22 July 2012

Sour Faces

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the writings and preaching of Charles Spurgeon.  For the last 8 years, the weekly Dose has been lifted from the Spurgeon Archive, thanks to its curator, Phil Johnson.  This week marks a transition from that long and much-loved tradition.

Kerry James Allen is joining us as a staff contributor to the 
PyroManiacs.  Kerry is the curator of Spurgeon.us, and is an authority on the writings of Charles Spurgeon.  Along with the many well-known published sermons and writings of the Prince of Preachers, Kerry has access to previously-unpublished Spurgeon texts which, from time to time, will also appear here.  We are extremely grateful that Kerry is joining us to maintain the weekly Dose of Spurgeon.

The following excerpt is from a sermon on Psalm 101:1, preached in Cardiff, on 13 November 1856.
"Beloved, our crusty tempers and sour faces will never be evangelists."

If you are sorrowful, let not the world know it. Sigh unto God. Let your closet be witness to your sighings and tears; but let not the world see them. People naturally dislike to be unhappy; and if they see a Christian always looking melancholy, they say they will have nothing to do with a religion that makes men so miserable. I believe a Christian, who walks through the world miserable and melancholy, dishonours his God. I try to think of this whenever I am depressed. I know it is a very difficult thing to appear happy and cheerful when the heart is heavy and sorrowful. There will be times when you will not be able to do so, that I know full well; still, the Christian ought so to live before the world as far as he can. It is true that your Master wore a sorrowful countenance; but remember that He had your sins upon His shoulders, He was suffering for you. He was sorrowful that you might not be so. He does not wish you to imitate Him in His sorrowfulness.

You are commanded to be joyous.

'Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice.' 'Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.' Having a melancholy countenance will not recommend your religion. You will not be able to draw young converts to Christ if you frown at them. He who is cheerful and happy in his religion, is the man whom God will use to bring young converts to Himself. Christians can afford to be cheerful and rejoice, seeing their sins are all pardoned. Seek to recommend religion by a happy mode of living, by being always cheerful.


Dave said...

This is a hard word, but a good reminder. There are certainly times when I feel disheartened, but by wearing it outwardly all the time, all i'm doing is seeking sympathy. And he's right--it doesn't proclaim my belief in the sovreignty and goodness of God when I'm perpetually mournful.

John Dunn said...

If you would be joyous, be filled with the Spirit! For true sanctified joy is only the fruit of the Spirit's work in us as we abide richly in the Vine.
(Rom 14:17, Gal 5:22)

Marie said...

Yet we are to weep with those who weep.

It would be bizarre to behave like a troop of Stepford wives, wouldn't it?

Nash Equilibrium said...

I think there's a fine line to be walked here. Surely we aren't to pretend that everything is A-OK when we aren't feeling that way. That would be churchianity phoney-ness. But OTOH if we aren't feeling joyous, we probably need to dwell on God's blessings and take in his big picture, until we feel better.

donsands said...

Sorrow is a fruit of the Spirit as well. Feeling "sorrow" for yourself is from the father of lies.

It is a wonderful commandment from our God to rejoice, isn't it.

I was quite perplexed today, in that my brain is losing memory, and I'm having some difficulty, but God has been there every moment, and His love is better than life.

I was just sharing with a brother in Jesus, how our names are written in a Book in heaven! That is outstanding!
What a Savior! What a Friend!

Here's a good song if you want to be uplifted: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9Ya7ryNob4

I will praise and rejoice in Christ, who loved me.

Kerry James Allen said...

Given the fact that we are probably not as much people of joy and praise as we should be, if we work a little harder at it, we will more than likely just about hit even keel. Spurgeon had his dark seasons of depression due to gout, Bright's disease, and possibly arthritis to top it off, so he had to battle for joy. I struggle with hypothyroidism (and had Brights as a child) so I understand that battle. Just as we will never have to worry about being too holy, there are probably no worries about us being too joyful.

Unknown said...

What Spurgeon is advocating is hypocrisy. What is wrong with being real and genuine with people? I am sick of Christians trying to sell Jesus by spreading the lie that Christians don't struggle. If being a Christian means that I have to be a hypocrite and hide my meloncholy, the I don't want to be a Christian.

