THE NEED OF DECISION FOR THE TRUTH.
A COLLEGE ADDRESS, BY C. H. SPURGEON.
SOME things are true and some things are false. I regard that as an axiom; but there are many persons who evidently do not believe it. The current principle of the present age seems to be, “Some things are either true or false, according to the point of view from which you look at them.
Black is white, and white is black according to circumstances; and it does not particularly matter which you call it. Truth of course is true, but it would be rude to say that the opposite is a lie; we must not be bigoted, but remember the motto, ‘ So many men, so many minds.’” Our forefathers were particular about maintaining landmarks; they had strong notions about fixed points of revealed doctrine, and were very tenacious of what they believed to be scriptural; their fields were protected by hedges and ditches, but their sons have grubbed up the hedges, filled up the ditches, laid all level, and played at leap-frog with the boundary stones. The school of modern thought laughs at the ridiculous positiveness of Reformers and Puritans; it is advancing in glorious liberality, and before long will publish a grand alliance between heaven and hell, or, rather, an amalgamation of the two establishments upon terms of mutual concession, allowing falsehood and truth to lie side by side, like the lion with the lamb. Still, for all that, my firm old fashioned belief is that some doctrines are true, and that statements which are diametrically opposite to them are not true, — that when “No” is the fact, “Yes” is out of court, and that when “Yes” can be justified, “:No” must be abandoned. I believe that the gentleman who has for so long a time perplexed our courts is either Sir Roger Tichborne or somebody else; I am not yet able to conceive of his being the true heir and an impostor at the same time. Yet in religious matters the fashionable standpoint is somewhere in that latitude.
We have a faith to preach, my brethren, and we are sent forth with a message from God. We are not left to fabricate the message as we go along. We are not sent forth by our Master with this kind of general commission — “ As you shall think in your heart and invent in your head as you march on, so preach. Keep abreast of the times. Whatever the people want to hear, tell them that, and they shall be saved.” Verily, we read not so. There is something definite in the Bible. It is not quite a lump of wax to be shaped at our will, or a roll of cloth to be cut according to the prevailing fashion. Your great thinkers evidently look upon the Scriptures as a box of letters for them to play with, and make what they like of, or a wizard’s bottle, out of which they may pour anything they choose from atheism up to spiritualism. I am too old-fashioned to fall down and worship this theory. There is something told me in the Bible — told me for certain — not put before me with a “but” and a “perhaps,” and an “if,” and a “may be,” and fifty thousand suspicions behind it, so that really the long and the short of it is, that it may not be so at all; but revealed to me as infallible fact, which must be believed, the opposite of which is deadly error, and comes from the father of lies.
Believing, therefore, that there is such a thing as truth, and such a thing as falsehood, that there are truths in the Bible, and that the gospel consists in something definite which is to be believed by men, it becomes us to be decided as to what we teach, and to teach it in a decided manner. We have to deal with men who will be either lost or saved, and they certainly will not be saved by erroneous doctrine. We have to deal with God, whose servants we are, and he will not be honored by our delivering falsehoods; neither will he give us a reward, and say,” Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast mangled the gospel as judiciously as any man that ever lived before thee.” We stand in a very solemn position, and ours should be the spirit of old Micaiah, who said, “As the, Lord my God liveth, before whom I stand, whatsoever the Lord saith unto me that will I speak.”
Neither less nor more than God’s word are we called to state, but that we are bound to declare in a spirit which lets the sons of men know that, whatever they may think of it, we believe God, and are not to be shaken in our confidence in him.
In what ought we to be positive, brethren? Well, there are gentlemen alive who imagine that there are no fixed principles to go upon. “Perhaps a few doctrines,” said one to me, “perhaps a few doctrines may be considered as established. It is, perhaps, ascertained that there is a God; but one ought not to dogmatise upon his personality: a great deal may be said for pantheism.” Such men creep into the ministry., but they are generally cunning enough to conceal the breadth of their minds beneath Christian phraseology, thus acting in consistency with their principles, for their fundamental rule is that truth is of no consequence.
As for us — as for me, at any rate — I am certain that there is a God, and I mean to preach it as a man does who is absolutely sure. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the Master of providence, and the Lord of grace: let his name be blessed for ever and ever! We will have no questions and debates as to him.
We are equally certain that the book which is called “the Bible” is his word, and is inspired; not inspired in the sense in which Shakespeare, and Milton, and Dryden may be inspired, but in an infinitely higher sense; so that, provided we have the exact text, we regard the words themselves as infallible. We believe that everything stated in the book that comes to us from God is to be accepted by us as his sure testimony, and nothing less than that. God forbid we should be ensnared by those various interpretations of the modus of inspiration, which amount to little more than frittering it away. The book is a divine production; it is perfect, and is the last court of appeal — “ the judge which ends the strife.” I would as soon dream of blaspheming my Maker as of questioning the infallibility of his word.
We are also sure concerning the doctrine of the blessed Trinity. We cannot explain how the Father, Son, and Spirit can be each one distinct and perfect in himself, and yet that these three are one, so that there is but one God; yet we do verily believe it, and mean to preach it, notwithstanding Unitarian, Socinian, Sabellian, or any other error. We shall hold that fast evermore, by the grace of God.
And, brethren, there will be no uncertain sound from us as to the doctrine of atonement. We cannot leave the blood out of our ministry, or the life of it will be gone; for we may say of our ministry, “The blood is the life thereof.” The proper substitution of Christ, the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, on the behalf of his people, that they might live through him. This we must publish till we die.
Neither can we waver in our mind for a moment concerning the great and glorious Spirit of God — the fact of his existence, his personality, and the power of his workings; the necessity of his influences, the certainty that no man is regenerated except by him; that we are born .again by the Spirit of God, and that the Spirit dwells in believers, and is the author of all good in them, their sanctifier and preserver, without whom they can do no good thing whatsoever. We shall not at all hesitate as to preaching that truth.
The absolute necessity of the new birth is also a certainty. We come down with demonstration when we touch that point. We shall never poison our people with the notion that a moral reformation will suffice, but we will over and over again say to them, “Ye must be born again.” We have not got into the condition of the Scotch minister, who when old John Macdonald preached to his congregation a sermon to sinners remarked, “Well, Mr. Macdonald, that was a very good sermon which you have preached, but it is very much out of place, for I do not know one single unregenerate person in my congregation.” Poor soul, he was in all probability unregenerated himself. No, we dare not flatter our hearers, but we must continue to tell them that they are born sinners, and must be born saints, or they will never see the face of God with acceptance.
The tremendous evil of sin — we shall not hesitate about that. We shall speak on that matter both sorrowfully and positively; and, though some very wise men raise difficult questions about hell, we shall not furl to declare the terrors of the Lord, and the fact that the Lord has said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”
Neither will we ever give an uncertain sound as to the glorious truth that salvation is all of grace. If ever we ourselves are saved, we know that sovereign grace alone has done it, and we feel it must be the same with others. We will publish “Grace! grace! grace!” with all our might, living and dying.
We shall be very decided, also, as to justification by faith, for salvation is “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” “Life in a look at the Crucified One” will be our message. Trust in the Redeemer will be that saving grace which we will pray the Lord to implant in all our hearers’ hearts.
And everything else which we believe to be true in the Scriptures we shall preach with decision. If there be questions which may be regarded as moot, or comparatively unimportant, we shall speak with such a measure of decision about them as may be comely. But points which cannot be moot, which are essential and fundamental, will be declared by us without any stammering, without any inquiring of the people, “What would you wish us to say?” Yes, and without the apology, “Those are my views, but other people’s views may be correct.” We ought to preach the gospel, not as our views at all, but as the mind of God — the testimony of Jehovah concerning his own Son, and in reference to salvation for lost men. If we had been entrusted with the making of the gospel, we might have altered it to suit the taste of this modest century, but never having been employed to originate the good news, but merely to repeat it, we dare not stir beyond the record. What we have been taught of God we teach. If we do not do this, we are not fit for our position. If I have a servant in my house, and I send a message by her to the door, and she amends it, on her own authority, she may take away the very soul of the message by so doing, and she will be responsible for what she has done. She will not long remain in my employ, for I need a servant who will repeat what I say, as nearly as possible, word for word; and if she does so., I am responsible for the message, she is not. If any one should be angry with her on account of what she said, they would be very unjust; their quarrel lies with me, and not with the person whom I employ to act as mouth for me. He that hath God’s Word, let him speak it faithfully, and he will have no need to answer gainsayers, except with a “Thus saith the Lord.” This, then, is the matter concerning which we are decided.
How are we to show this decision? We need not be careful to answer this question, our decision will show itself in its own way. If we really believe a truth, we shall be decided about it. Certainly we are not to show our decision by that obstinate, furious, wolfish bigotry which cuts off every other body from the chance and hope of salvation and the possibility of being regenerate or even decently honest if they happen to differ from us about the color of a scale of the great leviathan. Some individuals appear to be naturally cut on the cross; they are manufactured to be rasps, and rasp they will. Sooner than not quarrel with you they would raise a question upon the color of invisibility, or the weight of a nonexistent substance.
