posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Refuges of Lies and What Will Come of Them," a sermon preached on Sunday morning, 26 October 1879, at the Met Tab in London.
ach age would fain have its own gospel, and the present is not behind hand in the desire to be its own prophet. Many are ready to help in this presumptuous design.
Certain divines attain to eminence by undermining the gospel they pretend to defend, and forging new theories upon the anvils of their own fancy. Men who would never have been known if they had acted honestly have gained a cheap notoriety by vending heresy, and yet wearing the garb and eating the bread of orthodoxy.
The most fashionable form of this evil just now is the production of novelties with regard to the future punishment of the wicked. False prophets prophesy smooth things, and talk of a larger hope which being interpreted is this, that men may live very much as they like; but some time or other, and somehow or other, character will cease to operate upon destiny, and the righteous and the wicked will stand on a par. This is the old doctrine of falsehood with which the sinner blesses himself in his heart, saying, "I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart."
The punishment of sin has been doubted from the very beginning. The chief of all subtle thinkers said in the garden of Eden, "Ye shall not surely die." By this larger hope, insinuated rather than boldly stated, the serpentine philosopher tempted the woman, and ruined our race. Pleased with his success, he continues to use the same artifice, asserting either that sin is trivial, or that penance can remove it, or that hell is temporary, or that the soul will be annihilated, or some other form of the same radical lie. His perpetual cry is, "You shall not surely suffer what God threatens; you may sin, and yet there is a hope larger than the revelation of Jesus Christ, wider than the Savior has proclaimed."
In this refuge there is no Christ, and no faith in him, and assuredly there is nothing in it that conduces to holiness. Mark its influence wherever it is received.
When any of our friends embrace the novel theology, do they become more devout, more earnest, more gracious, more holy, as the result of it? I think not. Are these the persons who make our prayer meetings a power? Are these the winners of souls? Are these the men who speak much of Jesus, and live in daily fellowship with him? Do we see them more careful to avoid conformity to the world?
Our witness is that the consequences are the reverse. Did you ever hear of a man who was converted from vice by hearing that sin would be lightly punished, and who, in proportion as he grew purer in life, grew more heterodox in his views? Such an instance would be a rarity, if indeed it ever existed; but when a man who holds orthodox doctrine backslides and declines, as a general rule he finds it convenient to adopt some novel hypothesis, in order that he may feel comfortable in his sin. IS it not so? So far as my observation goes, these modern notions go with looseness of life, with worldliness of heart, with decay of prayerfulness, and with backsliding from the living God, and as you lay this line and plummet to them it will soon be seen that they are refuges of lies.
At any rate, sirs, suppose your larger hope should turn out to be correct, in what respect will the orthodox be the losers? But suppose your larger hope should turn out to be a mere delusion, what will become of you who venture your all upon it? We are in any case upon the safe side of the hedge, and this is no small advantage when the weightiest interests are at stake. Suppose there shall be no hell, if I am a believer in Christ it matters not to me; but suppose there is and there is—then you who are unbelievers are in an evil plight.
If you do not catch this will-o'-the-wisp of a larger hope, as I believe you never will, then where are you? It behoves every man not only to make sure, but to make doubly sure. About the soul we want the utmost certainty. I would counsel you to dig deep, and see what you are resting on. I would have you make sure that you do not permit a falsehood to lie like a worm at the root of your hope.
Seek to know the reason for your building on Christ, and when you have ascertained that, then look for God's warrant for placing stone upon stone in the upbuilding, and without this do not rest. Nothing but divine authority ought to content you in the business of eternity.
The views and hypotheses of the learned Dr. Somebody are of no value to me, for I can theorize for myself if I have a mind to. I want fact and certainties, for I dread every refuge of lies.