29 March 2008

Some Certainties for These Uncertain Times

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 "The Need of Decision for the Truth," a message Spurgeon preached at his pastors' college a few years before the Down Grade Controversy erupted. This message was originally published in the March 1874 issue of The sword and the Trowel.

here are gentlemen alive who imagine that there are no fixed principles to go upon. "Perhaps a few doctrines," said one to me, "perhaps a few doctrines may be considered as established. It is, perhaps, ascertained that there is a God; but one ought not to dogmatise upon His personality: a great deal may be said for pantheism."

Such men creep into the ministry, but they are generally cunning enough to conceal the breadth of their minds beneath Christian phraseology, thus acting in consistency with their principles, for their fundamental rule is that truth is of no consequence.

As for us—as for me, at any rate—I am certain that there is a God, and I mean to preach it as a man does who is absolutely sure. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the Master of providence, and the Lord of grace: let his name be blessed for ever and ever! We will have no questions and debates as to him.

We are equally certain that the book which is called "the Bible" is his word, and is inspired; not inspired in the sense in which Shakespeare, and Milton, and Dryden may be inspired, but in an infinitely higher sense; so that, provided we have the exact text, we regard the words themselves as infallible. We believe that everything stated in the book that comes to us from God is to be accepted by us as his sure testimony, and nothing less than that. God forbid we should be ensnared by those various interpretations of the modus of inspiration, which amount to little more than frittering it away. The book is a divine production; it is perfect, and is the last court of appeal—" the judge which ends the strife." I would as soon dream of blaspheming my Maker as of questioning the infallibility of his word.

We are also sure concerning the doctrine of the blessed Trinity. We cannot explain how the Father, Son, and Spirit can be each one distinct and perfect in himself, and yet that these three are one, so that there is but one God; yet we do verily believe it, and mean to preach it, notwithstanding Unitarian, Socinian, Sabellian, or any other error. We shall hold that fast evermore, by the grace of God.

And, brethren, there will be no uncertain sound from us as to the doctrine of atonement. We cannot leave the blood out of our ministry, or the life of it will be gone; for we may say of our ministry, "The blood is the life thereof." The proper substitution of Christ, the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, on the behalf of his people, that they might live through him. This we must publish till we die.

Neither can we waver in our mind for a moment concerning the great and glorious Spirit of God—the fact of his existence, his personality, and the power of his workings; the necessity of his influences, the certainty that no man is regenerated except by him; that we are born again by the Spirit of God, and that the Spirit dwells in believers, and is the author of all good in them, their sanctifier and preserver, without whom they can do no good thing whatsoever. We shall not at all hesitate as to preaching that truth.

The absolute necessity of the new birth is also a certainty. We come down with demonstration when we touch that point. We shall never poison our people with the notion that a moral reformation will suffice, but we will over and over again say to them, "Ye must be born again." We have not got into the condition of the Scotch minister, who when old John Macdonald preached to his congregation a sermon to sinners remarked, "Well, Mr. Macdonald, that was a very good sermon which you have preached, but it is very much out of place, for I do not know one single unregenerate person in my congregation." Poor soul, he was in all probability unregenerated himself. No, we dare not flatter our hearers, but we must continue to tell them that they are born sinners, and must be born saints, or they will never see the face of God with acceptance.

The tremendous evil of sin—we shall not hesitate about that. We shall speak on that matter both sorrowfully and positively; and, though some very wise men raise difficult questions about hell, we shall not furl to declare the terrors of the Lord, and the fact that the Lord has said, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."

Neither will we ever give an uncertain sound as to the glorious truth that salvation is all of grace. If ever we ourselves are saved, we know that sovereign grace alone has done it, and we feel it must be the same with others. We will publish "Grace! grace! grace!" with all our might, living and dying.

We shall be very decided, also, as to justification by faith, for salvation is "Not of works, lest any man should boast." "Life in a look at the Crucified One" will be our message. Trust in the Redeemer will be that saving grace which we will pray the Lord to implant in all our hearers' hearts.

And everything else which we believe to be true in the Scriptures we shall preach with decision. If there be questions which may be regarded as moot, or comparatively unimportant, we shall speak with such a measure of decision about them as may be comely. But points which cannot be moot, which are essential and fundamental, will be declared by us without any stammering, without any inquiring of the people, "What would you wish us to say?"