They are up in arms with you, not because of the importance of the question under discussion, but because of the far greater importance of their being always the Pope of the party. Don’t go about the world with your fist doubled up for fighting, carrying a theological revolver in the leg of your trousers. There is no sense in being a sort of doctrinal game-cock, to be carried about to show your spirit, or a terrier of orthodoxy, ready to tackle heterodox rats by the score. Practice the suaviter in modo, as well as the fortiter in re. Be prepared to fight, and always have your sword buckled on your thigh, but wear a scabbard; there can be no sense in waving your weapon about before everybody’s eyes to provoke conflict, after the manner of our beloved friends of the Emerald Isle, who are said to take their coats off at Donnybrook Fair, and drag them along the ground, crying out, while they flourish their shillelahs, “Will any gentleman be so good as to tread on the tail of my coat?” There are theologians of such warm, generous blood, that they are never at peace till they are fully engaged in war.
If you really believe the gospel, you will be decided for it in more sensible ways. Your very tone will betray your sincerity; you will speak like a man who has something to say, which he knows to be true. Have you ever watched a rogue when he is about to tell a falsehood? Have you noticed the way in which he has mouthed it? It takes a long time to be able to tell a lie well, for the facial organs were not originally constituted and adapted for the complacent delivery of falsehood. When a man knows he is telling you the truth, everything about him corroborates his sincerity. Any accomplished cross-examining lawyer knows within a little whether a witness is genuine or a deceiver. Truth has her own air and manner, her own tone and emphasis. Yonder is a blundering, ignorant country fellow in the witness box; the counsel tries to bamboozle and confuse him, if possible, but all the while he feels that he is an honest witness, and he says to himself, “I should like to shake this fellow’s evidence, for it will greatly damage my side of the question.” There ought to be always that same air of truth about the Christian minister; only as he is not only bearing witness to the truth, but wants other people to feel that truth and own the power of it, he ought to have more decision in his tone than a mere witness who is stating facts which may be believed or not without any serious consequences following either way. Luther was the man for decision.
Nobody doubted that he believed what he spoke. He spoke with thunder, for there was lightning in his faith. The man preached all over, for his entire nature believed. You felt, “Well, he may be mad, or he may be altogether mistaken, but he assuredly believes what he says. He is the incarnation of faith; his heart is running over at his lips.”
If we would show decision for the truth, we must not only do so by our tone and manner, but by our daily actions. A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech; when men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as pounds and his words as pence. If his life and his doctrines disagree, the mass of lookers-on accept his practice and reject his preaching. A man may know a great deal about truth, and yet be a very damaging witness on its behalf, because he is no credit to it. The quack who in the classic story cried up an infallible cure for colds, coughing and sneezing between every sentence of his panegyric, may serve as the image and symbol of an unholy minister. The Satyr in AEsop’s fable was indignant with the man who blew hot and cold with the same mouth, and well he might be. I can conceive no surer method of prejudicing men against the truth than by sounding her praises through the lips of men of suspicious character. When the devil turned preacher in our Lord’s day, the Master bade him hold his peace; he did not care for Satanic praises. It is very ridiculous to hear good truth from a bad man; it is like flour in a coal-sack. When I was last in one of our Scottish towns I heard of an idiot at the asylum, who thought himself a great historic character. With much solemnity the poor fellow put himself into an impressive attitude and exclaimed, “I’m Sir William Wallace! Gie me a bit of bacca.” The descent from Sir William Wallace to a piece of tobacco was too absurd for gravity; yet it was neither so absurd nor so sad as to see a professed ambassador of the cross covetous, worldly, passionate, or sluggish. How strange it would be to hear a man say, “I am a servant of the Most High God, and I will go wherever I can get the most salary. I am called to labor for the glory of Jesus only, and I will go nowhere unless the church is of most respectable standing. For me to live is Christ, but I cannot do it under five hundred pounds per annum.”
Brother, if the truth be in thee it will flow out of thine entire being as the perfume streams from every bough of the sandal-wood tree; it will drive thee onward as the trade-wind speeds the ships, filling all their sails; it will consume thy whole nature with its energy as the forest fire burns up all the trees of the wood. Truth has not fully given thee her friendship till all thy doings are marked with her seal.
We must show our decision for the truth by the sacrifices we are ready to make. This is, indeed, the most efficient as well as the most trying method.
We must be ready to give up anything and everything for the sake of the principles which we have espoused, and must be ready to offend our best supporters, to alienate our warmest friends, sooner than belie our consciences. We must be ready to be beggars in purse, and offscourings in reputation, rather than act treacherously. We can die, but we cannot deny the truth. The cost is already counted, and we are determined to buy the truth at any price, and sell it at no price. Too little of this spirit is abroad now-a-days. Men have a saving faith, and save their own persons from trouble; they have great discernment, and know on which side their bread is buttered; they are large-hearted, and are all things to all men, if by any means they may save a sum. There are plenty of curs about, who would follow at the heel of any man who would keep them in meat. They are among the first to bark at decision, and call it obstinate dogmatism, and ignorant bigotry. Their condemnatory verdict causes us no distress; it is what we expected.
Above all we must show our zeal for the truth by continually, in season and out of season, endeavoring to maintain it in the tenderest and most loving manner, but still very earnestly and firmly. We must not talk to our congregations as if we were half asleep. Our preaching must not be articulate snoring. There must be power, life, energy, vigor. We must throw our whole selves into it, and show that the zeal of God’s house has eaten us up.
How are we to manifest our decision? Certainly not by harping on one string and repeating over and over again the same truths with the declaration that we believe them. Such a course of action could only suggest itself to the incompetent. The barrel-organ grinder is not a pattern of decision, he may have persistency, but that is not the same thing as consistency. I could indicate certain brethren who have learned about four or five doctrines, and they grind them over and over again with everlasting monotony. I am always glad when they grind their tunes in some street far removed from my abode. To weary with perpetual repetition is not the way to manifest our firmness in the faith. My brethren, you will strengthen your decision by the recollection of the importance of these truths to your own souls. Are your sins forgiven? Have you a hope of heaven? How do the solemnities of eternity affect you? Certainly you are not saved apart from these things, and therefore you must hold them, for you feel you are a lost man if they be not true. You know that you have to die, and being conscious that these things alone can sustain you in the last article, you hold them with all your might. You cannot give them up. How can a man resign a truth which he feels to be vitally important to his own soul? He daily feels — “ I have to live on it, I have to die on it, I am wretched now, and lost for ever apart from it, and therefore by the help of God I cannot relinquish it.”
Your own experience from day to day will sustain you, beloved brethren. I hope you have realized already and will experience much more the power of the truth which you preach. I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterwards; and he must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that doctrine. I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that there dwelleth .in my flesh no good thing. I cannot help holding that there must be an atonement before there can be pardon, because my conscience demands it, and my peace depends upon it. The little court within my own heart is not satisfied unless some retribution be exacted for dishonor done to God. They tell us sometimes that such and such statements are not true; but; when we are able to reply that we have tried them and proved them, what answer is there to such reasoning? A man propounds the wonderful discovery that honey is not sweet. “But I had some for breakfast, and I found it very sweet,” say you, and your reply is conclusive. He tells you that salt is poisonous, but you point to your own health, and declare that you have eaten salt these forty years. He says that to eat bread is a mistake — a vulgar error, an antiquated absurdity; but at each meal you make his protest the subject for a merry laugh. If you are daily and habitually experienced in the truth of God’s word, I am not afraid of your being shaken in mind in reference to it. Those young fellows who never felt conviction of sin, but obtained their religion as they get their bath in the morning, by jumping into it — these will as readily leap out of it as they leaped in. Those who feel neither the joys nor yet the depressions of spirit which indicate spiritual life, are torpid, and their palsied hand has no firm grip of truth. Mere skimmers of the word, who, like swallows, touch the water with their wings, are the first to fly from one land to another as personal considerations guide them. They believe this, and then believe that, for, in truth, they believe nothing intensely. If you have ever been dragged through the mire and clay of soul-despair, if you have been turned upside down, and wiped out like a dish as to all your own strength and pride, and have then been filled with the joy and peace of God, through Jesus Christ, I will trust you among fifty thousand infidels. Whenever I hear the skeptic’s stale attacks upon the word of God, I smile within myself, and think, “Why, you simpleton! how can you urge such trifling objections? I have felt, in the contentions of my own unbelief, ten times greater difficulties.” We who have contended with horses are not to be wearied by footmen. Gordon Cumming and other lion-killers are not to be scared by wild cats, nor will those who have stood foot to foot with Satan resign the field to pretentious skeptics, or any other of the evil one’s inferior servants.
