posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Holy Spirit Glorifying Christ," a sermon preached Sunday morning, 17 August 1862, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. Spurgeon's words were never more applicable than they are today, even though the tables have turned and the greater danger seems to come from pseudo-prophecies and other charismatic lunacy of the type Spurgeon said was uncommon in his time. Today there is much "danger from the excesses of fevered brains."
But there is still also the danger of those who approach the Scriptures in a cold, merely-academic fashion, and both sides of Spurgeon's admonition are worthy of the most sober reflection.
here are two faults of the Church which appear to me periodically to manifest themselves.
The one is when men ascribe wrong things to the Holy Ghost, and maketh him the author of human novelties and delusions. In seasons when the minds of good men were anxiously alive to spiritual operations, certain weak-headed or designing persons have grown fanatical, and being bewildered by their own confused feelings, and puffed up by their fleshly mind, have forsaken the true light which is in the Word, to follow after the will-o'-the-wisps of their own fancies, the ignis-fatuui of their own brains.
Such vain-glorious fools aspiring to be leaders, masters of sects, will boldly tell to men of itching ears that fresh doctrines have been specially revealed to them. They prate much of what they call the inner light (which is often an inner darkness), which dim candle they exalt above the light of the word of God, and tell you that marvellous things have been taught to them in dreams and visions.
Ah! this is a high and crying crime. What, will you lay at the door of the Holy Ghost a deed which God hath solemnly cursed? Do you not start back at such a thought? Is it not almost blasphemy to imagine it? And yet remember, he that adds a single word to the canon of inspiration is cursed. Give ear to the very words of the Lord our God, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
And do you think the Holy Ghost would do that which involves a curse upon man? If I venture to add to God's word, or to take from it, I do it with this as my penalty, that God shall blot my name out of the Book of Life and out of the holy city; and yet these base pretenders, who would lay their foolish notions at the door of God the Holy Ghost, will have it that he has taught them more than is in the Book, that he has removed that which God laid down as the grand land-mark, and added to the finished testimony of God.
Let none of you have any sort of patience with men who talk thus. Deny their very first principle, tell them whether it be the deceiver of Western America, or the false prophet of Arabia—tell them that they are all impostors, for they ascribe to the Holy Ghost that which is impossible for him to commit, a violation of the revealed will of God in which it is declared that the canon of inspiration is shut up once for all.
A little of this evil I detect among godly people. I find that sometimes even gracious men think they have had revelations. Texts of Scripture are no doubt laid home by the Holy Ghost to the souls of men as much to-day as in Paul's time, and there can be no doubt whatever that the Spirit bringeth all things to our remembrance whatsoever Christ hath taught, and that he leadeth us into all truth; but when a man tells me that the Holy Ghost has revealed to him something that is not in the Bible, he lies!
Is that a hard word? It doth but express the truth. The man may have dreamed his revelation, he may have fancied it, but the Holy Spirit goeth never beyond the written word. "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." And beyond what Christ hath spoken and what Christ hath taught, the Holy Spirit goeth in no sense and in no respect. You understand what Christ has taught through the Spirit's teaching; but anything beyond the teaching of Christ and his apostles must be not of God but of man.
This is a most important principle to be held fast by all godly people, for the day may come when false prophets shall arise, and delude the people, and by this shall we be able to discover them; if they claim aught beyond what Christ hath put them aside, for they be false prophets, wolves in sheep's clothing. The Spirit only teacheth us that which Christ hath taught beforehand either by himself or by the inspired apostles. "He shall take of mine and shall show it unto you."
Just now we are in little danger from the excesses of fevered brains, for, as a rule, our sin is in being far too cold and dead to spiritual influences. I fear me we are liable to another evil, and are apt to forget the person and work of the Comforter altogether. We fear some congregations might say, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." From many modern sermons would you know that there was a Holy Spirit? If it were not for the benediction or the doxology you might go in and out many churches and meeting-houses by the year together, and scarcely know that there was such a person as that blessed, blessed giver of all good, the Holy Ghost. Sometimes we hear a little about his influences, as if the Holy Spirit were not as truly a person as even Jesus Christ himself, who in flesh and blood trod this earth.
Oh, dear friends, I fear the first danger, that of running wild with whimsies and fancies about inner lights and new revelations; but I equally dread this last, this putting the revelation above the revealer, this taking the book without the author, this preaching of the truth without the great truth-applyer, this going forth to work with the sword, forgetting that it is the sword of the Spirit, and only mighty as the Holy Ghost maketh it "mighty to the pulling down of strongholds." May this Church ever continue to reverence the Holy Spirit without exaggerating his work! May we prize him, love him.