THE HOLY WAS OF THE PRESENT HOUR BY C. H. SPURGEON EVERY period is, on some account or other, a crisis. The conflict between the powers of darkness and the Spirit of truth concerns such vital interests, and is conducted with such unceasing energy, that each moment is big with importance, and every instant is the hinge of destiny. We may be held excusable, therefore, if we should be mistaken in the assertion that the present hour is one of extreme peril, and demands the utmost zeal of the servants of the living God. In addition to the stolid mass of heathenism which crowds our great cities and rusticates in the sparser populations, over and beyond the terrible indifference to divine things which covers the nation we have in England to stand foot to foot with a Romanism of the most fascinating form, and with’ an infidelity of the most cunning character. The rapid growth of Tractarianism is astounding to all but those who know the adaptation of the system to the depraved heart; but to such it is as easily accounted for as the kindling of a conflagration when fire falls among hay and stubble. While men’s hearts are tinder-boxes it: Will never be a wonder that the devil should be able to light a fire. The master-piece of Satan is popery. Just as the gospel of the grace of God is the noblest display of the divine attributes, so is the Popish system the most subtle of all the works of Satan, wherein he manifests his utmost skill :; and as the energy of Omnipotence is prepared to consummate the triumph of the Lord’s Christ, so is all the might of hell engaged to secure the supremacy of Antichrist. There can be little doubt that in the Church of England the Tractarian party is by far the most powerful, and that out of that church its ill savior is doing much serious mischief. It has been called a brilliant fungus growing upon the church; we believe it to be, to a great extent, the legitimate form of that community, sanctioned by its past history, and prescribed by its Liturgy and catechism. We are quite unable to agree with those who think Puseyism to be a departure from the Church of England, for the fact that its adherents ask for no revision of the liturgy is a proof that they feel it to be on their side. Those who remember the Puseyism of ten years ago will have observed the tremendous strides with. which it has advanced, and will have been equally struck with the development which it has undergone; its plumage was modesty itself then, compared with its splendor now, and its tone was indistinct as the famous roaring of sucking doves, compared with its present thunderings. No longer can we say that Puseyism is Romanism disguised; it has removed the mask, and is now openly and avowedly what it has always been — ritualism, sacramentarianism, priestcraft, Antichrist. Puseyism has clothed herself with the beggarly rags worn by the Romish harlot in the dark ages, and thrown upon the dunghill because they were too full of leprosy to be any longer endured by intelligent beings; these rags she has put on one by one with daily increasing hardihood, until at last her likeness to the Apocalyptic sketch of the woman on the scarlet-colored beast is as clear as noonday; but all this has not opened the eyes of the boasted “No Popery” England, and multitudes in our nation are as much enamored with priest-craft today as their fathers were in the days of Thomas of Canterbury. Meanwhile, skeptics in canonicals are debauching thoughtful minds with their speculations and insinuations, and so with a double cord the people are dragged downward to destruction.
Is nothing to ‘be done? Can nothing be attempted? Shall all the zeal, energy, wit, and perseverance in the world go to the wrong side? Is there no demand made upon believers now to vindicate the truth? Our fathers held their own against all comers, and even turned to flight the, armies of the aliens; are we tamely to sit still? Let a crusade against Puseyism and all other error ‘be proclaimed, and let all faithful seeds enlist in the great war.
In the name of the Lord we will set up ore: banners and join in the fray.
The gospel of Jesus is assailed by its ancient enemies, let every’ true man come to the front and face the foe. Oh for the God of Gideon to be with the few whom he may make worthy to smite the great lost who have covered the land! The Puritans erred in using carnal weapons, and hence their victory, was short-lived; our conflict now is not with flesh and blood, and if the Lord speed us, the triumph once gained will be perpetual.
The well. known story of Arnold you Winkelried occurs to us as admirably illustrating our present position. The tale shall be told, and then we will append its moral. The Austrian duke, determined to make vassals of the Swiss cantons, had marched an army of well-armed knights and nobles to attack the city of Lucerne, against which the giant Swiss could only send into the field a few ill-accoutered warriors, Armor was scarce among the Swiss; some had only boards fastened on their arms by way of shields, some had halberts which had been used by their sires at the battle of Morgarten, and others wielded two-handed swords and battle-axes; they formed themselves into a wedge, and strove with useless valor to break the bristling line of spears presented by the Austrian knights, whose gay skids and polished impenetrable armor stood like a glittering wall quite out of the Switzer’s reach. Nothing availed against the Austrian phalanx, while death thinned the ranks of the patriots. It was a moment when some unusual deed was needed, and the deed was done. Winkelried saw at a glance the only means of saving his country, and promptly made himself a sacrifice to secure her liberties. Sir Walter Scott, in a worthy translation of the poem of Albert Tchudi, sings of the here’s valiant self-sacrifice : — “‘I have a virtuous wife at home, A wife and infant son I leave them to my country’s care,— This field shall soon be won. ‘These nobles lay their spears right thick, And keep full firm array, Yet shall my charge their order break, And make my brethren way.’
He rush’d against the Austrian band In desperate career, And with his body, breast, and hand, Bore down each hostile spear.