If, my brethren, we have fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot be made to doubt the fundamentals of the gospel; neither can we be undecided. A glimpse of the thorn-crowned head and pierced hands and feet is the sure cure for “modern thought” and all its vagaries. Get into the “Rock of Ages, cleft for you,” and you will abhor the quicksand. That eminent American preacher, the seraphic Summerfield, when he lay adying, turned round to a friend in the room, and said, “I have taken a look into eternity. Oh, if I could come back and preach again, how differently would I preach from what I have done before!” Take a look into eternity, brethren, if you want to be decided. Remember how Atheist met Christian and Hopeful on the road to the ]New Jerusalem, and said, “There is no celestial country. I have gone a long way, and could not find it.” Then Christian said to Hopeful,” Did we not see it from the top of Mount Clear, when we were with the shepherds?” There was an answer! So when men have said, “There is no Christ — there is no truth in religion,” we have replied to them, “Have we not sat under his shadow with great delight?
Was not his fruit sweet unto our taste? Go with your skepticisms to those who do not know whom they have believed. We have tasted and handled the good word of life. What we have seen and heard, that we do testify; and whether men receive our testimony or not, we cannot but speak it, for we speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen.” That, my brethren, is the sure way to be decided.
And now, lastly, why should we at this particular age be decided and bold?
We should be so because this age is a doubting age. It swarms with doubters as Egypt of old with frogs. You rub against them everywhere.
Everybody is doubting everything, not merely in religion but in politics and in social economics, in everything indeed. It is the era of progress, and I suppose it must be the age, therefore, of unloosening, in order that the whole body politic may move on a little further. Well, brethren, as the age is doubting, it is wise for us to put our foot down and stand still where we are sure we have truth beneath us. Perhaps, if it were an age of bigotry, and men would not learn, we might be more inclined to listen to new teachers; but now the Conservative side must be ours, or rather the Radical side, which is the truly Conservative side. We must go back to the radix, or root of truth, and stand sternly by that which God has revealed, and so meet the wavering of the age. Our eloquent neighbor, Mr. Arthur Mursell, has well hit off the present age : — “Have we gone too far in saying that modern thought has grown impatient with the Bible, the gospel, and the cross? Let us see. What part of the Bible has it not assailed? The Pentateuch it has long ago swept from the canon as inauthentic. What we read about the creation and the flood is branded as fable. And the laws about the landmarks, from which Solomon was not ashamed to quote our text, are buried or laid upon the shelf. Different men assail different portions of the book, and various systems level their batteries of prejudice at various points; until by some the Scripture is torn all to pieces, and cast to the four winds of heaven, and by even the most forbearing of the cultured Vandals of what is called modern thought, it is condensed into a thin pamphlet of morality, instead of the tome of teaching through which we have eternal life. There is hardly a prophet but has been reviewed by the wiseacres of the day in precisely the same spirit as they would review a work from Mudie’s library. The Temanite and the Shuhite never misconstrued the baited Job with half the prejudice of the acknowledged intellects of our time. Isaiah, instead of being sawn asunder, is quartered and hacked in pieces. The weeping prophet is drowned in his own tears. Ezekiel is ground to atoms amidst his wheels. Daniel is devoured bodily by the learned lions. And Jonah is swallowed by the deep monsters with a more inexorable voracity than the fish, for they never cast him up again. The histories and events of the great chronicle are rudely contradicted and gainsaid, because some schoolmaster with a slate and pencil cannot bring his sums right. And every miracle which the might of the Lord wrought for the favor of his people, or the frustration of their foes, is pooh-poohed as an absurdity, because the professors cannot do the like with their enchantments. A few of what are called miracles may be credible, because our leaders think they can do them themselves. A few natural phenomena, which some doctor can show to a company of martinets in a dark room, or with a table-full of apparatus, will account for the miracle of the Red Sea. An aeronaut goes up in a balloon, and then comes down again, and quite explains away the pillar of fire and of cloud, and trifles of that kind. And so our great men are satisfied when they think that their toy wand has swallowed up the wand of Aaron; but when Aaron’s wand threatens to swallow up theirs, they say that part is not authentic, and that miracle never occurred. “Nor does the New Testament fare any better than the Old at the hands of these invaders. There is no tell of deference levied on their homage as they pass across the line. They recognize no voice of warning with the cry, ‘ Take thy shoes from off thy feet, because the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ The mind which halts in its career of spiritual rapine on any reverential pretext, is denounced as ignorant or slavish. To hesitate to stamp the hoof upon a lily or a spring flower is the sentimental folly of a child, and the vanguard of the thought of the age has only pity and a sneer for such a feeling, as it stalks upon its boasted march of progress. We are told that the legends of our nurseries are obsolete, and that broader views are gaining ground with thoughtful minds. We are unwilling to believe it.
The truth is that a few, a very few, thoughtful men, whose thinking consists in negation from first to last, and whose minds are tortured with a chronic twist or curve, which turns them into intellectual notes of interrogation, have laid the basis of this system; these few honest doubters have been joined by a larger band who are simply restless; and these again by men who are inimical to the spirit and the truths of Scripture, and together they have formed a coterie, and called themselves the leaders of the thought of the age. They have a following, it is true; but of whom does it consist? Of the mere satellites of fashion. Of the wealth, the pedantry, and the stupidity of our large populations. A string of carriages is seen “setting down” and “taking up” at the door where an advanced professor is to lecture, and because the milliner is advertised from floor to ceiling in the lecture-room, these views are said to be gaining ground. But in an age of fashion like this, who ever suspects these minions of the mode of having any views at all? It becomes respectable to follow a certain name for a time, and so the vainlings go to follow the name and to display the dress. But as to views, one would no more suspect such people of having any views than they would dream of charging more than a tenth part of the crowds who go to the Royal Academy’s exhibition with understanding the laws of perspective. It is the thing to do: and so every one who has a dress to show and a lounge to air, goes to show it, and all who would be in the fashion (and who would not?) are bound to advance with the times. And hence we find the times advancing over the sacred precincts of the New Testament, as though it were the floor of St. Alban’s, or of a professor’s lecture-room; and ladies drag their trains, and dandies set their dress-boots upon the authenticity of this, or the authority of that, or the inspiration of the other.
People who never heard of Strauss, of Bauer, or of Tubingen, are quite prepared to say that our Savior was but a well-meaning man, who had a great many faults, and made a great many mistakes; that his miracles, as recorded in the New Testament, were in part imaginary, and in part accountable by natural theories; that the raising of Lazarus never occurred, since the Gospel of John is a forgery from first to last; that the atonement is a doctrine to be scouted as bloody and unrighteous; that Paul was a fanatic who wrote unthinkingly, and that much of what bears his name was never written by him at all. Thus is the Bible rubbed through the tribulum of criticism from Genesis to Revelation, until, in the faith of the age in which we live, as represented by its so-called leaders, there are but a few inspired fragments here and there remaining.”
Moreover, after all, this is not an earnestly doubting age; we live among a careless, frivolous race. If the doubters were honest there would be more infidel places of concourse than there are; but infidelity as an organized community does not prosper. Infidelity in London, open and avowed, has come down to one old corrugated iron shed opposite St. Luke’s. I believe that is the present position of it. “The Hall of Science,” is it not called? Its literature was carried on for a long time in half a shop in Fleet Street, that was all it could manage to support, and I don’t know whether even that half-shop is used now. It is a poor, doting, driveling thing. In Tom Paine’s time it bullied like a vigorous blasphemer, but it was outspoken, and, in its own way, downright and earnest in its outspokenness. It commanded in former days some names which one might mention with a measure of respect; Hume, to wit, and Bolingbroke, and Voltaire were great in talent, if not in character. But where now will you find a Hobbes or a Gibbon?
The doubters now are simply doubters because they do not care about truth at all. They are indifferent altogether. Modern skepticism is playing and toying with truth; and it takes to “modern thought” as an amusement, as ladies take to croquet or archery. This is nothing less than an age of millinery and dolls and comedy. Even good people do not believe out and out as their fathers used to do. Some even among Nonconformists are shamefully lax in their convictions; they have few masterly convictions such as would lead them to the stake, or even to imprisonment. Mollusks have taken the place of men, and men are turned to jelly-fishes. Far from us be the desire to imitate them.
Moreover it is an age which is very impressible, and therefore I should like to see you very decided, that you may impress it. The wonderful progress made in England by the High Church movement shows that earnestness is power. The Ritualists believe something, and that fact has given them influence. To me their distinctive creed is intolerable nonsense, and their proceedings are childish foolery; but they have dared to go against the mob, and have turned the mob round to their side. Bravely did they battle, let us say it to their honor, when their churches became the scenes of riot and disorder, and there was raised the terrible howl of “No Popery” by the lower orders, they boldly confronted the foe and never winced. They went against the whole current of what was thought to be the deep-seated feeling of England in favor of Protestantism, and with scarcely a bishop to patronize them, and but few loaves and fishes of patronage, they have increased from a mere handful to become the dominant and most vital party in the Church of England, and to our intense surprise and horror they have brought people to receive again the Popery which we thought dead and buried. If anybody had told me twenty years ago that the witch of Endor would become Queen of England, 1 should as soon have believed it as that we should now have such a High Church development; but the fact is, the men were earnest and decided, and held what they believed most firmly, and did not hesitate to push their cause. The age, therefore, can be impressed; it will receive what is taught by zealous men, whether it be truth or falsehood. It may be objected that falsehood will be received the more readily; that is just possible, but anything will be accepted by men, if you will but preach it with tremendous energy and living earnestness. If they will not receive it into their hearts in a spiritual sense, yet at any rate there will be a mental assent and consent, very much in proportion to the energy with which you proclaim it; ay, and God will bless our decision too, so that when the mind is gained by our earnestness, and the attention is won by our zeal, the heart itself will be opened by the Spirit of God.
