12 June 2010

Some Thoughts on Persecution

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 "A Word for the Persecuted," a sermon preached Sunday Morning, 16 August 1874 at the Met Tab, London.

ever court opposition. God forbid we should do so. Some zealots seem bent on making religion objectionable. The cup we hold to a sinful world is in itself repugnant enough to fallen nature; there can be no wisdom in making it yet more objectionable by presenting it with a scowling face.

It is as well when you have medicine to give to a child to show him a piece of sugar too: so let your kindness, and cheerfulness, and gentleness sweeten that which the world is not very likely to receive anyhow, but which it will the less resent if you present it with love, showing a desire to live peaceably with all men, and to consult the comfort of others rather than your own.

And then endure whatever you have to endure with the greatest possible meekness.

There was a farmer whose wife was very irritated with him because of his attending a dissenting place of worship, and joining with Christian people. She often declared that she would not bear it much longer, but he was very patient, and made no harsh reply to her. One day she fetched him out of the harvest field, and said, "Now it is come to this; you will give up those people, or give me up"; and she brought out a web of cloth and said, "Now you take half of this and I'll take the other half; for I am going."

He said, "No, my dear, you are welcome to it all. You have always been a very good industrious wife, take it all."

Then she proposed taking a part of their household goods and settling everything for a final separation, but again he said, "Take all there is. If you will go away take everything you like, for I should not wish you to be uncomfortable; and come back again whenever you please, I shall always be glad to see you."

Seeing that he talked in that way, she said, "Do you mean me to go?"

"No," said he, "it is your own wish, not mine. I cannot give up my religion, but anything else I can do to make you stay and be happy, I will do."

This was too much for her, she resolved to cease her opposition, and in a short time went with her husband to the place of worship, and became herself a believer.

This is the surest way to victory. Yield everything but what it would be wrong to yield. Never grow angry. Keep cool, and let the railing be all on one side.

There was a poor godly woman who used to attend the ministry of Mr. Robinson, of Leicester, and her husband, a very coarse, brutal man, said to her one day in his wrath, "If you ever go to St. Mary's church again I'll cut both your legs off."

He was a dreadful man, and equal to any violence, but on the next occasion of worship his wife went as aforetime. As she came home, she commended herself to the care of God, expecting to be assailed. Her husband said to her, "Where have you been?"

"I have been to St. Mary's church," said she.

With that he felled her to the ground with a terrible blow on the face.

Rising up, she gently said, "If you strike me on the other side I shall as freely forgive you as I do now."

She had been a very passionate woman before conversion, and had been accustomed to give her husband as good as he could send, and therefore he was struck with her gentleness. "Where did you learn this patience?" said he.

Her reply was, "By God's grace I learned it at St. Mary's."

"Then you may go as often as you like." Presently he went also, and the war was over. There is nothing like meekness. It will conquer the strongest.

After bearing with meekness return good for evil. For cruel words return warmer love and increased kindness. The most renowned weapon for a Christian to fight his antagonists with is that of overcoming evil with good.

Evil to evil is beastlike, and no Christian will indulge in it; but good for evil is Christlike, and we must practice it. I think I have before told you the story of the husband who was a very loose, gay, depraved, man of the world, but he had a wife who for many years bore with his ridicule and unkindness, praying for him day and night, though no change came over him, except that he grew even more bold in sin.

One night, being at a drunken feast with a number of his boon companions, he boasted that his wife would do anything he wished, she was as submissive as a lamb. "Now," he said, "she has gone to bed hours ago; but if I take you all to my house at once she will get up and entertain you and make no complaint."

"Not she," they said, and the matter ended in a bet, and away they went.

It was in the small hours of the night, but in a few minutes she was up, and remarked that she was glad that she had two chickens ready, and if they would wait a little she would soon have a supper spread for them. They waited, and ere long, at that late hour, the table was spread, and she took her place at it as if it was quite an ordinary matter, acting the part of hostess with cheerfulness.

One of the company, touched in his better feelings, exclaimed, "Madam, we ought to apologize to you for intruding upon you in this way, and at such an hour, but I am at a loss to understand how it is you receive us so cheerfully, for being a religious person you cannot approve of our conduct."

Her reply was, "I and my husband were both formerly unconverted, but, by the grace of God, I am now a believer in the Lord Jesus. I have daily prayed for my husband, and I have done all I can to bring him to a better mind, but as I see no charge in him, I fear he will be lost for ever; and I have made up my mind to make him as happy as I can while he is here."

They went away, and her husband said, "Do you really think I shall be unhappy for ever?"

"I fear so," said she, "I would to God you would repent and seek forgiveness."

That night patience accomplished her desire. He was soon found with her on the way to heaven.

Yield on no point of principle, but in everything else be willing to bear reproach, and to be despised and mocked at for Christ's sake. In hoc signo vinces—by the cross patiently borne thou couquerest.

"This is a hard saying," says one. I know it is, but grace can make the heaviest burden light, and transform duty into delight.

Here let one also remark that to this gentle endurance there must be added by the persecuted Christian much exactness of life. We must be very particular when such lynx-eyes are upon us, because if they can find us trespassing they will pounce upon us at once. If it is only a little wrong, a thing which they would not have noticed in anybody else, they will magnify it and raise quite a clamor about it. "Ah, that is your religion," say they, as if we claimed to be absolutely perfect.

