17 December 2006

Tweedle, D.D.

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

This short paragraph continues a theme begun here two weeks ago, with Spurgeon decrying the tendency of modern ministers to despise the simple and unlearned. This is an excerpt from a sermon with a wonderful Christmas theme, but originally preached at the peak of summer of 1859, at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall. The sermon is titled, "The Meek and Lowly One"

hrist's lowliness of heart leads him to receive the most ignorant as well as the learned to himself. I know that sometimes poor ignorant people get a notion in their heads that they cannot be saved, because they cannot read and do not know much. I have sometimes, especially in country villages, received this answer, when I have been asking anything about personal religion. "Well, you know, sir, I never had any learning."

Oh! but, ye unlearned, is this a reason why ye should stay away from him who is lowly in heart?

It was said of an old Greek philosopher, that he wrote over his door, "None but the learned may enter here." But Christ, on the contrary, writes over his door," He that is simple let him turn in hither."

There are many great men with long handles to their names who know little of the gospel, while some of the poor unlettered ones spell out the whole secret, and become perfect masters in divinity. If they had degrees who deserve them, diplomas should often be transferred, and given to those who hold the plough handle or work at the carpenter's bench; for there is often more divinity in the little finger of a ploughman than there is in the whole body of some of our modern divines.

"Don't they understand divinity?" you say.

Yes, in the letter of it; but as to the spirit and life of it, D.D. often means DOUBLY DESTITUTE.

C. H. Spurgeon


Nicholas Z. Cardot said...

How true he was. There is no doubt that those who are lowly and unlearned can come to Christ. Often those who have nothing seem to love him so much more than those of us who do have things on this earth.

donsands said...

Some good words from Pastor Spurgeon.

The Lord saves those who are simple fisherman [Peter], and those who are scholars [Paul].

And He fills each vessel with His wisdom, according to the measure of grace He has given. And He produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, righteousness, gentleness, kindness, faith, and longsuffering, for the glory of His grace and name.

Robert Ivy said...

This is, in fact, one reason why I can't buy into cessationism - that miraculous gifts of the Spirit were only given as long as the Bible was incomplete.

What then of those who can't read? Who perhaps can read but don't have the mental discipline to make sense of all that they read?

I don't believe that God gave the Spirit only in order to get us the Book. The Book is priceless indeed! But let us not make the Book the ultimate end of He who is greater than the Book. Less we make language and learning higher than love and obedience (which is the fruit of the Spirit).

The Spirit's great end is not to teach the world to read, it is to glorify God! That is why the unlearned and learned alike may partake.

Let those who can read and are learned study the Book with all their might, for it was given that God may be glorified. Yet don't make this the only way that men may come to God! Let those who are unlearned and can't gain much from reading still say that they may glorify God just as those who can read! For it is by the Spirit that God is glorified and by the Spirit alone. The Bible is merely the greatest subset of this, not the great end of this.

Mark B. Hanson said...


Strangely, though, it has been the general effect of the Church's missionary efforts that more people have learned to read. And had at least one Book to read in their own language.

But to your point, it is not an archaism that one of the constant things through the Church's history is the public reading of the Word (1 Tim 4:13) - part of God's provision for the unlettered.

It is the reading and teaching of the Word that was the heart of my former church's ministry to the mentally challenged. During each monthly service, a portion of the Scripture was read, and then explained through verbal teaching and visual activities. And they got it - they understood and remembered (and praciticed) what they were taught from the Word.

Of course the Word is a tool, but it is the only tool that bears the promise of God that it will not return void. All our other efforts stand or fall in eternity based on the centrality of the Word.

And the Scriptures we read during our church services are the only infallible thing that happens there...

Robert Ivy said...

Mark, I certainly agree with you on the centrality of the Word. And can't conceive of missions where the Bible is not being translated and where the people are not being taught to read. The Bible is, no doubt, one of God's greatest gifts to believers.

I just wish we could see that the Spirit is an even greater gift, and that the words of the Bible are not "magic" but that they do not return void because they are carried by the Spirit.

As Spurgeon says in this post, "There are many great men with long handles to their names who know little of the gospel." One can read the Bible his or her entire life and be dead spiritually. Whereas one cannot stand one moment in the presence of the Spirit and fail to be moved with love for God.

As Spurgeon closes, "'Don't they understand divinity?' you say. Yes, in the letter of it; but as to the spirit and life of it, D.D. often means DOUBLY DESTITUTE."