after fables

Word.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

DJP;
Amen and amen.

Stefan said...

Our daydreams are over: we shall neither convert the world to righteousness, nor the church to orthodoxy.

I don't have anything to add to that...it just stuck out with me.

Interesting to note, though, that he said this at a time when postmillennialist hope in bringing about the Kingdom through human means seems to have been de rigeur.

Terry Rayburn said...

"If we cannot transform the desert into a pasture, we may at least make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before; and that will be something."

Often because we can't do everything, we do nothing. Foolish. A bucket of water is filled with drops.

The tiniest stream in Clarksville, Tennessee ends up in the mighty Mississippi River, and then the oceans. Even though we only see the tiny stream.

Blog, speak, love, teach, counsel, throw in your measly loaf or fish.

As the old hymn says, "Little is much when God is in it."

Rick Frueh said...

Another first - Spurgeon sounds like Voltaire! He also sounds like Shakespeare - "What a piece of work is a man!"

A piece of work is right...

Dennis Elslager said...

I would hope we never forget that there are some within these groups that are full of error yet are of the sort that could be brought out by the grace ministered from God through those of us who know the Truth and have compassion on them in their being misguided by false doctrine.

Looking at Jude 22-23

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment {Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin} stained by the flesh. -ESV

Here is a quote from John MacArthur:

The first group of people that we have to be concerned about is the confused, the doubting. To have mercy means to show kindness and this is the kindness of giving them the truth because down in verse 23 it repeats it again in the middle of the verse, “On some have mercy with fear.” This mercy is the merciful presentation of the truth. That is to say this, folks, look, when you come across someone who is now caught up with spiritual terrorists to the point that they are confused, you might have a tendency to say, “Get them out of my life, get rid of them, get them away, I want nothing to do with them. They’re starting to drift the wrong direction. We want to abandon them, we want to clear the decks of these people.” On the one hand you want to protect the church. On the other hand you have to show mercy to those people and the mercy that they need is the...and mercy meaning something they don’t really deserve and haven’t earned...in spite of their threat to the church, you have the obligation to feel compassion, to feel sympathy, to feel concern for someone who is doubting. Now the word doubting is basically confused. False teachers always go after people who are weak.

It is the weaker misguided people spoken of here that we have to remember as we picture ourselves ineffective or incapable of reaching those held in a strong delusion because it is just not too hopeful and a waste of our time and effort. We are called to be soldiers to go into a foreign land to save those whom God desires to be freed from the bondage of the Devil who holds them captive until the Light of the saving Gospel of Christ Jesus is made clear to them and the fetters are broken.

I pray we do not relax too much as we see the enemies strong holds over those claiming to have light yet groping in the dark and drawing others in with them. As we hold that "Other enemies will arise, even as Amalekites, Hivites, Jebusites, Perizzites, and all the rest of them, rose up against Israel; but, in the Name of the Lord, we shall pass on to possess the promised heritage.”, let us also recall that it was those who demolished strongholds and set captives free through tearing down those things which have been exalted against the knowledge of God in Christ.

The substance of our battle for souls is more real than any fleshly battle being waged with carnal weapons. Our faith and the the purity of this faith is the victory which will overcome this world’s god who seeks to infiltrate through beguiling wolves in sheep’s clothing.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2Cor 2:14)- ESV

Charles said...

"He who has learned to swim has fostered a proper selfishness, for he has thereby acquired the power of helping the drowning."

Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?