Kerry James Allen said...

"There will be times when you will not be able to do so, that I know full well; still, the Christian ought so to live before the world as far as he can." Spurgeon here acknowledges that a cheerful countenance will not be able to be permanently maintained (David, Peter, Abraham, Naomi, for a few), and his encouragement is to do the best you can with whatever circumstances you are in.

donsands said...

"What is wrong with being real and genuine with people?"-Marilyn

I agree that our joy needs to be genuine, and yet even then it will be a gift from the Holy Spirit, just as when we are humble, patient, loving, peaceful, having goodness and kindness, and all the other fruits of God's Spirit.

God commands us to rejoice, and so He wants us to be full of joy, so that we will be real and genuine in our hearts because of our love for Jesus, and thankful for the Cross.

And when seasons of heaviness come, our Lord will even have a joy for us within, though our sorrow may be deep, and even desperate.

That's how I thought Pastor Charles was saying it, sort of.

Tom Chantry said...

I think that to follow Spurgeon on this one has to understand two things:

First, he lived before the Disney culture which identifies "chipper" as being "joyful." Spurgeon never heard "Whistle While You Work"; he knew that the Christian life is often full of sighs and groanings. He wasn't suggesting that we should never express sorrow.

Second, he knew people (as I do, and as I suspect that many of us do) who equated piety with a stern countenance. It is often important in Spurgeon's sermons to know what he is arguing against. The Christian who puts on a miserable scowl lest anyone think he is "worldly" needs to hear this warning.

One of the great testimonies of the grace of Christ is the Christian's ability to be pleasant in the midst of hardship. Not hypocritically giddy, but pleasant - having a smile for friends and a soft word for others who are suffering. Is that not the essence of what Spurgeon is arguing here?

James Scott Bell said...

What is wrong with being real and genuine with people?

When "real" and "genuine" are in reference to the sinful nature, it is perforce wrong. Spurgeon, remember, begins his admonition with "crusty tempers," and we all know there is too much of that going around. Which is why the Bible over and over again tells us to get rid of all such crust. E.g., Phil. 4:5.

Look to your own soil first, nurture your walk with the Spirit, and a "sour" disposition (and visage) will begin to dissipate.

Kerry James Allen said...

Good insight Tom. I'm hoping nobody calls you a Stepford Husband however.

Unknown said...

Depression is not sinful. When Christians self-rightously condemn people who struggle with depression, that is horribly sinful.

donsands said...

"When Christians self-rightously condemn people who struggle with depression, that is horribly sinful."

Amen Marilyn.

When others are depressed, it for us to encourage them to rejoice in the Lord, if they are believers of course. And we need to pray with them, and for them, and share the truth of God's great love, and how He has reserved a place in heaven for sinners like us, who really deserve to be seperated from God, which would be hell itself.

"Bless the Lord Oh my soul,
Bless His holy Name!"


Kerry James Allen said...

Do you ever get the feeling people don't read posts and comments very carefully? I can hear DJP saying, "Welcome to my world!"

Halcyon said...


I had an initial reaction that was similar to yours. ("What? Christians are supposed to be happy-go-lucky robots?") I grew up in a church environment where it was hard to tell the difference between fake pleasantry and genuine joviality.

However, I believe that the comment made by Tom Chantry is a good analysis of Spurgeon's thoughts, and I agree with him: Spurgeon is not speaking against depressed people; he is speaking against people who equate sternness/dullness to godliness.

Halcyon said...


It gets better.

With time.

Long, long stretches of time.

Halcyon said...

For the record, whatever joy we are to have as Christians is to be "real and genuine" because it is supposed to be based on the "real and genuine" truth of what Christ has done and continues to do for us.

I believe Spurgeon would agree.

Kerry James Allen said...

Thanks, Halcyon. I take a natural product called Armour Thyroid, which is the thyroids of pigs after DJP gets done with the bacon. Now if they could just make the pills bacon flavored...

Halcyon said...


Saved By Faith Alone said...

Re: Armour Thyroid

Dear Kerry,

Please forgive me but I can't resist!

Do they make a kosher version??? ;-)

Dan H.