21 April 2007

How important is the atonement?

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. This week's excerpt comes from "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle," a message preached at the opening service of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, Monday afternoon, March 25th, 1861.

n the excerpt below, Spurgeon was sounding an alarm against early modernist tendencies. Specifically, he was answering those who recoiled from the truth that God requires a blood atonement as the price of forgiveness. "The idea that God must be propitiated by blood makes Him seem too harsh," the modernists argued. Genteel Victorians, whose sensibilities were offended merely by the sound of the word blood, were inclined to agree.

It's interesting to note that when this sermon was preached, Spurgeon was only 27 years old. It would be more than thirty years before complications from Bright's Disease and stress from the Down-Grade controversy would conspire to claim his life. The doctrine of the atonement was one of the major points of conflict in that controversy. So this sermon was remarkably prescient, and the simmering uncertainty about the atonement Spurgeon noticed in the 1860s apparently dragged on for decades, despite Spurgeon's plain-spokenness.

Many people at the time thought his stance too firm and his words too harsh against those who thought differently about the atonement, but it is a fact of history that everything he predicted in the following excerpt did happen. Countless churches in England and whole denominations in America were fatally compromised. The gospel survived and thrived only where fundamentalists fought for it and evangelicals faithfully preserved it—mostly in independent churches and schools.

here be certain people nowadays who are making the atonement, first a sort of compromise, and the next step is to make the atonement a display of what ought to have been, instead of the thing which should have been.

Then, next, there are some who make it to be a mere picture, an exhibition, a shadow—a shadow, the substance of which they have not seen.

And the day will come, and there are sundry traces of it here and there, in which in some churches the atonement shall be utterly denied, and yet men shall call themselves Christians, while they have broken themselves against the corner-stone of the entire system.

I have no kith nor kin, nor friendship, nor Christian amity, with any man whatever who claims to be a Christian and yet denies the atonement. There is a limit to the charity of Christians, and there can be none whatever entertained to the man who is dishonest enough to occupy a Christian pulpit and to deny Christ.

It is only in the Christian church that such a thing can be tolerated. I appeal to you. Was there ever known a Buddhist acknowledged in the temple of Buddha who denied the basis doctrine of the sect? Was there ever known a Mahomadan Imaum who was sanctioned in the mosque while he cried down the Prophet? It remains for Christian churches only to have in their midst men who can bear the name of Christian, who can even venture to be Christian teachers, while they slander the Deity of him who is the Christian's God, and speak lightly of the efficacy of his blood who is the Christian's atonement. May this deadly cancer be cut out root and branch; and whatever tearing of the flesh there may be, better cut it out with a jagged knife than suffer to exist because no lancet is to be found to do it daintily.

We must have, then, Christ in the efficacy of his precious blood as the only Redeemer of the souls of men, and as the only mediator, who, without assistance of ours, has brought us to God and made reconciliation through his blood.

C. H. Spurgeon


Doug McMasters said...

Amen and Amem. Sadly, it is happening once again, with a new surge of "evangelicals" denying penal substitution here in England. An important book just released is discussed here:


Adrian Warnock said...

Indeed Doug, and for those interested in UK Church news, I hav blogged about a split between two of the most prominent evangelical organisations - Spring Harverst and UCCF on exactly this issue.

donsands said...

"better cut it out with a jagged knife than suffer to exist"

I agree that this is our highest calling, to keep the Gospel pure. And it is contending against Satan, not flesh and blood that we must keep before us. For we are no match for him, and yet He is no match for the Holy Spirit and the purity of the truth spoken in love.

I always love to read Spurgeon. I lok forward to meeting him.

Thanks for the timely post.

Colin Maxwell said...

A good post. Regarding the news from the UK: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (1 Corinthians 11:19)

Ebeth said...

Hope important? Essential.