Yes, and without the apology, "Those are my views, but other people's views may be correct." We ought to preach the gospel, not as our views at all, but as the mind of God—the testimony of Jehovah concerning his own Son, and in reference to salvation for lost men. If we had been entrusted with the making of the gospel, we might have altered it to suit the taste of this modest century, but never having been employed to originate the good news, but merely to repeat it, we dare not stir beyond the record. What we have been taught of God we teach. If we do not do this, we are not fit for our position.

If I have a servant in my house, and I send a message by her to the door, and she amends it, on her own authority, she may take away the very soul of the message by so doing, and she will be responsible for what she has done. She will not long remain in my employ, for I need a servant who will repeat what I say, as nearly as possible, word for word; and if she does so, I am responsible for the message, she is not. If any one should be angry with her on account of what she said, they would be very unjust; their quarrel lies with me, and not with the person whom I employ to act as mouth for me. He that hath God's Word, let him speak it faithfully, and he will have no need to answer gainsayers, except with a "Thus saith the Lord."

C. H. Spurgeon


James Scott Bell said...

"Such men creep into the ministry, but they are generally cunning enough to conceal the breadth of their minds beneath Christian phraseology, thus acting in consistency with their principles, for their fundamental rule is that truth is of no consequence."

When did he write this? Yesterday?

Mike Riccardi said...

I think this is the best I've ever read from Spurgeon. I mean... just... wow.

I was sitting here debating with myself over whether or not I'd move to London if Spurgeon was still alive today.

Phenomenal post.


Rick Frueh said...

"If I have a servant in my house, and I send a message by her to the door, and she amends it, on her own authority, she may take away the very soul of the message by so doing, and she will be responsible for what she has done."

A multi-pronged prophecy.

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew Woodside said...

If Spurgeon were alive today people in the church and in our culture might think him to be intolerant. Sshh!!! Really, there are theological absolutes? The American Academy of Religion might not let him speak at their conferences.

Imagine that, the gospel, a two-edged sword cutting across the hopes and dreams of modernism (liberalism), ecumenism, political correctness, Emergent conversations, and syrupy Seeker movements. Its almost as if the message of Jesus is, dare I say, transcendent of all cultures (postmodern included)and relevant for all generations.

Stefan Ewing said...

To what Spurgeon said:

Amen, amen, and amen!

The defining preacher of our age, and probably the greatest preacher at any time since the invention of the steam engine. He met every nascent God-denying trend head on, and charted a course through the shoals of modern skepticism for all other believers to follow.

Stefan Ewing said...

...Says I, who was once himself a God-denying skeptic.

Sharon said...

...Says I, who was once himself a God-denying skeptic.

Wow, Stefan, what a testimony to His grace! Every conversion is a unique story of God's love and mercy. That's why I love to hear people's personal testimony.

Maybe that could be a post in itself--everyone giving his testimony (in 50 words or less!). Whataya think, TeamPyro?

A Musician by Grace

Rick Frueh said...

I was planning a bank robbery in South Jersey, killing theguard as we went in. Weeks before that day I was injured in a street fight with my finger almost bitten off. While recouperating at my atheist aunt's house in March of 1975, I heard Billy Graham preach and say thatJesus was coming back.

Climbing up the face of Garret Mountain overlooking Manhattan I was saved alone at night. I had never met a Christian and had never been in an evangelical church. Thirty-three years later this month I am still imperfectly serving a perfect Savior.

Of that I am most certain.

NothingNew said...

I knew little of Spurgeon before visiting this website and the more I know of him the more I appreciate his timeless wisdom.

Thanks again for sharing!

Bryan Riley said...

This makes me think of all the debates heard round Blogdom about essentials versus nonessentials, doctrinal tiers, and the like. It is a very good synopsis of what is essential.

Just two days ago I was pondering the fact that Paul came and preached Christ and Christ cruicified. He was resolved to know nothing else. And thinking thereon I was thinking about essentials....

Richard D said...

This is my favorite of all the "weekly Spurgeon doses" so far. The analogy of the servant at the end of the quote was particularly poignant and should make all of us tread more carefully as we present the inspired Word of God.

Thank you for posting this.

donsands said...

"The book is a divine production; it is perfect, and is the last court of appeal—" the judge which ends the strife."

The Word of God is the firm foundation of the Church, and Jesus Christ our perfect cornerstone. This building will never fall, and shall be completed to the last stone and roof tile.

Thanks for such a thorough sermon on truth from the 'prince'.

good1 said...

It's good to see that Spurgeon was a thorough-going presuppositionalist.