We must be decided. What have Dissenters been doing to a great extent lately but trying to be fine? How many of our ministers are laboring to be grand orators or intellectual thinkers? That is not the thing. Our young ministers have been dazzled by that, and have gone off to bray like wild asses under the notion that they would then be reputed to have come from Jerusalem or to have been reared in Germany. The world has found them out. There is nothing now I believe that genuine Christians despise more than the foolish affectation of intellectualism. You will hear a good old deacon say, “Mr. So-and-so, whom we had here, was a very clever man, and preached wonderful sermons, but the cause has gone down through it.
We can hardly support the minister, and we mean next time to have one of the old fashioned ministers back again who believe in something and preach it. There will be no addition to our church else.” Will you go out and tell people that you believe you can say something, but you hardly know what; you are not quite sure that what you preach is correct, but the trust-deed requires you to say it, and therefore you say it? Why, you may cause fools and idiots to be pleased with you, and you will be sure to propagate infidelity, but you cannot do more. When a prophet comes forward he must speak as from the Lord, and if he cannot do that, let him go back to his bed. It is quite certain, dear friends, that now or never we must be decided, because the age is manifestly drifting. You cannot watch for twelve months without seeing how it is going down the tide; the anchors are pulled up, and the vessel is floating to destruction. It is drifting now, as near as I can tell you, south-east, and is nearing Cape Vatican, and if it drives much further in that direction it will be on the rocks of the Roman reef. We must get aboard her, and connect her with the glorious steam-tug of gospel truth, and drag her back. I should be glad if I could take her round by Cape Calvin, right up into the Bay of Calvary, and anchor her in the fair haven which is close over by the cross. God grant us grace to do it. We must have a strong hand, and have our steam well up, and defy the current; and so by God’s grace we shall both save this age and the generations yet to come.
THE BEATITUDES EXPOUNDED IN A SERIES OF SENTENTIOUS HOMILIES.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
HOMILY THE SECOND — THE FIRSTBEATITUDE.
Bearing in mind the object of our Savior’s discourse, which was to describe the saved, and not. to declare the plan, of salvation, we now come to consider the first of the Beatitudes: — “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
A ladder, if it is to be of any use, must have its. first step near the ground, or feeble climbers will never be able to mount:. It would have been a grievous discouragement, to struggling faith if the first blessing had been given to, the pure in heart; to that excellence the young beginner makes no claim, while to poverty of spirit be can reach without going beyond his line.
Had the Savior said, “Blessed are the rich in grace,” he would have, spoken a great truth, but very few of us could have derived consolation therefrom. Our Divine Instructor begins at the beginning, with A B C of experience, and so enables the babes in grace to learn of him; had he commenced with higher attainments, he must have left the little ones behind. A gigantic step at the, bottom of these sacred stairs would have effectually prevented many from essaying to ascend; but, tempted by the lowly step, which bears the inscription “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” thousands are encouraged to attempt the heavenly way.
It is worthy of grateful note, that this gospel blessing reaches down to the exact spot where the law leaves us when it has done for us the very best within its power or design. The utmost the law can accomplish for our fallen humanity is to lay bare our spiritual poverty, and convince us of it. It cannot by any possibility enrich a man; its greatest service, is to tear away from him his fancied wealth of self-righteousness., show him his overwhelming indebtedness to God, and bow him to the earth in selfdespair.
Like Moses, it leads away from Goshen, conducts into the wilderness, and brings to the verge of an impassable stream, but it can do no more; Joshua Jesus is needed to divide the Jordan, and conduct into the promised land. The law rends the goodly Babylonish garment of our imaginary merits into ten pieces, and proves our wedge of gold to be mere dross, and thus it leaves us, “naked, and poor, and miserable.” To this point Jesus descends; his full line of blessing comes up to the verge of destruction, rescues the lost, and enriches the poor. The gospel is full as it is free.
This first Beatitude, though thus placed at a suitably low point, where it may be reached by those who in the earliest stages of grace, is however none the less rich in. blessing. The same word is used in the same sense at the beginning as at the end of the chain of Beatitudes; the poor in spirit are as truly and emphatically blessed as the meek, or the peacemakers. No hint is given as to lower degree, or inferior measure; but, on the contrary, the very highest benison, which is used in the tenth verse as the gathering up of all the seven Beatitudes, is ascribed to the first and lowest order of the blessed: “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What more is said even of the co-heirs with prophets and martyrs? What more indeed could be said than this? The poor in spirit are lifted from the dunghill, and set, not among hired servants in the field, but among princes in the kingdom. Blessed is that, soul-poverty of which the Lord himself utters such good things. He sets much store by that which the world holds in small esteem, for his judgment is the reverse of the foolish verdict of the proud. As Watson well observes, “How poor are they that think themselves rich! How rich are they that see themselves to be poor! I call it the jewel of poverty. There be some paradoxes in religion which the world cannot understand; for a man to become a fool that he may be wise, to save his life by losing it, and to be made rich by being poor. Yet this poverty is to be striven for more than riches; under these rags is hid cloth of gold, and out of this carcase cometh honey.”
The cause for placing this Beatitude first is found in the fact that it is first as a matter of experience; it is essential to the succeeding characters, underlies each one of them, and is the soil in which they alone can be produced. No man ever mourns before God until he is poor in spirit, neither does he, become meek towards others till he has humble views of himself; hungering and thirsting after righteousness are not possible to those who have high views of their own excellence, and mercy to those who offend is a grace too difficult for those who are unconscious of their own spiritual need. Poverty in spirit is the porch of the temple of blessedness. As a wise man never thinks of building up the walls of his house till he has first digged out the foundation, so no person skillful in divine things will hope to see any of the higher virtues where poverty of spirit is absent. Till we are emptied of self we cannot be filled with God; stripping must be wrought upon us before we can be clothed with the righteousness which is from heaven. Christ is never precious till we are poor in spirit, we must see our own wants before we can perceive his wealth; pride blinds the eyes, and sincere humility must open them, or the beauties of Jesus will be for ever hidden from us. The strait gate is not wide enough to allow that man to enter who is great in his own esteem; it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a, man conceited of his own spiritual riches to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Hence it is clear that the character described in connection with the first Beatitude to the production of those which follow after; and unless a man possesses it, he may look in vain for favor at the hands of the Lord. The proud are cursed, their pride alone secures them the curse, and shuts them out from, divine regard: “The proud he knoweth afar off.” The lowly in heart are blessed, for to them and to their prayers Jehovah ever has a tender regard.
It is worthy of double mention that this first blessing is given rather to the absence than to the presence of praiseworthy qualities; it is a blessing, not upon the man who is distinguished for this virtue or remarkable for that excellence, but upon him whose chief characteristic is that he confesses his own sad deficiencies. This is intentional, in order that grace may be all the more manifestly seen to be grace indeed, casting its eye first, not upon purity, but, upon poverty; not upon shewers of mercy, but upon needers of mercy; not upon those who are called the children of God, but upon those who cry, “We are not worthy to be called thy sons.” God wants nothing of us except our wants, and these furnish him with room to display his bounty when he supplies them freely. It is from the worse and not from the better side of fallen man that the Lord wins glory for himself. Not what I have, but what I have not, is the first point of contact between my soul and God.
The good may bring their goodness, but he declares that “there is none righteous, no, not one;” the pious may offer their ceremonies, but he taketh no delight in all their oblations; the wise may present their inventions, but he counts their wisdom to be folly; but when the poor in spirit come to him with their utter destitution and distress he accepts them at once; yea, he bows the heavens to bless them, and opens the storehouses of the covenant to satisfy them. As the surgeon seeks for the sick, and as the alms-giver looks after the poor, even so the Savior seeks out such as need him, and upon them he exercises his divine office. Let every needy sinner drink comfort from this well.
Nor ought we to forget that this lowest note upon the octave of Beatitude, this keynote of the whole music gives forth a certain sound as to the spirituality of the Christian dispensation. It’s first blessing is allotted to a characteristic, not of the outer, but of the inner man; to a state of soul, and not to a posture of body; to the poor in spirit, and not to the exact ritual.
That word spirit is one of the watchwords of the gospel dispensation.
