25 February 2007

False "Unity" and the Duty of Separation

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. The following excerpt is from "True Unity Promoted," a sermon preached at the morning service on New Year's Day 1865, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London.

n former days, when some of the Churches of Christ began to shake off the yoke of Popedom from their necks, the plea urged against reformation was the necessity of maintaining unity. "Ye must bear with this ceremony and that dogma; no matter how antichristian and unholy, you must bear with it, 'endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.'"

So spake the old serpent in those early days. "The Church is one; woe unto those who shall create schism! It may be true that Mary is set up in the place of Christ, that images are worshipped, cast clouts and rotten rags adored, and pardons bought and sold for crimes of every kind; it may be that the so-called Church has become an abomination and a nuisance upon the face of the earth; but still, 'endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,' you must lie down, restrain the testimony of the Spirit of God within you, keep his truth under a bushel, and let the lie prevail."

This was the grand sophistry of the Church of Rome. When, however, she could not seduce men by talking of love and union, she took upon herself to use her natural tone of voice, and cursed right and left right heartily: and let her curse till she expires!

Brethren, there was no force in the argument of the Papist. Ephesians 4:3 bids us endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, but it does not tell us to endeavor to maintain the unity of evil, the unity of superstition, or the unity of spiritual tyranny. The unity of error, of false doctrine, of priestcraft, may have in it the spirit of Satan; we do not doubt that; but that it is the unity of the Spirit of God we do utterly deny. The unity of evil we are to break down by every weapon which our hand can grasp: the unity of the Spirit which we are to maintain and foster is quite another thing.

Remember that we are forbidden to do evil that good may come. But it is to do evil; to restrain the witness of the Spirit of God within us; to conceal any truth which we have learned by revelation of God; to hold back from testifying for God's truth and Word, against the sin and folly of man's inventions, would be sin of the blackest hue. We dare not commit the sin of quenching the Holy Spirit, even though it were with the view of promoting unity.

But the unity of the Spirit never requires any sinful support; that is maintained not by suppressing truth, but by publishing it abroad. The unity of the Spirit has for its pillars, among other things, the witnessing of spiritually enlightened saints to the one faith which God has revealed in his Word. That is quite another unity which would gag our mouths and turn us all into dumb driven cattle, to be fed or slaughtered at the will of priestly masters.

Dr. McNeil has, very properly, said that a man can scarcely be an earnest Christian in the present day without being a controversialist. We are sent forth today as sheep in the midst of wolves: can there be agreement? We are kindled as lamps in the midst of darkness: can there be concord? Hath not Christ himself said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword?" You understand how all this is the truest method of endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit; for Christ the man of war, is Jesus the Peacemaker; but in order to the creation of lasting, spiritual peace, the phalanx of evil must be broken, and the unity of darkness dashed to shivers.

I pray God evermore to preserve us from a unity in which truth shall be considered valueless, in which principle gives place to policy, in which the noble and masculine virtues which adorn the Christian hero are to be supplemented by an effeminate affectation of charity. May the Lord deliver us from indifference to his word and will; for this creates the cold unity of masses of ice frozen into an iceberg, chilling the air for miles around: the unity of the dead as they sleep in their graves, contending for nothing, because they have neither part nor lot in all that belongs to living men. There is a unity which is seldom broken, the unity of devils, who, under the service of their great liege master, never disagree and quarrel: from this terrible unity keep us, O God of heaven! The unity of locusts who have one common object, the glutting of themselves to the ruin of all around, the unity of the waves of Tophet's fire, sweeping myriads into deeper misery: from this also, O King of heaven, save us evermore!

May God perpetually send some prophet who shall cry aloud to the world "Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand." May there ever be found some men, though they be rough as Amos, or stern as Haggai, who shall denounce again and again all league with error and all compromise with sin, and declare that these are the abhorrence of God.

Never dream that holy contention is at all a violation of Ephesians 4:3. The destruction of every sort of union which is not based on truth, is a preliminary to the edification of the unity of the Spirit. We must first sweep away these walls of untempered mortar—these tottering fences of man's building—before there can be room to lay the goodly stones of Jerusalem's walls one upon the other for lasting and enduring prosperity.
C. H. Spurgeon


James Scott Bell said...

"I pray God evermore to preserve us from a unity in which truth shall be considered valueless, in which principle gives place to policy, in which the noble and masculine virtues which adorn the Christian hero are to be supplemented by an effeminate affectation of charity."

Not too PC, was he? Yet this is exactly what's happening within the Anglican communion and other mainlines. When "compassion" becomes the ruling principle, it inevitably starts to compromise on issues like homosexuality in the church. Compassion, biblically, is always to be tempered by the greater virtue of principle.

DJP said...

...a man can scarcely be an earnest Christian in the present day without being a controversialist

Some things have not changed.

Armen said...

djp - so true!

I am actually reading Spurgeons 'Lectures To My Students' and every now and then I blog a few quotes from it. It's powerful stuff!


Jeff Voegtlin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Scott Bell said...

