22 January 2012

Christians in Name Only

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 Solemn Warning for All Churches," a sermon preached Sunday morning, 24 February 1856 (very early in Spurgeon's London ministry), at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

he first charge of general defilement Christ brings against the church in Sardis was that they had a vast deal of open profession, and but little of sincere religion. "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead" (Revelation 3:1).

That is the crying sin of the present age. I am not inclined to be morbid in my temperament, or to take a melancholy view of the church of God. I would wish at all times to exhibit a liberality of spirit, and to speak as well as I can of the church at large; but God forbid that any minister should shrink from declaring what he believes to be the truth.

In going up and down this land, I am obliged to come to this conclusion, that throughout the churches there are multitudes who have "a name to live and are dead." Religion has become fashionable. The shopkeeper could scarcely succeed in a respectable business if he were not united with a church. It is reckoned to be reputable and honorable to attend a place of worship, and hence men are made religious in shoals. And especially now that parliament itself doth in some measure sanction religion, we may expect that hypocrisy will abound yet more and more, and formality everywhere take the place of true religion.

You can scarcely meet with a man who does not call himself a Christian, and yet it is equally hard to meet with one who is in the very marrow of his bones thoroughly sanctified to the good work of the kingdom of heaven. We meet with professors by hundreds; but we must expect still to meet with possessors by units. The whole nation appears to have been Christianized in an hour. But is this real? Is this sincere? Ah! we fear not.

How is it that professors can live like other men? How is it that there is so little distinction between the church and the world? Or, that if there is any difference, you are frequently safer in dealing with an ungodly man than with one who is professedly righteous? How is it that men who make high professions can live in worldly conformity, indulge in the same pleasures, live in the same style, act from the same motives, deal in the same manner as other people do? Are not these days when the sons of God have made affinity with the sons of men? And may we not fear that something terrible may yet occur unless God shall send a voice, which shall say, "Come out of them, my people, lest ye be partakers of their plagues?"

Take our churches at large—there is no lack of names, but there is a lack of life. Else, how is it that our prayer-meetings are so badly attended? Where is the zeal or the energy shown by the apostles? Where is the Spirit of the living God? Is he not departed? Might not "Ichabod" be written on the walls of many a sanctuary? They have a name to live, but are dead. They have their societies, their organisms; but where is the life of godliness? Where is inward piety? Where is sincere religion? Where is practical godliness? Where is firm, decisive, puritanical piety?

Thank God, there are a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, but charity itself will not allow us to say that the church generally possesses the Spirit of God.

C. H. Spurgeon


Darlene said...

What a sobering admonition! I finally "get" Spurgeon on this one.

Charlene said...

I am often amazed at how Spurgeon's thoughts on the church and admonitions for the church fit so well with the American church today. I guess I shouldn't be because sin is ever the same throughout history. As Solomon said, "There is no new thing under the sun". Praise God for His forbearance and long suffering with us!

Lynn Dean said...

Oh, how this struck a chord with me!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Keep up the great work. Many blessings to you Phil and all other MacArthurites!


Darlene said...

Oh no, Matt. Don't call someone a MacArthurite. It's much better to simply be called a Christian. I have a high regard for Sts. Ignatius and Athanasius, but would not want to be considered an Ignatiusite or Athanasiusite. Many of the early church fathers and martyrs have become my teachers and instructors in the faith, but I would not want to be named after any of them, nor would they want it so.

Unknown said...

Darlene - Thanks for your thoughts. I consider myself a Calvinist, MacArthurite, Pipernator, Deverite, etc. It's a candid (and fun) way of categorizing oneself. Of course Jesus is King above all. 1 Cor 1:10-13. Blessings to you.

Darlene said...

Matt: I get what you're trying to convey - a respect for these mens' teachings. However, the cult of personality is alive and well within the halls of evangelicalism. I would caution you to take care not to fall into that trap.

And right now I'm envisioning an auditorium of crowd-waving admirers clapping for the latest popular Christian speaker. Heeeerrre's Johnny! (MacArthur & Piper)