09 March 2008

A Fearful Thing

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 "Future Punishment a Fearful Thing," a Sunday-morning sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on 25 March 1866.

read in a newspaper yesterday the notes of a sermon preached by a certain Congregational preacher in London, a sermon which I must confess did not altogether so much startle me as it would have done if I had not known the gentleman's antecedents; but it did startle me when I read these words.

I will quote a few sentences:

If I dwelt upon this doctrine Sunday after Sunday in this place of worship, and induced you to believe that people who have lived and died impenitent are thrown into a state of condemnation and misery,—I say if I believed that, how could I fail to feel for you or find rest to my spirit until I grasped every one of you and beseeched you to consider how terrible is your destiny, and how awful your danger! Are we not giving up ourselves to all sorts of pleasures and entertainments? When the work of the day is over, do we not try to obtain some sort of relaxation among the drama, the theater, the cards, and all kinds of social delights, to direct our thoughts from the terrible, piercing realities which are every day and every hour wearing out our lives? How dare you if spirits of men are going into everlasting damnation every instant that you breathe, if you believe that every breath you draw there is some soul damned for ever, some poor human being which has lost its way and come into utter misery? Are you to be playing games, are you to be going to concerts and sitting in front of stages and theatrical entertainments and finding your pleasures and recreations there? If you do, you are like demons; if you can look on and see unnumbered millions of your fellow creatures perishing for ever, and if you can live and enjoy yourselves, you deserve to perish for ever.

And then he goes on to say that if we can go to comfortable places of worship and sit there contentedly, and spend our lives in making money and live for nothing else, then we are false to our profession of belief in this doctrine, and he denounces the inconsistency, and adds:
If I believe that doctrine I dare not preach here; I do not know where I dare preach, but somewhere under the open sky where I should be able to say that human beings are being lost. If this doctrine of everlasting damnation be true, how ought you to labor to save souls from everlasting death! you ought never to think of anything else, but declare it from the house-tops, and never enjoy yourselves or make more money or sit quietly in chapel, you ought to wander over all the earth and bring spirits back again to the God who will damn them if they do not come unto him.

Now when I read all this, I thought, It is even so, the doctrine of eternal punishment should thus act upon us, and for this very reason it ought to be preached and insisted upon: one would not have been surprised to hear the preacher proceed to press the doctrine in order to produce just such hatred of frivolity and worldliness, and just such zeal and fervor, but who is not horrified to find that the next sentence is—
I really believe that the doctrine of everlasting damnation is a blasphemy against God! I believe it to be demoralising to the spirit of a man, and subversive of all the laws of humanity; I believe that the doctrine of Atheism would be better.

After first of all showing how we ought to live if that doctrine be true, and very properly showing its influence in promoting zeal and fervor, this misguided man declares that Atheism would be better than a doctrine so practically useful. No answer is needed beyond his own words. Surely that doctrine is not so very demoralising which would make ministers and hearers earnest to win souls, would keep them from vain amusements, and make them give up mere money-making, and pleasure-seeking and self-comfort, and drive them into earnest, passionate weeping, longing and labor for men that they might be saved. I pray God that such teachers may have a better mind, and that all of us may be kept faithful by the power of the Holy Spirit, working to win men because "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

C. H. Spurgeon


Chris Roberts said...

Any idea who the London congregational preacher might have been?

Stefan Ewing said...

Thank you for this. I've been led to think quite a lot about doctrines of the Last Days recently, and as a corollary, our eternal fate—and how imperative it is to beseech those whom we know and love to repent and find their faith in Jesus Christ.

That preacher was on a tear. God could have used him mightily as a positive influence, rather than the preacher's making himself a negative example.

Chris said...

Always encouraging to hear the prince of preachers speak directly into the 21st century from his context in the 19th! Just proves that there is nothing new under the sun, as all heretics and aposates flatter their itching ears--along with those of their hearers--by attempting to repackage old lies! Thanks for this Phil!

Kay said...

So, so topical for me right now, which I'm not surprised by, of course.
Astonishing that one can see the powerful spur to action and sense of a doctrine and reject it out of hand.
Goodness me, something which makes us scorn worldliness must be wrong. /sarcasm

Al said...

Sure its true, but is it uplifting?

Osteen Archive

al sends

Anonymous said...

Amazing. And apalling. Whoever this preacher was, he essentially pointed the way to the truth of eternal punishment and the proper response to it, and then said "It may be true but I don't believe it and neither should you. So go on with your self-focused lives and remember that God loves us all and has a wonderful plan for our lives."

Al, knock it off.

Strong Tower said...


Well, its church coed softball season. We've just finished basketball for all ages and the golf outreach ministry teams are forming for a new cross country tour of our nation's finest courses. Speaking of courses, the Church History and Doctrine classes have been cancelled due to lack of interest. In their place, Cooking With Cathy Ministry Muffins Scripture Icing Decoration: Treats Not Tracts For Your Neighborhood- Making the Gospel Tasty Ministries Packets and Recipes on sale in the Lobby. Anyone interested in recycling can join the youth this week as they empty the library of unused commentaries to make room a new Youth Activities Video Center; early release from Sunday Bible Classes encouraged. Please join us for Ministry Challenge. This week's topic, How to Share Christ from Episodes of Lost. We have two options for patoral sabbaticals this year- After a short buisness meeting online, the list was narrowed from several 2008 Pastor's Conference choices, to Seven days in Aruba for Scuba Diving or the Alaskan Cruise. Please join us online for the final poll; no registration required, vote as often as you like. We encourage you to have your children who have been baptized and are members to vote, also.

Note: The drama team has put Hell on hold until a new non-threatening script can be written.

Stefan Ewing said...
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Trinian said...
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