Oops, I see a clumsy contruction in my comment. I meant to say compassion as the ruling paradigm v. principle. Spurgeon was a such a great wordsmith, it kind of raises the bar!

Anonymous said...

This one gave me goosebumps.

FX Turk said...

Just because I think Phil shouldn't get any less of a reception on this topic than I did, let me ask him boldly:

What's the difference between what Spurgeon advocates here and, for example, leaving your church because the pastor has asked the choir not to allow a person who sings off-key to be in the choir -- or perhaps more charitably, between what Spurgeon here advocates and a split rooted in congregational differences stemming from a wider debate over denominational distinctives?

Sharon said...

Uh, Cent, someone who sings off key should NOT be singing in the choir, just like any other person who may want to serve, but is not qualified to serve. Desire should never be the deciding qualification.

Connie said...

"...a man can scarcely be an earnest Christian in the present day without being a controversialist."

Guilty as charged!

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mr. Phil.

I wanted to ask you: I have a blog and I want to post Charles Spurgeon sermons there, like devotions or stuff that you do on your site, post them fully I mean. Do i have permission to copy stuff from there, then give the link and credit to you?

Thanks and God bless.

Dennis Elslager said...

God is Love! God is Holy! God is Truth! They can not be separated any more than the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. If they are not united and equally seen as vital to knowing God we have perverted the image of God. Take part of the fullness of one of these attributes or Persons of God out and you have twisted the words of God as Satan did from the beginning. May we never be found guilty of denying the Love, the Holiness, or the Truth of our Savior for this theft is damnable! And the only pardon for this is found in the Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ through repentance.

Your post here is a treasured truth from the man, Spurgeon. My wife happened to find --in some old books given to us-- a hardback copy of "Lectures to my students" in great condition. You are developing my desire for going into this again as one who is hungry being told of a good steak and potatoes meal. Thanks!

I found this passage of Scripture gives reference to the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit as well as God’s Love, Holiness, and Truth…

 As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.
- 2 Thes 2:13-17 NLT

As Spurgeon passed "the teaching" on may we do the same for Paul also said…

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. - 2 Tim 2:1-2 NLT

Thanks for letting me share here.


FX Turk said...


I am not kidding when I tell you that I have immediate knowledge of a church which has split over just such a controversy.


Sharon said...


How very sad. I'm sure we can all relate such stories about trivial reasons for abandoning the Body of Christ. Mine? People who left because they didn't like the color their Sunday School classroom was painted.


Dennis Elslager said...

Sharon and Centurion,

Do you suppose that it may be possible that there were hidden, unspoken, underlying reasons behind these stated pathetic explanations for others leaving a church but no one attempted to explore this in love? Do you think it may be that this was only manifested in these ways? Granted, either way it is lacking the fruit of the Spirit and showing spiritual immaturity. But it seems at times that if the "more mature" would practice the Scriptural command: "you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" they may grow up a bit instead of leaving.

Is it possible that some of these spiritual babes could have been given more grace to see their error in such a loving way that they are convicted and change by God's grace? We have all been babies at some time in some ways. Let's not forget that we are not all the same age spiritually. And you can't judge your baby --born from a womb-- for his immaturity without considering this so why don't we do the same spiritually?

Of course, if I have to endure a puke green paint in any room too often, it would make me sick to my stomach to the point of my offering to paint it again on me. Other wise I would try to keep my eyes shut and endure it for the sake of my brethren. Not too hard of a burden to bear.


Anonymous said...

My heart is breaking as I read this post Phil. Only the comment of Denny at last brought me a little nudge that just perhaps you will receive what I'm going to say.

First, no one has benefited in the ministry more than I have from Charles Spurgeon. I have been reading and feeding off and on for almost 40 years now. When I began the ministry, his book mentioned here, "Lectures To My Students" was one of the most helpful in many ways. He was definitely a "fire breather" who could at the same time present the beauty of the Saviour and draw others to him, as few others in his day. Your sight honoring him is fitly named.

But there is a huge downside to Spurgeon already in his day and especially in our day. We that love the Lord dearly and want others to see what a lovely Rose of Sharon he is, must seriously consider whether or not such hostile language is really necessary and in fact not definitely counter-productive.

Try to think with me for a moment about the other side of the coin. The clear commands and necessity for ministers to seek unity and do everything in the local church and beyond to pursue it with all their hearts. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I do not sense either in the words that you have posted or in the comments, except Denny's, any consideration of our obligation to the Master to suffer many injustices and yes errors if need be, for the sake of the Catholic spirit. I won't lecture, I respect you too much and trust what the Spirit himself is doing in your lives. I will just say in advocating for unity I have encountered far too many evangelicals who are satisfied with exposing what the wrong kind of unity is all about and never getting around to any duty of working for the right kind.

I wish you could have heard what Ray Ortland,Jr.said in a message to Founders Conference several years ago. I thought it was a message directly from the Head of the Church to his churches represented and beyond. It was on the beauty of the lives that grace people of all people on earth should be demonstrating to oneanother and then to the culture around us. I wonder as you think about this post, if it is not a mistake for us to publically post even Spurgeon in this light.

John Paul Todd