Garments, genuflections, rituals, oblations, and the like are ignored, and the Lord’s eye of favor rests only, upon hearts broken and spirits humbled before him. Even mental endowments are left in the cold shade, and the spirit is made to lead the van; the soul, the true man, is regarded, and all beside left as of comparatively little worth. This teaches us to mind, above all things, those matters which concern our spirits. We must not be satisfied with external religion. If, in any ordinance, our spirit, does not come into contact with the great Father of spirits, we must not rest satisfied. Everything about our religion which in not heart-work must be unsatisfactory to us. As men cannot live upon the chaff and the bran, but need the flour of the wheat, so do we need something more than the form of godliness and the letter of truth, we require the secret meaning, the ingrafting of the Word into out spirit, the bringing of the truth of God into our inmost soul: all short of this is short of the blessing. The highest grade of outward religiousness is unblest, but the very lowest form of spiritual grace is endowed with the kingdom of heaven. Better to be spiritual, even though our highest attainment is to be poor in spirit, than to remain carnal, even though in that carnality we should vaunt of perfection in the flesh.
The least in grace is highest than the greatest in nature. Poverty of spirit in the publican was better than fullness of external in the Pharisee. As the weakest and poorest man is nobler than the strongest of all the beasts of the field, so is the meanest spiritual man more precious in the sight of the Lord than the most eminent of the self-sufficient children of men. The smallest of diamond is worth more than the largest pebble, the lowest of degree of grace excels the loftiest attainment of nature. What sayest thou to this, beloved friend? Are you spiritual? At least, are you enough so to be poor in spirit?. Does there exist for you a spiritual realm, or are you locked up in the narrow region of things seen and heard? If the Holy Spirit has broken a door for thee into the spiritual and unseen, then thou art blessed, even though thine only perception as yet be the painful discovery that thou art poor in spirit. Jesus on the mount blesses thee, and blessed thou art.
Drawing still nearer to our text, we observe; first, that THE PERSON DESCRIBED HAS DISCOVERED AFACT, he has ascertained his own spiritual poverty; and, secondly,BY AFACT IS COMFORTED, for he possesses “the kingdom of heaven.”
I. The fact which he has ascertained is an old truth, for the man always was spiritually poor. From his birth he was a pauper, and at his best estate he is only a mendicant. “Naked, and poor, and miserable” is a fair summary of man’s condition by nature. He lies covered with sores at the gate of mercy, having nothing of his own but sin, unable to dig and unwilling to beg, and therefore perishing in a penury of the direst kind.
This truth is also universal, for all men are by nature thus poor. In a clan or family, there will usually be at least one person of substance, and in the poorest nation there will be some few possessors of wealth; but, alas for our humanity! its whole store of excellence is spent, and its riches are utterly gone. Among us all, there remains no remnant of good; the oil is spent from the curse, the meal is exhausted from the barrel, and a famine is upon us, direr than that which desolated Samaria of old. We owe ten thousand talents, and have nothing wherewith to pay; even so much as a single penny of goodness we cannot find in all the treasuries of the nations.
This fact is deeply humiliating. A man may have no money, and yet it may involve no fault, and therefore no shame; but our estate of poverty has this sting in it, that it is moral and spiritual, and sinks us into blame and sin. To be poor in holiness, truth faith,. and love to God, is disgraceful to us. Often does the poor man hide his face as one greatly ashamed; far more cause have we to do so who have spent our living riotously, wasted our Father’s substance, and brought ourselves to want and dishonor. Descriptions of our state which describe us as miserable are not complete unless they also declare us to be guilty; true, we are objects of pity, but much more of censure. A poor man may be none the less worthy of esteem because of the meanness of his apparel, and the scantiness of his provision; but spiritual poverty means fault, blame worthiness, shame and sin. He who is poor in spirit is therefore a humbled man, and is on the way to be numbered with those than mourn, of whom the second benediction says that “they shall be comforted.”
The fact discovered by the blessed one in the text is but little known; the mass of mankind are utterly ignorant upon the matter. Though the truth as to man’s lost condition is daily taught in our streets, yet few understand it; they are not anxious to know the meaning of a statement so uncomfortable, so alarming; and the bulk of those who are aware of the doctrine, and acknowledge that it is Scriptural, yet do not believe it, but put it out of their thoughts, and practically ignore it. “We see,” is the universal boast of the world’s blind men. So far from realizing that they are destitute, the sons of men are in their own esteem so richly endowed that they thank God that they are not as other men. No slavery is so degrading as that which makes a man content with his servility; the poverty which never aspires, but is content to continue in rags and filth, is poverty of the deepest dye, and such is the spiritual condition of mankind.
Whenever the truth as to our condition is truly known, it has been spiritually revealed. We may say over every one who knows his soulpoverty, “Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Jonas, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee.” To be spiritually poor is the condition of all men; to be poor in spirit, or to know our spiritual poverty, is an attainment specially granted to the called and chosen. An omnipotent hand created us out of nothing, and the like omnipotence is needed to bring us to feel that we are nothing. We can never be saved unless we are made alive by infinite power, nor can we be made alive at all unless that selfsame power shall first slay us. It is amazing how much is needed to strip a man, and lay him in his true place. One would think that so penniless a beggar must be aware of his penury; but he is not, and never will be, unless the eternal God shall convince him of it. Our imaginary goodness is more hard to conquer than our actual sin. Man can sooner be cured of his sicknesses than be made to forego his boasts of health. Human weakness is a small obstacle to salvation compared with human strength; there lies the work and the difficulty. Hence it is a sign of grace to know one’s need of grace. He has some light in his soul who knows and feels that he is in darkness. The Lord himself has wrought a work of grace upon the spirit which is poor and needy, and trembles at his Word; and it is such a work that it bears within it the promise, yea, the assurance of salvation; for the poor in spirit already possess the kingdom of heaven, and none have that but those who have eternal life.
One thing is certainly true of the man whose spirit knows it own poverty, he is in possession of one truth at least; whereas, before, he breathed the atmosphere of falsehood, and knew nothing which he ought to know.
However painful the result of poverty of spirit may be, it is the result of truth; and a foundation of truth being laid, other truth will be added, and the man will abide in the truth. All others think they know concerning their own spiritual excellence is but a lie, and to be rich in lies is to be awfully poor. Carnal security, natural merit, and self-confidence, however much of false peace they may produce, are only forms of falsehood, deceiving the soul; but when a man finds out that he is by nature and practice “lost”, he is no longer utterly a pauper as to truth, he possesses one precious thing at any rate, one coin minted by truth is in his hand. For my own part, my constant prayer is that I may know of the worst of my case, whatever the knowledge may cost me. I know that an accurate estimate of my own heart can never be otherwise than lowering to my self-esteem; but God forbid that I should be spared the humiliation which springs from the truth! The sweet apples of self-esteem are deadly poison; who would wish to be destroyed thereby? The bitter fruits of self-knowledge are always healthful, especially if washed down with the waters of repentance. And sweetened with a draught from the wells of salvation; he who loves his own soul will not despise them. Blessed, according to our text, is the poor cast-down one who knows his lost condition, and is suitably impressed thereby; he is but a beginner in Wisdom’s school, yet he is a disciple, and his Master encourages him with a benediction, yea, he pronounces him one of those to whom the kingdom of heaven is given.
The position into which a clear knowledge of this one truth has brought the soul is one peculiarly advantageous for obtaining every gospel blessing.
Poverty of spirit empties a man, and so makes him ready too be filled; it exposes his wounds to the oil and wine of the good Physician; it lays the guilty sinner at the gate of mercy, or among those dying ones around the pool of Bethesda to whom Jesus is wont to come. Such a man opens his month, and the Lord fills it; he hungers, and the Lord satisfies him with good things. Above all other evils we have most cause to dread our own fullness; the greatest unfitness for Christ is our own imaginary fitness.
When are utterly undone, we are near to being enriched with the riches of grace. Out of ourselves is next door to being in Christ. Where we end, mercy begins; or rather, mercy has begun, and mercy has already done much for us when, we are at the end of our merit, our power, our wisdom, and our hope. The deeper the destitution the better; — “‘Tis perfect poverty alone That sets the soul at large; While we can call one mite our own We get no full discharge.” Should the heart be distressed because it cannot even sufficiently feel its own need, so much the better; the poverty of spirit is just so much the greater, and the appeal to free grace is all the more powerful. If the want of a broken heart be felt, we may come to Jesus for a broken heart, if we, cannot come with a broken heart. If no kind or degree of good be perceptible, this also is but a, clear proof of utter poverty, and in that condition we may dare to believe in the Lord Jesus. Though we are, nothing, Christ is all. All that we, need to begin with we must find in him, just as surely as we must look for our ultimate perfecting to the selfsame source.
