29 December 2007

Needed: Old Soldiers to Defend Old Truths in the New Year

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Ripe Fruit," a sermon on Micah 7:1, preached 14 August 1870 at the Met Tab.

he church needs mature Christians very greatly, and especially when there are many fresh converts added to it. New converts furnish impetus to the church, but her backbone and substance must, under God, lie with the mature members.

We want mature Christians in the army of Christ, to play the part of veterans, to inspire the rest with coolness, courage, and steadfastness; for if the whole army is made up of raw recruits the tendency will be for them to waver when the onslaught is fiercer than usual.

The old guard, the men who have breathed smoke and eaten fire before, do not waver when the battle rages like a tempest, they can die but they cannot surrender. When they hear the cry of "Forward," they may not rush to the front so nimbly as the younger soldiers, but they drag up the heavy artillery, and their advance once made is secure. They do not reel when the shots fly thick, but still hold their own, for they remember former fights when Jehovah covered their heads. The church wants—in these days of flimsiness and time-serving—more decided, thoroughgoing, well-instructed, and confirmed believers.

We are assailed by all sorts of new doctrines. The old faith is attacked by so-called reformers, who would reform it all away. I expect to hear tidings of some new doctrine once a week. So often as the moon changes, some prophet or other is moved to propound a now theory, and believe me, he will contend more valiantly for his novelty than ever he did for the gospel. The discoverer thinks himself a modern Luther, and of his doctrine he thinks as much as David of Goliath's sword, "There is none like it."

As Martin Luther said of certain in his day, these inventors of new doctrines stare at their discoveries like a cow at a new gate, as if there were nothing else in all the world but the one thing for them to stare at. We are all expected to go mad for their fashions, and march to their piping. To whom we give place; no, not for an hour.

They may muster a troop of raw recruits, and lead them whither they would, but for confirmed believers they sound their bugles in vain. Children run after every new toy; any little performance in the street, and the boys are all agog, gaping at it; but their fathers have work to do abroad, and their mothers have other matters at home; your drum and whistle will not, draw them out.

For the solidity of the church, for her steadfastness in the faith, for her defense against the constantly recurring attacks of heretics and infidels, and for her permanent advance and the seizing of fresh provinces for Christ, we want not only your young, hot blood, which may God always send to us, for it is of immense service, and we cannot do without it, but we need also the cool, steady, well-disciplined, deeply-experienced hearts of men who know by experience the truth of God, and hold fast what they have learned in the school of Christ.

May the Lord our God therefore send us many such; they are wanted.
C. H. Spurgeon


Even So... said...


steve said...

Elegantly and powerfully stated.

This would make for excellent inspiration whenever a pastor finds himself tempted to surrender in the midst of the battle.

Mike Riccardi said...

We get that a lot from the Emerging crowd, don't we? "Yeah... you guys sound a lot like the church would have sounded in Luther's day." Everybody imagines himself to be a reformer.

The only difference was that Luther's reformation stemmed from the Scriptures: from a strong, convicted belief in their pristine worthiness and unqualified authority to speak singularly on all matters of faith and practice, and a commitment to herald the truths taught therein with the boldness and authority that such convictions required.

Luther, very really, wanted to go back to the Scriptures alone. Today's motley crew of "reformers" seem to want to go anywhere but the Scriptures.

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

So very true. Whereas the church growth pragmatists imagined themselves to be the revivalists of a new great awakening, the emerging church think of themselves as the new Reformers. I listened to the podcast of a couple of pomo-pasters just this week who called themselves the new reformers. Very troubling.

Thank you Phil.

Gilbert said...

You know what immediately struck me about this sermon? There isn't one word, not one, where a pastor could preach this today and any wise Christian would say "oh, that no longer happens, or doesn't apply today".

Mike R., we can apply that to those who believe in the general Emergent church philosophies, but I think it encompasses the post-modern society we live in. HDTV is in, black and white and analog color is out. How can anything of the past be of value? Better and better as time goes on!

Technologically, that is correct in almost all cases. We will have bigger HDTV's, bigger and better sound systems, better forms of communication, all of it using digital protocols.

