02 May 2011

Against Legalistic "Holiness" and Morbid Self-Examination

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 Spurgeon's Autobiography.

   have found, in my own spiritual life, that the more rules I lay down for myself, the more sins I commit. The habit of regular morning and evening prayer is one which is indispensable to a believer's life, but the prescribing of the length of prayer, and the constrained remembrance of so many persons and subjects, may gender unto bondage, and strangle prayer rather than assist it.

To say I will humble myself at such a time, and rejoice at such another season, is nearly as much an affectation as when the preacher wrote in the margin of his sermon, "Cry here," "Smile here." Why, if the man preached from his heart, he would be sure to cry in the right place, and to smile at a suitable moment; and when the spiritual life is sound, it produces prayer at the right time, and humiliation of soul and sacred joy spring forth spontaneously, apart from rules and vows.

The kind of religion which makes itself to order by the Almanack, and turns out its emotions like bricks from a machine, weeping on Good Friday, and rejoicing two days afterwards, measuring its motions by the moon, is too artificial to be worthy of my imitation.

Self-examination is a very great blessing, but I have known self-examination carried on in a most unbelieving, legal, and self-righteous manner; in fact, I have so carried it on myself. Time was when I used to think a vast deal more of marks, and signs, and evidences, for my own comfort, than I do now, for I find that I cannot be a match for the devil when I begin dealing in these things. I am obliged to go day by day with this cry,—

"I, the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me."

While I can believe the promise of God, because it is His promise, and because He is my God, and while I can trust my Saviour because He is God, and therefore mighty to save, all goes well with me; but I do find, when I begin questioning myself about this and that perplexity, thus taking my eye off Christ, that all the virtue of my life seems oozing out at every pore.

Any practice that detracts from faith is an evil practice, but especially that kind of self-examination which would take us away from the cross-foot, proceeds in a wrong direction.

C. H. Spurgeon


Anonymous said...

This is a good word.

Particularly for me.

Particularly today.


Cindy Swanson said...


Susan said...

Ditto Daryl above.

Sir Brass said...

The second to last paragraph is very much true of me. Praise the Lord that He has kept me from such dispair that I would despair of persevering. May He continue to strip away my tendency to be overly introspective and more and more continue to look to Christ alone in His perfect keeping of the Law and His perfect propitiation for my sins for my comfort and assurance.

He has given the promise that He will do it. That He pardons our iniquities and clothes us in His righteousness. And He has promised to circumcise the heart of His particular people. He does not lie. And in asking for all the promises of Christ, the Father never once says "no", but "Yes" and "Amen."

"Save me Lord, lest I die." "Yes."

"Persevere me, Lord, that I may persevere to the end." "Yes."

"Lord glorify Yourself in me and will me to do thy will!" "Amen."

Tyrone said...

Thanks for these posts brother

Anonymous said...

Aaah... What refreshing, life-giving words.


donsands said...

Marvelous encouraging words. Thank you. I think the Church is a lot harder on one another than our Lord is.

And can it be...

"He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!"

Milton said...

Romans 7:7-13; 8:1-2 Spurgeon agrees with Paul, and so, of course, should we!

Square Peg said...

Phil this is a very timely word. Spurgeon's strengths were very much when he wrote evangelistically and on Christian experience. It is obvious from writing like this that he wrote as a pastor dealing with real people and their problems. He always deals with them from a caring, biblical, sincere, realistic perspective. We need more pastors of his ilk.

Anonymous said...

I love the line about the more rules I give myself, the more sins I commit. Sounds just like Paul telling us that by the Law is the knowledge of sin.

I'm grateful that others in the body (even if they are long dead) have the same experiences I do. When I overemphasize the rules, I lose track of Christ.