Four lances splinter’d on his crest, Six shiver’d in his side; Still on the serried files the press’d — He broke their ranks, and died.
This patriot’s self-devoted deed First tamed the Lion’s mood, And the four forest cantons freed From thraldom by his blood.
Right where his charge had made a lane, His valiant comrades burst, With sword, and ax, and partisan, And hack, and stab, and thrust.” When fairly mingled in the fray, the unwieldy length of their weapons and cumbrous weight of their defensive armor rendered the Austrian men-atarms a very unequal match for the valiant mountaineers, and. the liberties of Switzerland were secured by the slaughter of her foes.
All great movements need the entire self-sacrifice of some one man who, careless of consequences, will throw himself upon the spears of the enemy.
Providence has usually raised up such a one just when he was, needed, and we may look for such a person to come suddenly to the front now.
Meanwhile, is there not a man of the sort to be found in our churches ‘?
We believe there are many, and to aid in identifying them we will sketch the man required. He must be simple-minded, outspoken, bold and fearless of consequences. To him courage must be instead of prudence, and faith instead of policy. He must be prepared to be apparently despised and really hated, because intensely dreaded, tie must reckon upon having every sentence he utters distorted, and every action misrepresented, but in this he must rejoice so long as his blows tell and his utterances win a hearing.
Ease, reputation, comfort, he must renounce, and be content so long as he lives to dwell without the world’s camp. Standing at the point of the wedge he must be ambitious to bury as many spears as possible in his own bosom that others may win the victory. Now who is the man who should naturally take up this position? Who in our churches is most called to it? Is it not the minister of Christ? Who should lead the, van of the Lord’s host but the preacher of the Word? In our measure, such being’ our calling, we are willing so to act as the Lord may enable us, for such is well becoming in a soldier of Jesus Christ. A constant, unmistakable, and uncompromising testimony against Puseyite idolatry we desire to bear; let every one of the pastors of our churches be of the same mind.
It is a circumstance which should cause-the pro-roundest joy to our comrades in the holy war that there is no lack of earnest men who devote themselves to the ministry from pure and ardent love of Jesus. Often do the tears ‘burst unbidden from our eyes when having set before young men the poverty which they must expect if they become Baptist ministers, they reply like men who have counted the cost, “Sir, we ‘would sooner have on bread and water and preach the gospel than become the richest men on earth.” When men are earning in another vocation three or four times as much as niggardly churches are likely to give them, it is no mean test of their fitness for leadership when they throw up hopeful prospects of competence with alacrity, and even count it all joy to suffer loss for the, Master’s sake. Our College never needs to look about for such men, they crowd upon us, and we have only to select and test them, and in no manner directly or indirectly to invite them. Blessed be God, the old heroic spirit is not extinct among us! The church must take care that she does not discourage it, but rather foster it by all the means in her power. When God sends us men, there should never be any deficiency of means for educating them, and maintaining them when fully equipped.
Is it needful to remained private Christians that when Arnold broke the ranks of the Austrians it would have been a useless waste of life if his fellow-Swiss had not followed up the advantage? There was the gap in that dreadful thorn-hedge of spears; his corpse had split the phalanx, and now over his body his grateful countrymen must dash to victory. Suppose they had all shrunk back; imagine that they had begun to criticize his action in the usual style, — “ a very imprudent, rash man, very He has acted very indiscreetly; we should have done so and so.” Of course such critics would have done nothing at all; everybody knows that; but people who do not mean to do a thing, and who could not do it, are always saying, after it is done, that it should have been far better managed. But no, instead of wasting time in empty discussion the Swiss patriots asked no questions, but, seeing the opportunity made for them, they took immediate advantage of it. We do not doubt but; that many a time the Christian church might have won great victories if it had been prepared to dash into the gap which some brave man, by God’s grace, had been enabled to make. If it be inquired in the present instance, What can private Christians do in cases where such bold leadership has been granted them? our reply is, Let every spiritual weapon be used, let mighty prayer be kept ever waving like a twoedged sword, and let holy earnestness in teaching the word prove the sincerity of the supplication. God is with us, and will manifest his power when we are all thoroughly intent upon stirring up his strength. We do not cry unto him as we should, nor feel enough the imminence of our peril; else should we soon see the making, bare of his arm. Let united prayer be put up by all believers concerning the present state of religion in England, and we shall not ‘be many months before a change shall pass over the land.
Personal effort must also be used to propagate the truth upon the matters now assailed. There must be no time-serving, no vacillation; we must let all around us know what we believe, and why we believe it. Not alone the first rudimentary truths of the gospel must be taught, but the whole circle of revelation; we must conceal no distinctive doctrine, and withhold no unpalatable dogma. In the parlor and the kitchen, in the shop and in the field, we must lift up the cross and abase. the crucifix, magnify the gospel and ridicule superstition, glorify the Lord Jesus and expose priest-craft. If England expects every man to do his duty, much more does God expect it at the hands of his people.
