posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Why Men Cannot Believe in Christ," a sermon published in 1875
should not wonder but what the Pope really believes that he is infallible, and that he ought to be saluted as "his holiness." It must have taken him a good time to arrive at that eminence of self-deception, but he has got to that, I dare say, by now, and every one who kisses his toe confirms him in his insane idea.
When everybody else believes a haltering falsehood concerning you, you come at last to believe it yourself, or at least to think that it may be so. These Pharisees, being continually called "the learned rabbi," "the holy scribe," "the devout and pious doctor," "the sanctified teacher," almost believed the flattering compliments. They used very grand phrases in those days, and doctors of divinity were very common, almost as common as they are now; and the crowd of doctors and rabbis helped to keep each other in countenance by repeating one another's fine names till they believed they meant something.
Dear friends, it is very difficult to receive honor and to expect it, and yet to keep your eyesight; for men's eyes gradually grow dull through the smoke of the incense which is burned before them; and when their eyes become dim with self-conceit, it will not be at all marvellous if they say, "We cannot believe in Jesus Christ." Their own great selves conceal the cross, and make them unable to believe the truth.
Once more, the praise of men generally turns the receivers of it into great cowards. How could they believe in Jesus? Why, the people would leave off terming them "the learned rabbi," and "the celestial doctor," and their brethren would put them out of the synagogue. How could they believe, and lose their status? Why, the would say, "Has rabbi So-and-so become a disciple of the carpenter's son? Has he put aside his wisdom and become a child, that he may be instructed by the Nazarene?" Why, the whole Sanhedrin would hiss out indignation against the learned man, the pious man, the devout man, with his phylactery, and the broad border of his garment, if he were to follow with publicans and harlots at the heels of the rejected Messiah. They were afraid! They were afraid!
That same spirit which makes us love the praise of men makes us dread the threats of men. You cannot be pleased with the adulation of mankind without becoming fearful of tour censure. It is a perilous thing to taste of human honor: if it makes you sick, it is the best thing it can do for you. If you despise it utterly, it is the only way of bearing it without being injured by it; for I say again, delight in the praises of others saps the foundations of a man's manhood: delight in the praise of men takes a man off from following after the glory of God, and makes him afraid of following the truth if it cost him ridicule.