posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Natural or Spiritual?"—a sermon preached on Sunday morning 1 September 1861, at the Met Tab in London.
t is a well-known fact, and one which can be proved by the observation of every day, that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. Mark, we lay this down as a rule.
We do not say that the drunken or debauched natural man receives not the things of God. That is true; but we also insist upon it that the delicate and the refined natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God. I do not pick out some one case, and say the uneducated, illiterate, coarse, low-minded natural man cannot comprehend spiritual things; but all alike, the most intelligent, enlightened, and trained natural men, equally, do not, and cannot, and will not comprehend the things of the Spirit of God. Like our apostle, we take a wide range, and do not leave out one.
However amiable in natural temperament, however well trained by the best parental associations, however kept in check by the most excellent position in providence, however patriotic, however self-denying, however benevolent, however estimable in any other respects, the natural man does not and cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God.
Now—look around and search for the facts which prove the truth of this. How many natural men there are, and such as you would call good men too in some ways, who oppose violently the things of the Spirit of God? They do not believe them; nay, they say they are a lie. They cannot understand how men should be simpletons enough to believe such ridiculous things. Honestly do they imagine that they shall be snapping the chains of priestcraft and unrivetting the fetters of superstition, if they should come forward and attempt to prove that these spiritual things are a mere delusion.
There, gentlemen, we have lived to see you, under a profession of religion, actually oppose those spiritual things which this religion teaches. We have lived to see what we scarcely ever dreamed to be possible—clergymen of the Church of England themselves denying the truths which they swore they would defend, and in their "Essays and Reviews" seeking to cast down those spiritual things which once they professed to have understood when they claimed to have received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of their bishop.
We have not only in these times opened and avowed infidel lecturers who, like honest men deny everything openly, but we have the hypocritical Christian infidel who, like a dishonest thief and wolf in sheep's clothing, willing always to take the gain of godliness, denies godliness itself. Perhaps it was left for this age to permit wickedness to culminate to the highest, and to see the growth of the vilest hypocrisy that ever appeared among the sons of men.
We have had abundant proof that men of the most scientific minds, persons who have been exceedingly inquiring, men who have trod the realms of knowledge, and gone even to the seventh heaven of wisdom, that these have nevertheless proved that they could not receive the things of the kingdom of God, by their determined opposition and enmity against anything like the truth as it is in Jesus. When you hear them blaspheming the holy name of Christ, when you hear them bringing what they call "scientific facts" against the truth of revelation, be not amazed as though it were some new thing, but write this down in your memorandum book—the Holy Ghost said of old, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God," and these men live to prove that what the Spirit of God said was very truth.
A greater proportion of persons there are who do not so much oppose violently as more secretly despise and condemn. Well, they tell us, they dare say that the Christian religion is a very good thing for some people, and especially for old women and for persons that are on the borders of the grave, but still no rational being would endorse full all the doctrines of the gospel, and especially that particular form of them which John Calvin taught; for if there be any doctrines that excite more the spleen of the wise men than any other, it is the doctrines of grace, the doctrine of discriminating, distinguishing love, the doctrine of divine sovereignty, the doctrine of God, being really God, and not man.
Against these they have no words too bitter. "Oh," they say, "it is an exploded theory; it has had its day, and it has become effete," and so, without actually persecuting those who hold the truth, or without even setting themselves up by active efforts to put it down they do secretly with a sneer and with a jest, pass it by as a thing utterly unworthy of a rational person, a thing that is not for a moment to be thought of as being one half so important as the wing of a beetle, or as the particular flight of a sparrow, or the period of the migration of a swallow.
All the facts of natural history they think valuable and important, but these grander truths which have to do with the kingdom of God they despise utterly, and think they are but the dream of simpletons.
Again, I say, my brethren, marvel not at this. Let this be to you another argument that the Spirit of God knew what was in man, and rightly judged of the human heart when he said, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God."