In connection with our own work we would commend to our readers our effort in the College. ‘We are, by means of our young brethren, testifying in numerous districts the old-fashioned gospel, the gospel of Bunyan and of Owen, the gospel of our Lord Jesus. We have had the divine approval in a marked manner, but we long to see far greater things than these. The, sending forth of laborers into the vineyard is not only a theme for prayer but for earnest effort also. We beseech our brethren to assist us with their prayers, and, when they feel moved to do so, with their substance in our beloved life-work; but our confidence is in God that the work will never suffer want. Next to this we would urge the propriety of a very large distribution of religious literature bearing upon the Puseyitc controversy.
Very little has been done in this respect. Tractarianism owed its origin to tracts, as its name implies; why may not its downfall come from the same means, if well used? If several millions of copies of forcible, Scriptural testimonies could be scattered over the land, the results might far exceed all expectation. Of course, controversy would arise out of such a distribution; but this is most desirable, since it is only error which could suffer by the question being everywhere discussed. We should like to see the country flooded, and even the walls placards with bold exposures of error and plain expositions of truth. We will take our own share in the effort if any friends should be moved to work with us; at the same time we shall be equally glad if they will do the work alone, only let it be done, and done well, and at once. If the expense of the tracts should involve a sacrifice, it will be sweet to the true heart to serve the Lord with his substance, and none will desire to offer to Him that which cost him nothing.
Further, it is on our heart very heavily to stir up our friends to rescue some of the scholastic influence of our adversaries out of their hands. In the common schools of England church influence is out of all proportion with the number of the Episcopal body and the proportion of the Nonconforming churches. We have too much given up our children to the enemy, and if the clergy had possessed the skill to hold them, the mischief might have been terrible; as it is, our Sabbath schools have neutralized the evil to a large extent, but it ought not to be suffered to exist any longer; a great effort should be made to multiply our day schools, and to render them distinctly religious, by teaching the gospel in them, and by laboring to bring the children as children to the Lord Jesus. The silly cry of “Nonsectarian” is duping many into the establishment of schools in which the most important part of wisdom, namely, the fear of the Lord, is altogether ignored; we trust this folly will soon be given up, and that we shall see schools in which all that we believe and hold. dear shall be taught to the ‘children of our poorer adherents. Middle-class education of a high. order is sedulously cared for among the Romanizers. They have numerous self-supporting schools where the payments are low, and the education superior, and they thus obtain a hold upon many families with limited means who are anxious to give their sons a first-class education, and therefore allow them to enter these hotbeds of Popery. Could not we who hold’ certain views of truth establish at once a grammar school of the highest order, where the payments should be as moderate as possible, and where the truths which we hold should be most distinctly taught? If we should meet with encouragement in the project, although we have already enough labor for twenty men, we would commence such an institution under our own eye within a short distance of the Tabernacle, under the direction of our own church officers, whose assistance’ would enable us to care for the souls of the boys who might be sent to us. A considerable subscribed capital would be required to commence with, and a good deal of counsel might be necessary before the plan was ready to work, but meanwhile it would materially clear the way if we had communications from friends in answer to the following query: “Supposing that a really first-class school, in a healthy position, could be founded, at which the charge for boarders should be not more than £30 per annum, and in which the principles advocated by Mr. Spurgeon should be a recognized part of the teaching, would you send your sons to it? ” There would remain nothing but minor difficulties if there should be a largo response to this query. Our great Puritan authors usually came from foundation-schools, and if we would have a race of eminent divines, we shall probably obtain them from men who from their youth up have learned the Scriptures. The importance of such a school as we desire to see, we cannot, we think, over-estimate. We inserted our own name in the query to make the question as definite as possible; not because we think that this one school would be enough, but because if one could be established we hope other ministers would be led to do something of a similar kind. There are already in operation several admirable institutions of the kind suggested, but there is no great Baptist public school, and we have no doubt but that one is needed. We have no sort of Object; in suggesting its commencement in connection. with ourselves, but the hope that with our large connection we may be able to carry it out, where others might fail. If it cannot be done in the best possible manner, it shall not be attempted by us; but we feel so much its importance that, by God’s graces it shall be no fault of ours if it do not, succeed. “Church principles,” as they are called, are drilled into youth by the troublers of our Israel; why should we not meet them by training our sons in the true church principles, and by surrounding them with hallowed influences, which, under the divine blessing, might lead them to Jesus, and introduce them into his’ service.
With the aid of our deacons and elders we could, by God’s grace, maintain a constant effort for the conversion of the lads, and who knows how much of holy result might come of it? These two projects we have mooted, and must leave to God and to his people to consider them. Brethren in Christ, by the love you bear to the gospel of Jesus, be up and doing for the Lord’s cause in the land. If not in these ways, yet by some other methods do meet the enemy of souls, and seek to tear the prey from between his jaws. If every hair of our head were a man, and every man had a thousand tongues, every one should cry out against the Anglican Antichrist. No greater plague can break forth among our people than the plague of Puseyism! If there be any’ human means unused by which the flood of Popery may be stemmed, let us use it, and meanwhile, with heart and soul let us approach the throne of grace, and cry unto the Lord to maintain his own truth, and put his enemies to confusion.