Here's the rub: our eyes and ears are---and will always be---analog. The HD pictures must be converted to analog through a monitor or TV. The core never changes, though.

And that core, preached correctly, may sound louder and clearer than ever before with our technology, but the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, revealing the desperate state of fallen man, the incredible gift of eternal life through repentance and then faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation...never changes.

Strong Tower said...

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Old guys. I was criticized because I suggested that the Elder core should not be made up of youthful men. What can be noticed about the qualifications is that the Elder is accomplished. If we were to put the deacon qualifications ahead of the Elder we would see that the deaconate is an apprenticeship of sort where young men raising families, faithful in service are being equipped to serve. Those who serve well gain a good reputation with men and with God. The Elder has raised a family at least to the point of demonstrating competence. One wonders what point that is, but it is surely not fresh out of Seminary, just married with babes in tow.

There are exceptions of course, Timothy himself an example. But, we have made the exception the rule. Even to the women it is recommended that the elder women teach the younger to love their husbands in quiet submission and raise their children rightly.

The pattern remains the same. The Elder Brother trains his younger brothers, he calls friends and instructs them that this is the great commission, to make disciples, matured, as Paul teaches in Ephesians, not infants tossed by every wind.

Though a cabin boy might be able to steer the ship, its officers are those who direct its course. It is the skilled navigator and salted sailor who has been at sea for the many years of squalls and violent storms who rightly knows what others cannot see when the water is still.

Stephen said...


Phil, perfect timing! Spurgeon; STRATIOTOLOGY in its early form.

Praise God...

David Smithey said...


Luther... here is some Calvin:

eLet this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has
inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is
self-authenticated; f276 hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and
reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the
testimony of the Spirit. f277 bFor even if it wins reverence for itself by its
own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts
through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither
by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but
above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were
gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the
very mouth of God by the ministry of men. We seek no proofs, no marks
of genuineness upon which our judgment may lean; but we subject our
judgment and wit to it as to a thing far beyond any guesswork! This we
do, not as persons accustomed to seize upon some unknown thing, which,
under closer scrutiny, displeases them, but fully conscious that we hold
the unassailable truth! Nor do we do this as those miserable men who
habitually bind over their minds to the thralldom of superstition; but we
feel that the undoubted power of his divine majesty lives and breathes
there. By this power we are drawn and inflamed, knowingly and willingly,
to obey him, yet also more vitally and more effectively than by mere
human willing or knowing!


pastorbrianculver said...

The last church I attended had several older members. And there is not a one of them who has a desire to follow biblical teaching and preaching. They have become comfortable in a feel good setting. They are not of the emergent crowd and yet, they do not hold a reverance toward God such that church discipline, preaching of God's Law and the need for repentance is demanded. They do not want accountability in the church. The younger men run the church and they are even farther away from wanting a biblically run church. My friend and I are reaching one person at a time in fulfilling the Great Commission. Thank you for this post. I love reading Spurgeon!

SolaMeanie said...


Love the analogy!

Strong Tower said...


I would concur with that. And thankyou for reaching out to those who have not learned because of the parents lack of care. Your last church in not doing as it should in "employing" the aged, is not a rare entity. Age, really isn't all that there is too it. I came out of a SBC church in which men and women have sat for a half century never growing in their knowledge of Christ. Sound familiar?

What I was saying is this. It takes time to come to maturity. Some, if they were discipled from an early age, correctly, being immersed in doctrine and not just water, have most likely served well also before we ship them off to seminary. I believe that seminary is the worst place to mature. It is a fine place to hone centain skills that may not be able to be taught in a local assembly, but like the universities, they are the last place that parents should send their youth to become adults. But, if the local assembly is working properly, then they have on staff or in the congregation men (and women in their proper role) who have stood the test and passed, well grounded in the truth able to teach others.