I was taught in seminary that I was to view myself as a waiter in a restaurant. I wasn't the cook. I was just supposed to get the food from the kitchen (the creator) to the table (the consumer) without spilling it.

Stefan Ewing said...

Rick: Wow. Now that's a testimony!

Stefan Ewing said...

Praise the Lord!

good1 said...

I am still imperfectly serving a perfect Savior.

A very moving testimony. I too can stand up next to you and affirm this statement. Praise the Lord for His wonderful works.

ezekiel said...

Reading Ez 11 this morning and consulting Matthew Henry's notes I ran across this. I think it bears mention here in the context of what we are discussing. What does the waiter do when they hate the food?

Matthew Henry notes on Ez 11:

II. The method taken to awaken them out of their security. One would think that the providences of God which related to them were enough to startle them; but, to help them to understand and improve those, the word of God is sent to them to give them warning (v. 4): Therefore prophesy against them, and try to undeceive them; prophesy, O son of man! upon these dead and dry bones. Note, The greatest kindness ministers can do to secure sinners is to preach against them, and to show them their misery and danger, though they are ever so unwilling to see them. We then act most for them when we appear most against them. But the prophet, being at a loss what to say to men that were hardened in sin, and that bade defiance to the judgments of God, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him, to make him full of power and courage, and said unto him, Speak. Note, When sinners are flattering themselves into their own ruin it is time to speak, and to tell them that they shall have no peace if they go on. Ministers are sometimes so bashful and timorous, and so much at a loss, that they must be put on to speak, and to speak boldly. But he that commands the prophet to speak gives him instructions what to say; and he must address himself to them as the house of Israel (v. 5), for not the princes only, but all the people, were concerned to know the truth of their cause, to know the worst of it.

Chris said...

As Mike said--just phenomenal!
It is actually a bit chilling to hear the prince of preachers of the 19th century speak directly into 2008 with such particular, specific accuracy! Great find with this gem Phil! Hearing Spurgeon deliver Truth like this is indeed the spiritual "Pepto Bismo" after reading any significant degree of greasy, deep fried, unhealthy, fast food emergent anti-theology that turns the stomach!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Based on the entire quote here of Spurgeon, isn't he saying that non-essentials are things that are non-Scriptural (as opposed to unscriptural)? And if he is saying that only these truths are essential, wouldn't he be saying that they are essential to something, like essential to salvation or essential to the gospel?

As well, if the message is changed by one word, as Spurgeon asserts in the last paragraph (with which I agreed and appreciated), then we would assume that we had every word, wouldn't we?

FX Turk said...


I welcome you to bring your KJVO thoughts to the DebateBlog for an extended session where you can provide the affirmative thesis and we can go 10 questions with a 1000-word limit for answers.

Unless you're willing to submit these ideas to real scrutiny, don't hint at them here in the meta as if they were mainstream ideas.

Solameanie said...

"He being dead still speaks . . . "

Spurgeon never ceases to amaze me with his prescience. Then again, there is nothing new under the sun. The same old lies resurface again and again with new packaging.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Frank!

Three things. Don't you love the divisional word, "things"?

1) I don't mind at all debating on this.
2) I see my three questions in my comment above as being legitimate and thoughtful, more so than a hefty percentage of what happens in the comments of Pyro, and would enjoy finding out what people think as to their answers.
3) Do you know what my position is on versions?


Rick Frueh said...

Kent - many people in Darfur find your argument...well...tedious. Sometimes "theologians" parse words down to only one proton and one electron until they are just left with Hydrogen. I guess what I'm saying is the energy that it takes to engage worthless debates is not found in me.

So was Gutenburg a believer?? :)

Solameanie said...

So most of us aren't legitimate and thoughtful?


Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm assuming that "most" equals 51% or more, which was why I didn't use the word "most," and, instead, "hefty portion." "Hefty portion" is fairly ambiguous and open to subjectivity. As well, certain "questions" were the subject of the adjectives legitimate and thoughtful, not "people." Thanks for asking.

Thanks Rick for your comment. I don't know what you meant, but it seemed you may have been saying that certain debates are worthless. I agree. I don't know if Gutenberg was a believer, but I'm thankful for the removeable type printing press.

Rick Frueh said...

Kent i my main point was lighten up! There are some battles worth fighting, but unless I totally misunderstood you version debate has been fought so many times, you must be younger than I. And the Gutenburg question? It was meant to illustrate another question not worth discussing.

I hope you have a sense of humor, I am right brained and you seem like the enigineer type. Am I correct.