posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is an article that was published in the April 1868 issue of The Sword and the Trowel.
In the second paragraph below, Spurgeon refers to "spirits in red, white, and blue." That was a reference to the colorful ecclesiastical vestments that had become fashionable among Anglicans in the wake of the Oxford movement, an Anglo-Catholic party of high-church Anglicans—also known as the Tractarian Movement. In another place below, Spurgeon refers to the same movement as "Puseyism," after Edward Pusey, an Oxford professor and Anglican ultra-high churchman who became the movement's de facto leader after John Henry Newman joined the Roman Catholic Church). This is a classic diatribe—one of many Spurgeon issued against Romanizing tendencies in the English Established Church.
HEN a genuine Christian happens to find himself settled down as a clergyman of the church of England in addition to the troublesome memories of the inconvenient declarations by which he reached his position, he must frequently be the victim of mental nausea at the sight of the motley squadron in which he is enrolled.
There is good Mr. Ryle, an indefatigable Tractarian, who hates Romish Tractarianism, and preaches the gospel thoroughly and there are many, like him the excellent of the earth, distinguished for piety, who would be an honor to any denomination of Christians: a believer in Jesus feels much comfort in such company; but who are those spirits in red, white, and blue? Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, in their dress at any rate. Their voice is Babylonian even as their apparel; they hail from Rome, and are affectionately attached to the Mother of Harlots. Can the lover of truth go with these? Can the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ's pure gospel sit in the same congress with these priests? Bow at the same altar? Unite in church fellowship with them?
Surely the more gracious a man is the more irksome must such fellowship become. That searching question, "What concord hath Christ with Belial?" if it ever intrudes itself into rectories, must torture any evangelical clergyman who keeps a tender conscience.
Moreover, on the other side of the quadrangle of the Establishment one sees a Philistine regiment of skeptics, with a bishop to head them, and all sorts of dignitaries to make up the battalion. Can the spiritual mind find peace in an affinity with these? Can it be to the evangelical clergyman, who is truly converted, a fact to sleep quietly upon, that he is in full communion with these unbelievers? The apostolical inquiry, "What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" must surely at times ring through the manse, and startle the quiet of the vicarage library.
How our brethren manage to read the burial service over ungodly men, how they can subscribe to the catechism, and many other enormities of the Book of Common Prayer, remains to us an enigma towards the solution of which we have not advanced a hair's breadth since the day when we provoked so much indignation by our sermon on "Baptismal Regeneration;" but the first bitter draught of subscription, and the subsequent doses of catchism and rubric, are not all the annoyances of conforming Puritans, for many of them are so sorely vexed with daily ecclesiastical troubles, that they might almost say with David, "All the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning."
We would pity them for being placed in so unenviable a position were they not free to get out of it whenever they please: lacking room for commiseration, we adopt another form of good wishing, and pray that their yoke may become heavier day by day, and their surroundings more and more intolerable, until they are driven forth from their self-chosen bonds.
We are the best friend of the Evangelicals, because we do not delude them into the notion that their ecclesiastical union with Puseysim and Rationalism is justifiable, but honestly urge them to quit their indefensible and dishonorable position, and come out decidedly from all communion with the monster evils of the Establishment. None will welcome them more heartily or help them more industriously than he whom they adjudged to be unkind because of his outspoken rebukes.
Disapproving of Episcopacy as a form of church government, many Dissenters would nevertheless rejoice to assist a free evangelical episcopal community formed by a great secession from the state church, and freed from its glaring errors; and such a church would be vexed by no special bickerings and jealousies between itself and the other members of the great evangelical family, it would most probably enjoy a place of more than ordinary prestige, and might possibly become the largest religious community in England. A little Scotch backbone and wonders would be wrought. Alas! we fear that the Record school teaches no lessons which can educate heroes, and we are afraid the evangelicals will continue to be what the Puseyites call them, "the jellies," to the end of the chapter.
In their work for the Lord, our Christian brethren in the Establishment of the bolder stamp frequently find Churchianity a sad incumbrance to them. In favored regions, where the gospel has long been preached, a circle of believers has been formed, who form a church within the church, and contribute greatly to the success and comfort of the clergyman; but in other cases the Churchmen of the parish are a terrible nuisance to the Christian incumbent.
Laying aside for a moment our opinion of the inconsistency of his official position, we cannot help sympathizing deeply with the minister who, hampered and bound by his ecclesiastical connections, is nevertheless struggling, as manfully as his condition allows, to preserve a gospel testimony in the land. We wish God-speed to all such, as ministers of our Lord Jesus, although we anxiously desire that their membership with the corrupt church of England may, at any cost, speedily come to an end. We know that hundreds of the excellent of the earth are preaching the pure word of truth every Sabbath within the bounds of Episcopalianism, with hearts breaking for heaviness because their parishioners loathe the gospel, and hate them for the gospel's sake.
"Ah," said a clergyman to us a few months ago, "your people love you, and if you are ill they are all praying to have you restored, but as for me, they would set the bells ringing in my parish if I were dead, for gospel truth is abominable in the esteem of most of them, and they hate me for keeping ritualism out of my church." This was, probably, an extreme case, but there are many of a similar kind, though not so intense in degree. May such brethren be upheld by their great Master to war a good warfare, and to remain faithful to the faith once committed to the saints. Inconsistent as they are, we cannot deliberate for a single moment as to which side to take in the contest between them and Ritualists and worldlings; they are our brethren notwithstanding their shortcoming, their cause is the cause of truth and righteousness, so far as they preach the gospel of Jesus, and may it triumph beyond their own expectation, even to the destruction of the union between church and state.