Ours is a society were children live with their parents into their thirties, unable to stand on their own in the world. The church is just like it. Two men that I lead in the doctrines of grace were both deacons who did the deacon thing well, but when it came to sound doctrine, after decades, they were as if they had just become Christians. The reason for their immaturity was that the status quo in the SBC has been for several generations all about dumbing down doctrine. In the end what we have are children converted and discipled by children never coming to the fullness of maturity growing up in all things which is Christ. We should be about the Lord's business, teaching them to keep and to do all, but what we have traditionally done is to send them on their way to discover "truth" for themselves out there, or we have offered them pragmatic sutdies and exercises that kept them so busy that they never learned why they were doing things in the first place. What we birthed was the Emergent Chruch Movement out of our complacency in demanding rigorous, diligent discipleship. We have only ourselves to blame.

The move to regenerate membership is about this thing we have done. How can "older guys" sit in the congregation and be complacent!? Where is retirement ever indicated in Scripture? How does one undo being elder, how does one undo the work of the Lord whose giftings and callings are without remission? And, I am not discounting the convenience of governmental structures designed to disfuse problems by scripting the leangth of office for Elders, I am speaking of the calling which is given whether a person is ever ordained or not, and cannot, and does not come to an end.

If we look to someone like Moses, we are not speaking of a man who was a youth. Just when and how did he go into and end his ministry? When we look at people like David we see the exception of youth, but we would, without fuller review, neglect his experience before his call. It becomes obvious that Jesse well trained him, and David went through the rigors of persecution, oppression, depression, and willful sin, all on his march to be King. And though he died miserably, attended by others, he remained faithful to that calling until death, a man after God's own heart. He put it clearly in Psalms 139. Which when applied to his own life in its particularity, is focussed on that call. When is a bride free from her covenant? Does the Lord live forever more?

This is all I meant by 'Old Guys." Because this piece by Spurgeon reminded me of the pomo poster.

You've heard it said, "Why should we listen to a bunch of old white guys who died hundreds of years ago steeped in the Eurocentric traditions." Well the question could be asked, "Why listen to Solomon, steeped in his Middle-eastern tradtions?"

To this, the Scripture is clear that we are to honor our father and our mother. If one leaves this only within the family, we're dead; the family of God no longer will function. But the parents in the faith must have first submitted themselves to the same judgements that they are subjugating their children to, or in the end, the children will rise up in rebellion and put their parents to death.

David Mohler said...

New converts furnish impetus to the church, but her backbone and substance must, under God, lie with the mature members.

Interesting words for a man who preached his first sermon at age 17 having been a "recent" convert only fourteen months prior.

While reading this, I was also recalled that Calvin was only 27 years old when the Latin edition of Institutes was published; Luther was only 34 when he offered his challenge against indulgences.

Weren't these three men young soldiers who had yet to fully brace themselves for the smoke and fire of the tempest? It seems to me that such is often the case; the fourth man in Job's story, Elihu, articulated his own frustration with the de facto notion that "old" means "wise" or "tested".

Many examples throughout Church history, even recent history, show that age - even experience - is not the key to eldership. Spurgeon does, of course, tell us what the key is: "mature Christians".

I'm not trying to pick fly-dirt out of pepper, but I think there is a point in which the pendulum can swing too far toward "age" equals "wisdom and maturity".

Spurgeon's concluding statement, "...we need also the cool, steady, well-disciplined, deeply-experienced hearts of men who know by experience the truth of God, and hold fast what they have learned in the school of Christ." is altogether true. But at the outset of this excerpt he says, The old guard, the men who have breathed smoke and eaten fire before, do not waver when the battle rages like a tempest, they can die but they cannot surrender.

The "old guard" is not our hope. A core of "old guys" does not necessarily equate to a core of mature Christians any more than a "youthful" elder board equates to immaturity and inevitable failure. There is ample evidence that God frequently uses young, inexperienced (and sometimes uneducated) men to correct the course of the Church, and Spurgeon is a prime example. The disciples are another.

We would be quick to point out that youthful leaders do not ever operate in a vacuum; but that also applies to the "old guys". Just because they have been through earthly fire (which, in human eyes, can look more noble than it is) does not mean they are immune to wavering "when the onslaught is fiercer than usual". Contrary to Spurgeon's idealistic assertion, they can and do surrender from time to time. If that were not true, we would not have the mess in the Church that we have today: somebody wavered.

But Christ, to the glory of God alone, remains utterly faithful to build His Church "that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."

Libbie said...