A man may be so misled as to make a merit out of his sense of sin, and may dream of coming to Jesus clothed in a fitness of despair and unbelief; this is, however, the very reverse of the conduct of one who is poor in spirit, for he is poor in feelings as well as in everything else, and dares no more, commend himself on account of his humblings and despairings than on account of his sins themselves. He thinks himself to be a, hardheaded sinner as he acknowledges the, deep repentance which his offenses call for; he, fears that he is a stranger to that quickening which makes the conscience tender, and he dreads lest he should in any measure be a hypocrite in the desires which he perceives to be in his soul; in fact, he does not dare to think himself to be any other than poor, grievously poor, in whatever light he may be viewed in his relation to God and his righteous law. He hears of the humiliations of true penitents, and wishes he had them; he reads the descriptions of repentance given in the; Word of God, and prays that he may realize them, but, he sees nothing in himself upon which he can put his finger, and say, “This at least is good. In me, there. dwells at least some one good thing.” He is poor in spirit, and from him all boasting is cut off, once for all. It is better to be in this condition than falsely to account one’s self a saint, and sit in the chief places of the synagogue; yea, it is so sweetly safe a position to occupy, that he who is fullest of faith in God, and joy in the Holy Ghost, finds it add to his peace to retain a full consciousness of the poverty of his natural state, and to let it run parallel with his persuasion of security and blessedness in Christ Jesus. Lord, keep me low; empty me more and more; lay me in the dust, let me be dead and buried as to all that is of self; then shall Jesus live in me, and reign in me, and be, truly my Allin- all!
It may seem to some to be a small matter to be poor in spirit; let such persons remember that our Lord so places this gracious condition of heart that it is the foundation-stone of the celestial ascent of Beatitudes; and who can deny that the, steps which rise from it are beyond me sublime? It is some thing inexpressibly desirable to be poor in spirit if this be the road to road to purity of heart, and to the godlike, character of the peacemaker.
Who would not lay his head on Jacob’s stone to enjoy Jacob’s dream?
Who would scorn the staff with which in poverty he crossed the, Jordan if he might but see the kingdom of heaven opened as the patriarch did? I welcome the poverty of Israel if it be a, part of the conditions upon which we shall receive the blessing of Israel’s God. Instead of despising the poor in spirit, we shall do well to, regard them as possessing the dawn of spiritual life, the germ of all the graces, the initiative perfection, the evidence of blessedness. .
II. Having spoken thus much upon the character of those who are poor in spirit as being formed by the knowledge of the fact, we have now to note
THAT IT IS BY AFACT THAT THEY ARE CHEERED AND RENDERED BLESSED:
“for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.”
It is not a promise as to the future, but, a declaration as to the present; not theirs shall be, but “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This truth is clearly revealed in many Scriptures by necessary inference for, first, the King of the heavenly kingdom is constantly represented as reigning over the poor.
David says, in the seventy-second Psalm, “He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy. . . . He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.” As his virgin mother sang, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” Those who enlist beneath the banner of the Son of David are like. those who of old came, to the son of Jesse in the cave! of Adulate, “Every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them.” “This man receiveth sinners and earth with them.” His title was “a Friend of publicans and sinners.” “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor,” and it is therefore meet that the poor should be soared unto him. Since Jesus has chosen the poor in spirit to be his subjects, and said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” we see how true it is that they are blessed.
The rule of the kingdom is such as only the poor in spirit will endure. To them it is an easy yoke from which they have no wish to be released; to give God all the glory is no burden to them, to cease from self is no hard command. The, place of lowliness suits them, the service of humiliation they count an honor; they can say with the psalmist (Psalm 131:2) “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child” Self-denial and humility, which are duties of Christ’s kingdom, are easy only to, those who are poor in spirit. A humble mind loves humble duties, and is willing to kiss the least flower which grows in the Valley of Humiliation; but to others a, fair show in the flesh is a great attraction, and self-exaltation the main object of life.
Our Savior’s declaration, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” is an iron rule which shuts out all but the poor in spirit; but, at the same time, it is a gate of pearl which admits all who are of that character.
The privileges of the kingdom are such as only the spiritually poor will value; to others, they are as pearls cast before swine. The self-righteous care nothing for pardon, though. it cost the Redeemer his life’s blood; they have no care for regeneration, though it be the greatest work of the Holy Spirit; and they set no store by sanctification, though it is the Father himself who has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Evidently the blessings of the covenant were meant for the poor in spirit; there, is not one of them which would be valued by the Pharisee. A robe of righteousness implies our nakedness; manna from heaven implies, the lack of earthly bread. salvation is vanity if men are in no danger, and mercy a mockery if they be not sinful. The charter of the Church is written upon the supposition that it is formed of the poor and needy, and is without meaning if it be not so. Poverty of spirit opens the eyes to see the preciousness of covenant blessings. As an old Puritan says, “He that is poor in spirit is a Christ-admirer; he hath high thoughts of Christ, he sets a high value and appreciation upon Christ; he hides himself in Christ’s wounds; he bathes himself in his blood; he wraps himself in his robe; he sees a spiritual dearth and famine at home, but he looks out to Christ, and cries, ‘Lord, show me thyself, and it sufficeth.’ “ Now, inasmuch as the Lord has made nothing in vain, since we find that the privileges of the, gospel kingdom are only suitable to the poor in spirit, we may rest assured that for such they were prepared, and to such they belong.
Moreover, it is clear that only those who are poor in spirit do actually reign as kings unto God. The crown of this kingdom will not fit every head; in fact, it fits the brow of none but the poor in spirit. No proud man reigns; he is the slave of his boastings, the serf of his own loftiness. The ambitious worldling grasps after a kingdom, but he does not possess one; the humble. in heart are content and in that contentment they are made to reign High spirits have no rest; only the lowly heart has peace. To know one’s self is the way to self-conquest, and self-conquest is the grandest of all victories.
The world looks out for a lofty, ambitious, stern, self-sufficient man, and says he bears himself like a king: and yet, in very truth, the real kings among their fellows are meek and lowly like the Lord of all, and in their unconsciousness of self lies the secret of their power. The kings among mankind, the happiest, the most powerful, the most honorable, will one day be seen to be, not the Alexanders, Caesars, and Napoleons, but the men akin to him who washed the disciples’ feet, those who in quietness lived for God and their fellow-men, unostentatious because conscious of their failures, unselfish because self was held in low esteem, humble and devout because their own spiritual poverty drove them out of themselves, and led them to rest alone upon the Lord. The time shall come when glitter and gewgaw will go for what they are worth, and then shall the poor in spirit be seen to have had the kingdom.
The dominion awarded by this Beatitude to the poor in spirit is no common one; it is the, kingdom of heaven, a heavenly dominion, far excelling anything which can be obtained this side the stars. An ungodly world may reckon the poor in spirit to be contemptible, but God writes them down among his peers and princes; and his judgment is true, and far more to be esteemed than the opinions of men or even of angels. Only as we are poor in spirit have we any evidence that heaven is ours; but having that mark of blessed, all things are ours, whether things present or things to come. To the poor in spirit belong all the security, honor, and happiness which the gospel kingdom is calculated to give upon earth; even here below, they may eat of its dainties without question, and revel in its delights without fear. Their’s also are the things not seen as yet, reserved for future revelation, their’s the second advent; their’s the glory, theirs the fifth great monarchy, their’s the resurrection, their’s the beatific vision, their’s the eternal ecstasy. “Poor in spirit;” the words sound as if they described the owners of nothing, and yet they describer the inheritors of all things.
Happy poverty! Millionaires sink into insignificance, the treasures of the Indies evaporate in smoke, while to the poor in spirit remains a boundless, endless, faultless kingdom, which renders them blessed in the esteem of him who is God over all, blessed forever. And all this is for the present life in which they mourn, and need to be comforted., hunger and thirst, and need to be filled; all this is for them while yet they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; what then must be their blessedness when they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and in them shall be fulfilled the promise of their Master and Lord, “to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne”?
A FEW WORDS UPON OBJECTIONS TO REVIVALS.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
IT may be regarded as a sign of the times when such a newspaper as the Times is found discussing the pros and cons of religious revivals; for although its more immediate object of criticism was the so-called “Mission” of the Anglican Church, yet in reality its sweeping remarks applied to the whole question of revivals. Some of the observations in the leading article, and in the letters which it elicited, are such as most men among us would heartily endorse. It is undoubtedly most mischievous to endeavor to promote religion by external means, forsaking the use of “human words from human hearts,” spoken in calm earnestness; it is unutterably evil to supplant the preacher by the priest, and to play upon the fears of superstition, instead of appealing to the motives and the understanding. None can too strongly denounce these things, and we are right glad that all reasonable men should inveigh against them’ whether they see the beauty of spiritual truth or no, we are glad that they can discern and detest the loathsome features of priestcraft. It is also true that it will never do to rely upon special efforts, and to relax the regular laborious endeavor of constant perseverance. To prefer an occasional fever to the healthy warmth of abiding health is most absurd. No ten days’ mission or fortnight of revival services can make up for the lack of a continuous mission and the earnestness of all the year round. The tendency to look fin’ occasional great gains instead of expecting daily increase must no[be suffered to grow, or it will soon impoverish the church. Whitfield and Wesley lived in one continuous revival, and cannot be cited as instances of spasmodic action. The Times is right when it claims their example as an instance of the abiding power of the true preacher, and as the very antipodes of the Ritualistic method of excitement.