Be watchful, therefore, walk circumspectly, do not put yourself into their hands; let them have nothing to say against you save only upon the point of your religion. Nothing bothers opponents like integrity, truthfulness, and holiness: they long to speak against you, but cannot find a fair opportunity. Take care that you daily pray for grace to keep your temper, for if you fail there they will boast of having conquered you, and will assail you again in the same way. Ask for grace to be patient, and say as little as you can, except to God. Pray much for them, for prayer is still heard, and how knowest thou, O believing woman, but thou mayst save thy unbelieving husband? Only watch on and pray on, and a blessing will come.

C. H. Spurgeon


Matt said...

Everytime I read this man, I am challenged at how much this man knew Jesus! Thanks for the post and your diligence to the Word also Pastor Phil!

btw I am not entirely convinced that that photo of Spurgeon could in some ways pass for you! If you grew a similiar beard.....

His Grace

anonymous said...

"If you ever go to St. Mary's church again I'll cut both your legs off."... "With that he felled her to the ground with a terrible blow on the face."

Phil..I love you and I love Spurgeon...but what I quoted above is not persecution, that is called domestic violence and I would not want any woman thinking Jesus would want her to endure that for Him.

I am dealing with a woman now who will not leave her violently abusive husband because she was told she must honor her husband and cleave to him according to the Bible.

Please put up a caveat or take out that part of the post. This could cause many women in abusive situations trouble. Their abusers will use this against them or they will see it as another strike against them for wanting to leave their abusers. After all Christ wants them to endure, right?

Trust me...there are many many women abusers and many many abused women in Christ's church.

anonymous said...

by the way...i am not advocating divorce in every case. When I said "leave her husband" I mean flee from the violent situation to a place of safety. If he is abusing her he needs help. Keeping the abuse quiet is not going to get him help for his sinful behavior.

The Missus said...

Very excellent sermon. This message is one I needed to hear today, because I am married to an unbeliever and it is difficult to come up with the right response, especially under pressure like the stories illustrated. Keeping this in the forefront of my mind will really help:

"This is the surest way to victory. Yield everything but what it would be wrong to yield. Never grow angry. Keep cool, and let the railing be all on one side."

I have to add that I agree with the previous poster who was concerned a about how some readers may view the story about the wife who attened St. Mary's Church. It's much too serious of an issue in the church to ignore, so it would be great if it was taken out of the original message or if a note was written at the end explaining that domestic violence should not be tolerated for the sake of winning your mate for Christ.

Stefan Ewing said...

Thank you for this, Phil...and for the longer excerpt than normal.

I, too, am married to a non-believer. We've been through some very deep valleys in our marriage since I was saved, and there have been times when God's grace has been the only thing sustaining us, and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 (and Ephesians 5:25-28) were actually guiding my every step.

Now, through great trials, God in His grace seems to be completing the good work He began three years ago when I prayed for my wife's salvation...and He saved me instead! Where our hearts used to be disunited and discordant, they are one now. We pray together, attend church together, and she has even learned the fear of God...

But God's work is not yet done, so thank you for the reminder to keep praying, keep ministering, keep loving, and keep hoping for that wonderful day when she accepts Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour.

Marie said...

Thank you loveGod for your quick response to the woman struck on the head and knocked down.

I know it was not the point of the post, but it implied that this woman is doing God's will by letting her husband do her great bodily harm or killing her.

Jesus indeed said to offer the other cheek; that does not mean we are supposed to allow another person to kill us; but rather we should tolerate insults and humiliation.

Scripture says we can kill! to defend ourselves or other innocents.

I hope no abused person reading this blog thinks Jesus wants her (or him) to allow someone to kill them or do them great bodily harm. I can't find Biblical warrant for such a position.

Christianity is not pacifism, although the toleration of bad treatment is Christlike.

I think the example of the lady who got up in the middle of the night to make chicken for a bunch of jerks (!) is a far better example.

Henry said...

I think this is a great post.

NoLongerBlind said...
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anonymous said...

well nolongerblind I will be praying for the Lord to open your eyes. It's because of comments like yours that I felt it necessary to make mine. No one is questioning the sovereignty of God in all situations.

So answer me this nolongerblind... was Paul circumventing the sovereignty of God when they got him out of Dodge in a basket? Or how about Phil who is going to get medical attention for the pain in his back. Maybe God just wants him to suffer with the pain.

Not all women are beaten because of religious persecution.

NoLongerBlind said...
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anonymous said...

so nolongerblind are you saying that God's word forbids a woman to seek safety from domestic violence?

NoLongerBlind said...
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Marie said...


the same word that tells us to submit to our husbands tell us to kill in order to defend our lives.

Thus, "submission" is not defined as "allow for murder."

Yours or anyone else's.

Were the verse you quoted the only verse in the Bible, I'd see your point.

However, there are lot more verses and we must apply ALL of them.

Marie said...

"Do you think someone should deny Christ in order to avoid threatened violence - like many of our brethren experience in Muslim-controlled countries around the globe?"

No. And defending yourself from being murdered is not denying Christ.

NoLongerBlind said...
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