David Mohler, I wouldn't disagree with your general point, but I don't agree that Spurgeon is being 'idealistic' in a negative sense.

Yes, he paints a picture which is not always so. But it certainly a picture that we should expect to be the norm, rather than a rare exception or actually something to be scorned, which it has been in many circles I am aware of.

It isn't a wildly challenging thought that Christians should mature, and that, when they have been maturing for some time, they should be looked to with respect to give the benefit of their faith to the congregation.

Hayden said...


We young people also bear some of the brunt of the church wavering when we relegate 'senior saints' to observers and non-participants. We often discredit the views of 'older' people because they are not 'relevant' to today.

It is true that age does not necessarily equal wisdom but Proverbs 20:29 does make a case for inclusion of our senior saints in the decision making and direction of our church bodies. The problem comes when there is no input from older members in the church because we have either 'run them off' with our new innovations or 'discredited their opinions because they are old fogeys' and need to 'get with the times.'

I say this as a relatively young pastor that preaches to young people twice a week. I also am not tied to tradition for traditions sake either.

David, think about all of the 'new theologies' that have come out in the past years and how many of them have been novel and errant. (To me Greg Boyd is a perfect example of this)


By the way, comparing Calvin and Luther with our modern day 'yoots' is preposterous. In our culture we are trying to delay adulthood for young people at every turn.(i.e. extending adolescence to 34) What Spurgeon is trying to get across is 2 Tim. 2:22. We need seasoned warriors in the battle to help us youths to temper our zeal with patience and kindness. To me this is the part of much of the ECM that concerns me.

Oh, by the way, where are the 'yoots' of our days that are writing good theology books and leading us back to the Bible? That is what Calvin and Luther did, where are they today?

Strong Tower said...

David, as I mentioned, chronological age really is not the issue, but maturational age is. Beyond that it is a bit anachronistic to equate a 17 year old of the 19th century with a 17 year old today. Our fist ambasador to France was 14, but in the late 18th Century, it was not uncommon for leaders to have accomplished adulthood very young. Now, what I was saying is that within the proper familial relationships in the church it should not be the children, that is the immature that save up for the parents, but the reverse. They should, and that is a big should as you indicated, be the preserving factor. As was stated by another, it is not the youth that are writing good theological work, but it is the elders and they are those in general who are combatting error within and without. There is an ideal, and there are exceptions. It goes without saying, that the ideal is what Paul instructs us in as the mystery that he was given by Christ for His church, and that model is not youth lead, but is soundly founded upon Christ, the elder brother, the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

Can we set a measuring rod against the proper candidate? I do not think that it is that easy. Neither age nor tenure is necessarily indicated, but maturity is as Paul instructs, that those who seek leadership should first be tested, then allowed to serve. The obvious is that there has to be an "old guys" standard, or to put it another way, wisdom that is recognized as the standard with which to judge.

David Mohler said...

I merely wanted to suggest, more or less, that Spurgeon was the very kind of youth that this sermon excerpt excludes. The initial comments here impugned youth as a "motley crew of reformers" lurching into anything "but the scriptures". That's too broad of an assertion, IMO. It is accurate, and not anachronistic, in the singular context of Spurgeon himself, to point out the incongruity of his own early start in ministry over and against his statement about the need for tested eldership. In other words, he did not comply with Paul's instruction which you have pointed out: first be tested, then allowed to serve.

The comments which started to applaud this Spurgeon excerpt seemed (in my view) to be on track to despise youth out-of-hand without considering that the lack of "elders" today is the fault of elders past.

Hayden: Oh, by the way, where are the 'yoots' of our days that are writing good theology books and leading us back to the Bible?

Why aren't you writing one? ;)

To answer your question, I think they can be found at "Together for the Gospel" and "Shepherd's Conferences" and "Ligonier Conferences" being taught, trained and stimulated for service. The leaders of these conferences have all stated, to their own amazement, that the age of attenders is so young - i.e., in their 20's and early 30's.

Back to ST's charge of anachronism: if a 17-year-old of centuries past is equivalent to, say, a 34-year-old today, then what's the problem? How old is Josh Harris? How old was Al Mohler when he cleaned house at SBTS? How old was John MacArthur when he assumed his present pastorate in 1969? Throughout Church history it is not "obvious" that there is an "'old guys' standard".