Something also may be urged against the late hours which some of these Missioners, and also some revivalists have kept up. Every father of a family will agree with the remark that young people are best at home at ten o’clock. Still it is remarkable that the world should raise such a hubbub about late hours at religious services, and should itself keep such had hours at its theaters and balls. Nobody has written to the papers to complain that his daughters staid at an evening party after ten o’clock, or that his son came home at a little before eleven from the opera. There is a deal of cant in the irreligious world, and its hypocrisies are innumerable. That once in a while a meeting should. be protracted beyond the hour allowed by prudence is not so great a sin after all: it may be best to avoid it in every case, but should peculiar zeal and a special season of blessing lead a minister and his congregation into the error, we are not aware of any law, human or divine, which they will have violated.
The main objection urged by writers not unfriendly to religion is the excitement engendered. To them it appears that the great and solemn truths of religion demand the calmest and most deliberate consideration, and should be far removed from the heated atmosphere of excitement. Far be it from us to deny that the matter or religion does require the most serious thought and quiet meditation; without these the profession of conversion ought never to be made, and if made will not long be sustained, but this is not all the truth. In politics a man should calmly weigh the merits of a question, is it therefore urged that the politician may not seek to create enthusiasm for his party, and that the introduction of zeal into the business is a mischievous mistake? We have never heard either Liberal or Conservative argue in this manner. Men grow eager in the pursuit of wealth, and the pulse beats fast when great transactions are quivering in the balance; the world does not blame them for this, for it thinks the object of their pursuit worthy of intense effort: but it’ a man grows earnest in seeking the salvation of his soul, he is censured for being too excited, and if he weeps for his sins, or rejoices when he has obtained pardon for them, he is set down at once as being under the influence of fanatics and his confinement in Bedlam is confidently predicted. A physician who risks his life in the philanthropic endeavor to discover a new anodyne for human suffering is rightly judged to be a hero, yet he who proclaims with all his heart and soul the grandest of all panaceas for man’s worst ills is raving fanatic, and is held up to contempt. Is this holding the balance with an even hand?
Will any rational man maintain that excitement ceases to be legitimate according to the importance of the subject in hand? If it were so it would be, reasonable to be vehement in the cause of the parish beadle, and indifferent to the welfare of our native country; and then also it would evidently be wise to rush to the cannon’s mouth for the bubble reputation, and to let the immortal soul sink down to hell through sheer neglect. But assuredly nothing in the nature of things, nothing in the realm of common sense, and certainly nothing in Holy Scripture can be urged against the legitimate use of excitement in religion. It is to the largest degree a business of the heart; we say to the largest degree because we do not deny that it is a matter of the understanding, the memory, and all the other faculties of the mind: and surely if the heart preponderates there must be a measure of excitement. A man with a soul so dead as not to be moved by the sacred name of “mother” is creation’s blot; shall we say less of him whose soul stirs not at the mention of the name of Savior and Redeemer?
To sate his country from invasion every man worthy of the name of :Englishman would burn with passion to repel the foe, are we to be less stirred with inward tempest at the sight of the desolating vices which are ruining our fellow-citizens by millions? Is a soldier to feel the martial ardor and a Christian never to be fervent for his Lord?
The fact is that enthusiasm is only to be justified by the importance of its object. Minds excited by inferior aims have been fitly compared to “ocean into tempest tossed, to waft a feather or to drown a fly.” If the sea of the soul be agitated, what should agitate it like eternity, sin, heaven, hell, and judgment? If the heart glow and burn, what should fire it like the love of Jesus? If humanity and benevolence ever sway the good, and move them as the trees of the wood are moved by the wind, what should be a stronger motive force than the desire to save souls from the wrath to come? If the subjects treated of by the Christian religion be real, they do not merely excuse but demand excitement. Good men need not trouble themselves to make apologies for having that which it would be inexcusable in them to be without. Christians, instead of excusing themselves for occasional outbursts of enthusiasm, had far better confess their sin in not having been always enthusiastic.
These few thoughts have suggested themselves to us, and we have penned them hurriedly as a sort of addenda to the very valuable address of Mr. Archibald Brown, which appears in the earlier pages of the present number of the Sword and the Trowel.
We deprecate most solemnly the excesses of certain revivalists; we lament the foolish rant and false doctrine which have poisoned former movements in certain quarters; but our solemn conviction is that the present gracious visitation which many parts of England and Scotland are enjoying is of the Lord, and should be hailed with delight by all gracious men. ‘God speed it, we say, and make all the world to feel its power to the confusion of the hosts of evil and to the exaltation of the Son of God.
WE have spent the last month in Mentone, and have tried to find rest for our jaded mind. Suffering much from rheumatic pains, we have not been able to give much attention to the doings of the church or of the world, and hence our notes must be very scanty.
The result of the general elections is what might have been expected, and need not be deplored. Whenever the Liberals return to power it will be as real Liberals, prepared to grant at least a portion of those concessions which are due to Nonconformists. As Christians we take small interest in party politic, s, and were it not for the religious questions involved we should not concern ourselves to any great extent with the doings of the polling booths. The work of the revival of vital godliness among us is of infinitely more importance than the battles of Whigs and Tories, and Christian people will do wen to settle themselves down to their true work and calling. Our duties as citizens can be well and thoroughly discharged without our degenerating into political partisans. The ultimate liberation of Nonconformists. will be achieved not by their political activity, but by their growth in spiritual power, and so in numbers and in influence. Whitfield and Wesley by the preaching of the gospel increased the number of godly Nonconformists, and so incidentally did more towards their obtaining their civil rights than will ever be accomplished by politico-religious electioneering. Our duty is to vote for no man, be he Liberal or Conservative, who will not in some degree advance the liberation of religion from State patronage and control; and by keeping to this impolitic but honest rule we shall one day prevail, for God is with the right. This done as occasion offers, we may leave the politicians of the age to decide between Gladstone and Disraeli, Derby and Argyle. There is a deep philosophy in the Redeemer’s words, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you.”
During our absence we have been greatly cheered by the tidings of a notable revival which has broken out in our church. Earnest brethren at home have in the strength of God labored the more zealously because of their pastor’s absence, and the results have been astonishing and delightful.
Special prayer-meetings have been crowded, and we hear of six hundred young people coming together at one time to services intended peculiarly for them. Conversions among young and old have been joyfully reported to us both by the church officers and by the relatives of the converts. There is evidently much joy in the church, and we, far away from the place of assembly, have yet heard the report thereof, and our heart is glad.
I heartily thank my many generous friends for so kindly sustaining the Orphanage, College, and Colportage. The Lord reward them.
Our friends may like to see how the pastor of the Tabernacle corresponded with his people while he was away from them, and therefore we have added specimens of the letters written home from abroad. To the Young Friends who meet at the Monday Six o’clock Meeting. “Dear Young Friends, — I have your welfare continually upon my heart, and therefore thought I would pen a few sentences to you. I have been greatly encouraged by the prayerful attention and deep feeling which I saw last Monday in many of you. It filled me with great hope concerning you. I see that you desire to have your sins forgiven, and to escape from the wrath of God, and I am therefore rejoiced; but I pray God that the signs of grace may not end with these more beginnings and desires. Buds are beautiful, but we cannot be satisfied with them; they are only good because blossoms often become fruit. Mere blooms on the trees and no fruit would be a mockery of expectation. May it not be so with you. I am writing in my chamber in Paris at midnight. I could not sleep till I had said to you, put your whole trust in Jesus at once. All that you want of merit he will give you all that you need of help in the heavenly life he will bestow. Only believe him. You who are saved be sure to wrestle with God for the salvation of other young people, and try to make our new meeting a great means for good. You who are unawakened, we pray continually for you, for you are sleeping over hell’s mouth; I can see your danger though you do not. It is therefore time for you to awake out of sleep. I send my earnest love to you all, praying that we may meet on earth in much happiness, and then at last in heaven for ever. “Your Anxious Friend, “C. H.SPURGEON.” “Jan. 16, Paris. For Monday Evening Meeting. “Mentone, Jan. 23. “My Dear Young Friends, — I am delighted to hear that you came together in such large numbers last Monday in my absence, for I hope it shows a real and deep anxiety among the seekers to find the Savior, and among the saved ones to plead for others. You do not need the voice of any one man to secure your attention, the word of the Lord Jesus, by whomsoever spoken, is life and power. It is to him that you must turn all your thoughts. Sin has separated between you and year God, and Christ alone can bring you back to your Heavenly Father. Be sure that you remember what it cost him to prepare the way of reconciliation; nothing but his blood could have done it, and he gave it freely, bowing his head to death upon the tree. It must have been no light matter which cost the Redeemer such a sacrifice; I beseech you, do not make light of it. Hate the sin which caused him so much agony, and yield to the love which sustained him under it. I hear that in London you have had fogs and rain, here it is all flowers and summer, and the difference reminds me of the change which faith makes in the soul. While we are unbelievers we dread the wrath of God and walk in gloom; but when we believe, we have peace with God, and enjoy his favor, and the spring of an eternal summer has commenced.
May the Spirit of God, like the soft south wind, breathe on your hearts and make your hearts bloom with desires, blossom with hopes, and bring forth fruits of repentance. From Jesus he proceeds and to Jesus he leads the soul.