They deserve to be driven out of the Establishment, in which they are intruders, towards which they are Dissenters, for which they have defiled their reputations among their Nonconforming brethren, but, as men fighting in a wicked world against deadly errors, they deserve the prayers of all believers, and the best assistance that can be rendered by all Christians.
In the Bucks Herald a serious complaint is laid against the zealous Vicar of Winslow, by a Churchman, which we shall use as an illustration of the quarrel between Christianity and Churchianity. The allegations appear to us to be very justly brought by the writer from his Churchianity point of view; the vicar is a Christian, and has no right in the Anglican church, and when his vestry condemns him, it is simply the voice of the church with which he has unhappily allied himself protesting against the religion of Jesus, which shines in his course of action. If an honest Englishman enlists in the French army in time of war, he must not wonder if his British manners are offensive to his Gallic connections; he should not put himself in so false a position, but range himself on the side to which, by lineage and loyalty, he belongs.
It is curious to note that the great sins which the Vicar of Winslow has committed against Churchianity, are precisely the very acts which, under Christianity, are accounted as virtues. His good before the Lord of hosts is evil in the judgment of perverse men. "In Winslow," says the Churchman, "there is a most decided church feeling. Many of us, with the greatest regret, leave our parish church, who have never done so before; others, who from circumstances are unable to do so, feel the want of good services, but submit to what they get. Our vicar, I believe, thinks himself sincere and right; but he forgets that other persons may (as in this instance they do) hold contrary views to his, to which views he will not yield in the slightest degree, although it would be for the benefit of the church of which he is a priest, and of which we are the true and loving people."
Of course he is a priest, and his own prayer book calls him so, and yet we venture to guess that he disowns the title. His parishioners are right enough in murmuring at his want of churchmanship, but he is more right still, though very inconsistent, in putting Christ before the church.
Now for the gross transgressions of the vicar, which are chiefly threefold.
Item the first. He has been guilty of Christian love. He has committed against Churchianity the high crime and misdemeanor of loving his brethren in the faith, whereas he ought to have denounced them all as schismatics and heretics. The charge needs no comment from us, all sound judges will see that the case is parallel to that against Paul and Silas, at Philippi, "these men, being Christians, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs which it is not lawful for us to receive, being Churchmen." Here are the very words of the accusation"the holding of prayer meetings, at which all denominations of Christians were invited to attend, and to offer up prayer in alphabetical order, regardless of sect, and under the presidency of the vicar."
Horrible! is it not, O bitter bigot? Lovely! is it not, disciple of Jesus?
Item second. He has vindicated, as well as he could, a weak point in his teaching, and has been anxious to win over those who differ. He is accused of preaching "special sermons upon such subjects as Holy Baptism, and inviting the Baptists to attend, when that denomination of Christians had just established a new place of worship." Churchianity does not think those vile Baptists to be worth powder and shot. To preach to them is as bad as Paul preaching among the uncircumcised Gentiles. It is useless to try to convert them, and it is dangerous to ventilate the subject of Baptism, because the church is so very fond of Infant Baptism, and the matter is so exceedingly doubtful, that it is better not to stir in it.
The Baptists, mark you, reader, do not complain; they are glad that every Paedobaptist should declare his own views, and they feel so safe in their own entrenchments that they look for converts whenever the subject is brought before the public mind; but the churchman complains grievously because Baptists are even bidden to come and be rectified by the vicar; let them alone, they are heretics and arch enemies of Churchianity; let them go to their own place, both here and hereafter.
Item third. The vicar has had the impertinence to be faithful as a pastor. This is a very serious business, and, we should imagine, is at the bottom of the whole complaint. He has trodden on some people's gouty toes, and touched their besetting sins with too rough a hand. "Thus," saith the church-scribe, "the preaching of sermons upon such subjects as balls and concerts, when such private and public entertainments were about to be given; I say that, in my belief, these things have been calculated to send church-goers elsewhere, such sermons as I have mentioned coming under the head of personal ones, which should always be avoided."
Christianity approves of holy boldness in reproof, and integrity in declaring the whole counsel of God, but Churchianity loves gaiety and frivolity, and would have a dumb dog in the pulpit, who will not rebuke it. Whenever Churchianity has ruled, revelry and wantonness have been winked at, so long as saints' days, sacraments, and priests have been regarded. God's law is nothing to the high church, so long as church forms are scrupulously and ostentatiously observed. We should see maypoles erected and danced around on a Sunday afternoon within a year, if Churchianity had its way; the Book of Sports would be revived, and the evening of the Lord's day would be dedicated to the devil. Leave the church open, observe saints' days, decorate the altar, sing "Hymns Ancient and Modern," put on tagrags, and all goes smoothly with Churchianity: preach the gospel, and denounce sin, and straightway there is no small stir.
Well, good Mr. Vicar, may you be yet more vile in these men's sight, until they cast you out of the national church as your Master was driven forth before you. May you please God more and more, and make the devil and all his allies heartily sick of you. Saving your vicarage, and professed churchmanship, about which we can see nothing desirable, we esteem you highly, and hope that you and the like of you may evermore be sustained by the abounding mercy of the great Head of the one only true church, which is the remnant according to the election of grace: May Christianity rule and Churchianity be cast to the moles and to the bats.