We need seasoned warriors in the battle to help us youths to temper our zeal with patience and kindness.

Of course we do. That's why I said "youthful leaders do not ever operate in a vacuum". But given the present state of the Church, there are only so many spiritual gray hairs to go around. And, again, that is the precious gift of the conferences mentioned above which are attended by a generally young crowd (especially T4G.)

Hayden said...


Thanks for the response. I looked at some of your background and find alot of agreement between us both.

I was encouraged at The Masters Seminary and Shepherds Conferences as well with the amount of young people there. But who were they learning from? A bunch of 'old white guys'. [dripping with sarcasm} These 'yoots' came to learn at the feet of those men that were 'further along'. This is a sign of wisdom.

I read this Spurgeon sermon and said amen as a 34 year old Youth Pastor for the simple reason that often in my ministry I have needed a man that is older than me to 'pull back the reigns' on my zeal.[Praise the Lord that our Senior Pastor is 62 and an 'old fogey' (sarcasm again)] That is the point I think he was making, at least that is how I read it.

How this relates to the ECM is why I think Phil posted it. Any cursory examination of many ECM (notice I did not say all) churches shows us that it is more important to know what TV shows your pastor likes and what pizza topping he prefers over what books have influenced his life.

I don't think there was any slam in particular on 'yoots' intended. I took it as a gentle reminder to not disdain 'older people'.

As to books being written, I am trying to write one based on the sermons I am preaching. It is the hardest endeavor I have undertaken because I would much rather preach that write, but I am making myself do it. As I read books by so many men I admire I appreciate their works even more now.

Mike Riccardi said...

The initial comments here impugned youth as a "motley crew of reformers" lurching into anything "but the scriptures". That's too broad of an assertion, IMO.

First of all, I never made any reference to anyone's age in my comment quoted above. I wasn't talking about young people in general being a motley crew of reformers. I was talking about the Emerging folks who are quick to point out that any who are truly reformed and stand up against their erroneous philosophy of ministry are like the Catholic church in Luther's day, setting themselves up as reformer-visionaries. In fact, I think I actually said that.

Secondly, Dave, I read and re-read Spurgeon's post, and I can't find one reference to physical age. He's talking about spiritual maturity and spiritual immaturity. There's no hating on physically young elders if they're spiritually qualified. A 65 year-old who just got saved yesterday is a novice, where as a 30 year-old saved when he was 13 may very well not be.

David Mohler said...

Obviously, I am at fault for not stating my point more succinctly.

I think Spurgeon stands in contrast to your concluding paragraph, Mike. My point, and the primary reason I felt compelled to enter a few of my own thoughts here, was: Spurgeon was saved at 15, and started preaching at 17. He was a novice. He was not a part of the "old guard". He was most certainly a "youth" and there is nothing anachronistic about that. That simply fascinates me no less than the young men today who are sitting under tested men, the likes of whom, were given daunting reformational tasks at comparatively young, unseasoned ages. Sometimes, by God's design, reformation does occur under the leadership of "unlearned" men.

I felt that Spurgeon, in this case, was not being checked against the way God used him for the sake of His Church. The Bible has its own examples of young men who received on-the-job training to serve magnificent purposes, and did not enter into their calling as seasoned "men who have breathed smoke and eaten fire before". I find that to be grandiose rhetoric, with all due respect to Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon, as a child, led his friends in playing "church". In his autobiography, Spurgeon asserted that he, as a child, could have held his own in debates with his father's theologian friends! But, today, I rather suspect that a child like Spurgeon would more likely be rebuffed by our most respected evangelical leaders than give them place to be engaged in a theological conversation of "knotty points".

Do I appreciate the call for the "old guard"? Certainly! And I hope that all of the young men today mature into a faithful "old guard", as we desperately need it! But I hope all the more that the "old guard" they mature into does not become the same old guard which produces what needs fixed today; I hope that the old guard of tomorrow sees wisdom in praying not just for already tested men, but for future young men, like Spurgeon, who are willing to be tested.