Look to him. Oh, look to him! To him alone, to him simply, to him at once. “Your Anxious Friend, “C. H.SPURGEON.” To the Monday Meeting. “Mentone, Feb. 5. “Dear Young Friends, — I am greatly cheered to hear that you gather in such numbers, and shall be yet more glad when I hear or see that hearts are won for Jesus, and that with your mouths you make confession of him. I look with so much hope upon you that it would be a bitter disappointment if I did not hear that some of you are saved in the Lord. “I have just limped up a high hill into the cemetery here, and there I saw a text which struck me. ‘But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him.’ Noah was her rest, as Jesus must be yours.
Just notice that it is added, ‘he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in into him into the ark.’ She was too weak to get in, but his kind hand ‘pulled her in unto him.’ Dear young friends, I pray the Lord Jesus to grasp those of you who are weary and weak, and pull you in. His promises are pulls, his invitations, and those of the kind friends who address you, are so many pulls. Yield yourselves unto them, and be pulled in unto him,. No rest is there, east, west, north or south, for your soul’s foot, save in the ark of sovereign grace, but there is rest there. As the dove turned her eye to the ark, and then her wing, so turn your desires and prayers to Jesus, and as she dropped into Noah’s hand, so fall into the hand which was pierced that sinners might live. “I pray for each one of you, and have entreated the Great High Priest to bear -each one of your names before his Father’s face upon his own breastplate. “May the Lord save, sanctify, and preserve every one of us till the great day of his appearing. “Your loving Pastor, C. H.SPURGEON.” To the Young People . “Mentone, Feb. 12. “Dear Young Friends, — I am full of delight at hearing of what the Lord is doing among you in saving souls, but will any of you be missed by the gracious visitation? Will the sacred rain leave some of you dry as the mountains of Gilboa? Is Jesus passing by, and will you not cry to him? Is his grace felt by your brother, your sister, and your mother, and not by you? Unhappy soul which shall manage to elude the happy influences which are now abroad among us. Surely such an one must be dexterous in resisting the Holy Spirit, and desperately resolved to perish. What reason can be urged for such a course? What excuse for such suicide? Let those who are saved pray much for others who remain hardened. “I am rejoiced that those of you who have found Jesus are not ashamed to own him. Why should you be? Only make sure that you are really converted. Don’t put up with shams. Seek the real thing. Lay hold, not on temporary hope, but on eternal life. True faith always has repentance for its twin brother, love for its child, and holiness for its crown. If you have looked to Jesus for life, be sure that you next look to him for the pattern of life, so that you may walk as he also walked. “As young Christians you will be greatly tempted, pray then to be securely kept, that you may never dishonor your Lord. We shall soon meet, if the Lord will, and till then my love be with you all. Amen. “Yours heartily, “C.H.SPURGEON.” To my beloved Church and Congregation. “Mentone, Feb. 12. “Beloved Friends, — By the time this letter is read to you I shall, if the Lord will, be on my way back to you, and my prayer is that I may return in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of peace. Very greatly have I been cheered by hearing of your prayers for me, and still more by the news of the good and great work which the Lord is doing in your midst. It is good news indeed. How grateful I am that dear brethren among you at home have been so highly honored that God has worked by them so abundantly. I rejoice in their joy. The tidings of conversions in the families of the members are peculiarly refreshing. God grant that not one family may be unblest. “I am myself greatly better, and very thankful that it is so, for I long to be an eyewitness and a partaker in the revival work. Oh, that it might go on till not one hearer shall remain unsaved. “Beloved friends, join all of you heartily in the work, and let none in any way damp it by unloving, unholy, or careless walking. The clouds of blessing will blow away from us if worldliness be allowed to prevail. Sin in the church will be the death of revival, or else the revival will be the death of sin. Let no one among us besmear himself with the blood of souls by a careless conversation in such solemn times as these. May the Holy Ghost quicken us all into newness and fullness of life. God bless you all. “So prays yours in Jesus, “C. H.SPURGEON?
OUR beloved deacon, Mr. W. Olney, sends us the following cheering words respecting the special meetings just brought to a close :-”During the last month a series of special services have been held at the Tabernacle, for the revival of religion among us, and these have been attended with very great blessing. God has graciously poured out his Holy Spirit on the congregation and on the families of the members of the church, and very many of these have been brought to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. The revival began by a sermon from Pastor J. A. Spurgeon, on Prevailing Prayer, from Genesis 32:28: showing us that if we desired to pray successfully, our prayers must have as their characteristics, humility, thankfulness, confidence in God’s promises, earnestness, importunity, and individuality, each of us asking as if alone with God. This sermon was preached on Sunday, Feb. 1, and in the afternoon a special prayer-meeting was held in the Tabernacle, which was very largely attended, and at the evening service, when the Lord’s Supper was administered, a special appeal was made to all the members of the church for hearty cooperation and earnest prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On that Sabbath the following address to the congregation, written by Pastor J.A. Spurgeon, was put into every pew in the Tabernacle, and the following list of meetings arranged for; — “‘Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, S.E., February 1st, 1874. “‘Dearly Beloved Friends, — That our God has richly blessed us as a Church we most devoutly recognize, and for it we thank him this day. But we are, I think, upon the verge of another outpouring, richer than our experience has ever known, and in order to prepare for this I wish you to join in a week of special services to stir up each other to a higher, life before God in Christ Jesus, and a richer enjoy-merit of our blessings in the gospel. Make a point of attending the services, and lay out your week’s plans for this purpose. We are all anxious, I know, for the salvation of sinners, and we believe there is a harvest waiting to be reaped, if we put in the sickle and toil faithfully in prayer and the preaching of the truth by lip and life. Let us unite as the heart of man for this good work for the Lord, and we shall have our desire granted to us. Make special prayer for some persons of your own kindred or acquaintance; tell them of it, and use direct efforts to bring them to immediate, decision for Jesus. The whole land is stirred with longings and expectations. God help us to go up and possess it for the Lord. Begin at home, and expand your desires and exertions through the neighborhoods where you reside. Let each man build over against his own house, and we shall speedily girdle this neighborhood with loving words and deeds, and hold it in a sacred circle of affection as an heritage for our Lord. May we ask and receive, seek and find, knock and have it opened unto us, ever prays “‘Your loving Pastor, “‘JAMES A.SPURGEON.’ “‘Monday, February 2nd. — Prayer-meeting in the Lecture Hall, 7 to 8 in the morning, 4 to 6 in the afternoon. For young persons, 6 to 7 in the evening. The usual prayer-meeting in the Tabernacle at 7 o’clock will be made special for a blessing on the engagements of the week. Addresses by Pastors J. A. Spurgeon and W. Stott. “‘Tuesday, February 3rd. — A meeting in the Lecture Hall at 7 o’clock in the evening for those members of the congregation who are as yet undecided, but are seeking the Lord. Addresses by Pastors W. Cuff andW. H. Burton. “‘Wednesday, February 4. — A meeting in the Lecture Hall at 7 in the evening for the young persons of the congregation, and those who attend any of our classes, to urge upon them the necessity of immediate decision for Christ. Addresses by Pastor C. B. Sawday, J. E. Tressider, Esq., and the leader of the “Jubilee Singers” (if possible). “‘ Thursday, February 5th. — Service in the Tabernacle at 7 o’clock. Sermon by Mr. Henry Varley.
Subject: “On winning souls for Christ.” “‘Friday, February 6th. — Meeting in the Lecture Hall at 7 in the evening for the students of the Pastors’ College, the Sunday School teachers, and all Christian workers. (The members of the church are invited to this meeting.) Addresses by Dr. Culross ;red Rev. C. Stanford. “‘Saturday, February 7th. — Meeting in the Lecture Hall at 7.30 for prayer for a blessing on the meetings of the week, and on the services of the following day.’ “All these meetings were very largely attended. This was all the more remarkable from the absence of our Senior Pastor, C. H. Spurgeon. The blessing on them was so manifest, that at the urgent request of the ciders of the church they were repeated on the following week with one variation.
On Friday, Feb. 13, a young converts’ meeting was held for praise and thanksgiving, and on that night fifty-five persons gave in their testimony that they had found the Savior at one or other of the several meetings. The most useful and successful of all the meetings has been the young people’s prayer meeting on Monday evening at six, originated about six weeks ago by Pastor C. H. Spurgeon. During his absence this meeting has grown in interest and attendance weekly, until now about 600 or 700 meet weekly in the Lecture Hall. The Wednesday evening meeting for the young has been also eminently useful, most of the converts having been brought to Christ on those occasions. Among the converts, no less than nine of the children of the officers of the church have been brought to decision, and very many of the children of the members of the church. Many backsliders have been restored, and many who have been long seeking the Savior have been brought out into light and peace. Altogether, these seasons have been ‘times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord,’ earnests we trust, of still larger blessings in store for us on our Pastor’s return among us again.”
Baptisms at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, by Mr. J. A. Spurgeon : — January 29, seventeen.