21 November 2010

Unity Doesn't Require Uniformity, But It Does Require a Commitment to the Essentials of Christianity

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 "Peace at Home, and Prosperity Abroad," a message delivered on a Wednesday evening, 9 May 1860, to the London Missionary Society, at Whitefield's Tabernacle, Moorfields.

think we must look very carefully and very steadfastly to the soundness of that gospel which we proclaim and preach. Soundness, I say—and here possibly I may be touching upon a delicate subject, but what signifieth if that subject be of the utmost and highest importance?

There should be, I aver, in the declaration of the ministers of Christ, not uniformity, for that is not consistent with life, but unity—which is not only consistent with life, but which is one of the highest marks of a healthy existence.

I do not think the time will ever come when we shall all of us see eye to eye, and shall all use the same terms and phrases in setting forth doctrinal truths. I do not imagine there ever will be a period, unless it should be in that long-looked for millennium, when every brother thou be able to subscribe to every other brother's creed; when we shall be identical in our apprehensions, experiences, and expositions of the gospel in the fullest sense of the word. But I do maintain there should be, and there must be if our churches are to be healthy and sound, a constant adherence to the fundamental doctrines of divine truth.

I should be prepared to go a very long way for charity's sake, and admit that very much of the discussion which has existed even between Arminians and Calvinists has not been a discussion about vital truth, but about the terms in which that vital truth shall be stated. When I have read the conflict between that mighty man who made these walls echo with his voice. Mr. Whitfield, and that other mighty man equally useful in his day, Mr. Wesley, I have felt that they contended for the same truths, and that the vitality of Godliness was not mainly at issue in the controversy.

But, my brethren, if it should ever come to be a matter which casts doubts upon the divinity of Christ, or the personality of the Holy Ghost, if it should come to a matter of using gospel terms in a sense the most contrary to that which has ever been attached to them in any age of the truth; if it should ever come to the marring and spoiling of our ideas of Divine justice, and of that great atonement which is the basis of the whole gospel, as they have been delivered to us; then it is time my brethren once for all that the scabbard be thrown aside, that the sword be drawn. Against any who assails those precious vital truths which constitute the heart of our holy religion, we must contend even to the death.

It is not possible that an affirmative and negative can be two views of the same truth. We are continually told when one man contradicts another, that he does but see with other eyes. Nay, my brethren, the one man is blind, he does not see at all, the other sees, having the eyes of his understanding enlightened. There may be two views of truth, but two views of truth cannot be directly antagonistic. One must be the true view and the other the false view. No stretch of my imagination can ever allow me to anticipate the time can come when "yes" and "no" can lie comfortably down in the same bed. I cannot conceive by any means there ever can be a matrimonial alliance between positive and negative.

Think ye such things might exist! Verily there were giants at one time, when the sons of God saw the daughters of men; and we may live to see gigantic heresies, when God's own children may look upon the fair daughters of philosophy, and monster delusions shall stalk across the earth.

A want of union about truth too clearly proves that the body of the Church is not in a healthy state. No man's system can be said to be in a normal condition if that man prefers ashes to bread, and prefers ditch water to that which flows from the bubbling fountain. A man must be unhealthy or he would not use such garbage.

We must look to the preservation of the health of the Church.

C. H. Spurgeon


Sarah said...

Thank you so much for this post! This has been something God has been dealing with in my own heart. I'm realizing that the gospel is worth fighting and dying for, but many of our other disagreements are not. But our fighting is done with love and charity in the hopes that those in disagreement will hear the Word of Lord Jesus and repent and be saved by His sovereign grace.

Todd Saunders said...

The doctrinal issues that Christians have been torturing and killing each other over for centuries still exist almost in identical form today. Are these just issues of "uniformity"? Does he really attempt to address anything here?

AJM said...

Far be it from me to attempt to ascend to the level of spurgeon, and this dose, I suppose should be limited to what he was talking about, namely our terms and the definition we fill them with. However (you knew there would be one), I have a question ... to wit - What are the non-essentials?
I mean, if it's in there, The Word, then it's from God, right?
I suppose I have been snake bit by those who, using the "unity is everything", and "essentials mean something to the effect of Lowest Common Denominator doctrines

DJP said...

Can you name and date the last "Christian" who killed or tortured a Christian over a doctrinal issue, and identify the issue? That'd be helpful.

Todd Saunders said...

I appreciate your plea for specifics.

Mr. Spurgeon sums it up best when he says,and here possibly I may be touching upon a delicate subject,

I didn't know quite where to start so I figured I'd start by testing the waters.

By saying, "I should be prepared to go a very long way for charity's sake, and admit that very much of the discussion which has existed even between Arminians and Calvinists has not been a discussion about vital truth...", he's implying that although very much of the discussion, "has not been", some of it 'has been', and that's the stuff he's still willing to be ununified about. He leaves some to be not covered by mere 'ununiformity'. That's the hard stuff. All of us want to gloss over most of the differences, it's just that, "what do you do with the hard stuff that nobody wants to give up on, that is hard to reconcile into 'a' same vital truth"(such as limited atonement)?

And Mr. Spurgeon's other charitable remark that "the vitality of Godliness was not mainly at issue in the controversy.

Not mainly the issue? what about the rest?

I'm just saying that he seems to be glossing through the whole idea here with a well placed sentiment but not really addressing anything worth print.

Does he really address that other little part of the discussion that seems to be a little ununifying?

Or are we all, in reality just a little on the dumb side, and agreeing on the same phraseology and words is just a little more than we can handle? Just a little too tough of an assignment from the Lord to figure out together what all of these simple truths mean?

It seems a little bit more like(maybe only to the "snark" in me) an attempt by Mr. Spurgeon to say, "let's call as much of this as we can a mere, 'lack of uniformity', so that I can go on believing what I want to believe, and you what you want to believe."

I just didn't see anything helpful in what he said.

Answer to your question:
On May 20, 1527, Roman Catholic authorities executed Michael Sattler. Larger answer would include the Germans, Swiss, French, Italian, British, numerous others fighting over who is going to be the new Rome.

Thanks for considering these things guys.

Will Marks said...

Hopefully you won't mind too much if I say that Spurgeon is still my favourite contributor to this blog. God Bless.

Will Marks said...

And also I feel that the existence of Arminianism and Calvinism is due to our finite minds, trying to undertand how God in his Eternal Infinity can know all and the effect of this on the language of Atonement.

Is it limited? Well God knows how many will be saved and knows it isn't everyone. Does that mean it isn't open to all?

In any case we don't no who the chosen are, so should proclaim the Gospel to each individual as if it is for them. I speak of atonement as unlimited as I don't know who will be saved. I find any other message hopeless.

In any case I am neither Arminian nor Calvinist in the truest sense of either. I do however find unity with both, where the Gospel is sounded out with clarity. It is too urgent a message to keep in the study.

Anonymous said...

Warfield on "Comprehension," et al